Need advice re tandems (long, sorry)

Hi Folks,

So, first, I do know all the reasons not to get a tandem. My wife and I have paddled for around 20 years, since back when we were dating. Mostly along the Northeast US coast, a lot in/around Penobscot Bay, Long Island Sound, etc. We’ve owned a number of boats, and also have sailed a lot and owned a few decent sailboats. This would not be for us to paddle together; if it’s me and wife, we’ll take our singles.

Kids came along, and boating had to be put on hold a bit. For the last few years, the kids (now 10 and 12) have been paddling with us. They have SOT’s, and also now paddle our “adult” boats (Necky Eliza, CD Caribou, WS Alto and WS Pungo). For the last three years, we have been renting tandems along the Maine coast. I’ve now decided that I want to go ahead and buy a couple of tandems, so we don’t have to be so limited in where/when we paddle as a family.

I’ve studied the market a bit. I do not want an open cockpit boat. At first, I was leaning toward a glass or kevlar tandem, and drooling over the Boreal Beluga, the Seda Tango, the Seaward Passat, and the Tahe Wind Duo (and a few others). These are pricey boats, but my wife (a cancer survivor with Lymphedema) has trouble lifting a heavy boat, and I don’t relish putting a 90 pound kayak on the minivan roof. So I wanted light.

All of the above (gorgeous) boats are also probably longer than we need. Although I would like to have independent paddling positions (no need to coordinate paddling), it is not critical. And we probably will be mostly doing day trips. I found the Delta TentyT (19’6") and the Eddyline Whisper CL (18’) both intriguing. The Eddyline is particularly appealing, at $3k and only 73 lbs (?!). But a wee bit short…?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I was leaning back toward a plastic boat. Particularly along the rocky Maine coast (I am a MITA member and would like to do some camping with my son), I worry about landing a glass boat on those shores. (I cringe when my Caribou scrapes the bottom in shallow areas.) I could get Hullivators and still come out cheaper than two glass tandems…

As far as I can see, there are only two plastic tandems with separate cockpits and bulkheads - the Necky Looksha and the Boreal Esperanto. Both reportedly weigh about 96 lbs; the Esperanto is 19’6", and the Looksha 18’1". We have rented Looksha tandems a fair amount, and find them basically fine. The extra length and distance between cockpits on the Boreal is appealing, as it could allow non-synced paddling. Price difference only a couple hundred bucks. I will sheepishly admit, though, I hate the “flame” color scheme of red/yellow, which apparently is all the Boreal comes in. At least the Looksha comes in plain yellow…

So… that’s where I am. Undecided. Plastic or glass? 18 feet or 19 plus? I would still probably prefer glass , and could probably live with the 18 feet of the Eddyline as a trade-off for the weight… But I worry about banging the boats up on the rocky coasts.

How’s that for wishy-washy?

If there is anyone bored enough to have read this entire post, I would welcome any thoughts at all about how I might proceed.



These kids are going to get big soon
… and if the limiting factor is that you can only fit 2 kayaks on your minivan, maybe go for a kayak trailer, take 4 kayaks, and let them paddle their own.

You have to think about “what ifs” scenarios when paddling in big waters, if one kayak has problems, get smacked around by waves, or can’t roll up, then the other kayak has to be able to assist. A single person kayak is going to be a lot more flexible in what it can do in a sticky situation, a double seafaring yak, loaded with a lot of stuff, is going to be more difficult for a smaller adult with less strength and a child to maneuver.

I know it’s not what you want to hear…
I know it’s not what you asked but I agree withe the previous poster. While reading your post, all I could think was that at 10 and 12, these kids are going to want their own boats instead of sharing tandems (especially since you said they’re already paddling yours).

Pick any two of the three traits
You want plastic for use in rocks, lightweight for less-arduous lifting, and inexpensive. Strong, light, cheap combined. As the engineering joke goes, pick any two.

The suggestion someone made to get a trailer makes sense. Easier loading and unloading, can put 4 boats on it if you get a model made for that, and you can transfer it for towing between different vehicles.

$1500 trailer and $1000 used plastic double = less than one Kevlar double

Whatever you do, don’t count on a bystander to help rooftop a 100-lb double in case your wife can’t do it. Or even an 80-pounder. You’d be surprised at how many people who offer to help carry (just carry, not lift onto a roof) are surprised at the weight of a single plastic or glass sea kayak.

