— Outdoorsy couple finds the perfect family activity – kids and all

Ben's decked out for fun and safety in his kid-size life jacket

4-year old Ben Sutton is all decked out for a day of fun in his dad’s Sea Eagle 370. Note Ben’s snug in his kid-sized life jacket – must-have equipment for every boater including pint-sized ones like Ben.

Mike Sutton and his wife Carolyn live on the shores of Lake Ontario, at Ashbridges Bay near Toronto, Canada. They have two young children and a Sea Eagle 370 Sport Kayak.

But when the kids came along…

The Sutton boys - Ben (left) & Mike

Meet the Sutton boys – Ben (left) & Mike

The Suttons are what Mike calls “outdoorsy types.” For example, “We went boating the morning of our wedding in the Muskokas, Canada’s ‘land of lakes.’ We’ve paddled Lake Moraine near Banff, Alberta; sea kayaked off Quadra, Vancouver Island and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.”

Things got a little less outdoorsy when Ben came along four years ago, followed by Sam nine months ago. “Now that we have kids, it’s a whole lot more difficult to get out together to do outdoor things,” says Mike. “We go for bike rides or walks in the park and bought a camping tent we’ll use as a family. But it’s difficult with a 9-month old.”

Originally from New Zealand, Mike loves the outdoors but not Canada’s long, tough winters. “Toronto has some pretty horrific winters,” he tells us. “When you’re locked inside for a quarter to half the year, you want to get out and make the most of sunny weather.”

Minimal storage space in a city home

The inflatable Sea Eagle rolls up and tucks neatly in a closet

“I wanted to get back into canoeing and kayaking again, but without a garage I didn’t have a place to store a large canoe. I could rent a kayak from the local yacht club, but doing that more than two or three times cost as much as a new canoe. The Sea Eagle tucks in a closet.”

Living in the city, Mike had to consider storage space, too. “We’ve got minimal storage space indoors and no garage,” says Mike. “A boat we could roll up and store easily was a fantastic idea.” Mike says lots of people in the city love the idea of going out on the lake, but where do you put the boat? The Sutton’s 12’ 6” boat tucks in their hall closet.

Naturally, cost was a factor, too. “I didn’t want to spend two or three thousand dollars. I wanted to start off with something that was a reasonable investment and also had quality. The 370 is not a huge financial commitment.”

Mike’s quest: find affordable, outdoor, warm weather, family activities… that didn’t call for storage space. Online searches led him to the Sea Eagle website.  “I read a lot of reviews online on both Sea Eagle and other inflatable boats,” says Mike. “I knew I wanted an inflatable; one that wasn’t a toy. Online review gave Sea Eagle a very good rating for toughness.”

Mike considered the Sea Eagle 330  but a number of reviews said that the extra leg room in the 370 was worth the few extra dollars. “I thought the 330 would probably be fine if just Ben and I would be using it. But I’m 6’2” and my wife’s tall, too. We go out together, so it just made sense to get the bigger boat.” Mike looked at Sea Eagle Explorer KayaksYacht Tenders, and Motormount Boats.  “If we were racing or exploring, the FastTrack might be a good choice. But the 370 Sport Kayak seemed to fit our needs best.”

Ben's ready for a day at the beach in the Sea Eagle 370

“My 4-year old, Ben, and I take our Sea Eagle down to the water on his wagon. 10 minutes later we’re paddling along, getting bugged by the locals on the boardwalk. ‘Where’d you get it? How much was it? Is it stable? How long does it take to inflate?’”

Safe for kids?

Of course safety is on every parent’s mind. Mike reported, “I think it’s pretty safe for kids. I like that you’ve got separate air chambers in the sides and floor. It’s got high sides and it’s very stable. I feel more comfortable with this than a hard sided canoe.”

Down at the beach, Mom and Dad share kid-duty. Caroline stays ashore with young Sam while Mike takes Ben out in the Sea Eagle. Then Mike stays with Sam and Caroline paddles with Ben. (Editor’s Note: seems like Ben somehow gets in on EVERY ride…)

And when it’s parent’s time out, their Sea Eagle takes the Suttons farther afield. “We can walk to the beach, unpack, and paddle to the far side of Toronto, all along the Toronto waterfront, into all the little waterways and marinas. When we get to the other side, we just roll it up and take public transportation home.”


“We were afraid the quality would be like boats from Canadian Tire, equivalent to Walmart in the USA,” says Mike. “Use them for two days and you’re done. But boating down the Grand Canyon we saw how tough these can be. Getting the Sea Eagle worked out really well. I recommend it.”

Future plans, solo & family

Mike says the nearby Humber and Don Rivers offer a challenge he’d like to try — class II and III rapids. Then there’s what’s known locally as “cottage country,” an area a couple hours north of Toronto with thousands of lakes and rivers. “It’s the playground for Toronto residents,” says Mike.

And he told us of a plan that’s a few years off. “When our kids get a little older, I think we’ll probably get a Sea Eagle 330 and put the kids in one and Mom and Dad in the 370 and go out side by side.” And that’s exactly how a lifetime of happy family memories are made.

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