Skin-on-frame vs. Kit (wood) vs. Folding

I’m new to paddling (i.e. I have no idea what I’m doing, technique-wise - I need a kayak before I can take a class), looking to build/purchase my first touring kayak, for use on day trips and some weekends around the South Puget sound.

I am a taller plus size woman (5’11, 240lbs, with most of my size in my hips/thighs), which has made finding an off-the-shelf kayak with the right cockpit size/deck depth difficult. Those built for large paddlers (Current Designs Titan LV, Perception Carolina, etc), tend to be too deep for me, while lower volume boats usually do not have a cockpit that is comfortable for me.

I am leaning toward building either a greenland style skin-on-frame kayak or a stitch & glue kit boat, as either option will allow me some freedom to customize to my needs, and either route should yield a kayak that will be light enough for me to car-top by myself.

My husband is a carpenter, and should be able to help me with the woodworking.

Does anyone have experience with building S-O-F or Stitch 'n Glue boats? Any recommendations on which would be the better option? Any other suggestions are also appreciated!



You have several options
but for easy, SOF is probably your bet, that is if you take a class. I can personally recomend Brian Shulz at Manzanita, Or. He puts on a good class and you get a fine boat in a week.

Another option in your area is Pygmy in Port Townsend,

I have a 17 ft Tern and it is a good boat, lots of room. The 14ft Tern is a sweet heart if you don’t plan on doing multiday trips (San Juans?)

stitch and glue kits
I’ve built stitch and glue kayaks from both Pygmy and Chesapeake Light Craft. Both kits were good. The trickiest part of the building process for most people is probably the fiberglassing.

Pygmy kits have laser guided cut panels so little real woodworking skill is required, other than perhaps final finishing. To build a kit boat you need a pretty large space, preferably temperature controlled so that the epoxy cures predictably, with good lighting. You need a fair number of wood clamps (simple C clamps work). Sanding the hull and deck during and after fiberglassing can raise a lot of dust. You have a fair degree of latitude in arranging the cockpit side braces, but the dimensions of the cockpit coaming are predetermined.

If you are at all close to Port Townsend, I would give Pygmy a call and plan to visit. I believe they have most, if not all of their models available to demo.

S&G experience
Just built a S&G canoe from precut panels. The woodworking part was easy. The fiberglassing and finishing was a bit sticky but not too bad.

Tons of good advice here:

Never built a SOF, but liked the ones I’ve tried. Also liked the Pygmys I’ve tried.

2nd vote for Cape Falcon

– Last Updated: Apr-23-09 12:05 AM EST –

I had a great time making a boat at Cape Falcon. Mine is an SC-1, the precursor to his current modern design, the F-1. I really recommend this as a good boat for a new paddler. It's light weight (mine is around 32 pounds), Brian will customize the size to your dimensions and it's very forgiving. For me, the best part was that it handles confused water extremely well, so is confidence-inspiring in dicey conditions and is weirdly unaffected by wind. A woman I know who is also quite tall (over 6' I think) built an F-1 and is in love with it, so don't be put off by the short length. For less than the price of a glass boat, you get a week-long building class with a finished boat ready at the end, and you make a paddle too.

PS If you're new, I strongly suggest you try fitting yourself into a Greenland kayak before you build one - they can be difficult to get into and some of them are quite tippy. You get used to it eventually, but it's not the best platform to learn on, in my opinion.

Re: Cape Falcon
Thanks for the info - I had looked at Cape Falcon’s site and had pretty much dismissed the idea of taking one of his classes because the F1 is listed as being around 9" deep, and I didn’t realize that the dimensions were customizable. I will give them a call :slight_smile:

I have been reading reviews of Pygmy’s boats, and everything I have read has been positive. Also, they are beautiful in person - met a man paddling near Tacoma and his kayak was a work of art. I’m going to check them out this weekend.


– Last Updated: Apr-23-09 10:01 AM EST –

About the depth, the cockpit is fairly large, so you can tuck your knees under the deck for regular paddling, but also paddle with your knees up and together for a change of position. I can get in the boat by sitting in it, then pulling my feet in after, which is not something you could do in a Greenland boat. I don't know that the deck could be raised much, but maybe. If you don't get through on the phone, use the email contact.

Yost SOF
You might also look at Tom Yost’s site:

The idea of a traditional SOF scares me - it just seems like an awful lot of work. BUT, the non-tradiational yost-boats are pretty simple to build.

A composite SOT might
work for you like the CD Zone

Also the plastic Kestrel 140, Cobra Tourer and the Scupper Pro (same as RTM Tempo) are worth a look.

