Boreal Kayaks

Anyone have any opinions on Boreals? I’m looking at the Kasko - 13’. Was very comfortable to paddle and turned on a dime. But didn’t track all that great. I’m a beginner/intermediate and wonder if I will learn to adjust my paddling for that shortcoming. I could add a rudder - but everything that I’ve read says that I need to learn to paddle correctly first. The same day I also demo’d a Perception Carolina 13’- tracked great, good glide, much harder to turn.

I’m 5’3, 115# and at this point prefer the smaller day touring kayaks.

can’t comment on that
Model but Boreals are well made kayaks.

Small boat/small paddler paradox
If looking for a smaller boat based on your smaller size - are you assuming it needs to be shorter - or do you have storage limitations or plan to paddle small windy creeks?

Why I ask: Shorter boats are almost invariably wider too. They are only smaller in one dimension - and often are still rather high volume for your size.

As a smaller paddler (and female with a lower center of gravity), you don’t really need the extra width of a short boat. You can (proportionally) handle a much narrower boat more easily than a larger person. Longer and narrower should track better for you as well. Also often not that much weight difference for carrying either.

Truly small narrow boats are hard to find, but many are amazed how good it feels when they try long(er) boats. I’ve seen very small women very happy in some very long kayaks. Have you tested longer boats? 16’? 17’? 18+’?

I’m not familiar with best choices for this - other here are.

Boreals are well made boats

– Last Updated: Jun-03-04 5:51 AM EST –

but have you checked out a P&H vela. A favorite amongst small new england paddlers.

Short boats will turn easily and correct easily, that's how it goes. 13 foot boat will never be a great tracker unless it's getting a lot of V in the hull or has an integral skeg of something else to make it be so, and that will compromise other areas.

Boreals are built! lots of pride is evident!

I’ll add the coaster

– Last Updated: Jun-03-04 5:51 AM EST –

as another short boat you should check. I was lazy not to recommend that you check it out if you can.

If you are staying on flat water and small lakes you certainly don't need to spring for a coaster or veela though. I always look at things from the perspective of an emerging sea kayaker. Had to read your profile to get your desire. As to what boat for slow rivers and medium lakes get what makes you happy. Thos places are not places wher I am worried about boat performance much. I just paddle there and am happy. You willl not be sad about having a boreal, (or coaster or vela) You will not be sad about buying used and waiting till your skills refine further and you are doing 20 days of sea kayaking a year because you must, then splashing out for a performance boat which you can also enjoy on lakes and slow rivers.

Unless you want to backsurf or do a hanging draw (which are so unused they are a good place to compromise for almost all paddlers) there are certainly some very capable short boats. I still say nothing comes free, you can make a short boat track well but the compromise must be paid for elsewhere, (even if in such obscure places as backsurfing (or back paddling) and lateral movement). Or speed. (to keep the waterline narrow one can put in extra width above waterline that gets immersed only upon leaning to turn (good for speed, secondary stability, and maneuverability), but then what about steep beam seas?) Everything is paid for somewhere else (strength vs weight vs cost, Length vs. potential speed vs. efficiency at 2.5 knots, Length vs maneuverability vs tracking. Flare vs secondary stability vs beam chop handling. Front rocker vs desireably loose bow vs backpaddling ability. While I have extreme respect for the broze brothers, you cannot have it all. From what I hear the coaster and the veela are about as close as you can get in as short boat.

I got a rather rude e-mail basically saying that I am full of $E@%$. Perhaps the person needs to paddle a great tracking boat like a nordkapp hs or a greenlander more. Adequate tracking is not "great tracking" (words used in the original post)

i have a 16’ narwhal for 3 years very happy with it think you should try a longer yak than a 13’ the boat is made very well & i have no complaints even after 3 years i have minor scratches it seems the back end takes a beating when i load the yak on my truck even from the dolly the back seems to drag on the ground a little


– Last Updated: Jun-03-04 2:30 PM EST –

Boats will seem to track better as your paddling skills improve and small correctons become instinctive. Be sure you're distinguishing between tracking and weathercocking when you demo boats -- they're not the same.

Boats that track well often become easier to turn as you become comfortable with more aggressive leans and edging.

Impex Mystic, Wilderness Systems Tchaika, P&H Vela are all nice narrow boats for small paddlers. If you search the archive here for "small paddler" you should find a lot of discussion on the subject.

Second the Impex Mystic.
At 14’x 21.5" it is a great small person boat.I had my son, who is 10yrs old and a bit over 100lbs, in one last weekend and I could barely keep up with him in a Tempest 170. Obviously there are other very good boats but I was very impressed with the Mystic’s speed and handling. I think 13’ is too short to grow with, for that matter 14’ may also be over time, but the Mystic could be the exception. What you really need to do, and everbody here will say this, is find a paddling shop that carrys a number of manufacturers and try a bunch of boats. You’ll be surprised what you learn- that’s how we found the Mystic. Good luck.—Rich

Watch for leaking hatches
We’ve owned Boreal Design Muktuks for a number of years and they are great boats for beginners. However, the hatches on the Muktuks have historically had leakage problems. I don’t know whether other Boreal Design boats have similar problems.

The good news is that the leakage problem is easy to solve by simply replacing the rubber gaskets that came with the boat with a piece of ensolite sleeping cut to fit the inside of the hatch cover and attached in place with double-sided tape.

weather cocking?
Could you expand on the “weather cocking” vs tracking comment?

