How To Cruise with Kayaks
Take along a small boat that you can paddle into thin waters. You’ll be glad you did. Hands-On Sailor: Living Aboard from our December 2012 issue.
Kayaking is one of America’s fastest growing sports, and judging from the increasing number of kayaks aboard cruising boats, more and more sailors are discovering the joys of a paddle in paradise. Step into a kayak and you’ll discover that there’s nothing quite like effortlessly gliding through crystal-clear water while silently exploring places you could never reach in a dinghy. Dolphins splash, sea turtles slip past, and flying fish provide endless entertainment as the kayak drifts by. Beaching your kayak on an uninhabited sandy beach with wavelets lapping the shoreline is pure magic and really enhances the cruising experience.
Kayaks provide different things for different people. For me, it’s the peace I feel dipping my paddle in the water and anticipating new adventures around the next bend. Others love the exhilaration of surfing down waves; still others use their kayaks as platforms for fishing and diving.
Whatever the rationale, from the inquiries we get from fellow cruisers asking to buy our kayaks, others clearly wish they’d brought these functional boats along with them. If you’re considering a kayak, here are a few tips.
In style and materials, the choice is yours: decked or sit-on-top models; inflatable or folding ones; boats made of plastic, fiberglass, or even carbon fiber. When we began shopping for our kayaks, we at first considered inflatable models. When we tested them, however, though we acknowledged that they’d stow better, in our opinion they just didn’t paddle well. Since then, several companies have introduced inflatable kayaks made of Hypalon; they’re very rigid and comfortable, with inflatable keels and even rudders, making them a much more attractive option on a cruising boat, where space is at a premium.
Materials aside, different kayaks are suited for different activities. If you’re serious about surfing or fishing, for instance, consider a kayak specially made for those activities. If you’re like me and just want a good all-around kayak, a more generic version will be fine. Your best resource will be a high-quality kayak store that carries multiple types and brands. There you’ll be able to explore the differences in boats and styles and decide what is best for you.