MI novice looking for some advice

Hi all,

New to the forums and hoping for some advice from some seasoned kayakers…

I’ve only kayaked once (vacation in Florida for 6 hours) and I have been hooked ever since - but never had the time to regularly kayak since due to the distance I lived from waterways. Now I’ve move to a river way that empties into Lake Huron with only a short paddle to the lake and am very excited about the prospect of regularly kayaking.

I’ve scoured eBay, Craigslist (a little apprehensive about a used boat) and local sport shops but I’m hoping for some feedback from the pros:) so here are my circumstances:

-I have the option to paddle the river on my street or Lake Huron which is less than 1/8 a mile away so I’m looking for something that can handle both (once I can handle the boat that is).

-I’m 6’5" and 250lbs and would love a boat (open bow vs. tandem?) that would allow me to take my 4yo son (life jacket/water wings of course) or yellow lab out with me.

-I’m looking for a angling/recreational/camping kayak

-Trying to stay in the $800 range until I am more confident in my ability and can justify a more upscale boat

Any feedback would be appreciated - if only to say “search the forums jerk”.


Take a class FIRST

– Last Updated: Apr-10-11 1:29 PM EST –

Kayacking is a learned skill, not inherent to our DNA.
People pay to learn golf, snowboard, etc., etc.
Even parents invested time teaching youth how to bicycle.

I'll guarantee 100% of your questions will be answered
by gaining some knowledge in a real kayaking class.

Find an instructor

Look at Community Pools in your area
-many offer kayaking to supplement down time before summer

The Huron can RAGE after heavy rainstorms and
certain areas on it can be trouble for a complete
novice with no idea of their boat or abilities.


Port Austin
IIRC, Port Austin Kayak Symposium is held in June. Riverside Kayak Connection out of Wyandotte are organizers, might be worth your time to sign up.

First of all, don’t know what sports stores you’ve looked at but you should be checking in with the sea kayaking outfits that populate the shores of Lake Huron. The Great Lakes are an inland sea, not the usual lake that most people think of. They have commensurately big conditions. The sea kayak outfitters will have the best handle on how you should proceed.

As to open boat or a tandem, most here will say that dogs go better with canoes. That’s because they don’t make the kind of diff in your ability to avoid or survive a capsize as in a tandem kayak. At the least, in a tandem the dog would be in an open compartment that could get filled with waves from water if you got caught out in weather, enough to take you off balance even if you were skirted up.

In a capsize, if you were lucky and the dog hadn’t gone to sleep up front and drowned, you still have a poor equation. You would still have two compartments full of water and only one entity (you) able to get the compartments emptied out so that the boat was seaworthy enough to make it home.

Be aware that rec kayak usually means a short kayak with no or limited flotation and bulkheads, and lacking some other features regarded as needed to make self-rescue easier. I suspect that given your criteria - being responsible for the safety of your son or the dog - you need to step up your game in terms of preparation or stay on a quiet river for a bit. There are awfully tempting destination islands in Lake Huron, but 4 miles is a long way out without some good prep.

Great Lakes

– Last Updated: Apr-10-11 3:30 PM EST –

Places to learn:


And most dealers run or can direct you to classes.

Demo day season is coming up. Check with the dealers near you for their schedule. I know the REI out there used to have them every spring. Even if you're thinking of buying used it's a great way to try a lot of different boats.


Wanting to take a buddy -- even a small one -- complicates things. Anything big enough to comfortably take an adult Lab will be more difficult to handle solo in wind and waves. And as Celia said, the Great Lakes should be taken seriously.

When I lived in SE MI I had a maneuverable sea kayak that I often took on lakes and rivers.

Large-cockpit recreational kayaks (and canoes) are great when used appropriately. The big problem is that solo self-rescue is very difficult. They often lack sealed compartments, and/or have inadequate flotation. Righting, emptying, and reboarding with waves and wind takes a lot of practice. They are best suited for conditions that would allow you to easily get to shore.

All that said.....

Given your size and budget, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 is worth a look.

If you like building things....

Don't be afraid of buying used. Most damage is obvious. Things to look for in a rec boat would include thin spots from boats being dragged on pavement. I'd also be wary of boats that had been stored outside for several years.

Look at Sit On Top Kayaks

– Last Updated: Apr-10-11 6:07 PM EST –

An Ocean Kayak Malibu II is a good place to start for casual paddling, taking the kids and the dog along, fishing.

Hobie Odysey is also a great kayak for families and casual paddling.


When the water is colder than 60 F, you will need a wetsuit. A farmer John, is a good place to start. Don't take the kids out when the water is colder than 65 F. Water much colder than that and you will want a dry suit or 3/2 wetsuit down to 55F or 4/3 suit for down to 45 F.

THe website www.sit-on-topkayaking.com has a lot of good information and forums on sit on top kayaks.

It's fine to buy kayaks from Craigslist, just make sure the plastic is not old and brittle and the hatches all fit tightly and there are no holes ... check around the scupper holes for cracks. Have fun.

Recommended MI Classes
Quiet World Sports in Jackson would be an excellent place for you to get some instruction (http://www.quietworldsports.com/). My wife and I have taken paddling and recovery classes there and highly recommend them. It will also get you exposure to a number of different types of kayaks and equipment. Once you have done this, it will be much easier to decide on your first kayak. Others will be sure to follow as you develop your kayaking skills.

Second vote for WMCKA
You can even bring your kid(s)!

You will learn immensely and be able to make a much better decision about what to buy and where to paddle it.

AND you will have a ton of fun.