Looking for first ‘expedition’ kayak

Biere a Terre

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Hello friends. Been lurking for a while, but am now reaching a decision point of what to buy. I’ve been having fun in a Trak Kayak for the past few years in metro Vancouver, but don’t feel like this is the right kind of boat to take up the Sunshine Coast, down to the Puget Sound or Gulf Islands, and especially the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island.

I feel like I should be targeting a 17 to 19 foot ‘expedition’ kayak that is confident, capable of holding gear for multi-day trips, and has a rudder (even if it will be used sparingly).

Here are some boats I’ve seen in stock around metro Vancouver or Seattle or Portland, or listed on gear-swap/sale or used:
  • Epic 18X Sport Performance
  • Norse Kayaks Sleipner
  • Seaward Quest X3
  • Stellar S18 Touring/Expedition
Does anyone have strong opinions on any of these kayaks (experience, pro/con, etc) or other suggestions?

I also recently learned about the P&H Valkyrie but don’t see any PNW distributors that have access.
 

cougarmeat

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Biere a Terre, Welcome to the forum. It's not only how many days you'll be out; it's also how many miles per day do you plan to travel.

Because you said you anticipate only using the rudder sparingly, I'd throw a used Mariner into your choice list. Unless it's been modified, it won't have a rudder.

But I've been paddling a Mariner for years and I'm still here. I was going to say, "...and never needed one." But, sure, there were a few times when it would have been handy not to have to make correction strokes. My boats don't have the sliding seat option that changes the balance - minimizing the "off course" action. But even that can only do much. That's why I asked about your expected daily miles - so you might have to work a little harder a few times, for a short while. Not a big deal.

You can come up with scenarios where you are in a "White Squall", but anyone, rudder or not, would have their work cut out for them if conditions are rough. There are pluses AND minuses to both rudder and rudderless. And the 'tweener, a skeg.

But if you are looking for a gear hauler. You can fit a lot in a Mariner.
 

Biere a Terre

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Understood. Yes, I do feel like having a rudder is a requirement somewhere on the versatility spectrum for our environment here.

Are you talking about the Mariner II or XL by Mariner Kayaks?
 

JohnAbercrombie

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The Epic,Stellar and the P&H Valkyrie are all modern style 'fast touring' kayaks with short overhangs.
Other similar boats would be the Rockpool Taran and Tiderace Pace.
Those boats would be in the 'rudder almost always' category for me: "It's a rudder boat, so I use the rudder". They can be paddled without the rudder, but what's the point?

A lot of paddlers here seem to prefer using the rudder 'only sometimes' - so many of the 'traditional' offerings from Current Designs, Seaward, Nimbus seem to be built with that in mind.

One of the more popular tripping boats didn't make your list: Nimbus Telkwa. The Telkwa comes in several 'flavours', I think - Sport to HV.
One of my pet peeves is the rudder rigging and foot pedal arrangement which is sub-optimal ( :) ) in some commercial boats. The rudder can always be upgraded if you get a good buy on a boat, but it's something to consider. Lots of discussion hereabouts on that topic!! :)
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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But if you are looking for a gear hauler. You can fit a lot in a Mariner.
I'm a big Mariner 'fan'. One of my paddling buddies has done trips up to 3 weeks in his 16' Mariner Express, and he doesn't skimp on gear. My 17' Mariner Max can swallow a lot of gear, food and water. Extra sleeping pad, extra tarp, double synthetic bag. 'just in case'... no problem.
 

a_c

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You didn't mention boat storage, but just throwing it out there - the Quest, at 19ft, is a looooong boat. A while back I had a semi-modern house, built in the 90s, with a typical attached garage that wouldn't fit my 17'6" boat without storing it at an angle; a 19 footer would not have even fit inside.

As a general trend, newer touring boats are doing 'more with less'; there are many 16-17ft touring boats that carry as much (or more) gear than the older, larger boats of yore. I had an 18.5 Delta Expedition that could carry everything including the kitchen sink, but gawd! What a beast!

A 19-footer is a lot of boat to hump around and store, is what I'm saying. Oh, and welcome to the forums!
 

CPS

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It would be interesting to see the various specs side by side to do some comparison of volume, recommended paddler weight, length, beam, etc.
If I get a chance I'll put something together.

The overall trend here looks like long, fast, fairly rudder dependant kayaks. I'm generally pulled along similar lines so have considered most of these boats myself.

Having spoken to a few Quest owners a comment I've heard repeated is a that while there's a lot of volume, it's not necessarily in the most useful shape. That long pointy nose doesn't translate into waterline length, so the length overall can be a bit deceiving. Still, they're quite fast from what I've heard.

The Sleipnir is a boat for pretty large paddlers. I think the low end of recommended weight is 180lbs. That may or may not be an issue, particularly if loaded down with gear. Norse kayaks are generally pretty decently made, and quite handsome. One thing I'm not a huge fan of is the hatch closures. They hatches are one piece with a foam lip. They are clamped down by little swivelling retainers. A bit fussy even in a showroom. Haven't heard feedback on this particular model in terms of paddling.

The Epic and Stellar offerings you mention are definitely a more modern design aiming at efficiency and speed. Like with anything, you do have to make some compromises to get that speed. Anything 18 feet long with little rocker might be rather exciting in some sea states. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing probably depends on the paddler.

