Inshore saltwater choices

9:59 a.m. on February 13, 2017 (EST)
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Hi all.  I'm just starting to research kayak or canoe.  I know absolutely nothing about kayaks, and not much about canoes.  Just the Boy Scout canoeing experience, and a few trips later on.  Of course that makes me an expert with canoes!

This will be for use in the ICW.  It's pretty wide where we are, at least 1/2 mile wide, so it gets rough when the wind kicks up.  We'll pick and choose our days though, so I'm not too worried about any rough water.  Boat wakes probably would be more of a concern than the wind.  My criteria include:

* Very easy to paddle

*Very stable (I know this probably is the direct opposite of #1)

*Holds 2 (or 3 is even better, if a canoe)

*Not too heavy, just to make it easier to move off the rack to the water.  Not a big deal, though.  It's not like I'm doing a portage with it.

*Cheap.  This will sit out on a rack in a public park, so I'm not going to put much into something that could disappear on me.  Plus I'm just not sure how much we would use this vs the boat.  So it's a bit of an experiment.  I can lock it to the rack, and it's a safe area.  But it's still a public park.   I'm in no hurry to buy, so if I need to keep an eye out for something used, that is fine too.

I'd appreciate your recc. on kayak vs canoe, and moreso on specific models I should consider. 

10:12 a.m. on February 13, 2017 (EST)
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You need to talk with someone with experience and in depth knowledge about that specific area, not a bunch of guys on the internet.

'We'll pick and choose our days though, so I'm not too worried about any rough water. " sounds like the opening line in a disaster tale.... 

"

10:37 a.m. on February 13, 2017 (EST)
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That's why I posted on here.  To get opinions from folks with experience and knowledge.  That's what the internet is for... to get information.  Sounds like several folks here have experience with saltwater too.

11:11 a.m. on February 13, 2017 (EST)
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Buy a quality used canoe.  It is hard to get by with one and trading is common.

Longer is more seaworthy, at least 16 feet.

Never take 3 people in a canoe except in an emergency. 

A flat bottomed canoe has initial stability but little secondary stability and is not as seaworthy as an arched bottom.

Learn how to paddle from a knowledgeable person before you try big water. Learn to brace.

Study rescue techniques. 

This is a start.

Next you will hear from Erich. 

4:37 p.m. on February 13, 2017 (EST)
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Thank you, ppine. I will argue that you should never take three people. It can be done, given that the canoe is designed for three or more. I sometimes paddle voyageur canoes which can be anywhere from 25 feet to 38 feet.  And there are canoes, not voyageurs but similar, that are less than 25 but more than the 16-17 foot canoes that are most common.To begin, a kayak will at most, hold two people safely. These are tandem sea kayaks and will be quite heavy, compared to a nice canoe. Longer is often more seaworthy, but that is not always the case. Longer will usually be faster in terms of top speed, but that assumes a good shape. There is a lot to learn and you can research articles I did on TS on choosing a canoe. I would recommend a canoe over a kayak for its versatility. One question is you note it will be stored on a  rack. Is this storage covered? If not, you will find that any canoe or kayak made from any synthetic material, poly, GRP, Royalex or any of the composites will deteriorate rapidly from exposure to UV. You can get custom covers that help, but storing any plastic canoe or kayak outside, winter and summer is not advised. If that is what you are going to do, I would recommend a large Grumman or Smoker Craft. These canoes are not fast, hot in the summer and cold in the winter, moderately stable. The advantage is that they are not subject to weathering. They are also noisy, so don't expect to sneak up on wildlife. One thing I would add, is you seem less concerned about wind than boat wakes. Water conditions can change rapidly, and I have seen swells of two feet generated in a short time on open water. You want to stay close to shore, except for times when you need to make a crossing, and that needs to happen quickly. On the water, you can't just decide to walk home. Read my articles and I can answer specific questions as you do your research. In way of credentials, I teach and write about canoeing and paddling in general. My first long paddling trip was in 1971. Today, I usually spend a month or more each year on expeditions in Canada's north. I also paddle on day trips here in the PNW on rivers to Class IV. The big caveat at the end is that the ACA recommends three boats minimum. Yes, I have done solo trips. But think about it. If you turn over in the middle of the ICW, can you right the boat, bail it out and paddle to shore, without dying of hypothermia and drowning?

5:01 p.m. on February 13, 2017 (EST)
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JB, to aid your search, here is a link to Erich's excellent articles:

http://www.trailspace.com/people/erich/?content=articles

(I just clicked on his name to find the tab with the blog posts)

FYI, the search engine on this website only searches gear reviews.

