Beginner kayak for calm lakes

I’ll bet that Whistler was gone by the end of the day. You snooze, you lose, this year when good boats turn up for sale. I would have snatched it myself if it had showed up on my local CL. Not that I “need” another boat but I know people who do and that is a terrific deal for an excellent kayak.

It does kind of annoy me when I make the effort to check on what is available for a newbie in their area, find some good prospects for them and they don’t bother to check them out. But that is not always the outcome. In fact in the past two weeks I’ve had success as an intermediary matchmaker to re-home both a vintage Ally folding canoe (now on its way to Alaska via Montana) and a handsome Bell Rob Roy canoe.

Currently aiding in “bride searches” for Feathercraft K-lites and Kahunas and any version of a Wildfire canoe.


Good point, Seadart: pedal kayaks and weedy water plants are a bad mix.

I appreciate all replies.

I went to Rutabaga this morning. They are basically sold out of all sit-on kayaks, and just had a few sit-ins and 2 inflatables. they stated they have a few trickling in, but many are already sold. I believe this is the case for all popular and good new kayaks. So it is either a used one, or next year. I forgot to ask them about demo days, but with the lack of supplies, I doubt there will be a lot of demos :slight_smile:

Swimming from a beach isn’t great here. Beaches are closed due to algae and now you are not supposed to eat fish due to Teflon in the water, so we really screwed up the lakes here. In the middle of the lake the water is better. I’m not planning on extended swimming, but may want to cool down.

I realize used items are snooze/lose situation. Next step I get a crossbar for my car. No use in contacting sellers if I can’t transport the kayak. I had originally googled for whistler kayaks, but couldn’t find it (found it now). Once I waste a sellers time, I want to be reasonably sure I actually want it. i don’t know the used kayak market at all. but i doubt buying a kayak at peak kayak season, and selling after kayak season will not make me lose money.

some questions:

  • my cross bars will be 32" between. From what size kayak on do I need those strings that stabilize it from the hood or trunk?
  • Can I strap one kayak to the crossbars safely, or do i need those J-stands? the guy at Rytabaga said so, and i saw that, but wasn’t sure.
  • are those roof-assists useful and at what length/weight kayak would a normal person need one (I kayak alone)? Me being able to handle the kayak may be another limiting factor.

I found a sit-on perception Kayak for $450. is that a good kayak and price? I realize this may be gone by the time I figure out my roof rack situation. but would give me an idea.

I’m open to the sit-in, but feel drawn to a sit-on. To me it is like riding a flatbar bicycle with flat pedals instead of a road bike with clip-in pedals. The pros would choose the latter. For a sit-on, i think 12’ would be a decent size. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Maybe if I have time I try to rent a kayak this weekend. but that obviously doesn’t give me a lot of choice

This early spring after talking all winter about doing the same kind of paddling you are talking about calm lakes and flat water river floats I saw a neighbors canoe asked about it and ten minutes later I owned it. I took it home and she was excited for me but said she wanted her own boat and wanted a rec kayak. I looked all over the place and like you supplies were sold out and started looking used on line and about all I could find was more canoes. She really wanted an Old Town Vapor 10’ and even OT didn’t seem to have them going out. I looked on line and Dick’s sporting goods had the OT Trip 10’ deluxe and it was almost the same thing as the Vapor but was a nice blue not orange and they called it a fishing kayak as it came with a little anchor and two holes behind the seat called rod holders. In fact it was better IMO as it has a stern sealed bulkhead and a hatch. So it has some flotation. So we ordered it and it came to our door in a week. I unscrewed the anchor rig and added a $15 yoga ball under the bow deck for more flotation. This is a great little boat for our calm water needs and it tracks and paddles remarkably well.

We haul it upside down just like my canoe with two straps and I use a bow and stern line for the canoe but not the kayak. We don’t go that far or that fast and with two 12’ cam straps looped around the cross bar on each side it really is secure. For a long trip I would run a line to each end like the 14’7” canoe.

For me I wouldn’t put off getting going for a year with boats like this available. As to swimming and reentry if we are going to get out to cool off we pick a spot and paddle to shore. With the flotation she has and with the long painter line I added if she dumps in the lake we are not going to be out where she can’t swim in with the boat. Once to shore she can dump out the water and get back in. That leaves cold water. We watch the water temp and we wont be out in water colder than we can handle. Right now today our river temp is close to 75f. So getting wet would be fun.

IMO she will be happy with that kayak for a long time and I doubt she will want to upgrade. I call it a rec kayak, but from what I see something like the OT line is on the upper end of the rec boats. Most of the sports stores around here carry overall cheaper lines and then the box stores even cheaper.