Every kayak shop I’ve been in has directed me to the smaller boats. I’ve demo’d Current Design, Liquid Logic, Walden, Wilderness System (but not the model one of you mentioned), Hurricane, Boreal, Perception… I think that’s it. All in the 13-14’ range. I’ve looked for a used boat, but haven’t seem much in my area (central PA). After two years of renting and borrowing, I just want my own boat. I’m starting to think that I just have to take the plunge, accepting the fact that probably in a year or two I’ll be looking for something different…

Weather cocking refers to
the kayaks tendency to turn into the wind like a weathervane. Lower decked boats tend to do this less. The more a kayak turns into the wind the more corrective strokes you may need to keep it tracking straight. A kayak that tracks well means a kayak that will paddle straight from point A to point B with fewer corrective strokes. Many people, me included, are happy to give up tracking for more maneoverability. I really like a kayak that turns easily and you lose that with a straighter keel line. The more rocker (think bottom of a rocking chair) the more playful a boat. It is always trade off between tracking and playfullness.—Rich


– Last Updated: Jun-04-04 12:41 PM EST –

It's a question of your weight and the boat's volume. If you(or anyone) is significantly lighter than the paddler weight the boat was designed for, it tends to be harder to edge, harder to turn, and more vulnerable to wind. There's also the issue of fitting properly in the cockpit -- you can fix some of that with padding, but it's nice if it's close to start. Proper fit makes a huge difference in boat control.

So you don't necessarily need a short boat, but you do need a low-volume boat -- one that's narrow enough and with a low enough foredeck that you can paddle comfortably. Your size means that you'd be fine in boats that larger folks would consider narrow and unstable. Unfortunately, there's a real lack of good inexpensive boats for people in your weight range.

A 16' boat will not necessarily be faster than a 14' boat for you -- it depends a lot or your strength, how fast you paddle, and the conditions you're in. But a narrow boat will almost always be faster than a wider one. My wife is 5' tall, and she's much happier -- and faster -- in her Tchaika than she was in the 16' boat she had previously.

If you like to build, there are a few kits or plans-built boats that might work well for you.

You can have a boat with poor tracking that doesn’t weathercock – it would try to wander on flat water, but didn’t try to turn up- or downwind. A whitewater boat might be an extreme example of this. On the other hand, you can have a boat that tracks well – wants to go arrow -straight in a dead calm – but wants to head up into the wind at the slightest gust.

Is weathercocking a “flaw”?
So is weathercocking something that all boats do to some degree and is “natural” or is a fault in the design?

I’ve been in some kayaks that I think I could have fit another person in with me, so I definitely agree with wanting the cockpit to fit closer. Both boats are about 23" wide (is that the proper term). The Boreal seemed so much more responsive - I only had to barely lift my knee to put it on an edge for a turn. I’m guessing that’s the “playful” factor that was mentioned.

Thanks for everyone’s input!

Not necessarily

– Last Updated: Jun-03-04 10:52 PM EST –

It happens because the stern of the kayak gets pushed around while the bow is anchored. The physics is pretty simple and has to do with the eddy that forms behind the stern and the wake made by the bow. A skeg or a rudder resists the forces on the stern and hence controls weather cocking. Tilting the boat can have a similar effect.

I would like to hear from anyone that has paddled the Pakesso from Boreal Kayaks. It is 14’6" by 22 1/2 wide. Has a very unique hull with shallow arch on the bottom and what they call a reverse hard chine on the side. I am looking for a day boat that is light, quick and maneuverable. This one might do the trick. I am 5’8" and 175 lbs. I have been wondering how folks who have paddled this kayak have found the primary and secondary stability, speed and maneuverability. Any weakness’s?

There is a beautiful Pakesso in a local paddle shop however they don’t allow test paddles. I don’t understand how kayak dealers think they can sell expensive boats without letting people try them out. I have sat in it in the store and it fit very nicely.It is such a beautiful boat that I am really tempted!


Inland Waters

– Last Updated: Jun-04-04 5:52 AM EST –

Think you'll be fine with a boat under 16. I am biased towards narrower boats, especially for smaller people because it will facilitate learning leaning/edging. Very hard for small newbies to try to learn to edge 23" plus wide boats. As mentioned Tchaika and Mystic are nice. You can add on the Perception Sole. Vela if you have any inkling that you may want to do bigger water. A shorter boat will work there but I personally would prefer longer.

Also, given your size, if you see one, check out the EPI Episea, 14'2"x20.5"x11'deep (foredeck height). It's a plastic boat designed for kids/small adults. It's has definite greenland style inpired lines (subjective but the boat is beautiful to me). Doesn't have a skeg or rudder (and I don't think it needs it) At 5'3", 140 lbs, I sat in one and, as expected, the seat was tight around my hips. But it's an easy fix. The plastic seat is held in by screws. Take it out and replace with a foam seat. Although plastic, the short length and lack of rudder/skeg, keep the weight down to below 40 lbs and thus easier to car top for a small person. You do need air bags (like a skin boat) since it doesn't have bulkheads. The plastic is very stiff so the boat doesn't have "center foam pillars" like other plastic boats. Personally, I have an eye for one. If I see a used one for $300 and under, I am going to snap it up for lake practice and playing in ocean rocks.


Slight weathercocking is OK – it’s safer having a boat that wants to head into the wind than one that want s to head downwind(leecocking). Severe weathercocking is a flaw.

It’s almost impossible to design a boat that’s neutral over a wide range of wind speeds and boat speeds.

My Avocet is fairly loose-tracking for a 16’ boat. I’m used to it, and I love the way it turns, but several people who have paddled it had trouble going straight. There’s always a tradeoff, and your comfort level may be very different than ours. If the boat responds well to an edge, I’d call that a good sign.

Can you make a deal with the dealer for a rental/extended demo? Several hours in the boat might answer all your questions.

When trying a higher-performance boat, I think it’s OK to feel challenged a bit, so you’re thinking “when I learn to use this it’ll be really fun!” If you feel overwhelmed, as in “I’ll never get the hang of this bloody thing”, it’s probably not right for you.