“Paddling Eastern North Carolina”
AA, this is a must-have guide to the fantastic wealth of flatwater paddling opportunities in NC. You don’t have to go all the way to the Atlantic Ocean when you also can paddle the Roanoke, Cashie, and Scuppernong Rivers (and camp on wooden platforms on the first two), plus the Core Sound marshes, Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks – and on and on and on. The author, Paul Ferguson, has recently published a similar guide to SC waters. There are all kinds of paddling here for all kinds of moods and interests and abilities.
You can do a lot of paddling with plastic 14 and 15-footers, as suggested – and not mind rough launches and running over a few oyster bars.
Check out the Carolina Kayak Club too for contacts, info, instruction, and trips.
“Paddling Eastern North Carolina”
Join the Carolina Kayak Club
First spend $20 on the club. Then ask to try someone’s Alchemy and L for you and maybe an S for your wife. Just over $1000 new. Good luck finding one used! They are the most popular boat in the club and the folks who own them say that it would be their only boat if they had to have just one.
I’m in Central NC
I second the Dagger Alchemy recommendation. The rear hatch on mine leaks like a screen door but I’m keeping it. I’m in Greensboro right now.
What comes to mind
Be sure to look at and try a Current Designs Sirocco. It would be hard to find a better all around boat for the money. A pair of these would fit both of you and do everything you might have in mind and then some.
As the other folks have said, buy the boat for the paddling you'll do most often, not for the once-a year trip. A common mistake is to buy an oversized "expedition" boat for the fantasy of chasing horizons instead of one better sized and suited for the day paddles that are reality for most folks.
A maneuverable touring kayak should be fine on mild rivers. Once you learn to edge and lean -- and to read moving water -- you should be able to run mild rapids without a problem. I had a plastic Avocet(16') and could outturn many shorter boats by getting it up on edge.
With any rated whitewater, the nature of the features makes a big difference in the kind of boat that's safe. A long boat is a reasonable choice for waves and small drops, but if there's high potential for pinning a long boat is probably bad idea.
The Alchemy should be on your list, along with other maneuverable touring boats like the WS Zephyr. They are designed with maneuverability over tracking. It's easier to learn to paddle a "loose" boat straight than to force a hard-tracking boat to turn.
A basic whitewater class would be a great way to improve your paddling skills and learn to read moving water. It's also a lot of fun!
cumberland above and
below "the falls" are pretty different runs. Below the falls is a solid class II, III run. Above the falls is class I and II in normal conditions. The thing about the Cumberland is that it gets big at higher water regardess of the two stretches and the Cumberland begins to resemble the New River with big waves. Just something to think about.
I found my xp10 to be versatile but real slow on flats compared to a touring boat. So I keep my flatwater paddles short in mileage and duration, and the pace is slow but it has worked for me lots of places- ww, swamps, creeks, and even some lake paddling. A very versatile and stable boat that you can do overnights in. There are probably even better newer designed crossovers that might reflect your needs better. I bought mine a number of years ago when there were less choices and the outfitting wasn't as good.
One thing I don't like about my crossover is the weight of the boat. It is heavy to load and unload or carry.
Just some more things for you to think about. People tend to judge crossovers harshly but if you are looking for one "do it all boat" it might be a viable option for you if you can live with slower hull speed and realize it will take a bit more effort on the flats.
Agree with others, as you get more seat time in, you may find yourself wanting a particular design according to your likes and dislikes.