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Thoughts on Kayak purchase

Hey folks - new to forum! As an introduction, my name is Mike and I have been wanting a kayak for many, many years, but my wife did not want to spend the $$. I finally have that part together, and she is actually on board with getting into the hobby a bit, but my head is swirling with the options. We have kayaked in the Bahamas, Aruba, South Carolina (Hilton Head), Maine (lake), and other places, so we are both familiar with the hobby/sport. We have 3 kids, but right now this would be our way to spend time together. Maybe later the kids can join in. ;) Generally speaking, we are looking for a 'hybrid' kayak. Nicer than recreational, not as advanced as touring.

Given all that, and through extensive research online, I've narrowed down what I think I want, but a little advice/feedback would be helpful. I know there are some inevitable questions that will be asked, so I've tried to answer those below. It might generate some interesting conversation. :D

Where will you be paddling?
We will not be white-water kayaking, nor will we find ourselves in the open ocean far off the coast of anywhere. We live in Southern Indiana along the Ohio River (across from Louisville, KY). So no oceans, but plenty of water. Most paddling around here are slow moving rivers and lakes. BUT - long term, we WOULD like to be able to use whatever we purchase in what I can only call 'mild coastal' waters, meaning like inlet-type marshy waters around the Carolinas, etc. (I'll stay way from the gators of Florida, thank you. lol!) We MAY use them on the Ohio River on SUPER calm days, but most likely only on inlet creeks/streams. The OH river itself is pretty fast-moving, so I'd want to be with someone experienced the few times. I just don't have room to store 6 boats, so we'll primarily stick with what we buy. We will likely NOT be doing any overnight camping or week-long camping trips with them - just taking them out for a few hours or half day.

What do local paddlers use/recommend?
Honestly, we don't know many! We aren't really looking (at this point) to join a club/society/etc. I've found a local website online and many are using expensive stuff I've never heard of. We do not really have any friends who are into this - it's just something we would like to do to get out on the water and enjoy time together. I just want a dependable boat that's easy to paddle and moves well - does not have to be 'fast', as I'm not racing or keeping up with 20 people. But I'd also rather not paddle the SS Minnow or something that will tip over every time I lean over. I DO know I do not want a sit-on-top, nor do I want a 17' kayak with a cockpit so small I have to lay down and pull it on like a pair of pants.

Have you looked into used kayaks, rentals, etc.?
At least this time of year, there isn't much on craigslist for our area (been watching a while). Places where I've found rentals generally charge like $30/half day, which adds up when talking about 2 people. They also tend to rent more low-end 'livery' type kayaks. One of the local stores will do a demo for you, but they only carry two brands. I've not identified any other 'demo days' around town. There is another store I'm aware of but they carry the high-end stuff.

What is your budget?
I'm looking to spend no more than @$850-900 per boat (AFTER tax/shipping/etc.). It would be a bonus if that included a paddle and (double bonus) cockpit cover.

How do you plan to store and haul them?
I've spent WAY too many hours looking into a kayak hoist for my garage. Currently trying to determine whether to build my own or buy a Harken Hoister and modify it. We have a 2015 Honda Odyssey to haul them - just need to get the kayak supports for our roof rack.

So, what are you considering now?
After MUCH research, I think I've narrowed down to 12"(ish) kayaks being the 'sweet spot' for what we want. I'm currently considering the following:

  • For me: I am 5'11", @255 lbs. So I'm running up against the weight limits of a lot of kayaks. I had kind of narrowed down my choice to the LL Bean Casco (a rebranded Perception Carolina) but I may need to lose a few pounds first (?). I would go with the Bean over the Perception simply due to Bean's warranty and the fact they sell a package (https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/87637?attrValue_0=Red/Yellow&csp=a). Yesterday I saw and sat in the Old Town Loon 126, which I liked more than I thought I would. I thought the 'dashboard' was a bit gimmicky, but removing it did make ingress/egress easier, and after seeing it in person, I could see it being a 'nice to have' thing.
  • For my wife: Also looking at either the LL Bean Casco, Calypso (narrower - https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/78134?feat=508078-GN3&page=calypso-12-kayak-package&csp=f), or perhaps the Old Town Loon 120.

Note: A local dealer carries the Old Towns, which would come with a lifetime warranty. They will do a demo. The price would likely be close to the same as the Bean kayaks, but with tax instead of shipping. They would throw in paddles, but not covers.

So given all that great info, I'd love to hear what folks here think! Personal experience with any of these boats? I know I can easily demo the Old Towns, but not the others. I also know LL Bean generally has a great reputation. Appreciate your thoughts and feedback!




  • There will be a "paddle palooza" in Wilmington OH June 18. https://www.meetup.com/movingwater/events/237960740/ LL Bean will be there along with a few other outfitters. They'd likely have shorter boats. 12' might be good for the easy rivers and lakes, but you might want longer ones for the Carolina waters. One of my boats is an LL Bean Calyspo, and it is fine in the easier stuff.

  • Thanks for the info! Would be a bit of a long day (@5 hour drive round trip) but might be worth it. Wish I knew which boats they would have on hand to try. I considered shorter boats, but I think 9/10ft boats seem really short. But 14' seems really big for lakes and streams, etc. When we kayaked in Hilton Head the outfitter had WA Pongo 120s. They handled well enough for a mild day. If we made it a habit I'd probably upgrade at that point, but I think I'll have to retire first. haha!

  • Shorter than 14 ft and my 5'11" , 245 #body increases boat draft more than I like.

