Buying first sea kayak

I have had a dagger blackwater 11.5 for years and love it, but am looking to step up to a bigger boat for gear carrying capacity and better open water performance.

On Craigslist near me are the following used kayaks for sale in my price range:

Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 170

Wilderness Systems Sealution II XL

Dagger Seeker

Any suggestions?

Your size?
At least one of those boats is for a very large person, if you are not that size you would be pushing excess capscity. How big are you, height and weight? Knowing that would make it much easier to advise.

6’ and 170lbs

The WS Sealution II XL would be too big, huh?

The other two are priced about the same. The WS Cape Horn has a rudder, the Dagger Seeker appears not to but I have not seen it in person yet.

Cape Horn
The Cape Horn is pretty big, too. I think you’d have to load it down quite a bit for it to feel right.

I am looking for a bigger boat. I will keep the dagger blackwater 11.5 for messing about in the river, but it just is not up to the waves in the bay and coastal touring.

Anyone have any experience with the 17’ dagger seeker?

Understanding big v too big
There are a lot of reasons the Blackwater is not up to heavier duty in open water, though it is a darned nice boat for its niche, but size is not it. Hull shape, outfitting, bulkheads are what make the difference. As an example, one of the most fun sea kayaks for handling just about anything you can throw at it is the Dagger Alchemy, which comes in approx’ly 14 ft and 16 ft length depending on paddler size.

It isn’t the size that makes the diff, but how well the hull design and other features support what is needed in those waters.

What you need is a sea kayak that has enough room to handle gear for camping - and frankly anything that has two sealed bulkheads and is about 16 ft long will do that - while ALSO being sized to an overall capacity that matches you. If you go too big in boat designed paddler capacity, you will have tremendous problems handling the boat should you get caught out in unexpected winds or a squall. You do not want to add that to your issues if you get caught in the soup.

At 6 ft and 170 pounds you are an average sized paddler, in fact some at your weight try to squeeze themselves into low volume boats for day tripping because they like the added responsiveness.

It is not just managing the boat but being able to access the control surfaces like the thigh braces. The XL boats tend to have very high decks and you would be challenged to have the contact you need for surprise bad conditions.

I don’t know the Seeker at all, or the sizes of the Cape Horn. But if you are being told the latter is too big for you by the above, they are likely correct. I know of a number of current boats with a 170 in their name that would be too big for you. And of XL is.

Are you somewhere that you can get in some demos of sea kayaks before the season shuts down? You really need to sit in one to get the idea.

Thanks for the advice.

I guess I should be patient and wait for a slightly smaller boat to show up. I have been very happy with the dagger I have, so I will look for the dagger alchemy you mentioned. Any other recommended kayaks in that size?

Now time to talk about speed
The boats like the Alchemy, that have a very responsive hull to handling slop and waves, tend to be less fast thru the water than sea kayaks that have a design tuned for go-straight speed. The downside to the latter is that can be more difficult to turn. That doesn’t seem very important until you get caught by a surprise weather change and the only thing you want to do it point the boat towards the nearest point of land and hunker down.

The Alchemy is fast enough for the folks in our evening paddle, you may want a little faster.

You can fit into the majority of sea kayaks for an average sized paddler. Honestly, easier if you send in info on boats you are looking at. The array of choices for you is quite deep.

minor correction

– Last Updated: Oct-11-16 3:19 PM EST –

Both size Alchemies are 14 feet long. The difference is that the small version has a lower deck than the large version.

Agree with everything else Celia has said.

Oops, thanks for that correction
I keep getting that wrong, since it is such a normal habit in other lines.

Dagger Charleston 14’
Any opinions on dagger Charleston 14’?

Looks a lot like my blackwater 11.5 but longer.

Necky chelan 14’?
Necky chelan 14’?


Mind clarifying?
Mind clarifying more what you are looking for? All we know is larger than the 11.5 and “bigger boat for gear carrying capacity and better open water performance.” How much gear are you looking to carry? How long a trip are you looking to do? What sort of open water performance? Examples of where you paddle? Can be big variance in these, which would affect our recommendations.

check the classifieds in this forum
But the group needs more specifics, i.e. size, location, type of open-water paddling.

I don’t see perimeter lines

– Last Updated: Oct-12-16 10:36 AM EST –

Unless they exist but not on all boats. You want them for for touring in open water.

I don't think you are quite understanding what some here are saying about boat features for open water, it isn't just length.

Here is a UTube video that goes over features of a sea kayak, which is what you need. Take a look at it -

look at 15’ and 16’
Most guys I know around your size who do open water kayaking and occasionally pack for overnight camping use 15’ to 17’ medium volume boats. My ex (who was a little shorter and 10 pounds heavier) really liked his Venture Easky 15. Others examples in that range are the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 160, the Necky Elias, Perception Carolina 160, P & H Capella 160 and the Necky Looksha 17 (my brother is your size and has this one), . One older used boat that would work for you if you can find one that has been well cared for is the 17’ Dagger Magellan. I had one for a while and really liked it. The only reason I sold it was that as I have gotten older I really don’t like hauling any boat that weighs over 50 pounds.

There are some 14’ and 14.5’ that might also work for you if you pack light, such as the Riot Edge (14.5’), the Tsunami 140 and the Perception Carolina 140. If you plan to take trips in coastal waters and/or plan to paddle with others who use longer boats you would be better off going longer. Especially if you are loaded for overnight trips you would struggle to keep up with people in longer boats.

by the way
Just some advice, but you will usually get more useful information on this forum if you post a profile. It’s completely up to you how much or how little personal information you put in if you are concerned about privacy, but if you at least include the approximate geographic area you are in and the sort of paddling you plan to do it really helps people understand what kind of advice would be useful to you.

In many cases if we know where a forum poster lives we can check the Craigslist ads in their area and make constructive suggestions on what boats might be worth checking out. Sometimes there is actually someone on the forums who is in the same area who has a suitable boat for sale or who can offer you a test paddle locally if there is some model that interests you. I’ve personally helped a number of people in my area locate and buy boats after connecting with them through the forums.

All good advice thanks
All good points. Here goes:

I live on the Sacramento River in a town called Clarksburg. The nearest metropolis is Sacramento. I have done a number of trips on the river, the longest being five days which really strained the cargo carrying capacity of the 11.5’ blackwater. On that trip we had the (downright stupid) idea of trying to get to Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. We barely made it acrossed Suisan Bay, the wind and waves pushed our little boats around pretty hard. And once we got to San Pablo bay it was clear we did not stand a chance. The blackwater 11.5’s rise up on top of the waves and crash down the other side instead of cutting through them. Forward progress was almost nil. We finally called it near Richmond, we were hopelessly outmatched.

Another favorite trip is across Tomales Bay to camp on Point Reyes. The bay is pretty sheltered so the blackwater does alright there, but I would like to head north out of the bay and around the point to the open ocean side. I expect the blackwater is going to get pushed around pretty hard by wind and waves again once I get past the shelter of the bay. I am usually carrying a bunch of water and camping gear on these trips, and the weight probably does not help the boat’s performance.

I am happy with the material and build quality of the dagger blackwater 11.5, I just think I am pushing it’s capabilities.

post in profile
If you add some or all of that information to your site profile people will always be able to see it when you post and you won’t have to repeat it in the future. Notice how most of us have a little avatar icon beside our screen name – if you click on the little face you will see that person’s info.