A SIT-ON or SINK? for bay & gulf

-- Last Updated: Jun-01-10 12:44 PM EST --

I am really trying to narrow down my choice of a cheap-ish ($500- to $800), lightweight (under 42 lbs) kayak for the following scenarios:

--Gulf of Mexico (waves 1' to 2' and sometimes speedboat wake), usually a breeze 5 to 10 mph
--Bay; flat calm or sometime up to 2' chop
--Inland canals: usually calm but sometimes a 1' chop
--Creeks and rivers (maximum travel about 2 miles
--Occasional ponds

Questions: 1) How poorly does a sit-ON handle in calm water?
2) How unsafe its a sit-IN in rough seas/rainy weather?

I tried a Hurricane Phoenix and loved how it handled in calm water. Would it handle BETTER in seas or worse? Thanks!

I can only speak for my Tarpon 160.

– Last Updated: Jun-01-10 2:54 PM EST –

I have had it in conditions I never want to see again(high wind,confused water 3-4') and the boat was great.Also have run Class 1-2 rapids,jumped logs in mid-river. A great SOT.

Consider your environment, too
It certainly seems to me that you will be paddling in warm water and often hot and humid conditions. I, for one, would definitely prefer a sit-on-top. The previous poster correctly noted that there are some SOT kayaks that are extremely sea worthy in conditions.

If you were up in my neck of the woods, I would recommend a traditional SIT model. I think you will roast in one of those where you kayak.

Too general
Some SOTs have hulls that are very well suited for rough water conditions. The Scupper Pros are a good example as are some of the current RTM SOTs. Others perform much better in flat conditions. So the brush is too broad when asking about SOTs in general.

Your skill level also matters. A beginner in a long skinny SINK may be a bad match for rough conditions, but an intermediate or advanced paddler in the same boat and conditions is very stable and very capable.

It’s about matching the paddler with the right boat for the conditions. For beginners, the boat’s stability and characteristics matter a lot more. Once you develop some skills,the particular boat doesn’t matter so much.


Agreed – Wrong Frame…
Most boats, including SOTs, can handle whatever you are capable of with respect to your level of skill and endurance.


who is on some type of SOT – waveskis or kayaks – year round in the northeast.

OP Profile
an intermediate paddler who has the balance & agility for a SUP could handle an SOT in ocean bay & coastal areas down south.

SOTs are incredibly buoyant with a lot of floatation in the bow esp. if it has, like the Hurricane Phoenix series does, a large dry bulkheaded hatch. And the sides of many of them, like the Phoenix, are also very buoyant and in many SOTS act like built in sponsons.

The Phoenix is a nice quick dry ride w. plenty of stability. OP, if you are thinking of the Phoenix 130 or 140 that should be very capable of doing the protected salt water paddling you want to do. Thousands of people are out fishing those same areas in Phoenixes.

And yeah, the light strong Trylon thermoformed plastic is a joy to paddle and easy to maintain. And as a final plus they hold their resale value very well.

I’m just a midwesterner w. a newly acquired Phoenix 120. It’s a blast to paddle on rivers, super fun on inland lakes and I got it out in some moderate waves on Lake Michigan where it was big fun, too.

So I say go for it and enjoy the ride!

Phoenix - bulkhead?
So, you’re saying your Phoenix 12 has a bulkheaded area in the front hatch? My Phoenix 14 was wide open inside. Do you have the old or new Phoenix 12? (one had molded in foot braces; not sure which). Also curious which Phoenix the OP paddled. Curious for future reference, and helping other locals with choices.

Phoenix 120 - 2006

– Last Updated: Jun-02-10 8:14 AM EST –

Hello Ed - I did a poor job of explaining. None of the Phoenix series, then or now, has a bulkheaded compartment - it is indeed open from the bow to stern, with a drain plug at the stern. Apologies for any confusion.

Actually, the stuff up in the bow stayed so dry that I thought there was a bulkhead LOL.

A better explanation would be that the Phoenix rides dry and bow high enough that the items placed thru the bow hatch stayed dry enough for my purposes... but if something had to stay absolutely dry (like a camera) then a drybag or Pelican/Otter box would be the answer, as it is for many kayaks - even those w. bulkheads and hatches.

Per the website, the 2010 Phoenix 120 is the first year changes were made in this particular model: larger tupperware hatch cover replaces the smaller Beckson, footpegs/rails instead of footwells, and the seat is set lower.

I wear neoprene kayak booties and use thigh straps, so the footwells are working (so far) for me, as is the 5" Beckson hatch. I had a Tampico 135S w. the exact same hatch so I know how to care for it and what will fit thru it. The Granite Gear drybags in small and xsmall are ideal.

A lower seat sounds good, but I made my own seat pad and backpad (like an integrated backband) of 3/4 inch closed cell foam w. a patterned neoprene fabric over the top of both seat pieces... so it is very lowprofile and out of the way, unlike many of the aftermarket or OEM seats for SOTs.

Hope this clarifies. Shoot me an email if you want more details.

OP clarfication
To answer your questions–I live in Sarasota, Florida. My daughter sometimes takes our inflatable SINK kayak across the bay (!)and through boat channels…bad speedboat wake. I wanted to get her an Ocean Venus (that I, too, can use) but I have never tried one. I was hoping it was similar to the Hurricane Phonenix 'cuz we need a light boat.

The most popular boats I see around here are Wilderness SOTs and they are used in that bay, for the most part…don’t see many people out on the Gulf with them, certainly nobody playing in the surf, which would be my idea of fun!

OK Venus…
never paddled one but I have noticed a woman paddling one every so often around an offshore reef I that fish. Can’t help but see her since the Venus is hot pink! (Love pink…) :slight_smile: She’s been out there in 2-3’ waves/chops with no problem. There is a Venus 11 and 10. Being short, neither boat will go that fast and will obviously not be great for any long crossing. Handling wakes, waves and chops ain’t a big deal although I don’t think the Venus hull configuration is great for surfing. I think the Venus 10 and 11 are listed at respectively 40 and 45 lbs.

If you want more open water SOT that is faster and bit sportier (has a more rockered hull), I would go with the RTM disco. I have one and most fished with this but I have also surfed it in 3-4’ wavefaces. At 14’ long, the RTM is still fairly manueverable as I can carve long turns on a wave with it. (But, if you really like to surf, get a more surf specific boat like a Cobra Strike or WS Kaos.) The Disco is actually fairly light at around 50lbs because it’s relatively narrow at 26" beam (compared to around 28" for the Venus). The RTM disco handling is very similar to the shorter SINKs like Impex Mystic, Vela, etc (which I have also paddled). RTM boats are distributed more down south than up here in the northeast.

Another boat I havent’ tried but am interested in would be the Cobra Wave Witch. It’s based on a design of Hunt Johnson who still makes the Wave Withes in composite (lighter than plastic). It’s intended to paddle around short distances to offshore play spots, i.e. surf. Cobra produces the smaller model:


the danger of sit-in kayas in rough seas

Sit On Tops
I’ve been paddling them for years. Most are very stable and handle bays and rivers quite well. I take them out into the open ocean all the time. I briefly owned a Hurricane Phoenix 120. I sold it because it is too small, good for kids and women only. Think about a Cobra Explorer. 11 ft 3 inches long, 31 inches wide and only 43 lbs. Handles well, stable, fast enough and light. Good luck.

OP is a female
as am I, so unless she is over 5’9" and, I dunno, over 160 lbs, the Phoenix 120 has plenty of floatation and will fit.

The actual length of the 120 is 11’3", same as the Cobra, another good boat.

Hurricane Phoenix 120
I’m only 5 ft, 10 inches tall and found the cockpit of this kayak too small. My knees were almost at chest height. In my opinion, for this kayak to work, the paddler should be no more that 5 ft. 6 inches max.