choosing tandem: Old Town Dirigo 155 or Necky Manitou II

I’m looking to buy my first kayak (have rented a few times, tandem and solo) and for a few reasons, a tandem makes the most sense. I’ll mostly stick close to the Maine coastline in sheltered bays. I’m trying to decide between an Old Town Dirigo 155 or a Necky Manitou II. I’d be paddling either with my teenager or my sister. We’re all 5’6" and pretty athletic, but I still worry a bit about the weight of loading and unloading it on the car (I know weight will be an issue with any tandem).

I’m inclined toward the Manitou because my sense is that it will be less clunky. I’d also spring for it with the rudder, thinking that it could lend itself to solo paddling if I ever wanted.

BUT, a new Dirigo (rudder-ready) is $300 cheaper than the Manitou. I’m not sure if the ruddered-Manitou is $300 better than the Dirigo.
AND, I could get a used Dirigo for less than half the price of the Manitou, but it is from a rental outfit so it’s probably very used. Being new to kayaks, I’m not sure how much of a difference prior wear and tear might make.

I appreciate any help in swaying me (Dirigo v. Manitou; used Dirigo at half the price v. new boat)! And of course, if I’m going about the decision all wrong, I’m open to corrections!

My first instinct is to advise you to keep looking. Although I would strongly suggest that a tandem is just not the way to go, I have seen a few that seemed to be about right if you really have to double up.

When it comes to used rentals, you more than likely would be getting into something that has been pretty well abused and probably on it’s last legs. Any polyethylene boat (even new) should be very carefully checked for warps and crooked keel lines.

This is the time of year when a lot of demo-days are put on by shops and various outfitters, etc. It would be well worth your time and effort to attend such an event.

Wear and tear…in a roto molded poly boat look for unusual bends in the hull. Turn it upside down if it has a “sway back” it was probably loaded up with weight or strap loading in the hot sun. That you won’t get out totally. Look for sun fading. Look for cracks or splits on the inside to determine how hard it has taken a hit on the outside. Price accordingly. Poly boats are pretty tough. I have two that have taken flights off of the truck camper sustained damage and still being used.

Are you planning on using it like the rental companies did in their trips and/or water? Will it be recreational light use, day trip boats? Then they are basically equal.

You might want to add an air bag to the bow of either boat. Capsized both would float bow down and not be able to easily self/assisted rescue.

Thank you! I think the used Dirigo 155 is off the table… I don’t have the knowledge, experience, or eye to assess wear and tear. And I’ve duly noted comments re trying out the boats and thinking about safety… thanks for that, too.

Any thoughts on the (new) Dirigo 155 v. Manitou II?

I have paddled in Maine every year for around 20 now, including sheltered bays. If I am seeing it correctly from the web listing the Manitou is the only one with bulkheads front and back, unless they are hiding one in the Dirigo 155 that I am not seeing. That means the Manitou is the only one of the two you should even be thinking about.

What people do not realize is that the waves generally get choppier as they approach the shoreline. If a boat without a front bulkhead swamps, it will take a couple of guys worth of strength to salvage the boat especially with those huge cockpit openings that are an invitation to water coming in. Or a motor boat. If you are in an area of Maine with rocky shorelines, which is most of Maine, you will tend to be further out in water over your head because the rocks will be daunting. Should you capsize in a boat that you can’t flip upright on the water, it is most likely that you will have to swim to shore and take a long walk home from somewhere.

We had ad hoc rescue practice locally several years ago, anyone could cone. One couple arrived with a boat very similar to the Dirigo that they were going to learn enough to take it to Maine. Also “safe sheltered bays”. They were older but both were quite fit, one a runner and the other dedicated gym time. After an hour and a half of trying to solve the problem, they resolved to either rent boats on a guided tour or learn to handle singles.

The size of the cockpit areas, in terms of how much water they can hold, is not going to make things at all easy. But at least the boat is likely to stay afloat as long as the hatch covers hold.

They are even heavier, but if you can figure out how to haul them it might be worth looking at SOT’s.

I think they’re both sit-ins, Grayhawk…? …No bulkhead evidence visible.

Around here these would be used in calm water not subject to waves, wind, etc. usually in a group. Paddling will be “drifting” or “paddle dipping”. Nowhere fast just chil-laxing in good weather. Assisted rescues with a sunk bow are a difficult thing, but possible for trained crews. Not for the solo kayak and crew. Hence I suggested the air bag. A 14.67 ft boat with two people will sit lower in the water. The rear cockpit is too large for an effective skirt for roll over, but OK for rain and splash. A roll in a tandem is a truly coordinated thing by advanced paddlers.

Note another name for a tandem is “divorce boat”. Go carefully.

The common thread in these reviews is “lakes and rivers” it is not a seakayak. But can be OK for the starter boat.

@lybc said:
I think they’re both sit-ins, Grayhawk…?

Right, I misread it as a Malibu II

Sheltered areas on the coast of Maine still come with a 8 to 13 tide, higher if you go past Mt Desert. Then add the rock shelves, unless you are talking the smaller stretch in way southern Maine where there is a quantity of sand beaches. This makes for shorelines that will have more chop and more overall interruptions of water than in areas with less tide and fewer rocks. Even by midcoast Maine, you start to see areas where landing is only possible at certain tide states.
The river entrances and a bit upriver can also be more challenging than areas further south because of the sheer amount of water that a tide like that is moving in and out. Way more in some places.

