Lesson Learned: A Senior Angler's First Kayak

Rich Gross gives some insight on kayaks for the senior angler.

I've been kayaking now for over five years. Due to my age when I started (70 years old), I thought that stability was the most important thing. I am also cheap, so low-cost was a factor.  

What I decided to purchase was a Lifetime Manta 11 foot, wide kayak. The cheap part was met by its $350.00 discounted price at Sports Authority. At 36 inches wide, and 62 lbs. it was a barge! But, it allowed this over-weight, aging old fisherman to safely get into fishing from a yak. I still own it and use it in a local pond. 

Something to which I didn't give proper consideration, though, was my ability to transport the barge. Having previously owned an Old Town Camp Canoe weighing in at 36 lbs, I didn't believe that car-topping the 62 lb. Manta would be as difficult as it turned out to be.  

I own a family style van. Even though I am 6 foot 2, getting the yak up and then back off of the van's roof rack was a lot more difficult than I thought. On a dead calm day, pushing the heavy beast up wasn't so bad. But, as most yakkers know, a dead calm day rarely exists near open water. After the yak slipped off, banged down hard on the pavement and scratched the family vehicle a couple of times, I started looking for alternative methods to transport my craft.

The rear seats in the 2007 model of my van folded in half. I assumed that I could just slip the yak in, slide her up to touch the driver's seat and leave the hatch open. NOPE! A half-hour into my first trip found me drunker than I've ever been. Diesel fumes swirled and blew all around the interior of the vehicle.  I was, at first, a bit sick to my stomach. That quickly accelerated into dizziness and disorientation. Driving at 70 miles per hour down I-10, my impaired reaction time caused me to promptly pull over to the side of the road.  I had to park, open the windows, and run my air-conditioner for a full half hour before I gave any thought to limping back home via some side roads.  Never again will I open that hatch while driving at any high speeds.

 My 11-foot kayak was looking too big to transport. Luckily, my front passenger seat also folded down. I found that I could slide the yak completely inside of the van, close the hatch and haul it to my fishing location. However, there was a little problem in that the side view mirror was completely blocked by the bow of the yak. The solution was to buy a clip-on parabolic rear-view mirror that extended out an extra four inches. Its shape and size allowed me to see a wide-angle view of both lanes behind me. Not perfect, but workable.

I still haul my newer nine-foot Mini-X and Stealth yaks inside of my vans to this day.

Some will say that I should have simply traded the van in for a pick-up truck, but our family circumstances wouldn't allow a pickup truck to be our main vehicle. Sometimes I envy the guys I see hauling down the road with yaks hanging off their PU bed.

When I bought a larger Wilderness Ride 115, I added a trailer for ease of use. That's a story for another day.