I’ve searched, read, search and read some more - of course, I still have questions.
My wife (5’10" 140) and I (6’2" 220) are both fit and looking to get our first kayaks. We have two golden retrievers (50 lbs each) and live on a 400ish acre glacial lake fed by a creek on the north and draining into a creek on the south. The lake gets busy from time to time and the creek is all slow and fairly still. Nothing I’d call “rapids” at all.
We’ve got a pontoon boat and love taking the dogs on slow rides looking for fish, turtles, beaver, birds, etc. It’s time to get lower though and get into the creeks!! I’m more adventurous and would occasionally LOVE to take one of the dogs along on a trip so I’d like whatever I get to be able to handle a dog being along. I don’t mind getting a little wet but would like to be able to use the kayak from the time the ice breaks (on decent days) well into the fall. My wife’s biggest concern is tipping, she’s not a strong swimmer but would love to do this with me on occasion. Neither of us fish very often if at all and we’ve got the pontoon for that. I dive in our lake often, but again, would use the pontoon for that since I dive dry and would NOT want to paddle around in a drysuit!! We’ve got a boathouse so storage will not be an issue.
We will most likely not (never say never!) every need to transport them anywhere but may need to portage them around a dam or bridge. We won’t need much storage space for anything other than some water or other beverages. I’d like an anchor to stop and swim or in case we’d fish.
I get the feeling that for my wife, a rec SOT would probably be best, something inexpensive since I don’t think it’ll be used very much. Although my mother (5’5" - 115) who lives nearby LOVES her canoe and can’t wait for us to get these so she and I can go out together!
For me, I’m torn on a lot of stuff. Length, rec v tour, SOT v SI, width. The creek can get a bit narrow but we’ve always been able to turn Mom’s canoe around at places so that shouldn’t be a huge deal. I don’t want to get bored, want to use it when the water temps are in the 40’s and the high 70’s. Bring a dog along, etc.
TIA! And apologies for my first post being so long but I’m hoping by giving you every bit of info I can think of I’ll get better feedback.
Suggestions on paddles encouraged as well!!
I’ve searched, read, search and read some more - of course, I still have questions.
Kayaks are not dog boats.
You can find some that will work as dog boats, but kayaks are mostly designed around one paddler per cockpit. Others may disagree…
40 degree water
If you want to paddle in water that cold, I don’t think a SOT would be a good idea. You get too wet (and cold). A sit inside would probably be a better choice.
You need a canoe
or two or three!
Sounds like you’ll need a solo for yourself and a tandem if your wife has no desire to go out on her own. Or two solos and a tandem!
I had a 50 pound springer who was calm and very well behaved, I couldn’t imagine taking him in a kayak. He did great in a canoe though, either solo or tandem (I used a 2 1/2 gallon water carrier for ballast in the stern of the solo).
You also mention portaging around beaver dams or obstructions. Again, not much fun in a kayak. Much easier in a canoe. It’s not the carrying that will be hard with a kayak, it will be the getting in and out in situations like that.
I have a few kayaks and like them very much, but for what you describe I would (and do) go canoe all the way.
Old Town Loon
I paddled many times with a golden retriever in a loon 138, and a yellow lab in a Loon 120.
In that particular cockpit, the dog has to be willing to lie down facing you, with its rear end under the deck.
Kayaking is only for a docile, obedient dog. My golden retriever instinctivly knew to lie very still in the kayak. The yellow lab never got the hang of it and dumped me a couple of times. Hence the warnings about 40-degree water.
A bizarre fact about golden retrievers is that they will go in the water in January. That does NOT mean that that is healthy for them. My dog used to shiver violently after getting wet in the winter. Guard hairs notwithstanding, a dog can get hypothermia.
Finally, a kayaking dog needs a pfd.
animals on kayaks
I have seen people bringing their dogs along on canoe’s and wide stable kayaks.
I would suppose a sit on top would be best for the larger dogs, even though I have seen a large dog in a blow up kayak.
Lastly do not forget to add the animals weight and fluid requirements in your calculations of load weight limits, especially on shorter kayaks.
Some choices are easy…
Sit in kayak is a must for deep three season paddling. I bring a 60 pound reasonably well behaved pit bull in a Pungo120 with me (6’2" 260). He can stand or sit and that’s it. Better than in a canoe where he is side to side, but easier in a canoe. In the Pungo, its strictly slow paddling on calm water. A 14 footer would be better. If you’re set on kayaks, look at transitional boats like the Tsunami series from Wilderness Systems. higher volume boats are ID’d by a 5 (ie 125, 135, 145). Easy to paddle for beginners, will allow you to build skills, carry stuff, be safe. For dogs, get something like a Wenonah Solo+ that you can paddle alone with the dogs, or (if you’re daring) tandem with your wife. even the dogs. I have two 12 footers Tsunami125 and Pungo120, and wish the Pungo was 14 and the Tsunami was 16’. Many other manufacturers with similar stuff you can find right on this site. Check the classifieds and Craig’s list for used boats. Save money.
