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Cheapest 'Real' Sea Kayak?

-- Last Updated: Sep-20-12 10:47 AM EST --

See subject.

What I mean by 'real' sea kayak is a boat that you'd actually take out into the ocean in any real conditions... 4-5 ft waves, Force 5 winds, etc. I

In other words, not a 'glass water only' boat, or a 'calm lakes and slow-moving rivers' boat.

I ask this because even though I'll be buying a nice new (and not cheap) boat before the end of the year, I may want a second boat for friends/guests, and it'd be nice to get something with some performance overhead, in case a friend or family member really gets into the sport (which would be nice).

NOTE: Said friends/family members WOULD NOT be subjected to big-time ocean conditions unless/until such time as they progressed in skill enough to be able to handle them. And they would take classes, etc.

I simply want a '(fairly) cheap guest boat' that they would not outgrow, assuming they progressed as far as significant ocean conditions.

Also am more interested in hearing about specific models... generic 'buy used' or 'build it yourself' recs are nice but pretty obvious in retrospect.



  • Used or kit
    Yes, look for a good used one or buy a kit from Pygmy and build it yourself. Their kits run around $1,000. If you build it with care, you will have a boat that is just as good and strong or better than most FG or kevlar boats out there, lighter and definitely more beautiful for a lot less money. The pride that comes from building it yourself and adding a custom touch here and there is a bonus.
  • Options
    For Purposes of Thread, Assume No Used
    Besides, if you think about it, the cheapest 'real' sea kayak new is likely to be the cheapest (or one of the cheapest) used, all else being equal (age, wear, etc).

  • I'm not sure that the ability to go in
    4-5 foot waves, Force 5 winds etc. should be a priority in a boat that you want to use to introduce new paddlers to the sport. I'd place easy maneuverability and relative stability above those. A boat that meets your criteria may be somewhat intimidating to most newbies. If they do take to the sport they'll be buying their own boat. I won't go into 4-5 foot waves and Force 5 winds in a boat I'm not familiar with, and I certainly wouldn't take a newbie out in those conditions.

    I'd look at a Prion Calabria or a Necky Looksha Sport if I were looking for a relatively inexpensive kayak to introduce folks to the sport.
  • Rwven hit it
    You've got conflicting criteria with performance undefined.
  • Used Plastic Sea Kayak
    -- Last Updated: Sep-20-12 10:07 AM EST --

    You can find a decent one quite cheap if you look aggressively. Like in the hundreds.

    But... are you talking about taking out friends who are not likely to be accustomed to waves etc? If you plan to try that, can you get a panicked person back into their boat in those conditions?

    I've had issues with people who are freaked out in flat water rescues, sometimes finding it takes two people to get that one back in because they really are not able to follow instructions. I'd think carefully about the environments in which you might be responsible for others.

  • Yeah
    -- Last Updated: Sep-20-12 9:44 AM EST --

    The best loaner boat is your own beginner boat. I kept my first, very docile, sea kayak and it is a perfect boat to put rank newbies in, and I still enjoy giving it a ride once in a while.

    PS - used composite is a great way to go - there's a used Pachena in the p-net classifieds that would fit the bill very well, although it may not be anywhere near you.

  • cheap options
    -- Last Updated: Sep-20-12 10:02 AM EST --

    I think you are proabably posting this as a hypothetical informational challenge rather than actually planning to plop newbies in Force 5 winds so I will treat it as such (and avoid lectures on the dangers of big water and novices.)

    You are likely looking in the $1000 to $1500 range with high sales volume RM boats like the WS Tsunami family or the similarly priced Venture Easky or Perception Carolina lines(exact model/length for each would depend on the approximate size range of your projected paddling buddies) .

    Personally, I'm a fan of the Easkys' sort of hybrid Brit/Greenland styling for "bang for the buck" and for confident handling in rough water, though I admit I have never had mine in conditions as severe as you describe. But I have heard feedback from others who own an Easky and report using the model in challenging Pacific coastal conditions. The only drawback I would see to the Ventures in conditions is the vulnerable rubber hatch covers. I would add a deck mounted security strap across each one if I was going to take it in conditions where a cover could possibly be wrenched off. Lack of a day hatch is annoying but you are talking about a basic good value, not all bells and whistles.

    Most of our local dealers have these models on sale this time of year for 10% to 20% off (I scored mine 2 years ago for 30% off).

