Fast skegged 14-15 foot sea kayaks?

OK, Salty’s posts have convinced me that a 14-15’ kayak can be faster for an average weekend paddler than an eighteen-footer. (Something I never would have known without reading I’d like to try one out. Both as a boat for my wife (5’9" 160 lbs) and me (5’11" 165 lbs). I’ve been paddling an Impex Force 4 and love it. But if a smaller boat can go on day trips at my typical pace of 4-4.5 knots with less effort, I’d love to try it as a second boat.

Any suggestions for well-made fiberglass boats with reasonably small beams that would be good in open ocean, including big water? With skeg, for beam seas. I use a Greenland paddle and my reflex roll is a standard Greenland layback, so low to moderate back deck would probably feel best.

Thanks for any suggestions.

“faster” is wrong word

– Last Updated: May-02-09 4:54 PM EST –

Faster is the wrong measure. "Faster at lower speeds" is an oxymoron (with "oxy" being optional). Even saying "more efficient" doesn't really get it. It has to be more efficient AT a certain effort level AT a certain speed range.

Every paddler has preferred (and often changing) effort levels they like to maintain over distance, Every hull has optimal speed ranges/sweet spots. Then you have to factor in handling in varied conditions/feel/personality.

Good luck getting a really good recommendations from others on what all that would be for you! Finding others regularly doing 4.5 sustained - in 15' or shorter kayaks they can honestly recommend to others for same use - can probably count 'em on one hand globally.

You're pretty light, which is a plus for less water to push, and making less kayak potentially even that much more of a good idea (and making LV versions of several longer hulls options too), but if you really like to maintain 4.5 knots as you said, I can't think of a single 14'-15' hull that won't drive you nuts and beat you up at that pace unless you're running downwind. At 4 knot pace gets better, 3.5 knots - lot of 'em... 3.5 knots in sloppy water - gets more specific on other factors (ther real reasons to go shorter sometimes)...

With most hulls at around 4 knots and under just about all the drag is frictional/skin drag, so the rounder/more egg shaped the less drag, but the longer skinnier hulls have only a pretty small drag penalty at those speeds. Yeah, technically that means they're more efficient at those speed, but by ounces not pounds of force. At higher speeds, it's not only the reverse, but the shorter wider hulls suffer a large drag penalty (pounds, not ounces).

Most don't paddle very fast/very far, so shorter can work better for them overall for just about everything. Drag is just one aspect though. I think what matters more is how and where you paddle. There are conditions that can make less length and bit more beam be just the ticket, and longer would be just more to fight/horse around. Other conditions where more length lets you fly and shorter would wallow and plod. These things can really trump the drag numbers. Buy for these things (the 2 or more kayak thinking tends to apply, but still hard to decide some days...).

For interesting shorter designs look at Brian Schultz's SC-1 (Coaster in SOF) and F-1 (more lessons learned). Should be in the ballpark. Not much out there commercially like that since the days of the Coaster. Finding narrower beams under 15' gets tricky. Gonna typically be 23"+ with few exceptions like Mystic. At another foot the Whiskey 16 has some positive traits along the lines you're thinking too (but likely has LWL about like your Force 4). Also, many old school Brit designs, while longer overall, have much shorter effective waterlines. I used to joke that our Pintail was really a 14' hull with decorative ends (not far from the truth). Even your Impex is effectively shorter on water to some extent, and more importantly, at 4-4.5 knots you're probably already at the upper sweet spot on that Force 4.

You have shorter options, but you may find you drop a half knot or more to be in it's sweet spot compared to how/what you're paddling now. At that speed you may use a small bit less effort than you would at same lower speed in the Force 4, but always some trade-off and no free lunch.

I get the efficiency thing Salty and others talk about, but it's minimal and a funny version of "faster" if you ask me. Speed ain't everything (though can be hard to give up once you have it), and I value the "horses for courses" aspect of the shorter kayak arguments a lot more than the more trivial "faster" or "more efficient" at lower speed stuff.

If you are 9 years old…

– Last Updated: May-02-09 5:39 PM EST –

..a smaller kayak will seem faster..

I lent my Arctic Tern 14 to a nine year old that had been paddling a 17 footer. His eyes lit up and said "Now that's a fast kayak".

Define Fast
First define fast, it means different thing to different people. I prefer to talk resistance numbers if you can find them.

I just designed a boat I like to call a “fast cruiser”. It’s a contradiction but it confuses the issue nicely. :wink: I aimed for lowest resistance in the 3-4.5 mph range because that is where most people paddle (if they are honest) most of the time. I found that 15’ and 22" wide made a sweet spot for this boat.

Then for kicks I changed nothing but length of the boat all the up way to 21’ On every length of this boat the resistance went up in the 3 to 4.5 mph speeds. The resistance went down at the higher speed and the longer the boat the lower the high speed resistance.

If I went shorter I need to go wider to keep the stability and the resistance went up too.

So in one manor of speaking my boat is faster at slower speeds.

“Fast” is …
marketing spin/owner-fanboy hype/good old fashioned BS. Good paddlers can make some kayaks go relatively fast. That tells the rest of us squat.

I’d prefer to stick to less emotional terms like “speed”, which is simply distance covered over time, nothing more/less.

It is usually the scale running along bottom edge of those drag charts you put so much faith in where it is commonly measured in knots (also miles per hour, kilometers per hour, etc. - with simple direct conversion between various measurement systems).

There may be different ways to try to explain subjective interpretations of what kayak specs translate into more “efficiency” for various scenarios/variables (what should really matter to us while paddling), but speed is speed.

Please note I am NOT taking sides in any way regarding what set of kayak specs are “better” for anything. That is clearly a fool’s game unless a VERY full set of rather specific variables are put in place (like the designers need to do).

Drag charts have a place (in an apples to apples sort of way), but it’s a place few paddlers need to go. They’re almost too simple in output and so are easy to misread/read into/put too much faith in. Better as a comparitive tool in the design process than a user guide. How many who like to refer to them understand how the formulas actually calculate wetted surface and wave drag and how much of a wag they really are? Still, people like to cherry pick such “hard” data for marginally significant things - like comparing a bunch of sea kayaks at 3 knots or so - and then citing tiny differences that show an “advantage” to the slightly shorter/wider models. True, they have less drag at lower speeds, but in many cases it is by amounts so small we would be incapable of noticing on the water as it’s below our sensitivity threshold. Add to that our expectations/handling impressions/exisiting bias, and our inability to guage our own outputs, it’s mostly going to feel however you think it will (or more about how you work to make it so).

I suppose the drag charts are useful if you are trying to use “numbers” to justify some particular aspect of your paddling/shopping as being better/smarter/whatever to someone else (who is going to have different results even in the same hull!).

Good thing Sea Kayaker doesn’t publish charts showing data about various forces on skegs in cross winds and how they impact speed! 50% deployed P&H skeg plots as “faster” than 50% deployed Valley skeg in 15 knot quartering wind! L

Listen to Makinwaves

– Last Updated: May-03-09 12:13 AM EST –

What you have heard me say over and over is that LOW POWERED PADDLERS WILL TYPICALLY BE FASTER IN A SHORTER BOAT IN THE 14 TO 15 ft, range.

If someone is maintaining 4-4.5 knots hour after hour in a typical touring kayak they are NOT a LOW POWERED PADDLER.

It's important not to assume the other direction. A fit, strong paddler can utilize the speed potential of a longer hull without much detriment. But there's a reason surf ski singles arent 25ft! There's a fine line between Frictional and Residual Resistance. I'm only a fan of shorter boats for the right paddlers and application. I speak to that often as it's the #1 misunderatnding I believe among touring paddlers.

So, for what I would call average weekend sea kayakers who paddle along at up to 3-3.5 ish knots, there's no advantage to a longer hull other than capacity. Those folk will go further and faster in a lower Frictional Resistance hull. A Subaru engine can push a small car on a unit of fuel further than if it were in a bigger SUV. Same idea. Match the kayak to the ENGINE. Kayaks are neither fast nor slow. They don't do anything without an ENGINE. Our engines have X amount of available POWER so the FASTEST WE CAN GO over distance is applying the most efficient hull to our engine. For a typical middle aged 120 lb. paddler who can barely lift their kayak,, that aint an 18 ft. kayak. The longer boat only allows the bigger engine to go faster. Not enough POWER and it doesn't add any value. It amazes me that people intuitively "get " this with paddles but not boats!!! Most know that a low powered paddler won't benefit from a huge power paddle. very similar concept with boats. "Efficiency rules over distance".

