One More Stitch & Glue Question...

I have slowly warmed up the the idea of building my own stitch & glue kayak. I have seen them in action on trips and know how well they hold up. I have borrowed one a few times and know how well it handles. I’ve even narrowed the style down to a 17’ Greenland with a hard chined hull.

It’s come down to a decision between two fairly respectable kits. I don’t think I could go too wrong with either company, but I was hoping there may be some one out there that could tip the scales for me. I am comparing the Pygmy Arctic Tern with the Shearwater Merganser. I’m interested in both the differences in the specific models as well as the differences in their construction.

Thanks in advance.


Merganser-a smidge faster, better cockpit ergonomics(integral thigh braces,full coaming recess for one piece coaming), stiffer tracking, fast construction, deck requires some fiddling.

17 or 17W?

Arctic Tern-More responsive, construction has more forms to reduce potential ‘fiddling’. Bigger coaming requires adding thigh bracing.

I don’t think one is better than the other,although the deck/coaming on the Merganser is better in my mind. It pretty much gets down to whether you want a maneuverable kayak or a stiffer tracking one. A big coaming or a slightly smaller one. They both respond as a kayak should in a lean, one just responds more quickly. I don’t have any experience with A/B testing the kayak in the same conditions. Paddled the AT in flat water at Pt.Townsend and the Merganser16 on flat water in the Chesapeake, high wind in the Chesapeake and surf in Assateaguq.

The Merganser which I finished building this summer is a great kayak. MY only, single complaint is the coaming is not wide enough for my spray skirt and water does come in. I have about 1/2 in on the sides. I added webbing to the hatches for a better seal and it works very well. Needed that little extra pressure for a good fit.

I would go with the PYGMY if camping is anywhere in the future and this is your only kayak. My reason is the Merganser is built with the bulheads in place. The Pygmy is built with forms and the bulkheads place after. This process allows the forms to shape the hull and to move the forward bulk head forward to allow greater storage space. The Merganser has alot of dead space forward of the foot brace that could hold a sack if I went with regular foot pegs.

I’m 5’6" with a 30 inch inseam and am perfect for the Merganser meaning someone with a 32" or longer inseam may not fit with the unique foot brace.


Wilmington, NC

Correction to bulkheads
Move the forward bulkhead aft to allow great storage to forward storage area and decrease volume in cockpit.

what kind do you have?

Get A Custom Skirt, Or
make one. John Sweet site has info on how to make a skirt.

Persoanlly, I favor a smaller cockpit as a smaller person. I rather have a cockpit where there is less chance to get “sucked out” or implode, over the ease of getting in or out. Even then my ocean cockpit poses no hassle getting in and out in the S&G. I just slide in. More so in the SOF because the ribs get in the way.


How do you like
the way it handles? What kind of water do you paddle on?

How did you like the way the constrution went?

Thanks for your feedback.


I have a medium neoprene Snapdragon and it fits very well on the Romany 16. I also have a neoprene Mountain surf thats too small for my waist but I believe would be a better fit on the Merganser.

Merganser 16
LeeG can answer much better on the handling of the Merganser than I but I do enjoy the handling much better than the CLC 17LT. Its a much better fit. Better control with edging. No matter if you build a PYGMY, CLC or SHEARWATER boat each is similar but each is a little different and in some ways very differnet. I went with the CLC 17LT for my first kayak simply because CLC had a forum and my inexperience in boat building was nutured there. Sorry but I can not convience you to go with any kayak. Its something that you’ll choose and maybe you’ll be lucky to do another like I did.

Go custom Snapdragon skirt
I built a Merganser 16 and tried my medium Snapdragon skirt on it–too short and too wide. For about $10 more than the regular price, Snapdragon made me a custom skirt (based on my tracing of the coaming) that fits beautifully.

