Looking at buying my first kayak...

-- Last Updated: Dec-04-07 2:48 PM EST --

...provided all the stars align.

Most of my paddling (canoe) has been slow rivers and blackwater creeks. I intend to get out toward the coast and do more along the salt marshes and bigger water.

I'm in a bit of a quandry (I know...until I'm ready to actually pull the trigger, it's not a quandry). I'm currently looking at the Heritage Featherlite 14, Heritage Pisgah 14, and Old Town Cayuga 146.

Here are my questions for this learned group:

How important is having that second (forward) hatch?

If I do decide that I'd rather have two hatches, what are the differences I should consider between the Cayuga and the Pisgah?

Don't worry...I won't ask about what color to get! ;)


– Last Updated: Dec-04-07 3:49 PM EST –

The forward hatch is a luxury with the advantage of having another dry compartment and less water in the cockpit if the boat capsizes.

I use the rear compartment for food and heavy gear. The bow is for the tent and other gear which hopefully the tent will fit through the opening.

I don't have a forward compartment in my present kayak and I removed the foam block in the bow to increase the storage capacity. My tent now goes all the way into the bow. I am going to switch to the Tsunami 125. If I have problems with storage because I will be making a 44 day trip with it I may ask WS to omit the bulkhead. Much more gear can be stored in a kayak without the forward compartment. However for the average paddler it is another dry place to store extras. I prefer the looks of a smooth deck also.

I'm assuming that your bigger waters don't include going out into areas where an additional flotation bag would be added or needed as standard equipment.

The Forward Hatch…
On the boats listed means there is a sealed front compartment. This is very important should you flood the boat. Without the bulkhead you should have a float bag installed and it is much less fuss to just get a boat with a front bulkhead

The yellow looks nice…

Forward floatation

– Last Updated: Dec-04-07 3:36 PM EST –

In any water but particularly coastal "bigger" water, you want some kind of floatation up there so that the boat doesn't go nose-down and end up in a position where you can't re-enter it, pump it out and be on your way.

If there is a forward hatch compartment you don't have to do any modifications. If there isn't, you have to think about putting in something that'll float the boat and displace water so that you have a manageable amount to pump out, especially if you will be paddling alone. Floatation bags - just big waterproof things that you can inflate, are the usual solution.

As to what considerations in a boat - your post mentions "bigger" water. Just how bigger are you thinking of - like with waves and surf?

2 is more worry free
Chose to get 2, not because I needed any storage, but:

  • I don’t have to worry about whether he float bag needs air. I noticed in pool class before I bought my boat that the float bags needed air sometimes.

  • I like to keep the boat clean, and I thought that over time, all kinds of funky, grimy stuff would find it’s way up front. I hose out the cockpit compartment between the two bulkheads in less than a minute, and I’m done.

    Good luck…Lou

"bigger water"
Right now I’m considering “bigger water” that includes some of the sound (Pamlico and Albemarle) side of the Outer Banks (my wife and I vacation out on Ocracoke each year) with the possibility of crossing the inlets from the Atlantic. I really don’t have any urge to play in the surf with a sit-in kayak (I’ll rent a SOT for the week instead).

44-day trip?
Is that the Alabama Scenic River Trail? Wish I could make it for part of that outing. My grandparents live less than 2 miles from the Alabama River at Selma.

Paralysis by Analysis
Try the Zen Kayakers Method

  1. Rent a couple of kayaks or try them out at demo days.

  2. Buy yourself a cheap second hand boat, once you have an idea what you are doing.

  3. Paddle a lot.

    4 Sell boat and buy one you like better.

  4. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until Happy.

Outer banks = bigger water in a hurry
You can go from calm to crazy in a very short time. Watch out for the wind too. A bit of advice I learned from my fishermen friends either listen to the offshore forecast or add the inshore forecast together. So if the inshore says 15-20 it will probably be 35.

Those sounds are huge and an ‘offshore’ wind can be from almost any direction. Case to consider - report was for onshore winds (blowing out of the east) so a guy paddles on the sound side. 4 hours later a fisherman picks him up in the sound quite a ways from Ocracoke.

That’s the one

– Last Updated: Dec-04-07 9:37 PM EST –

I'll camp at the Swamp Restaurant at Beech Creek Marina on June 11 for the celebration at Selma's City Marina on June 12.

There will be a "100 miles to Selma" 7 day trip starting in Montgomery on June 6 or Prattville on June 7.

Having watched the weather change out there several times, I can say that I know what you mean about the chance of getting surprised by it.

To paraphrase the old saw about base jumpers… I intend to become an old paddler…not a bold paddler. :wink:

Handling the bigger water part

– Last Updated: Dec-05-07 9:54 AM EST –

I hadn't weighed back in because I don't know the specific conditions in the the Outer Banks, but I did get a red flag when you talked about crossing inlets. In our experience with inlets, you can commonly encounter strong current and/or wave stacks when wind and tide and river flow are opposing that'll really get your attention.

This plus the wind mentioned by paddlemore makes real ocean stuff. I think if you look at the write-up on these boats, you'll find that they are not recommended for big open water conditions.

Yes, plenty of people including myself have taken that kind of boat out into those kinds of conditions and lived. But we were frankly lucky.

