kit kayaks

Thinking about building a boat. i have limited woodworking skills, but figure i’ll figure it out as i go. that said, if one is significantly simpler to build i’d appreciate that tip.

pygmy vs. CLC?

I’m 5’7", 135 lbs

i am mainly a whitewater kayaker, so i’m used to getting thrown around and would prefer sporty and fast to super wide and stable. i would like the ability to do trips out of it, but don’t require a lot of gear for camping so I don’t need a ton of storage to keep me happy.

at your size

– Last Updated: Oct-10-08 2:37 PM EST –

The Pygmy Tern 14 might be a good choice. On the CLC side, maybe the Shearwater 14 or 16. The CLC Shearwaters are derived from the Shearwater Mergansers.

I haven't paddled the Shearwaters. I have paddled the Tern 14 and 17, and the Chesapeake 16 and 17, and strongly preferred the Pygmys.
The Shearwaters might be a bit faster, the Pygmy might be more maneuverable. Pygmy kits use 6 oz. glass cloth, CLC uses 4 oz. Pygmy charges extra for bulkheads and hatches, CLC includes them.

There are several happy Tern 14 builders who have posted here. The Shearwaters are a newer model and there aren't as many afloat yet.

If you ask, the manufacturers will give you contact information for owners/builders in your area. Most are happy to show off their boats.

here's a good build sequence:

and a building forum:

Glass the Deck
We have a 17’ Pygmy Arctic Tern and a 14’ CLC, both have glassed decks. We had a CLC Cape Charles that did not have a glassed deck and it cracked in two places. I do not know if all the CLC boat’s instructions call for a glassed deck, if not, I would glass it. The 17’ tern (not the high volume one) is still a very high volume kayak. If I had to do it again I would build the tern 14. I have to say, though, that my CLC 14 rolls and balance braces like a dream. I have not had the opportunity to surf it, but hope to do that. If you like a playful kayak, do not go with anything that has too much volume. I just use the 17’ Tern as a camping kayak now. It is much too large for a day boat.

We are very happy with our Pygmy Arctic
Tern 14s, ZZZ. I cannot compare these with any CLC boats, because I have not paddled those. I am an inch shorter than you are, but I am quite a bit heavier. I recently posted my opinion that this is a great all-round boat. And building is very fulfilling; not at all anything to worry about because Pygmy will support you all the way.

I don’t think there’s a better way than building to get a really good fiberglass (type) boat on a limited budget. I built our two Pygmy Arctic Tern 14s after turning half of my office into a shop. When you build, really good lighting is important. Also, making a good long table/flat surface for a work area will make building more comfortable. Make sure it’s the right height for you so that you can reach across it from both sides. Read the directions and follow through with them on the epoxy work. I made external cradles out of plywood to hold the hull components in place while building - not essential, but another convenience.

It’s normal to be having second thoughts about building a boat - wondering if you are up to the challenge to being able to do it by yourself. I can share with you that anybody who has a little patience, can read and can lift a tool, can build one of these boats. The instructions are clear and well written and patient help from the company is just a phone call away. The Pygmy people love kayaking, they love their work, and they love to hear the good results from their customer-builders. Send them pictures of your work (I still have to send mine).

I know not all of us are attracted to working with tools, but a love of paddling and the surprise of seeing the beauty of your new boat materializing under your very hands are reasons enough to keep you going on a building project.

For increased confidence, read the builders’ forums online and you will see how many of us ordinary folks have turned out some pretty fine boats with no background whatsoever before the arrival of their kayak kit.

Good luck, zzz, and keep us posted on your new adventure!

(Portions of this post were previously posted.)

No woodworking skills required
I got a “D”" in 8th grade shop, and built a beautiful Pygmy Arctic Tern 17. I agree that the 14 might be better for your size. The 17 is pretty roomy.

Pictures of our Arctic Tern 14s
Here are some shots of our paddling trip to Caladesi Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, in our Pygmy Arctic Terns.

what do you mean by “sporty”?
maneuverable or efficient for fast cruising? If you want both it’ll involve some big compromises.

