Is Maine within reach?
I am thinking of John Carmody out of Booth Bay. Should be able to try boats from him, he has P&H.
Is Maine within reach?
Zephyr 16 is my pick
I’m 6’3" 250# and I really like the Zephyr 16. I did have to extend the foot pegs a couple of inches to accommodate my legs - you may not have to if you have a shorter leg. I find the Zephyr to be a lot of fun - turns on a dime when edged, tracks moderately well (drop the skeg to really nail it down), and rolls extremely well.
If you ever get down to the Connecticut coast, the Small Boat Shop in Norwalk is right on a pier on the harbor water and carries a wide range of brands as well as having a stock of traded in boats at times. Nice folks, great shop and really easy to demo there.
I’ve actually done it.
I’m lucky to live where there are some great kayak stores that carry a huge variety of boats and they are located right on the water. Demos are not a problem, especially when they put on their spring demo days.
I have paddled as many as a couple dozen very serious sea kayaks in a single day and although I don’t believe you can really learn everything a boat has to offer in a relatively short demo. But you can get some meaningful impressions. At a session last spring, I tried a bunch of boats that I was curious about–including a bunch of Valley, P&H, Tiderace, and some I can’t remember. The one that stuck out most was the full sized Valley Nordkapp. It just felt right and didn’t have any bad habits that I was able to detect. It went to the top of my list for the boat I would get most serious about if I couldn’t have my NC Expedition.
AMC has a kayak camp
in Georgetown. I suggest you try and get into a kayak club. You are being kind of general about where you are but pool sessions re Southern Maine Sea Kayakers Network are a great way to learn about boats. I will bet that you can swap for a while on scene.
And AMC has half a dozen trips a year. Getting together with paddling people I think is a great way without pressure to find something you like.
I am mostly in the market for canoes but its been years since I have bought a boat in a retail shop. I mostly go to small independent boat makers that do not have dealer outlets. And I find out about these boats by meeting people that already have them.