Pigmy vs. CLC

Hi guys!!

I’m ready to put together a kit, and was wondering if anyone could give me their comparisons if any, of Pigmy Artic Tern Vs. CLC Chesapeake LT17. Ease of construction, handling, chined deck vs. arched deck and comfort. Demo’d Chesapeake17LT, and it still felt big. I now have a plastic Cape Horn 17. I’m still a beginner to an intermediate paddler. I have a decent onside roll.

My thought…
When I made a decision to do a Pygmy the deciding factor was the shear line. To me Pygmy’s was easier and better looking. I wondered why most CLCs had a painted hulls and shears. I had once done a tortured deck and didn’t want to do another.

Now, I have seen great looking, natural finished CLCs and I commend those builders.

Don’t limit yourself to the Big Two
There are many S&G kit makers out there, and they may have models that better fit your needs. I know that when I searched, neither Pygmy nor CLC had kayaks that were 16’ and narrow.

Go to www.kayakforum.com if you have not already done so, and start reading. There are lots of S&G models, many ways to accomplish the same thing, and many ways to make mistakes. I know of the latter, because I made a lot of them! But fewer than if I had not begun studying that site and reading it daily.

Be warned that some (all?) Pygmy kits come with a ThermaRest pad for a seat, which I consider appropriate only in a rec kayak, and not too good for that either. Check what any kit includes, because it might not have things you want.

pygmy boat seats
I too have been considering building a Pygmy

boats model-the Arctic Tern 14, but noticed

the thermarest seat. What other options are

there for seats in these boats?

I chose CLC…
over Pygmy because…

CLC includes everything you need to build a boat in the kits. Pygmy considers things like hatches to be “accessories” so you have to buy them separately. This mattered to me because I was building a kit–may not matter as much to people building from plans.

I like the cambered deck of the CLC–really easy to build and I have a strong personal preference in that area (I just don’t like peaked decks).

I have not paddled a Pygmy, so I can’t compare them in that manner.

Not least of my reasons was that the CLC shop was within easy driving distance for me, so, in the words of Johnny Cash, “you might say I went down to the factory and picked it up myself, it’s easier that way.”

From everything I’ve heard, both make great boats.

Don’t let the seat thing hold you back…
Yeah, it’s a thermarest pad. It’s simple and not contoured, custom shaped, etc. However, I can comfortably paddle all day long in comfort. It works for me. My butt has never been uncomfortable. If the seat thing bothers you there are tons of seats out there for retro-fitting but don’t stress over the thermarest seat.

Comfort is great, but…
…not if it compromizes your ability to control the boat. I tried inflatable cushions and they make it difficult to control the boat with hip movements. When you push down on one side, the air shifts to the other, cancelling out your attempt to move the boat. Conversely, the boat can move around under you unless you keep your knees/thighs firmly braced all the time. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing thing the Thermarest pads are good for is sitting on the beach, which is their intended application.

Some other options
Newfound Woodworks sells kits for a variety of boats, most of which are better performers than what Pygmy and CLC offer: http://www.newfound.com

Eric Schade’s Mergansers are very highly regarded: http://www.shearwater-boats.com/

Bobby Curtis’ Sea Spirit is a blast to paddle, albeit not a general purpose boat: http://www.seaspiritkayaks.com

Seat options
There are several ready-made options, including these:


It’s also pretty simple to carve a custom seat from minicell foam.


– Last Updated: Mar-16-04 9:59 PM EST –

I demoed the Tern and the Chesapeake a couple of years ago, and greatly preferred the Tern. It was much more responsive to being edged, and seemed much happier in the wind and chop. It's big, though -- probably best for someone over 160lbs or who's planning to carry gear.

Having built two Pygmys
an AT 17 and 14 in the past year, I can vouch for their ease of construction. Not once did I say “Oh crap, how am I gonna fix that?” during the building phase. At 215 lbs. I fit perfectly in the AT 17 with no outfitting. (The 14 is for my small (115 lbs) wife. The kayaks hold a lot of gear and I have taken a self surported 5 day trip with room to spare. I like the speed and turning ability of the Tern. No rudder. Bottom line, You will become attached and proud of whatever boat you personally build. It will look great. Have fun with the process.

oh boy
go to the product reviews and read away. I’ve built a few CLC, a Pygmy Coho and 13 and a Merganser 16.

two pygmys
I have also built two pygmys a tern 14 and 17.

