Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

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Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by Bmjnyc »

I am new to sea kayaking and planning on buying a new kayak in the coming months. I'm based in Maine and have access to both a NDK & Rockpool dealer.

I've spent this summer taking kayak courses and demoing boats and I'm hooked to the sport. I'm looking for a kayak that I would use for day paddles, as well as 2-4 day trips and possibly longer once I have the skills. My ultimate goal is to one day kayak the entire coast of Maine via the Maine Island trail solo.

So far I have extensively demoed the NDK Explorer and Latitude. Of the two the Explorer was the best fit. I also tried a Rockpool Alaw which also felt good and in many ways it was more comfortable than the Explorer. There is a new version of the Alaw called the Eto that I will be demoing next week along with the Taran 16. I sat in the Eto today and found it to be very comfertable. Until sitting in the Eto today I was pretty set on the Explorer. My concern with the Eto is thet there is not a lot of carrying capacity though I do tend to camp using lightweight gear.

While I have not demoed the the Taran yet from what I have read this seems like it could be a interesting option for me. However, my local Rockpool dealer who has been incredibly helpful suggests that the the new version of the Alaw Bach, The Eto, would be a better fit as I am a new to the sport. He thinks the Eto would offer less of a learning curve for me but also offer me a more versatile boat that I could grow into as my skills improve. He believes that this holds true for the Taran as well but explained to me that it would likley take me longer to feel comfortable in a Taran at my skill level.

I asked about the Rockpool GT but was told that I might be to lightwight for it, I'm 6'2, 175lbs, 34 inseam.

Wondering if anybody would have any comments my boat options and if anybody has tried a Rockpool Eto or have experience with the taran 16?

Many Thanks!!

Chris Bolton
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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by Chris Bolton »

Welcome to the forum. The only boat on your list I've actually paddled is the GT, but I have a few comments on the others.

You noted that the Alaw felt more comfortable; Rockpool boats all have a higher deck in front of the cockpit, allowing a more 'knees-up' position, so you might find the same on the other Rockpools. The Taran has lower primary stability than 'traditional' UK sea kayaks and experienced paddlers rapidly get used to it, but your dealer is probably right. In terms of carrying capacity for the Alaw/Eto, lightweight gear is good but experience in packing a kayak makes a big difference how much you can fit in.

I would not say you are too light for the GT; I've owned one for the last 8 years and found it good on everything from day trips to 16 days without resupply, and I'm 5lb lighter and 2" shorter than you.

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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by on the rocks »

Hello and welcome
I think the NDK and Rockpool boats (except maybe the Taran) are excellent boats for learning and making good progress with the help of some coaching.

I started kayaking just over a year ago and after trying a few boats went for the Rockpool Isel (I'm quite a bit smaller than you). The NDK boats were also very good with similar handling, (which would also be so for the larger Explorer/Alaw) but the NDK Romany felt a little too baggy and the smaller Pilgrim too small for me. The Isel has taken me from beginner to now working towards by BCU Coastal Sea Kayak/Sea Kayak Leader (old 4 star) and it feels like the boat has grown in capability with me, particularly in wind and more dynamic water. On the other hand the Taran is optimum for speed and efficiency on longer trips. I've seen an experienced paddler having a hard time with a borrowed Taran working in a tide race.

My own experience and that of others keen to learn and improve is that size and fit are the most important factors when choosing a boat from a particular manufacturer's line up. The Isel has room enough for camping for one or two nights but would be tight for longer trips, the Explorer/Alaw should be ample if packing light. I would choose a boat for my short term/medium term goals. If you find you need something bigger for much longer expeditions in the longer term then you would be able to sell a NDK or Rockpool boat for a good price, and by then you will have a better idea of what would suit you based on your developed skills and style.

NDK and Rockpool each have their fan-base and rightly so, but for me one of the key advantages of the Rockpool boats is the foot-plate rather than NDK food pegs.

Good luck and enjoy!

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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by rockhopper »

I'm not sure of the carrying capacity of the Eto compared with the Alaw Bach but I have down quite a number of 7 day camping trips in an Alaw Bach. It has proved faultless. I cannot recommend it highly enough and would expect a similar quality from the Eto.


