First SOT Tandem Buying Advice

-- Last Updated: Aug-17-15 9:30 PM EST --

I'm looking into purchasing a SOT tandem for the wife and I to use on the calm rivers and lakes in central Texas. She can't swim and gets nervous in choppy water even with a PFD so we're sticking to calm waters and stability is a big factor in a kayak.

We've only been looking at the Pelican Apex 130T and Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL. It's hard to find other SOT tandem for recreational users in our price range (sub $1000 paddles/PFDs included). She likes the Apex 130T since we just used one on a lake and she felt very comfortable in it, but I don't like it because of its molded seats take up real estate in the sitting area. I like the Malibu Two XL because it has a flat seating area and it can convert from a tandem to a solo if I wanted to take it out fishing alone, but it's also pricier. I just saw the Perception Tribe 13.5T is similar to the Malibu Two XL in that it can also convert from tandem to solo, so that might be another option. We're making a trip to a lake soon and that rental place uses the Tribe 13.5T so that'll factor into our comfort level with that model.

We'll be taking it out 1-2 times per month and storing it inside a garage raised with hooks/straps. I realize tandems will be quite heavy to lift above an SUV, so we're getting a Thule Hullavator that'll help a lot. We're not in a big rush to buy now, either, and don't mind used so we've been tracking the market on Craigslist for the past few weeks before we're ready to buy.

Appreciate any advice!

Edited because message was cutoff when first submitting.

Large tandem low cost SOTs will be
normally be pretty stable but often very heavy too. Transporting one may be a challenge. They are also often much slower for the same amount of paddling energy. The are easier to remount if you spill. If you’re fit and only paddling/exploring a few miles each trip they could be ok. I would try to rent some and try before you buy to ensure this kayak style meets your needs. They can often loose value quickly so if you like the rentals, you may be able to get a used one within your budget. If your wife can’t swim, a well fitted and fastened life jacket matched to her size and shape is essential, and some practice spills in shallow water too so she’s comfortable going over - its a wet sport. Just thoughts. R

Hopefully a dumb question
Can you rescue her if she does fall in? If the answer is no, I suggest you worry about things other than what boat as a first step.

I’m fairly confident
I can rescue her if she does fall in. I graduated the shark class in the YMCA ;). I’m a good swimmer, and thankfully have never needed to rescue someone, but I can pull her to shore or push her on top of the kayak, especially if she has a PFD on.

We’ve kayaked together 8-10 times, always tandem. We’re finally ready to own our own, it’s just a matter of which one to buy.

Skip the pelican
The molded in seats are a bad design, you won’t progress in any skills paddling this boat.

The Malibu II is a bit of a barge, and a slow paddling boat. It is very seaworthy. My son and his friend used to use one of these for big wave surfing as a joke. They could both stand up when riding waves, it is so stable.

My first kayak was a tandem SOT and Ihunted around and paddled many boats and ended up buying a Hobie Oddysey. You can paddle it solo from the center seat, and it paddles well and has glide for a 14 ft SOT.

I would suggest you look at used boats and see if you can find a used Hobie or less barge like SOT. You might be able to find a used Ocean Kayak Cabo, Zest II, or Cobra Tandem. IF not go with the Malibu II.

I am not currently qualified, but have life saver training in my younger history. Between that class and more recent experiences trying to do on-water kayak rescues with someone who had gone into full panic after going in, I have tremendous respect for how much panic challenges a rescue.

I suggest that you get her in the water near shore and have her practice reaching for the boat as soon as you can. It sounds like if she keeps her head in the game, you can do the rest.

Thanks for the recommendations!
I’d love to get a Hobie if I could. In my research, those kayaks look to be top of the line. But, it’s a bit out of my price range for the Odyssey, even used.

The Malibu Two XL is looking like more of the winner. I think a barge fits us as we’re looking only for recreational use and extremely stable. The Zest Two EXP is a bit longer, heavier, and thinner so that’d be our choice if we were looking for a faster kayak. The Cabo doesn’t have a middle seat and it’s hard to find one used since being discontinued. The Cobra Tandem looks like a nice alternative to the Malibu Two XL so I’ll look out for a deal on that.

It’s looking like these are our best fits:

  1. Malibu Two XL
  2. Cobra Tandem
  3. Malibu Two
  4. Cabo

    in order of best to worst. Any Hobie would definitely be #1 if we had the budget. I appreciate the help! Anyone else have recommendations for tandem SOTs?

A wouldn’t rule out the Tribe 13.5
If you can rent one of those, I think you may like that as well as the Ocean Kayak.

I agree on the Pelican design quality is poor.

So here’s an update on our kayak search.

We found a used Hobie Kona for a great price on Craigslist. It was in good condition. Scratches on the hull but no significant damage. Well taken care of from a responsible couple.

We finally took it out today and had a good time on the lake. It has more than enough space for two of us, despite being short for a tandem, only 11’6". It paddled beautifully on the water, and it’s nice how Hobies have extra conveniences like built-in hatches, cup holders, paddle holders, and mesh pockets.

It was a bit awkward strapping it into our Hullavator. The Kona’s hull is 34" wide, and our 897XT Hullavator specifies hulls up to 36" but it sits a bit angled off the cradles. We strap it down tight along the cradles with bow and stern ratches, and it doesn’t move, but I’d feel more comfortable if the hull could fit within the cradles.

We enjoyed our time out on the lake. It’s the most enjoyable kayak we’ve used, and we want to take it out more. The only problem is we live in a 3rd floor apartment so it’s a hassle to bring it up/down the stairs. We’re renting an apartment garage but we have to wait another month to get it.

Thank you all for the help and advice!

Things to think about …
1. If you wife does not know how to swim, I would encourage her to take lessons. Also go to a shallow calm spot of water, make sure she has her PFD on and practice tipping the boat over and getting back in. Do this many times, so the skills become automatic. Make sure she has to paddle at least 75 ft in her PFD, flip the boat and climb in.

2. The hullavator is an expensive pain. It’s not very hard to load a SOT from the rear of a regular rack. Pad the vehicle just behind the rack, lift the bow first onto the pad and slide the kayak up onto the rack or into the sadles, pick up the stern and slide her up.

3. Be a little creative about finding a storage spot, friends or relatives or work site with extra space, you can hang the kayak on a fence and lock it up through the scuppers and cover with a tarp.