All opinions well taken.
I do believe that based on my age, my involvement in other outdoor activities (biking, running, hiking) and with the opinion that I will be using the kayak exclusively with my wife, it will be used for recreational only.
My intial ultimate goal was to not spend a ton of $, have stability and for use only on small lakes.
I understand the size differences, etc and why others may be considered more safe, have more options do more (rapids, take on waves, etc).
The comments about a “duck pond” may be ultimately what I am really looking for…something to paddle in a calm, flat lake 7-10 times a year.
All Kayaks have Great Reviews
I have not seen any kayak with a poor review on this site.
If you do nothing else, invest in good pfd’s, a pump for each boat, paddle floats and flotation bags for the boat. they are cheap and will not hurt your budget. They should not be last on the list but right up there equally with pfd, paddlefloat and pump. If you really are looking at 7 times a year get the deal with the padles and vests (as long as the vests are adequate) and again buy the float bags. If you go over at least you can get back in.
Whichever boat you get, and whereever you go with it, please do make sure you have adequate floatation. Even in a duck pond, you don’t want to lose the boat to the bottom of the pond. In a fairly shallow area (say, 4 to 5 ft deep) take your boat and fill it with water (this happens all the time in real life). If you have enough floatation, the boat will still float with you and the water in it. If you don’t have enough floatation, the boat will sink, at one end or both ends.
If that happens, you want to put some flotation in that boat. You can buy airbags for about $30 that will do the trick. Or you can buy minicell foam in big sheets (about 3" thick) and cut and make a foam bulkhead of your own. It’s very simple, and you don’t need to glue it in place–just cut it to fit in front of where you feet will go and push it in there. Do the same for behind your seat, and you won’t need to worry about the boat filling with water and sinking when you’re playing around in your ponds.
Rec boats are lots of fun for playing around, taking the pets and the kids for a little ride, getting some exercise, cooling off. Personally, I like the necky rec boats the best, but you should try a few different ones and see what works for you.
Spending more on a light paddle is more important than getting the perfect rec boat, so my advice would be NOT to pay for a package that includes a paddle unless it’s a light paddle. Aquabound carries very good, relatively light paddles for the money (expect to spend at least $100 to $150 for a decent paddle–it’s much better to spend that much less on the boat and spend it on the paddle instead.)
Much as I like REI for backpacking gear, they’re not a good source for kayaking stuff. They don’t carry high quality gear. Online you can find better prices and better gear, if you don’t have a kayak shop near you.
If you like kayaking…
You’ll be out of any of this class of boat in nothing flat. The sheer inefficiency of a Swifty or an Otter over distance will make you nuts, and unless your wife is above average height she’ll find that reaching all around to paddle something that tall and wide gets old.
That said, these can be really fun boats to just get on the water with and puddle around, near shore, in not particularly windy or bumpy water conditions. With floatation because they will go to the bottom. My sister and her husband had two Otters that got loose one night on a very high tide. By the next morning one was found half sunk, only above the surface because it had gotten hung up on a rock, and the other was never found. It is probably a new lobster shelter on the bottom of Muscongous Bay.
It really depends on your expectations. On a blazing hot day where you just want to get into the water without hauling around a lot of boat, and your goal is to just float around, these boats are hard to beat for the money. Or to put a kid into and let them run around near shore. But if your goal is to really learn to kayak and explore some distances, you’d be better off going longer and better equipped.
Rental outfits tend to sell of their stock at a discount in the fall. If you can, you may be best advised to go paddle the heck out of boats from places like that, look more in the 12 or so foot range, and catch their sale. You’ll still be on the cheap side of the equation and you’ll have maybe more boat to start out with next season, while you sort out where you ultimately want to be.
Also - stability is not something that you’re going to really get until you have some seat time. Take the word of the more experienced folks here - what may feel a little shaky at first will actually be a safer boat in conditions.
Look at the Heritage site
The Featherlite will suit your requirements.