SOT Kayak Recommendations Needed

-- Last Updated: Jun-11-15 5:30 PM EST --

Hi, Everyone! I'm new here and new to kayaking. I need help sorting through all the SOT buying choices to find the best ones for me.

I'm 5'3" 140 lbs and have decent upper body strength for a woman in her late 60s.

Important to me: I want to be comfortable (seat, foot braces, etc.). I want dry storage easily accessible while paddling, for my camera. I want stability and the ability to cover distances to my destinations with some speed.

Where & how I'll be kayaking: I will mainly kayak in the Sarasota bay or off-shore of Siesta Key Beach (in the Gulf). I'm into photography, so will want to get to destinations (like bird breeding islands in the bay) fairly quickly so I can paddle around taking pictures. I will also want to just paddle around enjoying the scenery.

Budget: I can go as high as $1500 or so but, of course, would be happy to spend less if I can still get a kayak to meet my needs. Used would be OK, but I'm not seeing a lot of used ones of the kayaks I've identified so far as being good candidates. Maybe wrong time of year?

Storage & Carting: I have VERY limited storage and do not have a car I can put a rack on. I live within a mile of the bay and am thinking of some kind of hand cart to walk to the boat ramp.

So far, the following kayaks look good to me (in no particular order). What do you think:

Hurricane Skimmer 116
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Ultralite
Jackson Kayak Cruise 10 (anybody use one of these?)
Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11
Tribe 9.5 or 11.5
Delta 10.5 w/Catamaran hull and "sea view" window
Ocean Kayak Venus 11

Thanks for any help!!!

And why only a SOT?
I think you are making your life a bit difficult by not considering sit insides, at least when you talk about storing a serious camera.

Heat ?
So much cooler to be able to splash in the water on a sit on top in hot climates. Also easier to exit. And some have nice hatches anyway.

Maybe add a used Eddyline SOT 12’ on the list of potential candidates?

The Ocean kayaks are muy stable but going up a couple feet to a longer length in something like the Prowler will making paddling any distance so much easier. But then you have to cope with the weight, and she may not want to do that. Sort of a trade off, more nuisance to car top vs. go faster in water. Maybe one of those things to help lift the kayak up on top of the vehicle, assuming no truck/trailer.

Appears car-topping not in play
So it is just weight and handling on and off a cart… where having the cockpit to grab is still a little easier but with the right cart maybe not much of a thing.

I get the heat part in FL, but you can also just dump water on yourself to cool off.

On the water faster with SOT
The SOT carts use molded plastic prongs that go into two scupper holes. Fiendishly simple and fast to get out there and back without strapping.

A SOT with a hatch compartment would provide protected storage for a camera. Better yet, she could probably access it while afloat, something that is trickier with a SINK and even then only with a day hatch.

If price isn’t an issue
and you can find one, the Tarpon 120 Ultralite would win this decision hands down. I own a Tarpon 120 regular model and it is fantastic! It has a comfortable seat, is plenty maneuverable in creeks and tight spaces, yet paddles fine to cover open water, and provides plenty of dry and open storage. I would LOVE to have this same boat 20 pounds lighter…and may! :slight_smile:

NOTE: The Ultralite seat is different than the standard Tarpon seat but i would definitely be willing to take my chances.

Best wishes with your decision.

So then a specialized cart?
That should likely go on the OPer’s list of stuff she’ll need.

Granted I don’t have the same issue getting into my day hatch on the water that some others seem to have, except when I forget to loosen the hatch cover on the Vela shortly after launching. It is tight enough it really sucks down with the colder water.

Cameras, can depend. We have had a not-huge camera with one of those fancy hard plastic waterproof cases that have ways to hit all the controls. The camera by itself was a reasonable size for the hatches, but with the case on it had to be stored on the deck or in the cockpit. It also floated with the case on, so there were a lot of options, but size can vary a lot if someone is hitting the water with a real SLR camera. If her camera is something like that one we had, I haven’t seen many if any SOTs with a compartment deep enough to handle it.

I assume that SOTs are super popular in FL for a good reason. Just curious about the process here.

Caribbean 12
If you’re interested in the Skimmer 116, don’t overlook the similar Eddyline Caribbean 12. These boats have a small compartment right between your legs that could hold a compact digital camera like a Sony RX100 or RX10. The Caribbean also comes with mounting tracks where you might mount a waterproof camera to capture your adventures on video.

You Can Carry A Camera
In a Pelican case. Be careful that the straps don’t get wet. Spreading your legs so you’re straddling your yak stabilizes it. A paddle carabiner helps.

I have a Tarpon 160. It works good for me.

I’ll use breezes to,get closer to birds. With some birds that just doesn’t happen.

