Kayak kits

I am interested in building a kayak from a kit. I have looked into many companies and need some advice. Chesapeake has nice kayaks but are they worth the price? Pygmy also seems nice too? Any suggestions or recommendations?

I have helped build both. You can’t go
wrong with either company.

I have also built from both and agree that you won’t go wrong with either.

There are differences in designs of course and you will need to select one that works best for your paddling needs.

The biggest differences in the kayak kits are that Pygmy does not pre-drill the stitch holes (not a big deal imho) and Chesapeake uses a slightly thinner deck material to accommodate the bending to achieve their signature rounded deck.

I would not hesitate to buy from either company.


– Last Updated: Apr-27-11 11:39 AM EST –

There are several comparisons on the web clc vs Pygmy.

I love my Pygmy Coho. .... Unfortunately I have to down size my fleet and I will am selling.

I think the main difference between these two manufacturers is that clc has a round hull and Pygmy's hull is hard chined.


– Last Updated: Apr-27-11 1:20 PM EST –

Of the kit boats I've demoed, I've been least impressed with the CLC Chesapeake models. I'd go for a Shearwater instead.

Liked the Pygmys I've tried, but they tended to be big on me. Tern 14 was great fun for my size. Haven't tried the new Murrelet.

Both companies will give you contact information for owners/builders in your area. Most are happy to show off their boats.

Builder's forum is a great resource. http://www.kayakforum.com/cgi-bin/Building/index.cgi

2nd the Kayak Building Bulletin Board
Great source of information and opinion, and a lot of help, from experienced builders. Nick Schade deserves thanks for maintaining such as valuable resource for kayak (and the odd canoe) builders.

BTW - re going with the kit - kits are good, but gathering materials and laying out panels isn’t hard, and saves a lot. I’ve built a number of kayaks from plans, and it adds maybe 2-3-4 days work in all to get stuff together, lay the lines out, cut out the panels, and fair the edges. I can build using good materials at slightly less than 1/2 the average kit cost - just a thought…

kayak kits

– Last Updated: Apr-28-11 10:38 AM EST –

Fun project, a few things I learned from others and my own experience.

1) PYGMY: nice designs but a few issues. A) holes are not drilled B) panels do not have alignment joints(puzzle or finger) alignment joints dont add strength but sure make it easier to get parts straight, esp first time builder. Pygmy does not include hatch parts... $ adds up. pygmy kits are a tad pricey compared to others, though Id like to build a coho

2) CLC: the cheasapeakes were designed by a gent that wasn't a paddler and whos' Forte is Bicycles/bicycle parts (I purchase bike stuff from him at his new business VELO ORANGE) the chesapekes also use an older stitch and glue constrction method vs more recent designs.

I was told by a few kayak instructors /home builders that I inquired with that there are much better boats than Cheasapekes. the reason Cheasies are so popular was that they were the only kit boat avail for quite awhile, The only game in town sort of thing , not now though.

That said CLC is partnered up with designers Mark Rogers (Superior Kayak) and Brothers Eric / Nick Shade (Shearwater and Guillimot boats) hence why their designs are offerd By CLC.

I built ERIC SHADEs' (Shearwater Boats Maine) Merganser 17W. Actually the CLC "shearwater" is ERIC SHADEs' Shearwater Merganser with a newer deck prophile and tweeked a bit.

I ordered My MERGANSER Kit from Eric Shade at shearwater boats in Maine . my kit however came from CLC. Eric sent the order to CLC and they cut/pakaged it, CLC has the cad drawing of the merganser and most of Erics Boats on file.

if I were to build another wood boat (Im doing skin on frame right now, way less mess and $ , no epoxy or sanding) if I were to do another wood boat id order wood parts only and get most of My supplies at RAKA or elswhere , mostly Raka!!

Rakas products are very good , RAKA products are made by major companies and just private labled, Like most of what we buy these days! way less $ for most items. often 30%+ less than brand labled.

I used most of what came in my kit but alot of stuff I dindn't use or needed more of or a different type or better quality.

hope this helps. again check out shearwater boats designs and if you do order one from Eric in Maine it will be cut at CLC in Maryland.


Not quite…

– Last Updated: Apr-28-11 11:41 AM EST –

“1) PYGMY: nice designs but a few issues. A) holes are not drilled B) panels do not have alignment joints(puzzle or finger) alignment joints don’t add strength but sure make it easier to get parts straight, esp first time builder. Pygmy does not include hatch parts… $ adds up. pygmy kits are a tad pricey compared to others, though Id like to build a coho”

The items that you call “issues” are not issues at all – they’re just different techniques. Drilling the holes is easy and fast and can actually be better because you can move a stitch hole if need be (for aesthetics or any other reason). The panel joints work just fine and are not weaker, as you may have suggested.

Yes, Pygmy does charge extra for their hatches – which isn’t a bad thing because some people prefer to not have hatches. And it’s only a few bucks more for the hatch kit.

Not trying to be argumentative here, just pointing out that the negatives that you suggest, may not be all that negative.

If anyone is interested, there are a few stitch and glue build journals (sorry, no CLC boats yet) on my website




read My post again

– Last Updated: Apr-28-11 1:35 PM EST –

First this isnt a left coast vs east thing so dont go there!

I never said butt (panel) joints are weaker, I said alignment joints (puzzle/finger) DONT ADD ANY STRENGTH.

I should have said the strength is the same for both if properly done.

no holes or alignment joints are , well I should have said a small time saving issue,

I was happy for the pre drilled holes and I added a few to make things tighter in some spots.

Im very handy, I have several mechanical patents, I Build custom fishing rods(and sell them) , I helped restore a 1938 ME108 thats in an air museum in Ohio, I make paddles...

having holes pre drilled and alignment joints saved some time for me and it was worth the consideration esp when the price of boat kit was Less and included sapele for deck, hatch hardware/ precut lips , pre cut bulkheads and deck rigging.. again saved me some time.

(Note : not the hatches ) , hatches has to be cut out of the deck like on most kits so if you dont want hatches you dont have to have them.)

I agree these concerns are small and they dont make it a better boat just saves a bit of time and somtimes a few $.

NOTE: I did say id like to build a Coho!!

actually a coho high volume Might be the next S&G project.

the COHO was my oringinal S&G choice but I changed my mind at the last minuite, the kit was on the loading dock ready to ship when I cancelled order.

By all means Id advise anyone to check out Pygmy, I did, John is one of the key players in kayak Kits and I do like the designs(I think I said that too). A friend of mine has an Arctic tern.

Happy paddling were all wet together!


I too have built one CLC and one Pygmy
The kits are quite comparable. Both companies offer designs with “Greenland style” hard-chined hulls and more rounded multi-chine hulls.

Things might have changed, but the CLC kit did not include enough resin and glass to glass the inside of the hull and I’m not sure that the CLC kit included glass for the outside of the deck. The CLC kit included glass tape for the inside hull seams, however.

I rather favored the appearance of the cambered deck and one-piece cockpit coaming of the CLC kit, but that is just my preference.

The CLC kit required just a little more fudging than the Pygmy kit. At the time, neither kit had pre-drilled panels, and in my view their absence was of no consequence at all.

If I were to build another Pygmy solo kayak it would undoubtedly be an Arctic Tern, and if I were to build a CLC boat it would be the Arctic Hawk (I like sharp-chined boats).

One more

Not saying it is better or worse, just throwing this into the mix - was in my bookmarks.

one ocean boats
another fine choice. Cirrus is a nice looking boat.

I like his strip boats alot!!


“First this isnt a left coast vs east thing so dont go there!”

Really not sure where this came from.

My apologies then
I retract my statment.

Just the fact that you seemed to be on defence without understanding my post fully,and defending Pygmy boats methodology vs my opinion of what CLC offers /the boat designers CLC is partnered with mostly east coast designers.

What do you paddle most of the time??

again I realy like the coho,.

thanks for the dialog


    1. 3.
      1. what is your goal?

      If your goal is a kayak to use then pick the kayak. Not the company.

      You’re going to be paddling a kayak so approach the decison making just as you’d pick a kayak at a store. Do you want stiff tracking, maneuverable, big, stable, fast, responsive to leaning/turning/correction for weathercocking and down wave performance?

  1. If your goal is to “make a boat” then CLC tends to foster that appeal but there’s no reason to make a tippy kayak if that’s not really a priority. My suggestion for either goal, building or paddling would be to start with kayakforum.com as a building and paddling resource. Also checkout oneoceankayaks.com. Somewhere there’s a book about building s&g and strip kayaks that ventures off the construction manuals but it’s a good introduction to fundamentals in construction, Ted Moore? http://www.amazon.com/Kayaks-You-Can-Build-Construction/dp/1552978613/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304025377&sr=1-4

  2. it’s not hard, you can break everything down in to three steps, or two if three is too complicated.

    I’m familiar with many of the existing designs but haven’t paddled all of them. Built a CLC Patuxent 17, MillCreek13,Chesapeake 16,18, Northbay, Pax20,Sass16,Pygmy Coho, GoldenEye13, Penguino, Shearwater 16,17W,18.

    The kits are worth it. More than one way to connect wood, slather goop and “build a boat”. In retrospect I should have built some skin boats. Respect the reactive nature of epoxy and do NOT short cut barrier methods or get sloppy.

kayak kits
What is perplexing is some of the Shearwater kits are made by Chesapeake.

what are you perplexed about?
but more importantly do you want a kayak for paddling and can you define your intended use or do you just want to build a kayak?

Shearwater Boats is Eric Schades company.

CLC is John Harris company

Shearwater kayaks is a model name that is adapted to CLCs line.

Merganser is the model that Eric sold before partnering with CLC. The Merganser 17 and Shearwater 17 are similar hulls as best I understand, except the decks are different. The CLC Shearwater 14,16 don’t have a similar hull in the Merganser line.

If you do not have developed tastes in paddling, are at the upper end of the weight range for a tippy kayak and are planning on paddling in rough conditions but don’t know how to roll there are better options than the Merganser/Shearwater 17.

what’s your heigh/weight/paddling experience?


– Last Updated: Apr-30-11 5:14 PM EST –

I built a CLC West River 18 back in '04-05.
LOVE IT! Stable in rough waters (I've had it in some pretty rough waters out on Lk. Mi.), nice cruiser on the bigger rivers and lakes, throw a line in at times, great boat! comfortable, stable, nice storage, its light, and cruises nice.