First Time Kayak Purchase

I am looking for some general advice on the purchase of a first Kayak. I have been renting rec kayaks and am considering an upgrade above the rec boats, and something that will perform better and be safe in a variety of conditions. I am 53 y.o. relatively fit, but heavier than I used to be: 5’9" barefoot, and weigh 217 lbs. My weight is hopefully trending down -= but as they say, ‘winter is coming’.

I am looking to paddle in the southeast Pennsylvania area and am looking at paddling local lakes, rivers and some tidal inlets and estuaries. I do not know that I will ever be brave enough to go out into ocean water, but significant waves and wakes are likely if I am in the Delaware bay & Chesapeake area. I would like to get a boat with fore and aft bulkheads/storage, and the possibility of adding a skirt. Another serious limitation is that I cannot get much more than a 13’ boat in my garage. Perhaps 13’6. The goal is to get a good performing boat that I can learn on, and not outgrow in a season. I would like it to be fast and efficient, but maneuverability is also important…

This has been a bit of a research project, but I have come up with the following frontrunners:

  1. W.S. Tsunami 125. This seems a good fit and seems to be well reviewed. It also is pretty long without being too long. 12’9 (And there are some end of season sales on these right now).
  2. Necky Looksha 12. Seems comparable and a bit shorter, with the same basic weight capacity and a smaller cockpit opening. I am going to look at one soon - so I do not know if this is actually a good fit physically.
  3. Old Towne Castine 135. Again, going to look at one soon, but it seems to fit the bill. It is probably on the outside of what is possible in terms of length for me.
  4. Perception Conduit 13.0 - I have not seen one in person, but there are a number of sales going on right now - and they seem to be available on the cheap. Reviews seem mixed.

If anyone has any strong opinions, I am all ears. Also, I have been following Craigslist for several weeks now, and surprisingly, these boats do not seem to be popping up used, though they are out there. There seem to be all of the 14’ plus tourning boats you could want-and all of the 10’ rec boats as well. It is a funny trend I am seeing.

First of all, you are probably too heavy for the boats you mentioned if you want to be reasonably fast. Second of all, none of the boats you mentioned would be suitable in big water with your weight. If you want performance, you are going to have to find a way to store at least a 16 footer–more, or less.

As I have advised many others, go look at a Current Designs Sirocco. This boat will check all your boxes except size and they are not going to break the bank. You will not outgrow this boat. Do yourself a great big favor and at least sit in one if you can find a dealer, or a nice used one.

Look for a boat with a capacity of at least 300 lbs. I am in your weight range, and if I use boats made for less than this capacity, they generally wallow and don’t perform well.

Too bad you can’t fit 14’, as the Dagger Alchemy 14.0L would be a good boat for you. I have one and love it. Only available used (or closeout at stores that still have them).

There are some shorter than 13’ boats out there, but they won’t want to track well. P&H Hammer and Jackson Karma RG are two that come to mind. These both have skegs, which will help you keep the boat going straight. Really made for rought water play, not for flat water.

Dagger recently announced a 12.5’ long version of the Stratos (the boat that replaced the Alchemy). Haven’t seen nor even know what the specs are yet, but that has potential if it is similar to the 14.5 version they already have.

OK, you guys are depressing me. I just went down and made a cardboard mockup - and diagonally, I should be able to fit 14’. BARELY - as in no rudder. How does that change the conversation? Please keep in mind - I am new to this - and am not looking to take on either the grand canyon or the arctic circle - for now…

Can you hang a boat with one end lower, like on an angle? My husband hung a 15 ft boat in a 14 ft space in the basement by having the bow down and the stern up.

@RAM said:
OK, you guys are depressing me. I just went down and made a cardboard mockup - and diagonally, I should be able to fit 14’. BARELY - as in no rudder. How does that change the conversation? Please keep in mind - I am new to this - and am not looking to take on either the grand canyon or the arctic circle - for now…

Check out to see if you can find any of these (and then measure to make sure they would fit, and reaffirm that they can take a 300 lb or more load):
Dagger Alchemy 14.0L- comes with skeg, not rudder, so I suspect would fit
Jackson Journey 14 - has a rudder

Maybe a Necky Looksha 14 - is either rudder or nothing

I think Eddyline has a 14’ boat that could be considered. Would be a skegged boat.