And once again I will say that it's not so much the slight added drag at lower speeds of the longer hull, rather the windage and controllability for said weaker paddlers. That's what really hurts them.

For this OP, I'd say keep what you have but if you want to try a shorter boat you may find it more FUN in conditions, and not more effort overall until we start hitting the 4.5 pace. There's where you may find a diff, but I'll say that on very long journeys I average the same pace in my CH 16 or Romany as I did in my Nordkapps. The Nord's would sprint faster. It's always a tradeoff.


Impex Mystic
Necky Eliza COMPOSITE (diff boat than poly)
P&H Vela
Romany and Romany LV
Foster's Rumour
CH 16
Whisky 16
Many more I'm certain...just can't think of right now.

Remember that shorter and fatter isn't less drag, so you'll lose efficiency the wider the boat. I'd stay 22" or under.


You may find the Mystic a bit small in capacity, but your wife may love it. My wife paddles the Eliza and thinks it's fast BECAUSE for her engine it is. .It's hull is optimized for her. I once heard of a big power guy paddling one and retuning it stating that it was slow. DUH... Not meant for him.

If I wanted to go fast in flat to even big conditions and didn't want to "play", I'd get an 18 ft. Epic, QCC, etc. But I'm happy plodding along at the same speeds as the OP day after day in a boat that I enjoy paddling and playing in, especially in the rough. There are times in a big following sea that I'd like to transform my boat to an Epic for easier swell surfing. ALWAYS TRADEOFFS!

I hope this makes sense. It's not FAST it's EFFICIENCY and NET OVERALL SPEED.

Caps are not reflective of anger, rather emphasis.

Not sure at those heights

– Last Updated: May-02-09 10:58 PM EST –

The Impex Mystic might fit in there, but I am not sure that either of you would fit in the boat. At least comfortably. The smaller of you might fit in the P&H Vela comfortably, but I am not sure you'd find that boat as friendly to greenland type stuff as you'd like. And it's 15'9".

The Tempest 165 is very greenland-friendly, as is the Romany and (if either of you can get into it) The Romany LV. But like the Vela, these are 16 ft or so boats.

While I am sure that a fairly quick sea kayak tuned down for a really small paddler could come in at under 15', I am not sure that boat exists. And you guys are smaller, not really small, paddlers.

Is there a reason you are skipping over the approx 16 ft boats? As you can see from Salty's list, you might have better luck there.

Thanks a lot for the responses. They are very useful.

Re-reading my original post, I am a bit embarrassed. I was definitely -uh - “putting my best foot forward” by saying I paddle at 4-4.5 knots. The 4 knots would be when paddling really hard for a 15 minute stretch (and figuring, hey, I probably hit 4.1 knots in there somewhere, that’s “between 4 and 4.5 knots”). 80% of my paddling is probably more like 3.5 knots.

When my wife and I paddle together, I think we probably go at around 3 knots when underway.

Sounds like the Mystic at 14 feet and 21.5 inch beam would be closest to what was thinking of. Salty, the suggestions for specific boats is just what I was hoping for -thanks. And the detail of the comments is really helpful. Interesting that there seem to be so few boats in the 15 foot, 21 -21.5 inch beam area.

My wife and I will try out the Mystic and the Chatham 16 and whatever of the other boats we can find. Whiskey 16 and the Foster Rumour look interesting. I also looked up the Coaster and it sounds very cool (though I guess maybe hard to find on the east coast to try out).

This kind of knowledgeable information is really fantastic - thanks to everyone for responding in so much detail.

Of the Necky line
have her try the Eliza composite (skeg). Very diff than the poly boat and very fun and efficient. For her size my guess is better than the CH 16. It has the same LWL as the 16 but narrower and lower. great little boat and superb in big water.

