New paddlers looking for recommendations

my parents and I are planning to get our first kayaks. We’ve rented before and liked them, and we’re ready to take the plunge!

to consider

  • we’d like something with a bit of a keel to it, since we’re been in the ones without and slid all over the very windy lake.
  • we’re short. my mom and I are 5’1”.
  • we plan to get or make a kayak trailer that will likely double as storage.
  • my dad is very handy and would prefer to build the trailer. my mom would prefer we buy it and get going. I’m not touching this one.
  • ideally we’d like something that we could take out on a very calm ocean bay. We camp every summer at the KOA in Bar Harbor, and we’d like to try kayaking off the little protected beach there.
  • that would likely be the extent of our ocean adventures, my dad has the understandable willies about being lost at sea. my mom and I might try a guided shore bird tour, but not anything more then that.
  • by “camp” I mean RV. we don’t need lots of storage, no long trips. 6 -7 hours max.
  • we’d mostly be on lakes/ponds/rivers looking at wildlife and taking pictures. no racing anywhere, no white water.
  • my dad would like to get a two seater so we can bring the dogs. a 60 pound and a 35 when he’s grown labradoodles.
  • the bigger dog likes to go swimming, so some advice on that would be helpful.
  • the plan is to get two solos and the above mentioned two seater.
  • if we can get used that would be helpful, but we’d be willing to spend about $3,000 altogether with the trailer and assorted bits and bobs.
  • we like LLbean and if they’ve got a good starter set my mom would just buy it no more questions asked. we’ve been eyeballing their folding aluminum trailer with interest.

Lot to digest in all your questions.

I would start by deciding what style of kayak you want - touring/sea kayak, recreational, or sit on top seem to be the likely choices. Issue #10 of California Kayaker has an article on the basics of the different types of kayaks - can be read online at

Taking a class before buying is also good to do. There are a lot of basics one can learn on the day long class. And importantly, the class should also cover safety concerns.

With dogs, you likely would be looking at recreational or sit on top. If you haven’t yet, try going to a place were you can rent and bring your dogs in order to see if the dogs are compatible with kayaking - not all are. Better to find this out before buying gear based on them being compatible. A double kayak can be hard to manage solo. Dogs generally don’t do well on touring/sea kayaks, so a sit on top or recreational class kayak is likely.

Keels in kayaks aren’t made to do what you seem to think. They aren’t going to do a lot related to wind, except maybe help one paddle straight. A properly sized kayak for the paddler is the better route to help manage the kayak in wind, but even so, if the winds are much above 10-15 mph, kayaks get hard to handle.

What you want for protected bays in ocean is often very different than for lakes/ponds/rivers. Currents, waves, and often colder water temperatures are all big concerns. Recreational class kayaks generally are not suited for ocean or larger lakes (say a half mile wide or larger). Might be better to get kayaks for the lakes/ponds/rivers and do guided tours in the outfitter’s equipment for the ocean. That would protect you from the safety issues both by giving you appropriate gear and having trained guides.

Of course, this is all based on what one could do before Covid issues came along. Depending on what your local retailers and tour companies are doing, you might not be able to do some of what I said right now.

Welcome to the community! In addition to Peter’s excellent comments and link, here’s another site which deals with paddling safety and other matters relating to kayaks.

I’m not sure what you mean there. Most kayak trailers are just an open framework with bars or cradles to hold one or more kayaks. If you’re actually looking for some sort of enclosed space to transport or store items, I’m not aware that such a thing exists in combination with being a kayak carrier. I customized a trailer that consists of a base flatbed, onto which I can mount bars to carry a kayak, or I can install 18 inch “walls” and a lid to make an enclosed box to carry things. My kayak load bars can also be mounted on top of the box. I had to customize all of that myself, so maybe letting your dad go at it is the way to go.

Peter-CA has most of it covered

You need a canoe for the dogs (and a really good brace for when the big dog goes over the side). The dogs need good canoe manners or stay on shore. Ours has too strong of a prey drive & we haven’t tried canoeing with her.

A thought (but it blows the budget): Buy the trailer & have your dad build you & mom kayaks:

I would advise against a keel on a kayak. Once you learn your paddle strokes you will no have problems. Dogs fit in canoes, but really don’t in kayaks.

Use extreme caution in salt water. It can get rough in 5 minutes. Consider the rips and currents from changes in the tides and dress for immersion of you may not survive if you capsize.

Lessons, even of you have to wait. THEN buy.

Someone dies off of Bar Harbor by underestimating the craft or skills about every other year. The water is cold. There are areas that get pretty difficult. The effect of a 14 ft tide around a highly irregular shoreline.

And you do not (edited) want a keel type thing. That could prevent you from being able to turn the boat home in wind. You need a rudder or a skeg and to know how to paddle.

In fact that is how Caroline Kennedy and the young boy were lost. Their canoe got blown out by the wind and they were unable to turn it back towards shore. They got blown offshore into bigger conditions where a capsize was likely.

Leave the dogs on shore at first. You could take on Long Pond. But not in the salt until you know more about the area than now.

Sots are generally kinder for larger dogs. Heavy but they have that advantage,

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