Looking to buy my first quality kayak (used). Need advice

Looking to buy my first quality kayak. I used to have a 10’ kayak from Menards and it left a sour taste in my mouth so I stopped kayaking. I’m 5’7 and weigh around 155 lbs. I’m in good shape and have a good sense of balance/agility. I’d like to use this kayak in northern Minnesota (Voyageurs Nat’l Park - BWCA). It will primarily be used for lake trips and camping. Waters on VNP can get choppy, but nothing too scary.

Here are two used ones I’m considering on Craigslist:

Right now I’m leaning more towards the Selkie as it is more in my price range. He will include a life jacket and skirt, but no paddle. With the Perception Eclipse I get a paddle, but no skirt or lift jacket. Any thoughts or recommendations on which one I should purchase?

Is there an opportunity for you to paddle each one?

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Welcome to fun paddling! You will really enjoy a quality kayak once you get used to it.

Can you wait to find another kayak? Both you found are older designs. The Selkie has small round hatches which mean you have to pack very smartly. The Eclipse is more forgiving for camping with larger hatches, but probably not as much fun to paddle. I would personally pass on the Eclipse simply because of the rudder (I’m a skeg guy). Also, since you mentioned Minnesota paddling that generally means some portages. I prefer a plastic hull for paddles where landings and portages are common place. Find a good set of wheels that fit in a hatch. Safe paddling!

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Possibly, but they are quite far apart location wise. I’d like to try aiming for one if I must travel to test one.

Ultimately I can also just wait for a better deal to appear too. Kayaks are always popping up and selling.

I have always been partial to Valley boats and skeg boats.
They are very different but all are fun.
Try to paddle it before you buy if possible.
That’s a good price for a composite.

You might be happier with a canoe in the BWCA. I’m an enthusiastic kayaker, but can remember the Boundary Waters from trips in my youth (first of many trips ~1956). Portaging kayaks is more difficult than portaging canoes.

Agree on this front. A majority of the time would be spent in VNP and solo which is why I’m thinking kayak for now. I definitely want to get a canoe at some point for small group camping trips.

There are some personal preference issues here. One of those cockpits looks more ‘oceany’ than the other. Skegged vs ruddered matters a lot to most folks. Those boats are definitely apples and oranges.

To be honest I’m so green that I really have not put much thought or have much opinion regarding preferences like you outlined.

Someone outlined to me that the Selkie has a different cockpit that I probably will not be accustomed to. I just assumed with practice and effort I would adapt to it.

I’m young and in good shape so I’m willing and able to learn. I just have not had exposure to the various aspects of a kayak to even form an opinion.

My every day kayak is a Current Designs Solstice GTS, which is the smallest of the three Solstice models. The CD is a 17’ sea kayak. I weigh 155 lbs and am 5’6", almost exactly your size.

I also happen to have in my fleet a boat identical to the Perception you’re looking at. The Solstice fits me like a glove. The Perception feels like I’m sitting in an SUV. Big and stable and bullet proof. Also too big for me. Now…if I had never paddled a Solstice, maybe I wouldn’t notice the size of the Perception. But I have, and I do. :slight_smile:

Both boats are reasonably priced. The Selkie looks pretty beat up. The Perception Airalite is bulletproof.

Keep in mind that you will probably want to pick out your own PFD and paddle. A good PFD will run $100 or so, maybe less. A good paddle will run anywhere from $100-$400. I spent $700 on my CD and $350 on my Werner Camano all carbon paddle.

A good lightweight paddle will make a huge difference in your paddling experience.

Also, keep in mind that your first boat willl probably not be your last boat. Buy one of these, figure out what you like/don’t like about it and build your fleet. The Perception, by the way, is a great boat to have around for visitors to borrow, as it’s so stable…

Hope this helps.

The Selkie may not be the best choice for you and you initial usage. The small hatches will be a bit of a challenge to load & unload. You would also need to look close at the condition of the covers as the VCP covers have a history of decaying over time. The cockpit opening is small. that isn’t necessary a bad thing but it will make entry & exit of the kayak is complicated launch/landings more entertaining. If you do buy it you will need to practice wet exits in a safe place with someone standing by for support if needed. Start first without the skirt and then, when you are comfortable with the movement, add the skirt.

It is sounding like perhaps the Selkie is not a good first real boat for me and that the Perception may be too big.

Both or these boats are quite a drive for me to test so perhaps I should just wait until a more local deal appears?

Outside of that there just isn’t much used inventory currently in th e Twin Cities.

I found this in Brainerd:

At 155 I think that boat’s going to be big on you. I have an Easky 15 LV (low volume, i.e. smaller) which my spouse (5’9””, 155-60) finds too big.

