Upgraded to a New (to me) Kayak

I finally found a boat after nearly a year of searching. I had pretty much given up finding something that I would like/could use. Even considered another SOT that was longer. I shopped primarily Craigslist over the last year. The big outfitter stores had nothing in stock for new-new kayaks, nothing was shipping mail order. Plus prices for new-new were really way out of my comfort zone.

Here is the thread where I previously discussed getting a different kayak to replace my old SunDolphin Journey 12 ft.

So, last Saturday I was taking a break at work and realized it had been awhile since I had checked Craigslist for what kayaks were available. I didn’t think much of it, given that most boats were too expensive or did not have a large enough weight capacity. I was shocked to find a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 14.5 ft posted 6 days before. It was a good price and the pictures were great. It also had a weight capacity of 350 lbs, and the reviews online and the youtube videos all claimed this boat was made for larger paddlers and it was a combination of touring and recreational boats, that it was really stable in the water but was also quite fast, too.

I emailed the seller thinking surely the boat was long gone, but then he got back to me that afternoon stating it was still for sale. I sent with my email a list of questions and all of his answers were perfect. He was asking about $100-$200 under what others were asking in other parts of the country for the same boat. The boat was a 2 hour drive away from me, but it was not in a big city (I hate city driving) so I made arrangements with the seller to come look at it on Monday. I drove up and looked it over. It was great. No holes or cracks. There were some usual wear: the seat would not raise from pulling on the rope level under the seat, you have to do it by hand. Also the skirt that came with it he admitted he’d never been able to get it on the boat. I later discovered that it’s too small for the cockpit. No problem. Quick fix on Amazon will solve this.

I ended up buying the boat and brought it home. Put it in the water the next day and did the normal trip out to my property on the lake. It performed flawlessly. Better than I could ever have expected. I came back today after having figured out how the rudder works with the foot pedals. It was such a huge difference, not having to think about turning with my paddle but just a slight touch of one foot or the other did the trick. When I got the pedals lined up correctly I first thought there was no way it would work, that my legs were too long. But once I got in and got my feet on the pedals it felt very comfortable. I seen several people online say the rudder is not for steering but for keeping the boat straight against crosswinds, but I really don’t know why that is. It really makes paddling much more enjoyable steering with the rudder.

There was quite a bit of wind today on the lake when I came back (I was a little nervous) but it took it with no problems at all. It was incredibly stable, not even a hint of being tippy. I was even able to use the new “special” dock they put in at the county ramp for Kayaks, which means I no longer have to share the regular launch dock with all the other boaters and no more trying to keep the boat steady while I climb out. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen anyone else use the kayak dock before so I have it pretty much to myself.

As for speed, I cut 30 minutes off my trip each way. I think this will probably increase to 40 or 50 minutes since I was paddling into the wind today and I’m still figuring out how the boat handles.

I was also a little worried that I would have issues transporting a larger boat on my car. But, it actually rides on top like a dream. No issues at all.

The only thing I really can’t do with it is haul lumber. But once I’m finished building I doubt I will have much need for this anyway and I can always rent a boat from the marina in town to do this.

Overall, it has turned out to be a great boat. Well worth the money and I’m so glad I found one and decided to take the risk. Once I get a properly fitting skirt I will now be able keep my weekly schedule at my property rather than cut my stay short because of predicted rain (like I had to this trip).

Here’s a stock photo of the boat:


Nice find. Have fun paddling.

Congratulations on the new boat. The WS Tsunami is a quite capable line.

The reason for saying that about the rudder is that edging a sit inside tends to be easier than with a SOT. Edging being the primary way to turn a boat in messier stuff, if for no other reason than that in waves a rudder will not always be in the water.

If you encounter enough wind or current against the side of your boat, it can push the hull around and make the angle you have to hold with the rudder steeper. Edging increases the ability of a boat hull to resist that push.

That said, it appears that your paddling avoids much of this. But that is why you have heard this.


Congratulations on the new boat!

Spot on assessment Celia. I have a Tsunami 165, and I only use the rudder for assistance when dealing with higher winds and strong cross currents, and rely on edging for turns and in waves. In fact, I can often turn my Tsunami tighter with edging and sweep strokes than I can with the rudder, and when on the ocean the stern often comes out of the water when going over swells.