I see you are in Southeastern PA. I live in Glen Mills and have several kayaks you could try if we were to meet at a lake. I have Necky Manitous in 13 and 14 foot lengths and a Pakboat folding kayak that is just over 15 feet. I’m 5’9” and usually around 190 so your size/weight seem inline with all these boats unless you intend to camp with tons of gear.

I paddle Marsh Creek Lake, the Christina River and the Schuylkyll River, but am always looking for new areas.

Welcome to the sport. I got hooked about 10 years ago. It is addictive. You are smart to be looking at Craigslist. I’ve bought almost all my kayaks used and if I tire of a boat, I sell and upgrade (although not selling any of my current fleet).

ABZ

I second the Alchemy. Feel free to take out the stiffening hardware and move the seat back some. Very capable boat.

While my bias is usually towards longer kayaks I would suggest and I have an option that hits the 12’6” range, sea kayak safety characteristics and an Inboard rudder This is a Venture Kayaks Islay 12. I have a emerald green demo that’ll need a home as I won’t use this in my pool programs. I’ll be passing close-ish soon on my way to the Kiptopeke symposium so I can rendezvous.

https://www.the-river-connection.com/canoesandkayaks/venturekayaks/venturekayaks-islay-12

Drop me a line if you would like photos.

See you on the water,
Marshall
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
Main: www.the-river-connection.com
Store: www.the-river-connection.us
Facebook: fb.me/theriverconnection

Be patient and something good will come along on Craigslist. The next month or two may bring some real deals. If not there’s always spring, or even the odd winter sale. And if you buy a boat and decide it’s not for you, you can always re-sell it.

As an example, over the past few years, I have purchased 5 kayaks on CL, my spouse and I have paddled and resold several, and we’re still looking to resell one and purchase another better one. But we can take our time and keep paddling, because we won’t sell A until we buy B. I never thought I’d be doing this, and had intended to just buy two kayaks and use them forever, but it’s been very fun and we’ve traded up each time without losing money, picking up good accessories on the way.

Look what followed me home last night. Dagger Alchemy 14.0 L.

Thanks for the advice all. I took it to heart and did some additional research, and then started looking for a used Dagger Alchemy 14.0L. Nothing. Some S’s were available. No L’s. Then, this weekend, a lightly used version popped up on craiglsist nearby and I snapped it up. It was used by a gentleman infrequently, and is in very good shape, with only a few scratches. He says it is 3 years old - but it looks very good.

Better, I took it to a nearby lake on the way home for a rather brief trial run and was pretty pleased. The fit is good, and the length is nice. I had been afraid that a 14’ boat would be more cumbersome, but it seems to turn better than anything I have yet paddled - and it glides well. I only had an hour with it, so it was not enough time to really make friends with it, but generally speaking, it seems like a great boat and something I can grow into. Now, I just need to practice and practice some more.

Oh, and the best news, is that it fits in my garage with approximately 4" to spare.

Thanks all.

@abz said:
I see you are in Southeastern PA. I live in Glen Mills and have several kayaks you could try if we were to meet at a lake. I have Necky Manitous in 13 and 14 foot lengths and a Pakboat folding kayak that is just over 15 feet. I’m 5’9” and usually around 190 so your size/weight seem inline with all these boats unless you intend to camp with tons of gear.

I paddle Marsh Creek Lake, the Christina River and the Schuylkyll River, but am always looking for new areas.

Welcome to the sport. I got hooked about 10 years ago. It is addictive. You are smart to be looking at Craigslist. I’ve bought almost all my kayaks used and if I tire of a boat, I sell and upgrade (although not selling any of my current fleet).

ABZ

Thanks, and I may run into you at some point. I like Marsh Creek, and it is not terribly far away from me.

I’ll watch for your kayak. Congratulations on the purchase.

See you on the water,
ABZ

Congratulations! Excellent choice.

Alchemy is a good boat, proper little sea kayak and quite and quite maneuverable. Rolls like a dream too. It’ll take you to the ocean if you want. Only caution is the hatches tend to leak. Put your stuff in dry bags inside the hatches.

Well Done-Nice Buy