The next boat

Though I remain very fond of my Caribou S, I am now in my 70th year and thinking of a lighter, more efficient boat. These are the boats I have considered: the Epic 16x is fast and efficient with good stability but I dislike its integral rudder system; the Current Designs Solstice GTS is very comfortable and efficient but is very difficult to turn without using the rudder; the QCC 600 is quick and maneuvers well enough but seems a bit twitchy in conditions and also seems to be built on the heavy side, even in kevlar. Though I haven’t had the chance to actually paddle one, the Placid Boat Works Rapidfire double-paddle canoe looks like it would be a very fine paddling boat but I’m afraid that even with a snap-on spray deck, there might be problems paddling in the steep chop common to the large, shallow New Jersey coastal bays where I do most of my paddling. I would happily entertain suggestions for other boats that I might consider [I am 5’11", 165#]. The ideal boat would probably be somewhere between 14 & 16 feet, around 40#,reasonably stable, ruddered [but not rudder dependent] and very easily driven at a constant, all-day rate of about 4mph. I am not much interested in maximum hull speed as I am in covering my usual paddling distance which varies between 12 and 24 miles with the least amount of energy expenditure. Thanks, Jake

next boat
valley etain, LV . fast enough and stable. it is also reportedly a good tracker.

Based on your description
it sounds like you should consider the QCC Q400X. It is right in the middle of your length range, paddles very easily, is stable, has a roomy cockpit on a par with Solstice GTS. I’ve been enjoying mine, and it will be good in the conditions you mention. Mine is kevlar/carbon and is about 40 pounds. I notice that QCC has upped their weight quotes on the site, so who knows. It has a 30-day guarantee, though, so not such a risk to buy one.

considered a folder?
Have you ever tried a Feathercraft folding kayak? If price is no object, their Wisper is a terrific boat that only weighs 38 lbs at 15’ 7" and 23" wide. I’m 61 and have no trouble transporting and loading it solo. Handles well with good speed. Folders are particularly nice in rough water as they absorb some of the wave force.

It’s my 3rd Feathercraft and one of 6 kayaks I own now, among them hardshell, folding and rigid skin on frame. If I was to only keep one kayak of that lot it would definitely be that one. Mine is a standard Wisper with the strap on skeg but they also make the Wisper XP model which has a rudder. In addition to the performance, I find it the most comfortable kayak I’ve ever used.

And, of course, it’s great to have a kayak I can take as checked baggage on a train or flight or car trunk anywhere in the world.

shameless promotion
This is a case of shameless self-promotion, but I think the Griffin or Griffin LT built by Walrus Kayaks may actually fit the bill quite well for you. Neither boat is rudder-dependent in any sense of the word, but both can be fit with a rudder. If you’d be interested in trying one, the Outdoor Sports Center in Wilton, CT should have at least one in stock. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I’m the owner of Walrus Kayaks but swear I wouldn’t suggest one of our boats unless I really thought it might be a good match. I will say the Griffin is shorter (14’) and probably a bit slower (but maybe not?) than the rest of the boats your looking at. If the pack canoe format is something you’re interested in, I’d encourage you to go down the Placid Boatworks route. Their boats paddle really really well and are really impressive in their craftsmanship and engineering.

Best of luck with your search either way!

Read the website. It is called the 17-5.

Stellar S16
Light weight and efficient.