Skimmer 116
I have a Skimmer 116. It is fairly light for a SOT, but two things stand out to me…it’s a very quiet hull, which is important if you’re trying to sneak up on wildlife (the least bit of ripples cause a slapping sound with my husband’s OK Caper), and it has adjustable foot pegs rather than the annoying molded-in variety.

Bike Trailer
If you look online you can see how to make one these yourelf out of PVC pipe…

Scrambler: to heavy and a bit slow. Venus 11: women love these (and for good reason) as they are pretty light, paddle well (tracking/glide), and with a good seat, comfortable. Hurricane makes some lightweight SOT’s that look great. Tarpons: decent, but heavy. I’m a photographer and 80% of the time take my SOT instead of my sea kayak. My SOT is a OK Trident which has the “rod pod” hatch right between my legs and it’s a quick and easy access with either my dslr (Pentax K50) or my Canon power zoom. If rough water/waves, a nylon jacket that is water proof/resistant is great…just keep your camera hanging from it’s neck strap on your chest and zip up to cover/protect when needed. I also keep my cams in a large, double seal, Hefty clear bag and then in my dry bag. Never had a problem and a big reason why I use my K50 as it’s water resistant/proof. I love the stability of my SOT…a huge plus when trying to get a focus to snap. When working rivers or lagoons, drifting to your subject (especially birds) will get you closer as they are not nearly as skittish. Good luck. I suggest a test paddle if possible.

Second that, gnatcatcher
Of the ones listed, I have paddled all but the Jackson, and I would go with the Skimmer 116, or the Skimmer 128.

Very quiet, good dry storage, light weight, and made in the USA by a company that backs up what they sell.

Caribbean 12
a very nice boat, but heavier and more hull noise than the Hurricane Skimmer 116. And quite a bit more money.

So Nice to Get Advice from the Experts!
Thank you all - you are helping me narrow down my search as well as providing valuable information and food for thought. Sooooo much appreciated!!

Newbie question: What’s a SINK versus a DAY HATCH and how are they different?

Again, thanks so much!

Love my skimmer
Hi! I just bought my kayak at the end of last summer. I’m about your age.I tried many of the ones on your list when I was shopping. I decided on the Hurricane Skimmer 128 and I absolutely love it !!!

I’m heavier than you; that’s one of the reasons the store recommended the 128 over the 116. The Skimmer is only 43 pounds, so easy to transport back & forth to the water.

I hated the Scrambler - I found it very difficult to maneuver. The Venus was not stable enough for me (I’m a newbie and have been terrified of the water all my life).

If you have any questions about it, I’ll try to answer them for you.

A SINK is a sit inside kayak, as opposed to a sit-on-top (SOT). A day hatch is a small, easily accessible dry hatch.

some more thoughts
I was paddling on my Skimmer 128 this morning, and thought of a few more things:

check all the measurements if you’re not going to be testing all of your choices: boat width as well as seat width.

Re the Venus - though it’s designed for a woman, I found the seat area to be very snug. As in I felt I would get stuck in it.

Re the Skimmer - the seat is broad, but yet the boat is narrow enough. I find it easier to paddle (again, I’m a newbie so I don’t know the right terms). With the Scrambler, I felt that I had to reach out further - that there was too much boat rim between me and the water.

Boat aesthetics did not figure in to my selection at all ! But, I do have to admit that the Skimmer is one fine looking boat, and I get a ton of compliments on it. Being a newbie, I feel like it gives me some cred. I know that’s very superficial, but it’s fun having a cool boat that everyone admires.

And day hatch…
Is one designed to be accessible on the water in a SINK. The larger ones are not.

Kayak Decision! How About the Paddle?
Again, thanks everybody for your insights. I’ve decided on a kayak - I’m going with the Ocean Kayaks Venus 11. Part of the reason for choosing it over the Skimmer 116 was price - the Venus is about half the cost of the Skimmer. I’m thinking less expensive might be good for my first one, then I can upgrade later if it seems necessary.

Has anyone purchased online from I’m thinking of buying a package deal (kayak, paddle, PFD) from them - shipping is free!

The paddle I’m thinking of choosing is the Werner Skagit Kayak Paddle with Straight Shaft. I’m thinking 230cm and the smaller shaft diameter would be right for my smaller frame (5’3") and smaller hands (6.5" heal to fingertip). Any thoughts on either the paddle or the size?

Also, since PDFs are not required to WEAR here in FL (you just have to have it visible), I went with the least expensive option in the package. Thoughts?

I’m going on a guided kayak tour tomorrow on a rental kayak just to make sure that first kayak experience was as great as I thought it was before I spend the money on the kayak. I’m pretty sure, though, that I’ll love it as much tomorrow as I did the first time! :slight_smile: