Valley Avocet LV advice- newer paddler

Just got a great deal on a used Valley Avocet LV off Craigslist. The boat was pristine and with the reviews on this website I was sure it would be a great choice for me (5’4" 130lbs). First trip out today and I’m pretty disappointed. I can’t keep it going in a straight line (skeg up) and it feels like the most tippy thing I’ve ever paddled. It was not the dream boat I had hoped for. I’ve rented many many boats, taken a day course on self rescuing/technique, been out in windy conditions on the Columbia and paddled around the San Juan islands no problem. I’ve never felt this unstable or had steering issues like this in the slightest. Not sure how or what I should focus on changing to learn how to paddle this boat. Thoughts?

Exactly your size

– Last Updated: May-18-15 6:59 AM EST –

OK, so I did lose half an inch. Other than that we are the same.

You need seat time and some work on your paddling stroke. Get some work on your bracing and start to learn to roll. That will ease out the tippiness concern the fastest.

I spent a day using an Avocet LV on the Hudson River, a moderately windy day and in the lower section which is tidal. I really can't report any of the issues you name. If anything I found the Avocet LV to be pretty tracky, and I had no sense at all of it being tippy.

I didn't decide to buy the boat because it didn't add anything over the boats I already had, but that was the only reason. If I didn't have another boat that filled that niche I'd have found the money.

Better days ahead…
It’s designed to be a “playful” boat and there is no shame using the skeg. Stick with it and when your skills catch up to it you will have your dreamboat.

Get rid of it
It is a playboat for skilled paddlers.

If you are a competent paddler and you feel uncomfortable in it, you are not going to be happy paddler

Jack L

What length paddle?
If your paddle is too long, that will contribute to difficulty paddling the boat straight.

No - give it time

– Last Updated: May-18-15 10:19 AM EST –

Like I said, I spent a day in it. The OPer has been in it once, and I bet that deck is lower than they had in any of the other boats they were put into. That alone could have been awfully new feeling. That is not the same as the boat being unstable.

The LV is trackier than the regular Avocet, though granted the regular Avocet is more maneuverable than not. But it works fine as a sea kayak for general purpose use, more for day tripping than long haul camping because it is slow.

And as grayhawk said, there is no shame in using a skeg if it will make a difference in enjoying the paddle. I suspect the OPer got words from the BCU/now-PNA group on that one. They advise against relying on the skeg, which is a good starting point to gain paddling skill. But it is not very practical advice when someone is trying to adapt to a new boat that gives them multiple challenges at once. I agree that paddling needs to be made easier enough to allow for learning.

I am sure you are a hugely better paddler than I am, especially in my present state. But telling someone that they should get out of a boat that is decently respected after just one paddle is not helpful, especially when it is not a boat that you could likely fit into.

And if everyone who was getting into more serious kayaking walked away from a boat based on a single first paddle, no one would ever get into more boat. We'd all still be in barges.

Similar issue

– Last Updated: May-18-15 10:05 AM EST –

with a boat purchased last fall. With the skeg halfway down, it tracks like an arrow. No skeg, the boat turns like a top but was squirrely moving forward.

Frustrated, I launched on a very calm evening and went on a relaxed paddle, not making any corrective strokes just to see where the boat would take me. It was in a perfect circle.

I have a stronger stroke on my right side than my left. When I adjust the stroke, the boat tracks nicely - but it's an adjustment I have to consciously think about and practice. Also need to work on getting that left stroke up to par.

The difference in stroke strength never showed up in my previous boat, which is shorter, wider, and not as quick to respond.

Rookie, you nailed it
That’s exactly how this boat was behaving. I could get it going in a straight line, only with lots of focus…if I stopped paddling the boat would just turn all the way around to the right, no matter which stroke side I ended on. I don’t think it was the wind, it was a pretty calm day out.

Check the keel…
Turn the boat over and sight down the very bottom (keel) to see if there is any twist, if none it should be OK. Work on keeping your weight centered and the boat level.

Give it time…

– Last Updated: May-18-15 11:44 AM EST –

Learning to paddle this boat will make you a much better paddler...

The Valley Avocet LV is a very sweet boat once you begin to appreciate all it can do...


Same thought as above

– Last Updated: May-18-15 11:38 AM EST –

The boat is narrow and the deck is low. Also it is properly tuned to your size, so it WILL respond. The usual culprit is what Rookie said. You have differences in your stroke side to side or are weighting your seat unevenly, but have not been aware of it in prior boats.

It is possible that the boats you were put into before were too big for you (and me), so imbalances in your paddling or seat would not have shown up. If I am putting someone into one of my boats to learn rescues, I'll be trying for a boat that is a little big for them. That makes the boat more forgiving when they are first learning to climb around on it. It is no fun for anyone (unless it is a very hot day) if the boat won't throw you some favors when you are first getting that balance.

But it gets better, and that is likely what will happen here. And I bet pretty quickly.


– Last Updated: May-18-15 7:25 PM EST –

Valley boats (and other boats with defined keel lines) often feel tippy at first, and this is due to the keel line (that it has a v bottom, not flat bottom). If you put the boat on a hard surface (like a driveway), you'll notice the boat doesn't sit straight upright but instead falls off a few degrees to one side or another (you can see it in this pic I found from the web: - the boat is not perfectly upright).

The same happens in the water. If you try to keep the boat exactly upright, it take a huge amount of effort and causes you to stiffen up (when I teach kayaking to people in boats like this, if they insist on being upright, they often end up swimming). But if you let it drop a few degrees to one side or the other, you'll find the boat feels much more stable.

On going straight - lots of good suggestions above. It is a boat made to turn easy (for a sea kayak), which means it does not track as well as other boats. I suggest you work on your form (and maybe get a shorter paddle, if yours is 230cm or longer - maybe even if 220) and see if you can make it work.

Thank you everyone!!!
You guys are great, I appreciate all the comments so much, very helpful! I’ll measure the paddle tonight and see if it falls in the “ok range” :wink:

a Euro…the OK size for you in this kayak would probably be a 210…anything over 215 would be too long

{My 2 cents}

Best Wishes


using a Greenland paddle…your size would probably be an 84 inch long paddle with a 19 or 20 inch loom … I would guess 3 1/4 to 3 3/8 inch max width

{more of my 2 cents}

Best Wishes


Euro Paddle Length

– Last Updated: May-18-15 3:13 PM EST –

Yes, at your height nothing longer than a 210 in this boat and a 205 would likely be even better...

Just don't give up on the boat, it'll get way better once you've figured out all the other little things...


Thanks for that, Roy
I’ve been thinking of trying a GP, but had no idea what size would be appropriate. Have a number, now.

For what it’s worth, I recently switched from a 220 Euro to a 210 for my own 22" wide boat. Vast improvement.

GP could help
I was thinking the same thing. My narrow, low volume, vee-keeled Greenland style kayaks paddle straighter using a GP than a Euro – I presume the higher cadence, stroke closer to the hull and not as much “pull” per stroke means less correction needed.

And that 84" with 20" loom that Roy suggests is exactly the size I use (am 5’ 5" but short upper body).

No, get rid of it !
I have an LV sitting in the rafters in our boat house, and yes I fit into it nicely and I can handle it, but do I want to - No !!!

like I said above, if you want to play, it is fine for that

Jack L

Check keel !
The first thing to do is to make sure it’s not a defective boat. So I vote with Grayhawk

“Turn the boat over and sight down the very bottom (keel) to see if there is any twist”

Then move on to the other fine suggestions.