When you are travelling in areas famed for their fishing, it can often seem like every second grey nomad rig has got some sort of water-going craft perched atop its roof rack.
Whereas once these vessels were almost always universally the good old tinnie, these days the more streamlined and more maneuverable kayak is finding favour with a greater number of around-Australia travellers. Notwithstanding the emergence of ingenious boat-loading devices, the fact is that kayaks are still lighter and far easier to handle than the tinnie … and that counts for a lot when you are on the road for months, if not years, at a time and are constantly on the move.
Kayaks themselves have also come a long way and whereas once they were generally perceived to be too small and too unstable to effectively fish from, times have changed … and the kayak can take the determined fisherman to places tinnie lovers can only dream about. Indeed, some fishermen swear by kayaks because they enable them to go to fish-friendly locations such as kelp beds, reefs, bombies and mangrove shallows that are generally out of bounds for tinnie lovers.
That’s not to say, of course, that all kayak-carrying grey nomads are mad fishermen. There are plenty of people who just want to explore a river, go looking for waterbirds, or keep fit by paddling across a lake or two …and there are naturally kayaks to suit them all as well.
Whereas, ‘normal’ people living in houses can perhaps afford the luxury of keeping a number of water craft to suit a number of different environments and circumstances, all but the most eccentric of grey nomads is forced to make a choice … it is one size fits all.
The most important consideration in making the decision is to work out what sort of kayaking you will be doing … and who you will be going with. While sea kayaks and whitewater kayaks are available, the average grey nomad is more likely to prefer gently exploring estuaries and throwing a line in now and again. Another biggie – assuming you are travelling with a partner – is whether to get a double or single kayak. A single kayak is smaller and therefore easier to transport but obviously you can only sit one person in it at a time. A lot depends on how keen your partner is to get out on the water and how often he/she is likely to want to do it. The good news is that, a double can always be paddled by one person … but this isn’t always ideal.
Recreational/touring kayaks are generally shorter than other kayaks – usually less than 4.5 metres for singles – so they are easy to maneuver in the water and are easier to carry and, crucially, to load. They also have wider cross-section shapes and therefore offer great stability for beginners … and for fishermen and bird watchers.
Similarly, specialist fishing kayaks are usually wider and more supportive than standard kayaks and are fitted out to maximise the efficiency and comfort of the in-kayak fishing experience. The key features of a fishing kayak are stability and an efficient workspace, with a host of extras available from rod holders and fish finders to nets, tackle box holders and more. Some kayak manufacturers report that ingenious fishermen seeking to customise their kayaks have added extras such as integrated rod holders, GPS, electronic fish finders, trolling motors, fish tanks, electric bait buckets and solar panels.
Kayaks can vary wildly in price and quality compound kayaks can easily cost $2,000 or more. Most grey nomad prefer the somewhat cheaper and certainly harder-wearing plastic – or polyethylene – option. These can come in at well under $1,000 new and will stand up to the rigours of a Big Lap journey very well, although their extra durability does mean they are also somewhat heavier. Given that the kayak will probably be up and down from your roof rack every other day, some sort of loading device can still be a good investment.
This, of course, will not be your only kayak-related expense. You’ll need paddles, PFDs (lifejackets), and perhaps helmets, towlines, drybags and all manner of marine friendly devices and contraptions that you’ve yet to discover. But isn’t finding out what you’ve never had but now desperately need half the fun of it?