I enjoy sailing my Klepper foldable kayak.
My place near Punta Gorda, FL sits on Shell Creek, a tributary of the Peace River just above Charlotte Harbor. It's small boat paradise, right at the vague boundary that separates fresh water from salt. Just downstream are mangrove trees, and just upstream are cypress swamps.
My father had a very nice fiberglass and wood canoe from the Stowe Canoe Company, and a pair of nice wooden canoe paddles. I enjoyed paddling around in the creek, and got pretty good at solo canoe paddling techniques like the J-stroke. Still, I found the canoe slow and prone to being blown about by the wind. Once, I almost got blown into the downstream side of the dam which is just up the creek from my house. I was paddling along the length of the dam, and the wind came up very strong, blowing the bow of the canoe down toward the dam. I paddled hard, trying to get the bow to turn back into the wind, but wound up accelerating toward the dam! I managed to pull out of it before getting blown down into the flow of water coming over the dam, but it was close.
My dad's canoe was very nice — too nice to just leave down by the creek. Back in Miami, I would have been worried about thieves, but here in Punta Gorda I was more concerned about the effects of leaving the canoe outside. If I put the boat under the house, it was well protected from the elements, but a pain to get down to the creek by myself. I decided I needed a kayak.
The Kayak of My Dreams
I liked the fact that I could carry a passenger in the canoe, or go alone, and at a kayak shop down in Fort Myers, I found the boat of my dreams. It was an Ocean Kayak Malibu II, a plastic sit on top kayak with molded seats and footrests to accomodate 1, 2, or even 3 passengers. It was nice and wide, and not terribly heavy. I could use it by myself easily, and it was more impervious to the elements than dad's canoe. I wouldn't need a second kayak just to carry friends. Also, I knew kayaks were faster than canoes, so I could explore further in the same amount of time.
The Right Kayak Paddle Does Matter
I bought two paddles, both two-piece aluminum paddles with plastic blades. I was shocked by the price tag on the ones with curved blades, but bought one anyway. The other had flat blades, and cost only . After trying both, I could see why people pay more for the curved blades. What a difference! It feels like the flat ones don't grab the water at all once you get used to shaped kayak paddle blades. (See buying the right kayak paddle for more information.)
Well, the Malibu II is indeed a versatile and stable kayak, and I still have it, but it turned out not to be the boat of my dreams. I learned that all that wonderful width made the boat slow. Very slow. It's no faster than a canoe, and doesn't glide at all when you quit paddling.
The Next Kayak of My Dreams
I liked the sit on top and was happy with the Ocean Kayak brand, so I went back and bought an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro. It was OK, but not much faster than the Malibu II. I brought it back to trade in the next day, and told the lady I wanted something fast. She showed me an Ocean Kayak Sprinter. It's shaped like a needle, about 17 feet long, but only about 20 inches wide. This particular one was used in their rental service, and she offered me a good deal, so I took it. Whoa, is that thing tippy! Almost everyone who has ever tried to use it has flipped it. I have not, and I love the boat. It's fast, it has a nice glide when you stop paddling, it's comfortable with the snap in kayak seat, and if I put one more scratch on it, who cares? I have had it for years, and it remains one of my favorite boats.