Tippy Sea Kayaks and Wood Kit boats

I tried out a Hurricane Tracer 165 for the first time this past Saturday. I did not realize how tippy it was. It seemed like it was going to just dump me out and I was somewhat uncomfortable with it. (My body has a high center of gravity). I had been flirting with the idea of building a wooden kayak but now I’m wondering how they might be as far as tippiness is concerned. Bearing in mind how popular the Tracer is I was very surprised I was uncomfortable in it. I’m guessing just spending more time in it would be the thing.

I was thinking Shearwater 17, Pygmy Arctic Tern 17 or the Stitch and Glue Night Heron. Do you think these boats would be tippy also?

Should a person be concerned with tippyness or just spend enough time in the boat to get confidence in it?

The Tracer is a ‘tippy’ boat
compared to other sea kayaks. Most tippiness can be overcome by seat time as you mention. It sounds like what you want is a kayak with good primary(initial) and secondary(in waves) stability. You should see those terms in the boats’ descriptions.


– Last Updated: Aug-20-12 11:48 AM EST –

I don't know your experience level, but most paddlers find that stability seems to improve with more time on the water. You might consider a lesson or two to work on techniques for boat handling and dealing with rough water.

If you're considering a kit boat, contact the manufacturers and ask about owners/builders in your area. Most are happy to show off their boats, and I've been offered demo paddles by proud builders.

I've paddled the Pygmy Tern 17 and the Coho, and thought the stability was fine, but I'm only 5'9", 160.

If you're looking at kit kayaks in the 17' x 22-23" beam range, see if you can demo/rent/borrow a few other commercial kayaks in that size range to get a feel for what to expect. A few possibilities might be the Tempest 170, NDK Explorer, VSK Aquanaut, etc.

If you want more stability, the Pinguino 145 might be an option as a kit.

Tempest 170
Its funny you mention the Tempest 170. I tried that one out too. I felt completely comfortable in that boat. It let me edge and left me know how far I could go over. Seems like an awesome boat. I was just very surprised at my reaction to the Tracer.

I own a Coho
Both initial and secondary stability are excellent on the Coho and it is a very fast kayak as well. You can’t go wrong with it if it’s a sea kayak you’re looking for.

I think I am starting to swing toward the Arctic Tern or the Coho.

Very stable for a sea kayak …
… But your size and weight could have been why. I had a 170 when I weighed around 205 - 210 (5’ 8"). Got out of kayaking for a while, and also dropped to 160.

When I got back into kayaking, I bought another 170. What a difference. The boat felt totally different, too stable, had to work at getting it on edge. Traded it back in for a 165, which to me felt like the 170 did when I was 45 pounds heavier.

If you can cut bread, tie your shoes, and ice a cake, you can build a VK from scratch.

That’s what I build and paddle, working from plans and a table of offsets. Takes a day to lay out, cut and trim the panels. Costs about $500 in top-quality materials, and 60-80 hours, to build a very stable solid 17’ sea kayak. Have built four, been in on about a dozen more. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

You piqued my curiosity about this, so I googled it. It seems they went out of business. Is there a source out there for the plans?


– Last Updated: Aug-21-12 11:32 AM EST –

Tell Jeff what you are looking for...


Yes the boats are TOUGH!


Re the VK Plans
The designer did cease doing the workshops which popularized the VKs and has moved on to other things, but he and some diehards, like myself, still have the plans and manuals. They’re not really for sale, but if someone wants to buld, we’ll find a way to get 'em set up, and I’ll help via email with ???. (The advice is free, and worth every penny paid for it). I usually ask those I help to send the designer a small royalty ($25) and, most importantly, a photo of the completed boat.

Just too good a design to let die out…

There are, of course, a great many S&G kayak options out there, and most produce fine craft. If I* wanted to stray from the VK - which I don’t - I’d take a long, hard look at Nick Schade’s S&G Night Heron…

That is an impressive video. Dacron sure is tough stuff!

pygmy boats
A guy in our club had an arctic tern. The arctic tern’s sides are very high. They have a of ridiculously high volume. It makes it extreme challenge to roll and a pain to paddle in cross winds. The coho or new murrelet are better choices.

A tippy boat just takes seat time to get used to. Limiting your trip duration to start off and build up. ‘Tippy’ boats use more core muscles to stay upright. As you get fatigued your reaction time gets worse and they start to feel more tippy.

Lots of good information!! I forgot about Kudzu SOF boats. Will check into them again. A 20 pound boats sounds right to me!!

I ordered the Firefly from Kudzu.
The lightwight design was just to much to pass up.