Critique my boat buying assumptions

Let me summarize what I’ve concluded from the advice on this board given by some thoughtful paddlers in response to my questions about upgrading my cheapo plastic 10 foot recreational kayak, for use in a shallow, rocky river and on small creeks.

  1. Get a plastic boat. Fiberglass/Kevlar/carbon/composite are for paddling only on water where you will never bump into a rock or scrape bottom. Live with the stupid-heavy weight of a plastic boat for the sake of durability.
  2. Get a short boat – 10 feet to maybe 12 max, since a longer boat won’t be maneuverable on creeks and my river outings aren’t more than 15 miles/day and I’m not racing and don’t need the better tracking or speed of a long boat.
  3. Upgrading my $200 Pelican Potomac 100es recreational kayak to a $1,000 10ft/12foot rotomold recreational or transitional kayak won’t yield much benefit to me, since I have expressed satisfaction with my existing kayak for the last 3 years of 3 to 4 day/week, 6-months/year paddling season, including overnight kayak camping.

    Please agree/disagree with those conclusions, and elaborate on anything I’ve gotten wrong. I’m wondering if it would make sense for me to get, let’s say, a Current Designs Vision 120 transitional composite kayak, at 12 feet and 29 pounds, for paddling only on deeper stretches of my local river and on local lakes, where I’ll never hit rocks, and keep my scrappy, cheapo 10 foot recreational boat for everyday use on shallow stretches of the river where I am likely to scrape bottom and bounce into a few rocks, and for local creeks where a short boat is advantageous and the occasional rock will present itself?

    Thoughts? I’m reading as much as I can and studying as many posts on this board as I can and trying not to make my typical mistake of throwing too much money on something that is more than what I need just because it is fun to buy new top-of-the-line gear. I’ll also be visiting various kayak outfitters to ask their advice and paddle some demo boats when the ice melts.

Jus’ git a canoo instead
Become a real paddler!!!



Both of my composite sea kayaks have hit LOTS of rocks, and one has quite a few battle scars, but it’s still as good as the day it was built. Glass can be repaired very easily in most cases, and it’s tougher than you think.

But for the uses you cite, plastic is plenty good, and yes it is tougher to hurt (And tougher to fix if needed).

Length is your call - what paddles the way YOU want it to is the best boat. Cost falls into this equation as well - how much is it worth to YOU?

So, for the use and reasons you list, I’d say you’re on the right track. Just make sure you’re happy with your purchase. Everything else is just details.

wait and test paddle or buy used cheap
We can share our variously opinionated blather with you endlessly but the bottom line is that you don’t have any idea how an “upgrade” boat of any kind will feel under you so it would be precipitous for you to blow any kind of cash on one at this point (kinda like a mail-order bride.) All of us have been at the point you are at in our first year or so of paddling and you can take either of the second steps that most of us take:

  1. Wait until you have the chance to borrow and demo a variety of kayaks to get a feel for what you want.

  2. Buy something cheap and used that seems like a step towards what you might want. In fact, I checked Craigslist in your area and here’s a boat in Bedford for $325 that might be of interest to you (there are some reviews of it here on P-net.)

    In fact I just bought a different Aquaterra of the same vintage this summer (a Scimitar) as a rocky river “beater” for my boyfriend and it’s a really decent and fun boat for the price.

    Keeping your old kayak for a whitewater play boat makes sense – I’ve also found that having a second kayak has always increased my opportunities to paddle with other people (you do have to equip the “loaner” though, with at least a paddle and PFD.

    Your chances of getting the “ideal” boat for you just by asking questions and not test-paddling are slim.

    As I said before – don’t obsess on the weight until you have actually hoisted a longer thinner boat. It really is easier than wrassling a stubbier rec boat. But if you really want the ultimate in light weight and custom fit performance, take one of Brian Schulz’s classes and build yourself a skin on frame kayak for about $1500.

    You can learn a lot about kayaks from Brian’s website (and his trip reports are hilarious).

    My own 18’ skin on frame weighs less than 32 lbs. And yes, they do hold up to rocks and being thrashed far better than glass or carbon comps. There are YouTube videos of people trying to trash them with claw hammers and jumping on them. Really tough boats.

    If you are truly into kayaking, chances are even this second boat will not be your last. I am on my seventh kayak and each one has suited and/or appealed to me at various levels of my skill and usage. You WILL notice a marked change in your experience paddling the boat when you move to a longer and thinner boat. Only you will be able to tell if that is what you want once you experience it.

    Price does not have all that much to do with it. My first kayak was a $3500 high end folding tourer and I thought it was The Bomb for 5 years until I borrowed a couple other models that tracked better and paddled faster – once I realized what I was missing I sold it and got something else. I have 3 boats now and each has a different functionality for different conditions and each feels different. In fact, the one I paid $700 for tends to get more use than the one worth $4000.

weight is important, cost no object
Weight is important to me. And cost is no object (thank the lord for a good job and the ability to buy a fun boat during a lousy economy). I just don’t want to make the mistake of getting seduced by high-tech fibers and light weight, if in reality I would be better off with a plastic, heavy boat. I’m really trying hard to get a feeling for whether my shallow, rocky river and little streams with some rocks would quickly trash a fiber/composite light-weight boat. I really do appreciate all the great advice on this forum. Great info from good people. Thanks everybody.

