what kayak kit (down to 2 boats)

-- Last Updated: Oct-19-09 11:02 AM EST --

Good morning everyone, I hope all is well.

Im down to 2 choices on kit boats

Im 5'10 245LB my primary water is lake george NY, very rough/ very windy with plenty of whitecaps and boat traffic.

Id also be using this off the northeast coast for day paddling and other smaller lakes /rivers in the area.

I cant ever think of when Id ever load the boat with gear for camping ... I probably would not even install a front hatch just a rear hatch and maybe a day hatch behind cockpit.

My two choices

1) Pygmys' Borealis XL:

Pygmy has been much help and assures me the Borealis XL though a big boat would be a great all around boat for me

Pygmy in an email advised that the Borealis XL Though multi chine handles similar to the Arctic tern(due to its chine placement) and is plenty fast enough even with the 25.5" beam

can this boat be rolled I wonder??

I liked the arctic tern But I think im at the top end of the design weight range.

Pygmy said coho would be fine as well it would be faster but less nimble than The borealis and the arctic tern and will weathercock more.

My second choice Looks like a shearwater merganser 17W

I would build this as a hybrid cuz I dont like the very pointy deck on the stitch and glue version.

thats it , thanks for reading I look forward to your input actually I need your input!!!

have a great day


Arctic Tern vs Shearwater 17:

– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 12:58 PM EST –

LOL - I just posted a similar question since I'm trying to decide between the Arctic Tern and Shearwater/Merganser kits myself: http://www.paddling.net/message/showThread.html?fid=advice&tid=1196366 Maybe some of the responses I got might help you. I'm going to use whichever boat in choppy seas, lakes, and rivers - primarily as a day boat, but with light camping abilities. It needs to be hard chined, much lighter, and faster than my poly Chatham 17, but with similar stability. I'm also 5'10", but just under 200 lbs. I know paddling opinions are highly subjective, but I wish there were standardized charts/graphs comparing the forward efficiency and stability of these kit boats. I'd hate to spend all that time, energy, and money building the wrong boat...

I haven't been researching the wide version, but the shearwater 17 has nicer lines than the AT 17 and Merganser (to me), even though it's the same basic hull as the Merganser. It will be lower volume, tippier, and faster. How much more so, I don't know. My heart wants the Shearwater, but someone local is selling their AT 17 kit for almost half price and $ is kinda tight for me. Im sure you'll be happy with either boat, especially if you enjoy building it. If you don't like how it paddles at the end, you can probably sell it for profit and buy the other kit!


– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 1:48 PM EST –

1. can you roll?
2. the Boreal makes sense if you can't roll although it's as rollable as any big kayak, ie. it aint the boat .
3.I'd suggest you go whole hog and build hatches/bulkheads as float bags are a maintance issue. If you do use front float bags I'd suggest two one on top of the other and removing them when the boat is stored out of the water, especially in hot weather because water trapped between deck and float bag will steam through the epoxy and stain the wood.

4. Tern is a good choice for a day boat if you can roll given your top heavy nature. The Coho is a better choice if you consider putting on a rudder (for high winds) and desire a combination of speed/stability.

5. the Merganser17W is a mixed bag without knowing your paddling background it's stability is a smidge more than the AT but substantially less than the Borealis(which is a BIG kayak). It's weathercocking is similar to the Coho but it gets it from a forward pivot point more than a windage/hull issue. That characteristic makes me wonder if a prototype was ever made of it when the design was committed to as it's different than the 16,17 and 18. I like the Merganser series but the 17W needs some kind of skeg or redesign but I'd be up to hearing more opinions than my own on it. I don't think it's a function of moving weight back or increasing weight. The Merganswer 17W is a slightly smaller hull than the Coho.

6. If you can't roll and like an efficient stable boat for a range of conditions I'd suggest the Coho with the option of a rudder for distance paddling. If you can roll the AT or Merganser but I'd add a skeg to the Merganser as it's forward pivot point is irritating. If you don't ever think you'll learn to roll the Borealis with the option of carrying 100lbs but it'll present a fair amount of windage in high winds even with your weight.

