Touring kayak advice

Have paddled a 13’ rec kayak for years on rivers/lakes, but looking for a new/used kayak to take on the Great Lakes/ocean. I’m 66, 6’1”, 170#, in good shape. Planning trips to PNW and Maine and Canada when everything’s back to normal. Something for mostly flat waters and big rivers to just poke around and explore. Won’t be taking it into the surf. Thinking 15’ or thereabouts. Present kayak is 54# and would like something around there or lighter for easier lift (good shape but pretty sure I’m going to keep getting older), and will be taking lessons (when they’re available again) on how to handle such a kayak. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Welcome, Dave. Two Michigan outfitters you could check out. Both have some used boats, offer instruction, and hold symposiums. Power of Water has two ACA L5 instructors.

Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte.

The Power of Water in East Lansing.

Good advice above on lessons.

One comment on the surf part - if you paddle bigger water at some point you will have to come in thru at least some light surf. Because that is what will be between you and where you need to land. So don’t skip getting any advice or practice on the basics of boogeying in sideways or on the top of small waves. And getting out again - there has been more than one time that the tide changed enough while I was parked for lunch that I had to slap on a skirt halfway and come out backwards thru light surf. Personally I usually find that easier than arguing with the incoming waves to keep the boat straight.

Thanks. I figured as much. I’ve some experience with surf on Lake Michigan so I’m not too worried about it. I just won’t be seeking it out. Looking forward to taking lessons and upping my skills

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Rookie has good suggestions with the Power of Water and RKC. I know folks at both places and recommend them. You also might consider Michael Gray at Uncommon Adventures. He is an excellent instructor and has been known to sell some of his fleet. I also encourage you to get involved with one or more of the paddling groups in Michigan (if you are not already). I am a part of LOAPC and we have people who organize a wide range of paddles from local rec. paddles to river trips to open water paddling. We also have several members who are highly skilled and have experience as instructors (not me) and were able to pull off several practice sessions last summer.

LOAPC organizes paddles, etc. through Meetup but does have a web site:

Uncommon Adventures:

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Thanks. I’ll look them up. I’m only 45 minutes from Lansing.

There’s a Current Designs Solstice listed in the Grand Blanc MI Craigslist. Very competent open water sea kayak, 17’ 7" and 54 pounds (fiberglass). New these are $3500 so the $1200 price is quite a good deal. You could paddle this on any Great Lake or seacoast.

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Hey thanks. Haven’t looked there lately because kayak listings dried up lately. Grand Blanc is just 10 minutes away

Dave, fyi, LOAPC will be having a Zoom discussion on January 24 to start to plan for open water paddles. Join the Meetup and then join the club (Dues are $10/year) if you are interested.


I’m interested. Thanks for the info

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For some very general suggestions:

A sea kayak 16’ or longer that has sealed bulkheads fore and aft for floatation and storage. A non-stretch perimeter line fore and aft of the cockpit to give you something to grab for rescues and when you are in the water. Not a necessity, but I always recommend a painter, a line at the bow that you can use to tie off the boat. It’s also useful for walking the boat through shallow water. A rudder or skeg to aid in tracking in windy conditions. A well fitting spray skirt to keep water out of the cockpit. A spray skirt is an essential part of a sea kayak, not an optional accessory.

As far as weight, it is generally based on not only length but the composition of the boat. For the same design, weights decrease from plastic, to fiberglass, to Kevlar, to carbon/Kevlar. Cost increases in the same order. For a ballpark figures, a new plastic boat may weight as much as 68 lbs. and cost around $1400 and an equivalent boat in carbon/Kevlar can be around 35 lbs. and cost in excess of $4500. Other than acceleration, the major advantage of a lighter boat is the ease of getting it off and onto your car and to and from the water. Once moving there is not a huge difference in overall performance. Still, not a minor consideration.

Another consideration, in general and again for the same basic design, the longer and narrower the boat, the faster it will be.