I have been on the water in relatively sheltered areas and seen people struggling to keep too much water from entering boats like this. I have to admit that some of them look like they were enjoying the battle. But they were working far harder - physically - for that than if they were a more suited craft. And they really could not get very far from shore, the bounce was challenging their abilities.

FWIW, my original reason to get into kayaking was when my husband and I decided that was the only way we were going to get to all those islands we could see. The idea of dry docking and towing motor boats or larger sailboats was not working for us. But even when we realized we needed to go and get some skills - which turned out to not be a placid experience - most days what we most liked about it and I still do is being able to quietly take off and poke around islands and bays in a gentle and easy manner. But what made that work was getting boats where it was not an uphill battle to make them behave as we wanted in some amount of chop or waves. It might be worth it to try some tours and rentals before deciding on a boat that will be a bear to load.

Thanks, all… if there’s another tandem that you’d recommend, I’m all ears!
(FWIW, the choice for tandem over solo was a carefully considered one… I’m aware of the pitfalls but for a host of reasons, it’s still preferable. But all warnings duly noted!)

By the way, I may have misspoken. I just found a Manitou II at 14.8 feet with no forward bulkhead. If that is the one you are considering, I would also take it off the list, same reason as the Dirigo.

I would recommend a tandem sea kayak, not a tandem rec kayak, for your stated area to paddle. But it will cost more money. Fact is you could get two very capable used plastic sea kayaks for less than the price new for the Delta I got on the first Google try.
For ex this Delta weighs just 3 pounds more than the Manitou II 14.8, and has full flotation, smaller cockpits so you could effectively use a skirt and perimeter lines. It is a lot more boat without any weight penalty.

I assume that you are going towards a tandem in order to assure yourself company from people who not be willing or able to get into their own boat. But back that one up before you spend the bucks for the boat and rack system you will need. Would those same people that need to be coaxed into the boat be willing to help slide 80 pounds of boat on and off the roof of the car, or get it onto a cart to transport to and from the water? I have been handling up to 60 pounds of boat at times myself for many years now. And when needed, I got some basic tools and am decent at it. But on my first floor for the winter is a Hullivator. It took all of two years after my husband passed away to decide that I was no longer willing to get boats on and off without more assistance, even with good carts and a Roller-Loader. If anxiety about paddling solo is a problem, you could have a very difficult time in a capsize. People who are nervous sitting in a boat rarely get calmer if they take a surprise swim.

I get that you have thought about this. My concern is that you have thought about this from the point of view of being a non-paddler yourself. And you are proposing to use this boat, granted in a sheltered part of it, but nonetheless in water that takes until sometime in July to even hit 60 degrees and a coastline with high tides and long stretches that are unfriendly to landings. In a state where the property owners legally own to the mean low tide mark as well, not high tide as in many other places. I paddle because of being in Maine. But there are a lot of people from further south who think that is a little bit insane.

My suggestion would be to go and take a day-long intro to sea kayaking class before buying anything. You could do solo, or take your regular paddling partners. You will be learning on single sea kayaks, but the skills are all transferable to tandems. They should teach the basics of the kayaks and what the parts are used for, basic strokes, basic recoveries after a flip, etc.

After taking the class, then rent one of the kayaks you are interested in on a warm day in warm water and try the recoveries (you said the Old Town was in a livery’s fleet, so rent that, even though it is not something you are looking at now). See how they work. I suspect you will find what others are warning you of here - that self-recovery in one of the boats you mention here will be very challenging at best. If this is the case, you would really want to the use the boat only in places where you are close enough to shore to be able to swim to safety (when the water is cold, this is a much shorter distance than one would think).

For double kayaks that do have flotation, the Necky Looksha-T comes to mind. Also Necky Amaruck, but not sure that one is still made. These are regulars in tour company fleets, which I take as a sign of their value and durability.

You mention roof-topping - All of these boats we are talking about are total beasts off the water. Getting them on or off a roof will be very challenging. Only way to reduce this would be to look at a thermoformed kayak (such as the Delta 20T, which is some 16 pounds lighter than a Looksha-T) or composite (like Seward Passat). Thermoformed or composite tandems are likely special order items, unless you find used. Composite tandems actually are a bit too common used, as they are bought by couples who find they aren’t able to communicate well enough to make a tandem work, so end up selling them (why tandems are often called “divorce boats”).

A different possible direction - if staying in protected water close to shore is something you are willing to always do, you could consider one of the take apart kayaks by Point 65 ( I haven’t paddled the sit inside versions, but they do appear a bit on the rec boat side, so not something I’d want to take into open water (with possible exception of the Mercury model, which looks like it has decent built in flotation). But you would get 2 large benefits - first that you could use these as single kayaks as easy as a double, and that you can take them apart for transport, so not have as much of a lugging needed to get a beastly double on to the roof of a car.

The brands outside of Necky I mentioned are somewhat niche brands, so may be hard to find. Delta and Point65 are both brands that REI carries on their web site, but not always all the models. You may have to contact the manufacturers to find out who the closest dealer is.