canoe vs kayak

Hi all. I am new here but I have one specific question. We are a 6 person family 11, 9, 5, 3. We were looking at 3 2 person kayaks or 2 canoes. We are in nc and do some mountain kayaking ( rental). Lake and sound side of ocean too. We wanted to get all of your suggestions on what to get. Will canoes be okay to do all the above? We won’t be doing whitewater but like the new river has some quick rocky parts.



A lot depends on the kids
No matter how you split up the family there is always going to be a stronger boat with canoes. Experience has taught me that everybody wants to explore taking the lead.

I tried canoes, tandem kayaks, then settled on kayaks for everybody (we are a family of 5) everybody was over 12yoa when they got their own boat. We still have a tandem kayak, this is mainly used as the “can a friend come along” boat.

I never really attempted whole family long trips in paddlecraft, just camping near water, With everybody in their own boat it can be quite a chore keeping watch over everybody when they are young.

With hind sight taken into consideration; in my opinion I would get 2 canoes, and prepare to move into kayaks as the kids get older and more confident/independant.

numbers tell it all
You have two adults and a preteen as the oldest. Would you trust the preteen in the ocean in a double kayak?

Till they get older it might be best to continue as you are doing.

When you crunch the numbers it may make more sense to rent. Paddles and PFDs for that many add to the expense. Plus two thousand for canoes ( if you can find decent used) and much more for tandem kayaks… and the weight factor on the latter may be discouraging.

Stop!! Can Any of the Kids Swim?
The 9 and 11 year old should be able to swim a mile in half an hour. The 5 year old should be able to swim the length of an Olympic size pool and back. The 3 year old should be able to swim the width of an Olympic pool. Don’t even go close to the water until the kids can do that?

I guess
based on this criteria I should not be in a canoe or a kayak: The 9 and 11 year old should be able to swim a mile in half an hour. The 5 year old should be able to swim the length of an Olympic size pool and back. The 3 year old should be able to swim the width of an Olympic pool. Don’t even go close to the water until the kids can do that?

I like kayamedic advice.

what kind
Thanks, I was looking at a canoe but just wanted to know the concensus. What type of canoes do I want fiberglass, metal, mad river plastic?

Something that will withstand saltwater and shallow mountain rivers?

Saltwater paddling
I don’t know where you would put in on the ocean, but if you are thinking fairly open bays I’d leave the salty stuff to guided tours until at least the adults in the group have some solid skills in rescues. Slow flat salt marshes, not really open water, are another story.

It does not appear from your post that you are nearly there.

I would also second confirming everyone has decent swimming ability, on the count alone, because poor swimmers tend to panic if they have to tread water for a while. Look at the count in your group - 5. If there is a massive dump, dump everyone has to be able to stay afloat until the strongest swimmer(s) can get all the swimmers back into a boat or to land. Even if both you and your wife can do the rescuing, that means at least one of the kids is waiting in the water for you two to get the first two to safety. You need some reliable level of swimming ability in everyone for that time to be available.

thank you
We would be doing marshy areas on sound side ocean. I have 3 kids that can tread water. All will be wearing life preservers. I have no intention of going out into the actual ocean with a canoe. That is plain stupid.

While you’re making up your mind,
get good PFDs for the kids (if you don’t already have them), then as a family have some play time in a local pool while wearing the PFDs. Just have fun and play games, especially with the youngest.

That’s Just the Minimum
You ought to see the required swimming test kids have to take to qualify for sailing lessons.

I honestly

– Last Updated: Dec-14-15 6:34 AM EST –

Did not think this was going to turn into a swimming ability thread. As a family we spend at least one if not often 2 Saturdays each month at the local lake over the summer. The kids have worn pet's for 4 plus hours tubing in the mountains. We are currently continuing swimming lessons for the 5 and 3 yr old. The kids are extremely familiar with the water and lake. We camp there multiple times over the year and would like to bring a canoe next time. But would like it to be useful wherever we go.

