How to Select the Right Kayak
Let's go kayaking! Bring some ocean kayaks on board your boat. Enjoy the serenity of your secret spot from the unique perspective of a kayak. Kayaks are easy to use for any age and versatile for recreational day paddling or touring for weeks. It is an experience that everyone will want to try.
The Right Kayak
Ocean kayaks on board a boat is the perfect recreation. Kayaks are sleek safe small craft that get people off the boat and into the water in quiet bays and coves. Ocean kayaks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some for calm waters and others being better suited for rougher waters and longer journeys. Choosing the right craft is key for you to fully enjoy a future in a kayak.
Who will use the kayak needs to be considered first. If there will be an assortment of people using the kayaks then a recreational kayak is good place to start. These kayaks are smaller (8 to 10 feet long) have a larger cockpit opening (this also helps to get in and out off a swim grid or ladder) and are wider (more stable). If the kayaks are to be your personal craft then a smaller cockpit will offer the advantage of better boat control and speed, as you gain experience. If younger kids are to be considered then perhaps a smaller open cockpit double that an adult could paddle with them. (See Kayaking with Kids -Eco Tips No. 26). An important safety note is you will probably need some kind of added buoyancy in your recreational kayak. Being the least expensive kayak there are some features missing.
Recreational touring kayaks (10 to 14 feet) begin to add features such as hatches, rudders, built in floatation, deck lines, comfortable seats, etc. The longer waterline now provides more tracking and speed. These features are great if you know that you will be going for longer periods like half a day or more. You could even pack a lunch. The smaller cockpits provide better boat control and enable you to advance your skills. These kayaks generally come in plastic but are also available in composite.
Touring kayaks (14 to 20 feet) are the best suited for the ocean paddler. They offer the greatest efficiency and the most features. Their designs vary according to your need for performance. Being larger boats they will take up deck space. Touring kayaks provide a lifetime of enjoyment as they can handle all kinds of weather. They may require some skill to use.
Sit on top kayaks offer the rugged versatility of appealing to all ages and abilities. These craft are best suited for warmer climates and have limited use in colder waters. You always get wet with these, so dress for immersion.
Where to store kayaks on board is often a key criteria for yachts. If you have limited storage capability then a good folding kayak is ideal. A folding kayak fits into a small duffel bag which is easily stored below decks. You will need some deck space to assemble them. Assembly time is around 20 minutes. They vary in price with the single chamber all inflatable type being the least expensive. The higher quality ones will have a wood or aluminum frame and last longer. Internal frame folding kayaks offer the most performance from being very seaworthy to the fact they fold up.
Hard shell kayaks, such as plastic or fiberglass, are maintenance free, durable and easy to use. They are made from either plastic or composite (fiberglass, kevlar or carbon), sometimes wood. Recreational kayaks are generally made in plastic for ruggedness and economy. Plastic requires any repair to the hull to be done at the factory. In contrast, composite kayaks are easily fixed in the field. In addition composite kayaks are lighter in weight, swiftly glide through the water, hold their value and last forever.
Stability is a design feature most sought after by novices. Stability in a kayak is a function of mostly the width. Generally wider kayaks are more stable, but are slower. Narrower kayaks perform better for speed but are tippy. Stable kayaks are anywhere from 24? to 32? wide. Narrower kayaks are from 21? to 23?. Stability is also a function of your height and weight. Men tend to carry their body weight higher than women so men usually require a wider kayak.
Shorter length kayaks turn easier than longer ones. Short is great when you are poking around the shoreline. If you want to circle the entire island in a day, then the longer kayak would be better.
Shape is important in small kayaks. Being small they need certain features important for their seaworthiness. The most important is enough overall buoyancy. If a person is over 175 lbs., they will want to consider a slightly larger model (9? long by over 25? wide). This becomes especially important in the event of a capsize as you will want to be able re-enter the kayak and pump the water out.
A key safety feature is the width and upsweep of the bow. With a wider upswept bow the kayak will ride up and over the waves. Smaller bows are good for calm waters and paddling close to the mothership. Kayaks around 8 feet long have a tendency to be wetter than the longer ones.
Cockpit size varies as well. Larger cockpits are convenient to get into and out of, especially off the side. In contrast the advantage of a smaller cockpit is that you can brace yourself for better control. A larger unconfined cockpit is better for novices and larger people. Children and smaller people will prefer the smaller cockpits.
