When should you build a kayak?

Have you thought of a doing a SOF? Real cheap and real quick to put together depending on construction method. I started my first one this fall and should be done soon. Frame is together and floor is in. Just some final detail work before skinning. So far it’s been easy and costs should come in right around $200.

If you found a SOF boat design you really like you can search for a similar S&G later.

Check out www.yostwerks.com for some ideas if you’re interested.


yes, I have considered that route since it would be cheaper and even lighter, but I think stiffness and durability would be issue. Besides I want bulkheads, don’t like ocean cockpits, and it would be more complex to a first time builder like myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still confident in my construction abilities. I just want to make sure I invest time and $ into the right kit or plans that would yield the best results for me…

Photo-essays on the S/G process to be found at http://www.westcoastpaddler.com/building/index.php?cat=2 . One can also go into the forums and check out stripper builds and SOF. I built a Coho (my first except for a SOF I did in high school… back in the early 60’s) and will be making a second one (for me… my wife took the first one) next spring.

Pictures of my build can be seen at http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v108/Tootsall/Coho%20Much%20Fun/ . As you’ll see, the wood was really warped due to local low humidity conditions but the boat still came out straight…it is hard to make a mistake if you take your time.

cockpit and difficulty
Yeah, lack of bulkheads is a bit of a bummer but you don’t have to have an ocean cockpit and the build for a first timer is easy.

If you haven’t looked the boats on the Yost site they are not traditional build. No steaming and bending ribs, just cut sections out of plywood and slap the chines, keel, and gunwales to them. The boat I’m building (Sea Tour 17R) has a 16x32" cockpit (larger than I’d like actually) and has more volume than traditional Greenland boats. The sections do take up some room though and cut down on the leg/entry room.

SOF certainly isn’t for everyone, and they might not be for me either, but I wanted to have a whack at building a boat and this was the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to do it. After doing some research I have no worries about the toughness of the boats either.


SOF durability
Here’s some evidence of SOF durability (painful to watch, but makes the point)…



Durability is not really an issue with a ballistic nylon skin and a good coating. I built a Cape Falcon skin boat, and Brian does things to his boats that would snap a composite boat like a twig.

Re: stiffness, the flex an SOF gets reduces impact on both the paddler and the boat, and they are also noticeably quieter on the water. It would be nice to have bulkheads, but dual storage/float bags fill the voids nicely.

Shearwater/Merganser boats
I paddled a Merganser/Shearwater17 with Eric Schade, the designer, back in August. I live near him, here in Maine, and he very obligingly spent a couple hours with me on a nearby pond.

The Merganser and Shearwater 17s are essentially the same boat (the latter is marketed by Chesapeake Light Craft), except that the foredeck of the Shearwater is curved (“tortured”) whereas the Merganser is a flat, 3 panel construction. Eric said that he actually liked the look of the Shearwater boat better, and I agree. However, they are both very attractive.

I’m 5’8", 155, size 10 shoe. I fit in the boat comfortably. I generally paddle a Current Designs Caribou, which is 17’8". I found that the Merganser had somewhat less initial stability, though with another hour or so that might have disappeared. Rolls were easy, despite the fact that the boat wasn’t outfitted for me, and I couldn’t brace my knees well. It came up with more of a “pop” than my Caribou. It seemed to paddle with slightly more drag than my 'Bou, but i can’t be certain about that. We were in flatwater, so I don’t know how it would handle in “conditions.”

I decided to take the plunge, and build a Shearwater 16, which is (obviously) a foot shorter. It will be used primarily by my daughter, who is 5’3" and 120 lbs. I’m building the boat with Eric at the Bath Marine Museum in a series of Wed. night classes. I will use it as well, assuming that I fit in it. Eric keeps kidding me about this, which worries me a little!

It doesn’t sound like you’ll be building the 16, but one thing to note for those who might be is that the current Shearwater 16 has a beam of 23". The original was 21". I specified that I wanted the “original,” so I’m building the narrower boat. If I recall correctly, if you order a Mergansar from Eric, it’s a 21" beam.

I’ve carved a few Greenland paddles, but never built a boat, and don’t have woodworking skills. It is a great help to be doing it in a class, but I think I could probably figure it out on my own, with some forum or email support.

The process is fun, in a slightly nerve-wracking way.

You might want to look at the Night Heron, designed by Eric’s brother, Nick. It’s also marketed by CLC. If I survive building the Shearwater, I may take a crack at a Night Heron this summer. There are quite a few reviews on it, scattered about.

More than $4000
Mine is about 48 pounds and now they cost $4000 new or less than half of that used. I guess you could build them in 60 to 80 hours if you were building the second one but the first one will take double that. Just sourcing and rounding up the materials and organizing the space takes a lot of time.

In 80 hours I could make enough money to buy a boat that was better than I could ever build. In fact in the last year I’ve bought two plastic boats that were better than I could ever build for less than $400 each used.

If you want a custom boat or you love the building process, then of course you should build a boat. But if you want to go paddling as soon as you can in a good boat, just buy a used boat.

I also plan on painting at least the hull. I have two wood boats already and want a white hull and green/yellow/ and blue deck :slight_smile:

Or I will just slap a coat of white marine paint over the whole thing and just go paddle. I am not enamored with the vbuilding process and am certainly no craftsman. I just want another boat.


which wood creations?
I saw that with boats that weren’t outfitted correctly and can attest that the Chesapeaks are mighty stable in both directions but kayaks like the Merganser/Shearwater roll as well an any other kayak of similar proportions.

methinks you will find
that a Shearwater/Merganser 17 is tippier than the Shadow and while it won’t weathercock as easily it will have a more pronounced lean-to-turn characteristic than the Shadow. Part of my recomendation for the Merganser 18 was to get a bit more stability.

Like I said if you get the wood parts only from Shearwater with glass/epoxy from RAKA you will come out with a cheaper hull. I’ve been pleased with using Neckys molded minicell seats.

I’ve seen that sof torture video on youtube before, I’ve studied and bookmarked the yostwerks sof site months ago, and I’ve seriously considered doing the cape falcon build class, since I live in Portland. That sleek uber light-weight minimalist work of art that is a SOF kayak is very tempting to build (especially from a cost perspective), but I just really want a stiffer hull with real hatches.

Go for the S and G. you’ll love it.

An interesting possibility:
I recently became aware of another option. A stitch and glue hull, with a soft top. This concept intrigues me, as it offers a strong painted hull, (I am not a fan of the wood look), bulkheaded water tight compartments with hatches, and light weight. The fabric deck and SOF cockpit seem to offer the best of both worlds, to me.