nf silhouette/pintail experiences?

-- Last Updated: Sep-11-06 3:20 PM EST --


I posted awhile ago about (relatively) low volume sea kayaks. I've narrowed choices down to a used pintail or silhouette. Perhaps I should explain.

I'm looking at a Pintail and a Silhouette to add as a second boat, both to share with my girlfriend and to use myself. I currently own a Greenlander and love the tracking, speed, rough water performance, rolling ease and carve. She paddles the greenlander also and loves it for the same reasons.

So I'm reading reviews on the silhouette and it sounds a bit like a lower-volume greenlander, with the same penchant for carve, plus some allusions to surfability. Looks very attractive as an addition. Then I'm looking at the pintail for it's relatively maneuverable performance and even greater allusions to surfability, but as I understand it's a bit slower. Not sure how important speed is as we do day trips and the occasional overnighter but would like to add some weekenders or longer trips.

Not looking for someone to make the decision for me, just input. Will I notice a difference between the greenlander and the silhouette? Can the pintail keep up on 10-15 milers? Can I be helped?

Might want to let girlfriend…
…make the decision… Possibly less grief in the long run…

Wise man :wink:

Can the pintail keep up on 10-15 milers?
Question should be: Would you want to have to keep up in a Pintail? L

Depends on the motor and what sort of cruising you do of course. When I read 10-15 milers I think 2-3 hours nonstop. Not racing, but moving along at a fair pace. Others are talking a longish day trip with a lunch break!

Pintail’s a fun kayak no doubt (got my first ever rolls in one too), but not my choice for ticking off miles. If your average pace is under say 4 to 4.5 mph, with some breaks, it should do fine. You could push it faster, it’s just not where it likes to be. The boat has a definite wall you can feel, see, and even hear. Then there’s the effort used keeping it on line. Many paddlers have been known to leave just a little skeg down to reduce the wandering. Yes, a good paddler can make an inner tube track OK - but it still takes effort and robs forward speed.

It’s rough water performance is very much from it’s relatively short waterline and rounded cross section - hence the nicknames “pinwheel” and “spintail”. Play type performance. High maneuverability useful in close steep confused slop. Good qualities IF you want to hang out in that stuff and not just power through it (in other words, it needs that extra maneuverability to compensate for being too slow to get you out of it!). Open water manners nothing special - but very friendly/predictable with few if any surprises. I can think of some faster kayaks I’d say the same thing about.

“Surfing” a Pintail should be looked at the same way - surf zone/play type surfing (and relative to other long boats). For open water downwind run type surfing you’d be better off in your Greenlander or a Silhouette. Either should easily smoke it running small wind waves or swell. Heading upwind - again no contest. Speed/efficiency is a good thing. Maneuverability is nice too, but I don’t paddle rock gardens or other restricted areas where spinning on a dime is more useful than speed.

All of the above of course being somewhat over delineated - because the Pintail can be used as a pretty good all a rounder. They’re all “Sea Kayaks” - and I have a hard time calling any of them LV (but again, all thing relative - compared to PNW designs I guess they’re LV).

I suspect your Greenlander may have spoiled you for anything slower. I’m betting the Silhouette would be more fun for you. I’ve heard nothing bad or limiting about them - other than the comments on all the Foster boats being a bit lively/quirky. Sounds like you’d enjoy the personality differences.

Keith and some others who paddle Silhouettes should chime in on it shortly…

Wiser still for not posting…
… her height/weight/age!

what he said
I own a Pintail and often trade boats with a fellow who owns a Silhouette. I use the Pintail for teaching, exploring tight spots and surf zone play. I don’t use it for long trips, camping, fast day paddles etc. The Silhouette will feel very different, straighter tracking and much faster, but not as easy to relax with. I’d let your GF decide which she prefers.

ah thanks

– Last Updated: Sep-11-06 6:52 PM EST –

Your last line may have cinched it for me, but I'll wait for others to chime in. I'm looking forward to using the second boat myself also and hopefully either would be a contrast from the greenlander. You're right in assuming I'm usually putting a few hours in between resting and moving at a pretty good clip (we do some shorter trips also but I like to move along).

