Help me choose my next boat

Glad to be part of this forum.  In 2001 I built two Pygmy Arctic Terns.  Since then my wife and I have switched to a tandem fiberglass kayak for our week long trips.  We still love the Terns but the tandem is a better choice for us now.  The problem is our tandem is a 105 lb beast and the crossbars on top our campervan are 8.5 feet off the ground.  Even with a Hullivator (on order) it's bound to be a struggle.

My thought is to build another S&G since both Pygmy and Chesapeake Light Craft have models that weigh in at 68 lbs.  But I've also heard stories of those same boats that came out at over 90 lbs.  That wouldn't help much.

So I'm looking for advice in choosing a boat kit.  We need a capable tandem suitable for week long self support trips.  Cockpits must be far enough apart to not have to paddle in sync.  We love a center hatch, but would be OK with a third cockpit that we would bulkhead and use for gear with a cockpit cover on top.  We paddle in bear country so the hatches have to be large enough to fit a couple bear barrels.  21 feet is about the largest I can build in our garage.  And as lightweight as possible since we're both in our late 60's and have to get the boat on top our van.  I'm looking forward to hearing your suggestions.  Thanks in advance!    

13 replies:

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RE: Help me choose my next boat

if you are willing to give strip build a shot, you can really get the weight down.

the link below is from the guillemot site with some strip-built tandems:

the mircrobootlegger double is interesting, fast and very light (claimed hull weight of 42 lbs)..sort of a cross between a kayak and a conoe.  .they have some other options as well that are a bit more traditional.

stitch and glue is just tough to get light and they gain weight easily.  

if you do do stitch and glue, the CLC site has a lot of good options as will just need to be very very careful to get it done at design weight....but its possible if you are patient.


RE: Help me choose my next boat

About four years ago I completed our Shearwater Double.  It is a great design which slots in between the short divorce boat tandems and the longer 21' monsters.  This is a great paddling boat that may meet your needs as long as you pack smartly.   Weight wise, it came in at 78# fully rigged.  If I had really concentrated on building it light, I probably could have trimmed 5 pounds off that.  Several pictures and my review of the boat are listed below.

I agree with Howards comments above regarding strip builds.  If you stick with S&G construction you are probably looking at something that weighs 70-80#.  If you go with a strip build, you will easily be 10#+ lighter.  The Guillemot Double and Great Auk Double both look like they would meet your needs.  

These days I have moved more towards fast paddling and am thinking of building the Panthera 2 by Bjorn Thomassen.  It will be both faster and easier to load than the SWD but probebly does not have enough storage volume for week long trips.

Sorry no pictures today, looks like CLC website is having a problem.

We launched our Shearwater Double in June 2015 and love it.      

The build took 153 man-hours (67 work periods) spread over six months to complete.  As usual, both the kit and build manual were exceptional.  From a technical perspective, there is nothing difficult about this build, the only real issue is size.  The long panels are fragile during assembly and a second set of hands really helps.  With 400+ (I lost count) wire stitches, it takes a while get everything lined up and tight.  There are nine full length (18.5’) filets, filets around both sides of the four bulkheads and the two cockpit recesses.  Glassing, sanding and varnishing are all marathons.  This is a build that takes some patience, and probably not the best first build.

The Shearwater Double is very roomy, stable and comfortable on the water.  It is so stable in fact, that my wife can raise up and lay on top of the deck behind the forward cockpit with no fear of capsize.  What really impresses me with the design is just how fast and maneuverable this boat is.  I installed a Smart Track rudder system, but I am not convinced that this boat needs it.  In tight quarters, I find the boat to be easier to maneuver with the rudder up. 

For a touring boat, the SWD moves right along.  My flea-weight wife (5’2”/115#) and I (5’7”/150#) have an all-day pace of ~5 mph.  We did use the boat in one recreational race, covering 10k in 1:05 (5.7mph average).  We could have easily taken another couple of minutes off that time, but we were so far ahead of the nearest boat at the turning mark that we relaxed and paddled easy the second half.  I had paddled a 20k race the day before and did not want to kill myself again.  I have paddled the boat with a friend who is a bit stronger than my wife and we can maintain a solid 6 mph but can’t sprint too much faster.