To find forum content, it's best to use syntax like this in a Google or Bing search: "canoes" site: trailspace.com/forums

This search revealed a few other threads with similar discussions:

 

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/paddling/topics/71219.html

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/paddling/topics/100875.html

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/paddling/topics/141367.html

7:09 a.m. on February 14, 2017 (EST)
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Thank you.  I'll read thru the links.  However, I talked at length yesterday with someone who manages the racks.  They recc a kayak over the canoe.  They also told me that the racks are not designed to hold canoes, especially longer ones.  I would guess that is why there are so very few canoes there.  They said that one or maybe two racks will hold canoes, but most will not.  I haven't looked that closely myself, but will when I go down today.  They said a good, stable tandem kayak would work well for our situation.  They've been kayaking there for years. 

From what I've read, a sit-on-top kayak is much easier to get back on if I do tip over.  It's been so long, I don't recall how easy it is to flip a canoe back over and get back in.  Can someone comment on that?  Obviously it's going to take a lot more bailing once I do get back into a canoe!  I would only use this in warmer weather, so I don't think hypothermia is a big concern.  If I did have a problem and get too cold, I'll call TowBoat US or USCG to come get me.  I'll always have an inflatable life vest on with a handheld VHF attached any time I'm out.  I've been offshore fishing for 20+ years, so I've learned to be very safety conscious on the water. 

Yes, the racks are outside.  But large live oak trees keep everything out of the sun.  So I'm not too worried about UV damage.  The only time I'd ever move anything off the rack to the house would be if a hurricane is coming.

I found a  used Wilderness Systems 130T Tarpon tandem kayak for sale locally and have read the reviews on it.  Sounds pretty good.  It can be rigged for fishing, and I do want to try fishing out of whatever I get, just occasionally.  And taking 3 people on a calm water canal ride sounds good too (there is a long canal in our neighborhood, and the person I spoke with yesterday said doing the canal is much more interesting than taking it out on the sound).  How concerned do I need to be about age of a used kayak? 

How much does a kayak draft vs a canoe?  There is a lot of shallow water where we are.  At low tide, there is no water in many places.   So I want something that will go across the shallow spots, without having to get out and drag it across.  On kayaks, does draft depend more on weight or on hull design?  Does less draft = less stability?

9:40 a.m. on February 14, 2017 (EST)
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JB, first off, I would say that warmer would indicate that the air temperature is warmer,rather than the water temperature. Hypothermia can happen very quickly. Regarding the Tarpon 130T, this will be a very slow and not particularly seaworthy boat. As far as draft, anytime you have such a small boat, weight of the occupants will push it further into the water than a larger craft. The Tarpon 130T is a tandem, and as I had mentioned in my initial post, you cannot put three people in it, unless two were toddlers. As far as a PFD, you will not want an inflatable, but an approved one, and not a ski vest. These are poly boats and UV degradation will happen if it is stored outside, even in the shade of oak trees. Like Elvis, UV is everywhere. If the used one you are looking at is older and has been stored outside, you will notice that the hull may have a chalky appearance. It also may have warped due to poor storage. Less draft does not equal less stability.Draft is a function of design and weight. Most sots have an irregular hull shape. This gives them more rigidity, but also makes them  little deeper in the water than a flat bottomed or shallow arched bottom canoe. Sea kayaks often have flat or shallow arch bottom as well, tapering into v sections at bow and stern. Again draft will depend on how much weight you put in the boat.More weight and the boat sits lower. More weight and the boat will become less stable. To explain the latter, understand that a small boat, filled to capacity is less stable than a large boat with only half the weight in it.

12:00 p.m. on February 14, 2017 (EST)
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Cheap short kayaks made of plastic are all the rage.  Many people do not seem to want to learn to paddle. They like the light weight and cheap price at the expense of seaworthiness, traveling  speed and cargo carrying capacity of a canoe.

For salt water paddling a fiberglass sea kayak with a cockpit and at least 15-16 feet of length can be very seaworthy. They are quite different from the 10 foot plastic bath tubs that are seen everywhere.

Sit on top boats are cold. You are going to get wet and have no protection from the sun, rain or wind. They have a higher center of gravity and little storage space.

Any boat will work to paddle around the local lake. If you want to go somewhere, you need length in a displacement boat. I really like canoes in the 17 1/2 to 19 foot range. I built a Pygmy sea kayak out of African mahogany but sold it.  It only fit one person. I could not take my dog or a two burner Coleman stove or a lot of other things.  I have paddled the San Juan Islands in a fiberglass sea kayak for 5 days. It worked well in the swells, ferry boat traffic, barges and tidal rips. But they are specialized boats. I have never liked being upside down in a kayak, especially in a river full of rocks. If you paddle you are going to capsize, it is not if, but when.

