Used kayak advice

Hi everyone, I’m an old guy but brand new to paddling. I have had boats my whole life. I’m wondering if I have done the right thing? I just purchased a used wilderness pamlico 135t. Hoping to get my wife and myself out on the water without spending a lot of money. This kayak is pretty rough. no cracks or deep gouges. I think it is a early version. It cost me 300 with a couple of pretty nice paddles, I think. I’m wondering if I spent too much and is this a good starter kayak for us? The only reviews I can find are on the new models. Thanks for your help.

If it floats and the paddles are “pretty nice” then you couldn’t have gone very far wrong for $300.


I hope you also got a couple of decent life jackets. Otherwise, I agree with @Buffalo_Alice


Thanks for the replies. It didn’t come with any life jackets but I have my ski vests from when I had boats. I know they are not ideal, but I hope they work long enough to see if we are paddlers. lol.

That’s what I use. I have an O’Neil jet ski/wakeboarding vest that I’ve had for a long time.

Agree that the money is well spent if you enjoy it and use it in protected waters. The 135T is a tandem I believe. Make sure the person up front sets the cadence so you don’t get out of sync and bang paddles. As long as the hull isn’t brittle and the bungee cords aren’t stretch out of shape.

Tandems are also known as “Divorce Boats”, hope you enjoy!

I think you got an ok deal and if it didn’t work out you shouldn’t have much trouble reselling and getting your money back.

If you are anything like us when I bought a 14’7” tandem canoe a couple years back as our first paddle boat we quickly found we each wanted our own boat. There is also some safety in numbers having two paddle boats out together where is one of you go for an unintentional swim the other boat can be used in a number of ways to assist in a rescue. For us we ended up getting her a rec-kayak solo and I converted the tandem canoe to a solo for me. Doing that required a bit of work. The Pamlico 135T is designed for the front seat to be easily moved back along with the foot pegs to put the front seat in a solo position. Doing that would make for a nice amount of storage space where you could bring along a cooler or such.

The Pamlico 135T has a sealed bulkhead in the stern that will aid some in floatation if you capsize keeping the boat from sinking. You should check and make sure the bulkhead is still water tight and the hatch seals. In addition I would strongly suggest you add some bow floatation under the deck. This would make it possible to flip the boat in the water and at least be able to swim it to shore if not maybe reenter and bail. What I found perfect for this is buying a yoga ball and inflating it in place. In our case I inflated a 15” ball and it didn’t even require being tied in do to the shape of her deck. These balls come in different sizes and shapes. There are round and oblong (peanut) shaped and cost about 15 bucks.

Another piece of gear we find very handy that most canoes have but most rec-kayaks don’t is ether one or two painter lines attached to each end and stored under the bungee. They come in handy for lots of uses.

As mentioned start off with the PFDs you have and once you get going you will likely upgrade to something cooler and better fitting for paddling.

Keep us posted on how it goes and with questions that will pop up over time.

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Thanks so much for the info. This is a tandem. There is no bulkhead. I think it is a early version. The cover for what be the bulkhead is just a rubber cap. It just leads to the bottom of the boat. Maybe something is missing. It would be nice if I could seal it off somehow. I really like the exercise ball idea. There is nothing in the boat that would help it float. I think without anything in there it would probably sink. The bungies need replaced. I ordered some from amazon. It was filthy when I picked it up. I took it to the car wash and gave it a good cleaning. How do you get all the water out of this thing? It has no drain plug! I can see how they are called divorce boat. I had a tandem bike once with my x-wife an now I have a new wife. I hope this works out better. What are painter lines? Thanks again.


I forgot to ask. Should the heaver person be in the front or the back?

Usually the stern (back) for the stronger paddler, but if there is too large of a weight differential having either end too light can cause the boat to track badly. You may have to experiment. You can bring along some empty gallon water jugs (with caps) and might need to scoop them full of water to add weight in the bow or stern to even out the weight balance.

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Thanks. I took it out myself yesterday when I bought it and moved the front seat back as far as possible, but when it started to go off course no matter how hard I paddled it wouldn’t come back, so I had to back paddle on the other side which kept stopping me and I had to start over. I hope that was because I was too far forward. I doesn’t look to hard to modify the seat to go back farther for single days out. Hoping that will make it track better. My friend said the rear of the kayak set much higher in the water.

Try leaving the seat where it is and putting some weight in the stern seat.

I was paddling with a friend and her son a few years ago and he was using a cheap rec style kayak that was badly balanced (he was a pretty big guy). He was having trouble keeping up with us because the boat was wandering right to left with every stroke – you could see the stern was too high and loose in the water. So we pulled to shore and I took the garbage bag I usually carry and filled it with about 20 pounds of rocks and we stuffed that in the kayak rear hatch. After that it was much easier for him to paddle straight with the waterline balanced.

