I feel bad for asking this after being on the forum for so long, but...
I'm trying to decide which boat to get.
I've faced this dilemma before, (in the past year I've ALMOST saved enough to buy a kit a few times :\) but now I have (some) funds in hand, and the dilemma looms large.
Backstory: I went to the LA show, tried the Chesapeake, Shearwater, and S&G Night Heron. The Chesapeake seemed like a nice boat, but I fell in love with the handling of the Night Heron. It just felt like it was a part of me; Like roller blading, or riding a motorcycle.
I'm looking to paddle in the pacific, out around the islands, for some light kayak camping as well as day paddling. I'd love to hook a sail up to it, and I'd love to be able to carry some gear. Further, I'm a new builder with VERY little woodworking experience. To me, these all seem to point to the Chesapeake as a better choice.
But when I paddled them both, I really liked the Night Heron. but to make things worse, I don't like the looks of the night herons deck. I dislike it so severely that despite promising myself I would NOT get a strip built kit due to time, difficulty, and frankly just the fact that it scares the piss out of me, if I do get a night heron, I think I'll need to get the hybrid kit, thus meaning my "time to water" will be exponentially longer than doing a "simple" Chesapeake kit.
Now, here's the crux of the bisquit. When I tried these boats I was a relatively novice paddler. I'm still no expert, but I'm better. I know that a number of the things I didn't like about the Chese were caused by my own poor technique. I liked the narrower Night Heron in large part because I wouldn't bash my knuckles paddling. Now that I know proper blade angle, I don't think this is an issue. I liked the way the Night Heron hugged me and moved when I moved. I know some of this is hull design, but I'm sure that a lot of it was just that the way the cockpit was padded out on those particular boats.
Also, if I'm to be honest, a big part of the timing of this question is financial. I just hit $800 in the kayak fund, but at the same time found out that I've got $800 of dental work coming up and $400 of car work; so I don't see myself "finishing" this fund to $1300 any time soon. Still, if I did decide to do the Chese, I could order it today. (pulling a little from checking, but that's ok) Further, money aside, I'm not honestly sure how confident I am in my own ability to complete a hybrid boat for my first build.
What I was thinking of doing, now that I know a bit more about myself as a paddler, is to see if anyone in the Southern California area has a Chese 16 or 17 they'd be willing to let me try out for a very short paddle, to see if with proper technique, it really is a boat I will fall in love with, or if I should just keep saving and pick up the Hybrid Night Heron, and just expect that my build is going to be a much slower process, and the boat isn't going to see the water any time soon.
Any advice from more experienced paddlers or builders?
Anyone in Southern California have a Chese they'd be willing to let someone try out for a very brief paddle?