novice in need of opinions

Hi folks, my name is Trish and I’m brand new to this website and more importantly, to kayaking.

Last season was my first time paddling ever and at the advice of the sports store I bought an Old Town Loon 100. It is about 10’ long and weighs 45 pounds. That is about as heavy as I can manage what with loading it on my car and lugging it to the water by myself. I plan to paddle solo primarily on lakes and ponds. Stability (1st and secondary) is important to me and it would be nice if the boat tracks reasonably well. Speed is not all that important, but would like to feel like I can get out of my own way somewhat.

So here’s the thing: I’ve been doing a lot of reading on paddling this summer and have come to the conclusion that a SOT might suit my skill level and needs better. I paddle by myself when I go and now that I’ve read how much easier it is to right a SOT and climb back aboard,it makes more sense to me to have one of these instead.

I’ve been considering the Venus SOT by Ocean Kayak, or one similar by Dimension, the Spirit.

I’m in my 50’s,a healthy weight for my height, 5’5", but not wonderfully flexible and all that it seems to require to do a self rescue on a sit in kayak. I would appreciate all thoughts and opinions as I struggle with:

  1. does it make sense to replace my Loon 100?
  2. what kind of SOT would be best for my needs as stated above.

    I would appreciate any thoughts and opinions and look forward to reading them.




– Last Updated: Jul-08-06 1:10 PM EST –

The Venus would be good...I think they make both a 10 (actually about 9.5) and a 11 (actually about 10.5) foot model...of course, go with the slightly longer one for improved tracking and a negligible amount of additional weight. For a full and true 11 footer look at the Caper still comes in around 45 pounds....fairly manageable for car topping. You don't necessarily have to replace your Loon unless you have serious concerns over being swamped with it...not an unreasonable fear when out by yourself.

Try it first
Hi Trish, welcome.

I’m not an expert, but I also like to paddle on a peaceful lake, and have tried a few SOTs.

I paddled the Cobra Explorer (pretty sure it was the explorer) for a day and tried a few others at demo days.

Here’s just a few thoughts to consider.

I found getting back into an SOT, alone, no paddle float assist, to be surprisingly difficult. With a paddle float assist, it prabably is easier than a sit in, given the really low deck. It would swim to shore a lot easier too, than a sit in full of water. Also no need to emty it. Just flip it right side up. But getting back into it, out on the water, alone, I wouldn’t consider easy. If you haven’t already, you might try before you buy.

Unless you don’t mind being wet while paddling, I would also try the boat to make sure the seat pan stays dry. I saw the self bailing scupper hole on the model. Can a plug be installed? When you sit in it, if the scupper hole ends up below the water line, the seat pan will always have water in it. Some models have that characteristic. (I’d call it a problem, but depending on intended use, it’s just a characteristic. For example, if ocean kayaking in Hawaii, waves are probably rolling over the deck anyway, so at least some of the water would drain out.)

The wider SOTs sometimes don’t have much keel, so they tend to fishtail with every stroke, the stern making a kind of an S trail in the water. I know you said speed wasn’t a big concern, but still, that S pattern is pretty inefficient. I don’t know about the Venus specifically.

To me, the main use of the wide SOT, is as a great fishing platform in warm water. You almost can’t tip them over. You’d have to fall off them. And the whole desk is wide open for easy access to stuff. You can even rotate sideways in the seat pan and put your legs over the side and fish. But, to me, paddling them isn’t so great.

If it turns out you aren’t able to do a self rescue witn an SOT much easier than with a sit in, you swim well, and are paddling in warm water, I’d be thinking stick with the sit in, put flotation bags in the bow and sten, and if you ever capsize, just swim it to shore and empty it.

For a lighter sit in, consider Eddyline Sandpiper or Skylark. Spec says 38 lbs.

Paul S.

If you could afford it, I would suggest
the Epic Sport:

Only 32 pounds, easy paddling, stable enough, a boat you will never outgrow for smooth water.

Now that looks pretty nice.

