First Sea Kayak Advice

I am looking to purchase my first sea kayak after going out a few times with a local kayak tour company. I will be paddling mostly on Lake Erie by the Islands and I was looking at this ad on craigslist:

First: Is this a good deal? I would prefer a plastic boat for durability and transport ease but I cannot find any cheaper than this price.

Any other info you could give would be much appreciated. Thanks.


Skerry is a nice boat
What is your size? It’s not a small paddler’s boat. Moderate maybe but others here probably know better than me.

It’s an older boat design, someone locally has one and it has babysat him rather well. He is religiously opposed to taking advice so he keeps ending up at the edge of a problem, but he hasn’t been a newspaper story yet.

My sense is that it is not the straightest tracker in the world, but not so much into weathercocking that it can’t be handled. But a tracking device should handle that - I forget which it has now that I closed the window with the picture in it.

ad says it is skegged
The skeg should help the tracking.

I have no personal experience with the Skerray though I once paddled in a group with two people that had them and they were moving very fast, though in pretty flat water. There are quite a few user reviews on here for the plastic version (RM) which is the same hull exactly. It might be helpful to see what other people report about using the model. If the fiberglass is is in good condition that’s quite a fair price. But you need to look it over carefully, as well as determine if it fits you.

Thanks for the replies guys. I am 6’2" and 170 lbs so tall and skinny. I couldn’t find any specs for the boat and it is quite old - the owner emailed me that it was a 1996 model but the lines and hatches were new. I guess trying to setup a meeting where I could fit myself and maybe paddle a bit. Any other advice would be awesome.


Suspect it’ll fit

– Last Updated: Aug-10-12 4:34 PM EST –

You are taller than but a bit under the weight of the guy who has one locally, and it is an OK fit.

Can't tell squat for sure until you get into it though... good for you to go sit in it.

This is a discontinued kayak so it’s hard to find specs. One on eBay is listed at 67 lbs. In a forum discussion some people said the seat was uncomfortable (legs numb).

It appears in good condition so yes, the price is good. Here’s one for $1400:

Info on specs of different models:

Here’s an interesting post about the Skerray with respect to length and speed:

Pygmy Coho
I only have experience with my Coho, so I can’t do much comparison. All I can tell you is I love my boat, it is just as strong as any other composite boat and (if you build it right) quite a bit lighter. It is very fast, tracks well and turns fairly easily.

The kit will cost you just a little bit more than the asking price for that one in the ad. A similar new kayak made by one of the big names will cost you three times as much. Of course, then you have to build it, which will take you X amount of time depending on how handy you are and how much time you can devote to it.

Sometimes you’ll find a used one for sale, but that is a rare thing. Their owners love them. I happened to get lucky and bought mine used from the original owner, who doesn’t kayak anymore.

bigger boat

– Last Updated: Aug-10-12 2:54 PM EST –

I paddle an explorer and am smaller than you - about 5'9". The skerray felt a bit bigger in the cockpit to me but it was at least as stable as the explorer. I don't recall how much more legroom there was. It didn't feel significantly slower but just that I was moving more boat, which makes sense because it has a wider beam.

Best bet is to try it out as you're doing. Probably will have some scratches but if it's in decent shape and it fits, it's not a bad deal with the pump included.

I had a Skerray
I found it was not a good tracker and needed the skeg and had a high back deck. The smaller cockpit may be a bit tricky for self rescue if you are not limber. Fair price and really, you could resell for pretty close if you are not happy.

thats a classic
I’ve heard some complain that it doesn’t track well and is a bear in cross winds but on the other hand you will get lots of practice with correction and steering strokes. They have a reputation for being excellent in rough water.

That’s a really good price for any glass boat that still looks that shiny.

I have one.
I have the RM. It paddles well. Does need the skeg. I have the skeg down most of the time. With the skeg down there is no cocking weather or lee. The picture shows a day hatch so I doubt that it is as old as 1996.

Mine has a small cockpit that was a challenge to exit

until I learned to roll my body over in the cockpit and then step out. A wet exit is easy (makes me feel like a seal). With your long legs(I’m only 5’9") you may have trouble exiting. Great price!

Cockpit Size
The picture might be deceiving, but that doesn’t look like the tiny ocean cockpit that some Skeray’s have. Getting in/out might not be that rough. I agree that it could be a good deal if the boat is in good shape.

I agree the cockpit doesn’t look particularly small on the boat. And that ain’t a day-hatch, that’s the deck-mounted pump, I think. Seems like a good price, and as said above you could probably pass it on after a season if you don’t like it much.

Cockpit size
Not all the Skerry’s had an ocean cockpit - it looks from the photo like this doesn’t. I am pretty sure the one locally does not.

Agree, at the OPer’s height that could be a challenge.

Thanks everyone for the help. I am going to see the kayak on Monday. The owner emailed saying that height might be an issue as someone who was 6’3" was too tall. Like I said I’m 6’2" so it could be a tight fit.

Having never bought a kayak what should I look for? Do these boats have titles? Any problem areas I should look at in detail? If it doesn’t fit then these don’t matter but I would like to be prepared and do my homework.

Thanks again everybody. This seems like a cool community and I didn’t expect so many responses so quickly!


Title and conveyance
hey TBone

my regular paddling partner has a 1995 Skerray Xcel (the bigger version of what you’re checking out) also in fiberglass.

This is a well regarded boat, the predecessor of the popular Aquanaut. Skerrays (all of them) were very popular in their day and so it’s easy to find specs for w. a simple Google, but don’t let specs drive the deal. Fit is what matters.

