Newbie Question

I will be attending a “try & buy” event put on by a local shop. I am interested in the Necky Manitou 13 one for me and one for my wife. These will be our first kayaks (although I used to compete in Whitewater OC2 25 years ago). We plan on using in lakes & in long island sound. Maybe I will do some light class I and II in local rivers. Since I have to buy 2 kayaks, 2 paddles, 2 PFDs and a roof rack for two I am limited on how much money I spend. I want to keep it under $2500 total. I guess my question is: What other kayaks ahould I consider in the same price range? Is there anything else I should know prior to the “try & buy”? Personal stats: age 58, 5’11" 195 lbs / wife: 58, 5’3" 115 lbs.


– Last Updated: Apr-13-07 4:13 PM EST –

Given your wife's size, she might be more comfortable in something designed for smaller folks. The new Tsunami SP looks like a possibility. A narrower beam and lower deck will make paddling more comfortable, and at her size stability shouldn't be a big issue. My wife is 5' even, so I've seen these issues firsthand.

She should have a paddle that's proportional. Some companies make models with smaller blades and shafts for smaller paddlers.

Beginners often get paddles that are too long. From your experience you know the importance of keeping the blade near the hull. A double-blade paddle that's too long turns every stroke into a sweep, which is inefficient and causes tracking problems.

When you try on PFDs, don't be afraid to sit in a paddling position and go through the range of paddling motions.

You'll want spray skirts soon, so at least look at those while you're there.

If you're demoing several boats, go back and retest the one(s) you tried first. Your perceptions can change quickly with just a little experience when you're starting out. Beginners often choose excessively wide boats for stability and then become frustrated by the performance. Most folks find that their boats magically become much more stable with a bit of butt-in-boat time.

If your wife is new to small boats, make sure she knows that it's normal for the boat to move under her, and that she'll be more comfortable if she lets it respond to the water instead of fighting to keep it perfectly flat. Loose hips save ships!

You can always add foam to a cockpit for better fit, but if it feels like you're sliding around in a bathtub it's probably not right for you. A good fit will greatly improve your boat control.

If there's not a huge financial incentive to buy immediately, consider taking a couple of classes first. You'll be better prepared to make good choices.

Bring a dry change of clothes...just in case. If one of you capsizes and you can both laugh about it, you're off to a good start.

Have fun! Demo days are great opportunities to play and learn. Dare to be silly. An attitude of grim determination is counterproductive.

These folks are a good resource:

Agree about wife

– Last Updated: Apr-13-07 9:36 AM EST –

I am an inch taller than your wife and more than that heavier, in the mid-BMI range, and any boat that fits you at all would be a bathtub on me. It'll make for a pretty unpleasant experience for her if she finds that she is killing herself trying to get a paddle into the water and turn the boat while you just hum along. If you want this to be a mutually enjoyable experience, you need to make sure that she is in something a little lighter and narrower, proportional to her size, so that it is comfortable paddling for her.

Ditto on the paddle above - and in her case it would be worth the additional bucks to find something as light as you can afford. AquaBond has made some respectably light paddles for at least one store named by initials, carbon shafts and plastic blades, even had them with smaller diameter shafts for smaller people, that were going on sale for about $120. Worth seeing if any of them are around.

As to the boats - as you must know from OC racing you'll want floatation front and back. At the price range you are talking about, it may mean a couple of float bags to make sure there is something at each end of each boat. Look for sales on that kind of gear as well when you are there.

Also, if you plan to be out in LI Sound at all, get the most in the way of deck rigging and perimeter line you can buy for the money. And take a few basic lessons that include self-rescue before you go out. You have a real advnatage with two of you together from many starting out.

Tsunami SP too small
We stopped at North Cove this evening and they had a Tsunami SP. My wife sat in it and it was too shallow for her to get her legs right. The one that seems to fit better was a Liquid Logic Pisgah Depth was 12.5" as opposed to 11" on the Tsunami. I want to see the depth of the Manitou 14’ as it is lighter 49 lbs vs 55 lbs. They were very helpful at North Cove Outfitters. Now I am really confused - I guess I will have to wait until May 5th & 6th at the try & buy. I really appreciate the input from both of you. I want to make sure that my wife and I enjoy the sport together. We bike and hike now and enjoy it - this will add another fun activity (we hope).

