What do I lose by having a shorter boat?

Hi there!

I’m considering a Necky Manitou (12’10") for light weight, seat, looks and price, but I wonder, what would I lose in speed to, say, a Mainstream Biscayne (14’6")? I won’t be going all out though, just keeping a medium pace for workout.


Nothing tangible
Speed is very mis-understood. I’ll not bore you with the hydrodynamics, as this subject has been beaten to death. The TRUTH is that few recreational paddlers can achieve the benefits of a longer hull, and they end up working harder at low to moderate speeds in longer boats. They cannot buy their way to speed, as no hull can make up for a weak paddler. If speed is your focus then you want a long narrow surf ski etc. It’s amusing to listen to touring kayakers go on and on about which slug is faster. The real differences in actual effort required below 4 knots are very little among production touring kayaks. The Manitou is an example of a terrific little boat with a great hull. Also like the Perception 13 Think it’s called the Sonoma. Mariner Coaster is an example of a short sea kayak that is superb in heavy water, wind etc. What’s of far greater value is your comfort and ability to maneouver the craft. I feel comfortable saying that as a rule weaker paddlers will in fact NET better overall speeds in shorter boats. Much is subjective as well. If you like a boat and think it’s this or that, then it will be such to you. Nostalgia is powerful stuff.

It depends what you want to do.
You’ll lose enough speed in a 12 foot boat to not want to cruise to an island or cover any major distance. Offshore, speed can be a safety issue. On the other hand, you’ll surf better, go down-river better, and have an easier time managing the boat on and off the car, storing it, etc.

Only Don Quixote would enjoy offshore cruising in a boat shorter than 14-15 feet. 16-18 feet is ideal for this purpose, depending your height/weight/strength/interests.

Sanjay Panza

I don’t know about those two boats,
but if they are of equal material and style, you will loose speed and storage space with the shorter boat.



wetted area v. length
Of course, it isn’t simply the length. It is the effective length, wetted area, amount of power you have available, details of design, etc. I notice that I paddle longer boats harder. Can’t make myself push up the “hump” where I start to hit hull speed. This happens sooner on a short boat. So the boat tends to control my level of effort.

Shape is such a difference. I paddled my Looksha IV and a friends CD Caribou S the other day. The Looksha has concavity in the waterline and fairly narrow ends. As well as a goodly bow overhang. The Caribou is a Greenland style with more fullness in the ends. The Caribou may be slightly narrower. Regardless, the Caribou hull behaved quite differently. The major part of the bow wave at speed was relatively far forward and the exit turbulence seemed relatively far aft compared to the Looksha. The concavity in the waterline seemed to effectively shorten the waterline of the Looksha as far as wave making is concerned. I suspect this is a primary determinant in making the Caribou clearly a faster boat. Now I want one.

But if you’re poking along and don’t need any speed, then I suppose a short boat is OK. Different people have different tastes. I paddled a Folbot through the Everglades with lots of gear many many years ago and did just fine. I was pretty dang strong after a week of that!!!

I think of the short/long argument as being between wetted area (hemispher is best) and waterline length (board on edge is best). I suspect for my commute I’d be able to use a 19’ boat to advantage, but for all day use in coastal environments I’d probably find too much oddness at the bow and stern into chop. The 17 - 18 ft length seems the reasonable compromise between speed, wetted area, and manuverability.

“Only Don Quixote would enjoy”…
“offshore cruising in a boat shorter than…”

as Sanjay states (well, sorta), your task will be great when you ride your burro out upon the tossing tempests, and perhaps your dreams impossible shall get you over to that distant star, er, island, if you ride a steed that’s a wee tad longer beneath the saddle.

Still, in your knight’s or day’s quest to earn Dulcinea’s love and admiration, you just never know what impossible dream will appear before you out there in watery realm of reality.

Why, I hear tell that one may behold all sights fantastic out there far from the shore, from tea parties of Quixote-quixotic mermaids, to dancing Aldonza muckled-up with a critter carrying coffee.

