So now that the honeymoon phase is over and I’ve really had a chance to get to know the Bliss-Stick Tuna, I wanted to do a follow-up review of how I think the boat performs. It should be noted that I am in fact a Bliss-Stick US Ambassador, but even so, I will give you what I feel is an honest assessment.
First off, here is little bit about me. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I started boating about 8 years ago, and immediately fell in love with the creeking aspect of it. I have never been much for playboating, although I do enjoy it from time to time – a lot of this probably has to do with the limited availability of it around these parts. Many years before I became part of the Bliss-Stick US family, I was boating with a Mystic, and loved its great all-around performance -- boofs great, resurfaces well, extremely maneuverable, and stays steady in swirly/boily water. That said, I had wanted it to be a bit faster (on some runs), have a little bit harder edges for peeling into eddies, and have a bit more volume (especially for multi-day self-support trips).
When the first details of the Tuna started to release, I began to salivate -- it appeared to address all the small qualms I had with the Mystic. Having a hard time containing myself, I contacted Bliss-Stick US to find out when it was planned to release and also if they would be interested in having me test it out and do a review on my blog. This is actually how our relationship started to form and I became a Pacific Northwest Ambassador.
When the Tuna finally released in April of this year, I knew that I would soon get my chance to see if the performance would meet the specs. When the new boat was finally delivered to Portland, I drove up after work to greet it. Unwrapping the boat, I was excited to see that it had retained the same outfitting as the Mystic, which I really love, it just fits me like a glove, especially with the adjustable/aggressive thigh hooks. All the lines looked good as well, and I was super excited to get it on the water! Since I’ve already done a first impressions review (here), and a multi-day self-support follow-up (here), I’ll concentrate my review on the months that followed.
|My first real peek. Ain't she a beaut?!|
After spending a bit of time in the Tuna, the big decision I needed to make was whether to make my trusty Mystic or this new craft my weapon of choice for everyday boating. My initial thought was to use the Mystic for steep, tight, and technical, while using the Tuna for bigger runs and self-support. Since then I have completely fallen in love with the Tuna, and my Mystic (which I still hold a candle for) has started to get covered in a fine blanket of dust. So, what is it that I like so much about this boat?! Well, let me break it down based on some specific criteria.
This is one of the areas I was a little concerned about. With the Mystic being so easy to spin around in the technical stuff, I was afraid that the extra length would make it a bit harder. For me this has not been the case, which I can only attribute to its much flatter hull design. Even on steep/tight runs, I haven’t had a problem changing directions or spinning the boat around while making last second reactionary decisions. In fact, the first time I took the Tuna out, it was on one of most technical local runs, The Miracle Mile section of the NFMF Willamette, where I felt immediately at ease.
|Making moves down the Miracle Mile (photo by Roman Androsov)|
I much prefer the primary stability of a planing hull boat over a displacement one. The compromise is usually less secondary stability, which I’ve adapted to over the many years of paddling flat bottom boats. Not surprisingly, the Tuna has great primary, but I’ve also found the secondary to be quite good as well. Basically, I never feel like the boat is too tippy, even in boily/squirrely water or when I put it on edge. Either way, it seems to stay right where it supposed to -- underneath me.
|Staying in control while entering Wall of Voodoo - Cooper River, WA (photo by Jason Naranjo)|
|Keepin' it bottom side down in the middle of Island -- Upper Upper Cispus, WA (photo by Isaac Preistley)|
Catching eddies and ferrying has also been a pleasure in the Tuna, due to its sharpened edges. This helps tremendously, peeling the longer boat into eddies and keeping it on line when you dip the edge in. Coming from a couple of years in a Pyranha Burn (older model), I was a bit nervous about the edges at first. With the Burn, I tended to get tripped up a bit in squirrelly water. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Burn is a great boat, it was just one thing that seemed to give me problems from time to time. For some reason this does not happen to me with the Tuna. I did like how the Burn would almost give you whiplash while pulling into eddies, and although the Tuna doesn’t quite dig in as much, it still rails in with ease, allowing me to catch those micro eddies. Ferries are also much improved by the edges – of course speed also helps here, which the Tuna has plenty of and which I’ll discuss next.
