New to the world of the Kayak

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.

HI - just went hunting on a map. OK - you are deep into not-sea-kayaking country, not surprising if you did not find a lot of such groups. Looks like it is an absolutely gorgeous place to live, just not about long boats.

The Boyson Reservoir is very long. On wind fetch alone could be ripping if the wind is blowing out of the south. I suggest staying away from the unprotected open area of that Reservoir unless the wind is coming at more like below 10KT. And that with caution. Fetch is hugely important in wind development, you need to look at wind direction against where you are paddling as well as learn the basic daily rhythms of on shore and off shore wind.

I found a place called Rent Adventure in Thermopolis which might be worth a phone call. Don’t see any indication they are deep in long boat background, but they might be a starting point to find someone who could work with you on those skills. They have rentals which rely mostly on SOTs.

IMO you have two nice boats for where you live. But you need to learn to pick your battles. Enjoy the lake you have when the weather cooperates. Learn to study the forecasts and when it is rough develop a strategy that keeps you in sheltered areas and within your limits.

Add some additional flotation to the bows and you will have boats that you can get a lot of enjoyment out of. Maybe not adrenalin producing enjoyment though.

We live in northern PA and I grew up on Lake Erie with big power boats but have been on the lake in smaller crafts over the years. My first boat/raft I built in the 60s out of a sheet of plywood and about 200 plastic milk jugs when they switched away from glass. As a stupid kid we would take that thing a half mile out with inner tubes as PFD. It worked then but looking back wasn’t one of the smartest things I tried.

Now we have a rec kayak like yours and a canoe and if the day was right I would put them in the lake. I wouldn’t go out far or venture far from the put in and I would know what the weather was going to do. Many nights at sunset the lake is like glass and I have seen it switch in 30 minutes to something you wouldn’t want to be on with a 36’ cabin cruiser. We didn’t buy the boats though for Lake Erie and they will likely never go in it. we use them on rivers and lakes up to the size of yours.

I really think you have the right boats for you for now. you just need to manage the expectations of them. If you really want to explore the wilder side of this then you should get boats more suitable

Thanks folks for your advice. Doggy Paddeler, when you talk of sea-worthy craft, can you give me tips? I am not sure what to look for. Brands and models with pros and cons are what I’d like. Same from all the readers here.

Transportation is of some importance to us because of where we live. My home is on top of a steep hill with a sharply winding and rough road being the only way in or out. 4WD is absolutely needed when it’s wet or snow covered and even then if pick-ups have not got some weight and aggressive tires, you can’t get in or out in the winter. So long slim crafts may not be something we can use, just because we may not be able to move them. But I do see that 10’ 6" is easy, and something up to maybe 14-15 feet would be “doable” for us.

We are not wealthy so we’d have to consider selling the 2 Loons to put money back into something longer. And longer may not be the best for river travel. What I think would be ideal would be 2 boats for open rough “fun” water, and 2 small rec boats for the river trips and hunting. However we have to face reality and think about the money involved, and we probably could not afford 2 boats each. Maybe not, because as total novices, we really don’t know what such boats would cost (shipping a boat can’t be cheap we figure) Advice on the matter is very welcome.

So for the time being we’ll keep using the Loons and just accept the limitations. Both Anna and I do like the chop and some wind, but I will confess we were in over our heads at 35 MPH. We got away with it but probably because God helped us.

Boysen Resivour is an ideal place for us to learn I think.

The reason is it’s got LOTS of little coves and cliffs to shelter up under, cool wildlife to see, fish jumping and it’s just a great place to paddle, yet there is no place more then 600 yards long on the whole lake you couldn’t go to shore on. That’s good when you see you can get within 1/2 a mile of any place on the lake with a 4WD truck in a pinch.

So if the wind came up too hard and we had to go where it blows us, and we had to beach, we can drag the kayaks out of the water and walk to a road. We can also recover the boats no matter where we beach, and not have to carry them more then about 600 yards. At 53 pounds, the loon is less weight then what we carry out several times a year elk, antelope or deer hunting . And we are not having to carry them up a mountain either. So that was one reason I thought it was a good place to practice our paddling in the wind, and as the name of the valley and the river indicates, WIND IS NOT RARE HERE! It’s not constant, but it’s close to constant.

