Help, I’m narrowing the kayak list

I’ve been narrowing the list of kayaks and I would really like to hear what some of you think are the strengths and weaknesses of these boats. The challenge has been paddling the boats several days apart in different conditions – some on calm lakes and some on slow-moving rivers. I have paddled the following boats:

Tempest 170

Chatham 17

CD Gulfstream

Tsunami 145

I liked the Tempest and Chatham, and I’m really curious to see how they compare to the Prijon Kodiak. I will get a chance to paddle the Kodiak, Barracuda (if I fit) and Touryak this Sunday.

I would love to paddle the Hurricane Tracer, but there are few to be found anywhere near me in W. Pennsylvania. I’ve also considered a used glass boat for about the same price as plastic, but they all seem to be about a six hour drive away, and it seems as if I could crisscross the country for weeks doing that. Listed on this site within a day’s drive are a Romany HV, a Valley Aquila, a QCC 500X in kevlar, a Hurricane Tracer, and an Eddyline Merlin XT, all for within a couple hundred bucks of a new plastic boat.

I’m 6-0 and 225, and so that limits my choice a bit. The Gulfstream was really tight, and I couldn’t fit in the Sicorro or the Chatham 16 or Tempest 165. The fit problem is the height between the seat and the thigh braces. My thighs were wedged tightly into the Gulfstream. The larger Current Designs boats were not available to paddle.

I’d say 90 percent of the time I will be burning up the miles on protected inland lakes, with the remainder being on mild rivers and two to three trips a year to Lake Erie or the Atlantic coast. I’ll be paddling a lot with my wife in her new Necky Eliza, but also spending a lot of solo time. I’d like to be able to pack (backpack style) for three to four days. It’s been 10 years since my whitewater kayaking and canoe days, and I’m anxious to see if I still have the roll down. I don’t mind learning by getting wet.

Any help would be appreciated because my wife now has a boat and I don’t!

If you’re comfortable edging and leaning and plan to roll, there’s no reason(other than price) to choose the shorter and wider Tsunami over the other boats.

I’m smaller than you, and have paddled the smaller relatives of those boats – the T165, Slipstream, and Chatham 16. Based on that I think the Tempest would be the best match for what you want to do – I think it’s the fastest of the bunch, and responds nicely to an edge.

As you know from your previous experience, there is no “best” boat – it’s whatever feels good to you.

you didn’t fit in the Gulfstream. Tempest is more maneuverable than the Chatham, Chatham is much better in high winds or paddling without skeg function. Does the Tsunami have the faux day hatch with no intervening bulkhead?

"I’d say 90 percent of the time I will be burning up the miles on protected inland lakes, with the remainder being on mild rivers and two to three trips a year to Lake Erie or the Atlantic coast." you should expand your list to include the QCC-700 …

tempest versus chatham
I also don’t fit in the T165/C16. My girlfriend did buy a C16, after placing it and a T165 next to each other on a beach and switching abck and forth between the two of them.

Looking at them, they are remarkably similar in looks (size, shape, etc.). I couldn’t find much different about them. When she paddled them, she also said they were very similar feeling. Assuming the 17 foot versions are similarly close, if it comes to these boats, you may come down to how my girlfriend chose - which is sold by a better dealer (better in our case was the one that was closer and seemed to be more customer friendly).

Good points about the Tsunami
The tsunami is pretty low on the list compared to the others. I mentioned it because it was one of the boats that I was able to paddle. I think the hard question is picking between the longer boats, or going with a used glass boat.

Big guy boats
I am exactly your size and paddle conditions similar to what you do. I just went through a fairly extensive round of demos myself. My thoughts -

  1. Try to demo a Valley Aquanaut HV (aka Argonaut in the past). This was what I liked best and bought. Just a wonderful boat. I am told similar to Romany HV, which for some reason is not popular near my home.

  2. Another good boat is the P&H Capella 173, a bit more roomy. I too am very surprised that the CD Gulfstream did not fit. The Tempest 170 is a good boat that should fit will. Impex Assateague is a good “big guy” boat.

  3. The Tsunami is a good starter boat, but you may soon want a quicker boat if you get more into it. So if you get one of these, I would say a used one that you could sell later as your skills improve.

  4. Look for what is popular in your neck of the woods. It will be easier to sell, as may well happen. Check with local clubs, which could be a good source of advice as well as used boats.

Another big guy boat…
The new Eddyline Fathom could be a real contender. See the Sea Kayaker Magazine review on the Eddyline website under “news”. This is an awesome boat!

Tempest, Tsunami, etc.
I am fairly close to your size though lighter in weight (6’1" 112-115 lbs), and I am also strongly considering the Tempest 170 (and the T180 as well). I am also doing a lot of research and trying out different boats. A few days ago, I paddled the Tempest 180 for an entire day, with the T170 towards the end of the day. I like them both, with the T180 offering a bit better initial stability, but the T170 hugging my thighs better for more confident edging. I’ve paddled the Tsunami 145, just because of the wide cockpit, but since sea touring is my primary focus, that is not the right boat for me, and would not be right for you if you want to do mostly sea touring. I’ve been told about the Chatham 17, but have not tried it. I just paddled the T170 yesterday again (fiberglass) in fairly calm harbor inlet near Puget Sound. I do like it a lot and may get it, but I do like the initial stability of the Tempest 180 a bit more. Have you tried the T180?

