Help Deciding on Touring Boat


Am a beginning paddler who has a desire to float the Columbia River (WA & OR) this summer on the Lewis & Clark trail. Am doing some day paddles to test boats and researching everything I can to accomplish this adventure this summer. (thanks…

I’ve narrowed my search to 4 boats, Prijon Kodiak, Wilderness Cape Horn 170, Necky Eskia, and Perception Catalina 16. I’m limited to plastic for now by budget. Chances are good I won’t be able to find some of these to paddle before I’d like to decide.

So on to the question…Being a beginner, 5-9, 210 lbs., but have been able to complete a couple successful 25 mile solo day-paddles…

could some of you with experience with the aforementioned boats give me your insight which could help “steer” me in the right direction (that would be west, of course). Any help would be eternally appreciated…

Paddle on…Scott

Go with a sit-on-top for your area. It can used on a wider variety of waters. After you’ve done the Columbia you might want to try some of the swallower western rivers. SOTs are excellent in that environment.

Paddlefest Sat April 30

– Last Updated: Apr-20-05 1:07 PM EST –

Aldercreek Kayak and Canoe is having their spring paddlefest from 9-4 on Sat the 30th of April at Vancouver Lake in Washington just a mile or two from the Columbia River. If you have been reading posts here for a while, Aldercreek is the kayak store that was owned by Flatpick. He is still involved, but only with the education part. They have a great staff and lots of kayaks and canoes to demo at the paddlefest. Flatpick was a codesigner for the Tempest line of WS kayaks. Here is the link for the Paddlefest. If you can't make it, Aldercreek now has shop on the Willamette River in downtown Portland where you can demo anything they have. Have fun.

No to a SOT. Yes, you could do it, but it will likely limit you.

No to a canoe, as well (despite the the fact L&C used them, but a solo canoe is a different matter).

This is why-

one, although you said summer, you did not say what part of summer. By late july, the water temp is close to 60deg, in late Aug it is in the low 60’s, but earlier than that, the water is cold. As in, very. Even now it is still in the high 40’s. In a SOT, you will have to wear more immersion appropriate clothing than in a sea boat, 'cuz your but will be frozen otherwise.

Two, and more important, remember that the Columbia is world famous for wind surfing. Typical weather, late spring through fall, is calm early, then the west wind rises quickly, frequently to 25kn, with 35kn days not uncommon. The difference between early summer and late summer is the time of day this occurs- as early as 9am, as late as 1230. But it nearly always happens.

Given the long distances between campsites (sometimes up to 25m), plus the issues mentioned above, I would recommend a true sea boat, and acquiring the skills to go with it.

Yeah, you could use a SOT like the Tarpon, but you will be limited as to the distance you could cover efficiently (do you really want to push a wide boat 15-20mi?), and you would be limited to paddling in the early AM hours to avoid conditions outside the design parameters of such a boat.

But do it- some great scenery, world class paddling in following seas, and a lot of boater only access camping.


I’m familiar with the area and what you need. With a 14’ SOT you can carry enough food and gear to spend a couple of weeks on the river. A smaller kayak is easier to turn in current. Those 16’ kayaks limit you for rivers. Paddling mainly in current lessens the need for a faster boat. Twenty miles a day will be very doable no matter what river you chose. With a shorter kayak you can do more rivers. A SOT lets you go swimming. When it gets 100 the river will be in the 80s you will want to do that. Beats having to find a place to pull over and crawl out. In steep canyons SOTs can be beached easier than any other boat. You can dismount them like a horse stepping off into water and holding on to a line. I’ve done that when there’s no sand beaches and only rock to deal with. I keep a 25’ line secured with a bungee tied to the bow of mine. I’ve run class 4 radids in a 14’ SOT. I wouldn’t dream of it in a Carolina 16.

In my opinion 16’ kayaks are mainly ocean going boats. There you need to carry lots of water. Inland you can find plenty of water to filter. A draw back with SOTs is they’re wet. Photography is harder from them. For me that’s been the only problem.

beginner ?s
First off since your new to the sport, get one that is STABLE< Comfortable and easy to maneuver. DOnt even consider a sit on top for the Columbia. Its a huge river with big seas, wind and weird currents near the mouth. I paddled it from Orofino Idaho last year to the mouth. SInce you will be carrying a lot of gear for a month trip make sure you got room for it in your boat. The water below the dams are cold as hell and you dont need to be sitting in 40 degree water while paddling. NO SOT!