We can bank on 5MPH to 15 MPH nearly EVERY time we go out on the water here. Wind free days number about 20-25 a year around here on an average. Windy days number about 335 to 340 every year. Boysen can be as narrow as .5 miles and as wide as 3 miles but North and south it is about 4.5 miles and is at the base of some very steep and rugged mountain at the north end. So when a storm tops over the crest it can “fall” to the lake level and get going FAST, but when that happens you have almost no time and because the horizon is up hill and quite close, you can’t see it coming until its only 2-4 miles from you. If the storm is driven by 35 to 70 MPH wind you have only 2-4 minutes to get to shore before you are in it. Most times you simply can’t get to shore that fast, but if you just ride the wind to where ever it goes you can get out of the water. We may need to go get a truck the following day to get you boat back from where we land, but you can get off the water and that’s all that counts if it’s really dangerous.

I think if I add floatation bags so the boats can’t sink, and add skirts to help prevent them from swamping we can get out of the lake even if we get blind-sided, and have to put to shore where ever we can get, not where we would always want to go.

But for the future I think Anna and I are going to be fanatical about watching weather forecasts. Wind is a “given” here, but if we think it’s going to be chancy we may just stay within about 200 yards from shore and always go into the direction of the wind when we start, so if we get blown off the water, at least it’s blowing us back toward the truck, not away from it.

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There are some options for shorter boats that have front and rear hatches with bulkheads, though I don’t stay on top of all of the options. Boats that come to mind are the Dagger Stratos and Alchemy and the Eddyline Equinox and Sitka. There are many more and it can be a personal decision when it comes to price/comfort/features/availability, etc.

Based on where you live, you’re probably going to have to travel a bit to find boats when you’re ready. I’m not necessarily recommending these, but here are a few examples in your region that might be worth consideration. You certainly don’t need to be in a hurry and I suggest really thinking through what you want/need:

Perception Sole for $325: 14' Perception Sole touring kayak - boats - by owner - marine sale

Dagger Halifax for $380: Kayak - Dagger Halifax - boats - by owner - marine sale

Longer Perception for $325 (not sure of the model): Kayak Sea Touring - boats - by owner - marine sale

Wow, those don’t cost all that much. Maybe we can have rough water kayaks and rec kayaks both.
I LIKE THIS SITE. You folks are GREAT!

So…input please. If I wanted to get 2 more, both for high waves and curling breakers what would you folks recommend? For those that like rough conditions, what boat is your preference?

I have to confess I did not look at the boats listed by high_desert. But the point is that you can get a lot of boat used. So someone else got to scratch it up first - not a big deal.

Waves and breakers can be handled by the same boat, just if you want to specifically surf there are some that specialize better in it. My take is that specialty surfing is not something you need worry about.

Seaworthiness as in a hull designed to handle waves like ocean or places inland that get waves and wind - and there are plenty - will generally be narrower and frankly more “tippy” feeling on flat water. I dislike the term but it seems to function to describe a boat that tends to move from side to side easily. That is because these boat hulls are designed to be tilted over on the side of a wave and hold steady w/o capsize when they are so tilted. Honestly it is closest to what sail boat folks talk about as degrees of heel. Except a kayak gets that by the allover hull design, not by a big heavy keel sticking out the bottom.

Characteristics that usually go with this hull priority - all for practical reasons - include at least two bulkheads, lower deck, smaller cockpit, static rope around the edges (so you can hang onto your boat in a capsize) and being narrower than a rec boat. Usually some tracking device, rudder or skeg. Either will help help hold the stern from getting sung around by the wind.

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Spray skirts will be sufficient for keeping out smaller waves and wakes, even with a large cockpit. They might implode with large dumping waves, but you probably want to avoid conditions like that anyway. When you have waves washing across the deck, you usually don’t want to be constantly stopping to bail the boat out.

A waterproof NOAA weather radio might be useful for fast moving violent storms, or even better a waterproof VHF radio with weather alert and NOAA channels. This also useful if you get separated.

As far as new boats for different conditions, I always recommend buying used if you can. They will often be about half the price of a new one, and if you decide later that another boat is more what you want, you can usually sell them for about what you paid for them.

As far as transporting longer boats there are many methods out there for almost any vehicle. A friend of mine carries an 18’ boat on a Miata. There are lots of discussions on these boards on transporting car top boats.

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These folks above covered what I meant by sea-worthy - and yes, if you buy used you can certainly find something suitable quite cheaply. Post any boats you’re considering buying and people will give feedback.