A big trend in outdoor recreation continues to be kayaking – from fishing platforms to boats for recreational paddling in protected waters. While having a single kayak provides each paddler with the freedom to seek one’s own course, a double kayak has much to offer paddling partners as well.
First and foremost, a double or tandem kayak is typically heavier, wider and longer than a traditional single kayak. This usually means they are inherently more stable as well. While more gear fits into two singles than one double, a couple venturing out in a tandem boat should have plenty of room for gear if selected wisely and packed strategically throughout the kayak.
Shorter doubles compromising length often means the fore and aft paddlers need to synchronize their paddling strokes so their blades don’t hit each other. More distance between the cockpits means strokes can be made independent of each other (and typically the further apart cockpits are, the more room for stowage of gear below deck).
Doubles also allow one paddler to rest while the other propels the kayak. Typically the aft/stern paddler is in control of the steering of the kayak. This can lead to confusion and frustration if pairs haven’t coordinated their efforts. Doubles are notoriously called “Divorce Boats” by many kayak tour operators for a good reason.
A tandem kayak’s size may require special racks and perhaps even a trailer to transport it with your vehicle. Heavy-duty wheel carts are also available to help transport bigger boats to/from your put-in site.
Know, too, that larger paddlers can actually paddle a double alone, shifting the center of gravity forward by stowing weighted gear into the front cockpit and using a cockpit cover to keep gear dry and water out of the cockpit. It won’t be fast but it can be a smooth ride.
A prudent way to check out the feel for a tandem boat vs. a solo kayak, is to participate in an on-water demo day from a reputable dealer. You can get a feel for the boat’s handling and needs from the cockpit itself. Alternately, if a demo isn’t possible, sign up for a guided tour that uses doubles and singles as their main watercraft. You may find out in one afternoon which boat may fulfill – and exceed – your expectations.