Picking a kayak - odd criteria?

-- Last Updated: Sep-05-16 7:52 AM EST --

I am presently shopping for my first kayak, and doing my best to research my options so as to hopefully not make a bad choice. I'm new to kayaking, but no stranger to the sea, I've been sailing for 20+ years.

I'm looking for a boat to serve as a companion to our sailboat, which lives on a mooring pretty far out in a large harbor on the north shore of Massachusetts. Something I can paddle around the harbor and surrounding coastal areas, and also use as a shuttle between the boat and shore.

This purpose leads to a pretty significant criteria: I need something stable enough that I can stand up in to climb in and out to get from the kayak up to the sailboat and vice-versa. It's a 36' sailboat and the deck is about 3' off the water. I'm 6'1", 190#, and agile enough to be able to make that step, I just need a 'yak that's stable enough and a cockpit I can climb out of easily enough to do it.

Being in cool New Engand waters, a sit-in seems to make the most sense. As much as I lust for the sexy long and skinny sea kayaks, I don't think they really suit my purpose that well; I can't imagine trying to get out of that tight cockpit and standing to climb up into the sailboat.

I do want a bit more performance than a typical rec kayak. I want something fun to paddle that I'll want to spend time in and could do some good distance with. There's lots to explore and I don't want the boat to discourage me from exploring.

The boat that has really caught my eye is the WS Pungo 140. I like the big cockpit opening. I know that's a liability and this isn't a open-water boat, but on rough/windy days I'm going to be sailing anyway.

Any thoughts or suggestions for this newb?

Not a Pungo
I live near the North Shore and paddle there frequently. If I had a better idea where your sailboat is I could give you a better idea of what to look for. A Pungo is a recreational kayak. I understand your need for wanting to stand in the kayak to get to the deck of your boat. In fact the good news is you can stand in just about any boat with practice. I stand on the rear deck of my P&H Aries and Cetus. If you want to explore the coastal waters even on a calm day you should be in a sea kayak with a spray skirt. Now obviously you are talking to a sea kayaker but let me give you a great example of why you should not paddle a recreational boat on the coast waters of MA.

I was recently paddling with a group of 15 people off the coast near Rhode Island. We were all in sea kayaks and a few of us stopped to play in some small waves about 2ft or less. One of the men in our group got hit by a rogue wave and capsized. That was in a sea kayak and he had 25+ years of experience.

There’s also a gentleman who has a sailboat on the north shore and paddles a Romany by NDK, when he back to his boat he had a roll down latter on the side of his boat and some type of pulley system he came up with to pull the boat up to the deck.

If you can secure your kayak
to your sailboat and snug it up pretty tight you can stand in just about anything. We do this in Florida where chickees are about three feet up.

We use a couple of ropes secured to the kayak . We have decklines fore and aft of the cockpit and those have u ring fittings with enough room for more rope. Rope fore rope aft that runs up and around something on the object to be mounted…as high as possible

Now you can stand in your kayak and being careful to keep weight toward the rope side get up

A detachable swim ladder would be a big help

Then your only constraint is storage on your sailboat.

and remember cargo netting?

I Always Heard…
that a sit-on-top was the thing to have on a sailboat. It can serve as a dinghy and a life raft.

How about
a Sea Eagle Razor Lite 393rl? It’s a sit-on-top, high pressure inflatable. It’s getting a lot of good comments on p-net lately for speed and hard-shell like performance. The website shows someone using it as an SUP, so standing should be feasible.

north shore

– Last Updated: Sep-05-16 12:14 PM EST –

I'm in Salem Harbor which, as you probably know if you've paddled there, can get pretty choppy. I was hoping the bigger Pungo (or something like it) would be an acceptable "hybrid" between a rec and sea kayak. I do like that the Pungo does at least have fore and aft bulkheads.

I was hoping some sea kayakers would respond trying to talk to me into a sea kayak for my purpose, so I'm open to further suggestion in this vein.

Perhaps I'm looking for an impossible thing: the rec/sea hybrid. I want a fairly stable boat that won't punish a newbie's mistakes and poor technique, and cockpit I can get in and out of without having to grease my thighs.

