Kayak upgrade dilemma

I have been paddling flatwater for a couple of years in a Loon 138. It has been a fine boat to this point. I want to upgrade to a boat with a litle better performance and better storage. I plan to paddle primarily local rivers, lakes and occasional harbor with some 1-2 night campouts. I am 5’9" 220lbs. I am intrigued by the ocean but feel it is probably a year or 2 away before it gets serious. I live south of Boston in a coastal town. My dilemma is do I get a transitional kayak like the Tsunami, Carolina or Dagger Specter or do I bite the bullet now and get into the Eclipse, Exodus or Capella size. There is about a $500 difference in these. If I do go bigger, I still want to do the slow rivers and lakes. I plan to demo these boats of course. How much big water can the smaller boats handle and will these larger boats be ok in small water?

Any thoughts would be welcome.

You’re talking about some of those really small winding tidal creeks down the Cape, the large boats are perfectly fine for rivers, ponds and lakes. Certainly better for the ocean which you seem to be pointing towards at some point in the future. Bite the bullet and spend the extra 400-500 now. It’ll save in the future. I know firsthand, though I moved up much quicker than you are pacing yourself.


Go big
You will love the performance of the sea kayaks and they will be fine on small rivers and large creeks. I have a glass Perception Shadow and wanted a poly boat to take on the rock-infested local waterways so I snagged a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 (17’x 22"). I contemplated a shorter boat to have manuverability but I’m glad I got the speedier 17 footer. You will learn how to manuver with practice. I run the Tempest on flat-class 1-2 rivers but I have a whitewater boat for anything more gnarly.

Go big & keep the Loon
Keep the Loon for shorter paddles and get a bigger boat. The extra money is worth it and they hold resale very well. Just be careful, this theory can take over on you. I’ve got 8 boats in my garage right now!

I’m taking a transitional approach.
Like you Chipheb, I spent my first year in a rec kayak. Since I also paddle mainly rivers and lakes, my next yak will be in the 14-16’ range. I feel more comfortable easing into the longer sizes in a gradual manner. I’ve evaluated my needs and since I will be in relatively quiet water most of the time (with an occasional paddle on the Great Lakes in calm conditions), I feel I don’t need a 17-18’ sea kayak with a 21" beam.

The long sea kayaks are a little intimidating to me at this point plus I plan on paddling some relatively narrow rivers and want greater maneuverability.

If (when) I graduate to a higher level, I will enjoy researching the purchase of a more advanced yak.

Keep in mind that this is the personal sentiment of a novice based on evaluation of my needs, paddling locations, and skill level.

Join Nspn, and BSKC
Take some lessons then you cna practice skills with NSPN. Unless you want a guest boat get a short sea kayak like the capella. I know a guy who paddlew class two / light three white water in that boat, and aside from being skeg dependent in big wind it is adreamboat for those under 180. Over 180 it is a bit tippy but manageable for thos who have balance, self-rescue skills, immersion gear, and a sense of adventure in blended measure.

A "transitional boat will become a guest boat in short measure for a coastal dweller who has the bug.

What about a gulfstream or orion or something like that. A touch more width but a fun boat for a long time. Tempset 170 in plastic? Sounds nice Ive never paddled one.

I am 5’10" and 220 too…
Have you thought about buying a used boat…it is a great way to go. Unless you are looking specifically at a new model…check out some used ones. You can purchase a lighter fiberglass boat for the same price as a plastic one.

You might want to consider demoing an Impex Susquehanna (same as Formula Diamante). Has very comfortable initial stability…is 16.5 feet long and 22.5 inches wide…tracks well and turns well…a good all around boat. I fit perfectly in it. A good choice for all the settings you describe…and will take you as far as you want to go on the ocean…of course until you want super speed…but by then you can sell this one or keep it for the memories?

Enjoy demoing as many boats as you can…it is a blast…


Length adds stability too
Don’t rule out longer/narrower until you’ve tried several. Boats of similar dimension often have quite different personalities.

I went from a 28" wide sit-on-top to an 17’10" x 21" sea kayak 1 1/2 to 2 years ago. First few months were a bit of a wake up call - but that made it more fun. An intermediate boat would have been a waste of time/$ for me.

My smallest kayak now (after about 3 years paddling anything) is 16’ x 20". My 5’3" Girlfriend’s kayak is 17’ 2" x 22". My main boat is 17’10" x 21". My latest is 21’ x 18". Obviously, I prefer longer hulls. Have ever since the 9’8" inflatable anyway. Even kayak #2, my SOT, was 16’. So I don’t really have opinions on anything shorter (well, actually I do - but not particularly useful ones).

I second the used boat idea. If you end up selling one it’s often for about what you paid. I’ve bought 9 so far. 3 new, 6 used. The cheap inflatable I started with and my first upgrade to the plastic SOT were both bought new, so was the 18’ sea kayak. I currently have 4 kayaks. 3 of those were bought used.

Length doesn’t tell the whole story. Depends on rocker and hull cross section. I had a Loon 138 and a Pamlico as my first boats. I can turn faster with a lean in my 17’ SOF and 16’ Montuak quicker than with either of those boats. The Loon and the Pamlico have no rocker, flat hull bottoms and wide beams. These characteristics work against quick turning. Granted you’ll have to develop a relationship and the skills to maximize the maneuverability of the longer boat.