Or the “big guy” sea kayaks like the Assateague might be an option. Several threads on here about “big guy” boats…


Puget Sound waters
are cold, don’t think I’d give a SOT much thought. Mine works fine in Maui though :slight_smile:

I built a SOF in a class in a week, only a couple of the days were hectic. The Yost-style I built myself took a couple of months - lots of standing around making sure I got things right, building a strongback, etc. Also, there’s no epoxy in a SOF, so you save a lot of time there. I wouldn’t have started out building a SOF on my own, granted, but now that I know how, I would be able to build another.

Wee, she said
"South" Puget Sound, so I assumed it would be nice and balmy…

I recant SOTs and fall back to the “Big Guy” kayaks…


Arctic Tern not tippy
and its cockpit is quite roomy. With a 23 inch beam, it is as wide as the cape falcon. I find rounded hulls slightly less stable than greenland, when you are comparing boats with similar beams. But in either case, most people will find a 23 inch beam boat easy to get use to.

Go visit Pygmy. You can try a variety of their boats.

If a newb on the Sound,
lessons and more lessons are a must. If you can’t do a cold water self rescue, you should not be in a sit inside kayak. I have paddled from the Gig Harbor/Narrows Bridge area all around the Sound and there are many waves to swamp you…think BIG ferries and their surfable waves.

I suggest you build your skills on a 14-16’ sit on top, wearing a wet suit, rash guard top over it, and a good pfd. There are some SOT’s that will give you speed approaching some sea kayak’s so you should be fine.

Be safe, take some lessons, and you will be rewarded with some very beautiful scenery.

Yep. Sit-on-tops are cold!
I currently have a Wilderness SOT which is lots of fun for mid-summer days on flat water, but not much else. I rarely go out unless conditions are PERFECT because it’s so darn cold LOL

…And I agree completely with you Jim - I’ve been pretty stupid in the past paddling my SOT (Narrows to Vashon, around Fox Island etc). Frankly I’m suprised I’ve lived so long. Once I get a 'yak that fits, lessons are the next plan. I like the sport - I don’t want to die for it!

I have built SOF and S&G
and enjoy their lightness for transportation and paddling. A S&G will give you a pretty durable kayak with moderate weight. It will be designed with certain handling characteristics and the wood looks beautiful. If you are going to go with the S&G I would recommend paddling a model first. A S&G will allow you to perform many different rescues and will probably have bulkheads for added safety. A SOF can give you a kayak that’s pretty durable, very light and built to the dimensions you want. A SOF can be less maintenance as far as cosmetics but it will take extra effort for safety. You will probably want to use float bags for flotation and a seasock to limit the amount of water that get’s in the cockpit during wet exits and rescues. The seasock will also help keep sand out of the inside frame work. Rescues in a SOF can be more limiting and might rely more on rolling techniques. The nice part about a SOF is that you can design every part of it to be exactly what you want. My SOF is my favorite kayak to paddle.

Cape Falcon, Pygmy

– Last Updated: Apr-24-09 1:08 PM EST –

I highly recommend you get up to see Brian Schulz at Cape Falcon. And stop by Pygmy if you can.

Having built both SOF and S&G, I would recommend SOF, because I HATE sanding epoxy. Yet, if you plan to do a lot of camping, there is something to be said for bulkheads and hatches...

If you do build S&G, scrape your epoxy smooth when it is in green cure stage. Avoid as much sanding as you can, and for goodness sakes, don't skimp on the respirator or sandpaper. Buy a top-quality respirator so you still have lungs to paddle when you're done, and buy top-quality sander/paper so you can get done quicker...

Of primary concern is that you demo the boat models you are interested in rather than building blind. And that you discuss your needs, where your skills are now, and where they might be in a short time, what the uses for the kayak are up front. Doing this with another empathetic paddler rather than a salesman would be nice. I believe Brian can help you think through the design of the kayak right for you, and I assume Pygmy could too, but they have rather fixed models. Brian can tweak for you.

And it is not so that you must have a kayak to take a class. There are clubs and rentals....

*Edit* The nice thing about the Yost SOF is that once you cut the forms and space them accurately, the shape of the kayak practically builds itself. You are more assured of getting a nicely shaped kayak. (Yet if you build in a Cape Falcon class, Brian will be there to make sure you don't screw up) And Tom's designs are free, his gift. These kayaks are quick to build, perform well, and are relatively inexpensive to build. They can be customized, but for first-timers, probably better to build according to the plans, which kind of puts them somewhere between Pygmy and Cape Falcon in terms of finding a design to suit you. Also may be more difficult to find one to demo.

Hope this helps! And good luck! : )

Have you tried
an Eddyline Night Hawk 17.5 ?