Canoeist with bad knee needs help picking sea kayak

I’m fighting a losing battle with an arthritic knee that is making it difficult for me to knee in my canoes. Since I find myself sitting more and more anyway, I am thinking about getting a sea kayak. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.) Fortunately, there are plenty of used boats available near me in RI. Just from the classified ads on my club’s website I have these options:

Nordica glass ocean kayak - $2,600
P&H Aries 150 - $2,500
Valley Pintail - $2,300
Eddyline Fathom - $2,100
Seaward Silhouette - $1,200
Valley Q-Boat - $1,000
Valley Skerry - $400

I have to admit, it is a little overwhelming since I’ve been a die-hard canoeist for years and know almost nothing about kayak makes, models, features, etc. I’m 5’10”, 230 lbs. I did take a class II whitewater kayak class many years ago. I also did a 14-mile trip around Narragansett Bay a couple of years ago in a 17’ Heritage sit-on-top. That is pretty much the extent of my kayak experience.

I know I should probably grab the plastic Valley Skerry for $400, but I’m wondering what you guys think about the other boats. I’m a river paddler, so my canoes tend to be shorter and more rockered. The Aries, Pintail and Silhouette look interesting. I’m also a bigger guy, so I want a cockpit big enough that I can get out of the boat.

Any thoughts for an overwhelmed canoeist looking to move over to the dark side.

I know little about the boats you’ve listed, but advice I got when I purchased my first sea kayak turned out to be true. It was “a kayak is like a suit - you wear it while you sit in a canoe”. Most canoes can comfortably fit a range of body sizes, this is less so for kayaks, especially if you are a bigger person. You need to sit in the cockpit to get a feel for how it fits on you.

At a demo day I tried on many sea kayaks before settling on a CD Storm. I’m a big guy at 6’ 230lbs. Liked it so much after a couple of years bought a used composite version of the hull called the CD Solstice which is lighter and faster, handles much the same.


It sounds like the only reason you are thinking of switching to sea kayaking is because of your knee. If you prefer canoeing, why not look at a tractor seat/foot brace setup?

FWIW, I don’t like most of the boats on your list for a guy your size. If you could find an Aries 155 or it’s plastic sister, a Delphin 155, you might find that they a good fit for your body, but my question would then be how flexible you are with that bad knee, as getting into and out of a sea kayak requires some mobility in the legs, hips, and back.

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FYI, as “newbie” kayaker (not canoeist) ,I think you’re past the comfortable weight for Aries 150, Pintail, and the Silhouette.

Also, as you know, you need to consider what types of paddling venue you are likely interested and want to paddle in. With your white water background, I suspect you would be more pleased with a “playful” vs and point A to B type of kayak.

Don’t know what you budget is, but this Sterling carbon/kevlar Grand Illusion is available and a very good price given what it cost to get a new one.

It was too bad that I am too small for it when I was looking to get a Sterling.

Oh, here is a more point A to B touring boat (but some rocker in hull):


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I’ve had arthritic knees for a long time but still prefer canoeing to sea kayaking.

I’’ve managed my knee pain in the canoe by sitting on a bench seat raised high enough that I can kneel if needed. From the bench seat I can sit or kneel with 1 or 2 knees. I’ve been able to continue WW canoeing this way.

In my quite comfortable CD sea kayaks I find I want to get out and walk around after 2 hours or so. The limited movement allowed in sea kayak becomes uncomfortable after an extended period. I don’t experience that in the canoe with a bench seat.

Adding a foot bar and backband to the solo canoe will provide the locked in feel you get in a sea kayak.

@eckilson I read the title and then looked and saw who posted and I have to say my first thought was is it April First.

I only started paddling a year and a half ago after a lifetime of being on big water with powered boats. Also starting off with shot knees and I tried rec-kayaks only to not like the lower seat position and confined straighter leg position. Even getting in and out was awkward on the knees. I realized I didn’t want the confinement of a skirt nor did I want to learn to roll.

The canoe I found once set up solved most of the issues.

I don’t paddle as aggressive waters as you do and I tried hard to kneel but the knees repeatedly said no. I reworked the short tandem for a central seat that has a seat back ok for my travels but if I was going to try more aggressive waters I would opt for a much lower seatback/back band enough for bracing against a foot brace and maybe even some side padding to add some stability. I started off with a 260cm double paddle and I think if you gave that type a setup a try you could get the kayak feel out of one of your canoes. That’s really what you will have to learn anyway once you are in a kayak.

