Purchasing Kayak-Help!

I’m finally going to buy my own kayak and I need help. It will primarily be used in the Intercoastal Waterway here in North Carolina. Mostly kayaking through the marshes. My main issue is sit on top vs. sit in. Are there any major advantages to either?

California Kayaker Magazine article
There was an article in California Kayaker Magazine that covered some f this. Can be read online for free at http://www.calpaddlermag.com/magazine.html. Issue 10, Spring 2013. Starts on page 6.

SOT better for fishing, hauling, wading

– Last Updated: Mar-21-14 6:45 AM EST –

If you are going to fish, haul a lot of gear and/or get out of the boat a lot during the day then an SOT is preferred. I live in NC and paddle some coastal and some fresh. I paddle a SIK rec boat, but I really wish I had a SOT and a SIK touring boat. That's because I do fish and do trips where I haul a bunch of stuff and get out a lot. I also do long paddles. Out in the sound, it is hard to beat a SIK touring boat. It's fast, less affected by wind and the chop and spray isn't soaking your legs. If you want to go beyond the breakers into the briny blue, then a SIK is much easier to get through the waves. It is easier to self rescue in an SOT if you end up swimming, but the flip side (pun intended) is that the likelihood of swimming is a lot higher in the SOT if you surf launch. I don't know what your budget is, but there are also touring surfskis that are the best of both worlds. One other big consideration - depending on what it is you are planning to do back in the marshes, you can consider lighter touring boats that aren't plastic. But if you are going to run into the oyster bars a lot you need plastic.

No one can tell you for sure
Spend time in demos, then decide. Both types have plenty of models that will do what you want.

But there are significant diff’s between SOT’s or SINK’s when it comes to how you carry gear, personal comfort in terms of wetness and moving the boat itself around (SOT’s can be heavier and more of a challenge to car top if you are a smaller person).

A bunch of strangers on a forum can only tell you which models they think will work best. You are the only person who can decide which type of boat works better for you.

Where are you generally? If you say where I am sure a lot of people can recommend good places to do demos.

Thanks for your responses! Your help is greatly appreciated. Opti, I’m mostly going to use it to get from Topsail Island over to Lea island to explore the marshes w/ the kids. A SOT would allow me to hop on and off easily and to carry camping gear.

Thanks again for your help!

its a compromise
You can find a full range of kayaks in both types. The cold factor is not insignificant, and neither is the ease of re-entry after capsize.

The water washing over your legs, and just the drip from the paddle on your legs, along with them being exposed to the open air/wind, makes a huge difference if it’s chilly. A sit inside you are enclosed all the way up to above your waist with a skirt on. It’s no small difference in terms of comfort in cool weather.

I can manage a few methods of re-entry in my sit insides. But no matter how good you get, when I see a sit-on-top go over, and the paddler just crawl back on and start paddling again in seconds, there simply is no comparison as far as the simplicity of it. There’s no worries of preventing a swamped cockpit, or pumping water out, or the next wave swamping the cockpit again before you seal it back up with your skirt, etc. And it’s just a significantly easier transition from crawling yourself up over your kayak, and getting into a seated, ready-to-paddle position.

Wind and currents are a reality along the NC ICW. Currents not so much in the large northern sounds, but south of Cape Lookout on down they can be significant. So the wind’s effect on your kayak, and a level of efficiency that will allow you to make progress and still enjoy yourself are important.

Composite is a great choice for the sounds of NC if it’s in your price range. Oyster beds simply need to be avoided, regardless of kayak type. And that’s not hard to do. They’ll cut up your plastic kayak like knives, so it’s not really a question of one being damage-proof.

If you are talking marshes…
you will be dealing with wetness outside of the boat if not in it. So I suggest you take a hard look at more expensive paddling outfits that include booties on the pants, so you feet aren’t a soggy mess of wet wool socks or mud that take hours to dry out.

If you do that, you take care of the cold wet leg issue that capefear mentions for SOT’s.

Regardless, get some good advice about ALL the stuff you will want, not just the boat, to do what you want comfortably. There is a learning curve involved in re-entering a SINK on the water, but with deck rigging and a reasonably low deck most people can manage it clothed correctly for a swim. And SINK’s might allow to to carry camping gear with less fuss, so there is that.

Above all though, learn how to self-rescue and how to judge things like current before crossing over to offshore islands, regardless of the boat. I have known of instances where perfectly healthy young men were unable to get back onto a SOT on the water, so there is nothing assured without practice.