~12 Birding boat quest

-- Last Updated: May-10-06 9:41 PM EST --

I'm looking for a lightweight 12ish foot rec boat primarily to bird and sight see out of for those times when I'm soloing and don't have a partner for my 16' canoe. The criteria would include:

*Large open cockpit for easy entry & exit & ease of gear stowage/access

*Under 50lbs for ease of portaging and car topping

*Comfortable, changeable position, padded seat a MUST (Am willing to aftermarket if necessary)

*Room for my big feet in front!! No more cramped or splayed, contorted positions

*Under $800 (although that's not a hard limit and price is not the most crucial criteria to me)

*Reasonable tracking, handling, but use will most likely be on lakes, streams, slower rivers, estuaries, swamps and *possibly* protected coastal regions inside the barrier islands (maybe)

*Ideally, I'd like a subdued color like sand (beige) or green or camo for better stealth when approaching wildlife. This is not a crucial aspect, but it is part of the decision making process.

Me: forty something, not in the best of shape, 6' 220lbs. 20+ years in wide open canoes and a pirogue (and wishing I could find another pirogue)

I set out this particular crusade intent on buying a LL Stingray 12, as it looked like exactly what I want. After seeing several and demoing one that had the seat strap attachment ripped clean out of the cockpit opening and had a split in the plastic where the strap had threaded through, this boat is sadly no longer in consideration. When I tried one of these, the whole hull buckled just a little under my weight, and I'm not at all confident about the longterm longevity of this very thin plastic as compared to other mfrs.

I tried a bunch of boats at a paddle demo day last Sunday. Finalists come down to these:

WS Pungo 120 "Classic" $400 - not tried, but it sure looks like it meets my specs.

WS Pungo 120 $600-$700 As near I can tell this differs from the "Classic" pungo in that it has less ability to punch through light chop, perhaps tracks a little worse, has a space robbing bulkhead and a seat that adjusts in one extra dimension. I'm not terribly impressed, but it's an option.

LL Stingray 12 $619 -- My original choice, due to design, but pretty much out of the running due to flimsiness of seating area hull construction

Necky Manitou 13 -- $619 Demoed this one a couple of times and liked it's handling and technical aspects, but hate the fact that there's nowhere to reasonably keep a daypack or cooler handy

Hurricane Santee 116 Sport -- $875, Demoed the regular 116 without the larger cockpit. Nice boat. Very light and agile, but again, no room for my stuff. Perhaps larger cockpit boat solves for this? Last year's model with worse seat available for $775. Not terribly tempted by the closeout, but it's lightweight is certainly appealing.

Old Town 111 Loon or 111 Predator - maybe. Haven't tried, but haven't ruled out, either. The 138 is pushing the size and weight of my Pennobscot 16, which I'd rather have, and thus, is not really a consideration.

I've decided I'm pretty much a big open cockpit kind of guy. I know many dislike or disagree with that, but given that I frequently get out if I find an interesting mudflat or sandbar or just plain feel like it, and given that I'm a lazy paddler not at all interested in technical aspects of the art of paddling itself, but maybe more interested in just being able to change position whenever and however I can, it's what makes sense to me.

I tried some SOTs: Hurricane Phoenix 120 and 140. While I didn't care for the molded foot positions of the 120, I did like the adjustable foot pegs of the 140. But, both were very wet rides. Scupper plugs would've helped. I *might* consider SOTs from Ocean Kayak or somebody else, but am really not convinced that these are cold weather boats for those not wishing to do the whole wetsuit thing.

Ideally, I'd kind of like some sort of small canoe/kayak hybrid like the Bell Rob Roy, but at a fraction of the price and durable enough to bang against rocks without worry.

Suggestions welcome.


Maybe look at a
Dagger Catalyst? Never tried one, but saw one being paddled last week and it looks like it might meet most of your criteria.

Maybe you could find a used Poke Boat

It’s very stable, has very large cockpit and only weighs 28 lbs and can easily handle your weight. The main challenge with this boat is buying or creating a comfortable seat because the stock seat isn’t very comfortable. I use a Sitbacker canoe seat in mine. Phoenix (the manufacturer) sells camoflauge colored boats and also sells camoflauge covers if the boat you find used is a natural color. These are often used by duck hunters and fishermen.

Good luck in your quest.

My wife’s Acadia 12 footer is quite nice - largish cockpit, adapts to different weights of paddlers (including a 260# friend), tracks reasonably well, can be outfitted with rear bulkhead and hatch. For a wide boat, it moves along well. Last I knew they went for around $500.

I’d pick the 111 Loon over the Predator.
Better tracking and comfort.

My wife’s Old Town Otter fits your…
…specs pretty closely. Also, the magazine Messing About In Boats carries adds for DIY pirogues. Email me if you want the address-I don’t have it handy right now.

a Current Design Kestrel. My wife has one, birds a lot and loves the boat. The plastic model is preety light, has a huge cockpit,rear bulkhead and hatch. It has decent speed for a short, fat boat.