    I'd much rather battle bashful gators in Florida than barge tows and tug boats on the Ohio.

    The Casco 12 is the only one of your list I'd get. All of the others are rec boats with no forward bulkheads. You'd need, or should, add an air bag to the rec boats.. The Loon cockpit is obscenely big and impossible to cover or skirt easily. Big opening does give access and ease of in/out. But it also can let a lot of water in.

  • edited June 2017

    @Overstreet said:
    I'd much rather battle bashful gators in Florida than barge tows and tug boats on the Ohio.

    Haha! I've heard there are some pretty massive catfish in the Ohio, too! But you're right - you definitely have to watch out for those barges and drunken idiots on the Ohio.

    The Casco 12 is the only one of your list I'd get. All of the others are rec boats with no forward bulkheads. You'd need, or should, add an air bag to the rec boats.. The Loon cockpit is obscenely big and impossible to cover or skirt easily. Big opening does give access and ease of in/out. But it also can let a lot of water in.

    Thanks for the thoughts on the forward bulkheads - that was one thing that appealed to me on the Casco. The Loon cockpit IS pretty big, especially once you remove that 'dashboard' thing, and I had wondered the ease of skirting it. Most of my usage will probably be of the sunny/calm day variety, but if there's any chop or rain I would prefer not to have a boat full of water. I also wasn't necessarily a fan of a boat that doubles as a fishing kayak just by screwing on some rod mounts.

  • BTW, I had also considered the Pungo 12/14, but the cockpit on those is every bit as big as the Old Town Loon, and the 'dashboard' on those seemed a bit less refined. But they do have double bulkheads...

  • The Tsunami 125 Kayak by Wilderness Systems has also peaked my interest... any thoughts on it? I'm not sure why I moved away from it originally... price, maybe...


  • edited June 2017

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  • The seat back is too high on the Tsunami. I suspect whole seat is too far forward. The keyhole thigh braces get in my way getting in and out. I cut them out of my Chesapeake 17.

    The seat and cockpit on the Casco seems better.

    They both have a slot at the stern for the rudder kit to sit in. The offset toggle on the Tsunami stern might be odd at first unless you always carried it to port side.(left) Both have perimeter lines, good.

  • @Overstreet said:
    The keyhole thigh braces get in my way getting in and out. I cut them out of my Chesapeake 17.

    Thanks... I think that's what it was I didn't like... I had read reviews where others complained about that configuration and how it cut into their knees. It seems like an odd thing to me... looks like it would be difficult to get in/out.

  • I paddled one of these for a few years and found them to be incredible​ kayaks. Comfortable and extremely stable. Unlike many inflatable kayaks this is not a pool toy. No need for roof racks and they can be transported on a plane. Do the research and you may find this is what you would need.


  • Re keyhole thigh braces - they are there for a purpose, to help turn and edge the kayak. This is not trivial. However, the person and the boat can be enough of a not-great fit that thigh braces can be more difficult.

  • Mike, first of all, I would recommend that you slow down and do a lot more research on boats, paddles and PFDs. I would also highly recommend that you go longer than 12 feet. You say you're not a racer, but that has nothing to do with anything. Especially with your weight, you are not going to be happy in a half sunken, slow slogging rec boat. You might even have to add to the budget and I assure you that that will be of little consequence in a very short time, because if you wind up with the wrong boats to start with, you're bound to spend even more in the long run.

    Personally, I wouldn't even consider anything under 14 feet. So look around on the Internet at what is out there. Even if and when you settle on a boat/boats, you're only part way there. Under no circumstance settle for a so-so paddle thrown in the deal. You don't have to give an arm and a leg for a decent paddle, but you probably will be looking at about $140 plus. I would highly recommend the Carlisle Expedition.

    PFDs are going to be the same situation. Don't go cheap and think you'll be alright, You absolutely will want PFDs designed for paddling. Never buy anything you don't get to try on and try on a lot of them, so you know how a good one should feel. Do your Internet research and you can always find some very good deals--after you've tried a bunch of them on. Ideally, you should probably have the boat first so you will be sure that the PFD actually is compatible with the boat's seat and cockpit, but there are plenty of very good jackets that will work with any kayak.

  • Thanks! I found a Tsunami and Pungo in the 14' range that can accommodate my weight, but many in that length start to say "for small/medium paddlers". I'll have to do some measuring, too, as I don't think I have room to store much beyond a 14'. The cost does start to go up quite a bit, too. I had $2500-3000 set aside for the whole project, but when I look at also needing roof racks and storage hoists (only place to store is my garage ceiling) , it's becoming overwhelming.

    While I do not want to settle for any cheap or thrown-in paddle, it may be something I have to do to start with. I'm sure anything LL Bean includes would be of at least reasonable quality. Not sure about the local place, but they only sell Old Towns, anyhow. As for the PFD, I was factoring that to be @ $300 of the cost for both my wife and I.

    Basically, my head is swimming now. (I appreciate the previous suggestion to consider the inflatable kayak, but I'm not sure that's right for me and the rocky/sticky Indiana waterways.) I feel "stuck" in 1st gear and am getting tired of researching. Who knew that getting a couple of kayaks and getting out on the water would require agonizing decisions and a year's worth of research!