Thanks for the suggestions
Hadn’t considered the Etain but it looks interesting and I live a short drive from Jersey Paddler, a Valley dealer so I’ll give it a try.I paddled a QCC 400 a couple of years ago and actually found it to be a bit too stable making it difficult to do an easy leaned turn. Otherwise nice boat. On the same day, I paddled a QCC 600 which I liked better than the 400 but found it a bit high strung in gnarly water.But then, compared to the solid Caribou, most boats seem high strung.The Walrus Griffin LT reminds me a lot of the Tchaika that I test paddled years ago. Pretty, little thing but too small/tight fitting even for my modest frame. The Griffin is handsome but I bet the waterline is not more than 12 feet which is short for a performance boat. Anyway, the nearest dealer is 125 miles from me so I guess I won’t be trying a Walrus any time soon.The Stellar boats look very interesting but, again, they don’t seem to have a dealer network. I was particularly drawn to comments about the Feathercraft Wisper. For awhile now, I have considered a used folder, a Feathercraft or Folbot, to take with me to Florida where my wife and I spend three months each winter [ I won’t car-top a hardshell that far]. I was thinking more about the Kahuna but there are so many really well pleased Wisper owners that I have to consider both boats. Happily, I have found that Ken Fink, one of Feathercraft’s few remaining reps, has a winter home in Florida not more than a hour’s drive from where we stay and I think that I can arrange a test paddle in both the Kahuna and Wisper. Feather craft kayaks are very expensive but when you’re 70 you can count the paddling years you’ve got left on the fingers of both hands, if your lucky, and still have a digit or two left over. Now is no time for frugality! In the meantime, I’ll try to find out what I can from Feathercraft paddlers. Thx, Jake

Next Kayak
If weight is a concern and cost is not a factor, you should try a Warren Light Craft 15.5. It weighs 28 Lbs and paddles great.

Leaned turns
It’s definitely true what you say about the Q400 and leaned turns. In the designer’s statement that used to be on the QCC website, Winters specifically states that the boat is intended to be helm-neutral beyond 15 degrees of lean, so that it wouldn’t feel squirrelly to novices.

You seem interested in skin boats, so I’ll put in a plug for the Cape Falcon F-1. I have the immediate precursor, the SC-1, which is a skin version of the Mariner Coaster. It is a great boat and would be outstanding for the conditions you mention. Plus, it is light and durable. If you can’t get to a building class (mostly in Oregon), you could have one made and shipped. I did go to Oregon and had a good experience building mine. It’s hard to overstate how easily it glides and how responsive it is to the paddler.

Next boat
Mike: Warren boats are fascinating and I have no negative feelings about their decidedly “far out” design but I have heard that their hulls are “soft” and tend to dent when landing on a pebbly beach. Anyway, when a boat is that pricey I would really need to paddle it for a few miles before putting down hard cash.

Carl: I owned a Mariner Coaster for a couple of years and foolishly sold it [because it was the only boat in my fleet that anyone wanted and I had to get rid of something]. It is the only boat that I regret selling. I have visited the Cape Falcon website and I think that Brian Schulz’s F-1 is likely an improvement on the SC-1 though there was nothing much about the Coaster thet needed improving. But getting out to the Oregon coast, building an F-1 and getting it back to New Jersey would be a challenge. The obvious advantage of a folder is that I can carry it to Florida [or some other place] inside the car and not on top of the car. Jake

I’ve limited experience with Feathercraft (lots with Klepper and Folbot), but the boats I’ve examined/paddled really impressed me. The very best quality. Still, I would think hard before buying a folder, since the process of setting it up and taking it apart again eats into paddling time. It doesn’t seem like much when you first get the boat and are excited with your new toy, but after you’ve sweated on the beach a few dozen times putting the thing together, with onlookers pestering you with questions and your paddling partners waiting with growing impatience on the water, the whole process becomes a pain. And taking it apart, rinsing all the connectors and drying the skin is not much fun either.

That’s why folder owners often store their boats assembled. But then why not simply have a hardshell?

Add to that the fact that you will probably be using a seasock (a useful device, but one with its own set of annoyances) and loading gear through the cockpit rather than through nice big hatches, and you have a different sort of kayaking experiences. Not worse, but different.

Folders are great when frequent travel or space limitations make a hardshell impractical.

Next boat
Once I get to the Gulf Coast and assemble the folder, I probably won’t have to take it down again for three months when it is time to head north. From what I’ve read on, putting the boat together then taking it apart seems to be an annoyance that only increases as time goes by. That might be why some Feathercraft boats become “permanently assembled” after the aluminum frames corrode and fuse together when they are left assembled for prolong periods. Then there are inflatables, the Feathercraft Java being one that seems to get good marks. These are probably a lot quicker to get into the water but IKs are a whole different topic. Jake