Pygmy Owners

I ran across a thread on another board about wooden kayaks and became instantly enthralled with the beauty of them as well as the satisfaction of building your own kayak.

After some research I became interested in the Pygmy boats. In particular the Goldeneye-HI, Queen Charlotte-XL and the Artic Tern-Hi. These boats apparently will handle my size 13 dogs.

My questions:

  1. Are they as easy to assemble as they look?

  2. They appear very durable with the fiberglass and epoxy coating. Are they?

  3. Reviews I’ve read have all been favorable. What has been your experience? Satisfied?

    I plan to build one over the coming winter and would like to get some feedback before I order one.


i’m paddling my new (very modified)
pygmy queen charlotte, yes they are durable, light, fast, and beautiful. i really enjoy building yaks (this is my 6th boat and 2d yak) and will probably do another one this winter, just do it!

Build process

Good photos and comments by a builder.

I’ve built a GoldenEye13 9yrs ago and a Coho 6yrs ago and a whole slew of other s&g kayaks.

  1. Are they as easy to assemble as they look?

    Can’t answer that definitively as the term “easy” is dependant upon your previous experience doing new things. So the short answer is yes, maybe,if you read and prepare the shop space, definately. Practice with a few oz. of epoxy to get a sense of how it works. Read ALL the safety literature. visit www.kayakforum for all your questions and you’ll get answers from at least a dozen people who’ve built a dozen kayaks.

  2. They appear very durable with the fiberglass and epoxy coating. Are they?

    yes,it’s different than all fiberglass hulls but comparable. But waves and misuse can break anything. They’re not as superlight as the catalogs will lead you to believe. If you built a s&g kayak with all the bells, whistles and hardware as a comparable glass kayak it’ll only be about 5lbs lighter. If you purchase a glass kayak that was totally bare it’ll be within a few lbs of a similar sized s&g wood/glass kayak. 6oz glass/epoxy over 4mm wood is very tough. But it’s different than a glass kayak. With a glass kayak you’ve got 5lbs of

hmm,the rest got cut off

I just finished (except for installing the seat and bracing) an Artic Tern HV. Sure it’s taken me over a year to complete since it was an off and on project due to to two jobs, school and cold weather, but it was enjoyable for the most part. The fiberglassing wasn’t my most favorite part but I got through it relatively unscathed. In other words in isn’t all that hard to build - just a bit messy at times. The instructions could have been better, but you can usually figure them out. Then, again you can always call Pygmy for advice. I took the boat out for it’s sea trials a couple of weeks ago - minus the outfitting - and found it a little tender at rest, but fast and manuverable. Secondary stability was fantastic. Nice lines on this Greenland style hull. Thats my story. Good luck.

Fat Elmo

They are wonderful…
Take your time and everyone will love it…

BTW I would go with the Tern… for the handling… GH

Order their new catalog…


The trial kit is a great way to get a feel for epoxy work. This and a few scraps of 1/8" plywood will let you experiment a bit without spending much.

Just finished a Coho
I finished a Coho about 4 weeks ago. It took me about 6 weeks to build and it was a lot of fun for the most part. (I am not a fan of working with epoxy) I have never built a boat before and have little wood working experice but was able to figure it out okay (but the directions could be more clear and have more illustrations) It helped going to the websites that some previous builders have put up that are well illustrated.

It came out much better than I expected and gets compliments all the time.

I am very happy I built the boat and would do it again.

have a big work space
I built a Artic Hi and love it.

Very durable, mines a used hard boat.

A very big work area is a great help.

You can do several things on the same day.

Ditto scottkinwa’s thoughts
I built a Tern 14 last spring/summer. The only woodworking I had ever done previously was building bluebird boxes…I also felt the instructions to be a bit “lean”, but found that if I would repeatedly read just the part of the project I was planning on completing that day ahead of time, rather than trying to understand the whole booklet at once, the instructions became a lot clearer and I would not become overwhelmed. My husband installed an exhaust fan in the workshop - I’d recommend the same if you don’t have good ventilation in your work area. I was concerned about the getting sensitized to the epoxy so I was really careful about wearing gloves, and I used a respirator whenever I sanded. My Tern also came out heavier than Pygmy claimed, but I may have gone a little heavy on the epoxy. There were three difficult parts of the project for me: 1)Getting the deck to seat well on the hull: one piece of a hull panel was just a tiny bit warped. I didn’t notice it until I tried to attach the deck! 2) Glass taping the inner sheer seams in the very front of the bow. 3) fitting the bulkheads in. I kept track of the time - it took me quite a bit longer than the 80 hours Pygmy suggested; I spent 129.5 hours, but that included installing hatches/bulkheads, and the sander I used was kind of crappy - get a good one! All in all, it was a great experience for me. I love the boat and it’s a pleasure to paddle. The hatch buckles are not my favorite, and I did replace the hatch weatherstripping that Pygmy sent with another product, and now the hatches seal much better - only during roll and bracing practice drills do they leak a little. Whoa, this became long-winded, but I hope it helps you with your decision - good luck! w.d.

Just ordered
a Arctic Tern Hi kit and wondered about the fiberglassing part of building. Have seen many methods on the net, roller, brush, squeegee. What did you experienced ?

small one first
Boat building has a learning curve. Many suggest taking on a simpler boat first. What you learn will be valueable for the next.

Problem with that is many people don’t want or have a need for a starter boat.

I’m tinkering with a bookshelf design that can be built stitch and glue. Cheaper than a boat and hopefully it’ll provide some good experience for a new builder.

Plus you’ll have something you can use around the house or maybe sell to recover some of your cost.

on what/where is being glassed. For folks who are at ease with moving resin around pouring a quantity out on the cloth and moving it around with a squeegee can work. If you’re tentative, didn’t check to make sure the squeegee doesn’t have nicks, didn’t make sure the cloth isn’t smoothed out flat, aren’t familiar with the cure rate of the epoxy you are using in the quatity/temperature you are building, didn’t make sure the plywood is sanded to not have grabby slivers,etc. there’s a good chance you’ll apply a few lbs more epoxy than is necessary.

For beginners with SLOW epoxy you can use a thin yellow foam roller to apply the epoxy then squeegee the slight excess to even out the application. This method will gurantee an even fill coat,which ensures even thickness fill coats,with reduces the likelyhood of unnecessary epoxy on the kayak.

Neither method is a deal breaker,just don’t mix up more epoxy than you can handle at one time. Make SURE you are familiar with the cure rate of the epoxy you are using AT the temperature you are applying it. 15 degrees can make a huge difference in pot life or workable viscosity.

Concave surfaces are harder than exterior…

The important thing to ensure is that the glass is layed smooth,no wrinkles.

I’ve always used the roller method, but I cut them in half and use a small frame… I found it easier to work with and I have more contol…

same here
for glassing on dry unsealed wood it makes for a more even application of epoxy since the wood can soak up different amounts of epoxy depending on how much was dumped and sat in one place. I would guess with sealed ply it would reduce one variable but for thin epoxy it’s still easier to have the excess sit on the roller and not end up on the floor.