advice on a lake erie kayak

hello. would like to purchase a kayak/kayaks to play on waters of lake erie near the shore. our condo is on the water and i can launch from a beach but will have a 100yrds to portage to garage storage. i am in the sr. category 6’1" 250#. wife much smaller.i think we would like two instead of a tandem but really have no idea. stability and comfort trumps speed and maneuverability. any advice would be appreciated. our season is short for us. so far my store searches have been sporting good stores and salespeople nice but not very knowledgeable. thanks in advance

Where on Lake Erie
On first read of your post, my best advice would be to find a real outfitter that could get you into some boats and show you the basics in person. When I see stability and comfort listed first for a new paddler, that is not a good combination for those waters. Quiet ponds, that kind of thing a better match.

People who are new to paddling often get so distracted by the big box stores they aren’t aware of the smaller outfitters that would provide good guidance.

It would be very helpful if you could specify approximately how much money you are willing to spend on a boat/boats.

Celia Nailed it
with her advice “my best advice would be to find a real outfitter that could get you into some boats and show you the basics in person”

on recognizing the limitations of sporting goods/box stores. You need a kayak with two sealed bulkheads, deck rigging, and perimeter lines, which such stores don’t sell. You also want to find a competent, experienced outfitter to help with boat and paddle choice and PFD fit.

You gave no information about your location on Lake Erie. Are you on a bay? Or open water?

If you’re near Erie, PA, Lake Erie Outfitters offers lessons, rentals, and tours.

Participating in a class or private session with a qualified instructor is a great confidence builder and you’ll learn important and necessary skills.

I was of the same stability mindset as you, when I started paddling last summer on an inland lake. Discovered that fat short boats are a PITA to paddle, as well as boring. Moved up to an Eddyline Skylark rec kayak and spent many happy hours with it on Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan - or on inland lakes when the bay conditions weren’t appropriate for my skill set and experience.

There are kayak carts to handle the portage; again, a qualified outfitter will help you choose.

If you state your general location, you’ll probably get suggestions on the best outfitters in your area.

About Lake Erie
If you are closer to the western end of the lake (or even if you aren’t), you would do well to consider Riverside Kayak Connection:

They offer classes, tours, boats, the works. They will get you up to speed quickly. Also you can link in with kayak groups on

If you are in the Cleveland area, Kayak 41 North offers classes too.

Initially you will want to start with inland lakes where things are less likely to get out of control while you get your basic boats skills up to speed. Lake Erie can go from calm to chaotic in minutes.

Anyhow you are lucky to be so close to the shore. I’ve got to make an hour or more drive to hit the water.

Yes good advice in speaking out instruction or even demoing boats but there are no outfitters between Toledo and to the east of Cleveland to the state line. 41 north out of Cleveland offers classes and does daily rentals out of Rocky River. Riverside kayak in Wyandotte MI is the closest real outfitter anywhere near the western basin of Lake Erie. You can day rent a sit on top kayak on South Bass and Kelleys islands, but the south Shore of Lake Erie is pretty devoid of true outfitters unless there are some in PA like another poster mentioned. The backpacker shop in Cleveland sells some boats, but I wouldn’t really call them an outfitter. West marine and your big box stores will sell you junk, but it’s hard for someone new to get a handle on what they really want and need unless they demo or get some seat time.


– Last Updated: Mar-29-15 9:52 AM EST –

The OP has not indicated where are... but I just spent a few minutes with a map. Coming from a larger state, I saw some distances that were easily within the driving I and my husband did when we decided to upgrade from our transitional boats.

It is just over an hour's drive from Sandusky OH, which sits halfway along the shore between Toledo and Cleveland, to what looks like a good outfitter in Detroit. Our local bunch often drives an hour to get to a good day's paddle.

If towards Cleveland, they have access to 41 North as well as what appears to be a large and robust club called Keelhaulers. If their web site is correct, they do trips, arrange instruction and pool sessions as well as SWiftwater Rescue classes. Looks like they cover anything you can do in a boat, sea or WW or inbetween.

Honestly, not having a good place exactly along the shore line near where they are is not a fatal problem in finding good resources.

lake erie kayak

– Last Updated: Mar-30-15 7:40 AM EST –

we are on catawba island. we would just stay in near the shore and have a couple protected areas that are large and part of marinas. the sandusky bay is 10 minutes away. there is a hobie dealer but have not gone there they are only there part of the year. good advice from all. i actually had a kayak yrs ago and 75# lighter. just used in my pond. it was more of a river kayak. ended up giving it to the local boy scouts. i would like to stay under 2000$. thanks jbmc

Price is easy to meet used
Or demo from a dealer. And that would give you room for a relatively light paddle, something that is well worth it. It might help with the permission issue at home to go used and save the money that way as well.

