Piccolo or Tsunami SP for petite adult?

I’m a beginner and looking to get a used kayak for sea kayaking (mostly around Boston, e.g., Boston Harbor).

I’m pretty small at 5’0" and 105 lbs and was thinking about a used Wilderness Systems Piccolo or Tsunami SP.

After searching on this board, it sounds like people feel the Tsunami is a better design. But will I have trouble keeping up with my husband if he’s in a 16’ kayak? The Tsunami SP is 12’ and 38 lbs, the Piccolo is 13.5’ and 45 lbs.

Which would you recommend? (or would you recommend something different? I have to store the kayak outside all year, so I need something reasonably robust and not too precious.) Thanks!

Keeping up and other stuff

– Last Updated: Aug-08-11 8:27 AM EST –

If you guys start out figuring that it is your job, as a completely new paddler, to keep up with your husband, who apparently has some time in a boat, it'll be a frustrating and short experience for you. There's more to paddling than the boat, like the paddler's stroke and knowing how to paddle in wind, and it would be unrealistic to think that you could match that all up right away. For at least a while, he should figure on keeping back with you.

Biggest recommendation, get a smaller size blade, as light as you can afford, so that you can paddle with a fast cadence. You'll actually be slowed down by a big huge blade.

Next to the boat - you are tiny so that's a limited set. But you want a couple of basic features for sea kayaking like two sealed bulkheads and full perimeter rigging. These things help turn a capsize in the ocean into a non-event. Without this stuff, it can be a newspaper story.

The Tsumani SP has this stuff, the Piccolo does not. Of the two, the Tsunami is the only boat that comes set up for sea kayaking. It is shorter than your husband's boat but it is also narrower, so to some degree the boat's own speed should be comparable to that of a longer boat. What does your husband paddle?

I am not dissing the Piccolo by the way - very neat boat and I am sure it is fast. But the Tsunami comes all set to go and the Piccolo needs some work, as well as being older so you need to look hard at its condition especially if you plan to store it outside.

Whatever boat you get you and your husband should both learn how to do on-water rescues. There is a huge safety factor in two people being out together, with properly equipped boats, in that one can help the other back into their boat. Your small size is not an impediment - with the boat and the technique right, a smaller paddler can get someone much larger than themselves back in.

We had the Pic and my wife is 5’6" 125. She had no trouble keeping up. The Pic is a super fast boat. Many of the shorter boats keep the width of the longer boats. The Pic is scaled down in all deminsions so you get a true scaled down sea kayak. It does have a few disadvantages though. It has no hatches or bulkheads. You will need float bags for the front and back to be safe. It also has a pole down the middle of the floor. The pole affects nothing and it actually helps with prevent oil canning. Some don’t like it though for some reason. Ours did not have a rudder and we never missed having it, even in the ocean. It is also light for a plastic boat.

I think you would like the Pic and they can be found pretty cheap if you watch.

Since you asked about other options I’ll throw this one in: Dagger Alchemy 140s http://www.dagger.com/product/index/product_homepage/recreational_touring/alchemy/alchemy_14_s/

My son has been using the WS 120sp for several years as his weight grew through the high 80’s and 90’s. We love that boat but now at 5’1" 105# he seemed a bit cramped in it this year. We are now using the Alchemy 140s. It fits his size well, I’d recommend you take a look at that one. If you are in the Boston area the Eastern Mountain Sports stores carry it and may even rent it to try.

I would echo Ceila and say stay away from the Pic and take a lesson. You have some fantastic paddling options there in Boston Harbor but I wouldn’t go out there in the Pic or without first developing some skills. Good luck!

Only concern about the Alchemy…
It is not fast, more about maneuvering, and it is unclear what the Oper is keeping up with. Agree, really fun boat.

Piccolo and…
I have a Piccolo that I bought for the kids.

My youngest is 21 now and petite so she can still use it.

Mine does not have the internal bracing. It does oilcan some but the folks who paddle it don’t seem to notice or mind.

Mine came with float bags. So long as you keep those inflated and you are not going overnight you really do not need bulkheads or hatches. Mine does have a small dayhatch.

In My Opinion the Picollo with floatation would be a fine day tripping boat for you. Adding deck rigging, as Celia mentions, would be an improvement

If I was your size and wanted a boat to do overnight trips I’d look for an Impex Mystic. That is a sweet little boat with all you need.

More info
Thanks for the detailed information and recommendations. My husband has more experience than me and more intuition on dealing with wind, but in many ways he’s a beginner, too. In the rental boats (none of which fit me well, I suspect) I sometimes have trouble keeping up, especially in windy conditions. I’ve asked him to slow down, and he also bought a tow rope if I get tired and we are going through a shipping lane (that’s what he is most worried about). But I don’t really want to be towed! I just wish I didn’t have to worry about keeping up all the time.

We both took a class practicing a number of different wet exit/entry methods (with one/two people, paddle float etc.). I’d like to learn about rolling.

Are flotation bags in the Piccolo as effective as bulkheads if you tip over?

Will the shorter length on the Tsunami SP make it slower?

also, my husband doesn’t have a boat

– Last Updated: Aug-08-11 9:39 AM EST –

yet either.

Thanks for the suggestion of the Alchemy. It looks like I could try out the Tsunami SP, Alchemy, and maybe even Impex Mystic at Charles River Canoe and Kayak.

Also that's helpful to know about deck rigging -- is it an added safety feature because there is more to grab onto if you fall out? Or is the deck rigging just useful for carrying more stuff? (sorry this is such a beginner question) We probably will be doing day trips only, no overnights. Thanks.

You will love it (until you try out the Mystic!).


– Last Updated: Aug-08-11 10:17 AM EST –

If a Tchaika pops up in the used listings, it'd be worth a look. It was the composite version of the Piccolo -- had a rear bulkhead but needed a front bag. My 5'0" wife has one. She is faster in it than she was in a larger boat.

I agree that it's critical to get a paddle that fits. Small paddlers often get stuck with paddles that are too big, which makes paddling much less comfortable and less efficient. If you have small hands there are paddles with small-diameter shafts.

The Tsunami SP would be a good safe choice to develop skills without the frustration of an oversized boat. There are not many good choices for folks your size.

Longer boats have a higher theoretical top speed, but you have to have the power to drive them that fast.

You're right -- deck lines are important for you to be able to grab your boat. Wet boats are slippery. Attaching lots of stuff to the deck is not a great idea because it tends to make you less stable and can make rescues more difficult.

Here's a good resource for paddling in the Boston area: http://www.nspn.org/

response to questions
Float bags displace water as will having a bulkheaded air pocket. Both work as well, float bags require more frequent inspection and a minute to adjust the inflation on cool days.

Perimeter lines are for hanging onto the boat in capsizes and rescues. Bungie cords are not sufficient. You should recall use of them if you did a rescue class, especially if assisted rescues.

For skills like rolling, the piccolo is the winner. For messing around in shipping lanes, the features of the tsunami win. But the idea of the mystic is really interesting.

Get lessons in a good forward stroke to handle the part about keeping up, and maybe before you buy to also get good advice on which paddle. Charles river folks can set you up right.

Thanks to all!
Looks like it’s time to head to Charles River Canoe & Kayak and try some things out (plus sign up for more lessons.