Kestrel HV
I also would suggest a Current Designs Kestrel, possibly the High Volume model in poly. I have one and really like it. I bought it because my sea kayak was to large to use on some of the slower moving winding rivers up here. I have also taken it out on our lake and Little Bay de Noc on Lake Michigan and it performed well. It tracks well, it’s stable and has decent speed for a shorter, fatter boat. It weighs about 48# and I saw on CD’s website that it is available in a sort of tan color. Otherwise the only other color choices are yellow or orange. I picked mine up for $600 two years ago.

Nuf Said!!!

This is so frustrating! I just found another boat to add to the list that looks like THE ONE. But, nobody carries it and special ordering it adds a whopping $180 to the price. OUCH!

It looks like an Old Town Pack canoe, at 12ft and only 33lbs, at $700 is just what I want. But, the special order fees and shipping put it up close $900 according to the 2 dealers I’ve called. The 3rd, and largest dealer flat out said they quit carrying OTs when they changed ownership to Johnson. It seems like locally, hardly anybody is carrying very much OT, except for Otters and Dirgios. What a shame.

The Pack ought to be more popular than many of the common rec kayaks, just based on the idea that you could get a cooler and a dog or a kid in it and still have plenty of room for other gear. And, at just 33lbs, it’d give the Hurricane Santee a run for it’s money as the lightest, reasonably priced rec boat. Reading the reviews on this site, it looks like the thing to do is lower the seat 2" and paddle it with a long kayak paddle. That’s perfect for what I want. Now, if I can just find one.

LL Bean
Old Town Pack Canoe: 740.95 shipped from LL Bean.

Thankyou one and all
Special thanks to njkayaker! I may have found one at a Gander Mtn. store only an hour away.

The pokeboat idea looks interesting, but new prices are more than I care to spend at the moment.

Locally, nobody seems to carry the Loon 111, only the anglerized Predator 111.

The Pungo Classic was my fallback option, and I may well wind up with one. But, if I can get an OT Pack at a reasonable price, I think I’ll try it, instead.

Thanks, again to everyone who responded.



Definitely concider a used boat.

(If the shop is an Old Town dealer, the $180 extra is BS.)

How far are you from Charlotte?
Bass Pro Shops carries the Loons both in the Katy store here in the Houston area and at the store in Bossier City, La (Shreveport). Theres a BPS store in the Charlotte area, you may want to give them a call to see if they carry it. Since your profile mentions saltwater areas for kayaking and you are into birding,thought maybe you may be near the coast. I’m also surprised Gander doesn’t have any of the Loons, mine has at least the 120, a nice boat.

Pungo classic, Pamlico 120, OT loon
I really like the pungo classic, BUT it has a deep v and therefore is not a good boat for shallow rocky creeks. It is a great boats, for ponds, lakes, bays, and larger rivers.

Otherwise I’d go with the 12 foot Pamlico which has a flatter more rounded bottom for shallow water rock scooting.

Also the OT loon is really nice. It might be a little heavier and harder to find, but i might be the best of the bunch.

Perception Sundance
The Sundance with it’s 54 inch long cockpit is the roomiest boat you will find. Comfortable seats, good value and lots of room for binocs, guides, camera etc etc. And less than $600.

Mike, birding is something I do a lot with my kayak. I’m not really up on what’s new these days, but I’ve found that something with a flatter bottom or very shallow v (unlike the Pungo) is better for maneuvering in the areas you’ll find yourself. And at the risk of being flamed, I love having a rudder, which allows me to control the direction while slowly gliding toward a bird I’m watching with my binos. My husband is currently in a Dagger Cypress - I believe the Catalyst is very similar. With the rudder up, the boat can be turned on a dime in tight places; with the rudder down, it tracks quite well. For birding, we’d be lost without our rudders!

Of course, the rudder will add to the price, so don’t hesitate to check out used boats to keep the price down

I second the sundance
I tried a friends airlite version and found it to be very roomy. pretty good speed also. I think the poly version comes in camo. check it out

Old Town Adventure XL
18 by 40 cockpit, wide and fun (and yet still has available sprayskirt if you wish). 27.5 inches wide. My father has an Adventure XL 139 and adores it for the reasons you mention (although I don;t think it comes in camo). Here is one retailer with a nice decription of it and it’s counterparts.

Good luck and godd paddling.


revised short list
Thanks to all that have responded.

gnatcatcher, would that be blue-gray? :wink:

The advice about getting a shallow draft boat and a rudder makes sense from what I’ve encountered with the boats I’ve had and the places I’ve tried to stick them. That was one thing I really appreciated about my mini-pirogue. As the Cajuns say, you could just about float a properly made pirogue on a heavy dew.

My current short list:

OT Loon 111 Classic - Pro: looks like what I want

Con: a bit heavy, and very hard to find locally

OT Pack Canoe - Pro: lightweight, very roomy, have found one locally

Con: lack of tracking, and prone to oilcanning

Hurricane Santee 116 Sport - Pro: stiff and slick for pushing through chop, lightweight, fun

Con: price, and space limited

Perception Sundance 12 – Pro: looks like what I want

Con: can’t find locally. Local dealers seem to only have the Swifty and the one Sundance is a 9.5

WS Pamlico 120 – Pro: easy to find locally at good price, great seat, have paddled Pam 100 so pretty much know what to expect

Con: not quite as roomy as I’d like

Used boats: weak selection locally