Made a decision
We rented a couple boats this weekend, a WS Pungo 14 and a Tarpon 12. I paddled both and liked the Pungo but it tracks SO straight its not as maneuverable as I'd like. We paddled pretty far up into Cedar Creek on both ends of the lake and while I really do like the boat, comfort of the seat, etc. But it was too tough to get around through sections of the creek where it was just wider than the paddle. My wife LOVED the Tarpon though, very stable, easy on and off. I liked it as well but compared to the Pungo it seemed quite slow. I did have one of our dogs in both boats and everything went well. Just a quick paddle to get him used to it, will work up to longer trips as he grows more comfortable.
I ended up test paddling a Hurricane Santee Sport when I took the rentals back. Is exactly what I'm looking for! Doesn't seem as quick as the Pungo but it paddles just as easy - it may be just as fast, hard to tell. Love the large cockpit opening and how easy it is to move this thing through the water and turn it. Didn't have a chance to get it back into the creek but I'm sure it will perform well back there. Tracked very well out in the lake.
Ended up buying a Tarpon 12 and the Santee sport. Got a great deal at Laacke and Joy's. They have a deal where if you buy within 10 days of renting your rental fee is applied to the purchase so that saved us a few extra bucks. Now we just have to figure out where to store these guys!
Now that you have the boats…
I suggest that you take advantage of the first hot day to go out and tip them over - near shore, controlled situation and without dogs. Before you go look at videos or take a basics lesson to learn assisted and self-rescues - whichever works for you.
The single biggest thing that caught my eye in your post was the part about your wife being fearful about capsizing and not being a strong swimmer. For the paddling situation you describe, there is a good array of boats that would work depending on how wedded you are to always bringing the dog(s) so that part was easier. But if you want your wife to be a happy paddling partner for you, you need to do things that will assuage her anxieties right at the start. Otherwise, this stuff will always be hanging over her (and your) head.
I am not suggesting that you can make a barely-swimmer instantly comfortable with the prospect of swimming across a lake, but a little early practice in rescues can go a long way for paddling comfort by making it clear that a capsize can be a non-event. Many new paddlers regard it as an unduly huge and daunting thing, because they haven’t done the rescue practice.
There is one other reason in your case - you are potentially managing two people, maybe three if your mother is along, and two dogs and three different types of craft should there be a capsize. You need to practice the basics so that in the real event you have sorted out your priorities on what has to be handled first.
Think about a Perception Acadia II, 14 foot tandem with huge cockpit and moveable seats. Just pop out the forward seat for carrying a dog.
The other boat might be a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 12. The SOT will have enough float for either of you, plus plenty of gear.
Self rescue and tipping "practice"
That’s planned for sure! Didn’t have time this weekend with everything going on but I for sure want to do that once she watches the “cowboy rescue” youtube video. I also want to see what happens when the Santee tips and how easy it is to get back in.
I know she’s not gonna be happy about it but as you said, this is a necessary step in the process. Especially if she’s going to ever go out on her own - which she really wants to do. I’m happy that she’s as excited about this as she is! However, this girl can be a disaster just sitting still on the couch so I want to make sure she’s at least done a tip and self rescue once or twice. Knowing what to expect when things go sideways is 1/2 the battle!
Malke sure you work assisted too
That is, she helps you get back in. At the least it’ll enhance her comfort by knowing that if you capsize she can help rather than just sit there and hope you get it right. At the best it may end up with her feeling more comfortable about ultimately getting a SINK herself.
if she can do the cowboy rescue
into a Santee Sport - pls. make a video and post it on youtube!
that would be something to see. The dual bulkheads will keep the boat from nosediving, but inching up over that wide aft deck could be challenging for short legged folks or those without much upper body strength. The plus side is its short deck and the extra wide cockpit to plop into.
You’ll prolly have an easier time doing that rescue in the Pungo 140.
Celia is right as usual about practicing together.
And more than once a year LOL.
A lesson or two for her (just her, so she can learn free of the usual wellintentioned spousal interference LOL) would do a lot for her confidence and comfort on the water.
Suggestion re paddles
I just was rereading this thread and realized you'd asked about that as well.
Two things I'd suggest - first is to go as light as you can within your budget. Aquabond makes some white bladed ones with a lightweight black shaft that come in pretty well for their price point (or at least used to).
For your wife, do not make the mistake of getting her a big blade. It's common for people to think a big blade will help a less powered paddler go faster - in fact the opposite is true. Speed for a less muscled paddler is much about having a faster cadence, and a big blade makes that a real strain to manage.