The kayak thread

Prompted by this post:

I bought my Ocean Kayak Drifter about 20 years or so ago.
My Ocean Kayak Drifter, January 2004 (or maybe 2001, like it says in the caption – I’ve forgotten when it was).

Mine’s the white one that you can just see in the first photo. It’s the same as the blue one, only it has a rudder. You can see the whole thing in the second pic, but it’s a small photo.

Yesterday I picked up a new Old Town Manitou Sport, (next to my wife’s Necky Sky). I had $700 in REI Rewards, and since REI changed their credit cards to Capital One I couldn’t redeem my Rewards for cash. So I got the kayak.

My wife bought her kayak from a neighbour last year for $200. I haven’t tried it yet.

On to the thread:

I was living in L.A. when I bought my first kayak. I’d take it down to Marina del Rey and put-in at Mother’s Beach. There were little sharks in the water, and also stingrays. I tried to get a photo of the sharks once. I stood very still, but the cowardly things wouldn’t get close enough for a photo. I got one shot in the murky water where you could sorta-kinda see a fin. I should have brought a tin of cat food. I liked sneaking up on the stingrays and tickling them. They were cute.

A typical paddle would be from Mother’s Beach, through the marina, out into the open ocean, and then up to the Santa Monica pier and back. Sometimes @Spiny_Norman and I would go kayaking together. Since I moved up here, paddling is a little more difficult. I live on a shallow bay, and the water is very far away when the tide’s out. Also, I’m married now and it can be hard to coordinate with my wife. My friend and I did take a trip to Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island once, and spent eight hours paddling one day.

So @TokyoBayer wants to find out about kayaks. I’ll start out with my Drifter. It’s a sit-on-top, which means you sit on top of it instead of sitting inside of it. It has four scupper holes on the floor. Water comes in, then it goes out the bottom. The downside is that you’re always sitting in some water. This isn’t a problem when you’re someplace like Southern California where the water is like 65ºF. Let me tell you though, that it’s a mite chilly up here on the Salish Sea where the water is 20º (or more) cooler. You can see in the photo that I’m wearing ‘waterproof’ pants. These just have elastic cuffs. I now have some dry pants. My friend (standing) is wearing mukluks. I wish I’d had some. I couldn’t feel my feet when we got back.

So now I have a sit-inside kayak. Since I only got it yesterday, I haven’t taken it out yet. With my damaged knees, getting in an out of a kayak – sit-inside or sit-on-top – is rather comical; but I got into the Mantou yesterday when I put it on the deck, and I won’t have a problem. The seat is very comfortable.

Paddles are adjustable for pitch. I like mine with a ‘twist’, but my wife likes hers straight. My Drifter paddles very nicely. It’s three feet wide and 12½ feet long, so it’s pretty fast for a recreational kayak. (Longer kayaks tend to be faster than shorter ones.) It’s also quite stable. I’m anxious to try out the Manitou to see how it paddles. I did read one review that said it doesn’t ‘glide’ especially well, which the Drifter excels at.

You’ll need accessories. First of all (or second, after the paddle), you need a personal flotation device (PFD, ‘life jacket’). Up here, you’re required to ‘have’ one. In the Drifter, I keep it in the well behind me. In the Manitou, I’ll have to wear it. If you have a sit-inside, you’ll want a water pump. Unlike a sit-on-top that has scupper holes, you need to pump water out of a sit-inside if you get flooded. You’ll also want a paddle float for a sit-inside. (I don’t have one, but the water’s shallow in the bay.) In case you find yourself in the water, you put the float on one end of the paddle and put the other end into the rigging on your 'yak. This should keep the kayak from rolling over when you get back into it. Since I haven’t used a sit-inside yet, I haven’t tried it. And you’ll want a sponge for getting water out after you’ve pumped it out. If you’re in a sit-inside, you’ll want to get a ‘skirt’ if you’re going to be paddling someplace where you may take on water. Skirts fit around your waist and around the combing to keep the water out. There’s a technique to roll yourself upright in case you get toppled, but obviously I’ve never tried it. That’s something I would want instruction in before I tried it on my own. As for sit-on-tops, you’re going to want a seat. I haven’t seen any that came with one, unless it’s part of a ‘package’. My Drifter was a la carte, so I had to buy my own. You can paddle a sit-on-top without a seat, but you really want one if you want to be comfortable.

When I got my first kayak, I had no idea what paddling was like. I just bought it, and tried it. It’s really easy! Nothing like the guys pulling a longboat in the movies. It takes very little effort unless you want to do a fast sprint, and even then it’s not that hard.

What else…? Can’t think of anything right now, other that I’ve only paddled in salt water.

I have bought many kayaks, almost all used boats. They tend to hold their value, so I eventually sell one for more than I paid. When I search for used boats I might look at a few thousand ads, actually consider a few dozen, then actually buy one.

I put more thought into paddles. My carbon fiber paddle cost me more than any of our kayaks. It makes a huge difference to paddle with a featherweight paddle then a cheap metal/plastic $12 paddle. Never use your paddle for anything other than paddling. I saw a friend use his paddle to get his kayak unstuck from some rocks and it broke the paddle blade. It was $600 down the drain.

