I recently got a 14’ Necky Alsek from a yard sale which I’m thinking is from the early-mid 90’s. It appears to be in very good condition, but I realize the UV degrades the boat over time. Is it still safe to use a 20+ year old kayak? I was planning to use it in local lakes and rivers (no big rapids). Thanks!
Close-ups of the deck, fittings, seams, and other hardware will help to give an indication of the condition. It should flex readily in whatever temperature you use it. If it cracks when you’re testing it, better on land than when you’re counting on it to keep you afloat.
I don’t know if I have seen one in real life, but did a Google photos search to see what they are.
Some things to watch/consider:
- the rear hatch looks like it should have a neoprene cover that goes on under the plastic cover. The neoprene is what actually keeps it reasonably watertight, which is needed to let you use the rear hatch as flotation should you flip over. These neoprene covers are often lost or damaged over the years, so definitely worth ensuring you have.
- the boat looks like it comes with bungees on the deck, but no static deck lines. If you are swimming next to the boat after a flip, you want the static lines as hand holds. Also very helpful for 2 person rescue. The pad eyes used to hold the bungees can be used to add the deck lines, so it isn’t much more than going out and buying the line and installing.
- it looks like it does not have a front bulkhead. Without it may be hard to self rescue if you flip. Adding a float bag up front greatly improves this. if you can’t self-rescue a boat, you really should always stay within swimming distance of shore.
- for aging, look at areas which are protected from the sun and compare to areas near to there that are not. For example, look under that hatch cover and see if the plastic is darker where it was protected. Or under the bungees. Fading color is a sign of aging. Means the plastic will be more brittle, and could crack easier. If you see signs of aging, it can still work, but treat it nicer so you can prevent cracking. Running into objects at speed can crack hull. Sitting on back deck (which is how most people get in and out of the kayak) can crack the back deck.
Addendum - I just noticed at least one photo that shows an Alsek without a rear hatch. That brings the question of whether it has a rear bulkhead. Hatch or not, if it doesn’t have a bulkhead behind the seat, this makes it even less likely you could self rescue, so even more important that you stay close enough to shore to swim.
If you don’t have a rear bulkhead, float bags would be good to both increase the chance of self-rescuing and decrease the chance of the boat actually sinking all together should you flip.