– Last Updated: Jul-08-06 1:26 PM EST –

Looks like it would be pretty fast, and seat pan is low for good stability. My son would like that. He's more of a play in the lake in the summer kind of paddler. Nice pick g2d.

Dealers so far are limited to Northeast coast though. Could make a try before you buy difficult.

Paul S.

sinks and sots
short SOTS:

Your butt will get wet, and they will be very slow. And, ultimately not as stable in flat water as a Sit-inside with the same dimensions would be due to higher center of gravity.

They are also highly versatile and if you flip it, just flip it back up,no water slurped in.

I owned a Ocean Kayak Scrambler and liked it a lot,very light and versatile in ALL conditions,fun,fun boat though also very slow. i even overnight camped out of it.

Now i own an OK Prowler 15( mostly my gf’s boat, i paddle a necky Elaho) and it’s by far the better of the SOTS i’ve tried. stable as a dock, dry,comfortable, yet pretty quick in flat water,main drawback-major pain to cartop and carry.

For you I’d highly recommend the Scrambler and a cart. to haul it can get SOT-specific carts that ‘plug in’ into the rear scupper holes or a generic cart. and just toss it into the tankwell when you launch.

Venus are probably fine, the lightest in the OK bunch and i think only ones with carry handles in the center-though i dont see the handles being comfy. Being that light comes at a cost, i am sure the plastic is just really thin so dragging it would wear it out faster.

Also, a Necky Dorado should be nice if you can find one.

So…should you replace the Loon? Definetely. With a SOT? Maybe,not everyone’s cup of tea. Realistically if you have decent balance and paddle lakes, youre very,very unlikely to ever flip. So a light sit inside would probably be better off. how about this

Sit on Tops
I was in your position 1 year ago. Got the Loon as my first kayak and started thinking a sit on top would be safer for use on the lake. I went to a kayak demo day and discovered what a good boat the loon is. I found most sit on tops to be slow and not nearly as fun to paddle as the Loon. You may be better off upgrading your boat with some additional floatation and a bilge pump. A bleach bottle with the end cut off makes a good bailer. It is pretty easy to re-enter the loon from the stern. The hard part is getting the excess water out first. Anything you can fit in the bow to displace the water should help as long as it is firmly attached inside the kayak. Try some others before you give up on the Loon.

Deep Water Re-entry
If you did manage to flip the Loon in deep water, bail it out as best you can and use the pump once the bailer is no longer effective. Once the boat is empty get behind it and grab the coaming with one hand and pull the stern back and down to get your torso on top of it. This forces the stern under water but not enough to get any water in the cockpit. Once you are up and sitting on the stern just keep your balance and gently slide forward with your legs over either side until you get over the seatback. Once in this position it is easy to slide your legs back in and be on your way. It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

SOTs are great on hot days if you want to take a dip without going to shore. Reentry, as with any other kayak, takes practice. It’s important to get your legs up and your body horizontal so that you’re pulling yourself across the boat.

Righting a boat like the Loon actually isn’t that hard – it’s getting all the water out! If you haven’t already, you should try a capsize in shallow water to see exactly what’s involved in a self-rescue.

Given the kind of paddling you say you do(quiet ponds), your current boat should be fine. A SOT would make more sense if you wanted to go play in waves, or if you paddle far enough from shore or in cold enough water that not being able to reenter is a serious safety issue.

The Venus looks like a fine option and is certainly worth trying. Being on a SOT feels very different, and you my find that you prefer it.

Hurricane has some nice lightweight models, both sit-in and sit-on, but they’re more expesive than the OK.

If you only plan to paddle quiet water, you might enjoy a solo canoe, like a Wenonah Vagabond. Not better or worse than a rec kayak, just different.

I’d encourage you to try different boats whenever you get the chance, even if you have no immediate interest in buying. You never now what you might learn…

Check out this site …

It has lots of useful articles and a forum there of people who use SOTs for similar purposes. I have a collection of SOTs and SINKS and would agree a SOT is safer for someone starting out paddling by themselves as long as you choose the right boat, learn how to climb back in, and dress for the water temperatures. I know a few people who have tried the Venus and it gets mixed reviews. There are lot’s of choices in 10’ boats that weigh about 45 lbs. Comments about SOTs being slow or don’t track well etc, must be carefully weighed against the paddlers experience who is doing the reviewing. I suspect you can find a boat that will perform better than a 10’ rec boat.