If you do any white water paddling consider a spray skirt.

It’s amazing how expensive used kayaks are. While I personally think her Necky Sky (which I haven’t tried yet) is not one I would have bought for myself, I think she got a good deal for $200. I’m not fond of the paddle, but it did come with one. Many years ago I’d see Ocean Kayak Scramblers offered for about $200 or $300. Scramblers seemed to be very popular in the rental business back when I’d see rental businesses. I thought I should get one just for fun, but I had no idea at the time how well kayaks hold their value and didn’t get one while they were ‘cheap’.

I have an Aqua Bound carbon-shaft paddle that I bought with my Drifrer. I like it a lot. I think it was about $100 or a little more at the time. When I take out the Manitou, I’ll try the paddle that came with it.

We have an Emotion Kayak 9’ - not sure of the specific model, but it’s a sit-on-top. It is perfect for casual flatwater use, and has a hatch to put stuff in the hull, like a small, soft-sided cooler or soft lunch box. The seat is padded as well. It’s been great for our local lake and for camping by lakes in the mountains. It is not super light, but I can still heft it up to the roof of our mid-size SUV. We had a smaller one by the same company but after my kids outgrew it, I sold it a couple years ago for about $250 on craigslist - they definitely keep their value, especially if you live near a good lake or calm water area where kayaking is popular. I used the money to help buy a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), so now we have some options!

For anyone looking to buy a kayak for the first time, consider a couple of non-water-related things: 1) Where are you going to put it? 2) How are you going to haul it to the water? I have a good size garage and the kayak easily stands on the stern strapped to a wall, so it does not take up a lot of space. Can’t say the same for the paddleboard, which is too tall. And make sure your car has a rack or you can purchase a rack system to accommodate it, and you are physically able to heft the thing up there, or always have someone to help - and know how to strap/secure it to the rack.


My Drifter has a well in the back (where I carry my PFD) that can fit a cooler. There’s a hatch up front for carrying stuff, but you need a dry bag as it’s not enclosed within the kayak. It also came with a round, screw-on hatch in front of the seat. There’s a nylon back in it, with a plastic ring on top that sits under the lid. It’s supposed to be watertight. It isn’t. Hasn’t been since it was new.

My drifter lived under the deck. My wife got me a pair of racks for Christmas a couple of years ago. I finally put them on the side of the house a couple of months ago. Since the Drifter weighs about 60 pounds with the rudder, I put the racks low. I think the screws look a bit flimsy, so I’ll ask my wife to help me get the kayak off of them when we go out. (They might be OK, but they don’t look strong.) For now, the Necky and the Old Town are on the deck.

I have my '99 Jeep Cherokee (seen in the first picture in the OP) with a Yakima rack. I can heft the Drifter, and therefore the others, by myself. At least, I can get one end up and then push it up the rest of the way. I need to get a couple of kayak carriers.

Kayaking is one of Mrs. solost and my favorite things to do in the summer. We are lucky to live in an area with 2 very scenic rivers very close by, with stretches of current slow enough that we can drop in at one spot, paddle upriver for a couple miles, then come back downriver.

We also have a lot of inland lakes all around, and I have a fishing kayak. I used to fish from a 16’ runabout with an outboard, but kayaks are so much easier to launch and retrieve. Plus, fishing from a kayak is just more fun-- you’re right near the water, and when you hook a big bass it will take you for a ride before you manage to reel it in.

Very cool. I’m a huge fan of paddling and spent a lot of time paddling the environs between Seattle (salt and fresh water) up to Anacortes. I always rented, as I also always owned a convertible (or worse, a motorcycle) and thus could never transport a boat.

When I moved to Santa Barbara, I got all excited to pick right back up, but found that the traditional sea kayak market really shrunk in the last decade, and that there were no sit-inside rentals available at all. But early in the COVID period, a guy posted a Tempest 170 Pro (a British-style boat like I favored up in Seattle) in ugly but structurally sound shape. I spent about a month ordering parts and refitting it and have been having fun with it since. Still have the convertible problem but this time I solved it by buying a kayak trailer.

I have some long-time shoulder problems, so at the advice of surf kayak instructor I was working with, I switched to a Greenland-style paddle. It’s a different technique, but I think more versatile, and doesn’t shock-load your shoulders like a European blade can.

Knowing the waters of the PNW well, the fuddy-duddy in me that took the ACA safety courses has to say, “dress for the swim, not the paddle.” That’s some seriously cold water that if you got dumped somehow or pulled by an unfavorable current into more exposed water, you might have very little functional time in the water. Some of the Bellingham area stories in the Deep Trouble series are really eye-opening.

Also, if there’s no bulkhead in the bow of that boat, consider putting a floatation bag in there. Once a closed-deck kayak without a spray skirt starts taking on water, you can quickly get to a point where the pump only gives you something to do while the boat sinks.

Like a Nantucket Sleighride.