Something light enough that I can carry alone and get onto my cartop without help.

Something seaworthy enough to handle a sometimes-choppy New England harbor, but I'm not planning on touring Newfoundland anytime soon.

I was originally thinking of a SOT, but the wetness would discourage me in our cold waters.

I don't care too much about getting the kayak up onto the sailboat. I don't like carrying anything on deck and I won't be taking the yak with me on any overnight trips. If I go sailing, the kayak will stay on the mooring pennant. If this desire ever arises, I'll probably look at picking up an inflatable or folding skin-on-frame kayak, like a Folbot.

I get on an off docks and boats simply by securing a bow line so that the kayak doesn’t go forward. That combined with a handhold will allow you to stand up in almost any kayak.

What’s your budget?

– Last Updated: Sep-05-16 12:36 PM EST –

You might want to consider a folding kayak. There are several advantages that could be relevant to your planned usage. Most models have a collapsible metal frame (similar to tent poles) with inflatable sponson tubes along the gunwales to tension the rubberized fabric skin. This makes them inherently quite stable. You can get them with a larger cockpit (like the Feathercraft Big Kahuna or K-1 Expedition which have a coaming large enough for most bigger guys to enter butt first and then work their legs in -- exiting is just the reverse) or you can get a sit on top like the Feathercraft Java or an open boat like the Pakboat Saco. I often paddle with a friend who has a bladder the size of a pea. Since we often have to pull to the shore so she can climb out along a seawall or dock to use the facilities, I always put her in one of my folders because she can easily stand to climb out.

In addition, they are half the weight of similar sized hardshell kayaks and, perhaps best of all, when not in use you can disassemble them and stash in a duffel bag, out of the way instead of cluttering the deck. A quality folder will perform comparably to a hardshell and in rough water they tend to outperform them.

Pricewise, Feathercrafts are super high quality and costly, though since they are made in Canada the strong dollar gets US buyers a substantial discount at the moment. I know somebody in Alaska selling a used but well cared for FC Java sit on top for $1000 but a new FC will run $2500 to over $4000. Pakboats are more economical but also quite well made -- the factory is selling some demo Quest 155's (which would be your size) for $900 right now. Their XT-16 is more costly but larger and offers the option to convert from solo to tandem. Pakboats have huge storage capacity so one would be good for ship to shore transport. Folders can also be equipped with sailing rigs. There is a vintage Folbot folding kayak with sail rig on Craigslist this week here in Pittsburgh:


I like to let newcomers to the sport know about the existence of folders, which are actually the oldest type of recreational kayak. They are based on the woodframed, animal skin covered boats of indigenous coastal peoples around the world and the early commercial versions were made of wood and canvas and were wildly popular in Europe in the early 20th century.

I have owned 6 folders over the years, 3 Pakboats (Puffin Sport, XT-15 and Quest 135) and 3 Feathercrafts (Kahuna, K-1 and Wisper). If you want to take a look at them on their websites and have any questions, just let me know.

I apologize for taking your request in another direction but I’m gonna do it… Sounds like the right SUP board would be perfect for what you want.

A nice fast canoe. Easier to stand up in, easier to bring stuff with you out to the sailboat. Or to go completely off course a fast seaworthy rowboat such as a Whitehall.

Kinda hard to haul a load of groceries on an SUP.

no you cant have my Mad River

I have actually seen one stowed on the deck of a sailboat.

Its a decked sea canoe and plenty stable to stand in.

2nd the Pungo
A canoe actually makes a lot of sense, too. But they can be a bit unwieldy in a stiff breeze, which is when you will want to be getting to the sailboat.

As I read your criteria, my thought went to the Pungo or something of that ilk. The problem with most sea kayaks is that the cockpit tends to be small, making it difficult to stand up in and encouraging you to stand on the seat, which can break the seat. There’s just not much open floor space. I think for your use, you will benefit from the larger cockpit of a rec boat.

I also like KM’s rope idea. It occurs to me that you could take her recommendation a step further by attaching a rope to both the side you will dismount to and the away side. Seems like you could fashion semi-permanent bridals that you just attach to your sailboat and that will keep the boat from flipping while you get out.

