Is an ocean cockpit a bad idea for a relative beginner?

So I was planning to have a look at a used boat, but I just realized it’s got an ocean cockpit. I’m still a beginner, just learning skills. Not proficient at assisted or self-rescue. Learning, but I know enough to know what I can’t do.

So this boat seems like it might fit me well and be a great way to experience a composite boat without the big price tag and without worrying about scratching it up, as it’s old & already well-used. But I don’t want to put myself into a situation where I’ll be over-challenged just getting in and out. I’ve only once even tried a boat with an ocean cockpit, and then other people were there to help me.

Opinions?

My first kayak was a Seaward Endeavour. It had what is sometimes called a ‘slalom cockpit’, larger than an ocean cockpit but smaller than the typical keyhole. The cockpit was a pain for this old inflexible guy to enter and exit. I sold it before I learned self rescues, but I am sure it would have impeded my learning.

If you only have one kayak, I would avoid the small cockpit as a relative beginner.

I woudn’t advise it.

Once you are in and paddling, all would be fine (assuming you fit the boat). But the ocean cockpit requires a bit more balancing to get in and out. Both at shore and if you are trying to self rescue.

Many people with moderate or better skills (like myself) wont paddle ocean cockpits. They look cool in and old skool type of way, but the larger cockpits where I can sit my but down in the seat and then fold my legs in are so much nicer to work with.

Ocean cockpits provide better control over the boat and more leg positions, since you can contact the deck with your legs across its full width. Although ocean cockpits are rare these days, it’s a shame, since most paddlers will never have the chance to try one and experience their advantages. I strongly prefer them and only own boats with them.

While keyhole cockpits are easier to enter and exit, I only do that a handful of times during a typical day on the water and spend 99.9% of my time paddling, so I’d much rather have the on-water advantages of an ocean cockpit.

Practice entering and exiting in shallow water until you get comfortable with it and you’ll be fine. Generally, it’s really not a big deal, though it depends somewhat on the boat design and your size. Boats like older Nordkapps with a high aft deck are more of an issue than lower volume boats like the VCP Pintail, Anas Acuta or Skerray.

What boat are you considering and how tall are you?

Thanks all. I am 5’6” female 135# with low center of gravity and 39” hips. The boat is a North Shore Shoreline from the mid 90s. It seems to be the precursor of the Atlantic LV. Here’s the link to the ad on CL:

https://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/boa/d/milton-top-quality-north-shore/6928638473.html

Is it close? if so …go look.

if you go and look. You can sit in it and lay on the back deck and judge for yourself with your body and see what you think…Bryan is correct, many people prefer ocean cockpits {I have some of each}

I should have mentioned my size … 5’5" male, 142 pounds with an incredibly massive and muscular upper torso (did I say 142 pounds?). So I’m not that different in size from you, Doggy Paddler.

The cockpit on the Shoreline looks a bit bigger than the rounder ocean cockpit. Although I would still avoid the small cockpit, I did have a North Shore Calypso at one time (before North Shore was acquired by Valley). It was a well built, fine kayak … but a little heavy for this 78 year old.

Roym, I can go look. It’s not near me but only about 1/2 an hour out of my way in a route I’m traveling. I’m a little worried I won’t know how to tell though. I can’t paddle it, it’s not near any water. Hm.

Rsevenic, we might be close in height and weight but I’m guessing not so close in boat suitability. I do not have a massive muscular torso! I think having a typical female build is actually beneficial to kayaking since my center of gravity is low and my upper body is light. Also I have good flexibility. Maybe you do, too, but many guys don’t.

The seller said he thought the boat weighed about 50# which would be 6 or 7 lighter than my current ride. I think 50 would be a big improvement if he’s right.

But still worried about that cockpit…

I have a Boreal Design Ellesmere and a NDK Greenlander with ocean cockpits. Once I’m in the cockpit, I like the ocean cockpit. I like that there’s no such thing as my leg slipping off of a thigh brace. I like that less water seems to enter the cockpit during a re-enter and roll.
It is definitely a skill set to enter a kayak with an ocean cockpit. Most people feel like they’re pushing their balance boundaries just getting their butt in the seat, and then bringing their legs in while floating. From here, you can graduate to doing this with your feet never touching the bottom through the process. From here, you can graduate to paddling your kayak around a bit sitting up on the back deck with your legs down in the water. Next you can try bringing your legs up and into the cockpit while paddling around sitting on the back deck. These skills you can practice with any kayak, and will give you a good foundation.
The next trick is that depending upon leg length, you have to sit your butt farther back on the back deck to bring your legs in. Now you have to use your arms to slide/scoot your way forward into the cockpit. This means your arms are lifting and scooting, and not available to use your paddle for bracing/support in any usual way.
I would have a hard time arguing that entering an ocean cockpit isn’t a significant challenge in the use of that kayak. Launching from a sandy beach with waves coming in isn’t bad, as I can slip in on the sand in between waves. But with a positive attitude and willingness to spend time doing it, learning the process can be fun.
If you already have a kayak, you can practice getting in this way, and see what you think.

