Stitch and Glue Kayak for a beginner?

Hi everyone,

I am considering building a kit kayak as a gift. The potential recipient is about 5’8" maybe 120-130ish and a beginning kayaker. I really like many of the options I have checked out (I have been particuluarly considering the Shearwater Merganser/ CLC Shearwater). My concern is that this boat, and most all of the other models I have looked at will simply be too tippy in the initial stability to make the potential user feel comfortable. Is there anything a little more rec like in wood kits. I don’t want to go as far as the clc mill creek, but something a little wider and more initially stable than the Greenland style boats might be in order.

any thoughts?

If I were going to put the time into
building a boat for someone, I would want it to be something they will grow into so they’ll want to paddle it longer. If it’s too stable, they’ll outgrow it quickly and then have this beautiful thing they don’t really want to paddle anymore. My experience of the stitch and glue boats is that most of them are pretty stable and would be suitable for beginners.


– Last Updated: Mar-15-07 7:02 AM EST –

The Osprey Standard is beamier than many S&G designs, and is very stable, but may be too big for their weight. The Tern 14 would be a great match for their weight, be easier to carry, and is reasonably stable, but is limited in top-end speed. It'd still be fun as a playboat if they eventually moved to a more "serious" touring boat.

A reasonably coordinated and adventurous person should have no trouble with a sea kayak's stability after a couple of lessons.

If you contact the kit manufacturers they'll usually give you the names of owners in your area. Most owners are happy to show off their boats.

Most of the Chesapeake boats (except for the 14’) have wider beams than the Shearwater boats. Best is to let the person demo one of those from a local club. Big decision indeed - like getting married.

here’s one…
this is more of a Rec/light touring boat but it might be an option:

Pygmy AT14
a light person is inherently more stable than a heavier person. If this person is a woman they’re even more stable. So one persons “sea kayak” might have the initial stability of another persons rec. kayak.

It’s worth getting specific about intended use. When you say “rec. like” do you mean nearly zero odds of capsize with no need to develop skills beyond paddle, paddle, paddle? If that’s the case then don’t make them a “sea kayak” unless they’re willing to learn rescues.

Call Eric Schade/Shearwater about his Merganser 15W. I’ve made three Mergansers and suspect the 15W would be a bit stiffer tracking and potentially faster than the Pygmy AT14 and more stable than the Shearwater16.

The Chesapeake16LT will be very stable but there are better handling kayaks for wind/waves in that it’s lean-to-turn characteristics aren’t that effective to correct for weathercocking as most designs.

The old discontinued West River 162 is precisely what you describe, a rec. like sea kayak.

don’t get stuck on length, a 13-14’ LIGHT kayak will be more enjoyable than a 16’ one of average weight if they are light. If the paddler is light and the kayak is long it’ll have to be skinny or they’ll float to high and have too much to move against wind/waves.

The Tern 14…
Was my first real kayak and although I’m on my ninth kayak the 14 has a permanent home with me. I’m now 185lbs. but I still take it on the very tight day trips and have been known to guide with it in the narrow mangrove tunnels.

A lighter person or a beginner will find it a joy to paddle. It’s handling will allow a beginner to progress in paddling skill development.

For a person that size
I’d second LeeG’s comments. The regular Chesapeakes and the 17 foot Tern is a lot of boat for even a big person. A Tern 14 has a 23 inch wide beam. In my opinion, 23 inch beam is about ideal for a beginner who is hoping to develop skills. It is wide enough so that they can feel stable in in it with just a few hours on the water, but narrow enough so that they can learn a good stroke.

Eric Schade contact:
I totally agree with LeeG. Eric offers user-friendly plans and perfectly CNC-cut panels. He is a great guy, aand will give you all of the phone assistance you need. Give him a call:

Enjoy…building a boat is a GREAT experience.


encourages skill development
like buttah, that describes the Arctic Terns very well. The Shearwater/Mergansers have pretty sharp ends that lends to tracking but I’d prefer a bit more rounded ends. I took away about 3/16" of the entry edge on the Merganser 17W BEFORE stitiching up to see if that’ll loosen up the bow.

I’ll third that
Eric helped me numerous times while I was making my 17’ Merganser. I eventually just put him on speed dial.


Thanks for the input!
The AT 14 and the Merganser 15w were my leading contenders so it is good to hear your thoughts on them. I am in the potentially foolhardy position of wanting it to be a surprise. The lady in question has expressed interest in developing skills (although I don’t see any rolls in the future), but I am concerned that she might be put off if she doesn’t feel comfortable in the boat. It seems like the shorter boats would probably ride low enough to be pretty stable though, and any significant amount of gear is not a concern. Thanks for your thoughts, is always a great source for info.

ok, light and a woman. She’ll be very stable in those two boats.

AT 14 & more
Here’s a good construction site:

The Elf looks interesting. The Willow was featured in the current issue of WoodenBoat magazine.

A light S&G makes sense for a lighter paddler. Being able to carry your own boat is a huge confidence booster – it helps foster the “I can do this!” spirit.

I have an Arctic Tern 14
and it is one of my top 4 kayaks. I’m shorter, at 5’4" but in the same weight range and with the proper outfitting it will fit her like a glove. Mine weighs 35 pounds and turns on a dime. It has proven stable enough for guest paddlers, too.

I think the recessed coaming is a big plus and, as far as I know, it is the only s&g kit that has it. Just in case she DOES decide to do some layback rolls some day! :wink:

good boat
I built a Chesapeake 16 and it is very novice friendly (stable, tracks well, turns like a tank).


I would agree
I like the Pygmy designs, and the Tern looks like a good one for the weight class. I like the rear recess of the cockpit.

The Cheasy 16LT is a smaller boat, and fits the weight range.

If you choose the AT 14,
you might want to round off the bow. It’s kinda sharp for T-rescues.

cut off 2"

line up a bunch of different kayaks and hit the bow with the palm of your hand. If you have to ease up on the plywood kayak something is wrong.

If a person can’t handle cutting the corners then put a tennis ball on it. It’s a nice thing to grab.

AT Perfect
I built one for my wife, who’s just about the same height and weight. The object was to wean her off the 12’ Acadia (25" beam, I think) that she’d had since she started to paddle.

This was a touchy deal - she liked that wide flat plastic boat and could not think of any reason to change. I bought the kit without consulting her, figuring to sell the boat if she did not like it. I sold her on the idea of a 35lb boat rather than her 52-pounder.

When I got it together, I tried the Tern in the pool first, and it was plenty tender with me (6’2" and 190). She got in it last spring, just took off and never looked back - not the least bit tippy for her. This reinforces the earlier statements about smaller and female paddlers being more stable.