pygmy kits?

Hi. I’m new to this sight and was hoping to hear from anyone who has built one of these kits. My primary concerns are shop prep and any difficulties encountered during the build. Thanks for your input.

I’ve built a couple Pygmys
I’ve built a Pygmy Osprey Double and a Pygmy Coho. Both builds were easy and the boats are great performers. I didn’t experience any problems while building them and the process was pretty straight forward. I documented both of my builds – you can view them here, along with build journals from other boats including a Pygmy Arctic Tern 14:

Hope this helps – if you have any more questions, just ask.


Done an Arctic Tern 17HV

– Last Updated: Sep-04-08 2:24 PM EST –

few years back (dun't tell anyone dat ah' have a 'yak!). Pretty easy 'specially iffin' yer have anudder person ta help at times (which ah' didn't). Invest in some MicroPlanes - dems'll come in a'might handy, a small block plane an' plenty of 1/16" drill bits - oh, an' band-aids fer yer fingers (yer will find out why as soon as yer start "stitchin'".

Take yer time an' ye will do OK.

Fat Elmo

Pygmy Kits

– Last Updated: Sep-04-08 2:46 PM EST –

A couple of years ago my father was looking for a woodworking project. we talked about it and I sent him a Coho kit. He has now built three pygmy boats and is starting on the fourth soon; two Cohos for me and two Arctic Terns for my wife (two sets in different wood finishes). He really enjoys building them. He's learned a great deal about the process. I can put you in touch with him off line if you are interested.

Unfortunately, his health doesn't allow him to paddle. But I use the Coho as my main boat. The Coho is a great boat; light, strong, balanced. It tracks like it was on rails. Can't beat it IMO.

another good build sequence

another good resource:

I haven’t built a Pygmy – I’ve paddled a couple and liked them – but I am finishing a stitch & glue project. A couple of things I learned:

Good lighting makes a huge difference. I’ll install better lighting – probably inexpensive 4’ florescent fixtures – before I start another boat project.

When epoxying, wear clothes you don’t mind ruining.

Glassing the outside was fairly easy. Squeegeeing the inside corners without lifting the glass or ending up with puddles was a pain. Having a helper for putting on the glass and first coat of epoxy was a big help.

Don’t put on the glass cloth late in the evening and then go to bed. You miss the window for easy trimming when it’s “green”.

I built an Arctice Tern a few years ago
It is my main boat and it gets a lot of use. I love the boat and I really enjoyed the building process–and I am not by nature a “handy” person. If I can build one, I’m pretty sure anyone can.

The manual provided by Pygmy is adequate, but what is REALLY helpful are the many web photo diaries out there on the web that illustrate every step of the process. I referred to Westcoast paddler’s site regularly, as well as a few others. Also, the bulletin board on (or .net?) was amazingly helpful. Anytime I encountered a question or problem, I posted a query there, and typically within two hours I had good advice from experienced builders.

I’d strongly recommend building a simple table up on saw horses. Building on the floor would be a PITA. I built something ugly but solid with some OSB and 2 x 4s. 3 feet wide by 16 feet was long enough (cut a 6 x 8 board in half). Put it on sawhorses. Cover it with roll plastic.

I plan to build another one some day, once I’ve got some spare fun money.

Hmm… not quite…
Angstrom wrote:

Don’t put on the glass cloth late in the evening and then go to bed. You miss the window for easy trimming when it’s “green”.

Actually, later in the evening is THE best time to apply your epoxy as outgassing will be avoided when air temperatures are falling. The epoxy will still be green enough in the morning to easily trim off the excess glass.


It’s easier than you might expect . . .
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 two Pygmy Arctic Tern 14s after turning half of my office into a shop. As stated above, 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 and keep us posted on your new adventure!

I guess it depends

– Last Updated: Sep-05-08 9:39 AM EST –

on how fast your epoxy cures. Mine was pretty hard by morning.

I was using the Silvertip laminating epoxy & standard hardener in warm weather.

trial run
A confidence-builder for me was trying out the techniques before starting a boat. I bought a quarter-sheet of 1/8" plywood, cut it into 1’ x 1’ pieces, and made stitch & glue joints at various angles.

System Three sells a trial kit that’s a good way to start:

Arctic Tern Hi
I built a Tern this summer. Pretty straight forward and fairly easy. Good customer service as well. It is a nice paddling boat.

Fun Project…
I built two Tern 14s and finished a half built Tern.

A great feeling paddling a boat you built.

My first born 14 recently went to live with Brazil/Brasil.

Paddler fit
Do you think a 5’8" 180lb would fit well in a Tern 14? These look like they would be a blast in rock gardens and other play areas



Few more pics


Shouldn’t be so hard
It shouldn’t be so hard that it’s difficult to cut in the morning if you epoxied later in the evening – even with the hardener you were using.

But the point of my post being that you want to do your epoxying as temperatures are falling. Which means don’t do your epoxying in the morning when temps are rising – this can cause outgassing (small bubbles in the epoxy). Not such a problem once the wood is sealed but it’s still present after multiple coats.


I am 5’11" and 180 and I enjoyed and even raced the 14.

It would be getting close to the upper end but if your feet are size ten or less you would definitely have enough room.

I have size 10 feet so hopefully this could work out. My weight is mostly in my upper body so I think the in-boat fit should be ok. It’s a beautiful boat.




– Last Updated: Sep-06-08 5:22 PM EST –

I'm 5'9", 160, size 10s. The Tern 14 I tried was snug but not tight. I liked it a lot -- it was very clear about wanting to go play.

Here's a report from someone your size:

Nice report
Thanks - that was a nice read. The reported lower top speed of the boat is an acceptable trade off if you think about it as a play boat or it you are not concerned with being “in the front”. It does however indicate that paddlers in the 175+/- lb range should test paddle it to see how comfortable it would be. I wonder if the reported “wet ride” was in part due to the boat sitting lower in the water then it would have with a 120lb paddler for example

Tern 14 speed
My impression was that it’d be a poor choice for cranking off miles, but if you’re going to paddle easy between jumping on waves it’d be fine. The light weight made acceleration seem good. I’ve also paddled a Tern 17 and liked it, but it felt big to me.

Pygmy should be able to give you contact information for owners/builders in your area.