Additionally I got her cross bars for her 2020 kia sportage off amazon. They were a brand I never heard of and cost a lot less than the name brands were around $110. They went on easy and look nice and seem very strong. Her car had the rails shaped like a V. They clamped right on and had covers with a key lock once on.

You definitely want to get crossbars. Carrying a boat directly on the roof risks abrading the paint over time, is not as secure, and car roofs are generally not designed to carry a load on them.

You always want to use bow and stern lines. It is a warranty requirement with most rack manufacturers, but also helps prevent your boat from coming loose and damaging your car, the boat, or another car or pedestrian.

I recommend saddles or J-bars as the most secure, but you can do without them as long as you pad the crossbars. Split pools noodles or split closed foam pipe insulation works just fine. J-bars take up less room on the roof, but are a bit harder to load with a tall car or a shorter person. There are load assist options for use with many crossbars or a bathmat can be used to solo load from the rear. A little harder and riskier with J-bars.

I found a rental place that has sit-on and sit-in kayaks and booked an hour for each. When I got there there came some thunder and they cancelled all bookings. I may tray again this weekend. Then I hopefully have a better idea about which type.

The solo-kayaks they have basically are 10’ glorified plastic bowls. People that had their private boats often just had 10’ kayaks as well. Loos like people can have fun in lesser kayaks :slight_smile:

Since my storage / transportation / lifting on car situation still is a bit shaky, i also consider an inflatable kayak. I found this Sea Eagle which seems to be high quality and is shaped more like a solid boat and not a typical roundish inflatable. Yes, i watched the 20 minute inflatable beginner video in the learn section of this site. Main hassle seems to be drying after use. Is this a good kayak for beginners? It also could become a future secondary kayak if the rest of the family complies. it also looks like I could throw my 9-year old daughter in it if needed. I realize this type of boat is a far departure from the typical plastic sit-in or sit-on kayaks. I’m kind of all over the place…

some inflatable questions:

  • do they deflate completely to store easily? I know from tents, or inflatable stuff it is really hard to put it back into the original bag after first use.
  • the store guy said drying takes an hour… is that realistic? I realize for seasonal storage I want to dry them well. but for weekly storage in the season, is drying so necessary that it will be a chore?
  • Is it stupid to buy the 2-person version even if 99% of the time it would be solo?
    -other high quality options to consider (it should be somewhat boat like a good kayak and track well with relatively low friction)

Thanks for all the input

Actually, that Sea Eagle 393 is a pretty decent boat and would probably suit you if you can find one for sale/ You might be able to carry the child with you in the solo, for a couple of years at least. The boat has 500 pound capacity and if you put some jugs of water in the bow to counterbalance her weight sitting behind you it might work.

I would not recommend the tandem (473 model) if you are paddling solo most of the time. Unlike some tandem inflatables and folding kayaks, the Razorlite 473 can NOT be set up with a single seat in the middle. The balance would be way off trying to paddle from either seat. And at 45 pounds that tandem is heavy.

Yes, inflatables need to sit somewhere to dry. But paddling in slimy lake water you would want to hose it off anyway when you got home and then drape it somewhere indoors to dry. They can get stinky if left with moisture in folds, especially lake or river water. They do make transport easier and for your situation, could be just the ticket for your lake adventures.

By the way, you don’t need to spend several hundred dollars on a roof rack to transport a boat the short distances you will go locally. For about $40 you can buy a set of foam blocks and straps that allow you to carry a boat on the roof of a car. I did that for several years with my first kayak. And I personally don’t care much for J-racks and they are NOT necessary. I have hauled multiple boats thousands of miles on several different cars for nearly 20 years simply strapped to simple Thule crossbars, with Thule straps and stern and bow tie downs. But if you buy the inflatable you don’t need to worry about that. Just haul it in the trunk and inflate at the launch.

Thanks. Solid advice, as usual.

Yes I had figured I can just get $70 cross bars. Not sure why the name brands are $500 for just a bit more aerodynamic version.

It seems the consensus here seems to be that the Hobie Mirage drive wouldn’t work well due to the plants here. I observed that today at the rental place. and indeed, there are visible slimy plants up to a few hundred feet from the shore. but it seems to be fewer plants once in deeper water. Maybe it is marketing, but their website makes it sound like the plants don’t matter much with the kick-back pedals that just fold back when they go over obstacles. I see why a propeller would get stuck, but the Kick-up fins (new feature for 2021) seem to resolve that. Or does that not work well in practice?

Edit: I just did a fake-checkout for the Sea Eagle. it wouldn’t ship before September. Maybe this year I will just do some rental kayaking and plan to buy over winter. Maybe I re-consider and look for a cheap solid hull used.

