effort: Skerry versus Shearwater kayak

I wonder if anyone has built both a kayak and something like the Skerry.  I would like to get a feel for the relative level of effort required for the two. I am finishing a Skerry now. It is my first, and I have learned a lot with it. My ultimate fantasy is Pocketship, but I am thinking of doing another kit before that, to hone my skills, to prove to myself that I really want to built boats, and to have something light enough to put in the bed of my pickup while pulling a travel trailer. 

How much easier would the Shearwater (sectional?) be than the Skerry? I have found myself spending a lot of time on the sail rig - the rudder, dagger board, mast, and spars. Will I be able to complete the Shearwater in a few months of weekends?

Thanks - I really appreciate the very helpful advice I pick up in this forum.

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RE: effort: Skerry versus Shearwater kayak

Hi rpalmer, 

i have built the annapolis wherry and a number of kayaks.

the short answer is a shearwater is, 'apples to apples', a lot less work than a skerry.  and so it's very conceivable to put together a shearwater in several months of weekends.  i said 'apples to apples' to mean 'the same fit and finish'.  any of these boat, you can do a basic build that is pretty fast, or do something really fancy and burn a lot of extra hours.  but bottom line, there is a lot less wood, epoxy, sanding, glassing, fitting and pieces on a shearwater then a skerry... so it takes a lot fewer hours.

i do think you learn something from every build....even if your goals is something bigger.  so a shearwater is a nice boat to have in the arsenal....great when you don't have a lot of time or feeling like struggling with a large hull.  if you are in reasonable shape and you build the boat well (not sloppy with a lot of extra epoxy) you can get the whole thing in at ~ 40 lbs or less which is reasonably manageable when you are on your own.

i built a regular shearwater (not a sectional) in about three months of weekends....without being overly dedicated.  clc actually offers that you can build a shearwater in a one week course....and you take home a boat that is ready for final sanding and then varnish and final rigging....so if you are dedicated you can really make it come together fast. 

the sectional does add some complexity...but if you look at a sectional, it is very close to the regular shearwater from a construction perspective....with some additional steps to have double bulkeads so when you cut the boat each section has a bulkhead that goes with it and some bolts to hold it all together.

while it is simpler, you can use the build as an opprtunity to refine your skills.....and do a nice job...vs just focus on speed.  here's my shearwater....

i hope my comments are helpful.



RE: effort: Skerry versus Shearwater kayak

hspira:  Thanks! Indeed your comments are helpful. Your Shearwater looks quite nice, by the way. I started my Skerry at a CLC class, and am finding that the finish work is challenging - sometimes I find that there is too much advice, and distilling the many resources into just the recipe I need is tough. After going through it once, I trust I will make fewer mistakes. 

Thanks for the encouragement - Richard

RE: effort: Skerry versus Shearwater kayak

One great way to get an idea of relative difficulties is by looking at the description of the wood parts-only kits. As a first approximation, the kit with greater number of parts will take longer to complete. Here's the Skerry:

Here's the Sectional Shearwater Sport (note that some of the parts are duplicated so the count is closer to the Skerry than it may look at first):

You can get a more nuanced idea by examing the types of wood pieces. For example, the Skerry has one more side panel set and they're all rabbetted. The latter is not a big deal for fabrication if you buy the kit, but could make a noticeable difference if you're building from plans. The SSS panels will need to be beveled.

There are 2 more bottom pieces for the SSS and the 2 halves need to be stitched together, unlike for the Skerry.

The Shearwater Sport deck construction with the 15 deck, coaming and hatch cover pieces is more complex than the 5 seats and breasthooks on the Skerry, but not terribly so.

The bulkheads and doublers on the SSS pretty much match up the complexity of the frames on the Skerry.

Parts unique to the Skerry that have no counterparts on the SSS are the inwales and ouwales and the sailing parts (daggerboard trunk and skeg/wormshoe).

Of course, the Sectional Shearwater Sport has that pesky "sectional" thing which involves double bulkheads with corrugated cardboard sandwiched between them and the appointment with Dr. Saw, plus installing the hardware to hold it all together on the water. This is balanced by the greater weight of the Skerry which makes handling it toward the end of construction a more difficult process than a nice lightweight kayak. For example, turning the Skerry over to sand/paint the bottom is definitely more work than flipping the SSS, even in one piece.

Over all, I'd rate the 2 boats as about equivalent in effort. I'd rather rate the sailing components as a whole separate project because once the Skerry hull is done you have a boat that's roughly equivalant to the SSS in that you can get in and move it through the water with muscle power.

As far as the finishing effort, you have the CLC class to partially thank for that. That's because if you build neatly enough to make finish work easy it's a slow build. If you build quickly, it tends to be messy, at least on the first couple of boats, and needs a lot of sanding. Without any criticism, CLC balances this toward the fast build. They have to do this because the classes are typically under a week long, sometimes with a new one starting prep the next day. Sanding, on the other hand can be done by the student at home.

As builders gain experience, they learn how to combine speed with neatness. Building at home they can also take an extra day to smooth fillets so they need no sanding or to apply epoxy such that there are no drips, all without disrupting the class schedule.

For example, my first fully finished S&G boat took a solid month to prep and paint after construction was complete. My latest took 3 days. Even allowing for the difference in sizes, I was still at least 5 time faster.

So to bring this to a close, I'd agree with Howard that the Shearwater is less work than a Skerry, but I'd add not by much. However, your skills and efficiency have increased to the point that it will feel like less work than it actually will be and will go faster. And if you build it at home where you'll have the time to control your build for neatness, the finish work will be a lot less than on the Skerry.

Have fun,



RE: effort: Skerry versus Shearwater kayak


Thanks for the additional perspective. For sure, the Skerry is not my last boat to build. I suppose there is probably no wrong choice. They are all learning experiences.


RE: effort: Skerry versus Shearwater kayak

I can't add much because it has been a while since I build my Northeaster Dory and my Shearwater Sectional. But if you leave the sailing components out of the equation, the two hulls are similar in complexity. I think the dory could be a little easier.

The hardest thing about building the sectional is cutting it apart! When that step rolls around you have a beautiful kayak almost ready for the water. You take a handsaw to it and run your risks. In my case the saw wandered a little and I spent a lot of extra time making sure the sectional peices fit together with no leakage. I had to get creative with peanut butter epoxy, but I did get the job done. And the sectional is a delight. To be honest, my boat has some extra epoxy and weighs 45 - 50 punds fully assembled. But, by golly, it's sturdy! And I can throw the back section into my Jeep easily, strap the first two setions on top, drive to the lake, and asemble it right on the water. Very cool!   

RE: effort: Skerry versus Shearwater kayak

I built a Sassafras 12 canoe in about 3 months, and the Skerry in about 7 months, to give you an idea.  The Skerry is a trickier build than the humble Sassafras, and the Skerry's centerboard-well, rudder/tiller/pintle/gudgeons, and rigging construction, require a bit more demaning use of your noggin than any part of the Sassafras will. Both are wonderful boats for the purposes they're designed for.

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