my first kayak-need suggestions

-- Last Updated: Apr-25-07 5:40 PM EST --

Hi, I am looking for my first kayak. I'm a 5'7", 145lb female, and would say I'm an "advanced beginner" who plans to take more lessons and become intermediate within a year or two. I am hoping to find a kayak that can go from rivers (up to CL2), lakes/ponds, to island hopping on coastal of Maine. (Possibly with some overnighting, so need hatches).

Weight is a big issue for me since there will be times I am going out by myself and I need to be able to lift it. Also, my car is tall (Grand Cherokee).

In doing some online research, the Tsunami 140 caught my attention (especially the comfy seat part, since I do get backaches/numb legs when using thigh braces), but at close to 50lbs with a rudder it's not all that light.

Does anyone have other ideas? Dagger? Eliza? Is a 14ft kayak a good lenght for what I want to do with it? My budget is up to $1500 for the kayak, considering I also have to get a PFD, a transport system, paddle etc.

Thanks so much for any suggestions. Once I have a few good options in mind, I will go try them out!

you might want to look at
hurricane tampico, its 13.5’ and around 43??? pounds. It would be good for your rivers and should handle your island hopping as long as the water isnt too rough up there. The tampico is the first boat my wife & I got 2 yrs ago, not a bad boat for the lgth/wgt. I have no problem getting them on my grand cherokee (alot easier than the longer boats I’ve purchased since the tampicos).

good luck

Another possibility is
the Eddyline Skylark. Although only 12’ long, it tracks very well, weighs about 40 pounds, and is easy to lift onto a car top. Check out Sea Kayaker Magazine of February 2005 for a review as well as the reviews here on

IMO, not either

– Last Updated: Apr-25-07 11:34 PM EST –

Neither boat suggested above will support intermediate skills well, or the Skylark at all. The Tampico 135S is maybe a closer choice - kinda intersting little thing - but between the front hatch being so small and the width of the boat you'd not pick as any first choice for rolling or for camping offshore in more challenging climes.

The water does get rough up there in Maine, and it's cold. The islands to which one would like to hop are often a couple of miles from the mainland.

I think, for island hopping in Maine and skills development, you need to think about 16' and buying used to stay in your price range. And that is in many ways the best idea anyway - don't spend the bucks on a new boat until you are fairly certain of what you want. As to the cartop issue, get roller loader wheels - things that hang off the rear of rour rack onto which you can line up the nose of your boat and just push (or pull). Stick a blanket under where the other end hits the ground, add a snmll kayak cart and you should be able to transport a boat closer to 50 pounds.

At your height and weight you've got some decent options that should be findable used - in the Brit line there is Romany (almost too easy for skills), Avocet, from North America there is the Chatham 16 and more that I am sure I am forgetting. All fully rigged for sea kayaking and boats that will support skills development very well.

Have you thought about exactly where you plan to go to do the skills work? That might help, since many of the places that do training also sell boats. A class would be an automatic demo.

more choices

– Last Updated: Apr-26-07 9:04 AM EST –

The Necky Eliza looks promising. Make sure that it behaves well without the rudder -- a rudder can be nice to have, but you shouldn't *have* to use it to control the boat in normal conditions.

The Tempest 165 might be a good fit but is heavy in plastic.

Your range of uses is quite broad, and will make it harder to find the "perfect" boat. Running class 2 rivers in a boat you'd use for paddling the Maine coast -- or vice versa -- requires several compromises. It's common for beginners to have expedition dreams and day-paddling reality. You'll be happier with a boat that matches the paddling you do most often instead of the once-a-year trip.

That said, my first boat was a 16' sea kayak. I still feel a bit silly using it for pond paddles, but it works. I have added a whitewater boat to the fleet (dirt cheap used) for playing in rivers.

For developing skills you need a boat that'll let you edge it easily, and that isn't too high or deep to get in the way of your strokes. It's unfortunate that there aren't many choices like that at the lower-priced end of the range.

Demo every boat you can, and you'll find one that speaks to you.

Usually A Couple of Nice S&Gs…

– Last Updated: Apr-25-07 9:29 PM EST – the classifieds that would fit both your weight criteria and your budget. S&G kayaks are perfectly serviceable craft, and provided you don't mind doing minimal yearly maintenance, they'll give you years of service.
For example, (edited)
(FL) Pygmy Arctic Tern 17'x23" 45lbs..... $1250.
(MD) Chesapeake Light Craft, Chesapeake 16LT..... Built from kit by owner. Finished with varnished deck over white hull. Stored indoors. Used one season. $1200.00

Either would be a fine boat for your purposes.

Get a good used touring kayak, and a
good used whitewater kayak. You might not have to pay over $500 for each.

Up to class 2
And I forgot to respond to that part - again I suggest used, erto cheap. As you proceed with getting skills, also keep an eye out for a planing hull boat for your size that was commonly used as a schooling boat, like the older Inazone 222 I think might be right, and take that into moving water. You are talking in the lower hundreds, and it’ll be a lot more responsive in anything moving than a longer boat. Northeast Paddler’s Network has a board, that’d be one source. And it’s kinda nice to be dealing with a plastic boat aboyut which you don’t have to be fussy.

place a pad on the ground and lift one end of the kayak onto the back of your vehicle. Pick up end that is still on the ground and slide boat forward onto rack.

One woman we paddle with has wheels that attach to the rear of her vehicle (slides into the slot between the rear hatch and the vehicle roof)

Another woman, has a rack system that raises her boat from about waist high along side the vehicle to the roof.

1st kayak is sacrificial
99.999% of all paddlers outgrow their first kayak very shortly. Why? Because they don’t know how to paddle. After a while you will want a boat that you can use to your full potential. Everyone goes through that.

