"Upgrading" Kayaks

I am a recent kayak owner after many, many years of power boating and fishing.

I purchased a Perceptionsport Conduit 13’, 26.5" wide. My goal for this purchase was to get a decent all around kayak, that would be a good introductory boat at a decent bang for the buck entry expense, at least until I knew whether or not I really liked the sport. I love this kayaking so far!

Secondly, I felt that if and when I “upgraded”, this would be a good kayak to use as a spare, for a “beater” for rocky creeks and fishing, and to allow my friends to use who do not own boats. So far I am very happy with this purchase but am already looking ahead towards my next toy purchase.

My home water is the Ohio river and the tributaries that feed it. None of the creeks have any whitewater and are basically slowly meandering but they can neck down fairly narrow as one proceeds upstream.

As an example I went out Saturday morning, paddled 4 miles up the river, back into a creek, fished a bit,then paddled back the 4 miles. There are some trips on the river I would like to take that are 2O miles or so one way but of course that is in the future and would not be the norm.

Here is my question. If and when I upgrade to buy something that would be better for longer paddles, how much does one gain per extra foot of length and inches narrower, vs how much does one lose in stability and fishing ability?

As an example, Perception makes a 14’ Carolina that is 24.5" wide and them some sea kayaks go several feet longer. I am probably wrong but it would seem to me that going from my current boat to a boat one foot longer and 2.5" narrower would not be a major step but my thinking may be totally off.

I am totally new but am trying to learn as much as I can.

In my opinion, my next boat would be better for longer distance paddling but I would still like to be able to take a fishing rod and a small amount of tackle and still have the stability to fish.

Thanks for your input and opinions.

What you are describing:
Will probably feel a little tippy the first day you get into it, and then gradually you’ll get used to it.

And in a short time you will be as comfortable in it as you are in your yak now.

Jack L

do some demos
Check with outfitters around the area for demo days where you will be able to test paddle a variety of boats. That is really the best way to get a feel for what they all do. You can certainly fish from longer boats. A good friend of mine in New England is a fishing guide who teaches people to spin cast from a standard cockpit sea kayak.

It might be too far distant for you (and maybe not soon enough if you are eager to upgrade for summer), but the Lake Arthur Regatta, just north of Pittsburgh and maybe half an hour from the Ohio border, is the weekend of August 3 and 4 and there are always outfitters with a range of boats you can try out on the lake (which is a great place to camp and kayak if you want to take a weekend trip up there sometime). I have to believe there are outfitters closer to your area that offer something like this as well.

I can tell you that I noticed a HUGE increase in my enjoyment of river kayaking when I went from my first kayak that was 14’ long x 25" wide to one with a more vee shaped hull that was 15’ (barely longer) but 21" wide. It seemed like half the effort for twice the speed. At first it had that “unstable” feeling that such hull differences create, but I soon learned that it was actually very stable even when leaned over. It got to the point where the older kayak seemed impossibly balky to me. But I kept it as a loaner, just as you are planning to do.

I have also found that people are usually pretty agreeable to letting you test their boats out if you meet them at put ins. And going on outings with a group (like the kayaking groups in most regions on Meetup.com) can get you meeting people with various models that they will usually let you try out.

Be careful of
those rocky creeks with no whitewater after a heavy rain. Some of them run class III or IV.

All depends on "priorities"
Some see kayaks as transportation to get somewhere

and have little need for a floating platform.

Getting to a point on a river, pulling over, getting out,

and then casting into the river is always an option.

No one kayak will do all things you want, equally well.

Trade-offs, compromises, and design limits come into play.

Actually, this isn’t a concern
since when we get enough rain for this to become an issue, the river itself gets rolling with extremely strong current, but even worse is the debris such as logs, entire trees, tires, etc.

This is exactly the type of info I am attempting to glean from this wonderful site. For a sit in kayak, paddling in a creek situation, the current model I have seems a very good choice. Perhaps not perfect to someone more experienced, but fine so far as I can tell. My next boat, based on my thinking at this time, would probably lean about 80%-85% transportation, 15%-20% fishability. I am an ex tournament bass guy and actually have a boat for when I am more serious about fishing and catching fish.