"very rough, very windy" seems to me it gets back to what you like more, maneuverability or speed. The Coho would be a killer with rudder for point and shoot in dicey conditions the AT for playing in those conditions albeit at a slightly lower speed. The Merganswer17W could be both of that if only the pivot point was corrected because
you will experience a tendency to over-correct with it as the stern slides and the bow digs on waves. Its learn-to-turn attributes have more of a feeling the stern wants to come around than the AT or Coho which is different than weathercocking.

coho and merganser

– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 2:57 PM EST –

LeeG I hoped you'd join in your a big help on this board (as is any reply)

rolling, Ive done it a few times in pool in white water boats. When I was teaching scuba/and swift water rescue My pool sessions at times were just after a kayak class so I would get in the water early and kayak guys showed me some basics and let me play with boats.

that said learning the full spectrum of the different rolls would be in my plans for sure. I know its a very good skill set to have as a wet exit a few miles out on my lake wouldnt be fun.

AS for the boats I had a good handfull of people that Highly reccommended the coho!!

My concern with the coho is the lack of turning ability, id rather not deal with a rudder.
Id like solid footing all the time.

I wouldnt mind a retractible skeg but I know that doesnt help with turning. I like the coho but most have told me it doesnt turn well (hence the rudder issue).

pygmy wasnt too keen on the Arctic tern for my Top heavy build /boats volume.

Eric (shearwater) was very confident that the 17W would be a good fit, Id build as a hybrid to smooth out the deck a bit.

you mention the 17W needs a skeg ?? I saw one of your previous posts on the 17W (loose in the stearn??) I wouldnt mind installing a skeg for big water.

as for the borealis sounds like its too big a boat even for me unless I load it up.

Good point on the hatches Ill build them in.

so now I should re think Coho or 17W

many thanks


very rough very windy

– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 3:12 PM EST –


lake george NY can get very rough 3-5 ft rollers and 3+ foot withecaps are not uncommon not to mention tons of Boat chop and cruise ship wakes. in the evening the lake often calms right down.

sounds like a an arctic tern or merganser (with a skeg) would be a good choice?? the coho has lots of fans but any paddling I do will not be Mission oriented, (no place to go for any reason) mostly out for a ride and poke around in the bays...

I do think the tern looks nicer than merganser wonder if Id need the hi deck??

I have a pretty short inseam 30"
again Im rethinking maybe the Arctic tern after all (Hi deck??)

sorry for more questions??

you Got me thinking again.


no easy answers
Regarding the rudder and Coho it isn’t for turning as much as weathercocking. From a stand still with rudder up a hard lean and reverse sweep will turn it more quickly than a forward sweep. Underway the leaning point to correct for weathercocking is a bit too far for constant paddling in a beam wind which is why I mention the rudder. I paddled the Coho without a rudder for a week in Maine heavily loaded, 200lbs me and 80lbs gear/water) and for the total handling envelope it was still acceptable but a rudder would be prefered.

Unlike the Merganswer17W you can weight the stern in the Coho or move your seat aft and correct for it without losing much speed.

You can have solid footing with a rudder, just install pivoting footbraces.

It sounds like you’d like a maneuverable kayak over a straighter tracking one which moves the Coho out of the picture. I will say that if you are in waves the hull is rounded enough that you can make quick corrections on wave tops but it’s efficiency is geared to paddling a distance.

“pygmy wasnt too keen on the Arctic tern for my Top heavy build /boats volume.”

The good folks there do go for lots of reserve buoyancy , my $.02 is that the hull has sufficient displacement and would be great in high winds the question is whether the low stability will be to your taste. Just guessing it seems to me your size in the AT is like someone 75lbs lighter in a 21" wide kayak.

“you mention the 17W needs a skeg ?? I saw one of your previous posts on the 17W (loose in the stearn??) I wouldnt mind installing a skeg for big water.”

Skeg has nothing to do with size of waves.

Again this could be my isolated opinion and you should seek out more experienced ones but it feels like the pivot point of the Merganser17W is a bit forward. The consequence is that it takes more of a lean to correct or the stern slides a smidge in a turn. A skeg won’t change that pivot point, just the consequences of it. Where it becomes an issue is leaning to steer. Ideally the bow should “unweight” or bring the ends out of the water to allow a turn, if only the stern gets loose you find yourself overcorrecting on waves or when paddling fast. Where this becomes a pisser is paddling fast in waves as you have to anticipate a lot more before corrections become less effective. My interpretation is that the AT will feel more controllable in wind/waves albeit tippier.

I paddled the Borealis and Penguino in the sheltered bay there with a good 12-15mph breeze. Even as light as I was the Boreal was well balanced to the wind. I’m guessing it would still be maneuverable with your weight but in high winds you would be sliding sideways.