12:39 p.m. on February 14, 2017 (EST)
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You are quite right, ppine, that it isn't if you capsize, but when. One argument I hear between canoes and kayaks, is that the kayaks are more sea worthy. Some of this comes from being a decked boat(canoes can have spray skirts) and being able to roll a kayak. But truth, probably 90% of the people paddling kayaks cannot roll them. Here in the PNW we have fatalities every year in kayaks, and some in canoes. Last year or the year before, five or six people died kayaking near Dungeness Spit. They flipped the water was cold and they drowned. A kayak is no more and no less stable than a canoe.

10:15 p.m. on February 15, 2017 (EST)
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You guys are making me think twice about buying a kayak or a canoe! 

Yes, I'm very aware of water temp.  Fishing offshore in the middle of the winter as I have, the water temp is critical for fishing.  But also so you have some idea of how much time you have if you were to go overboard (not long without a suit on!).

Now I've got to try to understand why all the folks that have a craft stored on a rack are kayakers, with only two exceptions.  I went by the racks yesterday, and there are only two canoes there.  Everything else is kayaks.  I didn't have time to look very closely at any of them, but I believe I only saw one sea kayak.  

On the Tarpon, I'm not concerned at all with speed.  But as to seaworthy, I don't follow.  From the user reviews I've read, it is a very stable craft (for a kayak).  One user said he could sit on the side with his feet in the water while fishing.  If true, that sounds pretty stable to me.   Several users also posted that they've had two and a child in the Tarpon with no issues at all.  But it sounds like I need to scratch the idea of two adults and a grown child, even on a very calm water canal.   Especially if I want stability.

As to a PFD, mine is approved.  Fishing offshore, I've done a lot of research on PFD's.  And BoatUS has done some very good testing on PFD's.  Obviously, an offshore PFD is best.  But they are too bulky for canoeing or kayaking.  A good inflatable is all I need.  If I ever were to kayak in colder weather, I'd wear my Stearns jacket with built in flotation.  But I have no idea of going until the water temp gets to a certain point.

Thanks for the pointer on UV.  It may be worth it to buy a cover of some sort. 

I definitely need a tandem.  No doubt about that.  Why did so much of the info I've read suggest the SOT's?  Definitely most people were recc. the SOT's as the best choice.  It seems to me it's no different than sitting on a seat in a canoe vs sitting in the floor in a canoe.   Getting in and out would be a real pain, but sitting lower obviously would be more stable.  For longer trips, sitting lower would be worth the hassle.  But for small short trips like I'll be doing, I'm definitely leaning to the SOT's.  No longer trips planned for me. 

 

12:40 a.m. on February 16, 2017 (EST)
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JB, one thing you'll see in a lot of these websites, is people with little or no experience, posting about how stable their "new" kayak is. I'm not sure I can adequately describe the issue. You need to read my articles. One thing to be aware of, is you kneel in a canoe and you sit in a kayak. Both are equally stable. SOTs? Yes stable at the dock, but in waves they become less stable. Why? It is hull shape. Why are there so many posts espousing the benefits of SOTs? Because these are the same people that we read about getting into trouble. Colder weather? Your Stearns jacket is not adequate, period. Is a SOT inexpensive? Yes. Is it suitable for warm water fishing in Florida in summer? No problem. Bu they are ponderously slow. Would I paddle one with my 21 year old son in Hawaii? Yes, but not for any distance. PFDs from Boat US? Get a proper PFD as the ones from Boat US are not designed for kayakers, or canoeists despite what they might advocate. Regarding sea worthiness. In a half mile fetch, especially with shallow water, you can easily encounter waves to three feet. That will overwhelm many boats. Not concerned about speed? You should be. The ICW has tides...current. If the tide is running 4 knots, a SOT of 13 feet is not capable of that speed, no matter how hard you paddle. I have paddled all types of human powered watercraft(and sailed competitively for a number of years). As a paddler, I would choose a bigger boat with capacity to carry three adults(weight wise) for stability. I would also want the length so I can have a boat speed that will not slow me down. Do you know about hull speed in displacement hulls? Fundamentally, you have described a desire to paddle an inshore area with a width of 1/2 mile. You want a craft that is capable of two or three adults, stable, relatively fast, shallow draft, inexpensive,sea worthy and light weight. There is no boat that will satisfy all these requirements. But the most important aspect is that it be safe within the designed maximum capacity. After reading my articles, I would suggest you rent. Rent or borrow a SOT and take it out with three adults,one designed for two people, like the Tarpon. Intentionally flip it(close to shore) and see how easy it is to get back in. Paddle 1/2 mile without stopping, in wind and waves. While my comments may seem a bit harsh, it is because I have rescued too many people who have ventured out and discovered that they cannot walk home. Some, tragically, have not survived and it was due to arrogance and poor advice. You wouldn't go hang gliding, or skydiving without the proper gear. So why would you do the same on the water? SOTs are fine if you only want a craft for two people, no gear, warm water(like Cabo) and won't be more than a couple of hundred yards off shore. 