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that looks like a very good idea,I bet you’d have no problem cruising with “sea kayaks” in that

novice in need of opinions
Thanks so much to everyone for all of your insightful and thoughtful responses to my question. And thanks for the welcome, Paul S.

Maybe I will check into flotation bags for my Loon 100 for there is nothing in there now but the seat. It looks mighty empty in there, actually. Now I am wondering how I would attach them and to what?

I looked at the boats that other folks recommended and although interesting, I suffered a little sticker shock. :slight_smile: I think I need to win the lottery or something. Thanks so much though for the suggestions. I appreciate them all.

This is a very helpful website and I’m glad I came across it. Thanks everyone.


Inexpensive flotation bags.

– Last Updated: Jul-10-06 3:35 AM EST –

You're welcome Trish. I just bought flotation bags yesterday for my new boat. Gaia is a well respected name, as is NRS, and I'm sure others. I don't think you can beat these for the frugal shopper. Overstock just charged me about $2.50 for shipping, too.

Paul S.

Dimension Spirit
Hi Trish,

I paddled a Dimension Spirit 3.3 last Wednesday for about six hours on the White River in Indiana from Yorktown to Edgewater Park in Anderson.

The boat has A LOT of rocker, was a fairly wet ride with no self-draining or bailing capability. But it was STABLE - I had one of those narrow el-cheapo bottled waters on the deck between my knees, and it never once toppled over in the numerous small rapids and standing waves along my route. I could’ve set my coffee mug there and probably not spilled any.

I was able to paddle the Spirit in a straight line, was able to perform most of the standard kayak strokes in it, but largely unable to steer it with knees and edging. However, probably because of the rocker, it responded quickly to steering strokes.

Lack of sufficient deck rigging was an annoyance.

I think the boat’s made by Old Town, but is not listed on their site. You could probably pick one up cheaply in very used condition from an outfitter.

That Epic SOT in a previous link on this thread looked pretty cool.

I paddle a Tarpon 160 SOT and love
it. I rented a 10’ SOT once and it was the slowest, most ungaily paddle craft I have ever been in.

1 Like

kayak choice
Hi Trish,

I am in a very similar situation as you. I am always going to be solo and am in my mid 50’s and new to kayaking.I have a choice of small lakes all the way up to Lake Huron to kayak in. I originally thought I wanted to get a recreational kayak and did test a loon classic with the hopes of finding one with a big enough cockpit to take a border collie. When I realised that was not going to be possible I decided to take a course to learn the basics, safety and have a chance to try different kayaks.

One piece of advice I am very glad I got was to try several different kayaks for comfort.I found many to be really hard on my back. I ended up buying an Old Town Cayuga 146 and I love it. It is only 50 pounds so I am able to get it into the back of a truck and down to the water with little trouble.It is plastic so can take a few scrapes. It also has 2 big hatches for storing gear and a great little day hatch right at the front for a few small items. I paint so I have a pack for art supplies, a lunch pack and an emergency pack which has things I might need if I was stranded somewhere or a storm came up…a change of clothes, a tarp, matches, rain gear, first aid kit, extra rope,etc and I also have the necessary safety equipment and a few other small things.

The cayuga handles beautifully, tracks straight as an arrow and moves along at a very good pace.I also spent a bit more to get a light weight paddle. I have been out in several different places with wind and calm, waves and flat water. With a spray skirt I feel safe because a bit of water washing over the deck is no problem. I would never consider a sit on top because who wants to be wet all the time? To me having the stability, storage and manouverability of a boat that is a recreational/touring kayak was the best choice I could have made. If you can, take a course or try several different kayaks in that 14 foot length. There are at least a dozen that are fairly similar by Wilderness Systems, Old Town, Neckey, and others. Good luck!

