Fun, fast, ocean kayak?

I am looking to step up from my 9.5 Heritage Featherlite (bought at a yard sale in summer ‘08 for $150) to a longer boat. After enjoying this boat last fall & this spring/summer, I want to be able to go faster, track better, store gear, etc. My local kayak shop suggested minimum 14’ for Long Island Sound (I live in CT) as a safety issue. My thoughts are 16-17’ to allow room to grow. Typically I paddle in tidal estuaries or bays, also in open water of LIS & will be expanding to the Connecticut River. Mainly this boat will be used on day trips but I would like the flexibility to go overnight. What are people’s suggestions for a good quality used kayak? I am male & about 175# & 5’8". Thank you in advance for your help!

lots of options
You’ve got lots of options at your size. What I did when I was looking for a similar upgrade a few years ago was to keep an eye out on the classifieds here and on Craigslist. I found a CD Sirocco that for a price I couldn’t pass up even though I didn’t think it would be the ideal boat for me.

While it wasn’t he ideal boat it was a very good boat and really helped me figure out what I did and didn’t want in a kayak. The next year I sold it for what I bought it for and bought a boat that I’m now very happy with.

So my advice is to just buy a used boat at a good price that you will let you get a feel for what you want. Nothing will let you figure it out as fast as actually paddling a boat.


Try Before You Buy
Talk to your local shops and ask about demo days. Paddle as many boats as you can to get a feel for what you like.

Some folks will buy a pig in a poke. Not me.

You’re lucky in that you’re close to “average” size, so you should have a lot of choices in the use market. There are dozens of boats that could work for you. Are you looking for used plastic or used composite?

Look for something with fore and aft bulkheads – without them, self-rescue becomes much more difficult.

Narrower boats will feel unstable at first, but that usually improves quickly with time on the water.

Safety features

– Last Updated: Aug-27-09 9:20 AM EST –

It isn't the length per se, but the boat's features which tend to be associated with a given length. Things that are safety features for bigger water and start showing up standard at a certain length of boat include full perimeter rigging, static line all around the boat's edges except the cockpit that means you can hang onto the boat in a capsize and at least two sealed bulkheads (for assured flotation in a capsize). You also want front deck bungie lines that are extensive enough and reasonably secure for a spare paddle.

The other, and the most important, safety feature is your own ability to handle conditions and self-rescue via a roll or a wet re-entry and roll. The paddle float self rescue gets shaky at best when the seas start coming up to two feet or more - a common condition for the LI Sound. For that you need a boat volume and cockpit fit that allows you to easily control the boat in slop, and the knowledge and ability to do things like brace.

I'm coming the long way around to saying that going for just plain fast may not get you to the boat that is most apt for handling your end of the safety equation. Anything you get in a 16 ft boat is likely to be faster than what you are paddling, so you don't need to go for a racing kayak to see some marked improvement. But for handling chop and seas, and learning the skills to do it, a boat with some decent maneuverability can make this part easier.

I'd also add that messing around in surf, with rolls etc is fun - IMO a lot more fun than pointing the boat in a direction and spending the next three hours paddling like hell to get there.

Yes, Safety
Try to demo boats on windy days. How a boat behaves in the wind matters a lot. (along with your ability to handle the boat in wind)

Like this?

Re: Safety features
Celia, do you know of anyone offering qualified kayak instruction in CT? I really appreciate your advice about learning to properly roll, wet re-entry, etc. I ended up buying a used Tempest 165 & 170 for my wife and me. Our next step is to learn and practice safety techniques. Any referrals appreciated. Thank you.

Where in CT?
This is one state that has MANY shops and clubs that offer instructions.

  • Go to for a list of the local clubs. ConnYak does safety pratice regularly. There’re also a few instrutors in the club if you ask nicely.

  • The Small Boat Shop at Norwalk also has lots of classes.

I’d look for something in the
16 to 17 foot range that is 22 to 24 inches wide. I think you’ll probably find the sea kayaks and touring boats from Wilderness Systems, Necky, Prijon, and others along the lines of what you are looking for.

You are in a good weight range, so it’s a matter of features, performance, and how much you want to spend.

Some of the used Tsunamis would be great on the low end of the price spectrum.


go faster, track better
paddle more effectively.

Trying to get a particular hull to increase speed without an increase in effort or allow for lack of skill to increase boat control won’t happen. In other words you might appreciate a boat that is easy to turn AND can be paddled more quickly than your existing boat. It may require more skill. Getting a kayak that can be paddled more quickly but require less skill to go in a straight line is a common desire but becomes irritating when you want to maneuver easily.

Yup, Connyak
Good people and they can point you right. We have seen them run trips as far north as Lake George in the fall, so you can get some nice paddling by tagging along.

There is talk of a Rough Water Symposium this coming June, in RI, to be run by Maine Island Kayaking out of Peak’s Island. Tom Bergh is the main name. Take a look at mark your calendar.

ConnYak it is!
Thank you all for your suggestions. I will check out ConnYak and get involved. I really appreciate the help…

what lee said
and also the recommendations to demo demo demo.

But it sounds like you don’t need a ton of storage. IMO that cuts quite a bit of fat off the list. Perhaps consider lower volume and performance in conditions. These are a few common examples but there are many more:

NDK Romany

Valley Avocet

Valley Pintail

WS Tempest 165

Necky Chatham 16

Try out kayaks
The way to ensure you get the right kayak is to try a bunch out. Your local paddlesport shop should be able to help you out. You want to think about what features you want in a kayak- do you like skegs or rudders, plastic or composite, Brit style or North Amer style etc.