Kayaks without keels? -- Resources?

I have two tough river kayaks: a Prijon Excursion Tandem, and a Prijon Yukon. Neither has a keel. Only the Yukon has a rudder. I really love the plastic, the comfort (for me) and I feel like they were designed for rivers.

They react very differently than keeled boats and I’m trying to understand whats going on. What should I be doing in terms of stroke? How does it change if there is a heavier person in the back of the tandem?

Anyone have links or advice?


It may be helpful if you better describe the challenges that you are encountering. You are presenting a defined keel line along the entire length of the hull as a characteristic that would define performance. The reality is that it works in conjunction with many other factors, which often leads to false generalizations about hulls with or without a defined keel line - or V-bottom.
What keeled boats are you using for comparison, and how do these react differently? What strokes are you using in which situations, and what is the difference in behavior?
This could be fun to explore.

No kayaks have keels as the term is often used (as in keel sail boat).

The 2 boats you list are more considered day touring kayaks than river kayaks.

I am guessing that you are having trouble making the boats go straight when you paddle?

Peter, thanks. I saw this earlier and figured I was too short on coffee to grasp the question. It makes a little more sense if boshav thought paddling boats had keels.

boshav - You probably just have to paddle better. If you simply look upward on this page you will see an item LEARN in red. Click on that and knock around, one of the topics under it is Strokes and Navigation.

Does the OP possibly mean “skeg” rather than “keel”? That would make more sense.

Willowleaf Maybe. Wouldn’t be hard to improve the clarity of the original post…

OP, it would be clearer if you could explain what sort of “keeled” boats you are referring to or have experience of. Kayak performance is based on hull cross-section and the presence of a skeg (what a keel extension is called on a kayak) or rudder. And you are not specific on what you are expecting from performance or what sorts of difficulties you are experiencing.

Both the Prijons you mention are pretty conventional touring kayaks – the Expedition is a fairly flat-bottomed design and the Yukon is described as “trihedral” or hard-chined, which has bearing on secondary stability and turning.

Thank you for your responses.

I have a fiberglass Gulfstream that tracks beautifully in the water. It is an open water boat. It also has a skeg but that is not what I am talking about.

I have two plastic Prijons with trihedral hulls. I call them ‘river boats’ because they have bottoms more like white water boats and they are made with tough plastic. If I paddle my Gulfstream it tracks in a way that creates forward momentum much more efficiently - this is the action of the keel and lateral design of the kayak. The Prijons are broad and rounded. They have a notably more shallow draw. I am trying to adapt my paddling technique.

I think I was wondering if anyone has paddling resources, perhaps for white water paddling.

Thanks again.

The Yukon is notorious for wandering off its line when being paddled, even more so than other crossover boats. I have found that it helps greatly to use a shorter paddle (200 cm or 210 cm) and to use an abbreviated white water stroke. The Yukon will still wander, though, as soon as you stop paying attention or apply more pressure to one side. Work the chines to keep your forward momentum.

Neither of the Prijons have reputations as good tracking boats. The CD Gulfstream is a longer and narrower boat, and doesn’t look highly rockered - think those are the primary reasons it tracks and holds momentum better than the Prijons (not that it has harder edges)

Yes, you are comparing apples and oranges, or maybe more precisely, a sports car to a couple of 4 wheel drive station wagons.

The Gulfstream is a Swede-form boat with a narrow bow and widest behind the cockpit, also has a shallow vee soft chine profile (what you are calling a “keel”). It was designed specifically to track in big open water and is a high-end boat costing over $3,500. It isn’t just that tiny crease in the hull that creates the performance, it is everything about the cross section AND the overall profile as well as being almost 17’ long…

The Prijons (no longer in production) were intended for leisurely river touring and also targeted to perform in Class 2-3 water which means a whole different set of design specs. The Yukon is significantly shorter (another reason it doesn’t track as well). Tandems require some practice to maneuver. They are never going to perform the same as the Gulfstream, but neither would the Gulfstream be something you could load up and paddle a winding class 2 river with.

So you will have to adjust your paddling strokes to compensate for the inferior tracking – all boat designs have some trade-offs and no one boat will perform optimally in all conditions. The Gulfstream has probably spoiled you and now you will have to apply more technique with these other boats. You may need to experiment with different styles and lengths of paddles also, perhaps a smaller blade size used with higher cadence. I have 5 different kayaks from 12’ to 18’ with quite a range of hull shapes and I have to use different paddles and strokes among them. also dependent on conditions. Mostly it has been trial and error. Competent instruction could help you but that is not always easy to find .

Would you be interested in selling the Yukon?

I have always bought boats that can teach me something.

Willowleaf describes the boats really well. (Why I called the Prijons River Boats.) I guess I’ll start with shorter paddles and see where that gets me. I’m very happy with the different boats. I love the Prijons on the local river - I simply don’t worry about anything. Its not like I really have to get anywhere quickly.

Thanks all.