You’ll note that glass and kevlar boats
are eminently repairable.Should you hole a plastic boat out on a MITA island you have a problem. Duct tape might not stick well.

I too am a MITA member and most everyone paddling their own boat up here paddles glass or kevlar boats. Liveries of course like plastic better as they are always scraping boats full of people across rocks and oysters and clams. There isn’t so much of an investment as you know.

I’ve had a glass boat for years in Maine…the Caribou. Its eminently fixable. My husbands Shenai is 23 years old Our Looksha was not fixable…plastic …it was a bear to get back from Thief Island after it holed.

The trailer will solve your lift problems and is reasonable for most launches.

It seems from what you post that your wife might be more comfortable in a tandem… While you might need to slow down ( and accomplished paddlers always paddle in sync!) the kids in singles could keep up with you.

I am afraid that your struggle is not confined to the car. A tandem that is even 90 lbs is very difficult (way worse when loaded) to get up 12 feet across 150 feet of rockweed covered rocks at low tide.

I had friends who had a tandem… But the Queen Mary was a beast. By the time the boat was loaded the tide left leaving a mess of mud to traverse.

Once you get into camping the ball game changes. Day tripping is one thing… Speedy packing and convenient storage is an additional skill to practice. You say you will do day trips but mention the camping with the son.

Frankly I would get the shorter boats, practice your paddling synchrony, and rent for when you are going camping. If you have a way to carry kayaks, even rented ones, you are not limited as to where to go… Some friends of ours regularly use one livery and cartop to a launch fifty miles away.

Well just another way of looking at the “problem”

I’d check the contents of several liveries like SeaSpray for what they use if you need more small tandem ideas or the folks at LLBean.

another option
another option, which may or may not work, would be to check out the Point 65 modular kayaks ( The mercury is the sit inside version that is closest to a touring boat (Martini is more rec boat). For carrying purposes, you only carry pieces at a time. On the water, you have a plastic boat.

thank you
I read all these replies with great interest. (BTW, are you supposed to reply to each post, or is just replying to the last one and addressing others at the same time ok here?)

Point re singles and a trailer is well taken, and I’ve considered it. It just adds to the complexity, though. I want to be able to take the ferry to Vinalhaven, for example. Hard enough with just a car. Parking becomes harder in some places. Etc. Two boats on the van, and we’re off. (We usually take two cars to Maine, actually, and I would carry two singles on my car, a small wagon. With the tandems on her van, we have lots of options.)

The kids will (and already do) have their own singles, which we use locally etc. They are fine with the tandems for the island hopping etc that we do with the ones we rent. My wife is fine in the tandems, too, knowing she has her Necky for solo paddling.

I’m not dying to own more boats, it’s a practical thing.

kayakmedic, I really appreciate your input re Maine. Interesting to hear that glass is more common on the trail. And yes, I hadn’t thought much about the loaded weight… I do have lots of ultralight backpacking gear (another indulgence of mine), but still. Counsels in favor of a glass boat, for sure.

re the Point 65’s, yes, I’ve looked at them (online and in person). Intriguing. Buy enough parts, and you can have tandems or singles, just swap things around. Really cool. Most of the reviews I’ve read say they are not great to paddle. But it remains an option.

Any further thoughts would be welcome.


There was a related thread a while back and an outfitter familiar with both the Necky and Boreal tandems considered the Esperantos “the best of the lot”.

I was going to suggest a folding kayak like the Feathercraft K2 (used ones can be had for around the $2000 to $2500 range you are considering) but the weight difference is not substantial, only 5 or 10 pounds. And yes, the hulls are tough enough for the rocks and barnacles of the main coast (I used to have a K-1 and still own another Feathercraft model). Nice for transport and very comfortable in coastal waters.

Another option would be to add a pair of folding solos to the fleet which could be carried broken down in the van with two hardshells on the roof. I own 4 kayaks, two rigid and two folders, so I am able to carry 4 sea kayaks with a small Subaru wagon.

For lighter and more affordable, the Pygmy double might be an option. You could probably put extra glass on the bottom panels and still be lighter than many factory boats.