  • If I had to choose (but please don't make me), I'd rather have a paddle that's strong, light, and a suitable length for me and my boat, than a boat that's perfectly suited to my body and destinations. No doubt both are important, and it is also important that the two are a good match for each other and for you. You might have some idea of what this entails if you've done some paddling with various equipment already, but it's something of an evolution in most paddlers' experience to find gear that works the best for them. Any time I've swapped boats with someone, my paddle always stays in hand. Next time you're out paddling, count the number of strokes you take per minute (or look it up online). Now extend that into a few hours on the water, and you'll start to realize that this is perhaps the most critical component in your paddling gear. It's akin to the tires on a car. You can have all the power, stability, and braking you want but if the interface between the tires and the road is compromised then you end up in the ditch just the same.

    I have to give credit to you for giving this much more consideration and thought than most people seem to. Unfortunately, you may be a victim of "paralysis by over analysis" due to the very grey nature of many decisions to be made. I usually suggest trying lots of boats to someone who's been out once or twice but otherwise clueless. In this case you're not completely new to it, and you're clearly good at considering the variables in the equation. If you can narrow your choices to a handful of boats that seem to fit your size and goals, you can pick one from that group using less stringent criteria - like what's on sale, or what's close by, or in a colour that stimulates you. Second hand availability has always been a factor in my own purchasing decisions. You're likely to get a boat that serves you fairly well for a while. You may or may not find that you want to take things further, and need to get a different boat in a year or two. This seems par for the course in your situation and the reason why people who do this a lot have more than one boat and tend to buy and sell them more often than seems rational. A well-stored boat that can't be found in your local big box store's weekly flyer will also retain much of it's resale value - especially if you've purchased it used in the first place.

    Regarding the boat, I'd never again own anything that didn't have sealed bulkheads front and rear. I sold a River Runner R5 a while back largely for this reason. I don't want to mess with, or have to trust, flotation bags when I paddle beyond the shoreline. I also prefer long boats that track well, even for small waterways where I get odd looks amidst the short recreational boats. At first the length is cumbersome, but with time and skill I can maneuver my 17'8" Impex Assateague better in tight spots than many novices in short recreational boats. Clearly, there are limits though. If I could find a short boat that didn't plow through the water, still tracked straight, held camping gear for a week plus, and floated my 225 lbs, 6'2" frame, I'd give it strong consideration. But alas, such a thing defies the laws of physics such as our current science and materials are.

  • Mike, you've budgeted more than enough for life jackets. You should be able to find some very good ones at around $79 a piece if you look around the Internet and watch for sales. Put the extra money toward paddles. And again, you won't find a better paddle for the money than a Carlisle Expedition.

  • Re Pungoes - a 14 ft Pungo is a whole different critter than a 14 ft touring kayak, so don't get too hung up in the length alone. The Pungo 14 ft is a recreational boat, not meant for dimensional challenging waters, with a load of primary stability. That can be a whole different animal than a 14 ft touring boat designed for a small paddler.

    I tend to agree with some above. If you are looking at gross measurements like length and not realizing the range of types of boats in that length, you probably should not try spending money on a purchase yet. Spend it on demo days and maybe a couple of classes in basics so you have a better idea of how these things work and what will best suit your needs.

  • This Tsunami 145 would fit you well and would be a more pleasant kayak to paddle on big rivers like the Ohio than the Pungo 14. It's a 14 footer made for bigger guys with more volume and will track and handle well. Good price at $700, located near Cincinnati. https://louisville.craigslist.org/boa/6152948528.html

    Or for only $500 you could be set up with this nice inflatable tandem. Saves a lot of storage and hauling hassle. Includes what look like 2 OK PFD's but the paddles are junk and you would need to get some decent ones.


  • @willowleaf said:
    This Tsunami 145 would fit you well and would be a more pleasant kayak to paddle on big rivers like the Ohio than the Pungo 14. It's a 14 footer made for bigger guys with more volume and will track and handle well. Good price at $700, located near Cincinnati. https://louisville.craigslist.org/boa/6152948528.html

    Thanks for the link! I've actually been watching and reading a lot about the Tsunami 145, so I'm very interested. I've messaged about it!

    I do get that there are differences ... not really fixated on length, other than I just know I don't have room to store much more than a 14-footer right now. As noted, when we paddled in Hilton Head they had 12-14 foot Pungos, but I really am not a fan of the "dashboards" on those boats.

    As for the tandem inflatable... I'm not big on the inflatables, but especially not on tandems. My wife is enough of a backseat driver as it stands. lol!

  • edited June 2017

    Just a couple more thoughts/questions here...

    Honestly, I DO know what I want. As @Sparky961 said, I may be experiencing 'paralysis by over-analysis'. I have been reading up on this for a LONG time, and have paddled may types of kayaks over the years. I get the difference between recreational and touring boats, and I get that many folks are saying they would not buy anything shorter than a 14ft boat. I'm not against a boat that size, but MOST of my paddling will be done on lakes and streams, with very little 'open water' (such as Ohio River or coastal waters). I will likely NOT be doing any overnight camping trips, etc. Given that I am looking for a 'balance' between recreational purposes and light touring, it seems the 145 is a heavy/high-volume boat for paddling that will be (for the most part) small rivers, streams, and lakes. But it also looks like it would be perfect for the Ohio or rougher 'off shore' outings (1-2ft swells) on the ocean or great lakes.

    The more I look, the more interested I am in the Tsunami line of kayaks. The 145 seems to be perhaps better for someone my size, though the 125 also says it is for 'larger paddlers' (up to 300lbs).