One vote for Shearwater
I built a Shearwater Bluefin last winter and was really impressed with the ease of building, quality, and completeness of the kit. The kit is easy for a first timer because the panels use puzzle joints which align perfectly and don’t require butt blocks behind them. Additionally, all of the holes are pre-drilled which saves time and makes alignment easier. The kit includes stuff that will cost you extra in a Pygmy kit such as hatch hardware, deck rigging, and thigh braces. I would definitely build another Shearwater kit.

Just for the Record Mates…
I just ordered the Shearwater Merganser 17W…Wish me luck.

Thanks for all the input.


CLC LT 17 or Chesapeake 14
Why not add those to the mix?

I think Phlj is too big for the Ch14. It has 3mm side panels and 3mm deck with a displacement appropriate for a 110lb person,but the large cockpit opening 17"x31" is appropriate for a big person which in conjunction with the low side panels makes for a widely splayed leg position for the small person it’s designed for. It’s kind of a mixed bag. I was there when it was introduced in Jan2000 and asked if anyone was going to contact the local kayaking club to get experienced smaller paddlers to try it out. Folks with dry suits as the water was around 40degrees. It’s cold in Feb. The one CLC employee who had experience with whitewater kayaks who could fit in it said the cockpit/thigh bracing angle was awkward,splayed apart more than she liked. “but I don’t know what sea kayaks are like”. It was put into production with the only testing done was the photo shoot for the catalog. It’s a straight tracking hull without any real big problems except the coaming/displacement mismatch. It’s not much different than seeing someone who’s 5’3" in a Scirroco and the can’t engage the thigh braces,except the Ch14 really is meant for smaller people and the fit could be better. I’d be inclined to use a slightly tighter radius deck beam and smaller cockpit coaming so it could fit smaller paddlers legs without splaying out so much and still be another big touring kayak. But from a marketing standpoint the Ch14 weighs the same as a AT14 or Merganser 16 but is less durable with 3mm side and deck panels.

The LT17 is the Ch17 with less freeboard. It could work except the kayak doesn’t respond as well as the other designs in wind/waves. If you notice the chines are nearly parallel and below the waterline and the hull doesn’t have much rocker. Within slight angles of heel the Ch will respond normally but things (turning ease) pretty much stop as you approach the capsize angle. The side panels aren’t flared enough to lift the ends out of the water like the Arctic Hawk. The Ch stability is a characteristic most beginners like because it’s kind of a natural stop to a wandering kayak,it “tracks well” and the strong primary stability ‘signals’ the paddler that “you’re at the edge!”. Unfortunately if you go paddling in strong winds you’ll notice that beyond a certain level of wind you need a bit more reponse on a lean to compensate for the weathercocking. It doesn’t happen. A skeg or rudder works fine in that case.

Regarding it’s response in waves, the bow really isn’t “high volume”,the hull is high volume. It can get up and scoot well on waves with the relatively flat bottom panels but the bow entry is fairly sharp and nearly on the same line as the bottom the net consequence is that once the stern is lifted the bow digs and it’s going where the stern slides. This is different than “carving turns” it’s more like,“we’re going thataway!” with a quick transition. The Northbay and orginal WR180 have this characteristic to a much more severe degree. So if you put a 185lb paddler in a 17LT you get similar water over the bow like a Caribou in waves but none of the soft wave handling in a Caribou where there’s time to turn the kayak out of a broach as the stern is raised. Look at a WS Caribou and then look at the Ch17LT. The Caribou started as a plywood design. The problem is that the 3/4"x1 1/4" pre-glued sheer clamps limit the possible shapes at the bow to a very fine angle. Nothing wrong with that, it just means that the bow has to go a little higher to get a wider entry angle down below and more volume at the waterline. But if the bow goes higher,the deck folds. So when the Chesapeakes were developed it was in a flat water/no wave context where building multiple prototypes didn’t seem necessary. “it goes together, tracks well and is fast”.

This is in no way to say a person couldn’t build a 17LT and have a great time with it for the intended purpose. It’s just that it was designed to be an improvement on the Cape Charles. And it is.

information. Thank you.