The AT tern14 would be maneuverable but may feel big at your weight but at 5/7" you are perfect height for it. That would fit my description for “sporty” in challenging conditions with reserve buoyancey to carry 50lbs easily. It’s a good design.

I built a Merganser 16 for a friend who was shorter and heavier than you, similar displacement as the AT14 but more efficient for faster paddling but it’s predictable turning with stiffer tracking.

The Cirrus LT would be a dynamite touring boat.

Pick the boat, not the company because YOU are making it. It’s 4mm Okoume, fiberglass and epoxy. After the construction is done it’s yours, the origin of the kit really doesn’t matter as it’ll all be a learning experience.

thanks, Lee
I didn’t know the Cirrus kits were being offered in the smaller sizes. Another one for the list…

it’s kinda funny
when I think of “sporty” I think of maneuverable. To get maneuverable AND fast is difficult with four panels without screwing up some worthwhile attributes like introducting excessive weathercocking or fast broaching from a pinched bow. The super fine ends of a four panel plywood hull will naturally develop IF there are no internal forms to prevent it.

This is something Pygmy addressed from the beginning either by designing very stiff tracking hulls with eight panels and developed curves or the four panel hulls with lots of angled side panels to lean the hull. The weathercocking Queen CHarlottes evolved into the more balanced Arctic Terns. The Terms represent sporty with more emphasis on volume and handling than speed. For average 3mph speeds the AT14 does it pefectly for 150lb people.

The Merganser isn’t sporty as the ends are tight but the balance is good regarding volume in the ends and rocker so although the ends are sharp it’s handling on a wave is predictable. Unlike the Chesapeake with it’s sharp ends, flattish bottom and low rocker where it bounces and slams into a broach on waves pretty hard. I’ve only paddled the Shearwaters a few times but it seems they might provide a better balance for turning than the Mergansers.

What appeals to me about the Cirrus is that like the old Caribou, that started as a plywood hull, there’s an effort to get the ends to follow a curve at the waterline that doesn’t require a high freeboard.

With only four panels there’s a limited range of possible hull shapes before you start losing a well rounded set of handling characteristics. With the Cirrus what rounded enty one can develop with four panels it seems to do it better than most leaving that more distinct chine at the aft section behind the paddler for turning control.

i guess by sporty i mean not overly stable/wide. If i want to surf i’ll use one of my whitewater boats, so if i want to paddle flatwater i’m gonna wanna cover some distance so i want fast, and i’m not too worried about a capsise and feel comfortable rolling in all conditions so i don’t care if it is a “tippy” boat. i can camp with minimal gear, so i don’t need a lot of room to pack stuff.

kayak size
I’m 5’8" and 150, and I don’t like a kayak less than 18’ long. The one I like the best is 19’11" long and 20" wide. I like a fast kayak and find it most important for me to have a kayak less than 22" wide. A narrow kayak works best for me - narrow and light in weight. Lower volume is also important.

What kit do you have? nm

with your weight
you can get in some tippy/slippery boats although that doesn’t necessarily mean fast paddling potential. The beam dimension really doesn’t represent stability characteristics well as it’s at the sheer and doesn’t define the waterline beam or shape. For example you could fit into the AT14 or Osprey13(I’m guessing a snug fit) The Osprey would be faster and more efficient but the primary stability probably wouldn’t be much different on the 22" wide Osprey13 compared to the 14" AT. Just different.

When you shop around for opinions try and get specifics on what else the person has paddled, a very large number of builders have experienced just a couple kayaks or are new to the sport or new to the variations in plywood designs.

With your weight I would think a light kayak would rate highly for “sporty” more than top speed potential as the ability to accelerate with a few strokes feels fast. If you’re truly looking at top speed potential,ie. racing/running effort it’s gonna be a challenge. Since most s&g kayak designs are oriented to 175# paddler plus gear the lower volume ones tend to mimic the same goal of touring design for 3mph paddling. To get into significantly faster designs with 15’+waterlines and that aren’t for 200# of paddler I’m not sure if you’re going to find them outside of skin boats. Most of the kits kayaks that are 17’+ are for 200# of payload and you run out of the ability to make a light kayak very quickly without compromising cosmetic durability with thick epoxy fill coats and 6oz glass under the varnish.