It looks like the Sea Eagle 473 can be set up as a solo. The seats and foot rest seem to be able to be relocated to different positions. Page 7 indicates so.

Does someone have experience with that setup? And assuming this can be truly set up as a solo (seat in center), would that be a good idea to have a 15’6" solo boat (it probably is more a canoe than a kayak, lol).

Added weight and cost would be obvious disadvantages. But besides that longer boats seem to be faster, more stable and most importantly open up the option to occasionally take a friend or family with me.

The 473 is equally unavailable before September. So this is more a winter purchase for next spring. I did look into cheaper (and available now) inflatables. But decided I rather wait for a good one than buying an inferior one.

On a tangent I was looking more into roof cross bar. Seems the cheap ones on Amazon often don’t fit well and the OEM ones cost $250. they also seem to be noisy. I read the foam ones can scratch the roof, which I see happening. I’m also unsure where to attach the stern and aft ropes to my car. Another problem with a rigid hull is, I kind of have to buy the roof solution before buying a good used kayak. But once I invest the $, I fear then I don’t find a good used kayak. But before I have a transport solution, I can’t buy a kayak… this somewhat eliminates my interim plan of buying a cheap kayak since that requires a lot of proprietary (to the car) investment. I also think I’m so much more likely to throw the inflatable in the trunk “just in case” than to rig up the roof kayak. More reasons for the inflatable.

I never noticed scratching on my roof from the foam blocks though maybe there was. I absolutely do not concern myself with such things: who sees the roof of their car anyway? Cars are transportation appliances and I have never understood people wanting to preserve them like sacred relics. If somebody really wants to be a regular paddler they will be a lot happier if they get past obsessing about the faintest scuff on the inside or outside of their vehicle.

I have never paid full price for my Thule roof racks and have had several versions for different cars. I look for the part numbers on the Thule website that are specified for my year and model of car and then seek the parts used on Ebay and/or Craigslist or FB marketplace. I have never failed to get a nice Thule set-up for any of my cars for under $200. Because they are so model-specific, it is very common for people who get a new car to be selling the roof rack from their last one so they can buy what they need for the new one.

For bow and stern lines, many of us use short webbing straps that attach to bolts under the hoold or you simply slam them under the car hood and tailgate or trunk hood. I use ones like this:

The tandem Razorlite will not be any more stable that the solo but might be faster. Inflatables have some different characteristics than hardshells. It will offer more area for wind to blow you around, something to think about in open lakes.

I do feel you are overthinking all of this before you have sufficient direct experience of paddling anything in the locations you are considering. Probably best to just relax and wait until there is more available and options are more open for you to test models. I’ve had a lot of experience with folks new to an activity who try to buy an initial recreational item based on some information research (which is often to much based on hype from manufacturers) and others’ opinions. I worked in the wilderness sports sales business for years and have guided and instructed. Even had to bite my tongue as friends went down that path who wanted no advice from me. Though some of these folks lucked out, more of them ended up with gear that really did not live up to their expectations for it and really was not right for what they hoped to do.

Going back to an earlier question you had about loading boats on your car. I’ll be 71 in two weeks (I’m a 5’ 4" woman) and have been solo loading kayaks and canoes up to 70 pounds or more for more than 20 years. Costly loading apparatus certainly makes loading easier, and I know many people who opted for it, but it is not a necessity for most reasonably fit adults. Other than those bulky pedal kayaks you keep circling back to, your 9 year old daughter probably weighs about as much as the average plastic 15’ kayak and I am guessing you could lift her onto the top of a car.

I agree with @willowleaf and all the above points. I have had a lot of hobbies over the years and canoeing being the most recent. When I got into biking I found a very high end ridged mountain bike from the 80’s at a yard sale for 10 bucks. I didn’t know what I didn’t know then but for 10 bucks what’s to lose. I soon found I could put harder thinner street tires on it and then I found I could replace the saddle / butt hatchet with something with a little padding, then the straight bars became touring bars with more hand positions. I then added fenders and lights and people started calling me Fred. I put a rear rack on and people started asking about my touring bike. To this day I love riding that bike I put all the original stuff away and could convert it back in a few hours if I wanted but I made it what I wanted as I learned so much in doing that.

I had a similar experience with building my front projection home theater. I didn’t know what I was doing but 20 years ago I saw a business projector at SAMs club and a income tax refund check was burning a hole in my pocket so I went for it. My neighbor was quite proud of his new biggest TV you could buy a 36” Sony and had invited me to watch a game a few times. I said stop over for the game I have something new in the basement and when he saw a 120” display his jaw dropped.

My canoe is kind of the same thing I know I wanted a paddle boat and the opportunity was there to buy a nice canoe for 150 bucks and I had no idea if it was what I wanted but I took a dive and bought it figuring I could likely sell it for 100 if it wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately I found the forum here and instead of trying to figure out what to buy I was trying to figure out how to use what I already had with some original thinking and a lot of inspiration reading a lot of old threads here. I don’t know if I just get lucky because I have changed directions on many things over the years also.

As to blowup boats last weekend we did a 12 mile river run with a lot of floating. When we were putting in we met a guy with a blowup kayak and it looked to be a high quality model. He was paddling up stream to the ramp we were launching from and asked me if I had duck tape. I told him I had gorilla tape at home and home was less than a 3 minute car ride. He said no he had some in his car he thought. We put in and to our surprise about a half hour he caught up he was paddling like a mad man. We talked a bit and he said he was still loosing air. He would pull over and spend 5 minutes pumping the boat up jump in and paddle like there was no tomorrow pass us and pull in and repeat. At one point he was on the cell and I asked if we could give him any help and he said he was on the phone with his pregnant wife and he wanted to know how long to get to the take out we were going to. I told him for us it will be 3 more hours but there is another takeout in about 15 minutes. He said she didn’t know how to get there. So off he went and the blowups were about every 15 minutes. At one point we saw him resting and offered him some water and then he didn’t catch us again. We are loading the boats on our car and a lady pulls in quite pregnant and I said I bet you are looking for a guy with a blowup kayak and she said yes he told me he was going for 30 minutes 6 hours ago. I walked her down to the water and a couple boats were coming in and I asked them where he was at. They said oh he’s close pumping it up and should be there in 30 minutes. She sat down on a big rock to wait. If I had a blowup I think I would have a good repair plan and materials with me at all times. The thing that’s good is they are easy to transport but the bad is the time to inflate and deflate along with having to clean them when you get home and then dry them each time.

I bought a bow and stern tie down set for the car. Under the hood I have the straps held with the fender bolts and when not being used I fold them inside. The back ones are made to slam the hatchback on and they have fat rolls that hold them inside. I used them once and don’t know where I put them so I made my own rather than wait on Amazon again. I will post a picture.

I could get my canoe close to 80# on the car myself at 65 years old but it wasn’t a pretty picture and it wasn’t something I wanted to do after spending a day on the water. I also didn’t want to beat the boat and the car and most important myself up doing it. weight isn’t the whole story a big canoe or SOT is awkward and if its windy no matter the weight pulling my back out was a concern. I made a simple DIY helper I use and it makes the task so much better. I will post a picture. :canoe:

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That’s some nice McGyver-ing there, Bud.

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I can’t believe you know my nickname. I don’t throw anything out that might have a use down the road. My mom and dad were depression age people and I guess it wore off on me. I seldom go to the hardware as I know I have one around someplace.

The nice thing about the PVC hatchback thingie the pipe I found was 2” and rather than cut it to make 2 I just drilled it for a double. Now the blasted thing is so big I wont lose it.

Last time I used the ladder rig a group formed to watch. I made it to go on both sides because I never know where I will park or move to for room to stick them on. With the canoe dolly I try and park as far from the access point as I can. Everyone else toting their boats try and get close.

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Thanks. I agree, I’m overthinking… but I have zero experience, but 100% fear the kayak fly off my roof. And when I pick up a used kayak, it would be the first time strapping one on. Lots of things I’m willing to just try and fail and learn. but for going on a highway with a kayak on the roof isn’t the place for trial and error :smiley:

Maybe the scratch danger of foam blocks is over-stated. It is more a concern for resale of the car etc. I likely would prefer the cross bars to also not run straps through my doors.

I was also thinking if the inflatable would be a lot of hassle after boating. At the lake i would just deflate it, pack it in. i don’t think i would hang out there till it dries and also wouldn’t be able to wash off slimy lake water and algae etc. Most shores here are discusting. All that slime would go in the bag. then at home i take it out again, wash it and let it dry before re-packing (and maybe having to inflate and deflate again. am i wrong? This sounds like a lot of hassle. so a hard shell seem appealing since it doesn’t require that much care and strapping it on the car seems easier.

I researched some strapping material. Please advise if that is good:

  • strap boat on cross bars: NRS tie down
  • attach bow and stern line to car: Sounds like it doesn’t need to withstand lot of force since it just prevents the forth and aft movement. For the rear I have a hitch receiver and could employ that. For the front i found these loops that can go under the hood

I’m not sure yet on bow and stern line: Assuming I don’t trust my knots, something similar to the NRS straps may work. I’m also a bit concerned if the kayak doesn’t have molded handles, or the handles being a bit shaky. I know the advice to just use rope with knots so that no metal parts fly against the car if it fails. If i learned the right knots, what specific rope would I use? I heard those should not be too tight as they may break the boat if too tight.