In case your aren’t aware …
The Small Boat Shop in Norwalk is having their warehouse sale this weekend. Never been before, but am heading there tomorrow. My guess is you can sit in the boats even though it’s not an on water demo.


BTW, I like the Manitou 14 better because it comes with two bulkheads, so you don’t need to add a flotation bag in the bow.

craigslist for Hartford

You will be happier wit a 14’+ boat
in the long run. You’ll be happy with a 12 footer until you try a 14 footer.

Test out a few…
Test out a few before you decide!

I went to North Cove’s demo day last year, left there liking a couple of kayaks, then went to the Kayak Centre’s demo day in Wickford, RI.

I was fully expecting to buy the Manitou, but after testing the Manitou, Tsunami, Pisgah, Carolina, etc…I ended up with the OT Cayuga 146. And, in response to your mention of paddling the Sound, I know the Cayuga is suitable for that since the “Kayak for a Cause” charity fundraiser uses a fleet of them every year for their charity paddle across Long Island Sound.

Depth of boat for your wife

– Last Updated: Apr-14-07 5:32 PM EST –

Keep in mind that when it comes time to control the boat, both you and your wife will need to be able to easily get a thigh, or at least a knee, easily into a brace. If you are thinking of the LI Sound at all, you will at some point get caught by winds that can make it really important to be able to edge the boat easily and otherwise make it go where you want. That kind of fit usually means that you can't just plop your posterior in the boat and drop both legs in at once - usually it comes to with either sliding in from the back to get both legs in or sitting down and putting in one at a time.

This always seems too tight to newbies, especially women who may have concerns about entrapment. Obviously I wasn't there and don't really know, but I'd strongly suggest that you guys find a couple of lessons before you buy so that you have a better understanding of how the boat and you need to work together as well as gain some comfort there. Even with biking thighs (there's a Waterford on our first floor that's mine), it is hard to ken that 11 inches is too low a deck for your wife at the stated weight.

We did a simialr thing - got transition boats for our first ones that matched and were, in their own way, very respectable little things. But we took them to Maine, got into a bay, and realized within the first 6 days of that vacation that we had the wrong boats for what we needed. And skills and gear and everything else... but knowing that we needed to rethink the boats within just several months of having purchased them was the most expensive part of that lesson.

Just out of curiosity, what kind of process did you go thru in finding the right bike for each of you? If you went at it quite seriously, and I suspect you did, you'll find sooner or later that you want to approach kayaking with the same kind of thoughtful process. Take some time to do a little research on kayaks before you plunk down the bucks.

Here is a link to a site with a lot of really good information about kayaking - might be worth you both taking a look at it.

selection process
I used the same process to purchase the bikes as I am with the kayaks. First I start reading different forums realizing that the needs of others does not necessarily meet ours. I then ask questions that I feel would help me narrow down my choices. I read reviews on my choices to identify the pros and cons and then I visit the local shop to try out. The two individuals at North Cove were very knowledgeable (each had over 25 years experience with paddling)and they agreed that the boat was too shallow for my wife. I know - who would have thought? I wish we could have attended the sale in Norwalk but just got back from NY city and the weather is brutal.

Oh well
You guys must be doing some bodacious biking - or the seat was set on the high side. With a drysuit with two layers of fleece underneath I can still get in and out of my Explorer LV easily either of two ways, aggressive thigh braces too. The interior height is no more than 10 inches as I recall, or less. Including wet re-entries.

Maybe look at the seat placement along with the overall height.

Hi CTYankee
What about buying used boats at first? You could then buy better paddles and pfd’s. The paddles and pfd’s you could keep for ever. A good paddle goes a long way. Research and try and get a good light weight paddle for you and your wife. If you paddle in open water you will need spray skirts and other safety gear as well. Your spray skirts may change with cockpit opening but the other safety gear you can carry to your next boat. Your learning curve is going to be very high and what seems right for you now may not be right for you in the near future. If you bought used, you probably wouldn’t loose much or any money when you sold either. Further, you may find out your interests in the type of paddling you like may be different than when you just start.

