Looking for an inexpensive sea kayak

Hello all,

I’m new here and I’d just like to say that this is a great little community, I’m very happy to be a part of it!!

Anyway, I am looking for a good touring/sea kayak for use in Northern Lake Michigan. I have almost no budget so the less expensive the better. I will mainly be paddling in Lake Michigan from Petoskey, probably trekking down to The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and possibly up to Mackinaw Island. Any suggestions of a good kayak that would fit my bill?

I was thinking used would be the way to go, considering my budget, any thoughts? I also have looked into kits from CLC and Pygmy, what you y’all think about those?




Hey - - I resemble that!!!
I know what this dude means when he say’s - - “No Budget” and ‘cheap’ in the same paragraph.

    • Been there - - still doing that.

      Now back to the question.

      Watch places like Craigslist and Ebay for folks selling locally. On eBay, you can set a ‘Miles from your location’ delimiter so as to narrow down the list to boats - - say 200 miles away from your ZIP Code. Also see if there are any clubs in the area. They may know of somebody who is selling one. Check the classifieds here on Pnet.

      disclaimer - - you may have to watch diligently for a while, but someone is gonna let one out of the bag for a ‘Cheap Price’ sooner or latter.

      (playing the contest on the lower left corner of your Pnet Page can’t hurt)

      I can vouche for finding the right deal. I have a CLC Chese 16LT I picked up that need completing. Owners couldn’t take it cross country, so I was first to call for a ‘Free Woodie’

      I also picked up a decent AquaTerra Sealion in poly for next to nothing a few years back.

      Soooooo - - I have both boats, PDF’s, Paddles, Dry Bags, Farmer John, and all the needed safety goodies - - - for under $500.00

      Lets put it this way - - It’s in my best interest to be fruegal. If I went out and spent $2000.00 on a boat, and a $1000.00 on all the goodies, I would have spent my money better by getting a good divorce lawyer - - - Know what I mean!!!

not detailed enough.
what exactly is your budget for a sea kayak?? What is your height/weight/shoesize (yes, that matters too!)??





I looked at this one alot,when i was buying my first!..But i ended up with glass.

if you’re on no budget then you should spend some time educating yourself a lot more before seeking a general recomendation that can cover hundreds of different models.

You’ve given a budget of $0 and the category of “sea kayak”

therefore any free sea kayak will do.

re. building epoxy/ply s&g. You go that route because you have time and like building. If you want a kayak for $0 then look around for a free boat. The kit boats will cost around $1000 and take at least 3mo. If you pick wrong at least you’ll have a fun building experience.

Go Stitch and Glue…

– Last Updated: Jul-25-07 9:27 PM EST –

...and forget the kit, if money's tight.
I build and paddle a sea kayak design called the VOLKSKAYAK - 17', 25" beam, 40 lbs., fore and aft bulkheads - building one from plans and raw materials takes about 70-100 hours. I allow about $400-500 Cdn. per kayak, using top quality marine ply and brand name epoxy. The process of laying out the panels is simple, as is the cutting out - you won't get the 1/10,000 of an inch precision a laser cutter offers, BUT YOU DON'T NEED IT! Jigsaws, planes, spokeshaves, sand paper and elbow grease can, and does, produce a perfectly acceptable kayak. The kits - and some are very good indeed - really only save the labour of lofting and cutting, which costs you nothing but time. And since I generally have more time than money to spare...
Oh, yah..also check around for S&G kayaks for sale - it's hard to get more than the cost of materials for them, unless someone's done a very, very pretty job of it. Not unusual to see them go for $400-500...

Good price
If you are looking in local papers, buy and sell ads, etc. you should have an idea what you’re looking for. The cheapest boats are plastic or roto-molded. This is essentially plastic and used widely. It’s cheaper than fibreglass but heavier. I would look in the fall. Often tour outfitters will sell off their boats and get new ones. Best to find a guided tour outfitter versus a strictly rental company because these get bashed up more. In terms of boats for beginners also try the boat out especially in a little wind and a little action to see how it tracks. I would look for stability (initial) and tracking and then consider ‘looks’ if I was on a budget. I’m not sure about the east coast but the west coast would have prices on used at 1000 to 1300 dollars for used.



