We Go Kayaking

A Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak

When I was a Boy Scout, I really enjoyed watersports and earned merit badges in rowing, canoeing, swimming, and lifesaving. When I got to college, I started rowing, both individually and with a crew team. I continued rowing with crew clubs through graduate school in Chicago. During the mid-seventies, I also had opportunities to go kayaking. Of course, the kayaks of that period were mostly wood or fiberglass and were of the more traditional (conservative) design. They were easy to roll and very quick, but they were also pretty unstable for a novice kayaker.

Since coming to North Carolina, I've thought from time to time that I might want to take up sculling again. The big problems with sculling, though, are the cost of the boat and the difficulty of transporting it. Canoes are easier to transport, but they are rather cumbersome. Kayaking seemed to be a good alternative. On several occasions I tried to interest you-know-who in renting a couple kayaks, but without success. We finally got serious and decided to combine some camping and kayaking activities. All we needed were the kayaks.

By sheer coincidence, a local canoe and kayak dealer was relocating their store and had a dynamite deal on their inventory. (So good, in fact, that they kept bringing in new inventory.) I had done some research and had narrowed possible kayaks down to three candidates. We finally chose the Wilderness Systems Pungo over the Dagger Delta, primarily because of the chined hull and the Phase 3 seating system.

So far we've been quite pleased. The Pungo is pretty heavy and significantly wider than many other recreational kayaks, but it is rock-steady stable and has a huge open cockpit that makes getting in and out a breeze. The cockpit is so large that it is almost a sit-on-top. This helps novice paddlers feel confident about being able to get out of a swamped or overturned boat. We have spray skirts for rougher water and weather, but we usually don't use them. There's plenty of space fore and aft for storing coolers, dry bags, extra paddles, etc. The only totally unforeseen problem is that the kayak is so wide that it is almost impossible to fit both side-by-side on a car roof rack. This problem is further complicated by the chined hull, which doesn't fit very well on most standard roof-top kayak carrier systems.

Our bows as we pull up to confer on our direction of travel.
This is a small lake...unless the wind is against you on your way back. And, yes, these will tip over.

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There are a couple sandy beaches that are not easily accessible except by water. The sand is full of wildlife tracks, including beaver, racoon, and opossum. I sure wouldn't camp here, though.
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My wife opted for the flashy blue and yellow model. She was a little concerned about being able to control it, but the Pungo is so stable that it sits upright by itself and tracks very well. Of course, this makes it a little slow.
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This is the Cape Horn 17 I got for touring and for salt water kayaking. It's not a "true" sea kayak, but it has many of the features you want for coastal kayaking. The rudder is a tremendous help when fighting the tide and wind.
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Drop me a note if you want to discuss these particular kayaks and our experiences with them. I'm also very interested in hearing about paddling trips in North Carolina.

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