If you like paddling in your loon, I’d keep it and practice getting back in, rather than getting another recreational kayak right now or a SOT. If you’re paddling on small lakes right now, falling out isn’t a huge concern, especially if you’re a good swimmer (just stay close enough to shore so that you can swim back). Chances are that someday you’ll want to upgrade to another kayak, but chances are that might be a touring kayak, not another rec kayak.

Floatation bags are a great idea. Poke around inside and see if you can find some screws or bolts holding your foot pegs on, and attach them to those with some cord. Or else you can use contact cement to glue some attachments to the inside. Or you can make bulkheads out of minicell foam (you can buy it in bulk from and just shove them into place–they’ll stay, and they’ll limit dramatically the amount of water that gets in. Bulkheads or floatation bags will increase your safety a lot.

Keep the loon. You will never get wht you put into it and it is a decent boat…just get the flotation bags!

As to a sit on top. To mitigate the slowness and bargelike characteristics I would definitely recommend either an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro which is 26 inches wide and very fast for an sot or one of the two mentioned below. The seat well is very low so your butt sits low in the boat in contrast to most and this also gives you great stability. We bought two, one for me and one for my wife when we want to go the SOT route and she is even more of a novice than most and she loves the way it handles. We have two stoppers for the scupper holes in the seat pan and this keeps the water off your butt.

Hurricane Phoenix 14 ft is another good choice as well as the Tarpon 140. (If you look at the two hulls they appear to be identical…hmmm)

Either of these boats will give you decent speed, decent tracking, and great stability. Take a look on the Ocean Kayak web site and see how they recommend getting back on an sot…very easy really.

Every boat has it’s characteristics. If it is a bit colder, the Loon may be the choice for the day. If it is hot, or you want to swim from it, or just grab a pfd and a paddle and jump on the water, a sot can’t be beat.

My wife tried the Venus and felt it was a terrible compromise…stable to a fault but doesn’t turn well and a slug in the water…I agree with a previous poster in that the plastic is thinner making it a few pounds lighter but I would bet it wouldn’t last nearly as long…Just another propaganda attempt to appeal to the feminine paddler in my opinion.

don’t ever forget your pfd.


Wilderness System Tarpons
We use the Wilderness System Tarpon 140s for fishing and photography and love them. The 120s are also popular with our friends. They track well are fairly fast and as for the water coming in, simply slip into Wally World, grab a 2.99 pack of foam practice golf balls and form them to fit the scupper holes, leaving a little dome sticking up. That stops the water from coming in and keeps you nice and dry. If you need to drain the boat, pull them back out and then pop them right back in. Getting back in the boat if you should find yourself in the water just takes a bit of practice, and YOU SHOULD try it BEFORE you actually need IT. I did it with both the SOT and my Sea Touring boats and now feel much safer on the water. Try it from the sides and from the stern.

The Tarpons provide a huge amount of storage and are extremely stable, I sit sideways while casting and taking pictures, and if you are drifting to do something, simply drape your feet over either side and you would have a hard time spilling this SOT. We have used these boats in the James River here in Central VA, in the lakes and reservoirs, and in the Chesapeake Bay with moderate seas.

Like everyone says, it is a matter of personal preference, but I think the SOT is a very flexible platform for a recreational use and we use ours more and more. Good Luck.

still undecided
Hi everyone.

Thanks for all of your comments and suggestions. I think I’ve ruled out a SOT after all. After reading all the comments I think it may not be the best match for me. Living and paddling in Maine waters can be a chilling venture and I guess I would prefer to stay as dry as possible. Plus, I would like to be able to paddle on a nice Fall day as well as on the hot ones.

Someone recently recommended a Necky Manitou Sport. Perhaps I will try that out soon. I like the idea of having a bulkhead versus using floatation bags. Sounds like life would be a lot simpler that way.

I must say I am tired of driving around with an empty roof rack. I want to have a kayak up there and soon! And to have one in the water would be even better, of course. :slight_smile: I find myself checking out the kayaks on other folks vehicles while at the Mall parking lot. Brother…

Got to make a decision soon.

Thanks to all who commented.