Perception Exp 11.5 vs Elie Strait 120

-- Last Updated: Jul-26-15 11:56 PM EST --


Looking for advice for lighter performance oriented kayaks for 'mild water off-shore' use. Started to narrow my search to the Perception expression 11.5 and the Elie Strait 120.

Really looking for lightish kayaks for calm-water sea day-trips. The Perception is the lighter of the two and has an adjustable keg. The bottom appears to be flatter on the Perception than the Elie. Maybe good for stability but perhaps slightly slower. ???

FWIW: Currently own an Elie Sound 120 and 100 which can't be removed from the lake they are on. Like the Elie's overall.

Anyway, would appreciate any first hand comments on either of these kayaks or similar(s). Max weight of 46# and max length of 12'.


Neither boat has two sealed bulkheads,

– Last Updated: Jul-25-15 10:18 PM EST –

which are needed if you intend to paddle offshore. Seas may start out calm, but that can change quickly.

Here's a kayak that meets your specs: 35 pounds, 11'9" long. It has sealed bulkheads fore and aft and high quality rigging.

mild offshore
Still means more than swimming distance from shore, yes? Then you want two bulkheads or a float bag for the end without flotation, else you are in trouble if you capsize.

I second those cautions

– Last Updated: Jul-26-15 11:00 AM EST –

Besides the necessary safety option of having sealed bulkheads (which most shorter boats do not), the hull shape makes a distinct impact on offshore performance. A flattened hull is very unstable in rough water and waves and besides being more liable to be capsized, it can make a boat very difficult to propel in a straight, fairly rapid line in waves and strong current. This could make regaining shore during a change in conditions problematic, if not impossible. The short water line also slows a boat down. Sea kayaks have a modified vee hull with greater secondary stability -- they will ride up and over waves more readily than short wide and flat hulled boats that feel more "stable" on flat water. Most also have a skeg or rudder which helps tracking in wind and waves.

There are some exceptions to the general rules of short kayaks. For instance the Eddyline Rio (already suggested) is a 12' kayak designed for small to medium paddlers that has characteristics of longer sea kayaks -- at 35 lbs it is nice and light, has high secondary stability and dual bulkheads. It does have a somewhat smaller than average cockpit. You didn't clarify your metrics and it might be too small for you.

Since you like the Elie kayaks, why not a Strait 140? Is there some reason you are fixated on 12' and under? Except for the Rio there are few boats that are suitable for sea conditions in that short a length.

If you are under 190 lbs, and can find one still in stock somewhere (the LV model is no longer sold in the US), the Venture Easky 15LV is 46#, very good in open water (I have one) but is 15' long.

Venture also makes the Islay 12, which has basic features like bulkheads and skeg, standard cockpit, 12' though a little heavier than what you seek at 50#.

If lightness is a primary consideration, there is the Orukayak folder, 12' and 26 #. You would need to put inflatable flotation bags in the front and rear (since folding kayaks don't have bulkheads) to prevent swamping in a capsize.

I personally would not take either of the models you are looking at off shore or in any large windy lake. Honestly, it is naive to think that any sea coast (or Great Lakes) outing will always be "calm". You should always have a boat under you that will be able to keep you safe if conditions change, as they can and do in big water.

follow up

– Last Updated: Jul-26-15 3:40 PM EST –

Thanks for the cautions and suggestions. Will get the requisite safety gear with these boats.

I hadn't seen the Rio in my searches and it does appear to be a much better 'fit' than the two models I posted about. I'm 160# and my wife is lighter so a small-medium sized cockpit might possible be OK. The ~35# is fabulous and sub 12' just about seals the decision. Will be transporting these on a mid-sized SUV rooftop so weight/length is very important! I need to find this Rio local and check it out. Just looked at the Eddy' site and see that there are a couple of good candidates with slightly larger cockpits.

FWIW, I'm familiar with the shore area we'll be using and it has predictable weather patterns and is very calm about 1/3 of days out of the year. We're both experience kayakers (albeit in a medium sized lake). Our kayaking will be well within swimming distance of shore. :-)

THANKS again for the cautions and if there are other kayaks similar to that Rio I'd love to hear about them.


Your vehicle can haul any sized kayak with a competent rack. I’ve hauled 65 lb., 17’ long kayaks (sometimes two of them) on long distance highway trips on a standard Thule rack atop a Hyundai Santa Fe, a Subaru Outback, a Mazda CX5 and even a Honda Accord sedan. I’m a 65 year old averaged sized female and can load these boats solo.

