Pungo 120 or 140 in the South Puget Sound

Greetings. I live in the South Sound and kayak around Anderson Island, Nisqually Reach area. I currently have just an 11 foot sit on top kayak. I am looking to upgrade and am wondering if the Pungo 125 or 140 from Wilderness Systems would be an appropriate kayak for the area. I’m mostly sticking to the shoreline but I want to take some longer trips around Anderson Island or perhaps some overnight trips. I am also looking to start kayaking during the winter as well. I am a big guy, 6 ft tall and about 250 lbs. Any advice would be great!

And would you eventually want to go closer to the mouth of the sound into bigger more open water? I don’t know that area, but a quick check of the map tells me that is an important question. The skinnier parts of the Sound open up to areas that are not for rec boats like the Pungo.

I think BIG WATER when I see sound. Big water can get nasty in a hurry.
Pungos are great boats when used properly. They aren’t sea kayaks.
For your size, get the 140.

I would suggest neither, but instead get a longer/narrower sit on top or move up to a day touring/touring kayak (if either touring, also get lessons to make sure you know how to recover in deep water).

Here is a scan of chart showing the American Canoe Association skill level versus conditions, which also lists type of boats. https://www.dropbox.com/s/s4xbs6bb76dft6f/ACA-SkillLv%26SeaConditions.23.jpg?dl=0

You do gets some currents even in the south bay above a knot (ebb tides this weekend will max at about 1.7 knots at Nisqually Reach), which move you into level 3 zones. And definitely can get winds and wind waves that exceed level 2 conditions.

The Pungos are recreational class boats, so would only be usable under the ‘any’ kayak category (last row) which shows up in level 1 and perhaps level 2 (should you test it to make sure it floats enough and you can get back in). In level 3, recreational boats are more likely to flood/flip and are difficult/impossible to recover in deep water with, so are not recommended.

Sit on tops are actually safer. Because the hulls are filled with air and there isn’t a cockpit to flood, they can more easily be gotten back up on after a flip.

Touring kayaks get their flotation by having large, sealed hatches in front and back (the Pungo does have hatches, but front isn’t large, so not clear if the boat would float high enough to allow you to get back in and drain it.)

In Puget Sound area, touring kayaks are the most common boat The cold, wet weather makes sitting in a kayak with a skirt to seal you in much more comfortable than a sit on top. But sit on tops are totally valid, but you just need to dress for the exposure. Not really all that much more than a touring kayak, as you are supposed to dress for being immersed in either case, so wet suits or dry suits are common (except in summer in south bay, where the water can warm up significantly).

Thanks for the advise. The above being said does anyone have a recommendation for a touring kayak that would work well for a 6 ft 245 pound guy?

@Redleg101 As mentioned above, part of paddling in the Sound especially solo is to gain some sea kayaking skills. I found at least two places in Seattle area that do lessons and tours as well, so could have some demo boats. But I expect there are folks on this board who know the area better and could provide more specific recommendations than me.

I just did a quick filter on Wilderness Systems’ site on size and paddler size large and sea kayaking conditions, it immediately popped up a few rotomolded boats. A Tempest 170, a Tsunami or two and a Zephyr. I know paddlers of similar size who use at least a couple of these boats. I didn’t look at any other manufacturer, point is finding a likely boat is not a problem.

But if working well means going out and keeping you safe without getting some skills and learning to recover in a capsize… you are going to have a tougher road on that.

The best way to find a boat that fits you well is to get the classes and spend time in some. So I suggest you look around for two things. See if anyone is doing pool sessions for starting paddler over the winter. If you are going to take a swim, much nicer in a heated pool. And check out places for spring when they go outside.

I second what Celia says - before you buy a touring kayak, it would be good to take a class. The various shops that sell touring kayaks usually have a day long “Intro to Sea Kayaking” class fr around $125-150. Along with teaching you some important safety aspects of touring/sea kayaking (different terms used for the same thing), it will teach you a lot of others things and give you a chance to demo at least one boat and a chance to ask them about ideas for other boats.

Another boat that you definitely should look at is the Current Designs Sirocco. Almost anywhere you go in Puget Sound, you should be ready for big water conditions. I’ve seen some of the bays so rough that no one in his right mind would want to be out there.

Just for the fun of it, you should take a little drive up toward Tacoma and visit NC Kayaks new shop. Go to nckayaks.com for details. I haven’t been to the new shop yet, but eventually I’ll be getting up there.

I can recommend one of the better places I know of to go paddling in your general area. That would be at Arcadia Point across from Hope Island. As you might know, so many put in spots in the sound, can be very difficult at low tide. One such place is Tolmie State Park. The Indian owned boat launch at Arcadia is good at any tide level. The waters in that area are generally the calmest you’re going to find. If you are tempted to cross over to Boston Harbor, be sure you’re ready for any change in conditions It can get very rough out there.

There used to be a kayak shop at Boston Harbor; it’s probably still there. I think I launched there one time.

Thanks for all the advice. I will look into classes for sure.

If you can get up there, check out Body Boat Blade on Orcas island.

Kayak lessons are also available through the Kayak Academy in the Seattle Area. They’ve been around a long time and seem to have a variety of kayaks to try.

Of course lessons are valuable because you can end up safer and more knowledgeable about kayaking in general. Less important, but also true, lessons can save you money by preventing you from making a beginner’s choice of the wrong kayak, paddle, etc.