I got the little green kayak in this photo for 8th grade graduation from my very generous parents. That was somewhere around 1998 if my memory serves. The photo, snapped by my mother on the boats maiden voyage, rather accurately captures my youthful enthusiasm of receiving something as freeing as a kayak. Sadly I would not be able to fully appreciate the kayak until I was able to drive. At that point the little green kayak became a staple piece of equipment for my outdoor pursuits.
It seems like kayaking has recently hit its stride, and every spring I notice sales at outdoors stores in my area. Not saying that kayaking was not developed many many years ago, but more recently I feel it has transitioned into the mainstream. Sporting goods shops now have kayaks focused on different uses like fishing or touring. A typical fishing kayak comes with rod holders, tie downs, and all the creature comforts one would expect in a a piece of equipment designed for a specific purpose. So to are kayak’s designed for long distance touring with skegs, dry storage, and long length for good tracking in wind and waves. These high end boats carry a price tag reflective of the extra effort put into the design aspects that make them perform at a high level.
My boat was none of these things. It was, even by the standards of the day, a basic recreational kayak with no bells and no whistles. The little green kayak was a base model Perception Manatee, purchased through the L.L. Bean catalog. Lets set aside the fact that the nomenclature of the boat suggested something of a gentile lumbering sea cow, even the most thought out product names can go wrong. I believe Bean still carries a version these days, but I suspect it has been modified since the days of little green. My boat was around $300 and adding in a paddle and camo life jacket, the whole mess cost around $350. The boat is now $399 from LL Bean’s online store, and still a great value at that.
At a hair over 9 feet long it used to fit fully inside my Dodge Ramcharger so that I could close the back doors. When I graduated to a pickup, it easily fit diagonal in the 8′ bed, and slides completely inside my Ford Expedition. Its a tight fit, but well worth not having to lift up the the roof and spend time tying down. Not complaining at the boat’s weight either, only a feather-like 35lbs, but all I have to do is put the back seats down, slide the boat in, and I’m off. It is also worth noting that the Kayak has survived through my youthful years, where as I went through at least 3 different SUV’s and trucks in the same time.
Little Green has a large cockpit making for easy entry and exit and a foam blocks at each end that serve to keep the boat afloat when swamped with water (I’ve tested this). Only two upgrades were included; adjustable foot pegs and a cup holder between your legs in the hard plastic seat. The pegs extend just far enough now, at full extension, to accommodate my six foot two inch stature, and the cup holder has been home to many a can of beverage in its day.
As a younger lad, my friends and I organized more then one river kayaking trip spending time fishing, swimming and generally taking advantage of the freedom that youth holds. I’ve slept many a night on the shores of the Delaware river with my kayak. Several experiences in my early days of kayaking stick with me today. I can recall a memorable trip that involved a strange run-in with a deer caught in some guy wire, and another that involved a very very long portage. Yet another during high water on the Flatbrook, when a buddy flipped and almost lost his kayak to the raging river. Me and Little Green came to the rescue and managed to catch up with and drag the flipped boat to shore before any further mishap. After that near disaster, we wisely walked back upstream to the truck and abandoned our ideas of running any more white water.
Nowadays I use the boat mostly for duck hunting, trapping, and fishing with the occasional overnight trip thrown in. Even now, at my adult weight of around 190lbs, I can load tent, sleeping bag, and two days worth of gear into the little boat without swamping it. A bundle of 110 conibears and a days worth of rats or a dozen decoys and gun are an easy load for Little Green. She rids a bit lower with the extra weight, but I think that is the years and the beers not the equipment to blame.
I still praise Little Green’s light weight and small design when carrying in to wood duck ponds off the beaten path. Ponds in my neck of the woods have steep shoreline drops which can render waders useless and all the best ones are usually a mile or more from the car. The kayak helps retrieve downed ducks, and it doesn’t cost much in vet bills or dog food either.
It is great for fishing beaver ponds and small streams. Shallow in draft and easily maneuverable the little kayak can float over riffles where a canoe would bottom out or slink thorough timber and weed beds to sneak up on bass and pickerel. Its a great platform for fly fishing lakes for panfish; even a moderate sunfish can drag you around in a small kayak.
I highly recommend the Manatee from Perception/LL Bean. It is a small, light, and versatile water craft for sportsmen both young and old. All in all I have been using my little green kayak since 8th Grade Graduation (1998), on many types of water, in every situation. Little Green has the battle scars to prove it. The Manatte from LL Bean has gotten me into and out of trouble, and I’m sure will last me many more happy seasons