Tandem for Great Lakes

-- Last Updated: Jan-17-07 8:17 PM EST --

My wife and I are experienced backbackers who are new to paddling. We're interested in buying advice for a double kayak suitable for multi-day kayak trips on Lake Superior (Pukaskwa, Isle Royale, Slate Is. etc). (We realize we would need build our paddling skills before taking any of these trips.) I'm specifically interested in people's opinions on the suitability of a full sized, expeidition double (eg Current Designs Libra XT 21.5 ft) compared with smaller doubles such as the Eddyline Whisper CL (18 ft) for such trips.

Thanks for any and all advice.

The Eddyline doesn’t have much room
for gear anyway. Being backpackers your used to using space efficently. Overall its a wide boat that you rattle around in the cockpit while your paddling and I’m 5’9" and 200+ lbs. I think there are probably better choices for serious tripping. Definitely try before you buy!



Cockpit spacing

– Last Updated: Jan-20-07 5:58 AM EST –

The longer tandems usually allow you to paddle independently. Shorter ones often force you to synchronize with your partner, which some folks find annoying on a long trip.

On the other hand, having the cockpits close together keeps your weight central, and makes it easier to pass things back & forth.

Do test-paddle -- some seem more "bathtubby" than others. My wife, who's short, was pleasantly suprised by the front cockpit of the Boreal Beluga.

For something with less beam, look at the Seaward Passat or the VSK Aluet II.

If you like to build, Pygmy has a kit for a double.


20+ ft. boat preferable.
A tandem may carry less gear than two singles, so you need to consider storage capacity. A 20 ft + boat would be prefereble for both camping/gear carrying purposes and general performance/speed.

Tandems move more efficiently if paddled in synch. But, if clashing paddles can’t be avoided, some cockpits (e.g. Boreal Design Beluga, a great boat) are spaced side enough apart to be paddled out of synch , some aren’t.

Double for backpackers
You might want to consider a folding double.

Folders generally have much more space and significantly greater payload than hardshells, are easier to paddle, and much more stable. Some folding doubles can also be equipped with lateen sail system, making getting around in them easier. There is an opinion that folders are slower than hardshells, but a lot will depend on the paddling skills and how heavily the boat is loaded.

Folders are not necessarily pricier than a large double hardshell. Folbot Greenland II offers a good price-performance compromise for an aluminum-framed boat. If you find a traditional wood-frame folder more to your liking, Wayland Amazon from Poland is a sound and economical choice. There are other brands worth considering if you have a budget, like Klepper or Feathercraft.

You might want to check out foldingkayaks.org for different options and opinions on these boats.

I would say…
The Aleut by Valley. Most tandems are just to wide for longer trips for me. Yes, they are more stable with a wider beam but it also takes more energy to reach over the side for a solid paddle stroke, thus cutting down on your speed and efficiency. It’s easy (for a tandem) to roll plenty of room in it if you are coming from having to pack a pack. Check one out and you won’t be sorry.

You Said Any and ALL Advice
Hard to beat the Current Designs Libra, I think it’s called.

Watch you don’t go too narrow.

The above advice is from a friend of mine who’s familiar with the CD double. He says it’s a fast boat but very stable.

I used to sell SEDA. Their double is very nice…

Might want to test paddle a couple, which is hard 'cause only larger dealers can afford to keep them in stock.


Demo an Aleut in IL
The Aleut Sea II for the money you’ll spend on a composite double. It doesn’t sound like you’re thinking plastic doubles - good, they’re too heavy, too bendy!

I know a good, responsible Valley dealer in Chicago who has a Aleut Sea II demo you can take out. I don’t want to push any one dealer, but they’re name starts with Geneva…you figure it out!

Seaward Passat
I really like the Seward Passat. Very fast but still quite stable. Not a tub. They have a version with the cockpits further apart and a center hatch/kid seat. I think it is the G3. Don’t know if it paddles any different. The center hatch should give you more storage because that wide part of the boat is otherwise not used efficiently.

I hear the Sea Kayak UK aka Nigel Dennis double is nice, too.

North Florida
If you’re ever in the Northeast Florida area, you can paddle my Valley Aleut Sea 2 or you can paddle a, buddy in the club’s, Passat G3. Both are fast, stable and will haul a lot of gear quickly. The fit and finish on both are great. His in Kevlar weighs in the eighty pound range (in think?), my Ultra Carbon/Kevlar is supposed to weigh a little less. Go and try as many boats as you can. It’s a lot of fun. Try and see if you can paddle them in the bumps. It may change how you feel about the boat. My Valley boat really likes to ride waves.

Good luck!


recommend you and wife go try:
A) a rental tandem

B) 2 rental singles

you may want to change the direction you are headed.

My wife & I did both and ended up with singles.

good luck

iroy, worth your reading.

– Last Updated: Jan-19-07 8:22 PM EST –



Iroy…a coupla Aleut Sea II shots:



I’ve got the small ocean cockpits (which I like alot–more front deck space and good/better contact for bracing) and the deck pumps in each cockpit. Great boat. Good luck.

Demo them
You remind me of us 8 years ago. We haven’t backpacked since we got our boats. (It’s much nicer to day hike with a small pack after paddling to camp!)

We love our Aleut II. The Passat is very similar but not as durable in my opinion. We had friends rent one and they had a bulkhead separate from the hull during a trip. It was probably from hauling it up on shore loaded, but our Aleut has airtight hatches after 7 years of pretty hard use.

All the other tandems are much wider. If you demo a Libra you may find it too beamy like we did. Either the Aleut or the Passat have plenty of stability at 26 inches wide and you’ll appreciate the storage capacity, seaworthiness, and speed.

If you live in SE MI give Riverside Kayak Connection a call and they’ll set you up with a demo.