If you don’t have confidence about knots and ropes, just use a second set of the blue buckle straps with carabiners or locking links for the bow and stern. Most kayaks have a handle or carrying toggle on both ends.

On the foam blocks, they would never make a scratch deep enough that it would not easily buff out. Modern paint is not that fragile.

If you really intend to adopt this sport, you will need to be willing to make the effort to learn how to load and secure a boat and to invest in the right equipment. All of us learned to do what needed to be done and it is not brain surgery. You seem overly anxious about all this and I would suggest you just stick to rentals for a while until you have a better understanding of what kayaking is actually like and grasp what is going to be involved in owning your own boat.

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Hi @LurkingPedal - I figured I’d give you some different perspective as I am a beginner who uses a pedal kayak.

I understand there are plenty of good reasons against it - especially if the weeds and plants make it tough for the pedals, or if the weight is too much of a concern.

But I started kayaking last year with a very basic sit-on-top kayak…it was fine, but I wanted something that was a bit faster, and I was intrigued about using my legs instead of my arms for getting around (I don’t fish so that wasn’t a consideration for me).

So this year, I rented a couple sit-in kayaks as well as a Hobie Passport:

The sit-in ones felt way better than my original sit-on-top one, as I was able to get pretty good speeds without too much exertion from my arms. I did find the process of getting in and out to be a pain, and the seating + limited ability for bending or stretching legs wasn’t ideal.

The Passport felt like a great compromise for me. The speed I could build through pedaling was pretty impressive, I could go for a very long time without getting tired, the ease of the sit-on-top was nice, and you still can paddle with your arms if you want to give your legs a break (though it’s not that enjoyable - there aren’t spots to brace your legs to give yourself more leverage, like a more standard sit-on-top where there are slots or notches for your feet).

I ended up buying the 12ft Passport and have been very happy with the purchase. The more I’ve used it, the more I’ve enjoyed the hands-free aspect of it…taking pictures/videos more easily, drinking my water bottle without having to stop moving, etc. And I’ve been going longer distances with less soreness or discomfort as the legs really are great tools for getting around.

Happy to answer any questions you might have on it from a fellow beginner’s perspective. I’m sure the advice from the many more experienced kayakers here is great as well, but thought it would be helpful for some perspective from someone who does own a Passport (and is happy with it).

Thanks. there are many videos, but yours sums is up very well.

I found this video that shows a neat trick to load heavier boats on taller roofs. but it requires cross bars that extend beyond the rail. Most for my car only go up to the flush-mounted factory rail (it isn’t even a rail, which prevents me from installing generically fitting cross bars). but that sure would open open options regarding boat weight.

There are similar videos without the trick to built a ledge with the rope. But they may scratch the roof depending on how coarse the bottom of the boat is (not sure).

For the next weeks I will try out some of the local rental places to get a better idea of kayaking and the surrounding. Most importantly to find out how much time I actually can commit to not interfere with my other hobbies. I kind of get the feeling I will not be able to buy a good kayak any time soon anyway. Maybe in a few weeks I figured out more and if I decide to stick to it, plan to buy stuff over winter to be ready for next year. Maybe in fall there will be some good used deals.

Thanks for all the input. I appreciate everyone giving me a reality check.

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TyvekCC: thanks for the insight with the Hobie. I kind of assumed that is less suited for actual paddeling. Do you think the non-pedal sit-on you used was equally bad for paddling? I’m curious if the higher seat position is responsible for that (all sit-ons) or the Hobie specifically since the seat may be positioned for pedaling efficiency.

Do you have a new one with the kick-up fins? They make it sound to be a 2021 feature. Do you feel it deals well with plants? Or do you basically have to paddle when near plants? Even when I originally looked at the Passport 10, I think IF I considered it, I would get the 12’ as well since longer seems better.

2 things I have concerns about the Hobie are the handles look cheap (it seems molded is the way to go) and it doesn’t have the for and aft storage compartments. I feel I rather put stuff inside the boat, instead of strapping on. I see they have the storage bin under the legs. is that large? Are the handles solid enough?

Another somewhat awkward consideration is how to pee without going to shore. I’m here in busy urban area and it seems sit-in kayaks have several methods to do that discreetly. For a sit-on it seems jumping into the lake is the best way, but I may or may not always want to do that and also depends on temperatures.