Boat choices.....

-- Last Updated: Nov-30-10 12:54 AM EST --

I currently paddle on small and large inland lakes, but would like something I could take out on the Great Lakes or the ocean. I have two Rapiers, an 18 and a 20, and have paddled both with little difficulty, but I don't think I would be comfortable taking either one out on Lake Michigan or Lake Superior.

I am about 5'6" and currently 150 pounds. I am considering the Valley Nordlow, CD Rumour, NDK Greenlander, and NFK Silhouette. That Aquanaut LV is really close and a good deal, but I'm afraid that it might feel like a barge after paddling the Rapiers.... (I could tell the difference between a Silhouette and a Legend!) Some of the other more obvious choices may seem a bit slow to me, like an Explorer, Romany or Pintail.

What might be my best consideration, or should I just sharpen my skills in the Rapier and use that?

In response to a couple of the postings already, I am most concerned about having something that will get me there and back if conditions change. I have heard things can change quickly on big water, and have heard more than one story of people on group outing that get in over their head and have to be towed back! My skill level would probably be considered intermediate; I can roll and I take 2-3 foot waves broadside (if they are not curling!), and can handle these waves reflecting off of seawalls, but I'm on my toes! I can handle even bigger waves (ie. wakeboard boat surf) if I know they are coming....but you don't always know if things get busy...... I've never gone over in either boat in three long seasons of paddling, and have never even had to "throw a brace". Usually catch and adjust any loss of balance with paddle angle/twist......

I guess my intended purpose is to have something that I could depend on to go out with a group to Pictured Rocks or some of the Great Lakes island destinations without crapping my pants on the way!

(By the way, if you have never been in a Rapier they are pretty tippy compared to conventional sea kayaks.....I have heard of seasoned racers going over in them just trying to drop the rudder! The local kayak shop will not bring them to demo days unless you make a special request. A Silhouette or Nordlow; both of which I have paddled, feel like a DOCK compared to either Rapier!)

Work on your skills and get seat time…
Instead of spending a fortune on different boats, work on getting a bomb proof roll in your Rapier in the pool this winter, work on getting the high and low brace so you never go over when thrown off balance. When the water is warm enough go out to the lake and let small waves hit you broadside and practice bracing, letting the waves roll under you and side surfing. Find a seawall with some reflecting waves and learn how to dance with the waves in your kayak. Your kayak is much more stable than surf skis that people use in really rough waters, you need to develop confidence that comes from time spent in the seat in more than flat water.

Aquanaut LV
I can understand wanting a proper sea kayak for going out on more open water. There is something to be said for not paddling a tippy racing kayak in conditions that you’re still learning to deal with.

If you want speed, you won’t do much better than the Aquanaut LV, IMO. The Explorer, Romany, and Pintail all feel significantly slower than the Aquanaut to me. All four are great boats in very rough conditions.

Don’t stress too much about the individual differences when choosing your first sea boat. IMO, if you can get a good price on a decent boat, and it feels good, you should buy it. Spend a year paddling it and then decide if you want different characteristics in the next boat.

I really like the Rumour but I’m way too heavy for it, still it’s fun to paddle. I own a Greenlander and it’s a great boat, not built awfully well, but the design is excellent and for what it is it’s fast. Takes a little while to get used to the round cockpit, maybe 10 minutes . I’m not as fond of the one with the bigger cockpit, even though they say it’s the same boat, it’s not.

Bill H.

what do you want to do?
What are your paddling intentions? The Rapiers will always keep you on the edge when the wind and waves pick-up. At your (low for them) weight unloaded they will be blown about. On a large body of water they will be more fun downwind than the other kayaks you mention (in swells, not in breaking waves). Broadside - you will get a handful…

The Rapiers are not playful. Nor are they of strong build for repeated abuse landing. But they are fast… So, it depends on what you want to do.

After a year and a half owning the 18 I’m still not comfortable taking it in more advanced conditions, where I would have absolutely no issues with my more playful shorter and more stable kayaks. I’m taller so you might have better stability than I.

Admittedly I have not put more than 30 hours seat time in my 18 but I am only comfortable taking it out in high winds and waves if I plan to be out for no more than 3 hours. If I were to be stuck in it in conditions for longer I would he worried - just takes more effort and attention to keep upright no matter the skill level.

id take the…
nordlow. Its fast, fun to paddle,its enought space for multiday trips. Since you dont indicate your skill lvel i dont know. Some people feel the nordkapp to be a difficult kayak to handle. This is kayak youll never outgrow…But then again. Padling a explorerlike craft is totally different. I have paddled a tempest170 for some years, and its equally cool , but in a different way. The nordkapp can do stuff the tempests cant , and vice versa. The nordkapp is very easy driven…

its also easy to get a fair price back for a nordkapp…

I’m similar…
…but I’m a touch lighter than you. I picked up a demo RockPool Alaw Bach TCC late this summer and find its rough water capability exceptional so you might see if there’s one to try anywhere near you.

Now when the Lake Erie marine report says “Watch yer arse, matey!”, I’m off to splash around in the RockPool.

As for the speed of the Alaw, I haven’t a clue. Even though I have two gps units, I never bother measuring my speed. In the big picture a knot or two one way or the other just doesn’t matter to me:)

Next summer when it’s nice and warm…
…pick a few nice windy days out on the big lake…when the waves are 3-5 ft. and good and steep. Practice intentionally broadside capsizing downwave…and letting it drag you for 5-10 seconds while upside down…then roll up…the boat don’t mean a thing without the chops.

Aquanaut LV would do you but…
if you are worried enough about your skills to be writing about it now, I’d suggest lotso pool and warmer water time then buy a boat. If you really concentrate on being anything but upright for practice - be sideways, upside down and back up again for the majority of session after session, you’ll loosen up a lot and probably be in a better position to choose a boat.

All of the boats you mention are good, but they do vary so right now you may be guessing on “the” one. Some are better sprinters, some are faster once up to speed, some are better at staying mostly upright with less intervention from you… given your present concerns I’d say the Aquanaut LV is the safety choice. But these others include some damn nice boats that have made a lot of people happy, and especially with your background in boats like the Rapier may be a happier choice for you long term with some increased comfort off balance.

“without crapping my pants”

– Last Updated: Nov-29-10 5:11 PM EST –

An Aquanaut LV would fit the bill. As would some others, but it is hard to beat an Aquanaut for the purposes you state.

Though, if you are used to your Rapiers, you might find the Nordlow more satisfying as it is very quick in conditions and responds very well to directional strokes and bracing. You'd likely find it more responsive than most boats with equal speed. The Nordkapp LV is not as forgiving as an Aquanaut, but probably more so than a Rapier.