Inflatables and folding boats make no sense to me because the floors of such boats have so much give in them that they will be difficult to keep your balance when you try to stand in them.

I’m not a SUP-er, but you might want to give one a try. At least you’d already be standing when you got to your boat. I think SUPs might also be a little unwieldy in a stiff breeze.

Good luck,


a Pack Canoe makes sense
They are slim deckless kayaks with perfectly placed thwarts.

A line around the rear thwart up around a post on your sail boat and another around the front thwart and around another post. Stand up and hoist yourself… The canoe cant kick out

For an example of many pack canoes the Placid Rapidfire does well in choppy seas ( I ve paddled it offshore in Maine in the Stonington area)

You sit low and use a double blade.

Its a quick canoe not like a typical tandem barge

The Shadow is even faster. And will hold groceries. And at sub 30 lbs either is easier to haul on deck than a plastic kayak.


I am new to kayaking
So take my advice with a grain of salt

Rec kayaks can be really cheap so you can get one to get out to your sailboat and then get something else for your kayaking adventure.

If you really only want one piece, I would suggest you check out the Eddyline Denali. I haven’t paddled one but I sat in one on dry land. I looked at this kayak because of my height. At 6’2" it isn’t always easy to find something to fit these legs and size 12 feet. I went to check out the Fathom which was like a glove snug fit. We are on the smallsize to fit this large man boat but the cockpit was VERY easy in and out and the “performance fit” can be easily adjusted with some minor alterations. Room to stand without standing on the seat and a width that “should be” stable and yet ranked as a performance kayak should be enough to at leadt check out.

not true
A good folder does not “have so much give to it” that you can’t stand in it. If you had actually attempted this yourself you would know that. I have no trouble standing in my folders to climb in and out at docks and seawalls.

The combination of the frame rigidity and the tensioning of the skin from the inflated sponsons provides a solid base to support standing. Besides which, you put most of your weight on the seat, which in most models is supported by the frame.

Many yachters use inflatable tender boats like Zodiacs and Saturns. A folding kayak has the same architecture with the addition of a frame.

and there’s a photo of someone SUP-ing in the Sea Eagle Razorlite I mentioned, so obviously some inflatables are plenty rigid enough to stand on.

good suggestions!
Appreciate all the wide-ranging suggestions. This is definitely helping me hone my criteria. Here’s where I’m at:

SUP: no. Need to be able to carry stuff to/from boat in a dry and secure fashion. Plus I’m just not interesting in SUP’ing. Not a knock on anyone who enjoys them, just isn’t something at interests me.

Canoe: Hmm. Interesting, but probably no. Does appear to be a somewhat more stable platform for shuttle duty, but I don’t picture myself paddling around the harbor in one.

Ocean kayak: excellent point about having to stand on the seat D/T small cockpit. Ugh. What about the new seats on the Wilderness boats - can they hack being stood on? A Tsunami 140 is currently on my short list.

We do also have a Zodiac inflatable dinghy that we sometime use for shuttle duty, but I hate the damn thing. It’s miserable to row, and I don’t like dealing with outboard engines unless absolutely necessary.

Keep the ideas coming!

reinvent the old to suit you!

– Last Updated: Sep-06-16 7:12 PM EST –

buy two kayaks with cockpit covers, use the hulls to create a cataraft that breaks apart with removable cross tubes. Then quick tie/lash/cam strap some marine plywood between the hulls on the crosstubes for sitting while rowing and use the plywood platform for standing when getting into the sailboat. For oak locks look at what they use in a dory and mount to the plywood so they can swivel and lock. When on the sailboat break the whole thing down. When you want to kayak tour- use just one of the kayaks and use a kayak paddle or take a friend along because they'll have a kayak (the other hull) as well.

it's an old idea- a cata-row-boat

google: "daniel carter beard man-friday boat"

or "perception revolution" and you'll get the general concept

Sounds like
A guideboat, Whitehall, or St Lawrence skiff is what you are looking for. Don’t judge real designed to row rowboats by built to motor rowboats and inflatables. Commercially good rowboats aren’t the easiest to find but they are around. Fast, seaworthy, can bring a passenger and stores.