    Of course the absolute cheapest would be to build your own Yost boat or traditional wood and nylon/urethane skin on frame. But if you did that you would probably love it too much to loan it.

  • Options
    new vs used
    "cheapest 'real' sea kayak new is likely to be the cheapest (or one of the cheapest) used," This isn't necessarily true. The cheapest new may likely fall apart of over time and not be sold for used. Or you may find a very nice (read expensive new) one sold by a very motivated seller such as after a divorce or loss of house leaving no storage options. Some friends have bought very nice used glass boats for as little as $300 (not common, but....).
  • novices in boats
    -- Last Updated: Sep-20-12 10:12 AM EST --

    On the other hand, when I've taken out groups of relative novices (back when I had a full fleet and could outfit 5 or 6 people), I would match the least experienced and most vulnerable people with the most bombproof and safety equipped boats, for their own safety and my peace of mind. For instance, a couple of my "loaners" are folders with float bags rather than bulkheads and another was a more open cockpit, semi rec style boat. I have always put the more experienced paddlers in those because I know they are less likely to capsize and even if they do, these folks have demonstrated they will maintain their composure and re-enter and pump out the boats without much if any intervention from me. Newbies who were really nervous I always put in my old Dagger Magellan, a 17' plus fully bulkheaded big water cruiser that would keep them solidly upright no matter what hit them and give them a secure platform to clamber onto (with my help) if something did go wrong.

    So I think it more strategically safe to overequip novices paddling with you rather than put them in a less competent boat than you are using yourself.

  • Options
    Nope, do not plan on killing any friends
    "But... are you talking about taking out friends who are not likely to be accustomed to waves etc? If you plan to try that, can you get a panicked person back into their boat in those conditions? "

    Please to re-read what I said– a boat for friends and family who 'GET INTO the sport'.

    I'm not going to suddenly toss them into the Pacific Ocean way before they're ready for it. I simply want a cheap boat they won't outgrow any time soon, as they learn more and more skills.

  • Options
    Again, do not plan on killing anyone
    "I think you are proabably posting this as a hypothetical informational challenge rather than actually planning to plop newbies in Force 5 winds so I will treat it as such (and avoid lectures on the dangers of big water and novices.)"

    As I said to Celia, pls to pay close attention to what I said in the OP: this is a boat for friends/family who GET INTO the sport.

    They would be brought along slowly, not pitched into the Pacific on one of their first outings. I am no executioner. o_0

    Your recommendation of the Venture Easky as being a cheap 'eventual ocean boat' is appreciated. I think those are even on sale at my local dealer right now.
  • Consider transition boat
    Something that has the safety features of two bulkheads and full perimeter rigging. It is enough to leave someone comfortable and a good paddler can make these boats do a lot in the nastiest stuff. A lesser paddler will find they want to go back to shore when things get nasty - which is a good thing.

    Trying to purchase a sea kayak that will:
    Fit an unknown range of possible paddlers in size,
    Have the desired blend of tracking and maneuverability,
    And be forgiving in nasty stuff
    is a very expensive order.

    By the time anyone you want to paddle with is out in the conditions you name, they should have acquired a bucket load of skills on their own as well as a boat that fits them well and the gear. Have you been in the conditions that you name yourself by the way, done rescues in them and all of that?

    Over time you will acquire more boats anyway, let that process occur and at some point you will have a good array of guest boats.
  • Used
    I bought my first 4 kayaks used., the first 3 were plastic Necky Lookshas that I got for $500 each (the 4th was an unusual boat, so not really relevant to a conversation on prices of available boats). Seems that if you watch, you can get a plastic boat in the $500-700 range.

    Could be good to get one that you would like as an alternate boat. if your boat is a composite touring boat (17ish feet long), why not get a plastic play boat (14 foot or so), like a Necky Looksha Sports, Dagger Alchemy, P&H Delphin, etc.
  • Options
    second boat as play boat = great idea
    Thanks. =]
  • if you spot a 15LV on sale
    If you go to your local dealer with the Easkys on sale and spot a 15LV, let me know. Been looking for one for my BF, who loves mine so much after I let him borrow it a few tomes that we kind of fight over who gets to use it when we go paddling now. Depending on where you are located, it might be reasonable for us to drive to pick one up.

    My local dealer has Easkys on sale this weekend for 20% off, but has no 15's in stock (end of season sales are typically "in stock" only.)

