Thank you all for the welcomes!
On storage: I did measure and have exactly 5.84m (19 ft 2 in) of linear storage space for another boat, so anything 5.8m/19ft or shorter is doable, I just need to be careful while getting it around a corner.
On size: I'm 190cm and ~90kg, so not on the small side. I've been trying to jump into these boats on my list when I've had opportunity and they've all fit.
On rudders: I didn't mean to appear as an advocate of anything specific, just my personal experience. I've been around and in kayaks most of my adult life, but 1) never had the storage space for a hardshell kayak, and 2) my career had me moving around enough that I just didn't have the capacity for (large) recreational possessions. After university I randomly came across a Bergan's of Norway Ally 560 skin-on-frame collapsible kayak (similar to I believe to the Feathercraft kayaks), and I loved that thing but the rudder was more trouble than not, so that definitely coloured my opinion. I've spent the last few years in metro-Van with a Trak 2.0 kayak and it doesn't have the option, so I like to think my skill set has benefited. However, twice now in the past few months I have felt like I was losing the fight against very strong winds in the Salish Sea, even when completely flattened out with the longest waterline and least above-water surface area in the Trak. Perhaps I should have been smarter and not been in the water those days. Regardless, I do want to have a rudder for, as mentioned above, obviating corrective strokes and weathercocking.
, thank you for the thoughts on the Valkyrie. I recently found a channel on YouTube called Gone Kayaking (https://www.youtube.com/c/GoneKayaking
) which has not only made me laugh but one of them regularly uses a Valkyrie around British waters. I haven't come across much other commentary on it, but did note that its stern storage is limited, and as you say more of a decked surfski design. Still looks fun, and a rotomolded plastic touring/expedition kayak is of interest to me.
, I appreciate your insight and the recommendation on the Nimbus. I've probably paddled past various Nimbus boats but aren't familiar enough with all the silhouettes for it to stand out. Is Nimbus still around, or these all secondary-market? Their website still references "new for 2011"...
, understood on the Quest, thank you. I think I might have originally added it to my list based on seeing it (here? somewhere else?) in a post from ~2010 saying it was an extremely fast gear-swallowing expedition option. I did flip open the flush hatch coverings on a Norse when I was in WCK sometime in 2021, and didn't have any thoughts of them being difficult, but perhaps that model had been pawed a lot and retainers had become loose? I do agree on their design and attractiveness; I happened to wander into the back of WCK and the Thor was the most beautiful tandem kayak I've ever laid eyes on. I do see that the Sleipner has no day or deck hatch... I rely on a NRS Taj M'Haul on the deck in front of me and a Gearlab Deck Pod behind me (on my Trak), so would likely do the same thing on a Sleipner. I've read commentary on the Epic 18X Sport day hatch being the easiest one-handed hatch out there, so I've kept that in mind. On the Stellar boats my reading was the Expedition layup would be the stiffer and most impact-survivable on their lineup, plus the extra hatches as you said, but am ready to stand corrected on the layups.
Is Mariner still around too? Their website says lasted updated 2015...