You can proceed at any rate you want. There is no arguement for or against how fast you want to transition in skills and equipment. Whatever keeps you smiling… :slight_smile:


I thought much the same as you, but have recently changed my viewpoint. I just hear so much about how quickly people outgrow their boats and I don’t have unlimited resources to upgrade yearly. As long as I can maneuver on a slow river, I may go bigger.

Used is fine
This boat sounds like what I am looking for. Of course all of this may change once I start demoing.

another reason to buy used…at least for me…is to ‘make the boat mine’! I purchased a used Sirius HF…and did some work on it. Cleaned up the hull, deck…rigged it to my liking for use with a GP, put on glocord to increase visibility, and replaced the backband…was planning to pad out the front bulkhead and further pad out the cockpit…but decided for a number of reasons to trade it to now…a new paddling buddy for his Diamante. BTW…he is 5’9" and our weight as well and purchased this boat used because of its combination of stability, manueverability and tracking capability (not the fastest boat but…what the hell…).

How does one learn how to work on their boat…by doing it and posting questions and gathering website sources. 99% of the credit regarding what I have learned/enjoyed goes to Brian Nystrom and his postings on numerous sites (along with his incredible kayak pictorial guide on his website). I got the idea of using a plastic tube (aquarium tubing) and a bungee and wooden balls to install a bow loop for my GP tip (credit goes to Fern Usen/Don White…my GP teachers in CT fernusen@aol.com ).

Here is Brian’s site:


Some of my pics:


Used is a GREAT way to go…and demo…demo…demo…and then realize you are just beginning your kayak purchasing/trading career. BTW…recently I copied a great posting (believe it was Greyak) regarding his kayak purchasing/selling history over recent years (like me)…showed it to my wife and said it refelected an entire subculture…she said: “Guess you are all nuts!” I said: “yup”…(laughed)…and “lovin every minute of it!”.

Just my .02…in this case perhaps .03 or .04…



I Recently Downsized…
I recently acquired a Kestrel 120 and I am really enjoying this little boat for quick paddles in the backwater flats and mangroves. It is very efficient for what it is a joy and easier to use for a slower paddle.

I use the Caribou for guiding, longer paddles or if I am heading for open water. I am now selling all the other boats and keeping these two.

IMHO… skip the mid size boats, go short and long and you should have it covered.

cockpit size
Did you have any problem with the 30" cockpit? I am coming from a 55" which has gotten annoying but 30" seems tight for my 220lbs.

Sounds like you have a reasonable
plan, Chipheb; especially in light of Sing’s valuable comments above re: maneuverability. I’m still a novice and when I paddle solo, I have to use a rec tandem which is OK but a little cumbersome. With my current skill level, it will be a big upgrade for me to go to a Montauk, Calabria, Eddyline Merlin, WS Trsunami or something in that size range because it appears that there are excellent mid-sized boats available.

I wish you good luck and hope you enjoy your new or new used yak for many years.

No problema…
BUT…you really need to demo…demo…demo…demo…and then again…you know…‘different strokes for…’

I like a boat to fit me comfortably…and have it feel like an extension of me…as opposed to having a bunch of wriggle room…I do however had a knee replacement so I am sensitive to the fit . You need to factor in comfort/fit/paddling techniques you plan to pursue. If you want to improve as a paddler as I do…you need to make sure your boat responds to your body…

Hope that helps…



– Last Updated: Feb-18-05 10:20 AM EST –

will keep you going for a long, long time without another upgrade... Unless you decide you're going to be an expedition paddler going out for more than a week at time.

My wife is not an avid paddler but when she sits in the Montauk, she feels absolutely comfortable and stable. Of course, it also depends on your size. The next size boat up in the impex line would be the Diamante. The hulls of these boats provide enough rocker combined with nicely rounded chines to provide smooth lean turns. It'll track straight enough with the skeg up but if you find you're having difficulty in the wind, trim the skeg down a little bit and she'll go pretty straight.

I went in less than a year from the Loon and Pamlico to a Capelookout and then to the Squall. I got rid of the Capelookout and Squall on the second year for the Montauk. I still have the Montuak though on most days I paddle my skinny SOF. But, the Montauk is here to stay because it's versatile enough for me and stable enough for my wife. I could have save money and time even I had gone to straight to the Montauk but I had thought I wouldn't upgrade...


Agree on manuverability
With agressive leans & edging, I can turn my 16’ Avocet more easily than many rec boats. You can do a very elegant slalom linking edged bow rudders. And I’m a hack compared to good paddlers – I saw Steve(flatpick) and a buddy do a paddling demo in the UNH pool with 17’ Tempests, and they looked completely relaxed and smooth the whole time.

Appreciate the tip on the Montauk
Thanks Sing. I’m planning to take a very hard look at it at Canoecopia. I’m 5’9" and 150 lbs. and Danny from Impex highly recommended it over the shorter models in the Formula Series where the depth of the cockpit was too short for my height. He thought I might overpower the boat.

Nice to hear a good review from a knowledgeable person.

I think it depends
on what your goals are. I’d suggest you “go big” now, and hold onto the loon for goofing off or those times you want a smaller boat for exploring. (say, dragging it into a trout pond 1/2 mile from the nearest road, fer example).

If you can find (and test paddle) a used boat, great. I found trying to sell a boat isn’t as easy as some have implied, not if you want a fair return anyway. It seems many are enthralled with “the latest” & “greatest”, so good used boats are available if you are willing to “settle” for a model a year or two out of date. I second Peter K and suggest you check out NSPN and thier training sessions.