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Thread: Kayak Buying Advice

  1. #1
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Kayak Buying Advice

    Been contemplating a kayak purchase for awhile now and my wife and I's recent canoe trip while in Baxter this week has pretty much moved that from the "nice idea" phase to the "top goals of 2020" phase. I know next to nothing on the subject though and my research to date of "best kayaks" Google searches has turned up a lot of conflicting info.

    So basically I'm looking for some referrals on reputable websites for researching and actual retailers who specialize in it and are worth a trip to talk to someone. I live in NE CT but I'm willing to drive some miles to talk to highly competent people and solid shops. Goal is to get a kayak for ponds, lakes and rivers (no white water or rough water) that is also large enough to carry a dry bag for simple overnight/modest "camping" trips. Budget will probably be on the modest side.

    Anyone who can recommend a person, shop or website? Would greatly appreciate any info on the topic. Thanks.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  2. #2
    Member TomK's Avatar
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    Collinsville Canoe and Kayak, Collinsville, CT

    The following is about flatwater, not whitewater... Apologies if this sounds like a commercial for this establishment....

    About 10 years ago, I was considering trying out a kayak, having done some extended trips in a canoe, but never having been in a kayak. A friend of mine who kayaked worked for EMS at the time, at thier HQ in Peterborough, NH, so I asked him for advice. He told me to try as many different kayaks as I could, and I'd see which one worked best for me.

    I knew about Collinsville Canoe and Kayak, in Collinsville, CT, right on the Farmington river. It isn't far from where I live, so I checked it out. They had classes, including an intro class, and had rentals of a number of different kayaks at a reasonable price - there is a stretch of the Farmington that they are on that gives you about an hour paddle out and back. I took the intro class (flipped the kayak halfway through) and over the next few weeks tried some kayaks they had for rent.

    They have a weekend sale event each spring with reps from kayak, paddle and accessory makers, and the next one, I spoke with Bill Swift of Swift Canoe and Kayak, and ended up buying a Swift Saranac. The boat I expressed an interest in had a normal height seat back, and I asked if they could put a high back seat into it. He said sure, he would be back in Collinsville in a couple weeks, and if I brought the boat back then, he'd put it in for me then. I asked how much it would cost, and he told me no additional charge. I paddled the boat for a couple weeks, brought it in when he said to, and a couple days later I picked it up with the new seat installed.

    A few years later, I had a problem with the skeg, brought it by the shop - the first time they weren't too helpful, but for some reason, I brought it by a second time, spoke to a different person, and was told they could send it back to the factory (Canada) to get it fixed. So at the end of the summer, I dropped the boat off, told them I didn't need to see it until the spring. A few weeks later they called to say the boat was back and ready. No charge.

    At some point I signed up for a whitewater class, and halfway through I needed to bail. I asked if I could finish the class on a space-available basis sometime in the future. They ended up giving me a store credit for the full price of the class.

    Believe the owner is somehow related to Bill Swift, so they sell his company's boats, but also other lines.

    Your timing is good - this weekend (Sept 14, 15) they are having a weekend event - might be a good time to swing by and check out what they have, even if you are nowhere near ready to buy something.

    Here is the website: https://www.collinsvillecanoe.com/

    If you go to Collinsville and want to stretch your legs after, the place is right on the Farmington River Trail - dead flat and mostly paved, but makes a nice walk along the Farmington River. And be sure to check out LaSalle Market for lunch.

    Other questions, PM me...

    TomK
    Never loved your plains, your gentle valleys/Your drowsy country lanes and pleached alleys.
    I want my hills, the trail that scorns the hollow/Up, up the ragged shale where few will follow.

    High on my hills of dream, dear hills that know me/And then how fair will seem the lands below me
    How pure at vesper time, the far bells chiming/God, give me strength to climb, and hills for climbing. "Hills" - Arthur Guiterman

  3. #3
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    Be aware that different types of kayaks are specialized for different uses and folks frequently end up buying one and deciding that as they gain experience that their original choice does not match their developing interest. Many also lose interest and sell them so if you keep an eye out you can get good deals on rarely used boats. Many folks start out with recreational boats, they are typical roto molded plastic. They are practically indestructible but heavy. They can be dragged over rocks and quite popular with rental fleets. The rocks acts like a cheese grater and eventually the wear points wear thin but even they can be patched with mixed success. Bring a roll of duct tape and you are covered. They are great for flat calm water but a major handful once the wind comes up and water is less than calm. They do not require much skill to hop in and paddle. The major trade offs are they are slow, heavy and sluggish. A new buyer doesn't know any better.

