For active RVers who enjoy nature and a little bit of adventure, kayaking is one of the best activities you can consider. Paddling is great exercise and we have done it everywhere from the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys to Midwest lakes and rivers. And once you purchase your kayak and equipment, it’s not an expensive hobby. You don’t have to buy fuel for a motor, in most places you don’t have to register a kayak, and there are public launches just about everywhere you go.
Before you run out and buy a kayak, the first step is to consider what you want to do with it. Are you into adrenaline pumping thrills like whitewater paddling some fast-moving river?
Or are you more interested in a leisurely day paddle with friends on quiet water that presents no challenges?
Or maybe you like to go fishing? Kayak fishing is a whole different kind of angling, and in my opinion it is some of the most fun you can ever have with a rod and reel in your hands.
Whatever kind of activity you are looking for, there is a kayak built for it. And while some kayaks can work as a compromise and serve you in several different kinds of adventures, it’s best to do some research, shop around, and know what kind of boat you should be considering.
We started our kayaking adventures with two 12 foot long Native Watercraft Manta Rays. These are rigid molded sit on top kayaks, and we were impressed with their stability in all kinds of waters. In my opinion, for comfort, safety, and all-around versatility, you just can’t beat a sit on top kayak.
The only problem with any hard frame kayak is transporting it in an RV. The most common way is to put it on the roof of your tow vehicle, and Thule and other companies make excellent rooftop kayak racks. The problem with most of them is that when you are tired after a long day of paddling, it’s a lot of work to get a kayak up on the roof.
We’ve also seen RVs transporting kayaks in other ways. Here are two examples in pictures I took from the Living the RV Dream Facebook page. As tiring as it was to get a kayak on the roof of our SUV after a day on the water, I can’t imagine trying to put one on the roof of a motorhome. But we know some people who do it.
Our next kayaks were Sea Eagle inflatables, and I can’t think of a more perfect kayak for the RV lifestyle. They are very stable in the water, quick and easy to inflate and then to deflate at the end of the day, they roll up and store in their own carrying cases, and can be stuffed in an RV storage bay or the trunk of a car. After paddling ours in all kinds of water for seven years now, I believe they are indestructible. We have never had a leak or a puncture in either of our Sea Eagles. There are less expensive inflatable boats on the market, but when you are looking for something that will last and give you true value for your money, you really do get what you pay for.
Terry’s is a Sea Eagle 385 Fasttrack, a sleeker, faster model, and she has enjoyed paddling it everywhere we go. Either model can fit one or two paddlers.
We got our boats from Tim and Crystal Ryerson at Inflatable Boats 4 Less and have been constantly amazed at not only the quality of their products, but their service after the sale. They were fulltime RVers for quite a while and understand the RV lifestyle and what works and what doesn’t.
Many people asked us if we weren’t worried paddling the inflatable’s here in Florida, where anything bigger than a birdbath seems to have an alligator in it. No, not at all. We have seen many, many alligators while we were paddling, both on shore and in the water. We steer clear of them, and they have always ignored us.
Speaking of wildlife, we have had some wonderful wildlife encounters while we have been on the water. Once, while we were exploring the Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trail near Rockport, Texas, a pod of dolphins came by and swam with us for a long time. When we stopped paddling to rest, they would roll on their backs, jump out of the water, and put on a little show for us. Then when we started paddling again, they kept pace with us until the next time we stopped, when they repeated the whole thing over again.
Another thrill was paddling our kayaks with the manatees at Crystal River, Florida. These gentle giants are amazing animals, and we were able to get up close and personal with them from our Sea Eagle kayaks. One young one must have thought my gray PaddleSki was another manatee, because it swam up beside me and rubbed its head along the side of the boat, just like a kitten would rub its head against your pant leg.
Terry loves photographing birds, and kayaking fits in perfectly with that hobby because she can paddle and drift up quietly and get very close to her subjects before she takes a picture.
Now that we are no longer fulltiming, we recently added two more rigid kayaks to our little fleet; Old Town Predator 13s. These 13 foot long kayaks are probably the most stable I’ve ever been in, and have the most comfortable seats of any kayak I’ve ever seen. I have a very bad back, and with most kayaks I am hurting after an hour or two on the water. But with the seats in the Old Town kayaks, I can go all day. They are perfect for paddling and fishing here on the Intercoastal Waterway and Mosquito Lagoon, where we have a lot of oyster beds with sharp shells that might do damage to an inflatable boat. While I don’t think they are the best choice in a hard kayak for RVers, due to their length and weight, if you have a toy hauler or tow a van or long bed pickup behind your motorhome, they are well worth considering.
Old Town even makes a pedal version, the Predator PDL. Our friend Jim Lewis has one of them and loves it because he can keep his hands free to fish, controlling the boat with the foot pedals, much like using a trolling motor.
You can save a few bucks by ordering a kayak online or buying at a big box store, but I think that’s a mistake. There you’re dealing with a clerk who may be in the shoe department or stocking cereal on the shelf next week and has no idea what is involved in kayaking.
My best advice to anybody considering a kayak, once you’ve done your research and settled on what you plan to do with it, is to first get one in the water and see what you think of it. Then try another model.
There are many specialty kayak shops around the country, and many of them have swimming pools where you can actually get in a boat and see how it paddles. Better yet, some of them are located on bodies of water where you can really get a feel for the boat you are considering.
We bought our Old Towns at an excellent family owned shop called Kayaks By Bo in Titusville, Florida, and have been very impressed with them. Before we decided on what we wanted to purchase, they loaded several different models into a truck and we went out to the causeway leading to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and spent quite a bit of time paddling each one before we decided on what fit us best.
Whatever kind of kayak you decide on, wherever you buy it, and no matter how you transport it, the first thing to remember at all times is safety. I am not a good swimmer, and I wear a life vest any time I’m on the water. Know your limitations and your boat’s limitations. Don’t go out in rough weather, or into fast-moving water that you have no experience with. Remember, the idea is to have fun, and come back alive so you can do it again another day.
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Thought For The Day – My brain has too many tabs open.