I don’t know a lot about kneeling as it wasn’t in the cards for me, but I think it is that in control position you are missing when seated on a bench seat with a single blade paddle.

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Highly suggest you start with a plastic sea kayak - buy a used one. None of those you listed appear to be plastic. From Navy days, I remember lots of rocks along the coast and bays of RI thus the recommendation to find a plastic sea kayak.

The Fathom is the only one that appears to be a fit for you, but the Fathom has a higher back deck than most sea kayaks which makes a water recovery/reentry more difficult compared to other sea kayaks. My students sell them after fighting this unique Fathom characteristic after a year or two.

It is a dream to get back to RI to paddle some of the coast & Narragansett Bay. And, hopefully do some rock play.


Had a femur fracture at the knee joint. Healed but very bad arthritis for years. I haven’t been able to kneel comfortably for years. Never was much of a kneeler in canoes anyway. Always stuck to sitting. I know there’s plenty of love-hate over kneeling vs. sitting but who cares… give sitting a try?

Then I had a total knee replacement but lost a bit of range-of-motion which still makes it difficult to get in smaller kayak cockpits. Still uncomfortable kneeling to. I stick to bigger cockpits in kayaks. Also have a decked canoe - checkout Clipper Sea-1, Sawyer Loon, Mad River Monarch (last 2 out of production)

Can also look at pack-boats - Swift, Hornbeck, Placid and others. Sit like a kayak and double paddle but open like a canoe. Most are light weight, perform well and extremely easy to get in and out of. Love mine.

Good luck!

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I am with Bud16415 - having a disconnect between a beginner question from a p-net expert poster…

Some thoughts.
People with knee problems sometime also have trouble getting in and out of closed cockpit boats. And discomfort at limited ability to move legs when in the kayak. Might be good to sort this out before spending $$$ on a boat.

Your canoe experience and white water kayak class are all very useful, but there are some sea kayak specific things that would be good to learn. Especially the deep water rescues.

Putting these two together, I’d suggest taking an Intro to Sea Kayaking class. Usually a day long class for about $125-150. This gives you a chance to demo a sea kayak to find out whether the knees work. Hopefully also get info on what to look for in a kayak. And will teach you the rescues.

When you buy, used is definitely strongly recommended for first kayaks. I also would say go rotomolded plastic at first, so long as you can handle the weight (mostly an issue out of water during transport). Rotomolded plastic boats are more rugged, and put up best with the banging against the barnacle and mussel covered rocks you find in salt water.

I’d also probably look for a boat with a slightly larger cockpit, to be easier on your knees when getting in and out. One way to check cockpit sizes is use the Seals Sprayskirt sizing guide and look for a deck size of 1.7 (or at smallest, 1.4). 2.2 or larger may be too large to get a secure seal on the combing.

Of the boats listed, I agree with the others that the Eddyline Fathom seems like one that would fit you. But seems a bit pricey to me, unless the boat is nearly new. Agree with Kayakhank that the Fathom often isn’t the perfect boat for many, so not one I generally recommend. And I must be too old school that I still am not 100% comfortable with the material for Eddyline (and Delta) boats, even though they’ve been using for years.

I prefer short, playful boats - which are great for rock play and surfing and the like, but not as efficient in the A to B covering distance Sing mentioned. In the short boat category, some plastic boats I think you may like would be Dagger Alchemy 14L, Dagger Stratos 14.5 (probably L, but you may also fit the S), P&H Delphin 155, and Necky Looksha Sport.

All that said, the Sterling that Sing pointed to is a steal for the right person. That boat would go for about $10k new.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to give up canoes completely. I have a Spirit II with tractor seats, and I’ll probably drop the seat in my Wildfire and make that a sitting boat. I’ll still have a Yellowstone Solo for kneeling. We’ll see what happens when I try to get back in my whitewater boat - kneeling for extended periods is required for whitewater in a canoe.

If I’m going to be sitting anyway, I might as well get a sea kayak so I can get out in the ocean - can’t really do that sitting in a canoe.

Yes - lots of great rock gardening places along the RI coast - that would be a blast. Going out and paddling 15-20 miles in open water isn’t for me. I’d love to get one of those Tsunami Rangers sit-on-tops, but you never see those for sale.

Plastic is probably better - what do you think about the Valley Skerry - that is a plastic boat.