In fact, I have a friend with a tiny SmartCar who hauls a 19’ long surf ski.

Look around at other people hauling kayaks. Unless you are driving a convertible or a 2 seater sports car, no vehicle restricts either weight or length of a kayak. And many longer kayaks are lighter than shorter ones. I have an 18’ long skin on frame that weighs 31 lbs.

If you are really into lightness, look into skin on frames (which are usually custom built) or folding kayaks (which can be left set up – you don’t have to break them down after each use). Feathercraft and Pakboat both make seaworthy folding kayaks that are under 35 lbs, some of them under 30. I have a 37 lb Wisper (15’ long) and a 25 lb Puffin (12’), both of which can be packed down in a duffel bag for storage or to check on a plane as baggage and take to a vacation destination.

I have two Eddyline kayaks
the first, a Skylark (12 ft), purchased used. I liked the quality of the boat and its light weight so much that a couple months later I bought a new Samba (14 ft) at an end-of-season sale. That’s what I’m currently paddling.

I admire Eddyline’s emphasis on safety; every sit-in kayak they build has two sealed bulkheads, even their little 10-foot Sky. The material their boats are built of, Carbonlite 2000, is beautiful, but quite tough and durable. That used Skylark I purchased was built in 2008, but the hull and deck look as good as my new boat.

Their customer service is as good as their boats.

Hope you can find a dealer and demo the boats you’re interested in.

additional thoughts

– Last Updated: Jul-27-15 12:31 AM EST –

Both kayaks you are looking at are "recreational" class kayaks. Rec kayaks are made for calm flat water. Their design makes them very hard to flip over, but it also has a downside of should you flip one, they are very hard to get back in to. Bulkheads front and back improve chances that you can, but it still requires some training or practice to be able to do it.

Of these 2, I would get the Perception. The Perception has a bulkhead behind the seat (so rear floatation) and has deck lines (something to hold on to when you are swimming next to it). I don't believe that the Elie has either of these (but instead has a small bag under the rear hatch).

I, personally, would not use either of these in any sort of open coast conditions (or even on a large lake). Predictable weather has a habit of becoming unpredictable, and there are other aspects like boat wakes, annoying jet skiers, and the like, and neither of these provides the safety aspects I would want for when the unplanned for happens.

Requirements - 2 hatches with bulkheads, deck lines. I'd also want a longer boat, like about 14 feet. And training before going past swimming distance (and if the water in your area is cold, the swimming distance is much sorter than you would think).

Question about the Skylark and Samba
Thanks for that info!

How do those two kayaks compare in terms of stability/speed? Do you use either in open water?




– Last Updated: Jul-27-15 12:07 AM EST –

Last summer I paddled the Skylark on large inland lakes as well as Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. Always close to shore in relatively calm conditions. I also learned to do re-entries in that boat in my first ACA class.

This year I've paddled the Samba on Lake Michigan, further off shore. The boat fits me very well, unlike the Skylark. I find it very stable and responsive.

Recently did a crossing of the bay with a small group. Conditions changed to large swells, wind and waves. The boat handled the conditions easily but I had to do a lot of corrective strokes to keep on track, even with the skeg down. At times I felt like a cork in a washing machine and attribute that to my own weight (112#) and a 14-ft boat carrying nothing but me. My paddling partner was a guy paddling a 21-foot Nelo surf ski. He had no tracking issues. My next boat will be longer.

I no longer use the Skylark, but keep it on the beach for family and friends because it's a sweet and very stable beginner's boat.

As to speed, I can get the Samba up to 5MPH on home water in flat conditions - but not sustained for very long. I use a Forerunner on all paddles and my average speed lately is around 3.9 to 4 MPH when I do long slow distance training.


– Last Updated: Jul-27-15 11:17 AM EST –

Thanks for that feedback. Much appreciated.

That's some great speed you are generating! Congrats

I can cruise at just barely 4 mph in my 12' Elie Sound. That's pretty much my max and I probably couldn't do that for 30 minutes before needing a break. My wife destroys me in her much lighter 10' Sound. :-( bwahahaha

Thanks, but I wasn’t doing
as well six weeks ago.

As a result of excellent advice received here about a book, a Forerunner and heart rate monitor, my endurance and speed are improving - but still a work in progress.