No I haven’t considered the Fathom
because it is in the $2,200 range, and they haven’t been around long enough to find a used one. I might be able to find a used Tempest 180, however, I haven’t had an opportunity to paddle or sit in one yet.I’d like to stay in the $1,300 to $1,500 range if possible, and that pretty much falls short of any of the composite boats.

new kayak
I paddle a Tempest 170 - I am 6’ tall & weigh 178. I don’t see how anyone bigger than me can fit in one. I can get in ok but there is no extra room anywhere - the foot pegs are almost against the bulkhead.

Getting in a Tempest 170
I am 6’ 1" 212-215 lbs and I get in the T170 fine. It is snug, but comfortable snug. Not as easy to get into as the T180, but I can do it. I purposely did a self rescue in it the other day to see how easily I could get back in, and I could do it. Quite a bit easier in the T180, but the T180 was almost too big in the cocpit unless I used hip pads, which I’m not sure I want to do.

Price range
If that is your price range, then the T180 will not work for you. It only comes in composite, and new it is $3095, used about $2500.

i’ve demo’d a few on your list
i am 6’1" 190 and i own a Tempest 170 (purchased used) and like it a lot. secondary stability is great, feel comfortable leaning into turns without fear of tipping.

i demo’d the tsunami 140, 145, 160, 165 and they are nice boats a sit a bit high on the water and if you like the Tempest forget the tsunami

i also demo’d p&h Capella 173 which i really liked too. i would say toss-up between tempest and capella, but couldn’t find one used.

sorry to say but haven’t demo’d chatham or gulfstream.

i hope that helps.


Capella 173
I very much want to try the Capella 173, and this weekend, will finally get a chance. From everything I have read about it, it just may be my boat. For now, I am strongly considering the WS Tempest 170 or 180. Please tell me specifically what you liked about the Capella 173. Thanks.

Go test the QCC 500
You will not be disappointed.

Capella 173
I am 6’ 230#. I narrowed my choices down to a Capella 173 and Valley Aquanaut HV. They are both great boats.

What I liked about the Capella 173 is that it was very roomy and obviously designed for a bigger and heavier paddler - also maybe a bit older paddler like me. The cockpit opening was large enough for easy entry - easy to sit down and put legs in. Downside is that it probably takes a bigger skirt and is a bit of a reach to pull it off.

The 173 has a flatter floor than most, very comfy. The deck is high, higher than it needs to be for me. It will carry a lot and likes to. It does not weathercock much (say compared to the Capella 169). The edge is very predictable as you lean into it. Very good primary stability, and a ton of secondary. It has a great combo of tracking/quickness for a big guy. Anybody under 200# might have a problem with the boat. Workmanship and outfitting were excellent.

I chose the Aquanaut HV because it fit me a bit better. It is a slightly longer and narrower boat, but still has excellent stability. To me it feels better in swells, chop, or wind. I took a lesson in it from Sean Morley in winds gusting to 40 knots (two regattas were canceled that day for high winds). I never would have paddled that kind of conditions without Sean, and was a bit anxious. But the boat handled everything with ease - I was really impressed.

To me, the Aquanaut was just a bit better in everything, although the 173 might be better for an even heavier paddler - it sits up higher with a bit more volume. Interestingly, the fellow who demoed the boat for me had a 173. We traded boats so that I could compare, and he had never been in the Aquanaut. He also liked the Aquanaut a bit better and wants one now. I liked the seating very much on both boats. The Aquanaut is a bit tighter fit and a bit smaller opening - takes a medium rather than large (173) spray skirt, but I can just get in by sitting. The 173 is easier in and out. The Aquanaut seems faster by a bit.

The Valley hatch covers seem a bit drier and higher quality than the Kayaksport covers on the 173, but both work fine.

The Aquanaut is a bit more lively, and quicker to edge, but just as stable at the limit. Both have first rate construction with glassed in bulkheads. I demoed a CD Gulfstream that had a non-functional front bulkhead which was not glassed in - perhaps the reason. I wanted a glassed bulkhead.

What is great about both these boats is that they are plenty stable for a new paddler, and yet you won’t outgrow either. To my eye, the Aquanaut has nicer lines. I don’t think it matters much what you read or hear about boats like this. You will probably have a preference if you try them. Both are sold by top notch dealers and are top notch companies - I have dealt with both.

I too am suprised you didn’t fit the Gulfstream. I am a relatively big guy (5’11", 250# former wrestler) and both these boat fit me well. I had a Sicorro for a couple of years and what I liked best was it’s secondary stabliity when dealing with confused wave action, i.e paddling from Presque Isle Bay through the channel into Lake Erie or the cross wave action on Seagull Point. I tried the 17’ Tempest at a demo day but didn’t like the tight fit for my legs. (That was before they made the 18’ version.) I was looking to replace it with a Gulfstream but found a nice used P&H Quest which is more of a “passage maker.”

Thanks for all the suggestions
It’s interesting that nobody has really stepped up to recommend the Prijon kayaks. Also, as I have called around to try to find a shop with a Tempest 170 in stock, I have yet to find one within several hours drive. Are they that popular?

pick a windy day
when you test the boats