force3 , explorer lv , foster silhouette

Christmas shopping for daughter 5’4" 125 lb

she has a p&h vella day boat looking for second kayak for ocean trips , any thoughts



– Last Updated: Oct-04-06 5:37 AM EST –

The Vela is very good ocean "day boat" for her, even for a weekend trip. Are you asking about an extended (week plus) expedition where you need more storage room for gear? Otherwise, the Vela is perfectly fine. It's one of the few boats out there nicely designed for smaller paddlers.


I wanta be adopted!
what great parents


– Last Updated: Oct-04-06 6:37 AM EST –

You'd find that the Silhouette will not have more cargo space than the Vela, or not significantly more. The rear compartment is very shallow.

The Explorer would be heavier, and slower than the Vela in exchange for it's bigger capacity.

The Force 3 would be the best compromise of the three, being lighter and faster than the Explorer, ample storage, and have similar capabilities in rough water. It's only drawback (IMO) is a high foredeck.


10 pounds lighter

– Last Updated: Oct-04-06 11:03 AM EST –

Other than a few decades that leave me with 10 more pounds than your daughter, exactly my size. My shorter sea kayak is a Vela, long boat is an Explorer LV. I've been in the other two you mention, and aside from maybe one of the Betsie Bays for small people, which I haven't tried, you've hit the right boats.

I'd put the Force 3 and the LV at the top of the list, as much for overall expedition personality and handling quality as anything else. Both of these boats handle a bit different from the Vela but not so much that she's unlikely to find them unpleasantly foreign, both are pretty forgiving which is a nice break for long trips in maybe unplanned conditions. The LV hull is the regular Explorer hull, so it's more the cockpit rather than the volume that has been adjusted, but the fit is so good and the boat so kind it really doesn't create an issue. I just need to remember to trim the bow a little heavy when not fully loaded to help in wind.

Of the three, while my time in it has been brief, I'd lean towards the Force 3. Check some stats, but I think it has better hull speed than the LV. Since the Vela is a very quick boat off the mark, she may find a slower starter a little annoying.

(Scott talks next about hard v. softer chined boats. Interesting here - nothing listed is really round-chined, but there is a lot of softening of a hard chine in the Force and the LV. The Vela, to me anyway, acts differently than its apparent single hard chine because it is such a low volume boat, with such an upward rise in the stern, that it is far more responsive to a slight edge than you'd expect seeing that one chine sweeping the hull.)

Celia is on-track…
I tend to agree with Celia on the Explorer LV and Force 3 boats. However, as with anything, it is best to get the prospective paddler to test paddle both boats as soon as possible.

I have paddled the Explorer LV and found it to be quite predictable but haven’t paddled the force 3, though I have paddled the force 4 and found it to be very enjoyable and stable in wind chop.

You can’t go wrong with either choice – so best to let the young lady choose between them!!

As to the Betsie Bay boats, the hard chines would feel much different (good or bad) and the BBK boats tend to not be so forgiving should she make a mistake in textured water. I prefer hard chined boats, but thats my weakness for Greenland-styled boats talking!


I think these speed “differences” are so over rated. On any given day on a week long paddle the typical member of a group can’t tell what is what. They might be able to tell which boat they can keep moving faster in rough water because of its manners, though. Have her test the boat in bumpy water to find which one she likes there.

Augustus Dogmaticus


vela etc
the good

hull right for smaller person

v.good acceleration good hull speed flat ok lumpy

comfy seat

sporty and easy to roll

the so so

cockpit is still too large for 5’ 4" 15 by 26

would be better

coaming much too high in front and a little high in back

bow is stiff and since we hang the seat pan from front holes to reach thigh braces (very padded)

is stiffer still detracting from performance in following seas (D preffers my avocet in those conditions)

she has paddled the lv for a day and likes the fit has sat in the force 3 and likes the fit even better (low front coaming)

Seems that everyone I have run into who is fussy about the fit has padded the front braces down and moved the seat forward in the Vela, which does stiffen the heck out of an already stiff bow. Both the loose bow of the LV and the more even balance of the Force and Silhouette are a nice break, as well as the lower thigh brace contact on all three. No padding needed.

