I went down to Newport Beach yesterday to try out some of the boats, and not only were the boats amazing, but the people were awesome and knoweldgable to boot. :) I was helped by a young lady whose name I'm ashamed to admit I forgot, who not only spent some time going over the boats with me, and helping me learn about the differences (and how to adapt to a sit-in-kayak) but also helped some friends who had come along just to look, and are now prepairing to get a wood duck for a project early next year. :)
I tried out the Shearwater 16, the Chesepeake 16LT, and the stitch and glue Night Heron.
I've only paddled sit on tops prior to this, and the grace, speed, and handling of all of the boats was such an amazing improvement over anything I've dealt with, I've only become more excited about building my boat this winter.
A large part of the reason I went was due to my lack of experience. I had looked at all the gauges on the designs, and wanted to see, e.g. what the speed difference between a chesepeake and a shearwater was. When I got on the water and tried it out, it didn't seem like the difference was so much that I'd feel "bogged down" in the Chesepeake for the type of paddling I've been doing. Between this, the greater stability and the greater amount of usable storage space in the Chesepeake, my mind was just about made up, but since I was down there anyway, I decided to try another kayak just for fun.
When I slid into the Night Heron it was a totally different story. I loved the narrow beam. It seemed to fit just right, and be as much of a difference from the other kayaks as they were from the plastic sit on tops I'd been in before. Although my observations don't seem to match the information on the website (or perhaps the "speed" gauge is moot when comparing an 18' boat to a 16' boat) it felt like it was far more easily driven, faster, and, while I have no idea how this is mathmatically possible given the design of the boat, it seemed even more... if stable is not the right word, then perhaps something like "comfortable on the water" would be closer. It just felt like I could do no wrong. Further, the storage capacity (once again, I know I'm comparing it to a 16' boat) seemed almost the same as the Chesepeake, but in a deaper configuration which seems to my (mosly backpacking experience) mind to be simpler to pack larger items like sleeping bags and the like into.
Once again, I'm very new to kayaking, and so my observations could be completely wrong.
The problem is that my ideal kayaking location are a set of islands 12-20 miles from the coast, and I was hoping to build out a sailrig to allow me to sail to the islands, beach the sail rig, and then paddle around for the weekend before sailing home. I was told the night heron would not take the sail rig, and even were it made to accept the rig, I'm afraid the low volume bow would easily burry itself, and I can't imagine that would be a good thing.
Does this sound accurate?
Would I be best advised to just get the Chesapeake 16 if I intend to hook up a sailing rig, or is there a way to have my cake and eat it to? Is there another option?