There was likely a foam piece a couple inches thick glued in behind the seat that trapped the air where the hatch is. That might have got pulled out and never replaced. They sometime leak around the edges.

As to the trapped water and no plug I’m a little surprised they didn’t put a drain plug as most rec-kayaks have one high on the hull on one end or the other. My canoe would even hold some water in the gunwales when stored upside down and I just drilled a .25” hole close to the end on the top of the deck. It is not like there isn’t a huge hole (The cockpit) that can let water in from the top so what can a couple small holes hurt to drain the inverted lip that holds water when you hose it out.

Painter lines are just a couple ropes attached to each end that help you manage the boat when you are not in it. Used to tie it to a dock or if you get into a stream to shallow to paddle you can use them walk/line your kayak thru those spots. If you find yourself trying to swim into shore with your kayak it is much easier if you have a line. I use ours where we take out there is a steep muddy bank and I get on top and drag the boats up the hill with the painter. Mine I put a small float on the ends and also tied a loop.

I would say the larger person would want to be in the back seat where the balance/trim would be best and also it might have more legroom. It should be pretty easy if using solo to move the front seat to the middle and the back seat could be even removed if you wanted a true solo.

Without some flotation added it will likely float even with the surface of the water and would be almost imposable to empty in deep water. It will also with 500 pounds of water in it be hard to get to shore to empty. Flotation IMO is a must and I would add it to both ends.

As to paddling solo in a boat like my tandem canoe or your tandem rec-kayak the boat is designed for more weight than what one person provides your kayak is likely rated for up to 500 pounds my canoe is 800 I think. Without some weight trim is even more important with any wind at all.

Some people carry 8-10 one gallon jugs empty that can be filled for ballast once in the water. That’s a lot of messing around. With a canoe the advice is often to sit in the bow seat backwards. I tried that and it helped but I was still blown around too much. Because I paddle my canoe with a double blade kayak paddle I set the seats up similar to a tandem kayak where the paddlers have to paddle together in sync. Even then using it as a solo was a problem. I found the front edge of the seat needed to be roughly 8” behind centerline. I also almost always have a cooler in front of me with a few drinks in it less than 15 pounds. I sit trim with just me in the canoe and when I start adding gear I can split it up in front and behind me to keep the trim.

I figure padding is hard enough without hauling a bunch of ballast along. That and finding we didn’t like paddling together for a lot of reasons along with it is just more fun side by side paddling and talking. I gave up on the whole tandem thing unless it is a couple little kids sitting on a mat in front of me or a dog. Everyone is different though.

Thanks again for all the great advise. Its awesome to talk to people who have been through it all already. What would be the best thing to use to make a water proof bulkhead? I think it would be nice to have a small dry area in there somewhere. Have you heard of anyone replacing the foam for the bulkhead? I think having a couple of empty gallon jugs along just incase would be a good idea also. Should the boat set completely level in the water? Sorry for all the questions.

Just be careful you are only in protected water. That is one with a huge opening over both seats, yes? If l have that right, a couple came to an ad hoc self rescue class with one. They wanted to take it coastal.

After a number of failed attempts, they pulled in their expectations of where they would paddle it. Nothing works like finding out something doesn’t work.

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What’s the old saying? Oh yeah … If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

Here are some instructions for making and installing a bulkhead:

Bulkhead Installation - Advice -

There are links to the supplies needed also.

@Sparky96 the max capacity of 500 lbs is essentially a load sufficient to appoach sinking. A safer load would be closer to 330 lbs combined, so moveable ballast might not be a practical exercise.
The rear compartment isn’t very large, but it adds veritility and floatation. You have sound instructions already and lots of help answering questions if needed.

Pamlico Tandems should have an adjustable front seat and foot pegs to accommodate a solo paddler. Paddling from the rear seat would be a wild experience.

A tandem of that length has very little room for independent paddle strokes. The front paddler needs to realize they set the stoke pace. The back paddler has to communicate, otherwise you’ll be banging paddles and cursing each other. Learn to coordinate turns and how to edge the boat together. Not hard, just that both realize you’re not making independent paddling decisions. You move and the other person feels it. The experience could make you feel more unified, or convince you that you need separate boats.

Threading bungee can be tricky. Which is why you need a trick if you run into problems.

Dump excess water at the end of the trip. The rest can be sponged out with an absorbent kitchen spong. I personally like this style in the a bigger size if possible.

They’re cheap, disposable, absorbent and wipe down the interior with ease. The really big sponges can be hard to get your single hand around. And they’re not always as absorbent. Cheap and ultimately dusposable is the key. No need fir a $13.95 sponge.