I’ll critique underlying assumptions
At the risk of being presumptuous, I see three assumptions that seem to underlie your logical analysis:

  1. That you need to give up your current boat, which you seem to like.

  2. That there is some better all-around boat of the same type out there waiting for you if you just look hard enough and analyze logically enough.

  3. That you should own, paddle and appreciate only one boat at a time.

    For me, in almost 60 years of paddling, all three of these assumptions have proved very wrong.

    I suggest keeping your current rec boat with which you seem to be satisfied. Instead of replacing it, supplement it with a second boat of different design.

    For the second boat, you may want to get a sleeker kayak made of composite in the 15’-16’ range. This kind of boat is long enough to track well, short enough to maneuver well, and light enough to carry well.

    Being the owner and paddler of two different style boats may broaden your experiential appreciation for the sport, increase your overall paddling expertise, and help guide your quest for the ultimate next boat.

good post!
(no message)

More is better
My fleet of 3 ranges from an ultralight(20lb) 12’ pack canoe to a 15’short sea kayak in kevlar and 13’ poly for new trainee’s.

Yoda, I mean Glenn, speaks the truth. Getting another boat is an opportunity to try new styles and paddling conditions. I think we’ve all progressed through different boats, and I assume I will continue to do so. Buying used is a way to do it for less money, whereas buying new can be more fun…

now ya know…
…why kayaker’s usually have 3-4 boats in the "yak shed. I have a high $$$$ composite boat…I cringe and swear every time it scrapes something. I would stick with a plastic boat of no longer than 14’ with some rocker too it for manuverablility. try Craigslist for boats…be prepared to travel a bit to get a good used boat…3 out of my 4 boats are all Craigslist specials i never spent over $500 apiece for. keep your present boat …it’s paid for !!

I disagree with numbers 1 and 2
but agree with number 3 because of your number 1 and 2 assumptions.

If I were in your shoes, I would get a 15 or sixteen foot light weight composite kayak, unless you are planning on bumping rocks all day long.

jack L

I have been saying this on these boards

– Last Updated: Jan-19-11 8:27 AM EST –

For the past 12 years & have been banned, persecuted & basically condemned for such atrocities.

I have had a WS Critter for that time. Over the years, I have mastered the boat in all it can do:

I can stand on the aft & pole, straddle the bow & paddle, practically make the boat paddle itself. I use it as a fishing platform, a diving board, an inland lake boat & river boat, a creek boat & even a puddle jumper.

I put my boat in any water I see. I have even thrown it in a ditch along the road that had standing water for 3/4 mile just to paddle. I have paddled creeks so narrow, that I used my hands on both shores to pull my way down/up stream. I have paddled out 1 mile in big water & back.

If you are happy with your boat, then GOOD ON YOU & don't give a $h!t what any of the @$$hats on here say about it.

NOW, on to the other side of the conversation...

If you would like to paddle different scenarios, then by all means, try different boats! If you want to paddle big water, try longer boats. If you want to surf, try different boats.

If you don't want to or are not in the area to make this change a "daily occurring", then why bother.

In my instance, I paddle rivers, creeks & inland lakes. I am not a racer, not in training for a race & don't give a rip about how fast I am going. Therefor my 9 1/2 foot boat is PERFECT for what "I" do. Anything else would be a waste of $$$$.$$.

Just like learning to roll... Some people don't need to learn. Yet, here on it seems to be a requirement, or you are not considered a kayaker (which by the way is bull$h!t... A bunch of bias idiots here (don't kid yourselves, I have been here 12 years I know how it works here & you know who you are)). If I tried rolling, would end up with a concussion & medical bills, the waters are just to shallow 7/10 of the time.

I have made the challenge before here & all have wavered: Bring your long expensive boat and paddle with me, but don't complain about the damages & don't expect me to wait up...

To each their own choices & reasons. Don't be a prick due to "your" demographics or "your personal" choices. Enjoy your vessel, sounds like you have a GREAT boat for what "YOU" do!!!!!!!

Paddle easy,


Coffee has a very good point
…he’s been paddling a boat similar to your present one in similar conditions for a long time(you can still get the same yak now sold as the Victory Blast which gets a lot of good reviews on here). And I do admit it is easy for us longer boat enthusiasts to prosletyze, forgetting that not everyone wants to paddle the same variety of waters we enjoy.

