Determining the Intended Waterline of a kayak

After this past river trip I happened to see a photo of me in the water w/ my loaded kayak and it made me wonder . . . should it sit that low?, . . . is that near to perfect?, . . . how do I even determine such a thing?
I know too high or too low presents issues but I’m not even sure where that mythical line is on my yak. Even finding a spec sheet for it has been a challenge that I’ve failed at so far. It’s a Necky and it seems that Old Town ditched all the old documentation when they took over and shut down the line.

That information could be gleaned from the lines plan but I have seen very few of those for kayaks. Do you know the reported carrying capacity for the kayak? Generally if you keep the weight of you and your gear under about 80% of that weight, you should be fine.

Picture is worth a thousand words.

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Thanks for that “rule of thumb”. Unfortunately I don’t know the weight carrying capacity. Because of not ever finding a catalog or any other spec info I’m a bit in the dark other than the physical measurements…
It’s a Necky Manitou 14 and I’ll pull the date code a bit later when I have the opportunity.

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Unfortunately, again, the photo I saw was posted on a site that won’t let me download it, so I need to see if they reply to me w/ a copy some time in the near future.

Screen shot it

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Good idea.

Looks fine.

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325 pounds

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That’s great! But where did you find that information?

Here is what an overloaded kayak could look like

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I have a database with specs entered in it… but you can also google it…

necky manitou 14 specs - Google Search

First result is:

Necky Manitou 14 Kayak - Paddle (


Thanks! I’d been hunting for catalogues and didn’t think to just search spec info.

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Now that there is the yak that I’ve been obsessing over for the last year! I really think I’d like to change out my Manitou for one of those if I can ever find one near me when I have the funds available.

To determine average waterline depth you would need the manufacturer’s suggested minimum and maximum recommended weights and take the average. Place that weight in the boat so that the boat is level and take that measurement. Unfortunately, few manufacturers list a minimum suggested weight.

If you had all those figures you could get fancy and create a plimsoll mark for the boat.

Wouldn’t you just use the ideal paddler weight?

Also I had my husband paddle around I studied how it moves in the water while turning. Taking images helps and then as you read various things you can refer to the pictures. He is about 60 pounds heavier so I have to factor that in.

So then that’s what your boat would sit like if it was you and a fully loaded camping setup plus water.:grin:

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In an ideal world. However, I have rarely seen a manufacturer list that figure. It’s rare enough that they list a maximum load weight and I think that when they do it’s only for liability purposes. You would probably be able to approximate ideal paddler weight by taking the average on the waterline heights of an empty boat vs a fully loaded boat, if the manufacturer listed a maximum load weight.

Even then, the maximum load waterline varies by conditions:

A few rare manufacturers list an NMMA capacity, which is the maximum safe load capacity and a maximum performance capacity, which is the heaviest load that can be carried with the boat still operating with best performance. The performance capacity would probably be what you are looking for as the ideal paddler and gear weight although weights below this would also be good too, down to a lower limit where conditions may be less than ideal for a very lightly loaded boat.


I appreciate how Placid Boatworks gives displacement numbers for their boats at different loads. Wish more manufacturers would follow their lead.