@why1942, Enjoy your Tsunami! You’re going to have a lot of fun with it :slightly_smiling_face:

@NHTrucker - It’s been an impressive boat so far. I’ve even made up some excuses to justify going back out tomorrow morning before the rain hits again. :wink:


If speed is your primary concern, have you considered adding a sail?
They can be stored on deck, quickly raised and lowered, add to your paddling speed and make great use of your rudder.

Yes, I actually purchased a small circular sail for my kayak a few years ago. I tried it but was not impressed. I could actually paddle faster and that was in my slow boat. Additionally, the lake I’m on is large but is made up of narrow fingers that spread out in all directions. There are few straight lines. Add even more, the wind is somewhat predictable, but often unpredictable. Sometimes it will be at my back, but then other times I will be fighting against it. There is not enough room across the lake on most fingers to sail into the wind. This is why I decided on a longer boat, while still keeping it narrower, with the hopes of cutting down on the overall paddling time. The Tsunami did this perfectly.

Interesting idea about using the rudder with the sail. That would allow me more control on the sail without having to steer with the paddle. I might just try that this winter. I think I still have that sail lying around somewhere.

I’m curious both about your commute and your need to haul wood! It sounds like an interesting story.

I don’t know how interesting it would be. I have property on a lake in the PNW that is boat access only. I’m slowly developing it to live on, tiny cabin, etc. It currently has a dock, a small temporary shelter, etc. The property is on the back side of the lake, approximately 3 miles from the public ramp in town. Most people have expensive power boats, etc. Personally, I’ve had nothing but difficulty with such boats, plus they are quite expensive to moor at one of the marinas. I have always liked paddling and I had an 11ft kayak when I first bought the property. After using a family member’s power boat the first year or so (it broke down) I resolved to upgrade my kayak and paddle instead, both because of cost, expediency, and for health purposes. I got a 12ft SOT sundolphin and that has been my commuter boat for several years.

Though it was faster than the 11ft, I was still looking for something that would cut more time off my trips back and forth, and something that had the weight capacity to haul cedar fencing stock (which is what I primarily build with because it’s light, bug resistant, etc). Typically when I’m working on building something I rent a small boat from the marina in town and can haul everything in one trip. But often I find that I need just a handful of cedar stock or just have lots of tools or things to haul over (i.e. lawn chairs). I try to do this with my kayak if possible to save on rental fees throughout the year.

This last upgrade to the Tsunami will (hopefully) be my last. It is a really sturdy boat, handles unbelievably on the water, tracks great, using the rudder for turning (I know, I know) has changed how I paddle, and just having the rudder in the water while I’m paddling keeps the boat completely straight even when I just drop my gaze and focus on my strokes or on a podcast I’m listening to. My previous boats never handled like this.

Additionally, the tsunami is a sit inside. the sundolphin was a SOT and it was not sealed, so whenever it rained, all water would end up under my seat and leak into the hull. Plus all my gear was out in the open and exposed to rain (it rains a lot here). With the tsunami and the skirt I just added, it has large enough bulk heads to store most everything I need (with some slight limitations). I had to give up on lumber transport (like I could have done in a tandem kayak), but once I finish my permanent shelter I would imagine most of my lumber hauling will be over. I could technically do a large load once a year with a rental boat, just to have lumber available on site for smaller projects.

I don’t know how long the commute took with my 11ft kayak. It felt like forever. It was a SOT emotion and was not made for long trips. When I got the sundolphin, I was able to get over in 1.5 hours. With my Tsunami, that has been cut down easily to 1 hour each way. It’s on a lake, flat water, often with rain showers, sometimes no wind, other times lots of wind. To my surprise, the first time I took the Tsunami out I was hit with constant wind on the way back. It handled better than I could have imagined. So much better than the sundolphin.

That’s about it. Once I’m finished I will be able to live on the property full time, commute back and forth with my Tsunami to my car at the public dock. I’m surrounded by private timber, and the lake is usually mine since tourists are quite afraid of rain showers. Especially in the winter, there is no one out on the water. I have most of the gear now that I should need to paddle in cold weather (25-50 degrees, but wet and windy). I’m hoping the protection the Tsunami will offer, with the enclosed space, the skirt keeping me dry and trapping in heat, along with my rain jacket and waterproof gloves (not sure how waterproof they really are) I hope paddling in winter will be easier, even pleasant. There are only a handful of people who actually live on the lake full time, on my section of the lake there are 2 full timers, with another couple that is part time like I am. Most of the cabins remain empty. Some I’ve never seen a human anywhere near them in 30+ years.

