I’m a single dad of a 7 year old little girl. She weighs about 45 pounds soaking wet but know she would love to get involved in kayaking with me. I’m looking for advice on the best, small as possible, but nice modern tandem kayak for the both of us. I say small because I figure I’ll realistically be doing most of the paddling, at least for a couple of years. Plus she won’t be too much help in loading and unloading so I want something manageable. What make and models would be recommended? Thanks!
was in the same “boat”
This is probably not very helpful but I sold our canoe and got a used 14+ foot tandem, dual cockpit Necky Manitou II. It's heavy at 75 lbs but with my kayak cart and proper loading technique, I can handle it ok. I wanted a boat that would perform well solo in more challenging water.
My experiences with my wife in a tandem rec boat steered me to the Necky. We just didn't get along too well. My daughter will have her own space to do whatever she wants.
I'd see what's on the p-net classifieds and watch craigslist. Others may chime in with more experience than I.
Her own kayak?
Ocean Kayaks makes the Kea Kayak for kids, and I’ve seen some other small kayaks out on the river. Might be more fun for both of you.
My first kayak was for family paddling as you describe, it’s stable, fast for a SOT tandem, and works well with small ones. You can move the seating position to paddle from the center position, as kid grows up they can take the bow … Very easy to climb back on if you tip over and very safe for young paddlers. Will hold two adults, two kids and a dog in a pinch, we did this for fun, but not suggested.
lightweight versatile option
Depending on your budget, I notice REI has the Pakboat Saranac folding tandem convertible kayak on sale right now, along with the tandem deck for it. These are very neat boats (we have a different solo Pakboat kayak, the XT15). It will cost around $1200, comparable to most quality tandem "hard" boats.
TANDEM DECK: http://www.rei.com/product/786880/pakboats-puffin-saranac-double-deck
In fact, look at this photo on the Pakboat site of a dad and his young daughter:
You can paddle it open like a canoe as shown or attach the deck. Pakboat also has a solo deck for the boat you can buy (REI isn't stocking it at the moment.) The seats can be moved so that it can be paddled solo. You can find some YouTube videos of people paddling them online. They also make a 16 foot XT kayak tandem model like the one we have. These are a bit faster but a little more costly.
Two of the reviews by users on REI are somewhat negative but those folks clearly did not understand how to correct some of the issues with such a light boat (under 30 pounds and you can pack it down into a duffel bag too). They need some ballast to track well, half gallon jugs of water in the bow and stern can make a big difference. You should also use inflatable flotation bags in the bow and stern if you paddle with the deck on.
The boats are well made and not the flimsy things some people expect of a folding craft. We bought ours from a guy who uses Packboats as a fishing guide in Alaska and Patagonia and swears by them. Very comfortable inflatable seats, too. Certainly simple to transport -- your daughter could probably "help" carry one end in fact if dad balances it in the middle!
Consider that the smaller the tandem the closer together the two paddlers are. That means that the smaller the tandem the more likely the two paddlers are to interfere with each other (e.g., getting out of synch and hitting paddles). And a young, inexperienced paddler in front will increase this likelihood. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a tandem. Just be aware of potential difficulties.