First Boat Recommendation

Hi, I'm a teacher in NC and summer break is fast approaching and I have the itch to try my hand at building a wooden kayak over my break. This would be my first major wood project and first boat build. I would like recommendations of which kit is the simplest for a beginner to start with?

I am 5'-11" and weigh about 180. I have been considering a wood duck 12.  I would like a boat that would provide the most versatility for my as well. I'd like to be able to take it to the lake or river nearby as well as possibly take to the outer banks to kayak and camp some. 


Thanks for your advice!

8 replies:

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RE: First Boat Recommendation

   Hi & welcome...

my first boat was a wood duck 12, and it all went great -- this forum and clc's articles will tell you everything you need to know. My second boat was a shearwater sport, and honestly I think that one went together even easier ... But of course I had the experience from the wood duck under my belt, so maybe it was all in my head. Also, along the way of the shearwater build I came to realize that the instruction manual for the wood duck was a bit better -- more details, and it walked you though some steps that the shearwater instructions seemed to gloss over, presumably thinking the builder was a bit more experienced. 


Either boat,I think, would be a great choice for you. If you do go with a wood duck, search this forum to read up on the little issue that many of us had when it came to tying the transom together. It's nothing major, but it'd be good to know/anticipate the issue before you get to that step. 

And enjoy the build! 


RE: First Boat Recommendation

There are lots of good choices.  Certainly any of the Wood Ducks, Shearwaters or Chesapeakes are viable first builds.  My first build was a Ch17LT and it was an easy build and is a great boat.  If you are thinking about a Wood Duck and looking for versatility, consider the Double.  It would be easy to have moveable seating so you can padde it as either a single or tandem.

Be forewarned that BUILDING IS ADDICTIVE!  I had only planned to build one boat.  Then I made the mistake of letting my wife paddle the 17LT, so her 16LT was next.  We got so many compliments on the pair of Chesapeaks that plastic kayaks were suddenly are no longer an option.  Now I am building a Petrel Play for use in the little streams that are too tight for the 17LT.  This fall, I am thinking about a Shearwater Double for longer trips with my wife or daughters.  After that, maybe a Wood Duck Double for use as a tender to our sailboat.  After that, maybe I need  Pax 18 for solo workouts?  OK, I AM ADDICTED.  PLEASE HELP!


RE: First Boat Recommendation

 Thanks for your input. I still don't know which model I'll go with yet. Will the Wood Duck have room to carry camping equipment? 


I wish these here boats could be made strong enough to take in class II rapids. We live right at a great stretch of river, but I'm sure I'd mess a wooden boat up on the rocks. 

RE: First Boat Recommendation


Think twice about white water.

It also is addictive.

Those who play with water are apt to get wet!


RE: First Boat Recommendation

   I have built or helped build almost all of the boats listed here, SWS, WD12, 17LT, WD double, WD14, and "Cheap Canoe". The easiest to build was the Shear Water Sport. In my opinion the best all around compromise, if you could only have one boat would be the SWS also. If you pack like a backpacker, you can get about a weeks worth of camping gear into the WD12. It is really tight for the first few days. You could put extra fiber glass layers on the bottom, to handle the rapids, but that would also increase wieght. I also was only going to build one boat. I have built or assisted in building 8 so far. I also have two set of plans waiting to be built this fall. Good luck. JRC

RE: First Boat Recommendation

I am of the opinion that if you really want to do white water, you should go get one of the many composite plastic kayaks built just for that purpose. You can't destroy them...they will bang into rocks, bounce off and take a hell of a beating. I would start with a used one, perhaps from Craigslist, and then once you know more you can make your own decisions as to what to buy new or build.  

However, if you are new to white water kayaking, I suggest you go to a kayak outiftter that offers lessons and take them. It can be a  lot of fun, but it also has it's perils. I think wooden fiberglassed kayaks are wonderful and beautiful, but they can take only so much banking into rocks before they need a lot of repair.

For your first wooden fiberglass kayak, I will venture a recommendation that you build the one you first mentioned: the wood duck. It's a great first kit and project in wood and it is very versitile for camping and fishing...and it's good for kids, too. Don't overthink it. Have fun. 


RE: First Boat Recommendation

   Well after ready the responses from you guys and a short conversation with one of the CLC reps I decided to order a Shearwater Sport today!  I'm excited for it to arrive and for the project to begin. I just hope I keep the enthusiasm and drive to work on the project daily. My wife has agreed to make sure I stay focused after she found out how much I spent. 

RE: First Boat Recommendation

   The SS is a great all around boat,  I think it will give you more "performance" than the WD.  Neither boat is a white water boat but both can handle class 2 if you are comfortable in the boat and your skills.  Naturally this is outside the intended use but if you have some river skills class 2 well within reason.  You will probably hit a few things but these boats are much tougher than you would think.  My Shearwater 17 is a regular on the river race circuit here in central PA,  including low water class 2, 2+ races,  it has taken quite a pounding but almost all damage is cosmetic and if you don;t mind some sanding and varnishing each year not a big concern.  These boats are much tougher than the kevlar/glass.  I have been thinking about either a SS or Petral Play  as a great option for a shorter river./play boat.  Look forward to seeing how you make out with your SS.

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