Just out of curiosity, my wife used to do park and rec in chicago and they took those kids out on canoes with out those requirements. I know you said sailing but is that a sailing club mandate and where can I find that. Please provide a link.


The swimming part

– Last Updated: Dec-14-15 7:55 AM EST –

The swimming part is due to some lack of clarity in what you are saying. First, nothing I see above indicates you have settled on a kayak or canoe solution. If you have settled on canoes, Sorry, I didn't see it.

And your original post says sound side on the ocean without indicating what sound. What you probably do not realize is that being in an ocean sound does not necessarily assure calm conditions because of the way wind and in come places current can add complications. Which sound matters a lot.

Also, I know of at least a few people who would disagree that canoes in the ocean are stupid. Like the people who still do portions of the Maine Island Trail each year in canoes or other variations of open boats. It requires a lot more skill to be in open ocean in these boats than in kayaks IMO, but properly equipped it is quite doable. In fact at the point this waterway trail was established the majority craft was canoes.

So yes, people are talking about things other than what you feel is the major point. But realize that you are quite new to this, and you are hearing from people that have some miles under their belt to have seen where the problems happen once people actually get on the water. The real problems for newer paddlers do not occur because of what they anticipated. It is the stuff that they don't know to anticipate where the unfortunate things happen.

For example, I have personally been in a situation where on paddler capsized, got separated from his boat and we saw 20 feet open up between the two in just a few seconds. The boat due to the wind and the swimmer due to the normal river current, NOT a whitewater current at all, just a fairly large river not far up from where it entered the ocean when the tide was running out. I got the swimmer, my husband, and someone else went after the boat. It took us a bit of time to get the two pack together.

It’s not you
The same people think kids should have life jackets on to walk along the beach and no one should get in a kayak without first becoming lvl III ACA certified instructors.

Have you considered the larger open cockpit tandem kayaks? Some of them come with a drop in third middle seat. The middle person can’t paddle ( but hey, they should be encased in plastic floating bubbles anyway). The only drawback is that’s a lot of boat for the 9 yr old to be paddling but in short order your family will grow into them.

I’m thinking like a Saba or a Pamlico tandem.

Swimming is a good idea
the ability to be comfortable in the water the essential idea.

And don’t skimp on those PFD’s.Need not be expensive but must fit…That can be a challenge for kids.

For an incendiary piece of info, voyageurs and natives rarely knew how to swim… And where did canoes come from…those cultures.

An open cockpit or two kayak(s) will work… but those are not true tandem sea kayaks. So they are best used on calm lakes…don’t think ocean with those craft. Tandem kayaks have sealed bulkheads. Lake rec kayaks usually do not or have only one, which makes rescue harder.

Your kids are going to flip. Kids love to flip. Its not dangerous if they know what to do. No matter what you get… get thee to the beach and start playing with the boat…right side up and upside down. Go to a calm water place you already swim at.

Sorry, No Link
But before you can sign up your kid for sailing lessons in Hawaii, they got to demonstrate to the instructor that they can really swim, which is usually no problem for 9 - 11 year olds who already have the experience of surfing a quarter of a mile or more offshore.

Now if your kids (9 - 11) are already good swimmers, don’t coddle them, let them explore on their own and feel their oats. Get them both their own used Scuppers and telescopic paddles. On a Scupper, I’d remove the hatch covers and put the 5 year old in the rear hatch and the 3 year old in the front hatch, with a parent paddling in the cockpit.

If you can find them, buy the Original fiberglass Scuppers, which are stackable and lighter than the plastic ones. I use to surf my Scupper Classic with my 3 year old sitting behind me (back to back) and facing rearward, observing the wave we’re riding. Of course, the 5 year old can lay prone, up front, while you paddle or surf. Lots of fun!!

off the wall suggestion

– Last Updated: Dec-14-15 10:37 AM EST –

If you are considering the "canoes for now, kayaks when the kids get older" and want to minimize the budget for now, I have a slightly different suggestion.