Since it’s been discussed the XL has a cockpit 32"x16" well within the usual range for Brit boats. He’s 195 and 5’11" w. long legs & got used to folding his legs to get in. He rolls it, takes it on trips: a gear sponge, holds a lot.

Great in waves. He coasts thru them.Stable as a table. He doesn’t find it skeg dependent. He did change out the seat pan and seat back, and took out the chimp pump, converting it into a more useful day hatch.

He paid $700 for it btw and it came w. an old Lendal Powermaster paddle. No skirt or cockpit or anything else. Changed out the decklines, perimeter lines and skeg rope. The boat itself was in B+ condition w. no damage, no evidence of repairs, some reptilian gel coat crazing. My friend buffed it out and polished the entire hull and deck, and it shines now.

You can get the date of manufacture from the last 4 digits of the serial number (xxyy = month/year) which is on a label that Valley puts in all their boats. If it’s missing look for it scratched into one side right near tip of stern. If it’s a very old boat like more than 15 years, I’d negotiate the price down.

There won’t be title but you can do a simple bill of sale. Bring one with you w. blanks for the serial number, date, and price paid.

Why do you want one?

- in case you decide to insure it.

- if you live in a state where registration is

required, now or someday

- since you are likely paying cash, it acts as

your receipt. Esp. in the slim event the boat

is stolen. It happens.

what to look for
put boat hull side up. Standing at one end, sight it to check for any deviation from a straight keel stern to bow.

Run hands over the hull. Feel for patches. Not necessarily bad, depends on how they were done. Large lumpy patches are signs of careless work which is usually bad work. Hull scratches that do not pierce the gel coat are normal use. They can be left alone, buffed out, or recoated w. gel coat. I tend to do mine once a year late in fall.

If any fiberglass fabric is showing thru the gel coat, that has been a point of entry for water. If that went on too long, it’s not good. Press down in that area If it gives way easily, it’s soft and will need repair. (Note: a fiberglass boat should flex, this is about soft areas you can press downward on).

Flip boat over.If you can, bring boat to a shady area or wherever it’s darker than sunlight. Use a flashlight you brought to check the bulkhead walls for uneven areas of thickness. Do that for the whole boat, inside the hatches, inside the cockpit.

Put boat stern up high enough to check skeg operation. Raise, lower, midraise etc. Check integrity of rope.

Check toggles. Good toggles are sturdily drilled inside the ends boat, which if properly done should be plugged at the very ends, and the rope is sound. Toggles and rope are easily replaced if not.

Check all deck lines (rope) and bungees. They can be replaced if drooping or frayed. More important, check the deckline fittings: make sure they are in there solidly, stripped out ones are a PITA.

Check foot pegs that they are solidly on tracks, that they adjust easily. Sit in boat and push hard on them.

You don’t want them giving way at a critical time.

While you’re seated, check thigh braces which are integrated into coaming. The thigh braces should flex slightly, the coaming not. A weak or moving coaming is a safety/structural issue (as are weak or moving bulkheads). All can be repaired w. glassing, but deduct from asking price. Not cheap if you are asking someone else to fix them.

This seat has side pillars. Make sure they don’t sway or move when you’re seated. If you hear a cracking sound not good. Be aware you can take the whole seat out and put in another one, or foam it out. If you otherwise like the boat, don’t let a seat pan or seatback stop you.

Look all over the deck but esp. right behind the cockpit for cracks - stress cracks from rescues, or ppl sitting on the back deck to get in. Stress cracks are a problem…These are not thin light crazing cracks in the gel coat. Cosmetic most of 'em.

Look at the entire seam of the boat, all the way around the boat on the outside, as much as you can see on the inside. Seam should be solid, no cracks, no bits chipped away. These boats were hand laid and will show some seam lumps, that’s typical for the time.

Good luck, a Skerray in good shape that needs a little love and tweaking is a good boat.

How it should fit
I just scanned the replies and you may want one more piece re the fit, since it may be be close for you. I suspect you haven’t had much chance to really think about this in your present boat.

The way you turn and otherwise control a proper sea (or whitewater) kayak is by putting it on edge, or bringing it back from same, which means that you need three points of contact. The skeg is there to help correct any undue influence from wind or some specific situations, essentially to even the playing field between you and the wind since the boat will otherwise have a tendency to turn into the wind. They are usually designed that way as a matter of safety - safer to run up wind than down if you are in messy stuff.

The three points of contact are thighs in braces, butt in seat and feet on pegs (or a bulkhead block, foam up against the bulkhead built up to where the foot pegs would normally be). In some older enough boats there may not be distinct thigh braces built in - you have to get some minicell and build up an area under the coaming to give yourself a solid purchase. But it is easy enough to do with a little time.

The thigh contact should be available enough that you can get to it quickly but the overall cockpit fit should be loose enough that you feel like you can relax your legs.

The cockpit is likely to feel smaller on you than you are accustomed to. As far as concerns about wet exits, gravity works upside down too. You just may have to more overtly somersault out of the boat than fall straight out from a bigger cockpit boat.

Cockpit size
If I remember correctly, the Skerry has an odd cockpit size. Not an ocean and not quit large enough to slide you knees under as well - at least for me. The other thing is that I don’t believe it has any built in thigh bracing. So for a new paddler, make sure you add padding under the deck so you can be attached to the boat. You want to be able to lean and control the boat with your hips / thighs as well as the paddle.

It’s a fairly skeg dependent boat.