    I actually bought the Easky as a personal alternative playboat. My fave kayak is a $4000 folder (Feathercraft Wisper) and the Easky was the closest to the Wispers dimensions and performance in a rotomold that I would not mind beating up. I have no problem using the Easky in conditions that would make me cringe with the folder, like dragging over gravel bars or even bouncing off rocks and scraping ledges in some open rapid Class II streams. I like the lightness, too, only 44 lbs (10 less than a similar Tsunami).
  • Second looking for Divorce Sale.
    I got a fantastic deal once from a lady who was really pissed at her ex. She was told to sell the stuff in garage and send a check by his lawyer. I ended up paying her more than she asked but I do have some ethics.
  • Perception Sea Lion.
    Hurricane Tracer.
  • plastic
    like a WS Zephyr or Tempest. These are stable enough for anyone to get going and will take you through a lot. A couple of paddle buddies had these as their first boats and progressed from the local lake to NW coastal surf.
  • How many different guests. What
    size ranges? For anything but flat water, fit in the boat is very important. If there is much variation, I don't see how one boat will work.
  • "performance"
    It isn't clear what you mean by that. A forgiving kayak for beginner/intermediate/guests in a range of conditions will not be a kayak that requires a lot of skill to control in wind and waves. I'd be more inclined to pick kayaks with a well rounded handling envelope than ones that require rolling as a base skill. Maybe a Manitou 14 or the Easky 15.
  • I'll be very specific
    Go to nckayaks.com and have a look at what they are offering in their "in stock" boats. They are having a terrific sale right now. Their boats are as good
    as it gets and some of the in stock boats are cheaper than some plastic boats.

    Since you say that you are also looking for a new boat for yourself, you might as well do some comparing while you're there.
  • Nice try, NewbTastic
    You tried to craft an OP question that would avoid, obviate and preempt the various and sundry generalities, evasions, diversions, tangents, diverticulations, cul de sacs, and random walk-abouts that often snake like kudzu through pnet threads.

    You failed. (Says he good naturedly, but nevertheless donning Kevlar and Nomex body armor.)

    If you are on the Pacific, a reasonable answer would be to seek out a used Mariner Coaster with a sliding seat -- reportedly both a good entry and expert storm boat.

  • there are plenty of good boats
    a used plastic Tempest 170, for example, will run you about $700-$900.
  • Yeah Man
    I sold a used plastic Tempest 165 for $600. It had a nice compass and I think I threw in a paddle. The guy got a deal.
  • Cheap Coaster .... where?
  • now, now, G_M....
    ....don't get those Nomex knickers in a twist. The OP did not clarify "not used boats" in his initial post so the responses regarding those are understandable.

    And stating "in case (family and friends) really get into it (sea kayaking)" delivers nothing about the actual skill level of people who might use the boat. And none of us is psychic (at least that would admit it) so we don't know where he's paddling or what size the people are.

    It was not a scrupulously concise question, so the slight randomness of answers is a perfectly reasonable result. Am I wrong?

    Some of us post from work, by the way. I don't always have time to carefully read EVERY other post response before hastily posting my own -- we even have an exasperating security time-out here that interrupts my connection every 5 minutes, forcing me to request another block of time (and voiding anything I have been typing) so I have to constantly hilite/copy as I type to avoid losing the text.

    This is a casual forum, not a journalism class.
  • No answer's perfect. Count me as kudzu
  • NDK Explorer or Romany
    These are not my choices for a boat but they are good boats, worth keeping around if you move on to sportier boats, and are comparatively stable. They can also be found used. The Explorer will probably be too large for some guests so getting both might be reasonable.
  • lost cause
    First of all, what size(s) are your "friends/guest"?

    What's "forgiving" yet "perfomance' for a 5' 100lb girl will be terribly unstable and unforgiving for a 6' 200lb guy. But what works for the big guy will be "too forgiving" and totally non-performance for the light weight woman!

    Not to mention half of the population probably doesn't even fit into majority of what we consider typical "performance" boats.

    The main thing being, if such friend/guest took serious interest in the sport, they would want their own boat anyway. So I just don't think your choice would be theirs.

    As long as the boat isn't prohibiting the learning of most skills, it'll be ok
  • Not the Romany
    I know very few people who are comfortable in it. If you are going that route for a "cheap sea kayak" the explorer will fit more people and conditions.

