Rental Suggestions

-- Last Updated: Aug-16-11 11:55 AM EST --

Over the last month or so I have taken a few classes. I've gone through basic strokes (a few times), wet exit, self rescue and assited rescue.

Now I just want to get more time paddling, so I'm going to go rent for a little while. I plan on staying in calm waters until my skill and comfort level improve. (My classes have been on Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods State Park, RI).

In my classes I have been in a Tempest 170, Tsunami 165 and Zephyr 160. I found the Tempest difficult to get into and a little unsettling. I felt very comfortable in the Tsunami and really liked it. The Zephyr was sort of in between the two. Not as nervous as the Tempest but not as calm as the Tsunami. The Zephyr also seemed slower and got pushed around in even a mild wind.

I would like to give an Alchemy 14L a try as well as a Tsunami 140/145 (depending on how tight I feel in the 140). Any other suggestions for boats to try while I'm renting?

(I am about 6', 210lbs. Located in Worcester, MA).

Also, any thoughts on purchasing used rental boat? It seems like a really good deal to get started.



– Last Updated: Aug-16-11 12:16 PM EST –

Used/rental/demo boats can be a good deal, especially at the end of the season. Just check several sources for pricing(Craigslist, classifieds here, area clbs, etc.) to verify that it is a good price.

Do try to demo/rent brands other than Wilderness Systems. There's nothing wrong with them, but every company's design team has different priorities and preferences, which can translate into a different "feel".

The Zephyr is designed to be more maneuverable than the other two, which may be why you felt "pushed around". Boats that track better are harder to push off course, but can be harder to get back on course if disrupted. The Alchemy is also designed more for maneuverability than tracking. Which is "better" depends on you and your mission -- do you want to crank off miles, play in the surf, or something in between?

It’s been my experience
that good deals on craigslist disappear fast. If you’ve demo’d and or researched several different boats you’ll be ready to jump when you see one.

As borne out by the product reviews, the best kayak is the one you just bought.

It’s good to demo a lot of boats and have a “short list” so you’re ready to move fast if a deal pops up.

I second what Angstrom said.
Try before you buy.

The Zephyr also has…
…a pretty tall deck height (17"), if the WS website is to be believed.

If so, it may be catching a lot of crosswind, thus ‘pushing it around’.

Rent or demo lots of boats before buying so you can feel out what is what. An exception to this would be if you can get a real good price on a used boat - one where you could resell for the same price you bought it for. In that case, you can buy it, try it, and if it doesn’t work for you or you outgrow it, resell for same price.

I find that rental companies know the value of boats very well, and often ask on the high side for used boats. Private sellers often don’t so better prices may be available there (though some of them ask too much).

That was my thought.
After looking at the Zephyr 160 specs. It was pretty funny. Sitting there, not moving, watching the instructor demo a stroke and a breeze came up. Suddenly I was no longer facing the demo…

That’s the plan.
I’m looking to rent for awhile before buying, unless I see a really good deal or really like one of the boats I rent. I guess my real question is if anyone had suggestions on what to try renting. Most of my experience so far is with WS (or Confluence) kayaks since that seems to be what they had at the school. The Alchemy looked interesting which is why I wanted to try it.

Well, boat design is about trade-offs…
… so my guess is ppl here will want to know what you intend to DO with the boat before they can effectively recommend which ones to try.

Not every boat is going to be great at everything, so you kinda have to share what your intentions are.

If it’s going to be ‘serious’ sea kayaking/expedition touring, I’d imagine a lot of ppl will be recommending stuff like P&H and Valley and Eddyline, for example.

Response on the boats

– Last Updated: Aug-20-11 7:18 AM EST –

Used by far the best way to start for someone like you who has already gotten serious about strokes and rescues. You are already doing more to learn about paddling than a lot of new folks bother with, so it isn't unlikely your tastes will be moving for a while.

Among the boats you mention, the Alchemy is likely to be the best choice for learning skills early on since it will be near impossible to outgrow. You might have to get water out of the bulkheaded areas a little more often than you'd like - every one of these I've seen so far leaks a bit - but as long as you keep your stuff in dry bags and are aware of that you can just check it after wet work.

It is also pushing a decent bit of water if you want to go out and go-straight-fast. But speed is more determined by the paddler's form than the boat - we've had guys with great paddling form locally who could smoke most of the long boats sitting in a bargey 12 ft rec boat. The Alchemy is about maneuverability, and for that you usually sacrifice some hull speed.

The nice thing about the Alchemy is that, even if you pick up something sleeker and longer later on, you'll likely want to keep that as a boat to go out and play in waves with or mess around in surf. It also makes a good guest boat, since these little guys are designed with good width around the cockpit. That makes for a boat that'll be fairly kind to beginners in terms of stability, while still being fun for more advanced paddlers to play.

The other boats you mention are good boats, but likely to be more limited in their range than the Alchemy. The Tempest is a do it all expedition boat but is stiffer to turn. If your initial goals are to go out camping with a big load, like for a week, something like the Tempest would be a closer choice. For a weekend or day paddling you don't need that kind of volume.