The 16’x21" Merganser comes to mind because it is a lower volume hull. I could barely fit into it with my fat 200# body at 5"9" but lighter friends fit perfectly. It’s small enough that it’s going to use less glass/epoxy and could weigh less. It tracked a bit too firmly for me but I think your lighter weight would make the sharp ends lift out of the water on a lean much better compared to me. Check out I built three of his Mergansers. 16,17W and 18. PM me if you want details on an economical and sturdy but light construction.

I’m guessing CLCs/SHearwater 14 would be optimum displacement and the 16" version would feel big.

You might think the Osprey13 is too small but if there was one around to get into I’d try it. You’re legs might be too long but it can be made VERY light and with a 13’ waterline be more than adequate for average speeds. At one time there were lots of sea kayak instructors paddling around in 13’ Mariner Coasters. The AT14 will feel roomy but it’s not designed for stability, the Pygmy design goals are more for efficiency and predictable handling in wind/waves.

So if you want “sporty” as in low volume, light, paddling at 5mph+speeds you might as well skip plywood kit boats and go straight to skin boats. If you want to stick to s&g construction there might be a design that can be morphed to your displacement like the Putz Walrus or some other designs out there but I think it’ll be a complete experiment. In that range you’re looking at the equivalent of some of the Betsy Bay designs. Light construction minimal glass as needed, etc. To have light in a 17" s&g kayak it’s gonna have to be very skinny and use light glass or it’ll get heavy real quick,or require very thin glassing which will show up dings and water stains over time.

If you’re simply wanting a “sea kayak” that can cruise along efficiently at 3.5mph then the Merganser16 is a good choice, using various types of 4oz glass to maximise strengthe and weight it can come out around 40lbs.

The Osprey 13 could be built like a brick and weigh 35lbs with bulkheads/hatches. The one I built without weighed about 28lbs.

To have a 17’ kayak weigh around 30lbs you’ll be looking at skin more than s&g plywood.

a light 20’ kayak. Did you make it, how much does it weigh and what is the glass layup if it’s ply?

that sounds
like the one i want. details?

I like the stitch and glue concept, but
it might be worth scanning over the available wood strip sea/touring kayaks. There is a bit more freedom of design with strippers.

I’ll second the Cirrus
I agree with LeeG on the Cirrus.

I built one of the strippers from One Ocean Kayaks. I can say with all confidence that whatever you get from OOK will be precise, neat, well designed, and professional. He includes internal and external forms with his kits. The forms ensure a precise hull shape. He also has some options with his kits; I like the Ribbon Sapele deck. You would fit into the Cirrus LT or the SLT, it depends which size you prefer. I’ll be starting another stripper soon, but after that one, I might build a Cirrus.

Pedro Almeida

I’m glad you did this post, zzz!

– Last Updated: Oct-13-08 8:52 AM EST –

I'm mainly a whitewater guy, but also looking
to build a kit...Don't mean to hijack this
thread, but any good reports out there on
the Nick Schade Night Heron (stitch-and-glue)?

(For "sporty" you might wanna check it out for
yourself -- Specs: 18'; 20" beam.)

Experience of people I know
who have built kit boats (including the Tern14). The woodworking demands are not much. That part of the build will go smoothly. What can be problematic is the glassing part if you don’t follow directions exactly. Temperature, measurement, and curing times are all very important. Patience and care will result in a good boat rather than a gooey mess or a bubbly surface.

got a paddling buddy
who has built three kit kayaks–one clc and two shearwater–he prefers the shearwaters–I gotta tell you though that for white water, at least anything over class II and maybe that or below—a plywood/fiberglass kitboat wouldn’t last too long