It’s just short of paradise.


If paddling in water temperatures below 60°F, I’d seriously invest in a dry suit or suitable wetsuit. Especially if paddling solo with nobody else around. A rain jacket and gloves is not going to cut it. Check out The National Center for Cold Water Safety.


I’ve made the trip many times before in my sundolphin. Just the paddling typically keeps me warm. There are no currents on the lake and the wind, while it does blow, it’s never really all that bad. I’m a little concerned with the enclosed space of the Tsunami + the skirt that I will be wetter underneath than I am on the outside of my gear. I have to find a balance between what I need to keep dry and what is too much to block breathability.

I can’t imagine needing a wetsuit. It’s never been cold enough to warrant it. Plus the water always seems to actually be warmer in the winter than the ambient temps, though I’ve never once felt even close to rolling over in my sundolphin, even in the wind, and the Tsunami handles even better than the sundolphin did. I wouldn’t use gloves, but I know how quickly my fingers can get cold when paddling in even a slight breeze. I’m thinking I may not even need pants, but will be able to wear shorts with the enclosed space of a sit-in. This might cut down on the perspiration overall.

It will be an experiment overall this year. Getting a late start, had some erosion issues at my house in town. Discovered it was a neighbor’s rain gutter downspout was plugged and the water was running underground to the low spot, which happened to be right next to my house. But this has all been fixed now, so I’m heading out tomorrow.

Nobody goes out planning on capsizing, but it happens. The issue is not how warm you are in the boat. The issue is sudden cold water immersion and the attendant dangers. Once you are in the water, the air temperature is largely irrelevant.


I would agree with you up to a point. But I think it is more nuanced than this. If I were paddling in a river with currents or I was out in the ocean or even in a lake that was unfamiliar to me, I could definitely see taking additional precautions. But this lake in particular I have been on and around since I was about 6 years old. I spent summers here as a teen, and I’ve operated all manner of boats on its waters. In addition, there is no currents to speak of, and I’ve paddled three different style kayaks, making the same trip hundreds of times. I know where every snag is and I know where the submerged logs are. I know when the wind blows, which direction it will come from, how it will behave when it comes around a particular point, and how to set up to make it across in a cross wind. With the new kayak I’ve tested is thoroughly and found it to be more stable than my last two.

Yes, there is an element of risk. Unexpected things happen all the time. The biggest risk, of course, is other boaters not paying attention or hitting a fog bank and being at the mercy of power boats (hoping they will slow down).

I just don’t see capsizing as one of those risks. Granted, it is always a risk. But, such an already low risk can be hedged against. When paddling, unless I’m crossing from one side of the lake to the other (I make 2 of these each way and only about 2-3 minutes each), I always paddle about 10 feet from the shore. There are docks all along the shore, many of which have swimming ladders, etc.

The biggest risk if capsizing would be hitting my head and losing consciousness. But if that happened, the temperature of the water would not matter.

As for hypothermia, looking up by temperature it appears at 40-50 degree water temps, I would have 30min-1 hour if I were exhausted and 1-3 hours if I still had reserves. I’m never exhausted during the trip, even in stiff winds. And I could swim across the lake from shore to shore in about 5-10 minutes (not that I’ve ever tried). But the 10-20 feet that I’m away from shore most of the trip would not take but a few minutes.

Yes, there are always risks. But risks are variable. I would argue there is much greater risk in being injured or dying in a car wreck on the way to or back from the lake than I am having an issue with capsizing or hypothermia while on the water. I would bet there is more risk getting in and out of my kayak when I reach my dock than at any time when I’m out on the water (my dock gets really slippery in the winter).

You are betting and hedging your life good luck :crossed_fingers:.

I’ve never been in a car accident since 1952 where I needed a seat belt. I still wear one.

Gasp Reflex could change your odds instantly. That’s why they’re called accidents.

When you look to shore from a boat or from land it looks a lot farther when in water up to your neck.


I am not going to respond to your history on the lake. Just one thing that l have actual experience in.

You are reading the hypothermia charts wrong. The time someone has in those temps where they are medically alive is longer than the time you have before fatigue and/or your ability to use your hands to solve a problem goes away. Even your ability to think thru a problem. If you can’t do those things, you can’t get back on the board. Why a hood is always around my neck and l wear gloves based on watervtemp. Not air.