Due to its shorter length, the SWD does not have quite as much cargo capacity as some of the longer kayaks.  The boat has three storage compartments and a listed total payload is listed at 575#.  We can easily load all the gear needed for a weekend, but for longer trips you would have to pack smartly.  The hatches in the forward and aft compartments are amply sized, but the hatch for the center compartment is rather small.

A huge positive with this design is that the cockpits are far enough apart (6’+) that the two paddlers can uncouple their stroke without fear of hitting paddles.  My wife and I owned a short SOT tandem, so we know why they are called divorce boats.

Really, the only negative with the boat is the weight.  The design weight is 68#, but our boat came in at 78# fully rigged.  I could have probably taken a couple of pounds off that number had I concentrated on making smaller filets.  While much lighter than a plastic kayak with similar payload, it is a chore to load it on the racks of our 4WD pickup.  For that reason, we prefer to use our kayak trailer to transport this boat.  We use a C-Tug cart to transport the kayak from the parking lot to the launch.

When we decided on the Shearwater Double, we were looking for a boat that the two of us could use to cover more distance than my wife could in her single.  We are also hoping to use it for kayak camping.  We definitely made the right choice.


RE: Help me choose my next boat

   Thanks hspira and Mark N for your replies.  I enjoyed your review of your Shearwater Double build.  I had looked at the Shearwater because I had been told it has a center hatch.  It took me a while looking at the pictures to find it!  You're right, it is small.  We usually go out for a week at a time so the Shearwater may not have the volume we need, as we typically have to take all our water for a week.  Question:  do you know if the rear hatch will fit a bear barrel?

Regarding a strip boat, I don't know that I have those skills.  Of course, I had the same trepidition before building the S&G boats...

Thanks again for the input and keep the ideas coming, please.


RE: Help me choose my next boat

   That shearwater double  looks like a good match for you,I'm on my 5th boat and have found the weight estimates to be pretty accurate. Tape off your filets ( remove tape before it hardens), use a foam roller instead of a squeegee  to apply epoxy  to the cloth and use microbaloons where applicable (such as the endpours) ps I'd  be afraid to try a strip built, they require  a bit of artistic talent to look right when your done,  

RE: Help me choose my next boat

How big are your bear barrels?  I had never seen one before so I googled and the ones I found were approx 9" diameter ahd 12" high.  If so, I believe that they will fit in either forward or aft compartment.  The bow compartment is actually bigger so several will fit there.  Give me the exact size and I will measure next week when we pull the boat out of storage.  We were lucky enough to score a riverfront rental for 5 mights so our vacation is not a total bust.

The middle compartment is actually the biggest of the three, and I think that it would be easy enough to make a larger hatch.  I will take pictures and pust next week.  

Regarding a strip build, if you have built a couple S&G then for sure you can build a strip boat.  The first one won't be as pretty as your fourth, but it will still be beautiful.  One advantage to building strip boats is that you have more lattitude regarding hatch and bulkhead location.  This allows you size storage as you wish.  You could also adjust the cockpit locations as long as you pay attention to the CG.  Where I am going with this is that you could take a Great Auk Double, move the paddlers further apart and add a hatch designed for your bear barrels in between.  Personally, I'd ask Nick for a little help to keep the CG balanced, but the building part would be easy.  

Now for some pictures:

This is my first strip boat, a Wahoo FSK build after building 4 S&G boats.  Not perfect but not bad! 

This is the Shearwater Double immediately after the race that I mentioned above.

The SWD is my bride's favorite boat even though she has a beautiful strip built single.  Our deal is that I provide propulsion and she provides comentary.    

RE: Help me choose my next boat

   Greg27, thanks for your suggestions, I will incorporate them into whichever boat I end up with.

Mark N, beautiful boats, well done and thanks for the pictures.  I'm drooling!   I measured the bear barrels, they are 12" high by 9" diameter, just like the ones you googled.  We have 2 and probably could use a 3rd.  Also, while you're measuring, could you see if our tent could fit somewhere?  It's 27" long by 9" diameter.  That's all the big stuff.  Everything else can be stowed in smaller dry bags.  Thanks in advance.    


