To the editor:
Now that we are well into the paddling season, I would like to talk to you folks out there looking at buying a kayak.
Try out a variety and look for one that will fit your needs. Look for things like plastic durability, and some kayak plastics are injected with UV protection to slow down fading and deterioration. Check the thickness of the plastic. You often give up durability for light weight. Heavier plastics last longer. Look for USCG (U.S. Coast Guard) approval. Many of the light weight plastic ones don't do well in the Florida sun.
If you want a kayak that you can paddle out to the outer islands, look for a touring kayak. If you are paddling the rivers, look for a shorter yak that you can maneuver in tight areas. It is hard to turn a 14-foot touring yak around in a river that is reduced to only 12-feet wide.
If you are looking for a fishing yak, I'll give you a little secret. Any yak you feel comfortable in can be converted to a fishing yak by adding rod holders and an anchor.
Sit inside or sit on top? Down here sit-on-top kayaks offer more convenience because you don't need a skirt to keep the water out. Here the water temperatures are often in the 80 and 90 degree range, so it does not matter if you get wet. On a sit-on-top, the water washes out. A sit-inside can and does need a skirt in the outer waters. There is also an issue of getting in and out. A sit-on-top is just like is sounds. You just sit on top and don't have to climb in or out. Making it easier to get in and out of the yak.
Weather conditions can vary greatly here in Southwest Florida, and it is a good idea to test your kayak in different conditions. Many kayaks perform great in calm weather but put them against a wind and it is another story. A lot depends on the amount of yak exposed. Many times a lower riding yak will do better in these conditions because they are not exposed to as much wind.
A lot of yaks act different when in chop. You don't want to take short yaks out in these kind of conditions because they don't track well. On the other hand, I have taken RTM Tempos out in hurricane conditions and used them to surf on six-foot breakers. Don't be afraid to rent an assortment of yaks before you buy one.
Calusa Ghost Tours