Pahsimeroi, have you ever paddled on the Columbia River? Your recommendations have the sound of someone responding to a posting who lacks any local knowledge of the area the original poster was asking about. A SOT paddler on the Columbia would be extremely limited to anything except the protected sloughs unless your idea of fun is sitting in a cold puddle of water :slight_smile:


Some Experience
I have paddled the Kodiak and the Cape Horn. I preferred the Tempest over both. Go borrow, rent, or demo a Tempest 170 and see what you think.

Re:Paddlefest Sat April 30
Thanks, Bob…

I will plan to attend the paddlefest. Thanks for the info. Nothing beats paddling the boats.

I have read boat reviews and searched for retailers now for about 2 months. I feel like I know the Product Reviews boat rating averages to the 3rd decimal point, but it still makes me somewhat wary…

Re: SOT?

– Last Updated: Apr-23-05 4:57 PM EST –

Thanks for your comment. I know the SOT would be stable, but from a performance standpoint, I don't see advantages. I'm planning a 200 mile trip and there aren't alot of side rivers to explore. Would need to average 20-30 mi daily.

Plus, river conditions vary greatly depending on the wind which can range 0-40 sometimes generating 6 foot swells. Luckily, one can usually find calmer waters on the banks

Thanks Karl,

I tend to agree. I sail and kiteboard the Columbia as well, kayaking a new venture. I plan to do two 5 day ventures, McNary dam to Hood River (May) and Hood River to Astoria (Sep)

I have done some day paddles already and can attest to the 48 degree water as COLD. Luckily so far, I haven’t been in the water (except for my kiteboard days thusfar)


beginner ?s
Thanks for your post.

A couple questions I’m dying to ask.

-Was it worth it? A lot of people tell me there are much better places to spend my touring time than on the Columbia. But I’ve spent so much time in the river (in other activities) I feel like I want to experience the perspective that maybe only a kayak can give me.

-Were you surprised by the current influences below Bonneville Dam?

Thanks for your insight…

Re: Some Experience
Perfect, thanks…

This was just what I was hoping for.


I paddle the Columbia a fair bit
I paddle a Tempest 165 and a Looksha IV. You can get both in plastic. I’m not saying these are the best boats for you or anything. But a touring sea kayak works fine for me on the parts I’ve paddled (Mainly the Hanford reach down to about Irrigon).

Aside from the winds and the barge traffic that have been mentioned, You won’t really be paddling the River that Lewis & Clark did, but a series of lakes, intespersed by dams. You probably want to consider portaging the dams. We just did the lock through Ice Harbor on the Snake River as publicity for water trails (Suppose I should post something to the board). It was a blast but the Corps did a special lock-through for us and the Coast Guard Aux. helped out.

Anyway, the lakes mean not much current til you get below Bonneville. You won’t exactly be floating down. You may consider going down to Alder Creek in Portland and taking a class or a trip to get an idea what the conditions are like there or near the mouth. That is if that doesn’t spoil the surprise for you. I hear they have some ok instructors :wink:

Re: I paddle the Columbia a fair bit

Thanks for the response.

I did make contact with Alder Creek and by chance they are having a demo paddle next week at Vancouver Lake. I will be there. Will have a look at the Tempest…

I’ve given some thought about the dams. Official word is, you can go through the locks if tied on to a “pleasure boat” and are IN the “pleasure boat”. Nothing without a motor is supposed to go through. My thoughts were to see if I could time it right to make a connection (Hey, they might even have beer on board!) or portage if I have to.

There is a documetary I’ve read of a trip (from Bonneville to Astoria) a couple years ago stating the tides were quite a surprise to the paddlers and by the end determined their day. I assume that might be what you’re alluding to…

It’s funny, when I’m laying in the Columbia, waiting for a gust and waterstart on my sailboard, I could swear I’m traveling 5 or 6 mph west towards Portand. That sure doesn’t seem to be the case in a kayak???

I know the lakes have masked the original trail. But the documentation still points out scenery on shore that should be identifiable. I’ve given up on the “floating” idea. Especially after today’s float in 25 mph winds.

As far as the confluence, I’m not sure I want OR NEED to get that close to it. Anywhere in the vicinity should do me fine.

Yes, am planning on doing some classes before I embark, but don’t want to have too many excuses not to try this…