    The Tsunami 125 is described as "Swift and agile, the spacious cockpit and deeper hull is the ideal day tripper for larger paddlers. Excels in tight, twisting environments". And thinking about my wife, the 120 is described as a "Mid-range cockpit size with shorter length is versatile for day to weekend trips in streams, coastal regions, and large lakes." On the surface, that sounds EXACTLY like what I'm looking for. BUT, the advice toward a 14-foot boat has me befuddled a bit.

    If I looked at the "Light Touring" 120/125 (for my wife and I), what would I be losing over say the "Touring" 140/145 (wife/me)? Is the longer length going to primarily just lend to improved speed and handling on rougher waters? Surely the 12-foot range of boat lengths have their place in the water, so speaking specifically to this class of kayaks, please help me understand the difference. It seems to me that the 12-footers are still a bit more advanced than your typical "recreational kayak", but perhaps maybe not quite as versatile as the 14-foot boats (which weigh 56lbs!). But do I really need the 'volume' of the 14-foot touring boat if my primary usage will almost always be shorter (half day) jaunts?

    Thanks to all who have contributed thus far! I really appreciate the advice and am just soaking it in and learning. Unfortunately, there really just aren't many (any) places in my vicinity to try out different boats. The only 'demo days' I found were through a local group (through facebook - which I'm not on) and featured one brand. I wish the nearest dealer wasn't over 2 hours away! The demo days referenced previously in this thread is 2.5 hours from me (one way), on Father's Day, which happens to also be the day my oldest goes away to camp. So no dice there. I did find a place to possibly take some lessons, however.


  • Wow - just found some really interesting 'advice' online....

    Source: http://frontenac-outfitters.com/kayaks/kayaks/wilderness-systems-tsunami-125-kayak/

    Though Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Kayak is part of the hugely successful line of Tsunami Day Touring Kayaks. After extensive Frontenac Outfitters Test Paddling we made the difficult decision to NOT stock or recommend purchasing the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125!

    Although only slightly wider than its siblings (Tsunami 120 or Tsunami 140) the 125 is much more sluggish & less responsive Kayak to paddle. Designing a fantastic kayak is kind of like baking the perfect pie and the recipe is not always going to be perfect. Sometimes despite your best efforts you miss.

    “Thankfully the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 120, 135, 140 or 145 are exceptional day touring kayak choices… but we regretfully suggest you take a pass on the 125. We trust the folks at Wilderness Systems appreciate our honest evaluation? We know our customers do!”

    I'm not typically one to 'hang my hat' on one person's advice, but this is about the 10th time I've been warned away from the 12-foot kayaks. I know they still recommend the 120, but the 125 was definitely wider and deeper and had a bigger cockpit (than even the 145).

    I also found a good video online that explained more thoroughly the difference in tracking and speed for the longer vs. shorter kayaks. I get it... The part I struggled with was the more 'logical' side of me that thought shorter would be better for lakes and streams.

    Looks like, for now, I'm primarily looking at the 140 or 145 for myself, and the 135 for my wife. I know a lot of folks here recommend trying before buying, but that's a luxury I may not be able to accommodate.

  • I've been to Frontenac (an expert kayaker buddy of mine is in Ontario and buys his boats from them) and they are an excellent and knowledgable outfitter. I would put a lot of value on their assessments of boats.

    The problem with shorter boats is that they have to be comparably wider to provide enough volume for displacement, which becomes even more problematic with a heavier paddler. I'm only 5' 5" and 150 lbs. I currently own 5 kayaks which are 12', 13' 6", 15', 15' 7" and 18'. I only use the 12' one for small lakes and narrow slow streams and to take on airline flights because it is a 22 pound folding kayak that packs down in a duffle bag. I never take it out where I want to paddle any distance or with people with longer boats. Virtually all 12' boats are slower than longer boats, even those only 18" or 24" longer. In my other kayaks (the 13' 6" and 15' 7" are both also folding kayaks, and the 15' and 18' are hardshells) I can easily cover distance and keep up with anyone else I am paddling with.

    Putting your wife in a shorter boat than you are in will disadvantage her in keeping up with you when you paddle together. A lower volume longer boat will give her more speed with less effort. Unless she is very petite, the Tsu 140 would be a good choice for her. The Tsu 120 is a kayak for older children and very short and lightweight adults.

    "Recreational" kayaks (mostly 9' , 10' and 12') are for what we call "lily-dipping". They are for short day trips close to shore on calm waters or for leisurely floats on smaller rivers. They can be quite fun and they are all some people need. But some people get bored with them pretty quickly. If you want to feel the pleasure of covering some distance or going out on larger, windy lakes or coastal conditions or even just longer rivers, a longer boat is much more enjoyable. There are facts of basic fluid physics that mean that a shorter boat has a speed constraint beyond which even a strong paddler cannot accelerate.

    To place it in an approximate automotive context: rec boats are golf carts, 14' "light touring" boats are commuter sedans, 15' and 16' touring boats are highway cruisers and narrow low profile 17' and 18' sea kayaks and surf skis are sports cars. Obviously, there are many exceptions to that (some expedition touring kayaks are more like Mack trucks.) But I think you get the idea. If you can make it to an on-the-water demo you will quickly get the feel for what we mean about the differences between shorter and longer boats.

  • edited June 2017

    @willowleaf Wow... thank you! You've been a huge help! I appreciate your patience! All of what you said above makes a lot of sense and is very informative. I appreciate your thoughts on the Tsu 135 vs. 140, as well. And for the record - commuter sedan sounds perfect. I'm all for a Toyota Camry on the water. LOL! Thanks for putting it in 'laymans' terms.