It sounds like you have strong capability. But try actually dumping in water in the 40s or low 50s near shore. See how it goes to remount.

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Just food for thought. If you do capsize in cold water then make it to shore, you still need to make it to shelter. It sounds like you are pretty isolated and hypothermia can still get you on land.


Have you experienced sustained immersion in water below 50 degrees? I have. With no fatigue prior to entering, I could no longer swim after about 20 minutes. I was towed to shore within another 5 minutes, and found I was unable to walk, I could only crawl up the beach It took about 5 minutes to get my shoes on and tied because my hands did not work. Since it was a sunny day with warm temperatures I eventually warmed up, but on a cloudy or rainy cool day with a little breeze I would have needed immediate shelter and fire.


There are plenty of people that have gone out on lakes they’ve been on many times, something happens and they capsize, and they drown in the cold water. It was happening weekly here in the northeast this spring, as it does every spring. Some were newer paddlers, others weren’t. I read of two guys in their late 20s in a canoe on a Vermont lake this past April. They were fishing, they capsized, they tried to swim to shore and didn’t make it. Their bodies were recovered 100 yards from shore. Neither of them planned to end up in the water. If they had, they probably would have prepared for it.

When I was 16, I jumped into 42 degree water on a hot day. My body went numb immediately. It took over an hour laying in the sun to finally warm up enough to not be shivering. That day the weather was sunny and in the low 90s. I have swam in water that was in the low 50s without thermal protection, and it was difficult and took a long time to warm up after. I know I wouldn’t have been able to get back in a kayak if I had to. I took my intro to sea kayaking class in 58 degree water. I wore my 3mm short wetsuit. I was warm and comfortable in the water and able to self rescue without issue.

Before betting your safety on a random chart on the internet for how long you might be able to survive in cold water, do a controlled experiment. Go to the lake you’re planning to be on, and in the clothes you would be boating in, walk into the water. When you’re thigh deep in the water, sit down and then quickly lay down in it. Get your head wet too, because if you capsize your head will go under. Do it quickly, because it would happen quickly if you capsize. See how your body reacts. Bring your Tsunami and try getting into it from the water.

I paddle a Tsunami 165. I have never unintentionally capsized in it, but I have come close to it (a moment of not paying attention to surroundings). When I have tried to capsize, it didn’t take much to tip over. I wore a drysuit this spring until the water warmed up into the 50s, and I just stopped wearing my 3mm short wetsuit a week and a half ago on the lakes here now that the water is in the 60s. When I go up to Maine next weekend, I’m going to at least be wearing my wetsuit, because the ocean temps are in the mid 50s. I may opt to wear my drysuit instead.

A wetsuit isn’t a big hassle to put on or wear. The only discomfort I get is on a hot day, it can be very hot wearing it. But, it’s easy enough to cool down by just putting my arms in the water. Laying a damp cloth on the back of your neck works great as well.

It’s your safety, and you will ultimately do whatever you choose to. I hope you listen to the more experienced people that have commented earlier. Cold water is nothing to take lightly. Familiarity with a body of water accounts for nothing. It just gives you a false sense of safety and leads to complacency, and that’s when accidents happen. Remember, just because something hadn’t happened to you yet, doesn’t mean that it won’t.


I understand what everyone is saying. I just don’t happen to agree. Or, maybe I just don’t care enough to agree. 2.9 people die each year out of 100,000 from kayaking. 11.7 people die each year out of 100,000 from auto wrecks. I would wager every one of us spends more time per year in a car than we do in a kayak. I was worried about treefall on my property for a long time until I looked up the statistics. 1 out of 10 million annually. Yes, I could end up being that really, really unlucky person. But there is far more chance I won’t. I could be an unlucky person who dies in a car wreck on my way to work. I go by wrecks on the highway all the time on that commute. But I don’t quit my job or stop driving or try to work from home. I could also be one of the unlucky people who takes out my kayak on a nice, sunny winter day and end up unexpectedly capsizing, and drowning. But, statistically, it is just not likely. Everything in life carries risk. Some more manageable than others. Some not manageable at all. In the end, we have to assess that risk for ourselves and determine our course of action based on the available information.

I’ve read all the posts. I’ve considered the rationale. I’m just not convinced there is a need. Doesn’t mean I’m not cautious when I’m out in the water. Doesn’t mean that I won’t end up unlucky. But, as you said, it’s my choice to make.