New to the world of the Kayak

Hello to all. My name is Steve and my wife is Anna. We recently got 2 Old Town Loon 106 Kayaks and are just starting to learn. I have done some paddling years ago in canoes and as a US Marine I also had some time in inflatable boats (called IBSs) But the use of the kayak is a lot more fun to me and my wife enjoys it a lot too. However, we find no one around the center of Wyoming that is really an expert at this, and learning from others mistakes makes a LOT more sense then trying to make them all myself. Old Town Loons seem to get very good reviews, but I have found Old Town has no chat line and their boats came with almost no instructions at all. (purchased from Sierra Trading Post) One feature I see is a “dial” on the back of the seat which is VERY difficult to move, but what movement I have done seems to do nothing at all. Also the deck bungees on the bow look cool, but when they are taken out of their slots they relax and don’t hold anything (so far) and I believe they are designed to do something specifically, but again I don’t know exactly what.
So I found this site and though “I’ll bet some of these folks know a lot more than I do, so I’ll just ask”.

I have found several vids on You Tube that were super helpful and we have been on the water every weekend now for the last 4 so we both are learning.
Today we were out in a 35 MPH wind making swells about 24-28 inches from crests to troughs and white caps curling over on all of them. I found the cockpit took on a lot of water so I am going to order a spray skirt. We do have a bilge pump and we carry 2 tupper-ware containers that hold about 3/4 of a gallon which allows us to bail out the cockpits pretty quickly. I drilled a hold through the lips and attached 1/4" cords to them about 3 feet long. They ride behind the seats. So at times when we want to rid ourselves of collecting water the bucket is WAY faster then the pump. I can get down to about 1/5" of water in just about 2 minutes with the tupper-ware.

Anyway…enough yattering.
I’ll leave this open to instructions, comments and tips and let those that know more than I do help me come up to a higher level of knowledge as soon as I can. Thanks in advance.
Steve & Anna.

35 mph winds and 28" waves your way past you boats ability especially without a skirt. Just my opinion.

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Yikes! That must have been interesting in those kayaks.

35mph!, better check your wind gauge! A life boat would have trouble to keep from sinking. How many miles did you get blown away? 10 foot boat with a big cockpit; was it fun or were you praying for salvation? I would expect most people, particularly noobies, would turn around asap in those conditions.

Glad to have new paddlers!

Where do you paddle? May want to consider putting a float bag in front of your feet if there is room.

Not clear about the behavior you mention on the deck bungies, but you can always just reknot and tighten them. Replacing deck bungies is maintenance on boats anyway because they stretch over time. The number one item I use them for on my sea kayaks is the spare paddle. Your boat isn’t much good without one if it breaks or you lose it.

You may have problems making a skirt work because of the high seat back. Skirts as standard gear are usually related to sea and whitewater kayaks with smaller cockpits. Your cockpit comes in at 56 in x 23 in if I have the right boat. My sea kayaks have cockpits that are about 18 to 20 inches shorter. So you may full skirts to be incredibly expensive, to get to something that would not hold against dumping waves.

In general these boats are not meant to be in sea kayak conditions, so their design does not support some of the aspects of the boats for bigger conditions. One thing you can do that would limit the water is to get a half skirt, but to stay really dry you may be better off avoiding more extreme conditions. I doubt these boats will be your last if you are paddling that enthusiastically so there is time.

You are getting some skepticism about the wind speed because most of us here have found that it becomes nearly impossible to make forward progress against anything above about 29 knots, which translates to approximately 32 mph. Most of us have tried sometime when we did not pay proper attention to the wind. The last time my husband, a friend and myself dug our way back by staying inches from the shore, but we were in real pain for a couple of days.

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I see what you mean about the slots in the deck that hold the bungees in a curved shape. But if you pull the bungees out of the slots, they become very loose. I’ve only ever seen bungees that are tight against the deck in a straight line (no curved slots). Yours just seem like a dumb design that’s meant to look stylish.


Yeah, in the clearer picture from Wolf I have no idea what they are thinking with those bungies. They could not possibly do their intended job.

Just take them out of the silly slots and tighten them up.

Welcome Steve and Anna.

You have a couple nice recreational kayaks. We have a similar Old Town rec kayak and they have their place and purpose IMO. Yours are a step up from ours as it is made from a 3 layer poly and the inner layer is a foam and it offers some flotation from the entire hull of the boat the single layer like ours does not. we have a stern bulkhead as does yours and the sealed hatch and that will provide capsize flotation as long as the hatch seal works and the foam bulkhead doesn’t leak. OT does a good job on sealing the bulkhead but it is something to keep an eye on and if you do store dry items in there I would advise a dry bag. After an outing open the hatch and let the inside air out is what I do.

