Advice: First time boat building?

Hello all, 

       I've been sailing all my life.  I love the water and I love boats.  My latest ambition is to build a boat.  My grandfather always wanted to build one with me--we never did--and since he passed last month, my desire has increased dramatically.  

Anyhoo, I stumbled upon this site and it seems that a kayak kit is a great place to start.  I am seeking any recommendations for a moderately priced complete kit. I have no experience in boat building, although I have amateur carpentry skills and can follow directions.  What's my best option?  I look forward to your suggestions and advice, 



7 replies:

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RE: Advice: First time boat building?

Is this boat for you to paddle?  What kind of paddling?  Your age, size, weight...


Built my 1st boat 2 yrs ago and I had no woodworking skills beyond a birdhouse.   


RE: Advice: First time boat building?

The previous reply is a good one.  What will you use it for?  I wanted a boat I could sail and row and introduce my kids, and wife to boating.  The Skerry was fantastic for that. 

 To build the boat you need some space, some time and commitment.  The support of the folks at CLC and builders forum helped me through when I had questions.  I adore the boat's performance and aesthetics.  We've done many day trips and quite a few overnight, beach camping trips.  I get lots of compliments.  The directions are good. My experience was similar to yours.  If you love boating as you say, you will probably be thrilled with the result and enjoy the memories of your grand father in the process.  Perhaps you could get your dad to help some and have some of his memory attached to the boat.

 Good luck,  Vince

RE: Advice: First time boat building?


As prior posts suggest, step 1 is to figure out what type of boat you want to build? If that means a kayak, do you want a boat for 1, 2 or even 3 people?

Step 2: where are you going to build it and how long do you want to spend building it? The type of boat you select can have an impact on the relative ease or comparative difficulty of the project? And knowing where you want o build it will allow you to consider not only whether you have the physical space to bild it, but the physical opening to get it out once done!

Elsewhere on this site there are comparative specifications charts to provide some guidance. And once you begin to narrow your selections, don't hesitate to get back on this forum to ask any and all questions which will help you in your selection process.

I built a Ches. 17LT a year ago and both the building and the paddling of my creation has been a source of great joy.

Good Luck!

Tim Clark

RE: Advice: First time boat building?

Thank you for your responses...


Just to follow up, I am a college student living in Rhode Island.  (6'2, 180lbs)--I have a great garage in which the previous owner built small runabouts and dorys professionally, so the work space is excellent.  I'd love a kayak that I could put a sail rig on, and down the line I'd like to build a rowing skiff, but as a first project I think a 12-17 ft kayak is the best move.  Is the Chesapeake 17 the best boat for a complete novice?

RE: Advice: First time boat building?

I built a Chesapeake 17LT as a novice with minimal carpentry experience at best, and it worked out just fine.  I would highly recommend building the Shearwater 17, a more sophisticated design.  It is a much more lively boat that will reward your growth in kayaking skills over the years.  Initially you may find it somewhat less stable, but if you take some lessons or join a club to get some bracing, rolling skills, you will end up having a lot more fun in the long run.  Consider making a hybrid if you want a prettier looking deck (ie. stitch and glue hull with a cedar-strip deck).  As long as you have patience, you will enjoy the process.  Have fun!

RE: Advice: First time boat building?

Hi Charlie (beachbum), and welcome to the forum and the world of wooden boat building.

You mentioned the desire for building a kayak with a sail-rig.  If you build the Chesapeake 17, and you wanted to sail it, you would also build the Sail Rig MK2 with the pontoon outriggers for stability.  Another great option is to build a Mill Creek (either 13 or 16.5) and outfit it with the spars, sail, lee-board and rudder.  This would be a much simpler alternative in terms of construction and use.

I can also say with confidence that if you choose to go ahead and build the skiff first, CLC's Jimmy Skiff is an excellent choice for a beginning boat builder.  See my blog at

Mill Creek 13 with sail

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