I'm moving from a sit-on-top to a sit-in kayak, and am looking for something I can use in summer in cold-water Maine. The Perception Carolina 12 is at the top of my wish list. But my budget says that if I go for a Pelican Pursuit 120 DXL I can buy it now. I can't get a good idea of how the Pursuit would do in close-to-shore ocean paddling, and no dealer near me has one I can try. Should I just hold out for the Carolina?
They're very similar boats, Nan—both 12-footers, both designed for light touring (the Perception boat has two hatches, which helps, while the Pelican has one), both meant for close-in ocean paddling or lakes and quiet rivers. They're both roto-molded "plastic" boats. And list prices are not that far apart—$750 for the Pursuit, $850 for the Carolina.
The thing is, you really to try a boat before you buy it. Kayaks are almost like shoes. Fit matters. And it's worth noting that the Carolina is two inches narrower in the beam than the Pursuit. That has implications across the board—roominess in the cockpit, speed, stability. Myself, I'd lean toward a narrower boat because in most cases it will be faster and paddle more easily. But in side-by-side trials you might prefer the wider one.
You might look around at some kayak rental operations to see if any of them use the Pursuit, or ideally, both boats. That would give you a chance to try them.
You might look at some other boats, as well. The Necky Manitou 13 is a nice boat, a bit longer than the two you're looking at now. Alas, a bit more $$ as well at $900. Or there is Dagger's Catalyst 12.8 ($800), which has twin hatches and is designed for day or weekend trips.
And of course if budget is an issue, don't overlook eBay or Craigslist. You might find a smoking deal on a boat. Plus, a used boat is apt to come with some the accessories that add up so quickly—paddle, spray skirt, stuff like that.