I am mainly a kayaker but my ex-beau and I owned a fleet of both sea kayaks and canoes and we often paddled in waters similar to what you are describing (sheltered coastal areas, rivers and fast rocky streams with occasional riffles and mild rapids.) On a vacation trip to Florida the cottage we rented along a canal in Everglades City had kayaks and a plastic Mad River Adventure 16 canoe available. The first day there we used the canoe with kayak paddles (230 in the bow and 240 in the stern) and explored the adjacent rivers also ventured out into the more windy and a rougher water coastal zone around Chokoloskee Bay and the Thousand Islands. We enjoyed it so much we didn't even bother with the kayaks and when we came back home we looked for a used one and were happy to find one in excellent shape for $400, which is a pretty common price for them.

We continued to find that we preferred it for shallow flat streams where we did not like banging up our kayaks. The more we used it the more we enjoyed it and started using it on lakes and deeper slow rivers as well. It tracked well and was comfortable to paddle for long distances because it was easier to stretch legs than in the kayaks and it was great for hauling camping gear. Its one drawback as a canoe is that you can't kneel to paddle it (due to the molded seats) but if you are not in whitewater that is not an issue. And it is a little heavy, but weighs about the same as a tandem poly kayak. We two 60-something geezers could load it on the cars and we got a little folding cart for hauling it to the riverbanks.

The Adventure kind of falls between a "true" canoe and a tandem sit on top kayak. It has low sides with moderate tumblehome and a sort of molded in rim around the gunwale. This design makes it easier to climb back into the boat out on the water than most regular kayaks, a good feature for young kids. It has 3 molded in seats so you would only need two of the boats for the family and could invest in kayak paddles for now (and maybe a couple of canoe paddles for the smaller kids). The more recent models of the Adventure have a slightly squared off stern with a place to mount a 30 lb electric trolling motor (in fact the used one we bought came with such a Minn-Kota motor). This might prove a useful option with kids, as in a situation where a quick return to the put-in back upstream became necessary.

Used Adventure 16's seem to be cheap and plentiful and are tough boats.

The model was also called the Passage 16 when it was first sold at Dick's Sporting Goods chain. Don't know your location but there are currently 3 listed for sale between $400 and $500 in NC, DC and MD.

Consider where the OP is living
Its going to be a stretch to get to surf on the Outer Banks… I agree that ocean swimming is an essential skill on the ocean. Rescues are harder. However not all areas are equal. Here you need to be a good swimmer for ocean sailing and have a survival suit too. Perhaps not the suit in Hawaii. Surfers here need thick wetsuits now.

But for the most part I think they will be on Jocassee and lakes and mountain streams. For the latter especially I recommend taking family courses . NOC is nearby. They do run kids camps. But it does get pricey.

Never saw those…
I’ve never seen anyone on pnet saying kids need to wear a pfd to walk on a beach. When was that posted?

I’ve never seen anyone on pnet saying kids need to be certified as any type of boating instructor. When was that posted?

The OP asked about suitable canoes &/or kayaks for family paddling. I didn’t see any questions asked about sailing.


That was a reply to a reply, …
… provided as commentary to the OP. The part about wearing a PFD on the beach was sarcasm, brought about by the statement that no kid should be in a boat until he can swim better and faster than 98 percent of the adults on this board. The indent feature clarifies all, a feature that some use, and some don’t.

Bob, you are one of the kings of clever sarcasm. Did you just trick me into explaining something that didn’t need to be explained? :slight_smile:

Yes, it was here
A guy put up photos of his kids walking along a small beach they had reached in canoes. The kids had removed there PFDs as they walked in water that did not come over the kids ankles and people here told him his kids should keep the PFDs on for safeties same

I didn’t say the kids should get certified, I said people recommend everyone should be certified. It’s called hyperbole and was a reference to the frequent actual advice frequently given that everyone should take classes and rent 10 times before buying any boat.