I think the North Shore cockpits are 26" x 16", for comparison… That is 4" shorter than the Ellesmere cockpit.

Sounds small. I’m feeling cold feet about this… or should I say cold butt?

@Doggy Paddler said:
Rsevenic, we might be close in height and weight but I’m guessing not so close in boat suitability. I do not have a massive muscular torso! I think having a typical female build is actually beneficial to kayaking since my center of gravity is low and my upper body is light. Also I have good flexibility. Maybe you do, too, but many guys don’t.

I have a destroyed disc in my lower back and despite my regular stretching/flexibility exercises, I am relatively inflexible. Certainly that is an issue for me in entering and exiting a small cockpit. If you can visit that kayak, multiple attempts at entering/exiting the kayak would be informative.

@Doggy Paddler Lots of good used boats on the Boston market…you just need to wait a bit until the right one comes along. I snagged a similar vintage (1999) Current Designs Solstice GTS for $700 a couple of years ago, and just recently picked up 2 additional kayaks, a 17" Perception Eclipse Airalite and a 16" Impex Montauk for $400 (for the pair), with paddles, spray skirts, PFDs… I had to put 3 new hatch covers on the Impex, and a new 3/4 bolt on the Perception, so I’m into the two kayaks for about $600. The Perception is bullet proof and the Impex is very clean. I figure each of them is worth $800- $1000…

The bottom of that boat looks pretty beat up. On that alone, I’d pass.

Ideally, you want to be able to try out a boat in the water before you buy… I found the Impex pretty tippy and might put it back on the market, as it’s slated for use by house guests who probably don’t have significant kayaking experience…

If you’re on the Cape, you’re welcome to stop by and take out my CD on our pond. I think it’s a great all around boat, and the GTS would be a good fit for you. (I’m not selling it, just offering you some seat time to see how that design works for you…).

On the other hand, if you liked the Impex… :slight_smile:

Cute dog! And thanks for the offer. I actually do not live in Boston but am passing through on my travels. Yes, I look at CL kayaks when I travel! In fact I bought my Avocet on the Cape while I was there visiting friends.

Coincidentally another boat I’m considering is an Impex Montauk. If you don’t mind my asking, what is your size and how was the fit? Tippiness isn’t usually an issue for me, for whatever reason I’ve yet to sit in a boat I found tippy.

Rsevenic: bummer about the disc, but great you still stretch! Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to paddle the boat if I do go see it. So that’ll really limit my ability to test the ease of entry & exit. I’m so on the fence about this.

The Ellesmere I refer to above is an ocean cockpit version. The Ellesmere has been made with an ocean cockpit and keyhole. It’s currently only available with a keyhole cockpit. I’ve seen it referred to as the Ellesmere and the Ellesmere OC. The keyhole version should be easy to get in butt first for most.

@Doggy Paddler said:
Rsevenic: bummer about the disc, but great you still stretch! Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to paddle the boat if I do go see it. So that’ll really limit my ability to test the ease of entry & exit. I’m so on the fence about this.

You could bring a couple of pool noodles, set the boat on them over the bulkheads, and try a dry entry and exit. Good way to check the fit as well.

Is a 21" beam boat plus a small cockpit a good combo for a beginner?

Sounds like more of an intermediate/advanced boat based on beam. And a wet exit in a small cockpit may be slightly panic inducing depending on your comfort level being upside down and the circumstances that caused the capsize.

Im an open boater and am just asking

As you can see from posts above there are pros and cons of both.
Back in '84 I purchased a Nordkapp with an ocean cockpit (at that time Valley didn’t make boats with keyhole cockpits). I paddled it for over 30 years before purchasing a NDK Greenlander Pro (in 2015) with a keyhole cockpit. While I still paddle both I spend more time in the Greenlander Pro due to having a day hatch, a skeg and a keyhole cockpit.
Here are MY pros and cons of the ocean cockpit:
Pros: When I’m in rough seas or rolling I prefer an ocean cockpit as I feel the boat is more of an extension of my body, I can jam my knees into the under deck and not worry about them slipping and popping off my sprayskirt (which has happened in my Greenlander Pro). Plus living in Florida my legs don’t get sunburned while I’m paddling my Nordkapp without a skirt in calm conditions (I always have my skirt available should conditions change and have a splash deck skirt for my Greenlander Pro to reduce the chance of sun burn).
Cons: At 69 I’m not as nimble as I used to be, and getting in and out of the Nordkapp’s ocean cockpit is definitely more difficult. I’m 6"4" and have no hair on my legs below the knee due to getting in and out of my Nordkapp. I have to sit on the deck behind the cockpit and slide into the boat, my long legs running across the inside conning. If you’re on a beach it’s easy, but if you’re in the water it can be difficult, especially if it’s rough.
Just as I paddle with a euroblade and Greenland paddle, have a hard chine and soft chine boat, I’m happy to have both ocean and keyhole cockpits as it gives me a different experience on the water.
I definitely suggest you try before you buy as the ocean cockpit can be a love/hate relationship.