Recreational kayaks often require inflatable buoyancy bags to augment any built in buoyancy. Hatches to store gear in and provide built in buoyancy are more common on full size touring kayaks. Bulkheads seal off the front and rear of the kayak. This means that you never have to remember to inflate any buoyancy bags. Hatches should be properly closed before heading off.
Rudders are a nice optional feature in recreational kayaks. Rudders enable you to turn the kayak and maintain course by steering with your feet. A rudder will make paddling easier for anyone. They are prone to scratching the mothership?s hull, so care must be exercised with rudders. Skegs are like rudders that do not turn. They help take care of the tendency to turn, a characteristic common with recreational kayaks. It is rare to find them on recreational kayaks.
Some essential deck fittings are shock cords behind the cockpit for a paddlefloat rescue. (This is how you get back into the kayak if you have tipped by yourself) Carry toggles help with attaching and locking the kayaks. Front shock cord is nice for putting charts and water bottles under.
Seats usually have an adjustment rope for the back. There are many products for padding out the seat if you need to. The only way to tell the comfort for you is to sit in one for yourself.
Other Equipment You Will Need
A sprayskirt fits around your body and seals onto the cockpit rim. Their purpose is to keep water out of the kayak not to keep you in. Sprayskirts are designed to fit a particular cockpit size. Anybody using a sprayskirt must know how to remove it in case of a capsize. In any kind of waves a sprayskirt is essential.
A paddling PFD (Personal Floatation Device) is shorter than normal PFDs. They invariably have pockets to put things in too. Attach a whistle to the zipper pull. Always wear your PFD.
Paddles are the most important piece of performance equipment. A well designed lightweight paddle will make the experience pleasurable. If you will have many different people using the kayaks then go for the economy plastic bladed ones. If these kayaks are for you, then the carbon fiber ones are the best. The paddle should be a two part paddle so it stows easily in the kayak or below decks.
You will need a hand pump to bail the kayak in the event of a capsize. A floatation collar will keep the pump floating. Keep the pump handy under the deck shock cords.
A paddlefloat will enable you to get back into the kayak by yourself. This is imperative to have if you are paddling on your own. You will have to know how to use it and the kayak will need the correct outfitting.
Fifteen meters of buoyant heaving line is required on all small craft. Keeping the line in a proper throw bag with attachments keeps the line both functional and out of the way.
A small waterproof bag is handy for storing spare clothes. You will not be able to access the hatches on the water so having some things handy helps. Keep your cockpit bag to no larger than 15 liters.
Towing Your Kayaks
Kayaks do not tow well.They have a habit wanting to surf the wake, go broadside and dump. Two will tow better if they are lashed together at the bow and stern. The best plan is to put them inside your tender being towed if you are reluctant putting them in their berths on the deck. Storing Kayaks
Plastic kayaks like to bend in the sun. Dents occur from sitting on a protrusion. It is best to store your kayaks covered in a cradle that has broad supports to reduce indentation.
Composite kayaks can be stored in a similar manner and will not dent. Cockpits should be covered with a secure cover.
On the lifelines store kayaks with the hull facing the outside. The best place is on top of the cabin on a proper rack. Prolonged sunlight will damage all kayaks. It is best to store kayaks in a shed for the winter if the yacht is not in use. On deck for the whole summer should be fine. Reds colours will fade the fastest.
Kayaking With Kids
Children love to paddle kayaks. Adult supervision is recommended. Young children can be in a kayak when they are comfortable in the water. Kids between 2 and 4 years should be in the lap of an adult in a double. Between 4 and 8 years they can be in the front of a double. To be in a cockpit by themselves they need to be able to pull the sprayskirt off by themselves before they can use one. Most kids 8 to 12 years old can master this and paddle a single kayak for a short period. From 12 years old they can use their own kayak for extended periods. Summer camps for kids is a useful training ground to develop the appropriate safety skills.
Taking lessons is a great idea. You will want to learn how to make the kayak go forward, backward and turn. Then you will want to learn how to tip over and get back in with someone?s help and then by yourself. After learning chart reading, weather interpretation, tides, and compass use you will have a foundation to kayak by yourself for the day.
There are many valuable books available that offer great insights into everything from how to, where to and what is there when you get there. Ask us about the latest titles.
Anyone can make a kayak go. Knowing how to paddle proficiently and safely requires some training and practice. Seek out your local lesson provider for a complete list of courses offered.
Yaks for Yachts Checklist
- Paddling PFDs
- Buoyancy bags
- 15m Buoyant Heaving Line
- Cockpit cover
- Full paddle
- Spare paddle
- Waterproof flashlight