16 is awesome but it works better for bigger folk. There’s so much buoyancy in it’s chine profile that very light people can struggle to edge it.

I want to try a new composite Eliza,
now that you’ve made it sound so attractive. At 5’6", 160 lbs, I suspect it would fit me a little better than my composite Aquaterra Sea Lion, which actually fits pretty well. Actually, unless the composite Eliza cockpit entry is different than the poly Eliza, I’m not sure I’d like it, because I scraped my shins getting into the poly Eliza that I sat in a few weeks ago.

I often dream about a boat that fits and handles similarly to the composite Sea Lion, but is a couple feet shorter and weighs 45 lbs or less. Carrying that 17’10 long, 57 lb Sea Lion is a bit much at times. It’s just a fantasy for now, since I’m not working and don’t have the funds.

In the last year, I’ve been paddling the 35 lbs or less solo canoes more than the heavier kayaks.

I don’t think that I’ve ever paddled in conditions where I actually needed a sea kayak, though I do enjoy getting into a high cadence rhythm and pushing my physical limits for a while and also enjoy just messing about with maneuvers and leans and edging and such just for the fun of it.

Thanks for you informed input, Salty.

Dont always trust your senses as to whether a boat is fast or slow. I paddled a boat I thought felt slow but the GPS was telling me a different story. It was a good solid boat but I guess it was just kind of boring.

Yanoer; You might try to find a Scimitar if you like the old Sea Lion.

The reason for the shorter
cockpit length dimension is to allow better thigh area contact for shorter femurs, AND, allow for much easier spray deck installation / removal. It works, but if you’re one who likes to drop your rear in first, then legs, you would have to adjust your technique or choose another boat.

Very Good Thing
For short paddlers. Watching short paddlers struggle to get on and off sprayskirt with regular keyhole is ugly…as is the work to make decent thigh braces for them. If I can sit and then get legs in, I think the cockpit opening is way too long. You get strange ideas using an OC for awhile.

A couple of suggestions
I’ll echo Greyak’s suggestion of the SC-1 (skin Coaster), or rather, the Cape Falcon F-1 which is the current, more refined version. My SC-1 is seriously fun and feels like a sea kayak with more maneuverability and higher acceleration - it’s 14’5" by 23", and weighs around 33 pounds I think. It glides well and has virtually no weather helm. It’s inspiration, the Mariner Coaster is legendary.

I like the looks of the West Side Boat Shop Delta. Apparently it was designed for a restricted length racing category - it’s 14’ by 23" or so, 24 pounds in kevlar, and is rumored to track well and be quick. Bushnell is a well-respected designer so it should be worth a gander. I wish I could try one, but they seem to be rare (short boat prejudice, no doubt).

tiderace xcite S
efficient, playful, and lean kayak, refined design. agree with salty but add this one to the list.

videos here–america–youtube

a couple from Wildy:


might do you well…


– Last Updated: May-04-09 8:56 AM EST –

I haven't tried this boat yet (maybe when my local dealer starts up demos again later this month), but on paper I was suprised by how fat it looks. The 160 is 23" wide! And the 155 (for smaller framed paddlers) is 22.5". I don't know if that's just a reflections of the fattening of america, or whether it's primary design consideration was stability, perhaps? But I wondered how much speed this boat sacrifices. Is it worth looking at if this guy is trying to find a shorter boat that is actually faster than his current 20.75" wide Impex Force 4?

I tried the Zephyr 16 at North Cove this weekend and it is definitely a boat for a big person. I’m 6’6" and sadly no longer slim and the boat fit me great. If an Assateague is a good fit for you so is the Zephyr 16. The Zephyr was saying “rock gardens, surf, take me out to play” and I was on a pond :frowning:

I would put the 16 in the same group as a Romany S. It’s a playful boat for a big guy.

Zephyr 16.0 review in Sea Kayaker
There’s a review of the glass 16’ Zephyr in the latest (June, I think) issue of Sea Kayaker. The review comments mirror my experiences with the poly version.

Flatpick gets credited in the manufacturers response of the review.

It’s not a boat for racers, unless they race in rough conditions. But I’m a 3 - 3.5 kn paddler, so it’s plenty fast enough for me.