Sealed bulkheads

Newbie here, looking to buy my first kayak. I’ve always just rented one when I wanted to go before, but that’s no longer an option. I’d like to know what brands have two sealed bulkheads. I’ve seen Eddyline pop up many times… but there’s got to be more? Eddyline is a little out of my price range too. The kayak would be used mostly on a lake, or on a moderately calm river on occasion. Thanks!

Virtually all rigid (plastic or composite) touring kayaks longer than 12’ have dual bulkheads – they are considered a mandatory feature. Only cheaper “recreational” style sit-inside kayaks under 14’ lack them. There are some smaller kayaks, like those made by Eddyline, which do have bulkheads. Some shorter kayaks, like the Wilderness Experience Pungo 12, have one bulkhead, usually in the stern (rear). This is almost as much of a problem as having none at all since if the boat is swamped the front end will sink with the boat vertical in the water. The video in this recent post vividly illustrates what happens when a boat without dual bulkheads is swamped, even in shallow calm water (he’s in a Pungo 12 and you can see later in the video how the front sinks because it fills with water – this is called “Cleopatra’s Needle” because it sticks up in the air like an obelisk monument). The only option when this happens is to swim to shore dragging your boat to empty it. You can see how this would be a problem out in the middle of a lake.

If you have a kayak with no bulkheads you really need to fill the stern and bow (front) ends with inflatable flotation bags so that the boat will not fill with water and sink or make it impossible for you to climb back in if it capsizes or is swamped by waves. These are long triangular bags that you blow up to fill the space in to exclude water. I often paddle folding and skin-on-frame kayaks, which are a skeletal frame of wood or metal with a rubberized fabric “skin” over it – I use flotation bags in them since they don’t have bulkheads.

But for your purposes, in looking for a kayak, you will find that every major brand has bulkheads in most of their models and the basic specs for each model will mention that – there are dozens of makers but the most common quality brands in the US are Wilderness Experience, Necky, Dagger, Riot, Perception, Venture, Elie, Current Designs, Eddyline, Stellar and P & H.

I would advise you to avoid discount and big box store brands like Sundolphin, Pelican and Lifetime.

If you want to post more information on your size (height and weight), budget, type of paddling you want to do and your location, folks on here can offer you a lot of good information to use in your selection. Honestly, if you are just getting into the sport, buying a used kayak is your best bet. Few people find the “perfect” kayak their first time around because you won’t know until you have been paddling for a while exactly what kind of performance and features will suit you. Buying used means you will not waste a lot of money on a boat that may turn out to not have what you want and re-selling it to buy the next kayak will get you a higher percentage of your expense back.

That’s where my search is falling short. I’ve been looking at only recreational kayaks. I’m a 5’3" medium sized woman, the kayak would mostly be used on calm lake or river for day trips. I’ve been on craigslist looking for something used for awhile with no luck (small town, rural, not a lot of postings). I paddled an Old Town last weekend. It was just okay… but I’m no kayak expert at this point. My local sports outlet has Perceptions on sale (and a bunch of other brands that I had assumed were crap). Maybe I should just get a recreational and equip it with float bags?

Something like a Perception Carolina would have two bulkheads. Same with a WS Tsunami. These are pretty much rec boats (or pretty close to it) with all the usual sea-kayak features.

Gosh, I hear you about small rural towns and the frustrations of finding a used kayak. I’ve been in an unsuccessful hunt for over a year for a used kayak with certain specs.

While I’ve never paddled one, the Perception Carolina appears to be a quite capable boat with dual sealed bulkheads and a pretty good reputation. There were two in a small group a couple years ago when we did a bay crossing on Lake Michigan. Their owners were quite happy with their kayaks. If your local shop has a Carolina on sale, it’s worth looking into and getting a test paddle if possible.

Or, you could get a inexpensive rec boat and flotation bags and be quite happy with it in calm water staying close to shore. Such short kayaks are usually quite wide and don’t track well. That might not make any difference to you. Just make sure you get a paddling PFD that fits well and wear it whenever you’re in the kayak - no matter how calm and quiet the water.

Even if you go with a short rec boat, keep looking on CList and eBay. You never know what might turn up and you might get curious about improving your skills, learning new strokes (and how to get back in your kayak should you flip) as well as exploring other waters where a longer and skinnier kayak would serve you better.

I started with a short fat rec boat. When I think of my journey since then, I’m reminded of the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

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Halfway between the two “extremes” listed by Rookie are semi-touring kayaks which are usually pretty close to 13 feet long. These are a lot more slender than the typical rec kayak, but unlike boats such as the Carolina, they have only one sealed compartment (in the back). Some of the boats in this category actually perform very nicely, and I don’t think anyone who’s expecting to paddle non-risky conditions fairly close to shore should be discouraged from using such a boat (but it happens sometimes anyway). With a boat like that, you’d only need float bags for the front. Most often, you’d use two bags in the front, and insert one on either side of the foam support pillar (I think there are also “forked” float bags, and in that case a single bag does the trick).

The next question is how to secure the bags so they can’t just pop out, but we can save that for later (don’t forget to ask if you don’t figure out a way to tie them in when the time comes).

Ok first a couple of explanations of kayak material might be in order too. There is roto mold plastic kayaks like Perception carolina, Then there is another type of plastic called thermo formed which is the generic term. Eddyline calls there carbonlight 2000. it has NO carbon in it is just thermo formed plastic. The thermo formed ones cost more but are lighter in weight compared to roto mold kayaks. So if lighter weight is important a thermo formed boat might be wanted. Eddyline, Delta, Hurricane are some brands of Thermo formed kayaks.