The Tsunamis are fine boats, but I question whether they are a good starting boat for you. You may be someone who outgrows them and wants something sportier awfully soon - you'll be surprised how little time it takes to get used to something that feels a little wiggly once you have a chance to regularly paddle. When I got my first sea kayak, I chose the one that felt like "it" even though I was not quite comfortable with her stability when I demo'd. Two weeks later I couldn't remember what my problem was.

The Zephyr sits somewhere between - I know of people who love the boat and others who quite don't. Can't comment on it from personal experience.

I agree with other posts above - not that WS doesn't have some nice boats, but given that we still have some time before outfitters sell off their demos, can you get to a place to try out other boats? Just to know you did.

What are your goals?
Staying on calm water until your skills improve doesn’t tell us much about where you intend to paddle and what type of paddling you want to do.

All of the boats you mentioned are good boats, some excel in specific areas. The Alchemy is a surf and rough water playboat. You won’t be able to put much camping gear in it. On the other hand, because it’s short and fairly heavily rockered, it turns even better than the Zephyr and could be a good choice for twisty winding streams. I have witnessed new paddlers having great difficulty paddling it straight however (even with the skeg). All of these models are capable sea kayaks. If you are looking at distance paddling in a variety of conditions the Tempest would excel. It would also suffice for a week long camping trip. The Zephyr is kind of between the Alchemy and Tempest. It is a really day/play boat, but certainly has enough room for camping out of. It doesn’t track as well as the Tempest, but is less turny than the Alchemy (i.e. tracks better than the Alchemy). The Tsunami series is more forgiving than the Tempests and tracks a little better. They are good all purpose boats, and depending on your goals, might be a good choice. I see a lot of people who are very happy with the Tsunami line long term and have even learned to roll them, but I also know several people who have traded up to longer sea kayaks like the Tempest or Zephyr after a couple of years as their skills have improved and their goals changed.

Rent everything you can fit into. As your desires and ability change over time you will react much differently to boats you initially liked and disliked. That’s why buying used or from a demo fleet end of year sale makes a lot of sense for your first boat. Most people trade up after a year or two. But, it really depends on what your longer term goals are.



… To be honest, I don’t know what I want to do as I progress with paddling. I know I’m not likely to be doing long trips and camping, although if the right opportunity came up, i’d probably give it a try. I’d also want to rent a boat specific for that purpose too. I know I don’t want to float by on a rec boat either. I will definitely take an ocean skills class before going anywhere near the ocean…

I’m one of these people who likes to sample different things, so I would initially want something that is fairly flexible in terms of what it can do. Maybe it’s not the best choice for anything specific, but if it let’s me try a variety of things that would be great. The Dagger Alchemy appeals because as far as I can tell it fits the bill.

Got a chance to rent the Alchemy today. I got comfortable with it fairly quickly. Paddled for about an hour and a half. Played some with the skeg. Made a huge difference (for me anyway) with tracking straight. My only real problem with it was my feet fell asleep. I’m guessing that’s my fault since I kinda just hopped in and adjusted the foot pegs but not the seat. In retrospect, I think the seat back could have moved back some.

One of the dock folks there (Charles River Canoe and Kayak, Newton, MA) suggested I try the Necky Manitou 14. Any thoughts on the Manitou? Any suggestion for other versatile boats to try out?

Thank you for the feedback. It is appreciated.

This might be…
… a good thread to check out. A lot of veteran paddlers gave me some good advice. =]

Btw, what did you think of the Alchemy? I have yet to try that one, but it’s on the list.

Your feet may’ve fallen asleep for lots of reasons, such as how the seat-bottom tilt was set, or whether or not your water shoes provided enough support/were stiff enough.

(But if you were in the Alchemy 14.0 S (i.e. small), and your feet were simply too big to fit comfortably under the deck with the foot pegs adjusted to the correct distance away for you, then I’d say the boat just doesn’t fit. Would be time to try an Alchemy 14.0 L (large) in that case.)

I like the Manitou 14
but it’s a pretty stiff tracking boat. I’ve seen a couple of newer paddlers who had them and they were having trouble turning the boats. The boat really needs to be edged to turn efficiently and they seemed nervous or unwilling to do that. It would feel much different than the Alchemy, but give it a try.

You might also look to demo a Venture Easky 15.

Other sea kayaks might be fun to try as well. Possibly a Valley Aquanaut LV RM (would be closest in performance to the Tempest) or a North Shore Atlantic RM or a Sea Kayaking UK Romany Surf RM or a P&H Capella 166 RM. I think you are too large for the Valley Avocet RM and P&H Capella 160 RM.

There are lots of choices in composite boats too.

I liked the alchemy
I need to make a point of adjusting the seat a little better next time I try it. I certainly didn’t push it, but it maneuvered easily, and tracks ok. Tracks much better with the skeg deployed (obviously). A little tighter cockpit than the Zephyr 160 or Tsunami 165, but that’s not a bad thing. I was in the L by the way, not sure I could get into an S.