    Higher end performance boats are the opposite of recreational boats, they are faster and nimbler and suited for rougher water. Rough water doesnt just happen in the ocean or whitewater. Most large lakes can get wind driven whitecaps typically in the afternoon and rec boats caught in whitecaps are a handful and many time capsized or stranded away from a boat ramp. Hull designs tend to have primary or secondary stability. A hull with primary stability has a flat or nearly flat bottom in calm water they tend to feel stable and are easy to get into. The bottom of the hull tends to remain parallel with the waters surface. That is a good thing when the water is flat but add white caps and waves and the boat starts to follow the waves and fairly soon the boat is getting pitched about. With a lot of luck an occupant might be able to go straight into the wind and the waves but get at an angle and odds are the boat will turn over. Higher performance boats has far more rounded hulls, they have higher secondary stability but less primary stability. More of a handful to get into but they can roll with the waves to stay upright in rough water. At some angles they cut through the waves and skirt is needed as the waves can roll down the hull. They require more initial skills but the pay off is fat more capability in rougher conditions.

    Hull speed is another factor, roughly any boat is limited by its length to wetted width ratio. Even if top speed is not a goal, for a given speed a longer skinnier hull will require less effort to maintain it. That adds up over a day of paddling. Good paddle technique can make even a long boat maneuverable. If you want to head out on big lakes you need a performance boat or have to substantially reduce your range and possibly plan for getting stranded overnight as wind normally drops overnight. I built my boats for long paddles on wilderness lakes with occasional overnights so I used an ocean design. One is 18 feet and the other is close to 19 feet. Both have hatches but the 19 footer has a bit more storage with internal bulkheads. They are both cedar strip designs that are actually a sandwich of fiberglass cedar and fiberglass with epoxy resin. Many folks think wood boats are heavy but my 19 foot boat weighs less than many much shorter roto molded plastic (AKS "Tupperware) boats.

    The absolute lightest hulls are usually vacuum bagged kevlar. Kevlar is very strong in tension and properly built can be stiff and light. The trade off is stiff and light tends to be fragile and typically very difficult to repair. My friend and his wife prefer canoes for wilderness tripping and their custom canoe was around 32 pounds, it was damaged in an accident on the water and the repair costs almost as much for a new canoe and the boat will gain close to 10 pounds. Generally small repairs just look like blowout patches on rubber tire.

    The kayak craze peaked 15 to 20 years ago but still are popular. I see a lot of good boats pop up for sale on occasion where the owner lost interest and just want to clean out the garage.

    One other major thing to consider is make sure your shoulders are in good shape. If you have shoulders that are beat up or rotator cuff issues in the past reconsider getting a kayak. Even though good paddling technique can help, kayaking does put stress in the shoulders. Folks with lower back issues also can have issues. The seating position is upright with the lower back getting the only support. That is the limiting factor for my paddling, 3 or 4 hours of paddling and I need a break.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 09-14-2019 at 05:44 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Excellent. Thanks for the info guys. I have used kayaks before but it has been a long time and I'm pretty sure they were the "tupperware" style peakbagger mentioned. I'm sure the bulk of my use will be day trips but I do want the space to bring gear for overnights if the opportunity presents itself. I may have to forego that option if it adds too much to the cost and complexity of the set up.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  5. #5
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    I begged, borrowed and rented a number of kayaks before I bought one. When shopping, I concluded I'd need about half dozen different boats to suit each purpose to which it could be subject. So, I figured what would be the most useful and concluded one with the capacity for comfortable kayak camping. Have owned it for 10 years and paddled in flatwater from the Canadian Maritimes to Florida: Current Designs Unity tandem. Overkill for some day trips but outstanding for camping. It is a speedy 21' of fairly narrow beam ... someone here asked whether it came with a radar detector ... tracks well but earned the nickname "Queen Mary" for its comparatively large turning radius. Have done some narrow channels in salt marshes ... and backs out nicely, too. Thery make similar versions solo.

    My other boat is a 16' Wilderness Systems Sealution which I acquired from a friend whose late wife owned it. I use this for solo daytrips or a spare when I have company.

    Both boats are in Mashpee and you're welcome to try them.

    This is a good time of year to buy a used rental boat. Heck, get two to serve at least a couple of needs. Bought the Unity new at Charles River Canoe in Newton. Cape Cod Kayak in Bourne, Goose Hummock in Orleans and Essex Kayak (name?) in Essex, MA are all nice people and constructively helpful with rentals and sales. Can't go wrong with Kittery Trading Post and LL Bean, either.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    While you can easily step into a kayak and go, I don't recommend that for a serious paddler. Lots of bad habits start that way. I took a couple courses for my guiding activities.

    First mistake I'd say is doing what peakbagger does, paddle with his shoulders. Develop a punching motion with your arms and get your strength from your torso. This requires some practice but it becomes less strenuous as you perfect the motion and train the muscles.