Now if you cant find a used one local you could buy new online and have it shipped. Now that sounds expensive but not always the case. I bought one on ebay from a store in CA and it shipped free to me in NY. It was about 5 years ago but there are still places like that. I also bought one online just 2 years ago and shipping was 100. Still a good deal. Now they were both plastic kayaks so not much chance of shipping damage.

Or drive to a kayak store, make it a weekend vacation trip. I drove 500 miles each way to pick up a kayak but iam a little crazy, ok more than a little.

Thank you everyone for your responses! Immensely helpful. I neglected to mention that I have a 2 year old that wants to sit between my knees while paddling from time to time (he’s too scared to sit alone and also on the autism spectrum, so I don’t trust him to sit alone in a tandem seat). The Perception Carolina looks exactly like what I’d need, except the cockpit may be too small to fit both of us in our life jackets. My son is also 90% of my reasoning for wanting dual bulkheads. The search continues I suppose. Again, thank you all so much! I may post again once I have looked through all your suggestions and narrowed it down :slight_smile:

Well in that case I’d ask, why not a SOT?

A Wilderness Systems Pungo was a super large cockpit. Plenty of room for a child to fit with you. I think they only have a rear hatch (not sure) BUT a float bag in front and your all set.

Wanting to take your son along will really limit you to recreational boats with a large enough cockpit. And because of the cockpit size, a sprayskirt, even if a large enough one is available, won’t be very effective and will mean that the boat won’t be suitable for anything but calm water use.

But, there’s a good reason that the WS Pungo is one of the best selling kayaks in the USA and the staple of many rental fleets. The 12’ model only has a rear bulkhead but NRS makes a flotation bag for under $50 that fits perfectly and can be tied in to the footrests. The larger 14’ model has sealed bulkheads front and back. The seat is very comfortable and while the outfitting is minimal, it’s all good quality.

They’re not fast boats but they track well and have confidence inspiring stability. They’re not for someone who wants to really improve their kayaking skills by learning to edge and roll but you can certainly have a lot of fun with them.

Yeah, they’re right. Pungo with float bag.

No SOT because it can be cold where I live. I’d like to be able to kayak for more than a few months of the year. Thanks everyone!

So I think I’ve narrowed it down between a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120, Hurricane Santee 116 Sport or Santee 120 Sport. Pungo is heaviest of all of them, but probably still manageable. The Old Town we were in last weekend had a 48" cockpit and we fit comfortably. The Pungo and Santees are 57" and 55", so we should be comfy in either. Man, do I wish there was a better market for used kayaks around here!!

And the Pungo has a nice console in front, yet the Santee Sport has a beautiful UV resistant finish (seriously, it’s a beautiful looking boat). Anyone know how the Pungo finish holds up to fading in the sun?

Also, anyone have insight on the two in regard to stability? I saw a video of a guy fishing with both legs slung over one side of a Pungo, It was solid as a rock. Very impressive when I’m towing my young child with me also. I wonder if the Santee Sport can pull that off too? Decisions, decisions.

They’re probably not that much different. The Santees are probably a little hippier than the Pungo in the shorter range, so I would go 12 foot or as long as you can handle.

Using 303 and keeping a RM boat covered or out of the sun will keep it in pretty good shape. Here’s is a photo of the hull of my first kayak, a rotomolded Necky. Admittedly I paddled it for only six weeks and it hasn’t gotten much use.

Thermoform does produce a beautiful finish. I have a couple of Eddylines. They’re ridiculously easy to care for and always look great. The attached photo is of my second kayak, an old Skylark which was purchased used. It’s nine years old and is kept as a guest boat. I did add perimeter lines so it’s now fully rigged.

Doing a 360 while sitting in the cockpit is a good exercise to find the balance points of any kayak.

@AmyD said:
And the Pungo has a nice console in front, yet the Santee Sport has a beautiful UV resistant finish (seriously, it’s a beautiful looking boat). Anyone know how the Pungo finish holds up to fading in the sun?

Also, anyone have insight on the two in regard to stability? I saw a video of a guy fishing with both legs slung over one side of a Pungo, It was solid as a rock. Very impressive when I’m towing my young child with me also. I wonder if the Santee Sport can pull that off too? Decisions, decisions.

WS also makes the Pungo 120 in thermoformed ABS construction which they call their “Ultralite” model.

It’s a beautiful finish, and is a lighter and more responsive boat if not quite as durable as the heavier poly version. A few years back my wife and I wanted to test paddle a couple of Santee Sports. The shop suggested we also try out a Pungo Ultralite and somewhat to our surprise we both much preferred the Pungo. Neither of us were very experienced paddlers at the time but my advice is that you should do everything you can to test paddle both before making your mind up.

How much would you all pay for a used pungo 120, several years old, many visible scrapes on the bottom? I found one on Craigslist and the guy posted as $700, or “make an offer”. I offered $500. He actually got angry? Am I way off base or is this guy a psycho? I can’t stop laughing at him, it was so absurd.

He’s a psycho but that describes many people who sell on CL.

I think you made him a very fair offer. Keep looking. As I said earlier, Pungos are very popular with rental fleets so there should be plenty of them around.