Soft or hard chines sea kayak

Any thoughts on using a hard chined sea kayak on the open ocean?

I capsized in a 17’ Current Design Caribou sea kayak, fiberglass/Kevlar, 21” wide, hard chines. Water was in open ocean, 15 knot winds, 1.5 foot cresting/breaking seas.

I have been ocean kayaking 7 years, mostly on calm water in less than 10 knot winds. I can handle 10 knot winds and up to 1 foot sea, but not comfortably. Consider myself an intermediate kayaker, never capsized before. Everyone on the trip had soft chines.

Looking at an NDK Explorer, fiberglass, 17’, 21” wide. I am hoping that, and improving my skills, keep in the kayak.

Any thoughts?

No diff in stability or seaworthiness based on hard or soft chimes. I switch between two boats one soft one hard.
The two boats feel different in waves. One is maybe more maneuverable. But l have had both in nasty shit and all l had to do was let the boat knock around under me.

I much prefer soft chines. I like the feeling of uniformity when leaning the hull.
I generally find hard chines a bit slower and jerky–especially in smaller chop.

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What soft chined kayak do you have and how does it handle in calm waters?

I have heard soft chines have poor initial stability, feel tippy in calm water, but have great secondary stability and are more agile in choppy water. The opposite is true for hard-chined kayaks, is that correct? One person I was paddling with noticed my kayak looked tippy in the choppy water.

How does your soft chined kayak feel in calm water?


Right. A soft chined boat may “feel” more tippy because it doesn’t have the catch of a wider bottom.
But the rounded hull moves more predictably (for me) and imbues more confidence.
Hard chines will get pushed around more and have more of a sudden “let go” when they reach their edge.

My experience has been with sprint kayaks, surfskis and a few sea kayaks. All the hulls have been different to some degree, bu the fundamentals are the same.

One of the best examples I can give is of a Think EVO. Very rounded hull and even with an open deck can be leaned waaaaay over.

Also, I did speed comparisons between two different racing kayaks:
The Nelo Viper 46 and The Viper 48.

The 46 should have been faster and less stable than the 48 (hence the 46 vs 48 dimensions), but in reality the 48 was faster and felt slightly less stable, but more predictable because the hull was more rounded.

The two were vastly different in this way:
The 46 had very hard chines
The 48 was rounded and smooth

Hope this helps.

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Not much experience in hard chine kayaks.

Had a Caribou S out a few times. Wasn’t crazy about it.

From what I have read generally speaking round bottom hull is faster less wetted area and less water to displace.

Waves pass below a rounded or soft chine hull with less disruptions. Flatter bottom of hard chine hull tends to follow the water face more. So when a wave passes below it will lift the harder chine more as it tries to float more. More initial stability but not as smooth when leaning as said above.

Every thing I paddle has soft chines. Libra XT, Solstice GT, Extremes, and Expedition, all CD hulls. Mostly paddle bays of south shore of Long Island in fast period bay chop of 3’ or less if it’s whipping.

Roundest hull is the Expedition feels like the most tippy of all but definitely the fastest. Playing the other day at the dock it seems to have at least but I think more secondary stability than an Extreme. Still trying to master it as well as the Extreme. partner has Eddyline Journey and not real keen on it with hard chines few times I had it in small chop. I just don’t like the hull or seat so I maybe bias.

I paddle an Arctic Hawk and Capella (and a few others), yes the boats feel different, but I haven’t noticed any stability issues between the 2

I agree with Celia. If you can relax enough in the rough stuff, a good boat will handle it.

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Maybe not… The Caribou is rather difficult to capsize…
Or maybe you had the latest one (second edition) from CD .

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Agree Caribou should handle water thrown at it. Tons of them out there.

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Thank for linking that page!!

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If you went over it’s not because it had hard chines is my best guess. Seat time wins all the time. My Expedition felt tippy last year with rounder bottom. I even put a 12 lb bag if sand for ballast. Then it felt like an Extreme pretty much. Spent most of this summer in one of my Extremes not my Solstice which is wider. Jumped in the Expedition few weeks ago with no ballast. It felt good because I put so much time in the 21" Extreme. Still feel a little difference but not nervous at all like before.

Which one is more maneuverable?

Which one is more maneuverable?

To whom and in what conditions? Chines are only one piece of the overall design and you would do them a disservice to focus on that one element, IMO. I own mostly hard chined boats now for many different reasons but it’s never the focus when I’m looking for one.

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Some people make magic in either or both.

Just my opinion and for myself too intermediate to me would mean I can handle 2’ breaking chop and 20-25 mph winds. Rollers or swells don’t mean much in my opinion you can float over them with ease.

Yes, it would be a mistake to focus solely on the chines when considering a kayak’s performance. There are too many other factors to consider, all of which work together.

There are many highly capable rough water kayaks that have chines - P&H Aries/Delphin, Valley Anas Acuta and Gemini come to mind - a chine doesn’t make or break capability in the rough stuff. Keep in mind that the original skin on frame kayaks are all chined.

OK here’s a pet peeve of mine as someone with formal training in yacht design. There is no such thing as a “hard” or “soft” chine. A boat has a chine or it doesn’t. Originally it was a structural piece; a longitudinal stringer that was located where there was a hard corner in the side of the hull. The hard/soft chine description was invented by paddlers!

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The Petrel Play I’m building has both. Soft forward to amidships them at converts to hard chine. It has to do with handling in waves.

String, not relaxing may have been a factor. I usually have loose hips (loose hips save ships) but, knowing I was paddling above my paygrade, I may have stiffened up in reaction to the high winds and seas. Better skills and time in the seat would have helped too.

As it was, this was my first time out this season, it was April, after being a couch potato all winter. Not being in shape and water conditions I couldn’t handle are the major factors. Three of the other kayakers were Maine Guides and the fourth has been paddling for over 30 years. No one had any problems, and for them, it was par for the course. Still, everyone on the trip, all very well qualified, recommended I get a soft-chined kayak. I have an NDK Triton, a tandem, and I like how it’s made. Been looking for a soft-chined kayak and then this used NDK Explorer became available. Think there will be a fifth, new to me kayak in the “fleet” next week.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

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“I have heard soft chines have poor initial stability, feel tippy in calm water, but have great secondary stability and are more agile in choppy water. The opposite is true for hard-chined kayaks, is that correct?”

That really isn’t correct.

I have both the older and newer versions of the CD Caribou. The Caribou has really solid secondary stability. Now there’s no telling what will help you personally feel more comfortable without an increase in skills, so that certainly may be worth seeking out. But an increase in skills would be the better bet if possible. The Caribou is quite capable and fun in rough water.

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And sailboats…my scow , 1975, had hard chines