To your question - the boats you are looking at would handle much of your desired paddling like the inland stuff and salt marsh areas. They aren't great boats for these big sounds, particularly since you are new yourself. I'd suggest these alternatives:
1) Try the Zen approach above - go ahead and buy a new or used boat in the full recognition that when you get to the offshore stuff you'll need to invest again. Do the bigger water via tours, lessons etc so that you can get a sense of what will work before you buy.
2) Hold off entirely on boat purchase for the moment and find a paddling club that runs winter pool sessions. Take lessons in self-rescue, maybe just try a couple of rolling lessons to see how it suits you, then buy a boat in the spring when the lessons have given you a good idea of the fit and features you want.

Petroleum products are way increasing in price, so going used with choice 1 above may be the best course. It allows you to get onto the water in spring as long as you recognize the limitations of yourself and the boat when it comes to offshore areas. Paddling is great fun wherever you do it - you don't need surf and waves to have a good time. Going used will leave you more flexibility for the big water boat.

In any case you should look around for paddling clubs. Local knowledge is worth a tremendous amount especially along the shore, even if for mundane things like good launch points, and you can find more company.

Thanks for all the input…
To be quite honest, taking a kayak across Ocracoke Inlet (I think that’s what that inlet is called) is not something I intend to attempt anytime soon (read that as “in 2008”) since we only go out there one week out of the year. I’d say that most (98%) of my paddling will be slow rivers, blackwater creeks, and marshes. If/When I do get out in the kayak at Ocracoke this year, it will be for birding/sightseeing in the marshes on the sound side (and coast hugging between the cottage and the marshes). Surf kayaking really does not appeal to me very much and the only thing that makes me look at doing that crossing sometime in the future is the idea of getting to Portsmouth island (boat access only).

The nearest paddling clubs around here that do much with anything other than canoes are about an hour away (one east and one west). I’ll check into them to see about learning to roll (I understand that is a vital skill if I’m going to be in any kind of open water) and self-rescue. There are a few kayakers relatively closer that I’m talking with about used boats and for company.

Now…if I could only get my wife interested in kayaking, too…

Good Luck
with getting someone who is not presently into it to want to paddle.

It sounds like a more basic boat will do you fine for what you want for starting out, and to the good it’ll always be a boat that you can put guests into or abuse for messy creek or marsh crawls even if you do end up with something fancier down the road.

I am sure that there are outfitters that you could contact for a guided trip in the Outer Banks area, highly recommended since they often have intersting info that you wouldn’t know on your own. You can probably get recommendations on this board for some good ones when the time comes.

I’m nearing a decision!
The stars do seem to be aligning and I’ve decided to take the “Zen” advice and purchase a used kayak to begin with. I’m looking at a “previously-paddled” Dagger Atlantis 17(not sure which year). This is a bit longer than what I had originally be considering, but the price seems right and I’d rather get a boat with “growing room” for my experience level instead of one that I will outgrow quickly.

So…My question for you guys is this: Would this particular kayak be a good choice for a first kayak? I guess I should give you particulars, too: I’m 5’10", 240#, 40" waist, 32" inseam, size 10 1/2 shoe (I like early morning paddles and walks in summer rainstorms…oh, too much info perhaps). At this point I just want to make sure I don’t get “too much” boat for me since I’m just starting out.

Google Dagger Atlantis
and read some of the posts about the integral rudder. These rudders were apparently very trouble prone. Personally, I would avoid this boat unless it is really, really cheap. There are probably other good boats around for someone your size. Also, be wary of old polyethylene kayaks. They can be brittle if not stored properly with protection from UV.


I owned a Cayuga and my advice would be to avoid them! While the setup is good with all the hatches, seat, etc., the one that I had was defective…the back of the cockpit “caved in” whenever you got in or out. I notified Old Town…because I bought it off season and it was too late to return it to the store where I bought it…OT would not even consider the problem. It took numerous emails before I even got a response, and then I was told that the serial number was indicative of a first quality boat…so basically “Tough Luck”! AVOID OLD TOWN, unless you find a kayak made of Poly 3!

My rec
here’s the thing - the idea of a boat to grow into crept into your last post. That is real usual, and it slightly changes the landscape.

I’d suggest going for a newer design and shorter boat so that you have something which was done with a more modern thought about skills but still won’t wrench your back out getting it off the car. And something that is relatively easy to find used, like the Wilderness Systems Tsunamis. Maybe something in the Hurricane line? This is not a category of boat that I know well so I’ll stop here.

BTW - don’t get talked into buying the same boat for your wife. Unless your wife has very unusual dimensions, she almost literally couldn’t paddle the same boat that will fit you. That would not enhance her attitude towards paddling.

new boat
the WS tsunami has an interesting look and WS boats have a good reputation—I would recomend two storage compartments fore and aft—even if you don’t use them for storage, they provide good flotation in the event of a capsize—and if you opt for just the rear storage compartment–do not remove the floation from the bow area–

I disagree with Georgia Kayaker–it is there to help float the boat and allow you to do a re-entry in the event of a capsize—GK doesn’t usually paddle in either very deep or very rough water so he probably doesn’t need it-- on the other hand,if you intend on going more than 100 or so feet from shore in water over your head you should keep the floatation in the boat.

But by far the best option is the front and rear sealed storage spaces. Provides both floatation and a place to store your gear.

Finally I would urge you to try paddling a number of boats before you buy–that is the best way to tell if the boat is for you or not.

what he said
short cut all the words