Ours had a foam flotation block in the bow that didn’t do much and I took it out and added a DIY float bag. I stuffed a 15” yoga ball under the deck and blew it up and it filled the bow cavity nicely and conformed to the shape. Yours has the removable dash so if you were to do a ball or proper float bags you may need to strap them in attaching the strap to the foot rails.

The advantage of flotation is if you swamp it, it will float higher and be easier to get flipped and less water to bail.

The curved bungee lines on the deck are to be slack when released so you can put a large item under them like a day bag or cooler or such. We keep a short painter line under ours that helps in quite a few ways.

The knob on the back of the seat is to adjust the seat back height. You also have a latch between your legs that tilts the seatback along with the straps to adjust the back angle.

Honestly I feel you are using your boats slightly outside the range they are designed for. Always wear your PFD and don’t venture out more than you are comfortable swimming in if you are unable to do a reentry and bail. That’s where that extra flotation and the painter line comes in handy. A half full boat without a line attached is tough to swim in.

I personally wouldn’t want the spray skirt on your boat even if you can find one and half skirt might stop some from getting in but will get in the way with bailing.

Be safe and enjoy. 99% of rec kayak owners IMO never think at all about safety. You will see them out there without PFDs don’t let them convince you thru their actions it is the way it is done. :canoe:

Well PaddleDog52 that was what I was thinking when the water started coming over the bows and filling the cockpits. Spray skirts are NEEDED for this kind of chop. As I said, I am just a “newbe” and I am learning
But I know wind fairly well and no, I am not exaggerating rnskarky.As a former US Marine who used to have to call air support and evacs from Helos and also a shooter with over 50+ years of experience, having shot the throats out of multiple rifle barrels not to mention I live in the Wind River Valley of Wyoming, wind is something I judge quite well. To keep things in context, both my wife and I stayed close to shore knowing the problems with the wind drift, but didn’t know how bad the chop would over-flow the bows of the boats (had to learn somehow) And yes, it did blow us off. I am pretty strong and with a LOT of effort I was able to paddle back to the place we started from, but it did blow my wife out about 3/4 of a mile and she had to beach and walk/wade back. She’s confident and something a bit overconfident, and I did tell her not to get more then 200 yards out for the purpose of trying out the boats but she didn’t obey me and ended up having about 1-1/2 hours of “extra effort” to get back. She’s an avid cross0fitter and she’s 5’ 11" tall and very muscular, but the breakers came up to her neck many times when she was “only thigh deep”. She has to wade, towing her kayak by hand in chop that knocked her over many times and swamped the boat about 6 times. She was a good sport however. I told her 2 nights ago I wanted to get spray skirts and she said I should be “she didn’t need one”. When she got to the truck wading with her boat I said “Spray-Skirt?” She said yeah,spray skirt! I order today.

Celia, so far we have only gone out on Boyson reservoir and the wind river. Until yesterday the heaviest wind we had tried was about 8-12 MPH and we did fine. I put in 2 line floats (6" X 24") into each Kayak in the bows. It helps a lot but I found air-bag types on line about 5 days ago. Up until then I didn’t know about them (didn’t know they even existed) They are also coming now, but we don’t have them yet.
Our cockpits are not that big. “size 7” is what the chart said when we ordered, which is large but the actual dimensions are about 25" wide and 34" long. I believe that the winds we were in yesterday would be manageable with the skirts, but a LOT of work to not simply get blow away and be unable to go where I want. So I do see the point and yes you and others are correct. The wind was enough that my wife was unable to over come it. I did it, but just barely and then only by zig-zagging into the wind and probably tripling the distance I actually traveled to get where I needed to go. So we have determined that 35 MPH is too much wind to have nay fun in, but we have to got try things out to find out what the limits are because as I said, no one around here seems to have any more knowledge than we do. So I thought I needed to go out in the heavy wind and see how things work. I stayed about 200 yards out by my wife decided to go farther and paid a price for it. It worked out OK, but she didn’t have much fun wading and towing the boat back

As I alluded to, spray skirts that big tend to not hold if you go out in waves that are really dumping.
But also as alluded to, that is not the conditions these boats are supposed to be out in.

You have to keep not only your ability to paddle, but also your ability to do a rescue or get back into the boat yourself in the conditions in which you paddle. Your wife got blown far enough out that an assisted, on water rescue would have been the primary solution. Short form answer is that even with float bags installed, you would likely have found you were past sane limits with these boats.