1st kayak - I would go used. Full bulkheads and hatches. Practice, have fun, paddle with others and let it happen naturally without too much analysis. You’re on the right track with lessons. Join a club. They will help you load your kayak.

Plastic Avocet.
Get a used plastic Avocet. It’s within your budget, great boat, will take a long while to outgrow, if ever. 16 feet long is perfect length for your needs and body size. Great roller, good balance between speed and maneuverability, handles rough stuff and surf. Versatile, can be a good beginners boat, but advanced paddlers like it as well, and it is the rock garden boat of choice for people who like to be rough on their boats. With careful packing, can be camped out of for several days, maybe a week , especially if you don’t have to carry all your water. You cannot lose.

on that point
I agree - but if you get something with a bit more of a learning curve, you’ll want to hold onto it a bit longer. I like the suggestion of a poly avocet below but you’ll not be using it on small creeks. Anything else - flatwater, coastal/open water paddling - you’ll be fine.

It’s such a paradox because many of us have less of an idea what kind of paddling we’ll be doing the most until we get out and get some experience.

Plastic boats
Yup they are heavier - but you also don’t have to worry if they slide out and hit the ground while you are loading or unloading them. You’d have to worry about a lot of composites in the same situation.

I dropped my Squall a few times, once anyway on purpose because I was parked over grass and I figured it was better to let the boat bounce in the grass and dirt than to risk a shoulder trying to stop it. The boat was fine.

you guys are amazing!
Thanks for all your helpful responses overnight! Although a shiny new boat is very tempting, I agree that going used at this point makes a lot more sense. I’ll try to check out and demo the boats you all suggested.

In terms of real use, I’ll probably make it up to Maine one week a year. That’s indeed some serious (and windy) water, certainly for someone with not very advanced skills yet. I had to paddle for dear life into the wind to make it back to shore last time. The boat I rented was ill-fitting, making it even harder.

In New Jersey, where I live, I can paddle Sandy Hook and Barnegat Bay. Other than that, I’ll do lakes and rivers (Delaware Water Gap when no whitewater).

For training: I’m taking intermediate strokes and rolling this summer on a lake.

Two questions: what is a planer hull boat? And does S&G refer to skin on frame?

Thanks for the roller suggestion, that should work great.

the avocet looks good
Just checked it online, and if I can’t find a used one, even new you can get it for $1100. Great suggestion, I will go try one. (Love the extra day hatch!)

I have never paddled a boat with a skeg before. Rudders have come in quite handy in the rentals I’ve used, especially in Maine. Is a skeg gonna do the trick in rougher waters?

Yes, it’s fine
Both are tracking devices - you’ll learn that neither a rudder or a skeg is properly about turning the boat. The nice thing about the skeg is that you can put it down a little or a lot, which is frankly a huge advantage in rougher stuff.

I had a rudder on my Squall and disliked it in following seas - I always felt like the darned thing was too far back to be helpful and was just complicating my handle. I barely ever dropped it. I haven’t had at all the same issue with the skeg in the same situation - it seems to deploy quite nicely.

A skeg also means that there are no rudder cables that can rip your clothing or a rudder mount that can be a real attention getter when doing a lot of rescues. The skeg is just a lot less in your way for that kind of thing.


– Last Updated: Apr-26-07 12:32 PM EST –

The Avocet is probably more manuverable than the boats you've rented -- it's "loose" as sea kayaks go. It'll be more responsive to body angle and paddle stroke corrections, and is very easy to turn on edge. I think it's a great boat to learn on. If your goal is to crank off miles in a straight line, there are better choices, but the Avocet is a happy boat when there are waves to go play in.

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 gives up some manuverability for better tracking and speed, but still responds nicely to an edge. It's a fun boat and should be fairly easy to find.

The P&H Capella 160 RM might also work for you.

When you're shopping, don't be afraid to try boats that are out of your price range when new -- it helps add to your list of used boats to watch for. If a nice smaller-paddlers kayak like a Romany LV pops up in the classifieds it usually doesn't last long.

I believe what I rented in Maine
was a Necky Looksha, not sure which version. It was a poor fit for me, too big probably (my 250lb husband was quite comfortable in it), but I remember using the rudder a lot. Obviously, as my strokes and leans get more advanced I’ll have more ways of steering.

Looking forward to trying a skeg.

I had responded with many thanks to all of you higher up in the chain, and you may not have seen it, so I just wanted to say again how much I appreciate all the quick and helpful responses.

Next weekend I am going to an outfitter to try some boats out on the Hudson. I’ll let you know what I found out.


– Last Updated: Apr-26-07 12:42 PM EST –

I agree with Celia. When listing the criteria for a kayak purchase, I feel one must rank the levels of performance wanted in each area.

For me, I ask myself this question:

Where do I need my boat to excell, and where am I willing to accept its compromises.

A significant component in this decision is the "forgiveness" factor: A skilled paddler will find certain "sea kayaks" more forgiving in class I & II rivers than the same paddler will find a multi use boat is in island hopping in Maine. A multi use boat will tend to have less glide per paddle stroke than a sea kayak. It will also be much more effected by wind, waves, and current. This will wear on the paddler and can help create "situations" shall we say. They also tend to be less rescuable. Its not 'how often' you paddle a certain type of condition, its how important it is that your kayak is designed to excell in that condition.

My two cents is that it is more important that your kayak is safe and can perform island hopping duties in Maine, and would be willing to accept its compromises of being a bit big to manuever in slow rivers.

Otherwise, island hopping may have to wait.

Something to consider.


Yeah, Looksha IV way too big
Not your boat, tho’ a great tanker for getting newbies back safely from tours. You’ll find these others suggested to be a lot more entertaining.