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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by pathbrae »

Any second-hand boats available near you? Local club?
As a beginner maybe you shouldn't be considering a new boat but work your way through few second hand options over the next few years so that, when you do buy new, you know exactly what you want and can spec your new boat to suityou. Buying an off the shelf boat from a dealer limits your ability to customise it. A custom bulkhead will increase both your comfort and maximise carrying capacity. Choose exactly the colour option you want, seat specs, keel strip, compas, provision for any extras you might decide you need such as a bilge pump etc. Most of these can be fitted to an existing boat but if the boat is planned around what you require then it all just fits better and works better..... and it might take a few years before you know exactly which of all your paddling budies "modifications are useful to you.
If you get it right first time with a brand new buy then that would be a bit less expensive - but if you buy the wrong boat it could either cost more to change or could even put you off paddling completely.

Or, like the rest of us, you could just end up with a collection of kayaks filling your garage....
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by John Goldhurst »

As mentioned by (on the Rocks) the selling point for the RockPool boats were the adjustable seat and foot plate. You really do get a custom fit. I was trying to decide between the Pilgrim Expedition and the Isel. I went for the Isel and very happy with it.
Just returned from a week in Maine you have some awesome paddling there.

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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by mcgruff »

To make the choice even harder.. there's also the Epic range. They've got 16ft and 18t kayaks similar to the Taran and also the V6 with a surf ski cockpit.

If you're keen to learn kayaking skills like rolling, or if you just like a sit-inside cockpit, the V6 won't be for you. On the plus side, it's more stable than some of the kayaks you mentioned and lots of beginners seem to get on very well with it. A capsize isn't so daunting if you can just jump back on. Of course you need to be dressed for immersion.

This isn't just a beginner's boat though. A fast, efficient hull and good storage space could make it a good choice for an extended tour. The paddling ergonomics are good for knees-up leg drive and unrestricted rotation. Launching/landing should be easier with no spraydeck to manage. Last time I tried to launch into a stiff onshore breeze with steep waves there was no time to do anything except paddle hard as you can to keep the bow into the sea. I failed twice with waves washing into the boat. With a surf ski cockpit you can just open up the self-bailer and carry on.
Have fun and don't die.

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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by SJD »

The suggestion of buying used for your first kayak is a good one. It may be worth giving David at Sea Kayak Connecticut a call. Last time I spoke with him he had a couple of Alaw Bachs (not the new Eto version) for sale. David is very helpful. For the price of a new Rockpool or SKUK you could probably find two nice used boats, one Rockpool and one Explorer.

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Re: Beginner first boat in Maine: Explorer vs Rockpool Taran 16 vs Eto

Post by Jim »

Try the Taran and then make your mind up.

Different people have different perceptions of how tippy a boat is, and whilst a Taran will not feel the same as most slow speed touring boats, they are incredibly stable for high speed touring/racing boats. I appreciate that I have around 30 years of paddling experience in various boats but my Taran (18) feels as stable as a rock to me. Racing around Kerrera on Saturday, when conditions got rough a lot of people were forced to slow down but I was able to hold my speed pretty constant in my Taran and even overtook a couple of surf skis and a double kayak (most passed me again later when it flattened out), apart from most ofthe surf skis, the only single kayaks to finish ahead of me were a Taran and a Taran 16.

What I notice most about Tarans compared to traditional sea kayaks, is that in choppy conditions Tarans ride much more level where other boats pitch violently over the waves (I guess skis do too, but I rarely get cloae enough to them in waves to tell) so if you are looking to cover a lot of miles in choppy conditions (I know little about Maine but I have some recollection that that corner of the US has a lot of shallow water so I assume it can be fairly rough), and if you get on with the Taran 16 it might well be a good choice for you. If you do find it unsettling, go for something else, but don't be put off by other people's descriptions of its relative stability until you have tried it, it really is more stable than a lot of people assume, and whether or not it is suitable for a beginner depends a lot on who the beginner is and what preconceptions they have.

If I could only have one sea kayak, it would be my Taran, in fact I should probably get rid of my other boat because it never gets used any more...

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