Some thoughts
Seems as though she already has an excellent, if not perfect boat. I know of no perfect boats.

My take on this question is “why” the need for a bigger boat for trips? Arguably the Nordkapp is one of the most famous expedition yaks in the world, and it’s small! I owned two of them. What most people call “day boats” I have used on month long trips.

I would encourage you to NOT fall into the common thinking that you must have a bigger boat. As a small person she can easily do week long or longer trips in her Vela with the right gear, and careful planning. Most people take WAY too much crap, which only burdens them. The pay-off for going simple and light is paddling a nimble boat, and being quicker to pack etc.

Perhaps you could take the money and buy her an excellent paddle, along with some private lessons from a pro-paddler etc.

The fit thing may be a minor issue, or a big one? It is an excellent boat though.

Carrying Capacity

– Last Updated: Oct-04-06 3:13 PM EST –

If I were a true backpack paddler, I'd not have a problem with the storage in my Vela. But I can sympathize with a desire for more space. It's as much about where the space is in the Vela as the quantity - it isn't arranged well in the back with the shallow depth and the skeg box to make it at all easy to work with and trim right.

But this is idle chatter - I am sure that the daughter knows better than any of us whether she needs a larger capacity boat for bigger/longer paddle trip needs. As others have said, the most important part is to figure out how we can get him to adopt us!

True enough

Nigel Dennis Explorer LV

– Last Updated: Oct-04-06 6:56 PM EST –

This ebay retailer had a Silhouette earlier this week listed, inquire if interested.

Search ebay for Nigel kayak and see many selections form alpha19airborne.

proxy report
My wife refuses to have anything to do with the internet, so this response is me paraphrasing her response.

First, her profile. She is 5’2", 98lbs. Reasonably experienced, she paddles flatwater race kayaks and whitewater canoe, but prefers sea kayaking, and has skills to pass a BCU 4*.

She currently paddles a Vela. This is mostly becuase there has been so few choices for fit. What she likes most is the fit (low enough it doesn’t hit her in the ribs), the quick acceleration, and the manouverability. She actually likes the slightly higher front cockpit coaming, as she spend as much time as possible with knees togehter, like race kayaks. What she doesn’t like is the cruising speed, and the high degree of weatherhelm. Other than that, she likes the rough water behavior. She has packed it for for a maximum of 6 day trips, surprisingly well.

She has used the Force 3 and the ExLV, conditions including distance and winds of Force 4 and 5. She thought the wind behavior of both boat was great, and better than the Vela. The ExLV was a bit harder to edge and she had to lean more, that was improved after we put a lift in her seat (she tends to like a slightly higher seat anyway). What was remarkable was how easy she found it to turn through 360deg in Force5. She thought the boat sluggish in comparison.

The F3 she found easier to edge, but still liked her seat lifted, just not as much. The cockpit was a PITA, as it was the longest stretch to put the neo skirt on. She thought the acceleration close to the Vela, but was much happier with the cruising speed (dogmatycus, I hear and understand what you are saying about the speed of boat as being overated, but there are lots of exceptions. My cruising speed is at least 4.5kn all day, and even for my tiny wife, she prefers paddling closer to 4kn and claims she can tell the difference), in fact, she was thrilled with the cruising efficiency (I timed her at 4kn going into Force 4). The wind behavior was great for tracking, but it just took her a longer arc to turn it upwind compared to the other two.

There are two local women who love their ExLV. Both got them as a second boat for long distance tripping, but now use them for nearly everything (one of them used the LV in lieu of her Ana during her 5* training. She is 5’2", 110lb. Also found improvement with a lift in her seat). Neither of them have tried a Force. Both use the LV in our local hot spot, the Columbia River Gorge, for downwind surfing runs in winds of 30-45kn. This has been a real proving ground for kayaks, IMO.

