Kayak suggestion for shallow, slower river in Michigan

I am new to kayaking but we just bought a house on a shallow (2-4 ft deep), slower (200-300 cubic ft/sec) river here in central Michigan (Pine River). Our house backs up to the river and I’d like to build a kayak for taking day trips on the river; the river is approximately 75-100 ft wide. I’m 61 yrs old, 5’8’’ tall, 175 lbs with size 10 shoes and in fairly good condition. I’ve been looking at the Pygmy Boats Pinguino 14 or Pinguino Sport (13’) as possible candidates, along with the Pygmy Coho or Arctic Tern 14. Any advice or suggestions on these boats or other options would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,

Ask Pygmy for a recommendation. Also , talk to CLC.
Then buy a Pungo.

PS. I’m jealous! Building a boat is a wonderful project. I have built 3 from plans and 2 from kits. I helped another person build an Arctic Tern. It is a fast, seaworthy sea kayak .
My personal preference for a lazy river is a comfortable craft I can chill in. I also couldn’t stand having water in my back yard and taking the time to build.

Since Kent may not know what “CLC” is, here’s the link: http://www.clcboats.com/

Always great to see another Michigan paddler here.

I second the CLC boats. Had a chance to paddle a few of them and find them excellent. Come in all shapes and sizes and anyone handy with basic tools can build one.

I’m not too far south of you (Mason) and have a Pygmy Arctic Tern 17’. I’m few years older but close in height & weight although feet are smaller. There is also a Tern 14 locally although it is set up for a small woman. I’m often out at the club (LOAPC) Monday night paddles on Lake Lansing if you wanted to give it a try. Join the meet_up (http://www.meetup.com/Lansing-Oar-and-Paddle-Club/ ) to see the schedule or send me a PM or something.

My experience building Pygmys (I’ve built two) wwas that the kit arrived in early July, the kayak was floatable labor Day weekend, and finished with 2 or 3 coats of varnish in early October. That is working on them afte work and on weekends with some vacation in-between. The instructions are excellent and no woodworking skills are required. I highly recommend including the thigh brace kit and hatches/bulkheads in the build. I ditched the thermorest pad and Pygmy seat back & freplaced them with a seat carved from mini-cell and an I/R lounge backband. I’ve also added a little foam to tighten it up. I loke the kayak - it was my first one and is still my primary kayak 13 years later. I would now like something tighter with lower decks and a smaller cockpit.

All that said, on small streams I’m happer in a solo canoe.


Looking at the CLC kayaks, it appears that the Shearwater Sport would be comparable to the Pygmy Pinguino? Thanks for the suggestions.


Looking at the CLC kayaks, I’m leaning toward the Shearwater Sport, which is a 14’ x 25" kayak. Any thoughts on this choice? Thanks.


Good boat. The boat is designed for the larger paddler. Nice handling for its size. I thought it took a little more draft than my C-17. But it was well within limits. It could be used on your river, or the beach.

Search CLCboats.com and look at events. They often have demo days at different events. The put boats on the beach an let people go play in them.

In looking at the CLC site, I think either the Shearwater 17 or the Shearwater Sport would work for my use. Any advice appreciated!

Just FYI, the pine is a quite fast river, I believe one of if not the fastest in power MI. I’m not far from you. I have not done the pine yet, though hope to this year but from reading it is very fast, narrow and windy

The OP may be on a different Pine - the one that goes through Alma & St Louis.

Exactly, the Pine R that runs through Alma/St Louis. I’m leaning toward either the Shearwater Sport or the Wood Duck 12 but having a hard time deciding.

You won’t go wrong either way.

Hi Kent, I’m the “smaller woman” with the Arctic Tern 14 that Rival51 mentioned in his earlier post. Just to muddy the (non-paddling) waters a little, I, too, love my Arctic Tern 14, having built mine in 2003. For outfitting, I mini-celled the dickens out of it because I’m extremely small framed and it was pre-Pinguino days, but you would have no problem with the cockpit as is. As Rival51 mentioned, the foredeck is a bit high, but that has never been a problem for me. The rear deck on mine is slightly recessed which makes layback rolls and paddle float re-entries (when you’re ready to learn!) pretty easy. As to woodworking, the only thing I ever built before the Tern was a bluebird house, so that should give an indication that the directions are quite good! Being a complete rookie, it took me 120 hours (excluding varnish/sanding time) to complete, and I’m certain that someone with even a little woodworking experience could shorten that time. Mine has the optional hatches and thigh braces, and I HIGHLY recommend both. The Tern 14 does just fine on rivers that are fairly straight and it tracks as straight as an arrow, but as others wrote, you’d probably be happier with a shorter, more maneuverable boat if you plan to paddle it on twisty rivers with a fair bit of current, such as the Pine you are NOT on! I’ve had it on the Great Lakes in some pretty good chop and she does just fine - no skeg or rudder are needed.

Good luck in your search!

I just got the CLC catalog. They have really expanded their models.