kit kayaks

I’ve been researching kit boats, “stich and glue” mostly, and wondering if anyone has any advice. I’ve been looking at the Pygmy Coho and the Chesapeake Lightcraft 17ft. I’m as interested in the process as the product, really curious about quality of the kits and customer support. Words of wisdom?

Pygmy is good
I built a Pygmy Osprey Double three years ago and can say that the process was a lot easier than I had initially thought it would be. The instructions were good (although the manual could have been more concise in a few spots) and the experience of building your own boat is a very rewarding one. Pygmy support is second to none – I found them to be very helpful and I’ve never heard a negative comment about their support.

The quality of the kits is exceptional – the wood is cut to extremely close tolerances and the grain on every Pygmy that I’ve seen has matched very well. You’ll need to purchase a few incidentals (like latex gloves – Pygmy includes a few pairs, but I think they’re mainly just to show you what you need). Expect to spend an additional $150-250 on items such as sandpaper, gloves, brushes, final finish, etc.

I kept a journal while I was building my boat – the process is virtually identical to that of the Coho – you can see it on my website in the “Boat/Accessory Building” section.

I’m also looking at building a Coho in the next few months.


Thanks, kheyashunka and westcoastpaddler. I appreciate your responses.

Pygmy Osprey Double
Wow, that’s a nice looking boat you built.

most depth of experience in the matter

collectively you’ll be getting feedback from people who’ve built 100’s of kayaks.

As building goes the Pygmy kits are very easy and you get a very strong finished boat. A great first project.

Look at
Shearwater, too.

I built a 17’ Shearwater Merganser and love it.


Merganser kit cost went up
that’s interesting,and the CLC/Shearwater kit is a bit of a premium price. I wonder if epoxy has gone up in price?

An excellent illustration of the process by a first-time builder:

Pygmy Rules
I recently completed building a Pygmy Arctic Tern and found Dan’s link above to be quite helpful when it came time to apply the topcoat finish on my boat.

I’ve never worked with any of the kit materials before and found the construction manual to be very detailed and methodical. Pygmy’s support staff were always on hand to help whenever I needed a question answered. My advice would be to take your time and read the manual several times over before starting the build.

About this time
Last year I was in your shoes! I was researching stitch and glue kits. I finally decide on Pygmy kit since I could drive up there, check out there boats and bring a kit home. Before I drove up there I had decided I wanted a Coho. After sitting in most of the models, I bought a Tern Hi. Tons of room for my 250lbs and size 12 feet. The build process was painless and the instruction book was very thorough. Any questions I had were answered at before I needed to ask them. I did buy extra fabric for inside the hull so I could do the deck in one piece, I only glassed the inside seem when joining the panels, I glassed under the deck in the area where the hatches were going to be before joining the deck to the hull, and I glassed up anything I could ahead of time with the excess resin such as the cockpit coaming and bulkheads so I wouldn’t have to wait on cure times.

Kits vs. “From Scratch” Kayaks
Kits are great, provided you don’t mind paying the labour cost of producing and shipping the kit. The other and much cheaper option is build from scratch.

I build the VOLKSKAYAK, a 17’, 25" beam, 40 lb. S&G sea kayak. It uses two sheets of 3mm marine ply for the hull/deck panels. The layout is simple - just a matter of transferring the table of offsets to the ply - takes about two hours - then cut the panels out - takes about the same again - and then fair the panels - perhaps another three-four hours work. Finally, you join the panel sections - perhaps another hour - and lay out and cut out your bulkheads. Perhaps 10-12 hours in all, all simple and easy work - and you can save about 50% off the cost of most kits. I allow about $500-$600 CDN for each VK, using top grade marine ply and brand-name epoxies. At that rate, I reckon my 12 hours translates to about $50/hr. - and that’s a darn sight more than I can make anywhwre else :–>))

one more…


– Last Updated: Sep-20-05 5:17 PM EST –

now we're cooking. Next Vaclav needs to offer the Cirrus LT. This is a good design for anyone who's waffling. One of the things I like about Vaclavs marketing is that he leaves hatch configuration up to the builder. By the time you've made the deck/hull making flush hatches is a matter of cutting a hole and using scraps for the recess.

Pygmy Arctic Tern
I built one 2 years ago and absolutely love it! I’m sure the Coho is just as “lovable”

I built my Merganser 16 from the kit. Neither Pygmy nor CLC offered a kayak in the size I needed.

There are lots of smaller S&G kit companies out there, as you’ll find out after perusing

It is my impression that these other companies are lesser-known for only one reason: they don’t advertise anywhere near as much as The Big Two do.

What am I missing here?
According to the posts… The pygmy boats are easy to build, cheap compared to glass and kevlar boats, and absolutely beautiful (I love wood). Not to mention light and… according to the web info… very light.

What is the catch? I don’t mind building things… but is the finished product a kayak with the speed and efficiency of a high-end touring boat?

If so… I’m very intrigued by this…

If you love to build is there any downside to this?

The only downside…
is that you need to allow an extra half hour at the put-in for the constant questions that people will ask you about your boat.

Oh yeah, you’ll also need to get used to people on the highway slowing down beside you to get a better look at your kayak and to give you a thumbs up.

It’s bad. Really bad. People in plastic and glass boats have it so much easier.


I’ve also been poking around and in the classified section of this board the pygmy boats are going used for 1800 and up…

So even if you spend the time to build one, paddle it and eventually want to move on you actually gain on your outlay (notwithstanding the labor of “love” :slight_smile:

Very interesting…

just curious
the kit kayaks look great to me, but I wonder about the bulkheads and flotation. Do they have bulkheads and sealed chambers that provide flotation for the boat? Or do you need a sea sock? flotation bags??? I am wondering… my kevlar has sealed hatches and bulkheads for flotation, but does this work for kit kayaks as well? thanks!