Shopping to Upgrade my Commuter Kayak, Ideas?

I’m currently shopping to upgrade my current kayak. It is an older 12 ft Sundolphin that is a SOT but the seat area is recessed into the mold so it’s more like a sit inside without the deck. It is a great little kayak and it is faster than my previous one (11 ft Emotion SOT) but I do a 1.5 hour commute 2x a week and would like the new kayak to cut some of that time if possible. It is used exclusively on a flat water lake, no current, some wind, and waves from passing boats. There are occasional night or early morning trips in the dark, too.

I would like something around 14ft and light enough that I can put it on the top of my car for transport as needed.

I really like the SOT kayaks for fishing with the open decks and the comfortable chair/seats and the large weight capacity, but I’ve read these are really slow. I also need something that will turn water during rain storms (either scupper holes or sit-inside) and can carry a good amount of gear/stuff (grocery shopping, etc). Doesn’t have to be dry, but I do have a small ice chest + food.

Utility is better than looks which is why I’m drawn to the fishing type. I love these newer fishing kayaks that are 14ft with open decks and comfortable seats that you can stand up in and walk around on. But I imagine it’s like paddling a concrete block through the water.

My current kayak (sundolphin) is quicker than my previous Emotion because it is quite narrower and longer. I realize the narrower you get the more instability there is.

I guess speed, weight capacity, and price are at the top. I also hope this will be my last kayak purchase. I really would prefer to pay around $500 and I don’t mind used (my Sundolphin was used and half price) but I’m willing to go up to $1000 for the right boat.

I’m also noticing kayaks from Amazon and other sports chains area really not available anymore. Is that just the going trend or is it shortages due to covid?

I guess I’m looking for a really speedy utility kayak that has ample storage, open deck (if possible, or storage options on deck). Any ideas?

For what you need it sounds like a pack canoe with a canvas deck would serve you well. Wide boats do paddle like concrete barges.

You know, I hadn’t really thought about this option. Interesting. I used one as a kid and in my 20’s every summer. This was before the new form kayaks. All there was then were the fyberglass.

That red canoe was plastic with alluminum framing and it was great. I would sit in the back seat, use a double bladed paddle and it would go anywhere I pointed it. Plus I could get a flat backed one and put a small motor on it as well. Do you think a large canoe using a double bladed paddle would be quicker on the water than one of the new fishing kayaks?

THe speed of the boat is determined by the wet surface, the shape of the hull, and the power output and skill of the paddler. For a given hull shape and wetted surface area, a small canoe will haul more supplies more conveniently than a large fishing kayak. Many fishing kayaks also have hull designs that heavily prioritize stability at the cost of speed potential. You will also have more flexibility to customize your comfort versus stability in a canoe, as you can sit on the floor, kneel on the floor, or sit on a seat. A canoe will generally be harder to recover from a capsize, so take that into consideration as it applies to your situation.

Avoid pack boats they are expensive. Very nice indeed; I have a Stellar Dragonfly and it’s awesome but also due to high gunwales, light weight, short length are very sensitive to weather and cannot be relied upon as a come hell or high water transportation. Consider a Wilderness Tsunami 140-145 depending on your weight. 2nd hand you can get one for about that money in your budget and there are a ton of them out there. It’s not the lightest but they are not slow at all, and compared to a Sundolphin or SOT pretty speedy and responsive. Not as nice or fast as the composites but the price is right and after all these years I still appreciate the stability as well as durability.

Yes COVID to all. Closed factories, backlogged demand of people wanting to get out on the waiting list.

The way kayaking (and biking and a few other outdoor hobbies) works is that you are paying the BRAND NEW PRICE for a used ~10 year old boat. OR you are paying ~10-15% more than you would have 2-3 years ago for a brand new boat that you order now but won’t get until next year or the year after. So brand new is actually a better value, but the benefit of paying the “full new price when it was new 10 years ago” for an old beat up boat is that you get it right now and don’t wait.

The wilderness system looks rather interesting. It looks though at my closest shop it will cost $1500-$1700 and then I would have to pick it up. I hate going into the city. :wink:

There is a Perception Solo on Craigslist, 14ft, that seems comparable for around $700.

The mention of canoes made me reconsider the NuCanoe 12ft with the added 50cc engine. Though this is leaving the paddling behind since videos on youtube confirm this is a beast to paddle. I’m not too thrilled about an engine. But it would solve a few problems.