All good points - thanks Peter. There is a local deal in RI that does training sessions - Kayak Centre - maybe I’ll do a class there. It would be easier to try different boats that way.

Peter-CA has it about right. Most of those kayaks you list are too small/tight for you. The Delphin/Aries 155 kayaks and, probably, the Stratos would likely fit you & your needs.

Another thought is this:
over in Pennsylvania. And, the price is pretty good & could cover the gas costs to pick up.


I’ve only seen & talked to others who had the Skerry so my comments are not first hand. The hull and handling characteristics would probably be fine, however some have smaller cockpits which would limit your entry and exit. Be careful and check it out fully if you go that way.

Or a better option, follow the recommendation of Peter-CA’s and take a lesson. Agree with all his recommendations including kayak types. However, if you go that direction, make sure the Necky Looksha Sport has two bulkheads, many of that model only had one bulkhead. I currently have a Dagger Stratos 145L and much prefer it to my former Alchemy - both are good but personally my long legs fit the Stratos better.

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Here is an old P&H FG Capella, larger version, near you (eastern CT):

The Capella is a compromise between play and touring categories.

Here is a review by a “local guy”:


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One somewhat similar plastic sit on top kayak is the Necky Dolphin. It was much like the Necky Looksha Sport, but as a sit on top. Not as common as the Looksha Sport, but they do show up on the market from time to time.

Both the Dolphin and the Looksha Sport are getting a bit long in the tooth now (they stopped making them about 15-20 years ago), so be wary of faded plastics as that might mean the boat would be pretty brittle. Should be pretty cheap, though. I wouldn’t go more than $500 for either even in spectacular shape.


There is a full day “intro to sea kayak” class at the Kayak Centre near me for $145 on 8/14. Strokes in the morning, self and assisted rescues in the afternoon. I signed up. I started whitewater by taking a class in a rented boat, and that worked out fine. Good suggestion - thanks.


I probably have the biggest frame of anyone here, but weigh 210.
I also have a right leg and hip that hate being confined so I paddle SOT. I have my 4th WS Tarpon 160.
It has been on rivers, in swamps, in surf and has served me well.
A SINK is almost a no go with this leg. It has taken 2 strong paddlers to get me out after a couple of hours if I want to stand up. I can roll out of the SOT and work my way to standing if I have to.

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Well you won’t be kneeling, but you do use your legs in a kayak. They provide balance. They pump and help twist the hips. A good stroke is more than arms.

AND…after a couple of hours getting up will put some pressure on all those joints.

Maybe a kayaking class would help before buying a boat.

Frankly a solo canoe with kayak like seat or just lowered seat would be the thing.


While taking a course is a great idea for many reasons, if you can go to a dealer, outfitter, or somewhere where they rent kayaks, ask if you can sit in one on land. See how easy it is to get in and out of one, especially if you are thinking of a sit-in kayak. Getting in and out of this kind of kayak puts a bit of strain on many areas of the body including knees, hips, spine, and shoulders. With time and exercise these areas will strengthen, but doing this can help you to determine if there are any major problems before you invest a lot of time and money. You can also see if the sitting position is comfortable. A larger cockpit may be easier, but beyond a certain point, the kayak is less suitable for big open water as a sprayskirt become problematic. The place where you are planning on taking lessons should be a great place to try and they can answer many of your questions.

If a sit-in kayak presents problem, you may want to consider on of the many sit-on-top kayaks.


Lots of good suggestions here – thanks everyone.

I thought about difficulties getting in and out of the boat (especially cockpit size), but hadn’t really thought about the strain on the body from being locked in one position for a long time. My whitewater kayak friends complain about that all the time – up until now I’ve told them to get a canoe . :wink:

We’ll see how I make out in the class. I’d go for a sit on top in a minute, but they don’t seem to be as easy to find.

The boat suggestions are also great – I have a little better sense of what to look for if I go forward. My local club has specific requirements on the boat needed for sea kayak trips.

“A sea kayak is designed for use on the ocean and typically has the following characteristics:

  • 15’ or greater length
  • front and rear bulkheads
  • perimeter lines”

At least initially I’ll try to stick to the requirements (start off on the right foot). The Delphin 155 looks nice and I could maybe find that new at a nearby dealer (or maybe not depending on supply issues). Doesn’t look like I’d have too much trouble finding a used boat anyway.

We’ll see how I make out in the class. Thanks again everyone.

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