I'm more familiar with Stellars, since we carry them at work. I'm thinking of an 18 for myself. The 'multisport' carbon-kevlar layup of the expedition is pretty, but I think I'd go for their advantage layup myself. It's less expensive and has less exotic materials so easier to work on in a home shop down the line. Other than a keel strip the hulls are dimensionally identical between 18 touring and 18 expedition. The day hatch and deck pod of the expedition are nice if you like those. Something of a personal preference.

Definitely some good points made about storage and transport. I have to weave my boats between my landlords' cars when I get out of the garage. Thankfully it's a straight shot, because turning would be a no-go.
 

Mac50L

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Back to rudders again... ha ha.
If you are going somewhere, sensibly you have a rudder and use it. Do you want Paul Caffyn's take on rudders? The chap who kayaked round Australia, Japan, Alaska, New Zealand etc. An increase of 10 - 20 percent distance per day with a rudder.
I designed and fitted one soon after my first multiday trip back in 1984(?). I haven't built a kayak without one since then.

Except for the double, 6.2 metres, the rest are 5.1 or 5.2 metres long, not counting the rudder.
 
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Jasper

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I also recently learned about the P&H Valkyrie but don’t see any PNW distributors that have access.
I have a Valkyrie and would not consider it an expedition boat. It's essentially a decked surfski: Lot's of fun in downwinders, reasonably fast on the flat, surprisingly nimble for its length in the surf, etc. It does however not like to be heavily loaded, lee-cocking till it plants its bow in a wave, then the stern comes around again...

If you're looking for non-rudder expedition boats, also look at the Nigel Foster Legend/Shadow/Silhouette lines and the venerable Nordkapp. The Seaward Guide is also a great expedition boat for our west coast and performs well either outfitted with a skeg or rudder. A buddy of mine paddled one from Vancouver to Pacific City Oregon and has nothing but good things to say about it.
 

Biere a Terre

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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.

@Jasper, 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.

@JohnAbercrombie, 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"...

@CPS, 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...
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Is Nimbus still around, or these all secondary-market? Their website still references "new for 2011"...
I think NImbus is still building a few boats, but I'm not sure. I get the impression that it's a bit like the Atlantis situation - 'When I feel like it, I build.." but that's just hearsay.
BTW the Atlantis Titan could go on your list - a friend who is a very experienced and strong paddler loves hers and has done a lot of miles in it, W Coast, N coast.
Is Mariner still around too? Their website says lasted updated 2015...
Mariner (Seattle) -not Mariner fishing kayaks - stopped building boats years ago. The Mariner website is still maintained and is an excellent source of general paddling info as well as info on Mariner kayaks. Owners tend to be quite loyal to their Mariners- "pry it from my cold dead hands" sort of thing. :) They are available used - more in the States than in BC. The hull design and build quality are excellent; the hatch arrangement (no forward bulkhead) is too old-fashioned for most paddlers nowadays.
 

CPS

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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.
PXL_20220303_212808644.jpg

PXL_20220303_212820379.jpg


Pictures above show relative flex. I tried to keep force similar, but obviously not a scientific result.
Our Stellar rep has a boat in a few different layups and can attest that multisport is the slowest layup compared to others.
 

cougarmeat

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One point to remember about these lists is no matter how many accolades a boat might have, you still have to get in it and see if it fits YOU. There are a lot of good boats. But like clothes of the same size from different brands, they don't all fit the same.

And as mentioned - there's a storage issue. You'll want to store it inside and my 17 ft'er just fits along the inside wall of the garage. 18' is like just 12 inches longer. But it feels like 3 feet longer as you move it around in small spaces and load/unload it on your car.

I had a Mariner XL and sold it for a Marnier Max when the opportunity came up. I packed A LOT in the XL, but the Max was Kevlar and for my 72nd birthday, I decided I needed a present - a lighter boat.

With respect to what John mentioned, even with the Marine Express (15' 11"), I could load it up for a week easily if it were just for me. When I paddle with a partner, I take more creature comforts. You might find that, after a summer of paddling, you don't need as large a kayak as you might think. You didn't mention your estimated nights out. One benefit of the Mariner's lack of bow bulkhead (I like a stern bulkhead to give me one watertight compartment - for safety) is I don't have to deal with a lot of little bags that have to fit through small hatches. My goal is one bag for food, one bag for clothes, one bag for shelter, and one miscellaneous. And of course, water. I don't always make that goal. But it's something I strive for.

This is not a Rah, Rah, Rah for Mariner (John did say we were fans), it's a reminder that no matter how great the specs, the boat still has to fit you. And after a summer of experience, you might find the need for 18'+ is not as great as you imagined.
 

pryaker

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This looks like a great deal.


I've never paddled a looksha but I thinks it's popular
 

red kite

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Looksha IV reads like it’s best for smaller paddlers, so I appreciate the suggestion but I don’t think it’s a fit for me.
Have you actually sat in / paddled a Looksha IV?
I'm likely fitting your "smaller paddler" criteria (5'5" [168cm], 140lbs [62kg] ...ish...) and I assure you that that cockpit feels like a bath tub for my build.
All I'm saying that a) older NA style models' specs describing a kayak as small should be taken with a (big) grain of salt. and b) whenever possible, paddle a kayak before committing to it or ruling it out. Ideally with the load that you will use it with.
 

Mowog73

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My wife used to have a plastic Looksha Sport (14') and I could sit in it without a problem (6', 220 lb) although a bit snugger than I would really like. As said above you need to sit in it.
 
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