I owned a Mariner Express for a long time and although it slid sideways well it was a wonderful kayak in rough conditions.

“so now I should re think Coho or 17W”

Oh hell, if you’re looking for something fun you’ll find it with those four boats and if you’re 1/2 as picky as me you’ll still think of making another one.

Seems to me you have strong enough expectations on what you’d like that doing a demo would be worthwhile.


– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 3:34 PM EST –

or demo enough production boats so that when you talk to someone who has paddled the AT/Merganser17W you can have a common point of reference "is it more stable than a Sea Lion/Eclipse?". I think that could be the issue with Pygmy recomending the Borealis was a concern how ready your roll was while meeting your desire for a manueverable kayak. A common criticism from experienced paddlers who paddle in rough water is that the AT17 is another big boat, which kind of says if you raise your minimal skill level you can have a nice handling rough water kayak for your weight.

Outfitting knee braces and seat will be critical for any kayak you build for rough water.

re. the Merganser17W, it'll be a bit more stable but honestly I think you're at the stage of needing a demo as all this starts to rely too much on others interpretations/expectations.

re. Hi Deck, not really.

If you had some production boats you've paddled that you liked/didn't like it would help. Have you paddled a Current Designs Gulfstream?

many thanks

– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 3:53 PM EST –

LeeG thanks for sharing your wisdom,

very good info, BTW I read an older email from Pygmy and I have to correct my interpitation, Jim did say the AT volume was ok for my size but borealis/coho would be more stable. same as you just mentioned.

borealis too big (sort of thought so) coho too much an arrow so that leaves the greenland hulls. AT and 17W

"A common criticism from experienced paddlers who paddle in rough water is that the AT17 is another big boat, which kind of says if you raise your minimal skill level you can have a nice handling rough water kayak for your weight."

this statement says alot!! \
but I can try out some boats before it gets too cold But I do own 2 diving dry suits, one of which will make a good paddling suit)

also Yeppers I would most likley build another boat I did the same with fly rods I built one as I needed a little different set up for my tastes that I couldnt buy and ive been building ever since (I sell some too)

many thanks


just to confuse things
"Greenland hulls" doesn’t necessarily mean more maneuverable.

The Mergansers are firm tracking albeit with a rockered hull, The 17W is in it’s own category. With the 16,17,18 it’s like your course is a piece of spring steel, you can change course distinctly but not quickly in a short distance. With the AT17 it’s like a piece of bendable plywood with shorter turns and more maneuverability within the tern,er turn. The Merganser 17W is somewhere inbetween but the bend is like a hose full of high pressure water, it kind of moves around while you move around. See what I mean, demo or I’ll start trying to pull in food analogies.

im not hungry at the moment except for Knowlage.

Youve given me lots of info Ill ponder and paddle.


AT Nearby
John - I live near you and I’m finishing up an Arctic Tern - should have it ready for the water in a week or two (the dreaded sanding and varnishing are in progress). I’m near Albany and if you’d like to demo, let me know.

I don’t know of a Coho or Merg around here, but local paddlers can fix you up with most any commercial boat you’d like to demo.

I paddled the Tern a couple of times before laying it up for sanding. It seems plenty stable to me - I’m used to boats like the NDK Explorer and Romany, Valley Nordkapp RM, Dagger Meridian, Chatham 17 and the like. The Tern seems more stable than these.

I’m taller and lighter than you, so that may have an effect. Come to think of it, a friend who’s heavier than you tried the Tern in the pool, and it seemed pretty tender for him, but it was only a few minute test. He paddles an Explorer HV.

Good luck with the decision.


love to see the AT

thanks for the reply,

Yes Id love to see the boat as just looking at it will give me some perspective of size fit …

drop me an E mail when it would be a good time for me to visit the AT. and where you are.

thanks agian


Redfish Kayaks
Have a directory of home-builts on their site. Check it out and contact the ones nearest you! As you already know, home-builders are more than happy to share their experiences and even let you have a test paddle.


speaking of custom seats
Redfish aka Joe Greenley is the place to go to for a custom minicell seat on your kayak.


– Last Updated: Oct-20-09 6:29 PM EST –

Certainly sells a great seat. Pick up one of his foam "kits" at the same time (actually cutoffs from his other work); you'll have enough to make knee braces, hip braces, seat wedges and a mess of other stuff. The added price is well worth it.