    I looked into the Tsunami you linked to me from Craigslist and it sounds like a great deal and starting point! The problem I'm facing right now is that it's 2 hours away (one way) and my wife is taking the van for the weekend, so... no roof rack! I'm trying to figure out something for my truck, but it only has a 5ft bed, so needs to be a roof/tail extender kinda thing. IF I can sort that out, I'll likely try to get it. Details.. timing... ugh. :s

  • edited June 2017

    Unfortunately, it's a lot more complicated than that, and I also believe that the OP's plans to put himself in a 14- or 14.5-foot boat and his wife in a 13.5-foot boat will not create a situation where his wife is noticeably slower. But if she has the size and paddling strength, the T. 140 might well be better than the T 135. Anyway, I think it's important to realize that those "facts of basic fluid physics" only come into play at speeds that are faster than average paddlers travel anyway, except in cases where rather long and slender boats are being pushed fairly hard (as people who own such boats are more likely to do) and someone in a substantially shorter boat is trying to keep up. At the speeds most people paddle, this is much less of an issue, and in actual fact, at anything that can be called a relaxed pace, boats that we'd call "short" actually require less effort, especially if they are decent boats to start with and not just crappy barges.

    I've used this example before, but I have two rather similar rowboats, one that's 12 feet long and another that's 15 feet long. The 15-footer is faster, topping out at 6.0 mph in a sprint (the same speed that is indicated by wave theory), and speeds from 5.0 to 5.5 mph are "practical" to sustain, thought I wouldn't call 5.5 mph all that easy. How "slow" is the 12-footer in comparison? It tops out at 5.3 mph according to wave theory, but I seem to remember sprinting for three miles at 5.5 according to the GPS (I could be wrong. Maybe it was 5.3). Cruising along at about 4.5 mph is pretty easy. And here's the thing: At speeds of 3 to 4 mph, the 12-footer requires noticeably less effort than the 15-footer, and there's no question about it. Also related to ease of effort in that speed range, the 12-footer can accelerate from a dead stop to 5.0 mph in a single stroke of the oars (confirmed many times by GPS), and even though the 15-footer is ultimately faster and weighs just 20 pounds more, I can't begin to make it accelerate that suddenly (I haven't checked, but I think hitting 4 mph in a single stroke would be about the best it could do without risking a broken oar). At a speed of 4 mph, I'd say both boats are about equal in terms of effort required, though if that's not exactly right, I'd still assign the efficiency advantage to the 12-footer. The 15-footer really shines when substantially greater speed is needed, but the effort required is in a completely different realm than what's used for slower speeds like 3 to 4 mph. Yes, these aren't kayaks, but the fact that they are so similar in overall shape, and the fact that they max-out at almost exactly the speed that wave theory says that they should, gives pretty good reason, I think, to give credence to the observation that at speeds of 3 to 4 mph, the faster boat is NOT easier to propel. This is something numerous other people have pointed out in discussions here over the years. I would add one other qualifying factor, though, which is that for very skinny boats, how "abrupt" it feels to hit the maximum speed will be less pronounced, and for such boats, the range of practical cruising speeds will range closer to the maximum than for fatter boats, and the maximum will more easily be exceeded (it's not a "true" maximum anyway, but in practical terms, for average boats, it's pretty close).

    Oh, and what of the boats proposed by the OP? Well, in the case of my two rowboats, total length is equal to waterline length but that won't be the case for the kayaks in question. So, not knowing the actual waterline length, I'll use a figure that's one-half foot shorter than the total length, as that will be close enough for this purpose. Using those lengths, the theoretical maximum speeds of the 13.5-footer, the 14.0-footer and the 14.5-footer will be 5.6 mph, 5.7 mph, and 5.8 mph, respectively. Those figures are so close that I would expect that for each boat, the range of practical speeds that are well below the maximum would be mostly overlapping each other, and I've never seen anything on group paddles that would lead me to doubt that this would be true. All I've seen are slow paddlers, not slow boats (obvious exceptions exist of course, but I'm thinking in terms of relatively similar designs), unless the boats are shorter by a bigger amount than we are talking about in this case.

    I'll finish up by pointing out that a friend of mine paddles a 13.5 foot kayak, and can keep up on any group paddle we've been on. I have another friend, who's a very small and somewhat elderly woman, has a 16-or 17-foot kayak in which she's slower than molasses, and a 10-foot "beach toy" in which she's definitely faster. When she got into the sport, she followed very bad advice from "experts" to get a long boat so she could keep up with other paddlers, but she lacks the strength to overcome all that extra skin friction of the longer boat, so she can't take advantage of the faster speed that the boat is ultimately capable of.

  • @Supermike72 said:
    ... it's 2 hours away (one way) and my wife is taking the van for the weekend, so... no roof rack! ...

    I've been surprised in the past when people have offered to meet me half way, thus saving me a total of two hours round trip. You never know where their lives will be taking them, so it never hurts to ask.

    Not that it helps with the roof rack problem. You need a topper/cap on your truck. That makes it much easier without a rack. Or you just convince your wife to take the truck instead.

  • edited June 2017

    @Guideboatguy - Physics! You've blown my mind. LOL! Actually, I totally get what you are saying - and interestingly you have generally stated the premise I've been operating on since the beginning. That for a casual paddle on creeks, rivers, lakes, and maybe coastal marsh waters, a 12-foot boat is probably not going to be considerably slower than a 14-foot boat, when going at a leisurely ('bird-watchingesque') pace.