They were easy to build. Everything fit very well. Both terns handle well and respond well to edging. I have had the 17 out in pretty high winds and it worked great. It felt very secure and tracked neutrally. It is a fairly high volume touring boat, if that is what you are looking for. I wish that pygmy made a 17 with the deck height of the 14. Mine is the old style without the recessed rear deck, which is an improvment.

another option in the same class…
…is the One Ocean Kayaks Cirrus. Look it up on kayakforum. It’s spoken of very highly. Check it out at:


Re:Oh Boy
I agree…Building these is addictive. There’s a pleasure you simply can’t ‘buy’. I’ve bookmarked just about every wood kit site and come next winter…

A friend built a Cirrus after building nearly 9 s&g kayaks,he says it’s his favorite over the Tern or 17LT.

The six panel deck with a four panel hull opens up a BIG dialog about the different goals one can work towards in design starting with a finite number of panels in the deck and hull.

If you look at the Necky Looksha series or Prijon “Pentachine” boats you’re looking at something close to 6panel hulls,the eight panels&g hulls get pretty close to molded hull shapes.

Builder’s forum
A great source of building and boat information:


carved minicell
the amazing thing is that for a few bucks more than a thermarest pad Pygmy could include a couple chunks of 3" minicell that could be cut specifically for the bottom of the Tern, glued together and carved. The Thermarest pads really are good,you just don’t inflate them. For long term comfort where JUST SITTING is a big part of some flat water paddling it can really make a difference put upon another seat,and deflated until your sit bones make solid contact. The slight amount of movement of air that in a seat that already provides gross support actually helps relieve point pressure and help circulation around the sciatic nerve,the thing to remember is that it’s nearly deflated with only a slight amount of air. But it sure isn’t a kayak seat by itself.

the happy bottom seat and creature comfort seats aren’t optimum compared to a carved chunk of minicell. Ironically the HB seat really is for someone who doesn’t need more support, it goes into a plastic frame for kayaks like the VCP Avocet or new rm Aquanaut. It doesn’t work well in the wood kayaks with regular hip brace spacing,if you plop it down the standard 17" wide vertical hip plates will force the “wings” up so it’ll barely fit someone with 28" hips. They sell it because the profit is better than a 2’x2’x3" chunk of minicell and no one there has actually paddled a stretch of time to understand the fundamentals. For $35 HB seat the customer isn’t getting an upgrade,they’re getting different designed for plastic seat frame,the “wings” on the HB and the narrow top wood hip braces don’t match. The glued in 3/4" minicell donut seat standard with the kit accomadates the capabilities of a CNC machine, gluing down a seat that can trap water is not what someone who paddles would design. If you don’t install the wood hip plates you don’t have an attachment point for a back band or support for bracing/rolling. Allowing the HB “wings” to fall to the side in a kayak without the wood hip plates is one messy compromise as most folks comfortable with a shallow seat are skinny and need some side/side hip support and anyone with a big enough butt that the flared out sides provide enough support aren’t getting front/back support.

The Creature Comfort seat provides more support but being held in place by velcro to the bottom the velcro will eventually come out, moreover the seat cover shifts/rotates the seat back forward n inch into the seat depression. It’s a high fixed back so for normal paddling efforts it’ll impede good torso rotation so I’ve let it fall back against the coaming for lean back comfort then sit up for paddling. With a thermarest seat pad INSIDE of the mesh it’s quite good, as good as a carved seat. For the $110 price of a Creature comfort seat and thermarest seat pad you could buy three 2’x2’x3" chunks of minicell and have enough to out fit three kayaks with seats, hip and thigh braces.

You just “tune it” to where you are aware of the bottom of the boat. Your butt has really good, comfortable contact. It isn’t like you are sitting on a balloon or a bag of water. It’s solid. At least for me and it is no reason to pick one boat over another. Hell, you can customize the seating in any boat.

Choose one boat over the other on design, how they paddle, esthetics, whatever, but don’t agonize over the seat.