|Digging in an edge at the bottom tier of Island - Upper Upper Cispus, WA (photo by Isaac Preistley)|
This boat is fast, probably the fastest boat I’ve ever paddled. It doesn’t take too much effort to get it up to speed, and once it is, it’s a real missile. This isn’t much of an advantage in low volume creeks, but with bigger water, speed can make or break you. It also helps for blasting through big holes. It’s really amazing how well it does in this situation; in fact, it’s right on par with my ol’ Prijon Hercules, which was a full on battering-ram. Of course you don’t have to take my word on how fast this boat is, simply see which boat took the first and third spots at this year’s Adidas Sickline competition – obviously they had some amazing pilots as well (Sam Sutton & Mike Dawson respectively; read about it here).
|Blasting through the bottom hole at Island - Upper Upper Cispus, WA (photo by Isaac Preistley)|
Who doesn’t like boofin’?! If you’re a creek boater, obviously you want your boat to do this well. Once again, I was a little nervous that this boat wouldn’t boof as effortlessly as my Mystic, due to the length. What I can tell you after months of using it as my full-time creeker, is it boofs like a champ! Whether it’s rock boofs or water boofs, I haven’t had a problem pulling up the nose on it. That said, when I do tip down the nose a bit to land bigger drops, it resurfaces quickly and in control, and I’ve yet to get significantly stern-squirted. All of this has made me much more comfortable running bigger ledge drops with a spicy run-out.
|Takeoff at Boulder Sluice - Little White Salmon, WA (photo by Chris Arnold)|
|A view from the cockpit - McCoy Creek, WA|
|Coming in for a landing - Lower Wind River, WA (photo by Chris Arnold)|
|Pancakin' it - Lower Wind, WA (photo by Chris Menges)|
|Setting an angle - Callaghan Creek, BC (photo by Adam Frey)|
I’ve always told myself not to critique a boat based on its rolling ability, but have started to come around a little bit on this. It should be noted that I do a modified C to C roll, so my assessment will only have some relevance to the standard sweep roll that most folks use. Basically what I can tell you is that I’ve had no problem rolling this boat. I believe the lowered sidewalls at the location of your hips have actually made it roll a little easier than the Mystic. To be completely honest, the only boat I’ve felt contributed to my poor roll performance was the large Burn, and that was based on the old version of that boat.
|...and back up again|
Okay, that’s great and all, but there’s got to be something I don’t like about the boat…
Certainly. There is no boat (or any product for that matter) that I’ve owned/used that doesn’t have a character flaw or two. As I’ve stated in my previous Tuna reviews, one thing I really disliked were the original grab loops; However, I’ve made my own, which has completely resolved this issue (see my instructions here). I also don’t like that they omitted two of the hard/security points that can be found just behind the seat on the Mystic. For locking into a pinned boat, or even roping it around, these can be very handy. Of course making a modification to fix this would be a little more difficult.
|Old grab loops|
|Modified grab loops|
|Not there on the Tuna|
|The security points on the Mystic|
Another issue I’ve had is denting the bottom/corner of the stern on a few occasions, without me even knowing when it happened. I'm not sure if this because it's squared off (and even has a bit of an edge), or if it was just a random thing. To date this has only been a minor issue, as it’s popped out on its own or by pouring hot/boiling water into the stern and letting it sit for a couple of minutes or so. I did check with the fellas at Bliss-Stick US, and it was the first/only time they had heard of it; therefore this may be an isolated incident and/or non-issue.
|From here you can see the squared off stern of Tuna (right). Also note that it has a bit of an edge.|
As previously stated, I love this boat! Simply put, it is the best performing boat I have ever paddled – it just really suits my style of boating. It took everything I liked about the Mystic, and resolved the misgivings. None of my gripes about the Tuna are performance related, and are more of functional annoyances, which can either be fixed or aren’t enough of an issue to take way from the overall appeal of this boat. As my progression in the sport continues, I’m confident that this boat will take me to the next level of paddling, assuming my own mental state and physical ability will allow. This is a high performance/all around creek boat that Bliss-Stick should be very proud of!
|A happy customer!|
So there you have it! Now head over and check out the Tuna at the Bliss-Stick US website, here. If you any questions you can also contact them directly by email at Kayaks@bliss-stick.us, or by calling (423)619-4680. Feel free to ask me any questions as well; if I can't answer them, I'll send you to someone who can.
Here's a couple of extra goodies:
A video compilation I put together of the Tuna rockin' PNW creeks:
Watch the Sam and Mike kick tail at the 2012 Adidas Sickline finals (obviously they're much better boaters than I...):