Which boats for family of 5

I have a family of 5 (wife and I, 13 & 4 year old girls, 5 year old boy.

I live in south Georgia and want to go on mainly day trips on Georgia rivers (not planning any white water), but would also like to have outings in Florida from time to time.

Last year we rented 2 tandem kayaks(girls in one, boys in the other) and paddled behind St. George Island in Florida.

We have also rented canoes and paddled at George L. Smith State Park in Georgia. We had one canoe for my wife, me and small children. My older daughter had a canoe with a friend.

I just can’t decide what boats to get. I think I like the canoes better (close call really), and I like the idea of my smaller kids in the boat with me. I’m considering something like the Old River Penobscot 17 in Royalex. But what about for my older daughter? Kayak for her or maybe a tandem for her plus a friend or for when my smaller children grow?

My boy has already told me “Dad, I want to have my own boat”

I like the Penobscot 17 a lot.
It’s done everything you’ve described and more for my family. A great choice, IMO. How about a rec kayak for your 13 year-old? Something everyone can get a chance to enjoy solo makes sense, especially for mom. Buy used and sell it for what you paid when it’s time to upgrade?

Shop the used market, and you can
get the kids kayaks to run along with the Penobscot.

And you can tow them when they tire!

– Last Updated: Jun-22-10 5:17 PM EST –

Been there, done that.

Take a look at a Wenonah Minn-3 or
Minn-4 . They would be good for your family, and then as someone above said, you can get a rec kayak for the older boy.

I don’t think the Penobscot would be big enough for you your wife, and the other two.

My pick would be a Minn-3 with four seats.

Jack L

Which kayak
So along with the Penobscot I need to choose a kayak.

Should I go just real cheap rec solo kayak, or tandem like ocean kayak malibu two, or Maybe even a fishing kayak so I could get some fishing use out of it as a bonus?


– Last Updated: Jun-23-10 9:02 AM EST –

Get two tandems on a used market. Seda Tango is a good choice. Your wife in one and you in the other and the daughter and son in front seats. And get two single kayaks. One for your older daughter or your wife an one for you.

This way you have one extra kayak in case of repairs or in case of bringing along a guest or if you and wife want to take a stroll while your older daughter babysits the kiddos

Personal experience…
with a family 5 (all grown now), I’d recommend a couple of used smaller tandems (15 or 16 foot).

My kids wanted to participate and paddle even at a very young age. Also, any trip over an hour required numerous breaks including swimming, and a canoe makes that much easier.

Assuming you’re not planning any
epic adventures, a twelve-foot Pungo or even (gasp!) a Pamlico or the like should be relatively easy to find used. Fourteen feet might give your 13 year-old a better chance of keeping up with the canoe and provide some room to grow, but might also prove frustrating for younger ones to try. Sort of depends on your kid’s sizes and abilities. For us and our two daughters, the Penobscot and 2 rented Pungos worked well for years on our trips to ME with everybody except yours truly getting time in the 'yaks.

The Royalex Penobscots require minimum, if any, maintenance and are relatively bomb-proof, not killer heavy, and efficient enough to cover some distance when desired - fits well with family life.

Second thoughts on Penobscot
I reread some reviews today and I’m getting worried the Penobscot might be a little tippy with the small children.

Any opinions regarding the wenonah Spirit II vs the Penobscot?

old town tripper
i have a oldtown tripper that my wife and i like. it is not tippy at all. it will hold all of you with no problem

We were already pretty good

– Last Updated: Jun-24-10 10:34 AM EST –

in it when the kids came along, so no problems. The boat never felt tender to me, but I guess it depends what you're used to. I haven't paddled the Wenonah. I've always considered the Penobscot a predictable ride with solid secondary and good volume. Great tripper for two. She really settles in with a load. Not good for soloing, but I've tried it anyway with only limited success in breezy conditions.

Completely different direction

– Last Updated: Jun-24-10 10:15 AM EST –

I know you said canoes, but I immediately thought of the Bic SOT line. The Kalao is a triple and the Tobago is a double. One of each, or maybe a pair of triples would be great for warm water paddling. They're short for their capacity, and should allow swimming and reboarding. Just a thought - they're shown here in the gear guide.

PS just noticed they have a new lighter double (Trinidad) that can be had in a fishing setup and paddled solo as well, which interested you. You could get away with a pair of these boats, as two of your kids are still small.

What about a Grumman?
You can find an old aluminum 17’ double ender for around $400. If you are just recreational paddling you can fit your whole family in the grumman. It can take a beating and is low maintainance. Just a suggestion though.

Spirit vs Penobscot
in capacity and stability the Spirit wins. In paddling efficiency comparing royalex to royalex the Penobscot will edge ahead of the Spirit II. In composite construction, the Spirit II will walk away from the Penobscot even carrying a bigger load.

My Spirit was purchased 27 years ago to get 4 kids and myself out on the water fishing. It went on to take us camping, and racing as a tandem. It still sits on the backyard rack among a growing fleet of other canoes. Your group is older than mine was; Your wife and teenaged daughter up the size of the crew. It will be a squeeze to put them all in one canoe; except the two long Wenonah’s that Jack L mentioned. I have one of the Minnesota IV’s and it will take all five of you and gear. But it is a Big Boat! 23’ from end to end. Weight is about equal to the Royalex Penobscot 17’. Right around 64# with custom yoke installed. Only one layup available, Ultralight Kevlar. Mine has over 1000 miles on it now and it has survived high speed collisions with unseen rocks; lots of scratches and one long deep gouge in the skin coat, but nothing has gone thru the outer kevlar or cracked any of the ribs. Most of its miles have been in long races and a couple of canoe trips with 4 aboard + gear for a week.


Penobscot not tippy
I have a 17’ royalex Penobscot and I don’t find it tippy at all. I vaguely recall reading some reviews years ago, when I was shopping, that mentioned tippiness. My experience is it’s a stable boat loaded or unloaded.

What I decided
Well, this is what I’ve come up with: 1 Penobscot 17 Royalex, and 2 Ocean Kayak Venus 10’s. I figure the Venus will work for my wife, 13 year old, and hopefully my young son. I can carry me and who ever isn’t in a kayak in the canoe. I he to be able to car top all this on my ford expedition.

Any advice for pfd, paddles, books, videos, other essentials …?

You have to buy PFDs
that fit…so you will actually wear them.

So you do have to try them on.

There are inflatable PFDs that are very comfortable and legal but perhaps not the best if you have to pull small kids out of the water. (actually small kids can self rescue pretty well)

BTW…I think you might need more boats…but wait and see. My two grandkids now each want their own canoe (age 4 and 7) and wont paddle together in a tandem.