Hello from Australia and apologies for the length of my first post. Wanting to provide some background to enable you to advise me on my proposed 2nd boat purchase - crossover or touring/sea kayak?
Proposed use: 1-3 day trips, picking around the coast, on our local bay in choppy waters and windy conditions, and in the ocean not very far offshore. The occasional surf; quite a lot of touring rivers up to class II, perhaps the odd class III. Would prefer less than 15’ and must be polyethylene. Budget is up to AUD$2000.
About me: 5ft 6, 143lbs, 51 y.o. female; fairly fit and just getting back into paddling after a decade’s break. WW paddling experience is mainly class II-III. Survived a few class IV runs back in my college days, thanks more to luck than skill. Flat water: coastal, bays and lakes in all kinds of weather. A bit of surfing. Last formal instruction was 2003 in WA state (Lake Union and Green River) where I lived for a couple of years. I’d say I’m a rusty intermediate paddler who can read a river well, has good bracing skills but needs to brush up on rolling. Not much ocean experience; used a few hired sea kayaks on guided and independent day trips over the past few years and didn’t feel my paddling was efficient in any of them. Contemplating doing a sea kayaking course but probably not before I purchase, and only if I buy a touring/sea kayak. Planning to buy all the necessary safety gear for coastal paddling and need to update some of my existing gear in any event.
My first, only, and current boat is a Perception Dancer bought new in 1994. My experience has all been gained in that kayak. OK you can all stop laughing now but I love that kayak. It was fast compared to what my friends were all paddling WW in the 1990s and early 2000s, and it’s indestructible. At 18.5kg I can carry it on my own and I’ve fitted it out so it wears like a glove. I can paddle it straight no problems (albeit using pre-emptive corrective strokes) but it does give me a work out. For WW, I’m not interested in doing fancy tricks, just a bit of surfing and messing about in stoppers on my way down a fun river. As I’ve never really felt the need to change my kayak for WW purposes, I think I’ll keep my Dancer for those trips. For the touring I’m now wanting to do, it lacks overnight storage capacity and I never felt very safe in it in rough sea, even when using float bags. Self-rescue has been challenging for me in this situation.
I’ve been looking at the Dagger Stratos 14.5S and Dagger Katana 9.7 online. I’ve read numerous reviews on both, realise they are each designed for a different purpose and I’m familiar with what they weigh. I’ve also researched the WS Tsunami and a couple of others like it. Initially I was drawn to the crossover concept but I don’t think any of the crossover boats are going to track as well as I’d like (despite some having drop down skegs) and they don’t seem to have much storage. I’m leaning towards the Stratos due to the amount of storage and although it’s a touring kayak it appears to be quite manoeuverable, fun and suitable for beginners to advanced paddlers. I’ve watched a few gnarly videos on YouTube though, which make me wonder if I’ll be able to handle it in rough, coastal water. I’m generally attracted to these Dagger boats because they seem to be well built, customisable and most reviews I’ve read say they are comfortable. But I’m open to suggestions. Unfortunately there is only one Dagger dealer in my State who is willing to allow me a demo paddle of either of those boats (which will be on a lake). I’ve lost contact with most of my paddling buddies so there is nobody I know who has these kayaks and there are none available second hand within reasonable driving distance. I’ve contemplated joining a club and probably will do in the future, but I’m reluctant to pay the membership fees now on the off chance a member has one of the boats I want to try. So it looks like I’ll be buying new on the basis of a flat water demo.
Should I discount the WW-touring crossover kayaks?
Are there any crossover kayaks that have more than one storage hatch?
Will the Dagger Katana with skeg down track better than my Dancer?
Are the paddling skills required for sea kayaking vastly different to those I likely already have?
Does the paddler in sea kayaks generally sit lower in the water than they would in an old Perception Dancer?
Am I unwise to contemplate taking a crossover kayak like a Katana offshore (up to 1 NM) along the coast in less than ideal weather, i.e. choppy, a bit of swell, windy with driving rain, given my skills and experience?
Will the Stratos be stable enough to avoid constant capsize whilst still allowing me to have a bit of fun on some waves (nothing amazingly huge)?
What other boats should I be considering?
Thanks very much for your time