I have a Necky Zoar Sport LV which is 13’7". It has storage in front and back. Would I be able to do Lake Superior (Apostles, Royale, and Coastline) with this boat without major risks?
what about the paddler not what about the kayak?
Can you handle head winds, beam winds? Are you strong enough to tackle the biggest of lakes?
Can you roll, scull, and brace?
going alone? in a group? Guided? Are you willing and able to wait out the weather if you have to or are you a must be on a tight schedule person?
I have a Zoar Sport, it’s my best boat for wind and waves. It’s short length doesn’t catch as much cross-wind as a longer boat so it doesn’t need a rudder. It’s outfitting is snug on me like a whitewater boat and provides good stability and control. It’s also pretty fast for a short boat, easily cruises over 5 mph. HOWEVER - I live near Atlanta, never kayaked on Lake Superior. If I did I would certainly do a test with some buddies close to shore.
Hard to say
Conditions can change very quickly on Lake Superior, seen it happen myself often. I guess it boils down to the skill of the paddler more than the ability of the boat. With that skill you’ll get experience that will help your judgement.
You could probably get anywhere you want in any boat, but may have to be more patient with waiting out rough conditions with one boat versus another - assuming a certain skill level.
If you have good rescue skills and a good wetsuit or dry suit, and trustworthy friends, the south shore coastline and Apostles are probably ok. Most outfitters and groups require that participants have 16 ft boats for Lake Superior, but good skills can make up for the shorter length. The north shore’s coastline and Isle Royale are a different matter–water temperatures are much lower, and storms build up much faster, and the margin of error is much less.
In the Apostles, conditions for safe crossings tend to deteriorate quickly, so you need to keep a close eye on the marine forecasts. Even when they’re calling for winds at 5 to 10 knots and waves less than 2 ft, the conditions can go south very quickly.
Protected estuaries are pretty common along the south shore, and when it’s too rough on the main lake, you can always head into one of the estuaries: Bark Bay slough is the most famous, but Duluth has some good water trails in protected waters as well.
A few years ago, before I got my touring boats, I was walking around the Duluth harbor wishing I had my 12 ft Necky with me for the harbor for the nice calm conditions. Half an hour later, with 4 ft waves building to 5 ft waves in the harbor, I was glad to be on shore, not out in those conditions in a little rec boat.
In good weather conditions, the boat is suitable for the Great Lakes. As other posters have mentioned, the real qualifying factor is if the paddler has the skill and judgment to handle waves, wind, current, and intangibles (like power boats, jetskis, buoys, etc).
I would stick to 0-1 foot wave forecasts and 0-10 knot winds. To clarify, even if the "waves" are 0-1 feet, the lake almost always has a swell which can lift and drop the kayak 1-2 feet every few seconds. Paddle with a buddy, keep a weather radio on board for changing conditions, and always play it safer than your maximum capability. The Great Lakes kill people in much larger boats than a kayak.