    Would we find them to be a bit of a slog when grouped with other paddlers in longer boats? Likely. And would we find them to be a bit 'undersized' in mild surf (1-2ft swells) or windy days? Likely. That said, I also get what @willowleaf is saying, too. I happen to be a fairly strong guy, so I'm not too concerned about my ability to power a 14-foot boat, and the 14.5 footer would likely be better on the river. As for my wife - the 13.5 or 14 should work (I'm too afraid to ask or guess at her weight). I do not know how much difference the extra 6 inches would make, but I'm sure she'd appreciate the extra cockpit room of the 140. She's about 5'7, and carries her weight low. ;) :*

    @Sparky961 Thank you for the suggestion! I may ask if he could at least come this way a little bit. My wife is driving to Chicago with 3 kids, so no way is she going to take the truck. LOL! I'm in a much bigger hurry to get this hobby rolling than she is ("we have plenty of other stuff going on right now"). Was thinking of employing a strategy kind of like what you see on this site (see the additional pictures):

  • PS - again, thank you ALL for the discourse on this! I'm really learning a lot and have been able to much better refine what I (think I) need/want, and where to put my $$.

  • I can't really comment on specific methods of hauling. I currently have a Thule rack with folding J-cradles. Before that I've always had trucks with caps, and have been able to put them up top on foam blocks and secure with belly straps and bow/stern ropes. The latter really sucks when you end up doing it often, hence the racks now.

    It goes without saying that you want to make sure your new purchase is securely attached, regardless of what you end up doing. This is not the place to rush things.

  • LOL! STRONGLY agreed! If I could find a 14-16ft trailer to borrow, that would be best... BUT... if anyone is coming from North of Cincy to Louisville, please let me know. :smiley:

  • @Supermike72 said:
    I happen to be a fairly strong guy, so I'm not too concerned about my ability to power a 14-foot boat

    From personal experience many moons ago:

    I started out early on in a borrowed 10' Pelican (big box store recreational boat). It was very easy for me to run up against a wall in terms of speed out vs. power in.

    When you start to see a wall of water, or like a standing wave on each side of the bow, LET UP! BACK OFF! You're completely wasting your energy. You won't make it go any faster than that unless you can get it to plane, which you can't. When you find that point, reduce your efforts by some amount and sit back and watch the scenery go by.

    Every boat will have this point. Others can explain the physics behind it if they care to, but what matters to me is that shorter and wider boats will hit this point at a lower speed. Longer and narrower boats hit it as a higher speed. Generally not a problem if you're not trying to get anywhere on schedule, but if you're trying to make some distance it can be an issue.

  • Good info... much appreciated! My biggest plan in this boat includes "sit back and watch the scenery go by"... it's very relaxing. When I was in Maine, I got up at 6am every morning and paddled around the lake with the loons and the fog... it was so awesome. In Hilton Head, we had a pod of dolphins swimming along with us. And in the Bahamas, we paddled through a mangrove forest with little crabs that were climbing on the branches. Go too fast, and you may miss all of that. :)

  • Speed and handling comments - I just looked through some o the more recent stuff from SuperMike. What I am seeing is people warning you against making the same mistake I and my husband did and likely lots of others. We got transitional boats that we figured would do 95% of what we wanted to do, without understanding kayaks all that well. That was fine until we got them into that 5% situation, out on Muscongus Bay in Maine. We had possessed these boats for all of 12 weeks. We spent three hours stuck on an island while lines of unpredicted squalls came through . Happily we had stayed upright long enough to be pushed there by the waves. We are talking survival paddling since we had no idea what we were doing. We came back home and immediately started looking for proper sea kayaks, and luckily found someone who would take our other boats in trade against one of the sea kayaks.

    I see a mention above of being in up to 2 ft seas. Granted that does not seem big, but if the waves are wind-driven and close together that can become very interesting if you also are new and don't have rescue practice down. Which is a situation new paddlers often find.

    In those conditions you want a boat with a stability profile to handle dimensional water, not a flat creek. Aside from things like having two bulkheads and perimeter line, the reality is you are not going to find a boat really designed to handle that unless you go longer than 12 feet. You can find many 12 ft boats that people here with experience have gotten thru those and probably worse conditions. But getting away it does not mean it is a good idea, especially if you are also making a decision for your wife. Both of you need to be in boats properly suited to your most difficult likely conditions, so that you don't hit a surprise out there and find out next that you are now a solo paddler. I have seen it happen more than once.

  • Thank you, Celia... I appreciate the thoughts. You're right that we should be prepared for that 5% time, particularly if we get them out on the Ohio or Lake Michigan. Glad you and your husband made it okay! I guess you can plan for calm sunny days, but you can't plan for squall lines or unexpected wind if you're 2-3 hours into a half-day trip.

    My wife definitely wants to do this, and understands it's better to start with what you really need and not buy cheap only to upgrade later... but she also does not want to stop and take time to help research it. "Too much going on..." (which is why we need kayaks). So to her, a 14-foot boat looks massive. lol!

  • Mike, the reason it seems like some of us are beating a dead horse is that we've been through exactly the situation you find yourself in and you might say that we learned maybe the hard and more expensive way. Celia makes the point that eventually and probably sooner than you think, you will encounter conditions that might rapidly become very threatening in boats that aren't up to dealing with what you find yourself confronted with. A very large part of being prepared is your ability and that mostly comes with lots of experience, but even practiced experience will still have you in a bad fix in boats that just aren't right for conditions.

