Need kayak help, Plastic vs wood,

-- Last Updated: Aug-31-10 11:13 PM EST --

I have been researching different kayaks in anticpation of buying my 2nd Kayak.

I have narrowed my search down to 16-17ft ocean/touring style kayaks. I am 5'10 and weight around 195 lbs.

I thought I had settled on the Zephyr 160 but then I came across Chesapeake Light Craft's website and their Chesapeake 16 and 17 looks incredible. I have been debating whether to buy a kit and make my own or just buy a plastic kayak. From what I have read the plastic boats are pretty durable but they are also heavy and can difficult to repair.

I may pick up the Zephyr and build a CLC 16 or 17 over the winter but are there any big advantages of one boat over the other? From what I have read the CLC kits can take upwards of 80+ hours to build.

done 'em both
I’ve built a few wood boats. Beautiful, light, attention getters. But, my current favorite ride is plastic.

The wood finish gets to where it needs maintenance, and that’s much less interesting to me than building. Along the way to needing refinishing, wood boats accumulate scratches and marks from usage that show much more than scrapes on plastic. While wood is more repairable for significant damage, plastic is less likely to get damaged so badly from the same conditions.

If you build from a kit, rather than from scratch and plans, you certainly will not save money over a quality plastic boat with similar features. The best economic rationale would come from choosing wood over a high-dollar composite kayak.

plastic vs wood
Rotomolded plastic kayaks are relatively maintenance-free, but will be significantly heavier, and will not have as fine lines and water entry as a wood kit-built boat. I agree, the cost will be roughly equivalent.

I think you would find the wooden boat esthetically more pleasing, and more satisfying to own in that you would have made it yourself. Obviously, buying a plastic kayak would be a lot less work.

I have built kit boats from both CLC and Pygmy. Both are good. I would plan on spending at least 80 hrs building such a boat, and that time does not include finishing (varnishing and possibly painting the hull).

Only my opinion but…
wood is hard to beat in terms of weight and price.

Beautiful, light, and easy to repair and refinish.

The one pictured here is 17’ long and weighs a mere 33 lbs.

used kit boats
it’s amazing to me how many beautifully finished kit boats people sell – that would be another option for you, keep your eye out for a used one. I recently had to talk myself out of two local offerings on Craigslist: a 34 lb. Pygmy and a 37 lb. CLC that the builders were selling, each for under $900. Some people lose interest once they’ve built the boat, it seems.

If you really want to go light, have you looked into constructing a skin-on-frame? My 18’ SOF is only 32 lbs. You can sign up for a class (if you can afford the time off and find one offered that is convenient for you) and build one in about 40 hours. They require little maintenance and are very tough. Actually, because quite a few SOF builders are constantly building and re-tweaking their designs, a surprising number of those turn up for sale as well on the used market. I paid $800 for mine – never could have gotten a poly boat that paddles as well at that price and one would have been twice the weight anyway.

I second all this good advice NM

Friend of mine paddles a CLC17
plywood version. He built it himself in about 70 hours. Light, beautiful to look at, paddles nicely.

Make sure you have a WELL LIT shop area that you can dedicate the square footage needed, and comingle with other projects as little as possible.

Personally, I’d rather buy and paddle with low maintenance than spend all the hours and upkeep.

Well there is one big downside to building a wood kayak. It’s a seriously addicting past time, odds are excellent if you build one you’ll build another. It’s also why you see used ones, guys are thinning the herd and running out of space to put all the boats they built :slight_smile:

Btw, I’ve built several, it’s a disease :slight_smile:

Bill H.

Zephyr and Chessie are diff behaviors

– Last Updated: Sep-02-10 7:21 AM EST –

The Zephyr is a do-it-all but still pretty maneuverable boat made with current thoughts about a lower rear deck for rolling ease, that kind of thing. The Chesapeake is a higher decked, tracker of a boat. I'd suggest you think about the behavior of the boat that you want and go from there. If you do want to go wood for example, the Nick Shade has boats that would paddle more like the Zephyr than the Chessie will.

Also, on the specs you'd find the Chessie 17 to be huge volume on you. For the most responsive performance in the Chessie line, it looks like you could even consider the 16LT as a day boat. You are near the top of that weight range.

I have built 2 SOF and 2 wood boats.
I also have a great composite boat, but for a good old knock around boat,I prefer plastic.

Wow! She’s a beauty. Nice job.

I’m exactly your height and weight
After having owned 6 different plastic kayaks I got tired of the weight and built my own Pygmy Arctic Tern 17. I’m certainly not a wood worker and it did take longer than 80 hours, but it was a great experience building it and I’m really impressed with it’s paddling performance over my previous boats. I found a kit for cheap on Craigslist and after I finished building I got a boat that is as tough as fiberglass, as light as carbon fiber, and it only cost me a tad over $700. Sure, it’s not quite as “durable” as a plastic boat, but it’s easy to repair/resurface and I swear, I’ve never gotten so many compliments on how beautiful it looks! If you’re worried about building one or don’t have the time or space, as mentioned, there are many well built used boats out there…

wood sof plastic fiberglass kevlar
What do you want the boat to do?

I am getting a plastic zephyr as an instructor boat because it is very maneuverable, and I feel really comfortable in it, I don’t want to care if I scratch or beat it up hauling boats over my deck etc.

I have a few boats :slight_smile: and each one serves a different purpose.

Have You Tried the Smaller Zephyr?
I think the smaller Zephyr might be the better boat for you.