The Petrel Play is just 14 feet long, a length once reserved for recreational kayaks. But Nick Schade's ingenious shaping of plywood panels has resulted in a design that offers world-class handling in the surf AND a comfortable cockpit for recreational paddling AND can be built by an intermediate woodworker.
The front half of the Petrel Play is multi-chined, for an efficient balance of low-drag buoyancy and minimal resistance. The aft half of the kayak has a firm single chine, perfect for carving turns and surfing, and for excellent secondary stability.
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The Petrel Play, which was my third kayak built from CLC kit, took me 5 months and 135 hours (59 work periods) to complete. This is one of CLC's latest generation of kits and it is a work of art. Just as with older kits, all the wood panels are cut with puzzle joints and stitch holes predrilled. What is added are bevels on the wood panels and external hull/deck forms which help hold the boat’s complex shape during construction. The manual is also a work of art that is loaded with pictures and many of Nick Schade's build techniques. My only criticism is that this is a shared manual with the S&G Petrel and most pictures are of the Petrel and not the Petrel Play. Despite the exceptional kit and manual, this is not a good choice for a first time builder. The complex deck shape requires considerable bend on some of the panels which makes stitching difficult. The complex shape also makes glassing pretty difficult. My boat came in at 41.6# fully rigged.
The Petrel Play is a light and responsive kayak that may not be the best choice for a beginner, but experienced paddlers will love. Primary stability is light and secondary is light to moderate. The boat tracks nicely at speed but it will turn sideways as the boat slows once you stop paddling. The boat has exceptional maneuverability and carves nice tight turns with a little lean.
The Play is not a fast boat. It moves effortlessly at 4 mph with minimal wake but the effort required increases markedly above that. I am an athletic 5'7"/155# and can sprint the Play at 5.5-6.0 mph. My two hour exercise pace is about 5.2 mph.
This is a great boat for rough conditions. I have paddled it in 2' chop and felt very secure. It accelerates quickly and will surf on the smallest of waves. There are some neat videos online showing the designer paddle the Play in extreme conditions.
For me, the cockpit in the Play is snug but comfortable for a couple of hours. One of my taller friends (6'2" & thin) paddled the boat and found it tight. I would not recommend this boat for a heavy person.
The Play could be used for light touring if you pack smartly. The forward storage area is decent sized but the VCP hatch is small. The aft hatch is much larger but the storage volume is less due to the low aft deck.
When I decided on the Play, I was looking for a smaller kayak for use in the many tight streams/springs in Florida, but was also capable of handling surf at the beach. After a year of hard use, I am extremely pleased with my choice. The Play is both a joy to paddle and a joy to look at. Frankly, the only negative is that I frequently get delayed at the launch by other kayakers drooling over my boat.