Kayak or rowboat?

I've been wanting to buy a kayak for some time, and had settled on the CLC Shearwater 17.  Lately I've been thinking that a rowboat (the Chester Yawl) might be a better choice, because it would allow me to take my wife and daughter along (she'll be 18 months by the time the boat is done and the water warms up again).  On the one hand the rowboat might get more use because the whole family can go.  On the other hand, the kayak is the boat I'd enjoy more when it's just me, and it's a lot easier to transport alone.

 Does anyone in a similar situation have any advice?

 And yes, "build both" is my eventual solution, but with limited funds (did I mention I have a yound child . . .) one of them has to come at least a few years before the other.

Thanks for your help.

10 replies:

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RE: Kayak or rowboat?

Solomon would struggle with this one!

My tip - go kayak!   Your child is probably too young to take in the experience.   Your wife may or may not enjoy the rowing experience, and may be apprehensive about taking a very young child out onto the water (not a bad concern to have, perhaps).

No reason why your family should not accompany you on a kayaking day-outing, maybe playing/ relaxing by the water while you enjoy it 'out there'.

Whatever - enjoy the building and the paddling/ rowing!


RE: Kayak or rowboat?

Sage advice Wordsmith!  Paddler, you can explain to your lady that the primary purpose of the kayak build is to hone your skills for that future family boat.  Enjoy the journey.

RE: Kayak or rowboat?

3rd vote for kayak!  You'll never regret it.

RE: Kayak or rowboat?

I'll be the contrarian. I started building a sailing dinghy for myself, then during that build I put together a knockabout pirogue to play in until the "real" boat was finished. My wife joined me in the pirogue and it turned out that she loved it, so we spent a couple of years boating together before I built her her own kayak. Being able to share the boat turned boatbuilding from a tolerated husbandly hobby to a family activity (which has allowed me to use the garage as a boatshop much longer than if I had been building boats just for me).

A family we're friends with has 2 small children and they have yet to join us as a family in any of our boating expeditions because there's no boat big enough to hold a parent and kids. Marooning Mom on shore to deal with the crying and snot and diapers while Dad gets peace and quiet on the water is on the list just before the call to the divorce lawyer.

So my advice is to first find out if your wife and daughter like being on the water. Rent a rowboat and go for a ride. If everyone's OK, do it again and make it a longer ride with picnic. Still OK? Turn it into a weekly event. If they still like it, point out how if you built  a boat during the off season, you wouldn't have to pay rent, wait for others, only go out when the renter is open, etc. You'd also always have the "good" boat.

If they don't like rowing around with you, then kayak it is.

Good luck,



RE: Kayak or rowboat?

SoMD - Wordsmith here again, with a thought that ocurred to me one nanosercond after I pressed the 'post the message' key to post my earlier message.  

Your daughter is clearly very young.   Irrespective of what you decide to build, you should use the intervening time to get her 'drown-proofed' - by which I mean properly taught to swim.   Kid+water is not always a happy mixture!

In this way, you, your wife, and the child will all feel happier and more comfortable about being on the water, which in large measure will be the key to each of you enjoying the experience.   Here (in Oz) kids are taught to swim by professionals, in a pool environment, from a very early age - even before they can walk sometimes!   And even if you never proceed with a water-craft of any kind, it will serve her well for life.



RE: Kayak or rowboat?

Thanks for all the advice.  I think I'm leaning toward the Chester Yawl, but I'm sure I'll go back and forth a few more times before I decide.  Laszlo, I'll definitely take your advice to take the family out a few times before I buy, and yours Wordsmith to "drown-proof" my daugher as you put it.

 Hopefully I'll be posting again in a few months asking for advice on building my new kayak or rowboat.

RE: Kayak or rowboat?

A canoe would seem to solve all your problems - lightweight, holds two adults and child or can be paddled solo.  Decked or traditional, it should work for you.  The Sassafras 16 looks like an excellent candidate.


I started my kayaking with a tandem plastic boat (Wilderness Systems Pamlico) that was/is much beloved by my whole family - we'd carry two adults and two (less than 5 y.o.) kids all at once.  If you really have your heart set on double-paddle boating, a Mill Creek 16.5 is prettier, lighter, stronger and more versatile than my plastic boat, and should accommodate your family.  Chances are, you'll take your daughter out in the boat more than you take your wife, but that you'll use the boat alone most often.

RE: Kayak or rowboat?

PS - I have an Annapolis Wherry and recently completed building a Chesapeake 17LT.  Before you build, you should decide row or paddle - they are very very different means of locomotion, and as I said, you can say this boat is to take the family on, but chances are that you will be the one using it the vast majority of the time.

PPS - Another advantage of a traditional canoe is that you and child can fish from them, and there's not much more thrilling for a little kid than to catch a fish!

RE: Kayak or rowboat?


I thought about a canoe, but my home waters (in Southern Maryland) include two large rivers and a wide open bay with a lot of boat traffic.  I wanted something that could handle these conditions when I'm in the boat alone (or with the kids when they're older).  Also this could be all user error, but I'm not a fan of how canoes handle with only one paddler.

 In any case, I've got a few months to waver back and forth, since I'm not going to buy my kit while there is still summer fun to be enjoyed.

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