To be honest, I’m leaning toward the Perception Solo. It’s the right size, right price and local so easily accessible. I have to do some more research on it though. Plus, it is possible to wait a year and see if there are more options. My sundolphin is still going (finger’s crossed).

There are some definite benefits to a canoe. It was so long ago, I don’t recall how fast it was in the water with a double bladed paddle. I know I sat a lot higher than I do in the kayak. It certainly would have carried more materials.

If you’re handy, there are ways to convert large canoes to capable and relatively fast rowboats. It would definitely give you the capacity you’re looking for and even an old aluminum Grumman would be faster than the large fishing kayak.

I’ve experiemented with some rowing boats in the past and I don’t really care for it. The lake I’m on there are a lot of twists and turns and I don’t care for always heading toward my blind spot.

Unfortunately, the Perception Sole only has a weight capacity of 275 lbs. That’s not going to work. I need at least 350 with what I plan to be carrying.

There is a HURRICAN SANTEE 126 KAYAK for sale in my area for $750. It’s only 12.6 ft but I’m wondering if the design will make it quicker than the 12 ft sundolphin I’m currently using? It seems to have plenty of storage, should do well in the rain (w/ a skirt) and has a weight capacity of 350 lbs. Any thoughts?

What is with all these ads on craigslist where people are paying $1200 and up for these kayaks and they say “used only twice” or “barely used?” I paid $250 for my sundolphin and I’ve used it every week for the last four years. Do people really buy these and just store them in their garage, only to sell them a few years later online?

Now that I think about it, though, there are many cabins I pass by on my commute each week that have one or two kayaks or paddle boards. Even a few that have two or three jet skis stored up on the docks. But these people are rarely here. Maybe a few weeks in the summer. I’m only considering spending $1000 on something because I use it more than I do my car. But, if that’s the case, I paid $7000 for my car. Wonder what kind of kayak I could get for that price? :slight_smile:

I don’t know anything about that particular kayak, but be careful with weight capacities. Sometimes filling a kayak/canoe to stated capacity can drastically change the performance of said boat.

A Hurricane Santee will paddle much better than your Sundolphin. That’s a quality boat. Sundolphins are pretty low end. And a pretty reasonable price if in good shape.

You don’t mention your height and weight — with sit in kayaks that matters, they need to fit you. Easier to advise you on models that woukd work if we have that info.

For your intended use , the longer the better. A longer boat will paddle faster with less effort. And if you are over 200 pounds, or load a boat over 250, it will sit lower in the water and a shorter boat will be more unstable for that reason. Longer boats gove you more volume and even though narrower can be just as stable as a shorter wider boat,

A drawback to most sit inside kayaks are that the hatches are not that easy for stashing bulk groceries - not the best daily cargo vessels. Though they will keep it dry.

I’m 6ft 2, about 280 lbs. The specs say the seat is 20.5 in wide which is the same as the seat width of the sundolphin. It actually looks like the SD is .5 in less. The weight capacity at 350 is pretty good. I got the SD because its wc was 395, 94 over the emotion kayak I had.

So I think I would fit. But it would be close. The new kayak would be about 6 in longer. I doubt that would make a difference. I do think the new one would be faster but by how much I’m not sure.

I think if you get a “sea” or touring sit in type kayak of 14 feet long in plastic you will be able to if not meet your budget and get a measurable improvement in speed from your current sit on top. Sit inside have more curved/round hulls and are narrower to boot so you will definitely have a huge increase in speed regardless of what you choose if you go sit inside but you have some potential issues.

6’2" is kind of tall but not prohibitively. I am 6’5" and 185lbs but fit in most kayaks; that doesn’t mean I am stable though as height alone can make you pretty tippy. 280lbs for any height is a lot! Not trying to poke fun at you just what it means is that your girth will be considerable and you will not only have to watch the weight closely once you stash gear in it but also make sure you can get in, fit and get out of a sit inside. Which brings to the original problem in that no SOT is going to be that fast and having a boat that’s a little longer won’t make it that much faster alone. So if you want a boat that is considerably faster you will need to find a sit inside into which you can fit which will require trying boats out.

Lastly regarding budget I know people who got some pretty good plastic kayaks 2nd hand that were rentals or demos for like 5-800 a couple years ago. This is no longer possible at least not if you go by classified ads everywhere. I really don’t know what you will find for $5-1000 but as you saw you might have to spend a bit more because for 5-1000 you will get lower end boats in general none of which will be that fast. Not trying to be a boat snob, you don’t need to spend $3,000 plus on a boat but if you want more speed you will not find it at that price range unless you get lucky.