Yes, in the paddlers world, the possibilities are dizzying.


I re-read “Don Quixote” last
year, in the fantastic new translation by Edith Grossman, and my wife couldn’t figure out why I kept bursting out laughing. I’m certainly willing to consider it the “first and best” novel ever written, as many others do. Hard to imagine how a guy writing 400 years ago came up with post-modern stuff like the ridiculous fake prefaces, etc.

To the Quixotic spirit in us all!


if you paddle in groups
a heirarchy usually develops in which the longer, finer boats are in front. the shorter fatter boats are in back. the pecking order becomes more pronounced when the trips get longer. do you want to paddle in groups? where in the group do you want to be? in my limited experience (i usually paddle alone or with one partner) the ‘front runners’ tend to have few conversations and focus on paddling. the people in the back are more relaxed and have more conversations.

to sancho
Howdy Sancho

This kayak is like Rocinante to me…

Well, maybe too small too, me being 6’1" and 230lb. Maybe the Biscayne is a better choice being longer but not too long–and even cheaper. :wink:


to canoeswithduckheads
Yep, all the islands to be found out there will belong to Dulcinea. She’ll be Queen over bushes and fishes, coconut trees and everything free…

Actually there are some islands like that across my launching place no further than a mile. It’s a great motivation to have a kayak. And I also launch at the beach, for which I’d use a SOT like Scrambler to surf the waves.

Well, true in the context…
of the poster’s choices, but some of us do regularly paddle more than 4 kts for a few hours - and it really does matter.

For anything under 16’ - or for paddlers of anything who stay below 4 kts - I agree such discussions are a bit silly.

Well, brother in dreams, I hope…
… you reach your Isles of Dulcinea, with whatever may carry you there. Hope to make it there myself, someday.

Dream on, my friend. And stealing from Frank, paddle on.

Happy peaceful paddles to you,


To me, those are both shorter boats!
But as everyone says - it depends on your wants and needs.

Don’t be too concerned, if you really like paddling you’ll be researching the next kayak a month or two after you get this one! The first one’s teach you what you like/don’t like and need/don’t need, and what sort of paddling you may want to do beyond what you’ll do at first. Things change.

I’ve bought 9 in the past 4 years (ranging from a 9’ inflatable to 21’ Surf Skis), and currently have 4 (ranging from 16’ to 21’). Amazing how much you can try and recycle when buying/selling used. Of the 4 I have now, only on was bought new.

Check the classified ads here for deals in your area.

the pee issue
"Check the classified ads here for deals in your area."

I mentioned the seat being an issue, 'cause most fancy kayaks got a padded seat, but I happen to pee on the boat, being used to SOT. :frowning:

The Biscayne got a cheap padding but it can easily be removed, or maybe a sit in is not a good idea at all…

Tarpon 160 SOT
Built in urinal. Good on flat or rough. Leave out the seat pad and sit on the bare plastic - comfortable in that boat.

I don’t have any padding on any of my kayak seat - only bare seatpans - but not for your reasons.

If you are replying to my answer…
you evidently didn’t read my: “if the boats are of equal material and style”



to pee or not to pee
"Built in urinal. Good on flat or rough. Leave out the seat pad and sit on the bare plastic - comfortable in that boat."

If I have to go through too much trouble to pee, I’d give up on it. When I learned in sit ins I did in them, and then wash them in sea water. Maybe there’s a better way…

T160 is not a sit in…
… hence my built in urinal comment. Goes right down the scuppers. You can do it without anyone even noticing if you have shorts on and use strategic hand placement.

With sit ins - what do you think that big sponge is for? :wink:

I’m clearly an idiot and have no business here.

I was actually replying to the general theme of things.

Zip it bud if you’re not adding a thing.

A little glide

– Last Updated: Jun-14-05 10:57 PM EST –

as others have said. If you want to workout & cruise, an even longer boat would give you something to grow into, when both your strength & distance improve. Good luck & have fun paddling!