Both Nigel Foster Silhouette and Legend
are for sale right now on eBay, brand new, including shipping, from a NY kayak shop, for anyone who cares. Search it on eBay. I did not see one listed on classifieds at this time.

there’s one in MI.
Silhouette that is…

I paddle the larger version NF Shadow
aand a good paddling friend paddles a Pintail. In conversations with Nigel, I asked the difference between his 3 boats and he said, nothing you would really notice except for the fit with whatever body size you have.

The foster boats track well but still turn on a dime when edged. They surf well and also handle rough stuff equally well.

My friend just used his Pintail yesterday with me on a 11 - 12 NM paddle. There’s no problem with speed, although he always uses a little skeg to make it track better.

The boat handles surf and rough water very well.

Go with whichever one feels better to you when you paddle it.

love my silhouette
Not sure about your GF frame. But if it helps I’m 5’7" average frame and not that strong of a paddler. For me, I think if I didn’t have the silhouette I wouldn’t be able to keep up with a lot of the groups I go with.

I’ve also played in the surf and found it handles very well but I haven’t used too many other boats in the surf to really compare.

Best of luck!

Apples and oranges
You couldn’t have picked two boat that are much more different than the Pintail and the Silhouette. I owned both and still have the Pintail (it’s a permanent part of my “fleet”).

The Pintail is far more maneuverable, considerably more stable, but feels like a real pig when paddling flat water. OTOH, it comes to life when things get bouncy and keeps up with longer boats just fine in rougher conditions. It’s a lot of fun and it’s my boat of choice in surf or rock gardens.

The Silhouette is a pretty strong tracking boat with little initial stability, but decent secondary. It’s considerably faster than the Pintail. However, I found that where the Pintail is most fun in rough conditions and feels very secure, I never could get completely comfortable and relax with the Silhouette, especially in following seas. After paddling it for a couple of seasons, I finally gave up and sold it.

I now use an Anas Acuta more than the Pintail, as it’s a better general purpose boat that’s not as piggish in flat water. It’s not quite as good in rough water, surf and rock gardens, but it’s not bad, either.

If you don’t spend a lot of time bashing around in rocks and surf, the Betsie Bay Aral is a good combination of the best of both the Silhouette and Pintail. It’s comfortably stable and likes rough water, but is both reasonably fast and reasonably maneuverable.

A Pintail and a Greenlander…
is the ideal 1 person’s quiver, but not a couple’s quiver.


Tough choice…
To either expand your fleet to give you greater choices or to fight over who gets the Greenlander on a 12 mile paddle…heheh.

I own a Greenlander, so think it is the best of most worlds…cuts sharp turns easily, surfs well and is a great play boat. Oh yeah, and its fast too…

Why not just buy another with a different sized cockpit (I have the round one) to give you some variety on a hull you both know and love.

Agree with earlier posters regarding you bearing the brunt of a decision to buy the Pintail with its speed and tracking differences. (Actually also like the two choices Brian mentioned, the Anas Acuta and BBK Aral)


thanks for the advice all

– Last Updated: Sep-18-06 10:06 AM EST –

This was a tough decision, fundamentally came down to having some variety vs. two similar boats. I paddled the pintail this weekend, bought it, and then had a chance to get it out on a nice lake MI swell Sunday. There was a point where it does hit a "wall" speedwise but seems more pronounced on flat water. As my greenlander has no skeg, I'm used to using leaning and stroke variation to keep on track and with a skeg I don't think the pintail will be too much of a problem here. I put on some miles in a point to point paddle and I think I can accept the pace on a longer trip. We'll have to see how it does in the same point to point in rough conditions, the greenlander doesn't slow much when it gets rough but sometimes a bit to contend with in quartering seas from the rear.

In swells and the occasional surf I encountered the boat is a blast, catching green waves is almost a no brainer. Plus my girlfriend likes it, looks great in it and had a chance to ride a swell onto shore.

Either way a compromise was involved but I think we'll be pretty happy - until we build that greenland style s&g.

Thanks to everyone for helping me think this through. This is a pretty neat site and forum.