One last thing though you could get lucky soon as paddling season (without immersion gear) is almost over so shops that rent will be selling off lightly used inventory over the next month or so. They might have mercy and charge that classic $500-$1,000 that used plastic boats of even high quality used to sell for (like the Dagger, Wilderness and other type sea kayaks). Contact your local pro shops and maybe demo some models. You could find a bargain.

One last thing don’t be afraid to take a look at OLD composite boats, like maybe a composite or ABS canoe/kayak that is more than 10 years old especially >20yo they go for mid to low 3 figures then. They tend to be sold cheap, are light, fast and lots of fun. Beware the condition but you can always go and meet the owner to check it out. Like I said when scouring classified ads you can/do get lucky.

Have fun!

Yes, in my area, at least, many people seem to buy $$$ kayaks, proceed never to use them, and then sell a few years later for a fraction of what they paid. It works for me, seeing as it has enabled me to purchase several very nice composite sea kayaks for roughly 20% of their retail price. In fact I love wealthy people who buy kayaks on a whim. :grin:

At your size 12’ is pretty marginal. Having the extra displacement of at least a 14’ boat will greatly improve cargo capacity AND efficiency. A boat needs to physically displace a weight of water proportional to that of the load in order to maintain a safe stable waterline. In order to get that much volume, a short boat has to be wider which makes it slower and harder to paddle.

In general we usually recommend at least 15 -16’ for guys your size. Some of the larger forum regulars may weigh in on this.

Of course, with longer boats there is usually an increase in weight, though that is somewhat offset by them being able to be narrower. And longer boats are easier to load on a car because of the leverage.

Since you live near water maybe you can test paddle used ones you see for sale. Are you friendly enough with neighbors around the lake to ask them to check out the kayaks they have on their property, explaining your purpose? Seeing how various sizes and models perform for you would help you narrow down what might work best.

I’m honestly surprised you have been able to paddle such a small boat for so long.

To be honest I love the sundolphin. It was a huge improvement from the emotion sot. I would really like to get into a 14 ft if possible. I’m not sure I can load much more than that onto the roof of my car.

As far as neighbors here. No. When I was a kid and my family would come over during the summers everyone talked with everyone else. It is not really that way anymore. Maybe its just me but everyone seems to stick to themselves. Maybe everyone else is still talking with each other and I’m the odd man out. :wink:

I’m dock to dock, no getting in or out from shore. There is also a kayak launch in town that has rollers. I don’t use it given all my gear is open and unsecured but with a new boat and everything inside i might.

There is a lot to consider.

Another boat to consider (and they can often be found cheap) is a kind of oddball canoe made by Mad River, their plastic Adventure 14 and 16. they are kind of a mash up of a canoe and a sit on top, Some people might scoff, but my ex boyfriend and I rented one on a vacation and despite being mostly users of regular canoes and better grade long touring kayaks, we actually liked the thing well enough to buy one when it turned up for $400 on local Craigslist.

They are godawful heavy but I was able to load it myself by lifting the bow up onto the rear roof rack with the stern on the ground, then lifting and shoving it forward. Used a $40 wheeled cart that collapsed and stored behind the stern seat for moving it on land. I was a 60-something little old 5’ 4" lady at the time we owned it if that helps make the process real.

Though both the 14’ and 16’ are tandems they have a middle seat which a solo paddler could use. Beam is only 33" and we used 230 cm and 240 kayak paddles for ours, almost never used single blades.

There are two reasons I though of this odd craft for you. One is that the cargo capacity is massive: 875 pounds for the 14 and 950 for the 16. That is way beyond what you would likely load but that also means such a boat rating will keep your waterline stable even with a pretty good load well below the max. You could even paddle with a friend and a pretty good load of stuff. AND the 16 comes already molded to accept a stern mount electric trolling motor which would enable you to motorize it. You could probably rig something to mount one on the 14 also if you are handy. With a heavy load in the bow the boat would be balanced enough to paddle from the stern seat instead of the middle.

New these are $899 and $999 respectively. But, like I said, they can often be found for less than half that. Our older 16 did not have the motor mount or the add on seat backs, but the guy did throw in the 30hp trolling motor and a bracket he had made for it to use when fishing.

Anyway, just another option to consider if you spot one cheap. We had a lot of fun with ours, even taking it down some fast class 1 and 2 mild whitewater creeks. It was a barge, but surprisingly fast, very tough and you could haul a lot in it. We even paddled it with a third passenger and it worked fine with about 500 pounds of us in it.