The good news is that it is two of you paddling together, so you have an option many individual paddlers do not. That is to learn to rescue each other. I suggest you do that sooner rather than later. There are lots of videos and information on this site, as well as the option to find a paddling group around you that runs informal sessions since water is now warming up.

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As a new paddle boater myself and more familiar to canoes and rec kayaks, my understanding was that spray skirts should closely go with additional training on exiting safely after flipping and such.

I just am going to caution the OP to not build levels of confidence based on adding features to their rec boats and now getting into deeper trouble based on it.

The Old Town Loons are classified as recreational kayaks. These kayaks don’t come with enough flotation to do deep water rescues, so really area meant for use in what the American Canoe Association calls Level 1 conditions (see attached image):

You can possibly add more flotation (the float bags mentioned above) and then possibly could expand the kayak to also being usable in Level II conditions. Note - with the big cockpits, it takes a lot of added flotation to make this work, and if you go this route you should test in a safe place (close to shore) to make sure you’ve added enough and can figure out how to self-rescue.

The conditions you described were well outside of level II, and outside of what most people even in crafts appropriate for the conditions would want to be in. A skirt with that boat won’t change the recommended usage rating of the boat, it would just make when you are in conditions pushing the limit of the acceptable rating more comfortable (less splash and the like).

You may want to read an article from California Kayaker Magazine that gives a basic breakdown of the types of kayaks (recreational vs sit on top vs sea kayak, etc.). Issue #10 at California Kayaker Magazine - South West's source for paddlesports information. The T-rescue article in that issue is the likely 2 person rescue you would do (specifically, the TX version talked about toward the end). There may be other articles in other issues there you find interesting.


I think you will find to get a spray skirt to attach to the Loon you will want to remove the dash. It snaps on the coaming and latches 2 places. What you will find is the opening is now 23”x56”. You may be able to leave the dash in and still get a seal but it will be covered and wont offer any use so I would leave it at home.

Good read.

Like said above I went once 35 mph winds to see what it was like. Paddling very hard into the wind my sea kayak a CD Solstice down the canal. Brutal winds where the canal opens to the bay and it was very very hard to turn. I wasn’t worried because it would have just blown me back in the canal. 35 mph is unmanageable for me.

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Not to pile on too much, but with 35 mph and 2’ waves in those boats you’re lucky things didnt turn bad.

Even in my surfski, fighting a true 35mph wind means I make 1-2mph progress at race-pace in my skinny, long, seaworthy boat powered by a young strong guy. In a 10’ long, wide beam boat, progress will be nearly impossible even if you’re an olympian.

Skirts will only marginally improve the safety of these boats, as others have said they are impossible to recover in water, thus you must always remain within swimming distance of shore (also factoring in wind, currents, whatever else) or take a chance with an extended swim, which often does not end well for folks.

Also keep in mind that even 65* water is life threatening after not-too-long without some protection like a wetsuit. Survival time drops quickly below 60. Late spring/early summer is often the most dangerous, especially if your rivers or reservoirs are snow fed.

I’d say you got lucky and hopefully learned some lessons. Keep paddling and having fun, but these are the wrong boats for high winds and medium waves, but count this as a near miss and an opportunity to reassess appropriate gear and conditions


I can’t argue with any of you. As MClmes said, I think we learned out lesson. We did ok but I can easily see how close to danger we may have been. I REALLY wish I had found this site 1 month ago. Most everything I know about Kayaking so far is from trial and error and some videos on You Tube.

My personal background is maybe good and maybe bad. I was a US Marine with Force Recon, and had a lot of experience in deep cold and wild water back “in the day” but I am getting to be a geezer now and learning something new, I have only my experience going back to the dark ages when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (that’s me sanding in the rear, 2nd from the right) I don’t scare easily, but I am willing to admit ignorance when I have an abundance of it (like now)

I do understand rough water VERY well, but had (note the past tense) almost no knowledge as to the capabilities or lack thereof of the Loon Kayaks. I now see I was taking a risk probably larger then I should have, but with NO source of information that I know of, I just had to jump in and see how it worked. A site like this one is worth SO MUCH to a newbie like me. I didn’t know such sites even existed until a few days ago.

So please tell us what the truth is and if I did something stupid it’s OK to say so. My “feelings” are close to bullet proof and hard truth is WAY BETTER then a lack of it. I used to tell my troops “If you think correction is harsh see how ling you’ll live in total ignorance”.
I guess it’s my turn on the bullseye. Fire away!

Anna has background in sailing and scuba and has a good amount of experience in cold and wild waters, but none in having a boat run away from her (until Yesterday) We are learning.