10:41 a.m. on February 16, 2017 (EST)
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Actually, going with two people, no gear, in only warm weather (and water), and a couple hundred yards from shore is all that I intend to do.  However, you are exactly correct that the tide, and the wind, are very big concerns for me.  Many years ago, that tide nearly swept me out to sea when I was fishing in an inlet for the very first time.  With no VHF or way to communicate.  I learned a valuable lesson that day, a not soon forgotten one.  So your suggestion to rent is an excellent one.  But your telling me that there is no craft that meets all my criteria sure isn't what I want to hear!

I have given thought to the tides and wind.  I decided I would only go on a slack tide.  With the return calculated so I'm riding with the direction of the tide.  Basically, I should be able to float back home with no paddling at all if I so choose.  Same with the wind.  Only go when I can paddle into the wind, and back home with the wind.  However, I also realize it doesn't always work that way.  So yes, speed and ease of paddling does matter.  I've seen many more than one paddler being towed back to their departure point by a boat.

On the lifejackets, it's not a BoatUS brand lifejacket I was speaking of.  BoatUS did a very good test of various brands of lifejackets.  Best test/comparison I've ever read.  Again though, they had offshore in mind with their testing.  But it should still be applicable.   Naturally, the offshore style did the best.  But as you note, they're too bulky for kayak/canoe use.  So you choose something that is reasonably good and comfortable for that application.  As to the Stearns jackets, I may be wrong, but I think that is what the USCG guys wear in cold weather.  It's not a survival suit, but it's pretty good.

I think you pegged my criteria very well.  To roughly give them some weight... 

#1 stable

#2 inexpensive

#3 capable of handling a 1-2' chop

#4 shallow draft

#5  capable of 4-5 knot speed

#6 carry 2 or preferably 3 people

#7  light weight  (I think I got lucky and secured a bottom rack spot that is next to the water)

I also want 'thank you' for taking the time to give such thorough answers to a newbie!!  It is appreciated. 

12:21 p.m. on February 16, 2017 (EST)
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Forget about 4-5 knots. More like 2 1/2-3 mph.

Carry 2 people. Add another boat if you have 3 people.

Stable is a complicated concept when it comes to canoes and kayaks. Flat bottomed boats are the least stable in rougher conditions. They are stable until they start to go over. Arched bottomed boats feel less stable initially, but firm up when they are leaned. They have secondary stability which is what you want for bigger water.

12:27 p.m. on February 16, 2017 (EST)
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JB, regarding PFDs, it is important that they be comfortable. PFDs that work for canoes, may not be suitable for a kayak. A Stearns jacket is not suitable for either, nor is it a suitable PFD. The Coasties wear something similar, but also wear purpose made PFDs. So forget that option if you are in a kayak or canoe. Get a PFD that is designed specifically for paddling. It must fit well, and be fastened properly. I see people paddling with their PFDs unzipped, or worse yet, sitting on them. When you are in the water, you will not be able to put your PFD on. It is correct that you will not find a boat that meets all your criteria. Some of your criteria are self canceling. Did you look up "hull speed" and understand the formula? You want a boat that can be paddled at 4-5 knots. That means a long light boat, even to get to the 4 knot range. And to get a light boat, and one with a good shape, you will be paying a high price. As well, the Tarpon 13, aside from being stable at rest, will be a slug to paddle. Please read my articles as it appears you have not, as I talked about stability in detail. A boat that is initially stable is neither fast, nor stable when it is leaned and not as sea worthy. A two foot chop will certainly slow you down and you will want a very sea worthy boat for that. A Tarpon 13 is not that boat. Further, I should mention, that if you plan to paddle solo, a kayak(SOT or sea kayak) will not be suitable. You mention water temperature. How warm? Can you be in the water for 15 or 20 minutes without discomfort? You will need to be. Otherwise, you will need a dry top or wet suit. I will also reiterate what I had said earlier about draft and stability. An overloaded boat(Tarpon 13 with 3 adults) will sit lower in the water and be less stable than a longer boat with the same number of passengers. In conclusion, you need to read my articles, and you need to actually go paddle a Tarpon with three people and see what you think. Can you get back in when you flip(and you will do the latter)? I would also point out that although the hull speed of the Tarpon is 4.5 knots, achieving that is nearly impossible and not for any distance. Again, I would advise that you rent, and probably take a class or two. As a newbie, you need some actual experience. Otherwise, it is analogous to discussing the benefits of one type of aircraft over another with someone who has neither a pilot's license,nor a grasp of aeronautical design.

