Conflicted, need experienced advice

-- Last Updated: Aug-02-11 9:05 PM EST --

About to become a novice Kayaker, so again a newbie advice first post. Sorry!

We live in Maryland very close to a reservoir and plan to retire to the North Carolina coast in a couple of years. I/we would like to get started kayaking here before we move to NC and the sound/intercoastal waterway that will be a few yards away!

Right now on Craigslist/ebay I'm looking at the following:

- Wilderness Systems Alto 16' with rudder starting at $500. Comes with PFD, skirt, and paddle

- Wilderness Systems Epic 17' at $575 with skirt and paddle

- Perception America 13' for $350. With retracable skeg, paddle, and some sort of portage cart.

- Clearwater Gaspe 16' for $600 with rudder PFD, paddle, skirt, car top carrying.

- Old Town Dirigo 14' with paddle, PFD, and partial skirt for $650. Was a similar package for $400 just a day ago and wondering if they pulled it, anyway...

The Gaspe looks great buy I'm concerned it will be too much for me (5'6", 180 lbs) and/or my wife (5'4", 120 lbs) as a first time kayak.

I like the idea of the Dirigo since we can learn with it and keep it as a recreation boat when we retire to the beach for others to use, and us. Also looks like we could take one of our dogs along on occasion with this one.


– Last Updated: Aug-02-11 10:39 PM EST –

I'm no expert but I would prolly say get the OT or the Perception to start with. Once you get to NC And see the conditions you will want more a sea kayak or at least a day tourer like WS Tsunami or other such hybrid.

Edit: that Gaspe does look nice!
You're gonna need two boats!

Two comments
The Gaspe looks like a solid sea kayak - has all the requisite goodies like sealed bulkheads and perimeter lines etc - but it is way too much volume for your wife and may be pushing it for you as well. So you’d be pushing/pulling around volume that was disproportionate to your size. She is a small paddler, you are on the lower end of middle sized.

The volume issue is going to be there for most of the boats you mention for your wife. She’ll be in boats that make it difficult for her to get a paddle into the water well because of their width and overall bulkiness. You have not a lot more height but 60 pounds more weight to sink the boat can help.

Not sure what your long term goals are - if you think you will want to learn how to sea kayak, get a sea kayak to learn in. The rec boats are fairly dreadful for making it easy to learn sea kayaking skills. Not their fault, it is not what they are designed to be about and it is not fair to expect them to do well at this. You can always pick these up for cheap later on.

another option
Not to complicate your choices even more but this one for sale in Shepherdstown on the MD-WV border is a really nice boat for a terrific price if it is still available.

I’ve read some good reports on the Elie Strait models and this one is supposedly a good fit for average to smaller paddlers. I’ve been eyeing the model myself and would have called about it myself if I had not already spent too much on kayaks in the past year.

Any one of those kayaks is fine
to start out with and if you do not like it, sell it. You will get at least what you paid.

Conflicted? Try Hare Krishna

Thanks for the fast advice.
Not sure if we will migrate to sea kayaking or not. In the short term we have a reservoir with a boat ramp very close to our house. At Topsail Island we have the sound in back and the ocean in front.

Initial goals are to learn to paddle (its been 30 years) also as a form of exercise. We were looking at a tandem but the advice we received was to get a single first and learn.

Longer term is, if we enjoy kayaking (which I think I will anyway) is that we can have recreation-type boat available for guests in NC. That’s part of the reason I’m sort of fixated on the OT Dirigo. Not as much boat but able to hold an adult and child/dog.

I’m an old wrestler so my weight isn’t distributed as much around my mid-section as it would appear, based on my height. Though there is a bit more there than I’d like!! Once I do about anything my weight will drop to 170 or so. As you all figured out my wife is pretty tiny, so good advice from you.

However the Ellie Strait looks very nice and I’m going to see if they have any other goodies to include. Good catch!!

Wild card is that I have a co-worker who works at REI and I can get his discount so I could get a new OT Dirigo XT 12’ for about $560. But then we need to get all the other items to start up! Just seems silly to buy a new boat as a novice if I can get a used “package” for $600 or less.

Hare krishna, krishna, krishna…

With more info…

– Last Updated: Aug-03-11 8:03 AM EST –

The usual advice if you are talking about a dog on board is to go for a canoe or, if in pretty protected water, a SOT. But if the dog is smaller and the desire to have them along is occasional rather than as a constant companion.... lots of ways.

The idea of a basic rec-y boat to just get on the water with on a hot day, and be comfortable for a lot of people is great since you live near flat water. You will use the Dirigo.

