My wife (5’2" / 140)and I (5’6" / 180) are looking for a couple of rec / touring kayaks in the 12-14 foot range. We are both in our mid-50’s. I’m looking at rotomold models to keep the expense down and to make sure she will like it. I’ve done a bit of whitewater kayaking and she has paddled a Torrent SOT several times. We want to paddle lakes, slow rivers, tidal areas on day trips; we will be traveling with them on vacations a good bit. I’m tending towards the 12 footers as they would be easier to load, haul, etc. I’ve been looking at CD Kestral 120HV and Breeze, Perception Carolina 12 & 13.5, Necky Looksha 12 and Manitou 12 & 13, and Wildernes Systems Tsunami 120 & 125. We are looking (mainly for her) for good stability and tracking. Please give me your opinions on these or other boats. After reading here and other newsgroups, we decided not to go the tandem route. Thanks.
Just a general comment -- Given your sizes, I'd stay away from the "larger paddler" or high-volume boats unless you truly need the space. You're close to "average" size, and your wife is certainly on the "smaller paddler" side.
Kayaks that are too wide or too deep are not comfortable to paddle. It's a longer reach to the water, and you have to hold your hands higher, which is tiring. You end up with a longer paddle, which feels heavier. You get blown around more by the wind. And a cockpit that's too big makes it harder to have good boat control.
For example, I'd think your wife would find something like a Tribute easier to paddle than a Carolina.
I understand wanting stability, but struggling to move an oversized boat is a common cause of frustration in female/small paddlers, especially when paddling with a stronger spouse.
The Carolina 13.5 was aimed at smaller paddlers. I am 5’3" and paddle an '04 version, which is about 23 inches wide. The later models were 24.5, which would provide plenty of stability for your wife. She’s small, and her center of gravity is lower than yours, so a narrower boat will feel more stable to her than to you.
I believe the Tribute is the new women’s offering from Perception. You might also look at the Tsunami 13.5, also geared to smaller paddlers. It might even fit you both. It’s longer but narrower than the 12, but weighs the same.
If you saddle her with something short, deep and wide, she won’t be paddling with you for long.
And demo if you can before plunking down the money!