For open water learn, practice, and become completely comfortable with a wet exit and self and assisted rescues. Carry a pump and paddle float. If you have never taken a kayaking course that teaches these techniques as well as basic safety, it’s always a good idea, although courses may be hard to find with the pandemic. A course can also help you unlearn any bad habits and improve paddling efficiency.

For the areas that you want to paddle in learn about cold water safety. Cold water, often combined with the failure to wear a PFD are by far the leading causes of canoe and kayaking fatalities. If not already familiar with cold water safety check out the National Center for Cold Water Safety.


Thanks for the info. I picked 15’ just because that’s pretty much how much room I have in my garage. Might be able to stretch it to 16’. Definitely will be taking lessons when conditions allow. Thanks

Any thoughts on rudder vs skeg?

There are plenty of decent options in this range.

I differ from the other comments here in that the 3 boats I and my girlfriend own are all 15’ or less. My storage area is just over 15’ long, which is the main driver of this. But I do find I like the day touring size kayaks more anyway. I have access to longer boats, given that I working for a kayak rental place, but it is very rare that I would ever use a longer one (only 1-2 times per year).

With you coming from rec background, you may want to go for a sea kayak with a slightly larger cockpit opening and a bit roomier inside. The Dagger Stratos or a Dagger Alchemy (this would only be available used, as Dagger stopped making it) could meet you requirements.

For a more sea kayak feel, Valley Gemini could be good, but it is a narrower boat with smaller cockpit opening, so at first you might feel a bit constrained but longer term it might be a better boat). There are composite versions available for lighter weight.

Often I would suggest a P&H Delphin as a good boat in this size, but I think they may heavier than you prefer. The composite version,the Aries, might be ok.

Jackson Journey 14 could work.

Thanks. I really appreciate the input. I’ve been researching online and have seen the Stratos mentioned favorably a bunch. I don’t think I really want a long boat at this point

Hey Peter, thanks for your advice. You actually were the only person who addressed my question. I’ve done a bunch of research online and have been seriously considering the Stratos. I just looked at the Gemini. Has great reviews and I like it’s weight. Concerned about the 22” width. At my age (66 and getting older), but actually quite fit, might it be too much boat for me? Understand that I’ve never been in a touring kayak, so I’m coming from a position of ignorance.

I’ve had a plastic Valley Gemini for 6+ years now - it’s a fantastic kayak that does a lot of things well. As far as it’s suitability for someone new to sea kayaks, my dad (now 75) has paddled it several times when we have had company and I needed to put someone else in his Tsunami. He never had an issue with stability in the Gemini. The Dagger Alchemy or Stratos would also be a great choice.

@Peter-CA the newer Corelite-X plastic that P&H has and uses on the Delphins gets the weight down. My 2020 model Delphin 150 is speced at 55 lbs and mine weighs just short of that. I think that the OP would need a 155 though but that is only 1 - 2 pounds heavier.

@Daveinmichigan if you are still looking when the water here in Michigan gets to be more comfortable I have a Delphin 150 and an Arctic Tern that you could play a little with to get the feel of a couple of different hulls. Note: These are NOT for sale. There is more to the stability profile than just the width number. The Delphin at 15’ 5" / 21.5" feels as or maybe more stable than the bigger Arctic Tern at 17’ / 23" wide.

As a note: I’m about 5’ 8", 160 lbs & 70 years old.

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Rookie, Celia, and others have recommended taking intsruction early on. I strongly agree. Along with learning some important basics (like how to get back into a sea kayak when you flip over), you will also learn a lot about the boats and have a chance to try at least one, hopefully more.

My girlfriend has a Gemini. I haven’t used much, as my weight puts me at top or slightly above the capacity, so I can’t give a lot of hands on feedback. Long term, I am sure it would be a great boat for you. But the first few times it may feel a bit tight and/or tippy (as would most any sea kayak, given you are used to rec boats). I also have both Alchemy and Stratos. The Dagger boast would feel less tight and less tippy up front. But if you really get into sea kayaking, long term the Valley may feel better to you.

I’ve heard that before. But given how much over the speced weight the original ones were, I guess I still need convincing about P&H and weights.