Great Advice!
Thanks for the advice, and I did leave out some pertinent information. My ideal budget would be $200-$300, but I realize this isn’t very realistic. Doing some quick mental math, I can probably swing $500-$1,000 on a good kayak.

I am looking for something to handle the sometimes rough conditions in my area. I have experience paddling the “big lake” here, although I’ve always used a friends boat so I have no idea what to look for in a sea kayak. I do have a lot of experience in whitewater kayaking as well. I am 6’2" tall, 174lbs, and I wear a size 10 mens.

I am looking all over the place for a good deal, I just want to make sure I don’t snatch up the first inexpensive boat I see. Kits were appealing to me because I have limited access to tools at the moment although time is something I have plenty of.

Thanks again for all the great advice!

Pygmy Arctic Tern
Great design. One of the easiest builds. In your price range. Good in big water.

Um - - Cost of plans
What plans are you using, and what about their cost.

Would agree
Like the Pygmy designs, and the S&G route is a good one for quality, weight and charactoristics.

(And next time I’m in your neighborhood Doc, I gotta try yours out)

You may be in for a surprise
unless you are already a paddler.

You’ll also need a few essential things the will run up the non-existent budget…like

a PFD (bet no one thought I would ever say that)

a paddle

a pump

and maybe a dry bag

just to get started.

Have fun when the Big Day comes.


Great kayak in Manistee.

Pay by Paypal linked to your credit card.

Will last you for years and years.

Your resale on this boat, which si $2700+ new, would be about what you paid for it.

Lake Michigan-worthy.


sounds like you’re looking around for a $500 boat. Sea Lions/Eclipses will be common but are bigger than necessary for your weight.

I’ve built a bunch of s&g, they’re fun and you could nickle and dime it but you’re not going to come out ahead dollar wise if your time is worth anything above $5/hr.

If you do a scan of the product reviews you’ll get a rough idea of what boats are the most common.

Since you’ve paddled whitewater you’re familiar with beat plastic so you should be able to make a reasonable judgement on the condition of a used kayak.

I’d suggest scanning Craigslist or equivalent then doing a fast 30 minute search on the boats characteristics.

Re Plans…
I assume you’re responding to my Go S&G post.

Plans for the VOLKSKAYAK should still be available thru the designer, Gerry Gladwin - I got mine when I built my first VK with him at his shop in 2001. He has since closed Whynot Boats and gone on to other things. I can dig out his address if anyone wants to query him re VK plans. The cost of the plans and manual, if memory serves, was $85.00

Re Tools…
…you really don’t need a lot.

I use a jigsaw, small block plane, spokeshave, cordless drill (lots and lots of screws to drive and remove), sanding block, some small clamps and a small hand saw. The materials are quite light, so there’s no need to get rock-crusher class tools. Mostly it just takes time and patience.

Look around for a used Perception
poly 17 foot Eclipse.

They are excellent in rough seas, and handle well and a used one should sell for about six or seven hundred dollars.



for example
the Alto is a very good boat without bells and whistles, you need a front float bag. Big enough for touring, small enough to toss around. I’d get this hands down over any old Eclipse/Sea Lion

from the paddling.net class ads:



(MI) Wilderness System Alto 16 ft x 22 in. Gray plastic. No hatches or rudder. Near perfect. Stored indoors. Nice light wt touring boat w/ plenty of storage for longer trips. – Submitted by: michiganboatbuilder

petoskey area
You might want to take a look at the Outfitter in Harbor Springs. Last time I looked, they had a demo capella RM, I think priced around $900. You can demo it or any of their other boats free.

Email me if you want to get out on the water.