Some boat manufacturers try to please everyone. Impex has taken a different tack with the Outer Island. This new boat will be to Impex what so-called halo cars are to automakers—an outstanding specialty design that draws attention to an entire brand, whether or not it’s a big seller by itself.

The Outer Island already has a loyal following. Connecticut-based Greenland kayaker Jay Babina perfected the Outer Island over four years starting in 1995, and handmade wooden versions have since earned a reputation for being fast, stable and easy to scull, brace and roll. Impex sparked a buzz in the Greenland scene by announcing it would reproduce Babina’s design with only minor modifications.

The Outer Island’s West Greenland pedigree includes exceptionally low windage, low volume, a long waterline, minimal rocker and a slick pancake of a rear deck (only seven inches deep) to facilitate traditional techniques like layback rolls and balance braces. Impex has already signed Cheri Perry onto their team, a Greenland Kayaking Championships paddler who enthuses that this is the first composite kayak in which she can perform the majority of competition rolls.

Impex Outer Island Specs
Length: 18′
Width: 21.5″
Depth: 10″ (mid-ship), 7″ (rear deck)
Weight: 55 lbs glass
Total volume: 220 L
Total storage: 114 L
Cockpit: 30″ x 16″
MSRP: $2,695 USD glass

It remains a surprisingly dry ride while knifing blithely through steep and deep seas. Initial stability is unexpectedly good for such a narrow boat, surely due to the shallow-V cross section.

Unlike many Greenland designs that echo skin-on-frame lines, the Outer Island has a soft chine, which rolls very smoothly in a tilt from primary to secondary stability.

Even novices will be able to make the Outer Island track straight and win races. It’s very fast and has the unwavering temperament of a good sled dog, but it takes real skill to make it turn.

Where a hard-chine boat tilted on edge tends to carve all the way through an outside arc with little help from the paddler, the Outer Island veers ever so slightly, following its forward inertia unless you throw in a few sweeps to coax it around. It’s clear why Babina’s original design didn’t have a skeg. We only dropped ours once, during a difficult 15-knot rear quartering wind and large ocean swell.

Impex slots the Outer Island into their specialty touring category alongside its alter ego, the playfully rockered Susquehanna.

So what’s the specialty? The Outer Island is one of the best production boats for small to mid-sized paddlers for real Greenland paddling, racing and short-duration touring—at very competitive Impex prices. Add $200 CDN for an expedition layup, $600 for Kevlar and $1,000 for carbon Kevlar.

Bow to the king of logos (top)

Different parts of yellow kayakThe Impex name is said to derive from “import-export,” adopted when Mid-Canada Fiberglass was looking for a U.S. tag for

its Formula Kayaks line. Now, the moniker with the monarchical ring has conquered all and every new MCF kayak bears the Impex crown—three wave crests bejewelled by little kayaks and water droplets.

An eight-inch round cover allows access to the 48-litre front hatch. All deck fittings are recessed and the heavy-duty bungees are well laid out for paddle stowage on the front deck. Bow and stern toggles attach to a simple loop threaded through the end pours.

In the throne room (middle)

In the cockpit you’ll note the beefy construction: taped seams, reinforced keel, rigid fibreglass mat deck and funky semi-transparent fibreglass bulkheads curved to flex and absorb forces through the hull. High marks for outfitting too: Werner foot braces, padded thigh hooks and a comfortable, low-profile whitewater-style ratcheting backband with matching seat pad from Immersion Research.

The short, contoured seat felt a bit high to some testers, rising slightly in the middle where seats are typically bucket-shaped. A slider on the right controls the cable skeg. The low deck and thigh braces and short keyhole cockpit suit smaller paddlers, yet there’s still plenty of legroom for beanpoles well over six feet tall.

Rear wing of the castle (bottom)

The Outer Island is quite suitable for tripping. Volume is larger than it looks, thanks to its 18-foot length, and performance is equally good with or without a load. Imagine endurance trips where you want to travel light and cover long distances in a few days or a week. We easily packed for four days, putting larger items through the oval rear hatch. All hatches are recessed with drains around the rims.

This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak’s Early Summer 2005 issue. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.

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