    I learned self rescue in a pool. Only capsized once; the scene is what they call a "yard sale". Have always used a paddle leash since, no matter how benign the conditions. Once demonstrated self rescue at a beach on Waquoit Bay (Cape Cod) ... started close to shore so I could describe what I was doing ... by the time I was back in a bailed out boat, the wind had blown me about 200 yards off the beach! Came back and said, "Yep, that's how its done."

    I have lightweight paddles which cost some $$$ but with a streamline hull, it is relatively effortless and long paddles can be done without much tiring or pain. Some people feather their paddles to provide less resistence to the end of the paddle out of the water. I find the rolling forearm motion associated with this to contribute to tendonitis so I keep the blades aligned straight.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Maybe a stupid question but considering my goals should I be thinking about a canoe versus a kayak? Do they have all sizes and types of canoes as well? I'll be going far more than my wife so a single multipurpose canoe would make more sense. I just always see kayaks when people do this sort of stuff so I figured that is what I needed. Figured a canoe was just a heavy, clunky, "old school" way of accomplishing the same thing that would be more difficult to transport and handle alone but maybe that's not the case any more. A canoe is more forgiving in choppier water too isn't it?

    I guess my other reaction to the early comments is how long of a kayak everyone seems to be recommending. I was imagining a much shorter and more nimble design, like 10-12'. Is it simply not possible to add the weight of camping gear to such a design without screwing with the ability to keep the kayak upright and/or tracking properly?
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    I actually do not paddle with my shoulders and do the torso twist most of the time but there are several specialized turning strokes that need shoulder strength. Many of the long term paddlers swapped to Greenland style paddles after years of conventional panels as Greenland's reduce shoulder loading. They cadence is faster and better for long runs but when I need to move or turn the boat quick there is no substitute for a big blade.

    There is the same differentiation on canoes as kayaks and to many canoes are like tandem bicycles. Many couples start out with canoes and switch to kayaks as it makes for less marital discord.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 09-14-2019 at 10:31 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    Canoes are great for carrying large loads and a skilled canoer can paddle waters I avoid in the "Queen Mary". I think you'd find something in the 14-16' range far more versatile. Canoes are also much more at the mercy of the wind. With a spray apron, or better yet, a spray skirt, you can ply choppy waters that could be dangerous in a canoe. I find the spray skirt unnecessary for a lot of paddling but if you take sea or large lake paddling seriously, the skirt is a safer bet. I get fairly wet in a beam wind or sea even with a spray apron. Not a big deal in summer or short distances on that course.

    I wouldn't drop all that money initially. Get good stuff and add to your equipment as you determine what's suitable for your interests.

    I hear you Dennis ... my solution is avoiding those waters! Quiet waters where I drift up to waterfowl and game is more my speed.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    I wouldn't drop all that money initially. Get good stuff and add to your equipment as you determine what's suitable for your interests.
    .
    Yah I'm doing some searching online and lake/touring kayaks are probably going to be out of my price range, especially if I'm getting one for me and one for my wife, get paddles, a car rack of some sort and other accessories. A canoe or smaller river style kayaks might be the better way to get started. And if we do both go on an overnight we don't both necessarily need a gear hauling design. She could use a more nimble and stable model and I could carry the gear on a larger model. The big downside of the canoe is when I go out alone loading and unloading it off the car, portaging, etc. The models I have at least looked at initially are 30-40 lbs heavier than comparable length kayaks. So many things to consider.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  11. #11
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Another question: I just came across a reference to needing to register non-motorized water craft in certain states over 10'. I hadn't even though of that. Anyone know if that is the case in CT? Yet another thing to research.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  12. #12
    Member TomK's Avatar
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    No need to register kayaks in CT

    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Another question: I just came across a reference to needing to register non-motorized water craft in certain states over 10'. I hadn't even though of that. Anyone know if that is the case in CT? Yet another thing to research.
    No need to register a kayak in CT. You do need to carry a whistle though. And a light, if paddling at night - a headlamp will work. And a PFD. I believe there are dates before and after which you must wear rather than carry a PFD, but I always wear mine. Even though I swim well, I don't want to be putting on a PFD at the same time I'm swimming.

    Look for a free copy of the Connecticut Boater's Guide, most places that rent or sell kayaks in CT will have a few copies. It has lots of info on rules, regulations, and a helpful listing of all of the public boat launches in CT. Also available at Town/City Halls, DMV offices and online in PDF form at https://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/Boa...oaterguide.pdf. Or call, write or e-mail the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, 79 Elm St, Hartford, CT 06106-5127, 860-434-3000 deep.boating@ct.gov they will probably mail you a copy.

    Good advice in previous replies about trying many different kayaks, and considering a used boat. Also consider just renting rather than buying - the cost of a good, new boat will pay for a lot of rentals. That way you can rent the kind of boat that suits what you are going to do rather than having to make do with the boat you have. I often wonder if I would have been better off going that way. Although it is convenient to be able to just load the boat and go, rather than first stopping at a rental shop.

