CLC Mystery vs. Pax 20?

-- Last Updated: Sep-04-08 10:32 PM EST --

Can anyone familiar with both comment in what cases one would be better than the other?

Here's the link to the Mystery:

and here is the Pax:

And here are some nice photos of a Mystery building:

I'm contemplating building my first wood boat, most likely strip rather than stitch and glue type but open to suggestions.

Why build? I want to move up to something like the KayakPro Merlin or Epic 18x but can't afford one, I do not think I will fit very well in them with my size 15 feet, and lastly - I think I can do it and it will be a fun project.

The Mystery seems to be more like what would suit me as it is a little wider. I am thinking of making the cockpit may be an inch or two longer (may be not, got to measure some other cockpits to see what I think) and most likely raise the foot area of the deck an inch or so to get enough foot room (as designed this thing is good up to size 11 shoes).

Thoughts? Anything else similar to these to consider? Basically, looking for a fast seaworthy straight-going sea kayak that won't break the bank. 20' may be a bit longer than I want, but I have not found plans for shorter boats that would fit 6'4" at 190 lb... I've thought of surf ski but I think I'd rather have something with a spray-skirt for the colder months...

The other model they got that I also like and I'm sure will be more fun to paddle in rougher water than the above two is the Petrel (but I already have a Tempest 170 so this might be "redundant" for me if the Petrel is not significantly faster on flat water...):

I have a Mystery, beautiful boat, not as tippy as one might expect, but a bear to turn. The combination of minimal rocker (if any)and 20 foot length makes for a boat that is best in open water. Straight line speed is excellent. Does get tossed around by wind a bit.


I am no expert
but the beauty of strip building is that you can have any shape you want.

This is not quite the epiphany, but all boats have two parts - hull and deck. Some boats, NDK/SKUK springs to mind, have same hulls with different decks.

How does that help you? - Find hull that fits your needs - in terms of rocker, design load, waterline, whatever else you can think off. When making the deck, raise the cockpit area a little bit to accommodate your flippers.

If you contact strip builders/designers, say Nick Schade of, your questions will be answered.


– Last Updated: Sep-05-08 9:49 AM EST –

Another straight-line speedster:

Or for more play:

or in the middle:

Shearwater Bluefin or Baidarka?

Redfish King?

Designers don’t like it …
… but you can modify the plans pretty EZ to suit your needs …

1 vote for a shortend Mystery with more stern rocker.

Contact puzzlepax who posts here occasionally. He built a mini-mystery (18x18 instead of 20x20) and also a Pax 18. He’d be a good one to ask.

Email me if you need his contact info.

mimi-Mystery vs Pax18
kocho, as kayakcyndi notes, I have the two shortened versions of the boats you mention. The mini-mystery which is Nick Schade of Guillemot Kayaks’ design (for which he and CLC have a marketing agreement) and the CLC designed Pax18.

Being 5’9" and 135 soaking wet I don’t need the volume of the 20 footers. Nick told me he was around the 200# mark and the full size Mystery (20’ x 20") was his design to use in the Blackburn when they used a different set of boat classification rules. For your height and weight you should find no problem getting the bigger boats to float at their design drafts. Shoe size is another consideration altogether and the Mystery may be more accommodating to modifying the front deck.

The stitch and glue Pax18 is not an exact scaled down version of the Pax 20. The 18 is a swift boat that is very stable (all things being relative), a nice amount of rocker and for a four panel hull fairly efficient.

The strip built mini-Mystery (18’ x 18") is about 5-8% faster than the Pax18, tippier but still manageable most of the time, the full size would be more stable yet. I agree with onnopaddler that more rocker would be better and would make the boat maneuver more easily (buoy turns are not the Mystery’s forte) and maybe a little faster. The bow on mine is too full and pushes water more than I would like, builder error.

Cost wise you’ll spend about the same whichever boat you build. The Mystery has the potential to be ten pounds lighter than the Pax (mine are 27#'s vs 36#'s). Time wise the stripper will take at least two if not three times as long to build. Both are attractive in their own ways and both offered construction challenges that were rewarding to overcome.

I built both from purchased plans. Being within an hour’s drive of CLC’s shop I also picked up supplies from them for the Pax18. For the stripper I sourced lumber from a local yard and mail ordered glass and epoxy. Building from plans gives you the ability to be “creative” and neither of my Pax or Mystery are ‘stock’. Kits would limit some of this flexibility. I did correspond with Nick about my intent to shrink his design and got his blessing.

Both Guillemot Kayaks and CLC have great boards to get building tips and helpful feedback on building a boat.

I would highly recommend you buy Nick Schade’s book on strip building and read it before making any final decision. The book will inspire you but also make you aware of the challenges of building a stripper.

Finally, if this helps… I loved the Pax18 when it was first built. However, since I built the Mystery, the Pax has been gathering dust and seldom sees the water unless I want a really stable boat (all relative terms). And more recently the Mystery sees less of the water due to spending most of my time trying to keep a Huki S1-A surfski upright and going fast.

All these boats are the perfect compliment to an ONNO wing paddle, so little need to fret over how best to propel your creation.


puzzlepax is from the jigsaw puzzle stained on the hull of my pax18, a cool design that I never get to see.

As you consider your options . . .
check out boat kits offered by Pygmy Boats - - as they offer kits for people of all sizes, including “high” kits for tall folks with large feet. They are having a sale; also offering kits in sapele wood presently. You would be spared having to try to customize your boat during your first building experience.

There are differing opinions in kit design philosophy between the Pygmy and CLC people, and you can find discussions online regarding both orientations to help you in your decision. Good luck in your choice.

Nick Schades designs are based on paddling/racing experience. The pax20 was a learning experience.

"looking for a fast seaworthy straight-going sea kayak that won’t break the bank" that’ll take size 15 feet.

Used surfski?

That made WAY too much sense! NM

CLC now sells both kits.
The Pax 20 is about $1k, while the Mystery kit is $1.5k.

IMO, if you’re gonna race, invest in the Mystery (acknowledging it is 50% more costly and 100% more timely to build). On the other hand, if you want a quick workout boat (as I did), the Pax will fill that bill nicely. While not quite as fast as a Mystery, it is close, adapts to a rudder easily, and will get you on the water a heck of a lot faster.

Great responses!

– Last Updated: Sep-06-08 8:10 PM EST –

The thought of shortening the Mystery as Patrick suggests (by may be a foot or two) occured to me too.

And I definitely will get the book first - there are a lot of known and unknown unknowns to me, which are the scariest, as a certain polititian used to say -;)

I've built some fairly involved transmission line loudspeakers a few years back and the precision and calculations to get them right and then the actual building process taught me a lot. A kayak is a little more complex it seems. Mostly if I could get the glassing aspect right, the rest should not be a problem for me, I hope...

Lastly, if I go thru the effort to build a boat like the Mystery, I will most likely want do it with kevlar and a little carbon here and there and s-glass rather than all "plain" fiberglass. That would make it lighter and stronger but that alone would cost $500-600. My guestimate so far is close to $1,500 before I even add a seat, rudder, and footpad, not to mention hatch covers and deck fittings -;(

Thanks Cyndy & Stephen

– Last Updated: Apr-19-10 11:41 AM EST –

Cyndy you should feel primarily responsible for me picking-up the wing paddle this year after I tried your Epic at the CPA nav class... And I like what you do with your Nemos but I do not even think I can fit in the white one. Perhaps I can try the orange version some day - how about this coming Thursday at Jack's?