A canoer seeks advise about Sea Kayaks

I started paddling a few years ago after I retired. I opted for a canoe because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted and needed something that I could paddle tandem with two dogs as shifting cargo. Also, my wife and I were always interested in Tripping so a canoe seemed appropriate. We now own three canoes.

One of the fun – and frustrating – things about Tripping is trip discovery and planning. Out here in the Northwest, I’m frequently disappointed because many trips are for sea kayaks. On my to-do list is Glacier Bay up in Alaska, the Inside Passage up to Alaska and the Florida Keys. I’ve been hinting to my wife about getting a sea kayak for a couple of years now and I finally insinuated myself into a tentative approval for a sea kayak. And not only an approval for a sea kayak, but perhaps two solo sea kayaks. I must point out that my wife is not a sports oriented person, a tentative paddler that finds all the canoe strokes confusing. We had both flat water and white water classes which helped her a little, but she still doesn’t feel confident paddling a canoe. You have the draw, the pry, the forward sweep, the reverse sweep, the duffek, all the cross strokes, etc., and then to really throw in a curve ball, doing a backward ferry makes her the stern paddler and she has to do all the correction strokes backward. Which leads to the first question: would it be reasonable to get a tandem sea kayak and use it for extended trips? I’m thinking of a tandem sea kayak as a hedge against her having the same problem paddling a kayak as a canoe. What kind of problems do you have with self rescue that you wouldn’t with a solo boat? I assume that you don’t have as much storage space as with a solo. Also, I’m 6’1" and weigh 200 lb. and she’s 5’3" and weights 130 lb… Would that work? Can you paddle a tandem solo?

It appears to me that paddling a kayak is more intuitive so that it takes less effort in controlling the boat. I’m hoping that if this is true, she would have the confidence to paddle a solo kayak. I understand that there is much more to learn, but perhaps if she wouldn’t have to struggle so much with the basics that she would be more motivated to learn the rest of the sport. Like the difference in learning to drive on an automatic vice a stick. Perhaps two solo SOTs since from reading the posts they seem easier with to learn to self rescue, etc. However, my interest is in Tripping so I wouldn’t consider anything that couldn’t go on an extended trip.

Any advise on what type of boats that would suit our needs? Can’t afford to spend too much money on the boats. Unfortunately, I don’t have any options to try out boats locally. Being retired, we do a lot of traveling so at some time or other will have a chance to try out some boats. I’d like to start researching possible choices but don’t know where to start.

A case for tandem kayak if I ever saw one. Hate them myself, but in instances such as yours they rock. Stability, speed, comfort, and load carrying capability are all plusses for you and your wife. Normally I advocate two singles, but if your wife is small and tentative I’d have trouble with the idea of her solo paddling the challenging venues you hanker for.

Hopefully those with more tandem experience will chime in as well. My one and only experience in a double nearly ended in a fistfight, and that was with my son…

My personal tandem choice
would be the Seda Tango. Big, stable and fast. A friend and I have done better than 7 mph over a measured mile in his and we also broke 6 mph in a 12.5 mile race (1:58:59). This race was along a water trail in the Cheaspeake Bay (Wye Island Regatta) with many speed sucking shallow spots and we are hardly super paddlers. I even won an impromtu race against a cousin with a Looksha IV last summer, and I was paddling solo with two adults in the Yak (I asked the guy in front to not paddle just for laughs).

Book a weekend trip.
There are lots of companies that specialize in small trips and teaching kayaking skills. To get started find a reputable company that teaches a reasonably pricd weekend skills class in the summer or fall and sign up for it. You will get exposed to different kinds of boats, and discover if kayaking is really for you. It’s hard to just go out and buy a kayak until you have some basic skills and some reference boats to compare what you like and don’t like.

I had a Tango. It was a good boat. A rudder is a must for what you want. There’s more than enough storage space for two people for two weeks if you don’t have to haul all your water. For warmer climates a Tarpon 160 would suit you but I wouldn’t want to send to much time paddling Alaskan waters with one.

Feathercraft Klondike
A folding double that can be paddled solo.

A folding double?
Never heard of it before, but sounds interesting. Something like that might do the trick. I’m thinking that with a tandem we could really move and wouldn’t have to spend too much time on open water. I’m leaving next week for a canoe trip on the Nation Lake Chain up by Fort ST. James, BC. We’re also going to stop at Hyder Alaska to watch the bears fish for salmon. I wish I had a sea kayak so we could paddle around the Misty Fjords National Monument.

What about self rescue? Is it more difficult on a tandem? I’m concerned that perhaps a tandem would be more difficult to handle?

hi yaknot,

my wife and i had a pacific water sports kayak called a skookumchuck ,designed by lee moyer…a awesome tandem kayak which would hold enough gear for weeks but of course we never used it for tripping. unforunately, i sold it. i don’t know if pws is still around. for solo i would also reccommend the current design gulfstream which i regrettably sold recently with a qcc 400 my wife had but never used.

i’ve gone the other direction in wanting more solo canoes and selling off the tandem canoes and kayaks.

The biggest problem for self-rescue is that there’s more water to remove from the cockpits. If there are no center bulkheads there’s a lot more water. If I owned a tandem I’d be tempted to fill the unused cockpit space with foam.

