Question about upgrades for a novice

Hello, I’ve had a nice start to my hobby of kayaking with a used Old Town Dirigo 106. The boat glides and is easy to handle. However, it seems a bit slow, and there is definitely a top speed it can go, beyond which no amount of frantic paddling improves.

I’m looking at a Perception Sonoma 13.5. I know this is not a perfect kayak and there are much faster ones out there, but I need to stay within a garage space and financial budget. Do you think that his karak will be faster in a meaningful way? I’m not looking for racing speeds, but I do find it somewhat discouraging that my paddling can be overcome by a person strolling on the side like beside me. I am going down very slow moving and calm rivers. I don’t think I enjoy paddling on the lakes or in waves, so I am not too concerned about those kinds of challenges.

I’ve paddled the Sonoma 13.5 and it’s pretty nice. It’s not as fast or nimble as a sea kayak but it’s definitely zippier and sportier than other rec kayaks I’ve paddled - though I’m not familiar with yours. A friend in one was able to keep up with a group that had sea kayaks in it, so likely a lot faster than yours. It’s also nice and light. If you’re not a really large person it might meet your needs. Give it a test paddle if possible.

Thank you for the information. I think that helps frame the reviews I’ve read and confirm it is in-between different types of kayaks. I’m pretty medium so I don’t think I’ll be too crammed. My current kayak is about 55lbs and while I sincerely appreciate the exercise and upper body strength, I do have some concerns about my back and so shaving off some pounds is probably advisable as I portage with it on my shoulder generally.

Yes, it’s kind of a transitional boat. If you end up buying it, you might put a float bag into the front as it has only one sealed bulkhead. It’s definitely much more fun to paddle than most rec boats I’ve tried.

I just bought a Sonoma 13.5 a little over a month ago and I love this kayak!

I also have a SOT with nearly identical dimensions as your Dirigo and a faster hull shape. The Sonoma will be WAY faster.

It will also be way less stable. With a shallow V hull it doesn’t like to stay still when at rest. Initial stability is low, but secondary stability is excellent. You can really carve a turn in this kayak.

I replaced a 15’ rotomolded sea kayak (Necky Eliza) with this kayak. I don’t do longer than day trips so the single hatch compartment is more than enough. I’ve got oversized float bags up front that reach right to my foot pegs so it’s got relatively more bow floatation than the sea kayak did. It generally seems “faster” than the Eliza to me. Same width and the Sonoma is a much sharper more extreme Swede form than the Eliza with a slicker surface. I don’t have the strength to drive either kayak over 5MPH for more than a short distance and at 4MPH the Sonoma clearly takes less effort.

The Sonoma is also very light. It really makes a difference. I had trouble loading the 50 pound sea kayak, I have no trouble loading the 40 pound Sonoma.

The Sonoma feels like a sports car to me. It accelerates quickly, it turns sharply, it’s very sensitive to control inputs and very responsive.

The reason I keep comparing the Sonoma to the sea kayak is because the Sonoma is much more like the sea kayak than like the rec kayak.

These are the Harmony Gear “Long Stern Flotation Bag” They’re a bit over sized, but they have the super pointy skinny shape that fits into the very narrow space up there. If you’re taller you might find the “Long Bow” bag a better fit as it’s a bit shorter.


You’ll find a longer boat will allow you to build more speed. Short boats have to be wide to get the displacement to carry your weight.

Did you get the Sonoma? If so post a picture on the “Show off your boat” thread, which needs to be kept alive forever! :wink: