launch of shearwater hybrid

I finished by Shearwater Hybrid 17 after 14 months sneaking time in morning, evenings and weekends.  I appreciate everyone quick response on this forum to my questions.  Many firsts for me with this build, my first time I steamed and bent wood, first time working with strips, planner, Brightside varnish and paint.   My maiden voyage was out of Sausalito, SF Bay area, with goal to head out around Angels island, it was a windy 20-26 kts and I discovered the hard way that I was not skilled enough kayaker for the boat in the conditions. From the shearwater catalog   I’ve gone out on the bay in calmer conditions in a more stable boat so I was not prepared for how tender the Shearwater felt in rough water.  I got knocked over and managed to get back in and decided to come back in for the day.  In more protected water the kayak performed exactly as imaged, fast, good tracking, easy to do lean turns.  Even in the rough water and wind it tracked well.  I just wasn’t prepared for how tippy it was in conditions and worry that I may never develop the skills for these conditions..  I wrote a write paper of lessons learned and it just about covered everything from kayak, weather, skills, equipment.  So now, humbled, I am back to learning basics and hope to take a series of classes including rough water, etc at the surround kayak schools.    I’m 52 yrs old, 5’10 and 170 lbs and athletic so I wanted to build a boat that I would grow into “The speed and relatively narrow beam means the Shearwaters are not beginner paddling boats, but athletic paddlers and paddlers with intermediate skills will find them an excellent fit."    I admit I’m a little discourage but I’m going to look at this as an opportunity, and would appreciate anyone’s similar story of having difficulty that was eventually over come, hope would be good.  I have only taken out the kayak once in windy conditions but again, in protected water the shearwater performed as dreamed.  At maybe…uggg….that I might need a more stable design for use for rough conditions and I would appreciate recommendation on possible designs 

If everything was easy it wouldn’t be fun, right?



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RE: launch of shearwater hybrid


17 feet, 44 lbs vs 5 feet 10 inches 175 lbs" alt="" border="" hspace="" vspace="" width="" height="" align="" />IMG_5602_1" dry fitting" maiden" alt="" border="

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

Very nice!

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

Beautiful boat. I built the SW 17 S&G  a couple of years ago. I am the same age as you and have been kayaking for five years now. I am currently building the Night Heron Hybird. You will grow into the boat in no time. I don't live by the ocean but have a couple of big lakes I go to. My favorite weather with my SW is 25-30 knot wind with  waves running 2-3 feet high. I have a blast going with the wind and it is a really good workout going against it . I have yet to tip over although my time is coming. It happens to everyone at some point. I have dumped over before just not in my SW yet. I find it to be  avery stable boat in rough conditions once you are comfortable with it. Have fun, you made the right choice.


RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

If you can handle the image of a sport kayak the Wood Duck it is a very stabel boat and not all that slow.  I was told you will fall out of it before it rolls over and so far that is how it performs.  I wanted a fishing kayak and I can fight fish with my flyrod with out worrying about being upside down.  It has the ability to use a cockpit skirt and is very comfortable.


RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

First: BEAUTIFUL build! I currenly have a Shearwater 17 Stitch-And-Glue, and I'm planning to build a S17 Hybrid this winter.

I got used to my SW on lakes, then tidal rivers & estuaries, then to the open water. If I'd tried it out first in wind & chop, I'd probably have been daunted.  I find that this 'yak seems to WANT to go fairly fast-the good handling characteristics seem to come in when the boat is moving along at a good pace. If I go slowly or drift, it feels like I'm getting slapped around, but at a quicker pace, it hits the waves back! I'm also 52, 5'8", 155lbs, and I was originally afraid that I wasn't "big enough" for this kayak, but I handle it ok.  I predict that once you get the hang of this boat, you will be very glad you selected the SW.

P.S.- I was able to demo the highly-touted Night Heron at a meet, having considered it for my next build, but after trying it, I felt that my SW was both faster and handier.


RE: launch of shearwater hybrid


Beautiful build. I'm thinking of the SH17 HY for my next build. I'm currently building a CH16 for my wife. How is that hatch design working for water tightness?

20-26 knt winds? OMG I wouldn't feel badly about getting knocked around. The paddling clubs in my area have trips rated levels 1-4. The conditions you describe would be rated a level 4. When the wind is blowing that hard, I stay on land.

Good instruction is very worth while and an excellent investment.

Good Luck!


RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

Nice looking kayak!

I take it you are in the Bay Area; I am in Concord. I am far from athaletic and a little older so I have a WD-12. Though I hope to try the Shearwater Sport if CLC comes again to Lake Natomas in the fall. I have paddled several places in the delta as well as various reservoirs but not the open water of the Bay. Tugbruce is somewhere in the bay area also (Napa area I think). 

Calif. Canoe & Kayak in Oakland offer classes or SeaTrek in Sausalito.



RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

give yourself some time time to get used to it. it's really a pretty stable boat,and its got the speed and manuverability to give you alot of control in rough conditions. ive got an rtm tempo sot that you'd have to try and tip over and i feel safer in the shearwater in the really rough stuff

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

AllThanks for the quick responses, encouragement, and recommendations.  Yes, I have a whole slate of kayak courses that I know I want to take at my nearbyl kayak outfits; California Kayaks and  Sea Trek.  My daughter and I have both taken two basic classes but apparently there is a lot more to learn and practice.  My 15 yr old  daughter is small at 5’ 0’ and was able to handle the conditions wonderfully in her Artic Tern 14 that we built together last year.  I kept asking her if she felt tippy and she said no.  So apparently she’s a better kayaker than her old man.   Mike

The invisible hatch hold down design works better than I expected.  I have the bungee system set so tight that it’s like an animal trap, so kind a pain to close but easy  to open.  After my rough tumble I found water in both compartments but I hadn’t yet sealed the hatch toggle holes so I really don’t know  for sure how well the gasketing worked.   I left the hatch rims off  because I couldn’t imagine the hatches sitting flush with the deck with the hatch rims installed but now after seeing how pliable the gaskets are I’m now considering installing them.  Comments would be appreciated on this design aspect.


pictures of my daughter's Artic Tern


2009_08_20 016_1_3" Coast Guard Cutter Waesche"



RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

Brad - Your boat looks amazing - very impressive deck (particularly for a first build). Here is my usual 2-cents:

I'm a few years younger but about your same size.  I've found my SW17 to be a very strong tracking and easy-to-paddle kayak in flat water - even in high winds on waters that aren't large enough to develop substantial swell (say under 2-foot waves, keeping in mind that a true 2-foot wave is above your eye-level in the trough - it's easy to over-estimate). --Note that my references to waves are the great lakes variety, which are choppier and greater frequency than ocean swell, so the same size wave in the ocean will usually be easier to manage.--

In big water, the SH17's hard tracking characteristics make for a challenging paddle.  It has relatively little effective rocker (not sure wh$at the stats are, but it paddles as if it has almost none) and a relatively skinny bow (can bury the bow badly).  Finally, the kayak has a moderately deep V-hull, which means nearly zero initial stability - it lives on edge.  Those features make it fast and edgy in flat water (and to some degree result from its S&G construction), but they work against you in surf and large swell.  Adding very hard chines makes a nice edge for waves to catch from bow to stern (mainly an issue with quartering waves).  Therefore, you're trying to develop big water skills in a challenging boat. 

This should not be discouraging - you will master it, but you need to give the boat time.  Each kayak is a compromise, and you may be trying to paddle it in the compromised zone.  Good instruction will help a lot, and you will want to ask your instructor his or her opinion about the fit of your cockpit.  Being your size, mine needed an insane amount of foam as the SH17 has a lot of volume in the hip and thigh-brace areas (it may not seem that way if you haven't paddled a "proper" close-fitting boat before).  You should be in close contact with the hull - particularly at the thigh brace points - at all times without effort.  Also, the kayak is very sensative to the height of your seat (and resulting center of mass) due to the V-hull.  Moving your butt as low in the hull as possible will help tremendously (a 1/4 inch makes a huge difference).  If you do that stuff, I don't doubt that you will feel very comfortable very quickly.  

All that said,I have paddled a lot of boats, and I personally find this kayak to be a particular challenge in big water.  If you think you'll find yourself in waves over 4 feet (truly measured), I'd personally consider a reliable roll more than a "nice to have" and solid companions and rescue skills mandatory (paddle float will be nearly useless in those conditions).  This is the only boat I've ever inadvertently rolled in open water (surf is another story), and it happened in moderate 5-foot conditions while I've never even been close in nasty 6.5-foot conditions in my Necky Elaho (a fantastic rough water boat by the way - sadly discontinued).  Have fun with it and enjoy the learning process.  Once you have the SH17 mastered in open water, you'll feel comfortable in virtually any other boat (they might even feel boring).

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

ok, so after a year tooling around in calmer water like Tomales bay I ventured out to Angels Island again.  The day started calm and everything worked out pretty good.  When I got to the island I had a picnic and then kayaked to the harbor and rented a mountain bike.  I got half way around the island and got a flat, which delayed my plan departure by an hour and half by which time the wind picked up and the current was strongly flowing out the bay.  By the time I got to Raccoon straight it was pretty wild, at least for my skills.  I regretted the following:

1.  Being alone,

2.  Not bring a spare paddle

3.  Still not knowing a how to roll


So it was pretty much the most tense 45 minutes I spent since I was 19 and got chased by a grizzy bear in Alaska.  I've reread everyone's input including and especially zcar which i very much appreciate.  Although I'm more comforatable with the kayak, I just don't think it's the kayak for the bay or open sea.  If anyone has a recommendation on such a kayak I would appreciate it.  meanwhile I'll continue improving my skills.SF Bay

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

Hi Brad,

I agree with a previous comment- these are big waters (esp when windy)!  We really need to be able to roll, or do a reliable exit-remount at moments notice in these kind of waters.  This kind of training should be paramount, no matter what king of kayak you are in.

One thing you could do is drive down the street to Lafayette reservoir and practice getting in and out of your boat over and over, until you think its fun.  Thats an exercise I need to do.

Hickory (now down in Monterey Bay)

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

Beautiful boat and the T-shirt is sublime.


RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

yes I agree, I wished I could do a roll, however I have no problem doing self rescue in fairly rough chop.  My fear last Sunday was thinking about what if my paddle got away from me.  So I need to rethink that, as well as going at it alone in the first place..

Still my daughter and I agreed today to go take lessons on how to roll.  They ar offered not too far away.



RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

1) Beautiful boats (both of them).

2) The more time you spend in it the easier it becomes. Each boat has it's own feel and as you discover it's characteristics it will become easier.  Water that terrified me in a Chesapeak 17 3 years ago now seems like normal paddling conditions.

3) As far as being unstable, it helps to remember that the boat wants to follow the waves and you need to let it. We balance above the boat and let the waist act as a universal joint so the trunk is stable while the hips roll with the boat.

3) If you love building and it looks like you do, the Petrel was designed for rough water playing.  Any of the petrel's should do well.  I built the full strip version and love it.  My only comment is that it turns very easily, which makes it fun for playing in waves.  If you want to go straight easily you need to add a retractable skeg.  I did not when I built it and am not sure if I will but if I build another for my wife I probably would add a skeg.

4) Definately carry a spare paddle when alone. Or at least use a paddle leash.

Happy paddling.




RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

I agree with Ed. I would recommend a paddle leash. I paddle on Lake Eire wich is much calmer than the SF bay and I always use a paddle leash because I frequently paddle solo.

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

Brad, By the way that is a sweet looking yak. This is your first build? Amazing.

I am building a Shearwater Sport hybrid now. That might be the boat for you. It's 3" wider than your yak so it would be more stable. It's 14' 6" so it's 2' 6" shorter than your yak so it wouldn't be as fast but more stable and manuverable. It also has a roomier cockpit.

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

beautiful boat, and beautiful yard. my boat is a shearwater 17 i found it tippy at first, now i fish from it, catching large northen pike with no problem. i tell people it's like a bicycle, after an amount of time you cant remember why it was hard at first.

RE: launch of shearwater hybrid

great encouragement Jack, I do feel a little more comfortable each time I take it out.  Also, great advise from everyone.  I'm getting a paddle leash and also going to spend some effort on my seat, hip and thigh brace and of course instructions.  The problem in of the SF bay is the water can be rough and then there is the strong tide, so there is some nervousness in my head.  I'm also joining a bay area kayak club so I might have more opportunity to kayak with others.

I'm going to figure this kayak out and master it but I'm also looking at making another kayak that might be more stable for rough conditions.  I need 3rd boat anyway for my son who is feeling left out.

I do love my shearwater and my daughter loves her artic tern, we have great adventures.

Check out our tomales bay adventure, a great place to kayak in the bay area.  setting 1080/hd and turn on audio

Thanks everyone



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