    A long time ago, I had my first rigid kayak and thought it was my ultimate do-it-all boat. It was a very well built 13'-8" boat that has a nice cruising speed. I had taken a paddle up river with the plan that it would be easy to come back downriver on the return trip. It all seemed like simple logic. Things aren't always that simple. On the way back downstream, the tide had changed and was coming in with a vengeance and had a strong wind helping push it along. As I paddled along, I soon realized I was not gaining ground and no matter how hard I paddled, I was just maintaining my position. A quick calculation in my head told me that the tide would be running in for many more hours and I would be out there in the dark and probably worn to a frazzle. I was able to find a way to finally make headway, but it was still a very hard slog to get back to my launch site.

    That experience was not the only one that brought me to where I am now, but it might have been the beginning. I now own four kayaks--two of them are extremely capable all-conditions sea kayaks. Believe me, there is nothing like having a boat that you absolutely are sure will get you where you want to go, no matter how hairy it gets. Even better is that the boat does it so easily that big waves, strong wind and whatever else is going on just adds to the fun.

    You might not think that speed is all that important, but I assure you that it will become important as will the overall competence of the boat and the operator. The operator will improve with lots of practice, but a boat that lacks certain characteristics will not.

    This is my longwinded way of saying don't be surprised if you get the bug real bad and sooner than you might imagine, you'll be boat shopping again and maybe again. You might stave that off a bit longer by being very careful on the first purchase. Good luck and happy paddling.

  • edited June 2017

    So, I just bought two 10ft sun dolphin kayaks from Rural King....

    Just kidding! Thought I'd give you all a jolt. lol! I am very thankful for all the advice and input received thus far. It has been extraordinarily helpful as I slough through all the options. I believe I have a MUCH better idea now of what I want/need, have increased my budget, and will shop carefully and accordingly. I may not get to try before I buy unless I happen upon just the right opportunity, but I feel much more confident now in my direction. Thank you all for helping me along!

    I'm still open to additional advice/input, but hopefully soon I'll see some of you on the water somewhere!


  • SM,you have to be an engineer!
    An old boss had a sign in his office: " There comes a time when you need to shoot the engineer and get on with the project."
    Take your best shot and get to it.

  • @string Pretty close - IT architect. We have to analyze and re-analyze what we're about to do 10x before flipping a switch, lest we bring down the whole company. And even then, when unforseen things happen, you get thrown over the coals for not knowing why some unknown bug came back to bite you. LOL!

  • @Supermike72 said:
    So, I just bought two 10ft sun dolphin kayaks from Rural King....

    LOL - got me! I was browsing on my phone and had to put it down right after I read this line. Cursing aloud "WTF! I thought that guy had some sense!". It was only after firing up my computer to see the rest of the chatter that I find you have a good sense of humour too.

    What @Celia and @magooch said recently, you can't buy great advice like that. Fortunately when I was shopping for boats I must have come across similar advice because I went right to a full sized fiberglass boat. Though I was strongly considering a 14' Necky at the time. I've never looked back, though I have seen various plastic boats come and go from my shed in the meantime while searching for something I can bash against the rocks but still enjoy paddling.

  • LOL! Sorry @Sparky961 - all in good fun! :)

    Speaking of Necky, I've also looked closely at the Manitou 14 and the Looksha 14, but still find myself going back to the Tsunamis. The Manitou looks like it's about to bend in half, and the Looksha has 'okay' reviews, but I found a lot of folks telling more about what they don't like than what they do. The Tsunamis, on the other hand, seem to be all "love it" stuff.

    Either way - you folks have spoken, and I have heard your pleas. I've moved beyond 10-12-footers (though my wife will probably freak when she sees the size of the 14 foot boats, but she'll get over it). ha! Also, I will likely pay a visit to an REI or find a paddling shop somewhere when choosing a paddle and pfd, so we can make sure they fit right.

  • Now you've opened a new can of worms!
    A good paddle , IMHO, is more important than the boat unless the boat is junk.
    I went from a 240cm aluminum and plastic beast very quickly to a fiberglass and nylon ,to an all carbon fiber paddle , 215 cm.
    Aquabound makes a good carbon shaft, nylon blade paddle that won't destroy the budget that is a good starter paddle. Campmor has them at a good price. Oh, and I use a home made Greenland style at 220 cm.
    Length is worthy of another thesis and there are many in the archives. Length is dependent be on your body . Shoulder width, height, and arm length all play into it. Then there is blade width.
    Epic and Werner,I think, have on line programs to help.
    The best thing to do is borrow paddles of different lengths and try them with your boat.
    The coolest , most comfortable PFD I have owned is an Astral V-8.

  • Haha... that might be putting the cart before the horse, so to speak... Heck, I still have to figure out how I'm going to haul and store them. Too many irons in the fire. But, the pencil is getting sharper.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • @Supermike72 said:
    Speaking of Necky, I've also looked closely at the Manitou 14 and the Looksha 14, but still find myself going back to the Tsunamis. The Manitou looks like it's about to bend in half, and the Looksha has 'okay' reviews, but I found a lot of folks telling more about what they don't like than what they do. The Tsunamis, on the other hand, seem to be all "love it" stuff.

    Though my personal experience is limited here, I suspect that Wilderness Systems builds their plastic boats more rigidly and robustly than any Necky I've witnessed. Now WS's crazy 100-way adjustable lounger seats.... jury's still out on that one. Maybe I'm just jealous because I have to sit in a hard fiberglass bowl.

  • Based on the 2 Neckys I've owned, their seats suck. Butt, I'm heavy with bony hips.
    The WS Phase 3 seat is far more comfortable.