There has not been any test of the Force 3 by women in these conditions, but the Force 4 and 5 have been used, and it makes the short list easily.

Dang good boats all.



– Last Updated: Oct-05-06 10:22 AM EST –

Oops- more coffee required. I misread the above post and thought it was more info on the daughter.

Force 3
I demoed the Force 3 at Ladies, and thought it was exceptional. The only reason I didn’t buy it was the weight. In fiberglass, it was 56 pounds and (I’m 4’11" and aging rapidly!)my top lifting weight is 49 pounds. I know - kevlar - but I couldn’t afford that this year. Absolutely great boat, though!

Otterslide. I said that…
because over the course of a day after a group runs through rocks or other play spots, snacks, rehydrates, dehydrates, rests, lunches, etc., the tiny differences in speed between an LV and an F3 is gone. Exceptions yes, agreed, some people can tell the difference, especially when you are looking for it, but then the dynamic of which boat behaves better in bumpy water, with which paddler combo, etc. happens and all this etherial hydrostatic stuff goes right out the window. I can find alot of exceptions in anything I say, but hey, my grandpappy didn’t name me Dogmaticus for nothin’.

What I appreciate about the kayak scene today is that smaller people and larger people have increasing options. They have even more options when they hang around guys like you who know how to tweak things very subtly to make a suspect fit really workable.

Augustus Dogmaticus


New boat goal
Dog, you brought up a what may be the salient point for the decision face by kiyiwana.

For another boat for the sea, hmmm.

Lets set a goal. Lets call one journeying, another exploring.

For paddling a distance, even laden, if the goal is exploring, ie, going distance, but stopping to play in a surf break, or a race, or a rock slot, or just sitting with binocs at a rookery, well, while any of the boats mentioned would work, the Vela may be one of the better choices. Qualitatively, I would use the work “playful” with that boat.

If the goal is journeying- lets define that as going distance in any paddleable condition, as efficiently as possible- again, any boat mentioned would work, but the clear nod from my head is towards the F3. If you want to paddle long distance efficiently with a LOT of gear, then the ExLv has an edge.

What is her idea of fun, kiyiwana?


why new kayak?
Since I’m with salty (my avocet does it all more or less) and she has a great paddle (carbon lendal archipelago) and also some instruction

(More ww than sea)


What she is looking for

A) Better handling in following seas

(She felt the ex lv was much better manners)

B) More top end speed i.e. 4-5 kt range

(That’s my crusing speed when paddling with her little sister in a ws echo tandem)

C) More storage for camping

Lv has A and C hoping F3 has all 3

Just looking at the F3 in the shop it has good small person fit nice finish v ndk good hatches

Only funky comment is skeg where the wire is glassed in ?! Making field repair harder and skeg is too thick adding possible drag when deployed.

She also claims that here little sister will soon need a larger kayak and has volunteered to get a new one for herself.

Such altruism in one so young warms my heart


I’ll take any hand-me-downs
If her little sister doesn’t want them, based on your nice choice of boats.

Seriously, I can agree about the storage for camping. More power to anyone who can pack the Vela for a 6 day trip, but trimming a load in that shallow rear section around the skeg box takes real attention and very efficient gear. I am personally way too lazy to want to bother. And the Vela does hit the wall with a bodacious bow wake somewhere between 4 and 5 knots, something that the other boats mentioned don’t seem to do.

I hadn’t thought about the field repair issue for the skeg on the F3, or other boats than the brainlessly simple rear rope skeg setup that is usual on boats from MIKCo. Since my Expl LV is from MIKCo, I can’t be helpful on handling a skeg situation that requires a lot of talent or tools to repair while on a trip.

I have to say one thing about the Force 3 - I really did not expect to like the boat when I got into it. Impex just hasn’t made boats that I responded to, except the OI which has too long a cockpit for me to contact much of anything. But I really liked the Force 3 - the boat has a real nice, willing personality. I won’t leave my Explorer LV for one, but if someone had a spare that they wanted to drop in the back yard I’d happily give it a home.