11:11 a.m. on February 17, 2017 (EST)
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OK... so if I want to carry 3 people, I need to be looking at a canoe and not a kayak.  If I'm OK with just 2, then a tandem kayak is fine.  I need to look for something that has good secondary stability to handle the chop in the sound.  I said 2-3', but I would never take anything out in a 3' chop.  And probably not a 2' chop either.  I'll be a fair weather boater, for sure.  However, I did mention boat wakes, and those can in fact be 3'.  I very nearly sank a little 16' boat in the sound due to a big Hatteras yacht zipping by on the other side of the sound.  My very first time in salt water and I just didn't know.  The yacht wasn't close to me at all, and I was busy fishing, so I didn't notice that wake until it was too close.  Lesson:  always anchor with your bow pointed towards the channel. 

The Stearns jacket is in fact a good PFD.  Otherwise, USCG wouldn't be using them.  But agree that you need a good PFD for kayak or canoe.  I would think an inflatable would be a good choice for that application, since they are so slender and not bulky.  But have never checked into that. 

I'm not sure that having something stable at rest or on calm water isn't more important to me than something that can handle a light chop.  I'll have to think on that one.  I do plan to paddle some solo.  But no further than I'd be going, I think about anything will be OK.  I read more than one review on the Tarpon from guys that use it solo.  They said it certainly isn't ideal.  But is doable for short distances.  Of course, these are not experts, just everyday users like myself. 

I'll probably buy a dry top.  Used to have a wet suit, but I've sort of outgrown it :)      I won't go other than summer time/warmer months.  But I know I'll end up tempted to go on one of those really nice days in late spring when the water temps will still be warming up. 

As to draft, sounds like I need to be looking at something in the 15-16' range instead of 13'.  Thanks for that pointer.  How much difference in draft would it make, assuming the same load in a 13' vs a 16' kayak or canoe?

I definitely plan to rent before I buy.  There is a watersports place right across from my slip and I've talked with that guy a number of times.  I'll go see what he as for rent.  But it will be warm weather before I try out anything!  What if I come across what sounds like a really good deal before then?  I'm sure the prices go up once the weather warms up.

1:00 p.m. on February 17, 2017 (EST)
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JB, I live in the PNW and a good friend was a Coastie for many years, and now lives aboard a boat. While the CG does wear Stearns and Stearns type coats, they are a float coat, not a proper PFD. I have read the Boat US recommendations and they do not apply to what you need for a kayak or canoe. I would not recommend the inflatable. Yes they are slim. But they depend on two things. One, that they are tightly strapped, and two, that either the person is able to pull the cord, or that the automatic trigger works. These don't provide the floatation you need the way a properly designed paddling PFD will be.

On your draft question it isn't simply a matter of a 13 foot boat vs. a 16 foot boat. Again, please read my articles, as I covered much of this in them. Draft depends on many factors. Weight of boat is a factor, beam, shape of bottom and other things. So, imagine a 13 boat with a very flat bottom carried to the ends, and three feet of beam. Now imagine a 16 foot boat with a flat bottom, but with the bottom at the ends curving upward and three feet of beam. The curved ends leave the boat with the flat bottom being about 13 feet, the same as the 13 foot boat. With the same load, these will have the same draft, but the longer boat will be faster and more seaworthy. Now imagine that the 16 foot boat has an arched bottom, not flat. This boat will be faster, more sea worthy, but will have greater draft. Think of the old river boats. These were very flat bottomed and had great capacity. But they were not sea worthy.

I cannot advise you on whether you should jump on a good deal. There are lots of good deals in the world, but only if the item meets your needs. One piece of advice I have given in lectures, classes and articles over the years involves expedition canoes. Often times, someone will ask, what kind of expedition canoe to buy, because one day 5 or 10 years into the future, they would like to paddle on a long expedition. My response is always the same. Buy the boat that meets your needs right now. You don't want to have monster expedition boat, if you will be spending the next 10 years paddling week ends only. I don't know your age, but in 6 plus decades on the planet, I've learned that you need to pass on a deal that doesn't satisfy your needs.

April 29, 2017
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