    For actual cheap you must go with plastic. Given that you wanted Sea Kayak recommendations and not just any rough water boat recommendations. that means boats over 16 feet and less than 24 inches wide.

    In that range there is are a bunch of boats that are good all arounders:

    Tempest 170 - will fit everyone, some will need extra hip pads.

    Zephyr 160

    P&H Capella

    P&H Soltice - the standard one can be padded out and adjusted for smaller paddlers the LV model cannot be made bigger.

    There are also lots of rec boats that would fit the conditions you suggest:

    P&H Delphin - slow and short but very capable. The Mariner coaster is not fast but it has all sorts of Legends written about it so length is not everything.

    WS Alchemy - Nice all around 14 footer that it rock bashing capable and easy to control on waves. I would not want to use it to keep up with a fast group in flat water though.

    Venture Easky 15 - another wonderful and capable rec boat that is ony a bit shorter and wider than what the experts tell me a sea kayak must be.
  • Options
    re: Nice try
    "You tried to craft an OP question that would avoid, obviate and preempt the various and sundry generalities, evasions, diversions, tangents, diverticulations, cul de sacs, and random walk-abouts that often snake like kudzu through pnet threads.

    You failed. (Says he good naturedly)"

    Indeed. But with this crowd, you sort of have to expect to. ;)

    Oh well... I think it's gonna be either an Easky, Alchemy, or Atlantic. Those seem to fit the bill.

  • Peter-CA hit it
    and String and a few others alluded to it. If you do not have a single specific person in mind for the second boat then get two different boats for yourself. Say longer glass boat for touring and shorter plastic for surfing and rocks. Used glass should be found for 1K to 1.5K and used plastic for less than 1K. Take anyone else out in quiet water in either boat. Have fun.
  • I've not tried one
    But I've always been impressed by the pricing on the Perception essence 17 for the bigger guy.


    That said the end of season sales I see for poly Tempests in the USA make me jealous.

  • "very few people"
    Actually the Romany is a very widely used boat. I don't particularly care for it but not because it is not comfortable. It is one of the boats used commonly by instructors.
  • Debatable
    I know that the Conduit, which I speak of very much, is not a very fancy boat. I have not taken it in the ocean. I have not taken it on large lakes with real waves. I feel, though, from its performance in comparison to rec boats, and from comments on the Dagger Catalyst (its former name) it wold do well in mild ocean conditions.

    I don't think that I personally will ever outgrow the boat, and if i want, I can add a rudder kit for $200 from Amazon.
  • Percep...what?
    Ok, so the words "Perception" and "real sea kayak" didn't come to mind initially. But all this talk of 14 and 15 footers brings to mind:

    Perception Expression 15
    Brand new $999

    2 bulkheads, skeg, adjustable thigh braces, full deck rigging. Fits a wide range of paddlers. Beginner freiendly stability, but an advanced paddler can have a lot of fun with this boat due to the rocker and responsiveness to edging. (high seat back can be easily removed if so desired by said advanced user)

    So right now its reasonable to find one for $800 new!
  • Options
    there ya go... thanks!
  • Options
    Where you at?
    I know CCK in Oakland has a pretty dynamite sale going on, and there are Easkys and Easky LVs in the lot, some as cheap as $650.

    But if you're not a West Coast person, ah well...

  • Clone
    I got a glass Northwest Sportee for $550 this past summer and there was another listed for $400 right after I snagged mine. Really like that boat alot.
  • Not our experience
    -- Last Updated: Sep-21-12 9:13 AM EST --

    To be clear - the Explorer IS the Romany but stretched. The only diff between the two is the added volume of the Explorer, developed after Nigel Dennis felt he had gotten the Romany right as a schooling boat. It was the pre-eminent schooling boat in fleets for a long time because of its combination of adaptability and head room for new paddles. We have never seen a new paddler capsize in a Romany, though it wasn't because they didn't deserve to.

    I agree that the other boats you mention fit newer paddlers well, except for maybe the Capella. A coach around here has one of the first batch (before the current set of numbers and hull redesigns) that he puts new paddlers into, and while they stay upright just about every person is complaining about not being able to go straight within 20 minutes. This is on a calm river with very little wind. I've had to shepherd more than one of them home, so I hear the full litany.

    Our experience is that people who are nervous in other sea kayaks get into the Romany and relax and smile, instantly. Now, that said I am talking about folks who have already gotten into some sea kayaks.

