Maryland Chesapeake Bay River and Rougher Water

Hi all! Rented a Kayack last week, Purchased a Kayack the day after,…. … I’m a beginner…. Purchased a Pelican Sit in, Mustang 100x to start. , …. Definitely feels natural and taking the steps of proper technique,…, I love this! What is a good boat that can handle the choppy waters of the Chesapeake? Not interested in ocean waves…, But am interested in rougher white cap bay water and long trips…. Cheers

The Bay (like the Great Lakes) is big water and should be treated as such. Short period, steep chop can be more difficult to stay upright in than ocean swell. Recommendation: a sea kayak with front and rear bulkheads and a spray deck. Also, the skills to use them and experience in recovering from a capsize. Also a good PFD and immersion protection to match the water temperature (not the air temperature).


Rival is right. Proper sea kayak and apt skills.

I have paddled Chesapeake Bay. You are underestimating it. Stay in rivers upriver if you are not ready for that.

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Agree with rival & celia…Chesapeake Bay is big water so you need to learn advanced skills! The quickest way to get those skills is to find someone who teaches ACA lessons and learn good technique and safety too. There are several ACA instructors in the Ches Bay area so check the website for who is closest to you or fits your schedule.


There’s bull sharks meanderin’ those waters!
Don’t believe me, visit late Eugenie Clark,
who threw out a bite meter to toothy requiem greeter,
a crushing blow to my lillydippin’ larks.

And what with me prone to prone in said waters,
(you need to be seaworthy inside seaworthy craft),
think I’ll keep within Wenonah a Voyager on lake near home, a
little less the piecemeal metric of recovery gaffed.
(beneath Bay Bridge they’ll say me floatin’ remains bit daft)

Cockpit with a cover.
Learn proper technique, especially bracing and quartering waves.
Practice wet exits.
Carry paddle float, bilge pump and practice with them.
Dress for immersion and wear a PFD…
Paddle in a group.

Once you have these figured out you can try rougher water near shore.
There are some large boat wakes on the Bay and it has lots of fetch.

I have paddled 3-3 1/2 foot breaking waves on Pyramid Lake, Nevada was impressed with the seaworthiness of a large sea kayak. Bracing is your best friend.

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Yep. Medium-large bodies of water can be some of the most challenging when they’re rough. waves can become extremely steep and rather large (overhead+). Your boat cannot be recovered in the water, so if you flip you need to swim it to shore. If anything is impeding that (offshore wind, current, steep waves, cold water, etc) it will become nearly impossible and bad times quickly ensue.

For now stick to smaller bodies of water, learn, have fun, (wear a PFD), if you like the sport you’ll upgrade to a better boat quickly and can explore larger water when your gear and skills are ready.


Having grown up on the Chesapeake, I agree with Celia and Rival. The waves on the bay can be every bit as rough as the open ocean. You want a good Sea Kayak and the ability to roll. The bay ranges quickly in depth from a foot or two to over 150ft and the tides can be swift so you have to be able to recover if you go over.

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Thanks Rival51. Exactly what I wanted to hear,… …. Thanks. Gonna purposely capsize a few times this weekend too.

Awesome advice Celia , I’m definitely not ready for it yet… I plan to hone the skills at least a year then off to other opportunities.

Thanks Kayackhank… … ,

Ppine, Thanks

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Excellent that you plan to learn skills! If you capsize do it near shore. You may quickly find out why sea kayaks have smaller cockpits.

Greetings. Good that you are reaching out early in your kayaking adventure. Id like to suggest that you go on line and join a few local Meet Up groups that are very active in the area. You will meet & paddle with like-minded water sports enthusiasts. Much safer for newbies to paddle in groups of experienced paddlers.

Two very active groups include the Waters Edge Group and/or the Chesapeake Paddlers Association. They both are active all year round & practice and promote SAFE paddling. Another place to seek training & skill building is with Rick Wiebush and his CrossCurrents kayaking schedule. Rick often teaches group sessions, but also teaches skills to both CPA & WatersEdge MeetUp groups.

WatersEdge -
Chesapeake Paddlers -
Cross Currents with Rick -

First thing you will notice is that pretty much all “sea kayakers” are using proper sit-in sea kayaks, not sit on top. Most boats average about 16-17 feet or so, will have front and back covered hatches.

There’s a guy (Brad) up on the Susquehanna River on the MD/PA border in Delta, PA who owns and operates Stark Moon kayaks. He has great deals on both new & used boats. Give him a visit before you look to purchase again.


Before you venture out into the Bay, make sure to first paddle the Potomac River, the Magothy, the West River, the Rhode River & the Patuxent River.

Good luck. Stay Safe. Always wear a PFD, get urself a VHF radio.

Visit West Marine in Annapolis - Handheld VHF Radios | West Marine