RE: Help me choose my next boat

i finally have my pictures sorted mark mentioned, strip is is very doable if you have some patience....and weight wise, pretty stellar.  i have focused on some techniques (documented in the forum history) of how to build light (yet still durable) with both stitch and glue and strip.  but while mark does recognize you can get lighter with strip...i think the savings are pretty large (easily 25% if you are careful in your approach).  so the great auk double at 42 lbs, for example, is very acheivable in my book.

picture below is my favorite 'after-work-with-only-a-two-hour window-to-paddle-boat'.  it only weighs 32 lbs so easy to pick it up, throw it on the car...and get going boat.

and below is my wifes' new boat (she deserved one after keeping chesapeake for over 20 years)...a frej inspired by mark N's work for his wife that came in at only 25 my wife can easily pick it up and go as well.   No pulled backs/aches and pains....that why i like 'em light.

the latest thing i am researching is a new petrel play for myself that i am penciling out at ~ 28 lbs.....need something to do while i am locked up.

RE: Help me choose my next boat

I had a chance to take some rough measurements and pictures of the hatches/compartments on my Shearwater Double.  If you can't see the pictures below and/or want more pictures, go here:

Bow compartment hatch measures 11" x 11".  The compartment is 11" deep by is V shaped both downward and going forward due to the shape of the bow.

The center hatch is 9" x 9" not counting the round section.  This compartment is the biggest of them all, 12" deep, 2' wide and 15" front to back.

Stern hatch is 11" x 15".  The compartment is 8.5" deep and about 2' wide.  It holds its width and height for ~2'.

I believe your tent will fit in either the bow or stern compartment.

I believe that two of your bear barrels will fit in the bow.  It is possible that two will also fit in the stern because my depth measurement did not go all the way to the bottom of the V.  It is possible that they will go through the center hatch without modification.  I believe that four of the barrels will fit in the center compartment, although that would require making the hatch a bit bigger.

My primary recommendation would be to build a strip built to get the combination of weight and volume that you are looking for.

I do believe that it would be possible to fit a weeks worth of gear/food/water in a standard SWD but you would have to pack smartly.  Modifying thcenter hatch would make it easier to fit the barrels. 

If you really want to stick with a S&G boat, you might consider building a SWD with modified bulkhead locations.  The cockpits of this design are HUGE.  I am 5'7" and there is probably 18" between my feet and the bulkhead.  My wife is 5'2" and she easily has 24" between her feet (forward C/P) and the bulkhead.  During construction, it would be easy enough to move the bulkheads which would put this extra space in the center and fwd storage areas.      

Bow hatch  

Bow hatch looking aft

Bow hatch looking fwd.

Center hatch


Stern hatch


Stern hatch   

RE: Help me choose my next boat

Obviously my post immediately above.  My login timed out while I was typing.


RE: Help me choose my next boat

Keep your boat - get a trailer - so much easier than lifting to roof rack. 



RE: Help me choose my next boat

   Thanks Mark N. you've given me the information I need.  Great pics are such a help in really understanding the situation.  And I really love the one with all the boats you've made.  It is addicting, isn't it?

Traidna, a trailer is a real consideration.  I wish I had a place to store one, it would be great for my cataraft as well.

RE: Help me choose my next boat

Well, there's always the Harbor Freight foding trailers.  My son and I may be putting one of those together here soon as an option for my Passagemaker once we've found the Menger 19 catboat a new home and then the GMC 2500 pickup truck which I'll no longer need to tow that around.  Could probably cartop on the Saturn Ion, but it may be getting a bit heavy for me.  Dang boat puts on weight as I get older.  <;-)


RE: Help me choose my next boat

Regardless of boat size/weight, a trailer makes things much easier.  Our Malone Microsport Trailer is probably our most used piece of kayaking gear.  They have an option which allows you to reomve the tongue so that the trailer can be stored leaning against a wall.  There are still times when you can't use a trailer, so it is nce to have that lighter boat.  Our retirement plans probably include a camper trailer so we will be loading on the roof racks.

The other point is that even with a trailer, you have to replace that plastic boat.  Life is too short to paddle ugly plastic!


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