"There are a lot of reasons to choose a particular boat and it isn't all speed"
I used my Romany for most of this past weekend's training sessions wherein I was assisting. I used my Aquanaut for the Rescues class in that I can get a bigger guy securely onto the rear or fore deck ;-) I didn't even bring my quickest boat - the Nordkapp LV. I am not yet a confident enough paddler to use the Nordlow as a schooling boat.
So, what are the characteristics you look for in a sea kayak? In what order do you value them? When do certain traits trump others?
"There are a lot of reasons to choose a particular boat and it isn't all speed"
in descending order
1) fit (must fit my body including thigh braces that fit)
2) sea worthy (real sea kayak for ocean use)
3) no rudder (they brake off in the surf)
4) quality (no cutting corners for a price point)
5) preferrably pink (kidding here)
I have boats for specific purposes. My Caribou is maneuverable, good speed, and handles big water, surf and tidal races very comfortably. It’ll also carry 2 weeks worth of gear for a long trip.
My BBK Recluse is fast, rolls real easily, and is good all-around. It’s a little twitchy, and unforgiving of mistakes in moving water and surf, but that’s good, because it keeps me sharp. I’ve taken it through “The Race” at Fishers Island, NY, and it was a definite skill-builder.
That said, I might be in the market for an Anas Acuta or a Tempest 165. Thinking I might want a dedicated playboat next…haven’t decided yet, but I’m leaning heavily towards the Anas.
Ordering by purpose
First boat: a quality sea kayak that does a lot of things well enough and some things very well. For me that is my QCC700x. Good for longer trips, fast, easy to maneuver (if you know how) but not nimble and for some people ugly as sin.
Additional boats: niche boats to do very well something that you intend to do but aren’t necessarily great at general purpose activity. For example, a skin-on-frame boat that is easy to roll. It may also be good for general paddling, or extreme conditions, or whatever but what you really want it to do is let you learn 5,000 Greenland rolls. Or a 16’ FG kayak that is great in rock gardens and other conditions requiring maneuverability. You can fill out the list.
Mine: In order of importance
2. Must have a rudder.
3. Comfort and fit.
4. Will act quickly to my actions
5. Both front and rear good sized compartments with large hatches
6 Must be longer then 16 feet and shorter then 18’-6"
7 Light weight which excludes tupperware.
Speed would be up there near the top, but you didn’t want to count that.
My boat criteria is based on this overall goal:
I have no interest in racing or speed goals, whether via kayak, canoe, or on foot. The only speed factor I have in kayak selection is to keep pace within a group, at equivalent effort and heart rate, of the group overall, not individual members or boats.
My real passion with water is not just being on it, but a part of it. Maybe that is why I admire loons so much! Instead of just A to B travel, I also enjoy what a kayak is capable of doing beyond just going forward, from flat water to rough water. (edging, rolling , bracing, etc). Thus, my two boats, though different, reflect these traits I pursued:
-easy rollers, including low back decks
-snug cockpits for good contact ( I do not like roomy cockpits and that does not mean large boats. i.e. I thought I could swim in the WS Zephyr 16 I tried)
-low windage designs and minimal weathercocking tendencies (why spend unneeded energy)
-a product from a company, that values and succeeds in quality in it design and manufacturing processes. I have recently avoided purchasing a boat model I like but just can't solve the leaky hatch issue no matter what brand cover.
-I love day hatches and would not be without one
-a boat that looks good to me. This is personal. I find some boats to be ugly!
-a skeg ( even if rarely used)
-a boat that provides confidence and comfort in challenging conditions-based on its design
Oddly, I am concluding that boat speed is an overhyped topic and has less relevance that I thought. I recently went on two group paddles, each over 10 miles, and found no difference, going in my Avocet versus my OI. The group paddled at a lesiurely pace, with conversation and nature observation, and speed was never a goal.
"…didn’t want to count that"
Actually the quote I used said “it isn’t all speed” not that speed cannot be a consideration. I was noting for all the contention about speed in many threads, there are many other attributes which paddlers consider when choosing a kayak.
two kayaks so far
-I wanted to start off cheap, since I wasn't sure if I would like it.
-Wanted something short, since I would be spending a lot of time paddling a loop near my house that requires getting thru some very narrow/winding channels to complete the loop.
-And finally, wanted something decently fast for the size, since I knew I would probably end up in a race with it.
Final result was a necky Manitou 13. Speedy, easy to carry, fits thru narrow channels just fine, got a great deal on it, and I've had a great time learning about kayaking, racing and next season, doing Class I/II whitewater races with it.
When I started flatwater racing, decided I wanted something faster:
-Wanted to be able to go on day paddles on the ocean.
-Also wanted to race on the flats.
-Needed something I could fit into.
-Would trade speed for some extra stability
-Price was an issue
Ended up with an Epic V10 Sport.
A steep learning curve, but my race speed has moved from 5.0 mph (same at Manitou, that was depressing) to 6.5 mph average. have a long way to go, but having fun doing it. Can surf it consistently now, and looking forward to ocean racing next season.
Took a loooong time for both choices, and in the case of the surfski, tried a few different boats for hours at a time before making a decision.
Comfort (not always the same as Fit)
Handling (edging, rolling, etc.)
Features (Deck layout, safety lines, compass recess)
I appreciate a fast seaworthy kayak
1. fit (I’m not terribly particular about fit, but if it prevents comfort and control…)
2. sea worthy - needs to be able to be handled in challenging conditions, and needs to be able to structurally handle what I need
3. speed - I’m no racer, but for me the ability to control the boat in conditions includes not only playground activity, but the ability to navigate through conditions reasonably. At kayak speed, I’m not worried about missing anything because I flew by so fast - oh how I wish I could paddle that fast - but in reality that is a silly criticism of distance-oriented or A to B paddlers.
4. tracking & maneuverability - a lot of this is covered by seaworthiness. But in the leftover realm of tracking vs maneuverability, I fall something on the tracking side of neutral. If I find something that gives more of both, naturally that’s a good thing. If a kayak has less of both, not so much. (Maybe kayak exposed above waterline causes poor tracking in wind, where a differently shaped or distributed or volumed kayak turns equally as well and yet still tracks better, etc.)
My first boat was a Cobra Kayak. I actually really wanted the Hurricane Phoenix 140, but I had a hard time getting a local dealer to order it and it wasn’t available online at the time. So I went with my second choice the Cobra Escape.
Most for me was keeping the weight of the kayak down since I couldn’t lift it by myself. Both of these were light and for someone who can’t lift a lot of weight - I needed this. (Note: Have husband now and helps in my second kayak choice). The other important factor for me – I wanted a SOT for Florida. There are a lot of opportunities to get out of the water and I wanted a fast in and out. (I know some of you SIT-IN’s can do it lickady split as well – I’m not coordinated either).
After two years of kayaking and better yet - kayak fishing, it was time for a new kayak. Remember note above - having strong husband took weight consideration out of the picture. My second kayak is Manta Ray 12. We do a lot of kayak fishing; camping, Everglades and I wanted a tough, dry kayak. This was my second choice.
I’m not into speed kayaking so this was not a consideration for me.
Good post. Thanks!