Here is a question for you. Do you think you will want to stay long term in the area of a marina (and ducking boat traffic), or being limited by a kind of cord to a shoreline in that bay? Or will you want to strike out further? I am asking because we had that kind of choice to make when my husband and I started paddling in Maine. We lasted maybe half a season before further reaches beckoned.

If there is any possibility at all you could go that way, save yourself the trouble of flipping a boat that won’t do what you need, maybe having to go thru permissions a second time, and go right to one that is a worthy sea kayak. And learn to self-rescue on the water.

Lake Erie
I am intimately knowledgeable about the Catawba area. There are enough coastal areas for you to have fun. The rocky shoreline to the east of CIC is interesting and you can paddle back into the area that is now CIC south or used to be Sugar Rock Marina. On the Sandusky bay side you can do a lot of shoreline from the Dempsy fishing access and even cross over to Johnson Island. There are also all of the back bay’s at East and West Harbor and the more marshy area back inland by Fort Firelands RV park and that marshy area borders a lot of private land. This area hasn’t been that attractive to me, so I’ve never really sought out a launching spot. Marina’s aren’t the first place I’d pick to paddle, boat Traffic, not much to see and it would get boring after the first 10 minutes. There are cooler places to paddle in the Catawba Island area.

It’s not a bad afternoon paddling around the Portage River and Port Clinton and there is a state launch off of Route 2 by the Moose. There is lots of shore between Port Clinton, Catawba, Marblehead and Sandusky. Of course there are the Islands, but I would stay close to shore unless you acquire a set of skills for open water. Even a daytrip on the ferry with your boat to either South Bass or Kelleys is a lot of fun. There is also a state designated water trail inside the break wall in Sandusky by Cedar Point. I’ve even had fun on the Portage paddling from Elmore to Oak Harbor when the water is up.

It’s tough to suggest boats without your height, weight and aspirations. If you’re not looking to overnight and were looking for a decked boat, I’d stay under 15’ and look at day touring boats. Day touring boats can still cover some miles and they have most of the features that a full length expedition boat has, but less weight just less overall boat. If have no desire to stretch into the shoulder seasons, I’d strongly look at a sit-on-top. Hobie makes them, Ocean kayak makes them and they are extremely stable and easily climbed back upon if you do flip. Right now on Craigslist there is an under 15’ wilderness systems boat in Oak Harbor that they are selling for under $800.

Unless you had money to burn, you probably aren’t looking for a $400 carbon fiber paddle. But you also don’t want a piece of junk they’ll sell you at Dick’s or West Marine. Look at something in the entry level line for Werner, Bending Branches, Aquabound, etc. You’ll spend a few more bucks than junk, but overall you’ll have a lighter, better built paddle. Of course you’ll want to purchase and wear a pfd. If you buy a decked boat invest in a paddle float and a hand held bilge pump and know how to use them. If you get a sit on top, you won’t need the bilge pump. Look into spray skirts, if you end up with a decked boat, but also know how to use them to your advantage.

Unless you’re right on the water you’ll need a way to transport your boat. Unless you toss it into the back of your SUV or pickup, think about how you’ll get to these cool destinations with your existing vehicle. Will you need a system to load and transport your boat, even if it’s 10 minutes away? And also think about your fellow drivers on the road, if you’re using bailing twine and bungee cords, it’s not a safe way to transport a 50 lb missile on your car.

Hopefully you’re well aware of the temperament of Lake Erie, and make sure you plan your day accordingly. If you have more questions, please post here. I could type a book on the area, so please ask away.

I will tell you that you are very wrong about The Backpacker’s Shop not being an outfitter. Literally, you are really wrong. That shop can outfit you for any outdoor experience one might want to pursue, and more than you might be looking to attempt. They don’t have an everyday place to try out boats, but do a yearly event in late spring where you can try out yaks or canoes in a sheltered body of water. I know, I live about 2 miles from the store…From Mount Everest(no kidding) to steelheading, and anything you might think of in between …

Yeah what he said
Ok, yes The backpacker shop carries a few lines of boats. I guess it all depends on your definition of outfitter. You can buy your gear there, but not sure about rental or them offering shuttle or guide service, etc. I would put them ahead of a place like Dick’s or West Marine. At least their people may have actually sat in a boat. If I was buying a rec level boat, I’d go there before going to a big box store.