    The Alchemy is in my mind a great idea because it adds a change in pace to the OPer's own stable. My only concern, and the reason I didn't mention it earlier, is that it is a highly maneuverable boat that could turn into a whirling dervish in waves. It is designed to be that kind of fun, but my husband's first sea kayak was one similar to that and there were times when he found it very discouraging to handle because of that maneuverability.

    It made him a better paddler - but there were days that it was a tough introduction phase.

  • oh, well. Too far away.....
    -- Last Updated: Sep-21-12 10:04 AM EST --

    I'm in SW Pennsylvania (tip: if you click on the little face icon beside anybody's screenname it opens their profile so you can find out any location and personal info they care to share.)

    Would love to drive to CA but just got back from a Northwest Coast vacation and have to pay that off before I go anywhere else.

    I did look at the CCK inventory for the sale, though. Wow, some great deals there! Unfortunately, shipping costs would offset much of the savings (though I admit the deals are tempting.) Few dealers in the NE have that kind of stock depth.

  • Options
    40 Replies - Individual Purchase
    With 40 replies you see the various approaches
    toward kayak purchases clearly laid out.

    In the end it is always a highly individualized
    purchase with pretty defined constraints and budgets.

    Fairly easy to go through ""the list"" and sort
    out what length, what material, and what price.

    The tough part is assessing skill, aptitude,
    knowledge of water conditions, former background,
    risk aversion, and a bucket of personal items.
  • Wow ...
    So what do you think of the hull shape, slightly different than the coaster, still fin in rough water?
  • Well
    the word was that NW used to manufacture hulls for Mariner, then later came out with the Sportee after the relationship ended. Connect the dots as you see fit.
  • Romany fit
    OK maybe I got it wrong, but when I look around and average guy is about 185 or 200 and a Romany is a tight fit. I know it doesn't fit me, but I'm biased towards really long racing style cockpits or wash deck boats.

    I can sit in a Delphin for an hour or two and an Alchemy for hours, but the Romany hurts my back in minutes. Funny thing is I have better flexibility that a lot of folks but low decked boats are painful.

    Other I talk to have similar feelings that the Romany paddles like a dream but hurts like the dickens. My I mostly paddle with fat paddlers?
  • How Does It Compare ...
    to my RM Mystic? I too kick myself for not buying a used Coaster 6-7 years ago. Haven't seen one around here since.

  • Seating comfort in Romany/Explorer
    These boats are actually both sized for about 180 - 190 pounds and can take taller. That said, seating comfort can be a different matter than size. There are some things specific to the Romany/Explorer that happen to be a very good fit for me but others can find uncomfortable. The big ones -

    The NDK backband is an instant backache. It looks pretty but doesn't function at all well, I even had a small backache after a couple of hours in a demo and I don't hurt that way so easily. The dealer we got our NDK boats from recommended a swap to a Bomber Gear or IR backband before any NDK boat left the lot, which we took. Another option is to remove the original and go to a full foam seat and back like from Redfish.

    The NDK seats are short, and for many they simply don't provide support as far down the thigh as is needed. I prefer the shortness, but again I am odd. It is not uncommon for owners to glue in shaped minicell ahead of the seat to add support for the thighs.

    The decks are relatively low compared to the newer sea kayaks, influenced by racing preferences for a higher knee to help with pumping action. For some the angle of leg to hip is just too big.

    The seat is hard, none of the funky padding under the sit bones like you see in even older P&H seats. It is easily remedied by gluing in a bit of minicell in the hollows where your bones tend to lie, but some people never get around to that.

    It is possible that the regular Romany deck is lower than the regular Explorer deck. Our Explorer in this house is the one with a lowered deck height, so we can't lay a regular version of each side by side. Both have aggressive keyhole cockpits, but an inch of difference in height can make the same cockpit feel different.

    There is one other thing that we only noticed one day looking down from the second floor on top the Explorer and the Romany on top of the car. It's more about handling, but worth mentioning. The seat in the Explorer is basically centered. The seat in the Romany is more like 2/3 back in the boat, so the bow is much freer than in the Explorer. In fact the Romany is one boat where it can be worth reversing the usual front to back percentages of load, and making it if anything a little bow heavy. The loose bow is great in surf, but often it is best to tame the darned thing for distance paddling.
  • Rental kayak
    Can't get any cheaper than renting a kayak for a friend for the day/weekend! Plus you don't need to take up garage space with a redundant kayak.
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