In terms of paddler size, my 5’ wife was comfortable in the front of a Boreal Beluga that we recently demoed. She said it was a much better fit for a small paddler than some other doubles we’ve tried.

Folding doubles
Most of them can be adapted with a center seat for solo paddling. Aside from Feathercrafts… Folbot, Nautraid, Kleppper and Longhaul make fine doubles. With enough flotation, they are easy to self rescue and fairly hard to tip. Check out http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bagboater/


Jeez, the prices of sea kayaks!
I was surfing not knowing what I’m looking for but just checking out what’s out there. Couldn’t believe that they are in the $3k plus range! I figure I’ll have to add about $2k for dry suits, paddles, etc. It’s starting to get in the price range of a used power boat. I’m not interested in a power boat but just want to explore what’s out there. Maybe I’ll have to consider covering my 18’ canoe and making do.

Go used,
There are always lots of Kleppers on Ebay, a few Nautiraids, Folbots and Feathercrafts… Lots of glass boats here on PNet

Foam, self-rescue
Absolutely figure on filling whatever unused space in the cockpit with foam… as far as self-rescue most of what I’ve seen for tandems requires the paddlers to time their move from the water to getting over the boat and into the cockpit. One on each side, paddle float self rescue or just over and in without the float, that kind of thing. It is possible to roll a tandem with coordinated effort, but from the description you have posted it doesn’t seem that your wife will embrace that. Another option, which may work for you given her relatively small size and weight, would be for you to get in first with her holding onto the other side, then you scull like heck to support the boat (maybe with a paddle float?) to support the boat on one side while she climbs into that one. Maybe?

Question - how does she do at getting back into the canoe on a self-rescue? Do you have to offer a lot of assistance or can she pretty much lift herself over into the canoe without your help? If she has trouble supporting herself into the boat, one of the common solutions in a kayak is to use stirrups. But she’d probably have to practice this - in a tandem you might not be in a position to help her much with that.

It does sound like your wife is willing, if not always happy about it, to practice. So you are ahead of many spouses. As far as I know self-rescue in a tandem is potentially easier than in a solo because you have two bodies worth of weight to help balance things out. However, it does require some timing and practice.

Tandem kayak self rescue
It is really not any harder than tandem canoe self rescue. And yes you could just get float bags and a cover for your canoe. If you wanted you could even give your wife a doulble bladed paddle to use in the canoe. Rudders can be fitted to canoes as well. But canoes really don’t handle surf launches and landings as well as kayaks. To do these in a canoe takes a willingness to practice crashing unitl you start to get it right. Helmets required for surf.

or build


We really never practiced self rescue
in the canoe. When we dumped we were in rivers and just swam to shore. We need to find a warm lake and try it. When we paddle lakes we stay close to shore. Most of the time we paddle with our dogs which don’t like the water. If we leave them on shore they bark and it’s amazing how far that carries accoss a lake.

My wife expressed interest in getting a kayak paddle for the canoe. It probably would improve her paddling effort. She never can figure out how to use her body more than her arms while paddling the canoe.

I never paid attention to kayaks since I wasn’t in the market for one. I knew the prices for the smaller rec boats are reasonable so assumed I could get a sea kayak without breaking the bank. The problem with Southern Oregon is that there aren’t many paddlers or at least I don’t know of many. I think, though, I’ll have a better chance on connecting with sea kayakers out here than canoers. There are lots of paddlers up north in the Portland area but that’s 250 miles away. It’s too bad I wasn’t thinking kayaks a few months ago since I was in Florida a couple of months ago visiting my daughter. I know that there are lots of P netters down there and probably could have talked kayaks with them.

I’ll have to keep my eyes open when travelling and try to rent a sea kayak. I’d like to get something next year so that I can start paddling. It’s a lot easier for me to do tripping in a sea kayak out here than in a canoe. I only have to drive up to Southern BC and have almost unlimited places to paddle a sea kayak while canoeing I have to drive a lot further north or east. I’m getting really excited about a sea kayak now that I thought of all the places that I could paddle. Being retired, I have lots of free time but little money. A used boat seems the way to go.

Managing a Dump
It sounds like you wish to do sea kayaking in environments where you will inevitably be further from shore than a comfortable swim. For example, once you try the ocean you’ll find that there are places where landing is not really a good posibility for stretches because of rocks and surf that could be a serious problem to swim thru with a boat at various tide states.

Given that you haven’t really tested what your wife and you can manage together in the way of an open water self-rescue in a canoe, I’d suggest that you enroll in kayak lessons for both of you before investing in a boat. I’d guess that you’ll still find that a tandem is the best choice for both of you, but you may also find out that your wife is so uninterested in helping with an open water self-rescue that you should think about kayaking with a different group of people. You can still go canoeing with your wife - since you are retired there’s time to do both.

For what it’s worth, it is not common for both people in a couple to be equally interested in kayaking aggressively and gathering skills. There are fairly few (married) couples in most paddle groups I’ve been in once you get to the more aggressive stuff.


have you checked out adventure kayaks in bandon? they give lessons and rentals as well as sales. prices for instruction don’t look too bad. also, oregon river sports in eugene offers lessons. both often have used yaks for sale.