  • Do you have a trailer hitch on your truck? You can get a T-rack that slips into the hitch ball reciever that will support the stern of a boat while the bow can be mounted over the cab using foam blocks or a hollow foam pool noodle strapped around the cab roof with long nylon straps. Be sure to guy the bow and stern to the front and rear bumpers as well as to whatever cross bar rigs you use.

  • Thanks! That's actually exactly what I'm looking into... Considered using an extender but even if it goes 4' that still only covers 9 of the 14, so have to go overhead or get a trailer. I'll figure something out! :)

  • I carry my 16' kayak flat in the bed of my p/u with an extender. I use two straps to hold it and it is very secure. One strap on the extender and one to the truck.
    Our state requires that it have a flag attached.

  • Other hauling options: I used to be a construction project manager before I retired and several times had company pickups with the open type ladder rack frames on them, rather than a cap. If I owned a pickup myself that is what I would have. Completely leaves your bed free for loading whatever you want but gives you a frame to haul long stuff on. It also is great for when you haul something that you don't want to get wet in transit or need to enclose in some way since you can use the frame to support plywood or tarps. I have even gone camping using a pickup with a ladder rack and slept in the bed with an army surplus mosquito net draped and tied over it and a tarp on the top. I realize some people don't like the way they look, but they sure are functional.

    Also, used pickup truck caps are very cheap in most areas on Craigslist. My ex had two pickup trucks (a nice one for the road and a beater for use on his farm and wood lot) and he got caps for both for under $50 each.

  • I have a couple boats today that match your budget and description. See: http://www.nighthawkcanoes.com/sale-canoes-details/

  • @Nighthawk Canoes said:
    I have a couple boats today that match your budget and description. See: http://www.nighthawkcanoes.com/sale-canoes-details/

    Did you even read the thread before posting your ad? None of the boats I saw after clicking the link even remotely match what has been discussed. Or maybe someone can set me straight and tell me what I missed...

  • @Nighthawk Canoes
    Buy a proper ad and post there. Don't sneak marketing into a valid question.
    And Sparky961 is right, what you are trying to sell isn't even close.

  • edited October 2017

    Hey folks... I know often times people probably stumble through here, ask for advice or opinions, then disappear. I've experienced that on other forums for various things and then later wonder how it turned out. So I thought I'd at least come back (well, I'm still lurking) and just give you an update, as I really appreciated the advice I received. Turns out, some of you were very right, and some maybe not. :)

    So, perhaps against the better advice, and after EXTENSIVE time spent researching, I ended up just jumping in with both feet! I had saved some cash, and came into a little cash unexpectedly, so I decided to make a 'lifestyle' purchase. Unfortunately, there are not really any decent vendors in my vicinity, so I had to go mostly online. Here's the breakdown on what I selected:

    Boats: I bought a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 (from Kayakcity.com) for my wife, and for myself I bought a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 (from LLBean). I got a great price on the 140.. not so much on the 145. But man there was a MAJOR difference in the service, warranty, etc. Kayakcity was great to work with up until the point of receiving the boat. It had a few gouges in it. Followed all their warranty processes, but kept the boat (didn't affect floatability). Very well documented. Now, 2 months later, I'm still waiting on them to resolve with the shipping company. I would not recommend them. However, LLBean was great and boat arrived in great condition. I know a lot of folks recommend buying used, but no decent options ever appeared. I also like knowing where my stuff has been and how it has been treated. The 140 is a 2016, I believe, while the 145 was a 2017 model. Both are 'Mango' colored, which I liked for visibility purposes on the water. Both are rudder-less.

    Paddles: for my wife, an Aquabound Sting Ray Hybrid Posi-lok paddle (230cm), and for myself an Aquabound Sting Ray Carbon Posi-Lok paddle (also 230cm). Got these from campmor and got 20% off both plus free shipping & no tax, so got a solid deal. These are both really nice paddles - very lightweight.

    PFDs: selected a Kokohat "Bahia Tour" for myself, and a Stohlquist "Women's Flo" for my wife. Both of these fit well and are comfortable.

    Other stuff: picked up a couple of Seals Sprayskirts neoprene cockpit covers, which work really well for travelling and storage. It enables us to store our PFDs in the cockpits &, keep spiders out, rain while travelling, etc. Also got a couple of paddle leashes, a towing tether, pump and sponge, whistles, etc.

    Storage: To store my boats, I built a hoist in my garage ceiling! This took some really extensive planning and implementation. I use a worm-gear winch and heavy-duty drill to raise and lower. It hangs perfectly just above my door. The poly rope stretches a lot more than I thought, despite the total weight of boats/paddles/pfds/hoist/etc. not being more than probably 175lbs. To counter this, I mounted some eye-bolts and chain and carabiners to support the weight, when raised. I used pool noodles slid over PVC pipe to support the kayaks. This will hopefully prevent any denting during periods of long storage.

    Hauling: For our van (2015 Honda Odyssey), I bought 2 sets of Malone Sea Wings. These worked perfectly with the factory rack, and handled well while travelling. However, they are a bit of a pain for a quick jaunt to the lake or river. I would be more apt to use them for longer trips, vacation, etc. My wife was able to help me, but my daughter was not going to be of much help. So I bought an extension for my truck and did some more 'engineering' with pvc pipe and pool noodles. There is one across the back (you can see in pictures), one across the tailgate area, and one further back in the bed. This was a MUCH better solution for quick trips!

    Pics and more details to follow...

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