But you did state clearly that you wanted to “upgrade”, which is why I suggested a boat that offered a little more versatility than the one you already have, even considering that you planned to stay in the Susquehanna watershed for the time being. And I stand by that suggestion – I have had great fun going down Class I sections of the West Branch and other streams in the Easky 15LV (yes, even knuckle-dragging myself across gravel bars, paddling with my legs out and draped over the cockpit and even banging through chutes). With the thigh hooks and foot braces, as well as the ability to edge with great secondary stability, I can hip-steer a sinuous line through riffle and rapid with my paddle held above my head, something you can’t do with a rec boat. Also, since it is narrower and has less resistance – I can backpaddle and give myself more latitude to re-lalign myself before entering a rapid more easily than with a wider boat. It has better storage than most rec boats I’ve known and nice tight bulkheads – with the low volume I can even keep it upright and paddle on with the cockpit half full (an option I took one extremely hot day when i was fooling around without a sprayskirt and got swamped by a rogue ski-boat wake.) And it glides between the rapids with greater ease (and less effort) than any rec boat I ever used. On a 3 mph stream all I have to do is steer.

Do these sound like performance characteristics you might enjoy, giving you a somewhat different experience from what you have with your trusty first boat? Only you can decide that.

Aside to Coffee: whereabouts in Michigan do you paddle? I lived in GR for 8 years and still go back to W-MI at times to visit kin there. We plan to take a little trip thereabouts this coming summer with a small travel trailer and the ‘yaks. We like fast little streams so maybe you can suggest a few in the Northwest mitten. And maybe I can take you up on that challenge while we’re there with our skinny 15’ “snob” boats :slight_smile:

(Yeah, yeah, I should have done a second post in “Place to Paddle” or something or sent a personal email but I’m at work and sneaking these comments on the fly.)

I am alittle farther north than that. LMAO. I am 45 minutes south of the bridge. I have pretty much paddled a majoriy of all the creeks, streams & rivers in a 120 minute area & afew further out.

Longshadow lives down south of GR & we (Norhtman & myself) have isited him & paddled the Kzoo River. Another buddy of mine lives in GR too.

When we paddle, we usually follow a map to where we “may” end up & forget the in-between, just to see what is in the middle. On one of our last voyages, we did alot of hiking due to the overwhelming amount of blowdowns across the water. Our 2 hour estimated trip took almost 6 hours. We have alot of those due to our “let’s see what happens” attitudes… lol.

My 13yr old & I may do a river trip this weekend. We’ll see on the weather. Otherwise come on up in the spring & we’ll make a go! I’ll get you contact info when the time draws nearer.

Paddle easy,


Personal choice wins every time

– Last Updated: Jan-19-11 11:43 AM EST –

The way a kayak fits your body, your personality, your sense of adventure is unique.
The kayak you purchase, needs to fit your criteria; - not someone else's.
"What the rest of the world paddles is only important to the rest of the world."

A kayak that is easy to roll, is also quite easy to capsize,
- that may be a good hint regarding the kind of kayak you personally want.
Some people love to take pictures, wave at passing boats, watch birds flying overhead
and others just want to focus purely on paddling straight ahead, accumulating mileage.
Tipping your kayak could ruin expensive camera equipment, binoculars,
cause loss of prescription eyeglasses and/or anything in the cockpit.

Perceptions, connotations, preconceived notions, are all very, very real to paddlers.
They influence all decision making process and are neither right nor wrong - they just exist.
There is no best kayak; it's a myth, an illusion, a quest that cannot be achieved.
Conditions, skills, and objectives are never constant so it all ends up "touchy feely".
It comes down to what "feels right" for each individual paddler.
This can only be done by direct demo, on the water, in the cockpit of the kayak, paddling.
Try - before you buy. Make the effort, please. Ask the salesperson "Can I try it first ? ".

Michigan is a wonderful place
Willi Gutmann

1. Not necessarily so. A good composite layup will take quite a beating. And you can repair it in the field.

2. Ok, sure.

3. OK. But then why are you considering a purchase?

If what you have works for you, then stick with it. If you want something more or some variety, than consider what eric posted and paddle some used boats.

Remember, in the end you’re only left with what you think, not what we think.

while I agree with you…
…I don’t believe that’s why you were banned.

Agree, with a slight difference
Get the 2nd, different (longer) boat only after you have been paddling this spring and demoed and rented other boats.

It almost sounds like you are eager to “save money” by buying a lightweight, more expensive boat that might be on sale in a bad economy. If cost is no object, then there is no reason to rush the purchase or buy for the sake of buying just because you can afford to. The big discounts will happen at the end of the paddling season, not the beginning. That gives you another season to demo, demo, demo.

Gaylord, eh?
My MI beau was of Finnish Yooper stock (Paradise and Munising) and we used to camp and canoe from Jordan Valley to parts farther north and into Ontario. Not as much as I would have liked (he was a grumpy camper and a worse paddler – maybe he would have been happier herding reindeer.) The coastal touring is great but inland Southern MI is too freaking flat (and West MI has far too many Calvinists) for my taste.

All you have to do is read his posts
and it is obvious why he was banned.

We all like to think we are tough guys, but some of us realize that kids read these forumns too and keep our tough guy language for when we are together with our adult friends.

jack L