I have both our Loons rigged now with pull ropes to right them, and bailing buckets that we used to empty them down to about 2" of water before we get back in them. Anna is able to re-enter her boat with only her wet suit and PFD on, but I had to use a paddle float. I wear a full wet suit and PFD but I still only float low in the water and when I tried to self-rescue I turned the kayak over and re-swamped it every single time, until I got the paddle float. In the Marine Corps I learned to right an IBS by throwing 2 lines over the top (actually the bottom) of the boat when it was upside-down in the water and then placing the feet against the side tube you “climb up the rope” The IBS turns right over when 2 Marines do that, even in very rough waters. I did the same to the loon and found that with 1 foot against it’s hull I could right it with only about 30 pounds of pull on the rope. SUPER EASY to do. I then float along side and use the bailing bucket to empty the water until it’s only about 2" deep in the cockpit. That takes only about 2 minutes. Once that’s done I can use the paddle and it’s float and get back in, then use the bilge pump to get the rest of the water out and go on my way.

I was thinking “that cockpit can’t be that large” so I just took a tape and went out to measure it. Yup bug 15415 is right. That’s how large it is.
So ----is that too big to learn to do rolls with? Will it come loose and flood? What say ye?

I still want a skirt just because I do like riding the waves, but keeping the water from washing over the bow and coming in would just have to help, but if you folks say not to try rolling with such a large cockpit I will listen, and learn from those that know.

Now that I know 35 MPH is too much wind to be safe and/or enjoy ourselves… I think I may put a limit to wind. at…what…25MPH? Maybe 20? What do you folks think?

I learn fastest by asking so tell me what I need to know and forget about hurting my feelings. Someone has to be alive to have hurt feelings.


Sounds like you would be good candidates for a sea kayaking lesson with self-rescue on the agenda. Then maybe you’ll find you want some more sea-worthy craft.

Thanks for responding so well to the concerns here! They are honest, and unfortunately most people get offended rather than listen. It is understandable. You just invested in new boats and PFDs, even for a couple of smaller boats like the Loons that is not cheap, and are getting told basically all the stuff you can’t do with them. Which the manufacturer and seller were remarkably fuzzy about - we have all seen the ads.

My husband and I got the message from Ma Nature direct. We had gotten a couple of Dagger craft that they sold as transition boats and I would later have said more rec boats in June, took them to Maine in July. We were out on our 4th day there, and got hit by a surprise line of squalls - to us anyway - coming back from an an island. We had three hours stuck on another island closer to shore to list all the stuff we needed to paddle there before the storms lifted enough for us to make it back to our rental. As did a group from the Audubon place on Hog Island who were in waving distance on another island. At least we weren’t the only idjiots that got fooled that day.

We were not even 5 weeks into our investment and got the news.

As to rolling, there are people who take pride in being able to roll just about anything. So someone here probably can roll a Loon. However, that does not mean it is an apt boat for learning how to do it or trying it as a regular diet. To start, the points you need to be affixed to inside the boat are not going to cooperate.

But more important, kayak hulls are designed with different stability profiles. Recreational kayaks like the Loon are intended to stay upright in relatively flat water rather than to handle waves well. Sea kayaks are the reverse, which makes them feel tender to people at first. But that profile also means that the hull will not fight back when you need to roll up. And of course the tighter cockpit and lower deck makes it all much easier.

In fact there are a number of big water skills, like deep edging, that the Loon is not designed to facilitate. I am NOT dinging these boats for their intended use, I have recommended relatives to get them. But bigger water skills like waves and rolling just are not within their profile. Morgans are wonderful, admirable horses. But they are not designed to try a Puissance wall, nor would a horse that can do it skid logs.

I want to congratulate you on finding a way to re-enter the boat from the water. Frankly the traditional method more often fails than not for most people because of the high deck and, as you found, the boat’s tendency to swamp again in the process.

I suggest you spend time getting wet with these boats this summer, at least to find out the put-ins and places to paddle around you, and stay on the lookout for used sea kayaks or maybe they will be called touring boats to pick up this fall. You want skinny, low decked and best if the stability feels a bit tender at first. Those are the boats you can ultimately push further with. Something like the Loons will always have a place as you get more into paddling, even if it isn’t for more ambitious trips.


The cockpit is to big to roll because you will fall out trying. i am sure someone has done it but they would hold better skills than me. The skirts will keep some water (and sun) off you but because of the large cockpit they are not secure enough to handle advanced techniques or a breaking wave.
I had one similar and they are only really designed for recreational paddling in calm conditions.
With your willingness to use safety gear and trying self rescue techniques you both would really enjoy better outfitted boats in the future.