Not sure if this boat might be too small for you, too tippy for you, or if it’s too far from you, but if I were in your area I’d be beating the path to see it. It’s a P&H Vela, looks in peachy condition, comes with spray skirt, and might be negotiable. Also looks like they might be near enough to water for you to try it out.


Celia who posts here often paddles one.

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I saw that one, but didn’t give it much thought due to distance. I just shot them an email! I noted my size to see about fit.

Is $800 a fair offer or an insult?

Unless the right kayak is in your neighborhood or you have time to wait (for a kayak that may never show on the resale market), I do not consider it a long drive to check out a kayak if one can make it there and back in one long day. Basically anything within a 5-6 hour drive (one way) is worth checking out… Some friends will not drive 1 hour to check out a potential new-to-them used kayak, and they wonder why they still are not happy with the boats they paddle? Please do not fall into that trap. Paddling is a small sport and sometimes we have to get a little uncomfortable to find the right equipment.

I’ll see if I can check out that one in WI. It’s a 4 hour drive so we’ll see if they can move on price a bit.

P&H had a great reputation before their sale to Venture. Perhaps the company is still intact despite the sale … anybody know?

Before the trip to inspect the kayak, ask if the drop skeg works smoothly and that there are no leaks in the hatches or skeg box. Skegs can be tricky to repair. Personally, I prefer skegs to rudders.

The mention of a canoe for Boundary Waters might be something to consider. Solo pack canoes are paddled like a kayak – you sit down inside the hull instead of on a raised seat and use a double-ended kayak paddle. Many models are super light: half to a quarter of what most solo touring kayaks weight. Some are under 20 pounds.

I love kayaks and have half a dozen but I recently added a 13’ solo canoe (a Curtis Lady Bug) to the fleet that weighs 32 pounds for lake and slow river paddling. The only drawback would be price (the new super light ones are in the thousands) but I snagged mine used for $800. I am your weight but 2" shorter, for comparison. If I was going to camp in areas like Boundary Waters, that’s what I would take. In fact I may take it camping in the Adirondacks this coming Fall.

I also have a Venture Easky 15LV kayak (like Doggy-Paddler describes). I like the fit of that very much and bing low volume it is suitable for your size. A number of my friends who are between 30 pounds lighter and 30 pounds heavier than me have used it and really liked it as well. And at 46 pounds it is reasonable, though not ideal, for portaging. They stopped selling the model in the US about 4 years ago but used ones do pop up occasionally.

Per driving to see or buy a boat, 12 years ago I drove from Pittsburgh, PA, to Muskegon, MI (500 miles) and took the high speed ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, WI, to meet a guy at the dock to buy a kayak from him and carried it back onto the ferry for the trip back to my car in Muskegon and then on the roof rack for the trip home. At least I can “brag” that I’ve taken a kayak all the way across Lake Michigan!

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Re: Willowleaf - That Easky doesn’t appear to be the LV version.

Re: the P&H Vela - I don’t think sellers usually gets offended if someone makes a slightly lower offer, they can always say no. Of course you can never tell with people, so I think it’s wisest to play it by ear, unless you truly would not make the trip if you couldn’t get it for $800. In that case I think it’s reasonable to state that on the phone. Better, IMHO, than email. Shows you’re serious. When I sell stuff on CL I always tell prospective buyers I’ll only negotiate in person.

Here’s my opinion: if the boat fits you well and you like the way it feels, $900 for a fiberglass boat in great condition is a fine deal. P&H is a very good brand. By way of comparison, the Easky retails for around $1300; whereas a fiberglass sea kayak by a good brand retails around $3500- $4000.

But the key is you and how you like it. To me, if you can afford it, a hundred more for a boat you love is much better than saving a bit for a meh boat. If you were able easily to paddle a few others beforehand, that would give you a means of comparison. We bought our Easky LV to replace a way-too-big boat, and when we got it we both liked it. It wasn’t until after we’d paddled a few smaller boats that we began to notice the things we liked less well about the Easky. It’s not that it’s a bad boat, it’s a good boat. It is nice and lightweight, very versatile, and handles well, and is beginner-friendly. However I still think the non-LV version will be too big for you.

But, above all, whether a boat is great or not depends on the paddler. You will likely not find your dream boat on the first shot. That being said, a P&H Vela could well qualify as many smaller paddlers’ dream boat, from what I have heard.

Maybe Celia will come by and give you some info.

Back on the Selkie, that looks to be a very old boat. Write up talks about a float bag in front, and I can’t tell from their photos if their is a bulkhead behind the seat (possibly not). No bulkheads adds a risk - not something I would recommend for a sea kayak for a novice. And that cockpit does look very small by today;s standards, also another reason not.

I strongly recommend anyone trying to get into sea kayaking to take the day long intro class before buying anything. There is a lot to learn and mistakes to avoid, which likely will save you way more in money than the ~$125 cost of the class.

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