Kayak clubs are a great way to meet people, paddle with others, find great places to paddle, try different boats and learn skills. You may want to see if there is an active club in your area.

Good luck!


Kayak Clubs…
If you live in eastern CT, check out RICKA (Rhode Island Canoe & Kayak Assoc.)at:

They have 3 different groups…flatwater, sea, and whitewater…with members from RI, CT, and MA.

A great bunch of people!

I think you could get a couple of 14’s
For 2500 you could get a couple boats for 1000 each a rack for 300 and paddles and pfds for 200. It seams to me that dealers make very little on the boats them selves but they can really discount the other stuff when selling a boat.

Later on you might get fancier paddles for up to 400 each but right now a basic paddle will be fine for you to learn. Later this basic paddle will be you rock bashing space paddle.

budget increase

– Last Updated: Apr-15-07 6:51 PM EST –

I know the importance of a lighter paddle so I am upping my budget to a maximum of $3000. (my suv already has a factory rack - hopefully it won't cost me too much to modify for two kayaks) I would love to get a couple of composite boats but that is out of the question. I will have my wife try the Tsunami SP again when we are at the "try & buy" as they will have reps there from all the major manufacturers and I am sure they will want you to buy their boat. Although I am now leaning towards 14' boats with narrower widths.

Acadia or Bust
I do want to have the kayaks in time to become acclimated to them prior to our trip to Acadia National Park in June. I thought about renting while there except you get whatever they have - you do not get to choose. Besides, I’m the type of person that enjoys it more if it is mine. We plan on riding the carriage trails, hiking and hopefully kayaking the waterways (both lakes and along the shoreline on the ocean).

Get lights, foghorns and nav stuff

– Last Updated: Apr-16-07 7:39 AM EST –

We paddle Maine each summer, and have found that the latter part of June can be particularly foggy. The fog in Maine can move a couple of miles and catch you in under half an hour. It's not hard to be that far away from the put-in on what started out to be a nice day, and once it rolls over you visibility can go to all of 15 feet.

There is a pond in the middle of the island, Long Pond, which is a good resource for questionable days. Small beach and a Port-o-san right there.

Also, if you want to go for more distance with a group, try Aquaterra Tours out of Bar Harbor. Look up info on the coaches that are affiliated with them - Mark Schoon and Melissa Rice - you'll see why.

What do you mean by too shallow? I have a 8" high boat that is not too shallow and I am 5’7" and 140. I haven’t found a commercial boat yet that is too small for me. Did the boat have thigh bracing? Was the bracing in the right place for her thighs? There are many other questions that could come into play. There will be many boats at the demo day. Try as many as you can and don’t rush to buy.

Check the Classifieds…

– Last Updated: Apr-15-07 9:46 PM EST –

I just took a quick cruise thru there, and there are several boats, both used FG and stitch & glue designs, that fall well within your budget. I build and paddle S&G kayaks, and I'll never spend the bucks it'd take to replace my 'yaks with a commercial boat. I've seen really well-built, well finished S&G kayaks to excellent designs sell for less than the cost of the materials - about the sales tax (ours is 15%) on a comparable kayak in Kevlar. A used FG kayak often drops 35-50% off the retail for a new boat, and a private sale means no sales tax.
Also, you may want to check with outfitters who rent kayaks - the better ones replace their boats frequently. My wife picked up her Cape Horn 15 after one season on lease to an outfitter from our local Wilderness Systems agent, for about 2/3 retail. The boat wasn't hurt - I doubt it had spent more than a handful of hours on the water, and the agent really didn't want to store a half dozen boats over the winter in hopes of getting a few more dollars per boat in the spring.

try this
Sierra Trading Post carries a few boats. Here is a Cape Horn and a Tempest in plastic for less than $900.

Hope it gets you thinking!

Good luck