    There are "pack canoes", smaller canoes designed to be paddled by one person, usually using a kayak paddle, that might suit your need. Also, a couple I hike and paddle with each have a foldable kayak - folds into a suitcase sized package. They can unfold and set up thier boats in about the same time it takes me to get my boat off the roof rack, ditto for folding it up after. Not as good as a regular kayak, but they seem happy with them.

    I'm very glad I took a "Intro to Kayak" course. I have a spray skirt, but mostly it just keeps the bugs and sun off of my legs If you use one, make sure you practice (in shallow water, with someone to help if needed) flipping your boat, removing the spray skirt from where it attaches to the boat, and getting out of the kayak (all while submerged and upside down).

    TomK
    Never loved your plains, your gentle valleys/Your drowsy country lanes and pleached alleys.
    I want my hills, the trail that scorns the hollow/Up, up the ragged shale where few will follow.

    High on my hills of dream, dear hills that know me/And then how fair will seem the lands below me
    How pure at vesper time, the far bells chiming/God, give me strength to climb, and hills for climbing. "Hills" - Arthur Guiterman

  13. #13
    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    I was in your shoes 2 years ago. After much research and consulting a few friends, I bought the Wilderness Experience Pungo 120. It's considered the number one recreational kayak out there. Tracks really well, has a extremely comfortable seat and even has a removable dashboard. The dashboard is nice, because it has cup holders and a small dry compartment that I keep my phone, wallet and keys in (in a ziplock bag). You can remove this feature. It has an "open" cockpit, for my use, I did not need or want the tighter skirt style cockpit. I was a full on rookie when I bough this boat, it was easy to learn in and to this day, I have never dumped it. P.S. a good source for Advice is Kittery trading Post in Maine, they were very helpful with info on the boat and the rack for my car.

  14. #14
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomK View Post
    No need to register a kayak in CT. You do need to carry a whistle though. And a light, if paddling at night - a headlamp will work. And a PFD. I believe there are dates before and after which you must wear rather than carry a PFD, but I always wear mine. Even though I swim well, I don't want to be putting on a PFD at the same time I'm swimming.

    Look for a free copy of the Connecticut Boater's Guide, most places that rent or sell kayaks in CT will have a few copies. It has lots of info on rules, regulations, and a helpful listing of all of the public boat launches in CT. Also available at Town/City Halls, DMV offices and online in PDF form at https://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/Boa...oaterguide.pdf. Or call, write or e-mail the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, 79 Elm St, Hartford, CT 06106-5127, 860-434-3000 deep.boating@ct.gov they will probably mail you a copy.

    Good advice in previous replies about trying many different kayaks, and considering a used boat. Also consider just renting rather than buying - the cost of a good, new boat will pay for a lot of rentals. That way you can rent the kind of boat that suits what you are going to do rather than having to make do with the boat you have. I often wonder if I would have been better off going that way. Although it is convenient to be able to just load the boat and go, rather than first stopping at a rental shop.

    There are "pack canoes", smaller canoes designed to be paddled by one person, usually using a kayak paddle, that might suit your need. Also, a couple I hike and paddle with each have a foldable kayak - folds into a suitcase sized package. They can unfold and set up thier boats in about the same time it takes me to get my boat off the roof rack, ditto for folding it up after. Not as good as a regular kayak, but they seem happy with them.

    I'm very glad I took a "Intro to Kayak" course. I have a spray skirt, but mostly it just keeps the bugs and sun off of my legs If you use one, make sure you practice (in shallow water, with someone to help if needed) flipping your boat, removing the spray skirt from where it attaches to the boat, and getting out of the kayak (all while submerged and upside down).

    TomK
    Excellent info. Thanks.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  15. #15
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sierra View Post
    I was in your shoes 2 years ago. After much research and consulting a few friends, I bought the Wilderness Experience Pungo 120. It's considered the number one recreational kayak out there. Tracks really well, has a extremely comfortable seat and even has a removable dashboard. The dashboard is nice, because it has cup holders and a small dry compartment that I keep my phone, wallet and keys in (in a ziplock bag). You can remove this feature. It has an "open" cockpit, for my use, I did not need or want the tighter skirt style cockpit. I was a full on rookie when I bough this boat, it was easy to learn in and to this day, I have never dumped it. P.S. a good source for Advice is Kittery trading Post in Maine, they were very helpful with info on the boat and the rack for my car.
    I'm fairly tall at 6' 3" and definitely don't want a snug fitting cockpit for whatever I get. That is definitely a nice thing about the canoe. You can stretch and move your legs around without any restrictions. We just drove by Kittery on our way home and I was just thinking how long it's been seen I went there. I think over 30 years now. I remember it being huge but now that we have massive stores like Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops I was curious how it compared. It is way bigger than even those stores wasn't it?
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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