As a confession, my thinking in the beginning was that the fishing would be extremely important to me but I am finding that I like the ability to cover water.

Length and width
QUOTE: “As an example, Perception makes a 14’ Carolina that is 24.5” wide and then some sea kayaks go several feet longer. I am probably wrong but it would seem to me that going from my current boat to a boat one foot longer and 2.5" narrower would not be a major step but my thinking may be totally off."

Each 1/2 inch in width makes a noticeable difference, as does each foot in length. 14’ x 24.5" should feel quite different from 13’ x 26.5". The length of your current kayak is fine for rivers, but it’s particularly wide, which means slow and hard to turn,

But how do you know how long and narrow to go? For each person there is a point somewhere in the middle that feels just right for the person’s abilities, the body of water, the conditions, and the useage.

There is such a thing as too much stability. If you’re sitting still fishing, 26.5" would feel stable to you. But as you try to turn a wide kayak you find that it resists turning. A good kayak is stable when you’re sitting still but allows you to lean it on its side for turning. For this a width of 24" and less is best.

In your case, your main problem is width and I would look for something about 13’-14’ long and 24" wide with a shallow V hull. If you choose carefully, you should gain quite a bit of speed and ease of turning with such a boat.

15’ x 21" is too radical a step for you at this time, until you have discovered what you want to do with your kayak and your skill has developed.

My philosophy is to get the shortest, lightest kayak that paddles the easiest in given conditions. There are downsides to unneeded extra length: the kayak is heavier, harder to put up on your car, harder to turn, and harder to store in your garage. For “stop and start” paddling a shorter kayak is better because it takes less effort to get it moving. A long kayak is only faster once you get it up to speed and keep it up to speed.

So that’s why I think you would be happy with something around 13’ to 14’ at this point in time.

weight doesn’t automatically go up
A shorter wider kayak will tend to have similar volume so going somewhat longer and narrower does not much effect weight. In fact it can go down. My 15’ x 21" Easky 15 weighs 5 pounds LESS than his Conduit. And I’ve loaned it to several novices who did not find it scarey so that is really not an extreme design. And it is a much faster and more fun boat from the first stroke than my older wider yak.

But it is really going to be how HE feels in various models that will inform his decision, no matter what our own particular favorite kayaks sizes and styles are.

Thanks So Much
For this info. I will definitely try some others before I pull the trigger on a new boat but this info is definitely helpful.

First, I had not given any thought to a kayak being “too” long unless it got crazy long, and secondly I had not given any thought about turning and handling.

Lastly, I truly did not think that one foot in length and 2" narrower would be enough difference to hardly notice.

Much appreciated and I am sure I will have more questions as I continue to learn.

My own experiece is similar to yours. My first kayak was 12’ long and 26" wide. Good starter boat, but by the time the next season rolled around, I was ready for something sleeker. My current kayak is 13’ 10" long and 22.5" wide. So, not much longer, but a lot slimmer. I was comfortable on it right away, and the difference was immediate in terms of higher speed, greater maneuverability and less effort required to move the hull through the water. I recently test paddles a kayak that is 16’ 9" long and 22" wide. Again, a noticeable difference – but probably not as great as the difference between my first and second kayak.

If you like to fish, though, you might want to hang onto your first kayak. As they get slimmer and less stable, they become less than ideal fishing platforms.

This is true
I guess I meant “all other things being equal.” For example, 12’, 14’, and 16’ kayaks in the same series by the same manufacturer get progressively heavier.

Crazy long
There’s crazy long and narrow and there’s crazy short and wide. You have to find your own sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

2" is a huge difference in width. 1/2" is easily perceptible. Here’s how different widths might feel at your level:

26.5" Man, I can barely turn this barge. Why is everybody passing me? [Note: You THINK this is stable but wait til a wave hits you from the side. Heh heh.]

25" Hey, this is different! Faster.

24" Wow, I can’t believe how much easier this is to move and turn. Feels stable though.

23" Whoah! Now we’re really moving. Woops! Almost tipped over there.

22" Yikes! Not for fishing.

21" EEEEK!!! You’ve got to be kidding. Let me outta here.

[I am making generalizations to illustrate the point that 24" is a width that even beginners can get used to quickly, while your transition to anything narrower than that would take more time and might not work well for fishing.]