I brief glance in the bow of the Manitou revealed what looked like a fitted foam block. The rear compartment has a bulkhead.

Your kayak is gorgeous. I’ve always wanted one like that.

Pygmy Kayaks was in Port Townsend, and have apparently closed. IIRC correctly, you could buy a kit and go to the shop so that you have access to the tools and expertise to build it.

Ha, not quite as exhilarating and death-defying as that, but yeah, same principle.

Here’s a pic and a story I’ve posted before-- neither of those kayaks under the arch at Pictured Rocks is me (I took the pic from a big tour boat on a family trip when the kids were little), but I want to kayak the shores of Pictured Rocks someday. Unfortunately that particular arch may be gone, since they’ve had a couple cliff collapses in the past 5 years or so.

I did get a chance to canoe a long stretch along the shore of of Superior with a friend much farther west at Porcupine Mountain State Park years ago. It was a beautiful day, and the surface of Superior was like glass, similar to the way it looks in the picture below. The water was so still and clear you could easily see 30 feet down, to collections of boulders the size of RVs on the lake bottom. It was an amazing trip.

I made my kayak from a kit – It is a stitch-and-glue similar to ones from Pygmy or CLC (but from a different company no longer is business). The hull is basically 4 sheets of plywood*stitched together (holes drilled and then twisted wire) and then fiberglassed (the inside seams ar also fiberglassed.
It is 17’3" long and weighed ~40 pounds (heavier now with extra epoxy/paint).
Since I have wood boat I have wood paddle from Bending Branches.
I have a pump, paddle float, paddle leash, spray skirt, cockpit cover, and sponge.
I carry it on top of my Prius (yes, it sticks out both in front and in back)

I have taken it on Lake Michigan, but mostly use it on smaller lakes or the Mississippi backwaters



I remember that the Manitou was a Necky design before they got bought by Old Town. Necky was a great company and would never skimp on something like that. I was sad to find out they more or less evaporated as I really wanted their Chatham 17 at one point. The good news for me is that the Tempest I found has a very similar design, being meant for the same kinds of rough water.

Thanks. I got lucky in that I found it in super rough shape (so semi-affordable) and thus had a project for the lockdown-times.

Ocean Kayak were located in the Grandview Business Park, eight miles south of here, when I bought my Drifter. I didn’t know it at the time, but Ocean Kayak (and Necky) had already been bought by Johnson Outdoors. (Was Old Town a separate company that was bought by Johnson Outdoors? Or was it always their brand?) After I moved up here, it was nice to be able to go to Ocean Kayak. I was sad when Johnson Outdoors moved them.

Funny anecdote: I was living in L.A. when I bought my drifter at an REI in Orange County. My friend bought his yellow sit-on-top Cobra kayak from Southern California while he was living in this house. We bought our kayaks at the same time, so I always imagine they passed each other on the freeway.

Old Town was acquired by S.C. Johnson back in the early 70’s and came along for the ride when Johnson Outdoors was spun off. Ocean Kayak was purchased in 1997. Necky was bought at about the same time but disappeared as a brand in 2019.

Bonus paddling content…

I had (have?) a CLC kayak. Chesapeake 17 footer. It was absolutely beautiful, but I didn’t have room to move it when I left for Colorado. I left it with a friend who had a garage, but have barely talked to him since. I truly have no idea what’s happened to it.

She sure was beautiful.

I don’t take my iPhone paddling with me. There’s nowhere dry to keep it in the 'yak, and zip-top bags seem to have a way of letting water in when you’re specifically using them to keep water out. I looked at waterproof pouches, with touch-sensitive surfaces so the phone can be used without taking it out, but the reviews I read were rather spotty. Some reviews were great, but then there were several for the same product saying they leaked.

Indeed she is! I’ve always liked the looks of wooden kayaks.

Questions: When was the first time you saw a kayak? When did you decide you wanted to get one?

I first saw a kayak in Nanook Of The North (1922) [Kayak scene]

I first wanted a kayak when I was a kid, after seeing white water kayakers racing on ABC’s Wide World Of Sports. That looked like a lot of fun, even if we didn’t have rivers in San Diego. (At the time, I also wanted a surfboard and a Hobie 16. Had to settle for Lido 14s and Capri 14s at the San Diego Navy Sailing Club.) It wasn’t until 2001 that I did get a kayak. Now that I think of it, I’m not exactly sure why I finally decided to get one; but I’m glad I did.

I have found those pouches to be terrible to use. Both in that it’s hard to work the controls and in the way they degrade the camera’s view. I just use a tether to my PFD and rely on the iPhone’s water resistance for if/when I roll. Or fail to roll and thus swim. Any iPhone after the 7 is at least IP67 (maximum depth of 1 meter up to 30 minutes) all the way up the recent models at IP68 (maximum depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes).

Biggest problem I have is that out in unprotected water, my boat really needs the paddler to be ready to throw out a brace stroke at any moment. Hard to do when fumbling with a camera.

Sharing some kayaking porn from my trip to Patagonia last December - Lago Grey near Torres del Paine National Park, Chile…