As to the rest - in your second reply you also say you want to learn to paddle, and you mention that you have a future place with ocean bay on one side and more open ocean on the other. Is your wife equally enthusiastic? If so you could have a huge advantage over a lot of people where only one spouse/partner is really interested in paddling. If both of you learn skills and rescues, you can be more adventurous together than paddling solo. With good judgment your safety margins are a ton better having two people. That will matter a lot when you get to the ocean part, and you see all those vistas you want to go to.

Sooo - what I am wandering around to is that for your future interest you may be best served by getting you and your wife into some kind of basic lessons sooner rather than later including learning rescues. It is about the best way I have found for someone to find out what features they need in a boat, it'll give her confidence that with the right boat and actions she can assist you and it'll put you guys into the hands of a third party for advice. Learning to kayak isn't so different than leaning to drive a car - a stranger is often abetter idea than a family member. And it is hot and it's summer - a great time to splash around in the water now and probably cheaper than trying to learn this stuff in pool sessions over the winter.

I started paddling se kayaks just half an inch and 5 pounds different in size from your wife, and happily got a boat that fit me well early on. It made all the diff in my early experience.

That Alto is a deal. It is one of the fastest plastic kayaks made. It does not have a forward hatch but that can be worked around if you want to carry a lot of gear. We have two of them and they were our first boats. We now have high end composite boats but the Altos are still our favorites for certain areas. Buy it if the hull us flat and it is has not been left out in the sun. You will love it.

Hard to predict
what the future will hold but right now I don’t see us doing more than day trips, so the amount of storage isn’t too critical. The caveat with the Alto is that it is on eBay for local pick up. Can’t really tell the condition, other than the lister’s assurance that it is in “great shape”

With Keeshonden
it is hard to tell! The Keeshond is supposed to be a Dutch Barge Dog with some water instincts, but they are such goofy dogs that it is hard to tell if either would be a constant paddling companion. Our one wouldn’t go near the ocean, not even getting his paws wet! The other is probably a better candidate. Very recessive instincts…

Keeshonds and kayaks
Our most active local touring kayak outfitter and guide had a female Keeshond for many years. Keisha would ride along calmly sitting in the stern hatch of his boat during group outings – she had her own PFD and seemed the perfect kayak dog. I have a nice shot of Keisha (who has since departed to that great Dog Park in the Sky) watching the Fourth of July fireworks with us in a flotilla on the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh’s Point.

BTW, if you do get that Elie in Shepherdstown and ever decide you don’t like it, I’ll buy it :-). Though from what I’ve read of owner reports, disliking it would be unlikely. REI sells the Elies also.

Go check it out
For that price you can’t lose if the other equipment is in OK condition. It really is a nice boat. Go sit in it and see how it feels. I think you will be sold. There is no way we would sell ours. In my opinion it is one of the most underrated plastic boats out there. We have even won local races in ours.

Leaning that way
I’m interested in the Elie if it is still available and has paddles and pfd included. Or go with the Alto on eBay in a couple of days.

There is a Dirigo “package” but it doesn’t measure up with some of the others out there.

Necky Elaho

– Last Updated: Aug-03-11 12:34 PM EST –

How do you like the Elaho, there is one of those available in my area too.
Comes with a paddle and skirt for $600.

One of the senior people where i work is a long time avid kayaker and owns 7 Necky kayaks.

Necky Elaho - response
If it is still around - we have one of these in the basement. They only made the DS version for a couple of years. It is heavy and the hatches leak, probably, but in the right use it is a great little boat.

The DS versions had a pretty aggressive cockpit, fairly deep WW braces unless this one is different, so someone your wife’s size would have decent contact. She is about 30 or so pounds too light to really get its attention, but that makes it more stable for her so maybe not abad thing.

Good things about it - lots of rocker so it turns really easily, fun in waves, turns into the wind easily which puts you it he safest direction when things get gnarly, great boat for learning to roll or static brace. Bad things about it - lots of rocker so going straight fast is not its thing, will have your attention in waves because it wants to play, weathercocks easily.

I don’t think there is a bad side to being great for rolling.

In sum, it is a somewhat niche boat that is a great platform for learning to paddle. You’d have to decide if this fit your desires.

The only other thing is that I’d beat them down some on the price, try for $400. No drop skeg Elaho is nearly a new boat.

It’s my wife’s elaho
she loves it. I can’t stand it! she says it’s very comfortable and tracks very well even without the rudder. to me it’s squirrely but I weigh about twice what she does. I can barely get into it.

my advice is see if the seller will let you test paddle it…even for a fee.


Thanks for the advice and insight
This message board is great!

Looking at it tomorrow
I let the eBay listing expire and the seller is willing to accept $450 for the Alto. Wasn’t comfortable buying it sight-unseen. Driving up to look at it tomorrow.

Thanks for your advice, I’ll let you know how it goes.