I occasionaly fish
in my 18’ X 21.25" kayak, and to me it’s stable enough and yes it’s a fast boat. Then again, I also paddle a 19" wide surf ski and I don’t ever fish from it.

good point, WB
Once manufacturers get above 12’ long they tend to go to a narrower width and stay close to that width as the boats get longer so weights do go up. Other than specialized craft like hypernarrow surf skis, you pretty quickly reach a width that is the smallest the average adult can slip their butt into. So the weight curve tends to go up as the wide rec boat category increases in length, then drops off slightly in the first couple of jumps to narrower boats, then begins to rise again as width stays the same and length increases.

Hull design has a lot to do with secondary (and even primary) stability too. Even though I don’t have the best balance (inner ear damage from a bike wreck decades ago) I feel quite comfortable in my narrowest kayaks, which are hard chined. Even my 18’ x 20 1/2" Greenland skin boat has never capsized on me except when I dumped it deliberately. I would not want to try to fish from it, for sure. I’ve rented or borrowed soft chined boats of similar dimensions and had some tense moments and near dunkings only avoided by bracing.

For me, and probably for most of us, kayaks are a lot like shoes. You can admire a lot of styles in the store window and even lust after them, but it takes trying them on to tell if they are going to feel good enough to “wear”.

This has been extremely helpful
and I plan to put some seat time into mine and as I learn more about the boat, my interests, and my style, I will use this info and my experiences to make a good choice. At this point I do not think I would want a boat that was extremely long and skinny, although it might be faster. I think I still want a boat that is reasonably stable for fishing and somewhat maneuverable for some twisting and winding creeks, or paddling around some mangrove areas in Florida. That thinking of course may change over time. Again thanks everyone and I am sure I will have questions as I learn more about this sport.

Bear in mind…
that there are as many “styles” of paddling as there are models of boats. We tend to drift into those styles and obtain boat(s) appropriate to our purpose. You’ve defined well what your intent is. But there is nothing like like a long skinny boat dancing across the water…:wink:

twisty streams and mangroves
My boyfriend and I kayak and canoe a lot, and our boat of choice for twisty streams and mangroves is a Mad River Adventure 16 poly canoe, propelled with kayak paddles. We took one into the Everglades last year on vacation and it was perfect. It would be a great fishing platform too. The smaller Adventure 14 would be good for a solo paddler. It has a center seat or you could stern paddle with some ballast in front. Tons of room for fishing gear and low gunwales so it doesn’t catch wind. Stable but paddles easier and faster than our other canoe. We have even used it on Class I to II rapids. Best part is you can often find them used for under $400. Only drawback is it is heavy for one person to wrangle but a two wheeled cart takes care of that.

Just an alternate suggestion based on what you most recently described as activities you want a boat for. Of course it would not address your desire to get a higher performing kayak, but you seem to have a range of functions you want boats for. You may be headed to where a lot of us get: more than one boat to best suit a range of uses.

Keep an open mind.
Do not assume anything about boat length and width will necessarily determine whether a boat turns more easily, or not and whether it will be fast, or stable. In general some of those assumptions are applicable, but many other factors come into play.

I’m not sure there is any particular formula for selecting your boat. Even test paddling can be misleading, or very illuminating. I’ve paddled boats that I was somewhat disappointed in at first and later found to be excellent. So far, though it has been rare to be impressed by a first paddle only to be disappointed later on.

For me, a boat first has to look good. Then it has to be well built. Then it has to be comfortable. Only then does it proceed to the initial, but not totally conclusive first test paddle. If that first test paddle is very positive, then proceed to more testing. If the first test paddle is not so positive–also more testing.

Theoretical top end hull speed
=1.55 x waterline length in mph. Do the math for two different waterline lengths and your how faster question is answered. In theory… The problem is that people cannot go longer infinitely; their personal limit on longer is better depends on how much horsepower they can develop.

Now sometimes you can make a long boat a little shorter by heeling it. I use a fifteen foot boat in mangrove tunnels and can adjust (if I don’t get stuck ) the length to make it a little faster turning. I don’t like kayak paddles there but that is a different discussion.

There is lots more here by kayak and canoe designer John Winters.