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Shearwater 17 / Hybrid Kit

by Chesapeake Light Craft

Stitch-and-glue sea kayak design has grown up a lot in the last fifteen years, driven by enthusiastic paddlers who prefer ultralight, beautiful boats that handle like extensions of themselves. For a new line of high-performance sea kayaks, Chesapeake Light Craft commissioned veteran paddler and kayak designer Eric Schade. Eric created three sleek, state-of-the-art wood-composite kayak designs.

Build this boat if:

  • You weigh less than 220lbs and your shoe size is 12 or less
  • You want a sporty, West Greenland-style kayak
  • You prefer advanced handling qualities in all conditions, including waves
  • You want a closer-fitting cockpit (like a bucket seat in a sports car)

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Reviews

I recently completed this Shearwater 17 and have now taken her out…

Submitted by: on

I recently completed this Shearwater 17 and have now taken her out for a paddle. I am an experienced builder and paddler and the boat was well executed and came in at 41 lbs completely rigged -- about 3 lbs below the weight given on the CLC site.

I don't think it's possible to get much lighter than this without significant modifications….the 41lbs weight was primarily due to very careful epoxy work and wood work which minimized epoxy weight. In a nutshell... easy to carry.

The boat was built from the material included in a CLC kit which was relatively complete. The hull was built per plans and all bulkhead locations, foot pedal track locations and other critical measurements were right on specification. I paid careful attention to the deck rigging as the plans and included material did not address what I consider sea-kayak safety minimums. So the boat has full perimeter lines (not included in kit), fore and aft flush hatches (included in kit) and two fore and two aft bungee tie down sections (not included in kit) to hold paddles as well as toggles (not included in kit) to make carrying the boat easy. A well contoured seat from redfin kayaks (not included in kit), the back band (included in kit), and padded knee and thigh braces (included in kit) rounded out the cockpit. dynel rub-strips on the bow and stern knuckles (not included in kit) extending about two feet towards the center of the boat allow the hull to deal with beach or a boat ramp without getting destroyed. These additions probably added another $100 on top of whatever the kit cost.

When it's all said and done, there is little in the commercial market that is a high-performance, fully rigged 17 foot sea kayak that would come in at this weight. There is no skeg on the boat but one can be fitted... it would probably add another two pounds to the hull.

The Shearwater is an attractive boat with an interesting mix of classic looks while at the same time modern. I finished the boat brite which let the underlying wood show through. The dark sappele deck is a nice complement to the okoume hull and shear pieces. Nothing but complements from other paddlers and park walkers when I pulled it off my car top to get underway.

I weigh 183 lbs and am 5'10 inches tall with a 30 inch inseam. For this review I was wearing a dry suit with just long underwear underneath and my regular shoe size is a 10.5. I had water slippers on to preserve the booties of my drysuit... I also paddled with a neoprene skirt. By way of paddling experience I paddle 300 to 400 hundred miles each year... usually once a week during the high season. My other boats I have paddled extensively include the Night Heron, the West River 180, Chesapeake 17s and a large number of commercial sea kayaks. I roll as well.

From a fit perspective, while not roomy, the boat was comfortable and worked for me. My sense is that if I had bigger feet, however, it would have been tight.

When we hit the water we had a 7 knot wind and light chop as well as motor boat wakes. The journey was a quick 8 mile round trip so roughly 4 with the wind at my back and 4 with the wind on the nose.

The first thing I noticed was the boat felt fast and relatively nimble. She tracked nicely without the need for correcting strokes and also responded very nicely to leaned turns. Not as nimble as my night heron with skeg up….but certainly better than the Chesapeake 17 or west river. I had initially considered building the boat with a skeg option….but glad I held off….i did not feel, under these conditions, like the boat was lacking in any way that a retractable skeg would address.

The boat accelerated easily and seemed to hold her speed well. the eight mile run was completed within two hours at a leisurely paddling stroke. My sense is that one is not going to worry about being able to keep up with the group with this hull. The numbers suggest she is fast and the on-the-water performance seemed to confirm that. This is not a high volume boat and for the upwind section, she knifed through the little chop with ease. I found the cut-away shear panels created plenty of room for a relatively aggressive paddling style and I did not once accidently strike the paddle to the boat. I found the boat stable... and had no real adjustment period required... just got in and went.

Overall, I am very happy with the results and the performance. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised, for a hard-chined boat, at the good balance of tracking and maneuvering and speed. Definitely a keeper.

I will probably write an updated review after I put more miles in more varied conditions.

I built this boat last winter and have been using it all…

Submitted by: on

I built this boat last winter and have been using it all summer. It is a great boat. It is not the fastest boat I have ever paddled, but it sure is not slow. One of the things I love about this boat is it is effortless; I can paddle all day and not get tired. It covers miles well. It is a little unstable when first getting used to it, but once you get the fill for it the boat is like an extension of your body.

I enjoyed the build. This boat was easy to make, but don't take sanding lightly. There is lots and lots of sanding. The nice thing is you can customize it to your liking. This winter I plan on upgrading the hatches and improving the seat.

The boat does fine in chop or in calm water after you get used to it. I have paddled many kayaks and have many hours in multiple kayaks, and they all act different. If you have less than 20 hours in this boat you should stay out of the whitecaps. It is a light boat and easy to portage. It’s a very versatile boat. I took it down to Louisiana this summer and paddled and fished the bayous and it did great, but I think this boat would be at home anywhere. I think a long 10 or 12 day trip in the boundary waters of Minnesota is what this boat would be best at.

I have built this Shearwater 17 stich and glue kayak at Arwen…

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I have built this Shearwater 17 stich and glue kayak at Arwen Marine. I added 2 options: sectional take apart in 3 pieces and a skeg. I have paddled it 7 times now and I am enjoyed. She is fast, straight but turn easy on angle, comfortable, stable, lightweight for this kind of construction, robust and surf well. I tried it in different conditions in open sea, calm to choppy, not severe yet.

For the time being, I am fully fan of it and do not use the others I have.
And of course she is nice. She is a true versatile sea kayak

The boat 2 of us level 4 instructors paddled lee-cocked and took…

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The boat 2 of us level 4 instructors paddled lee-cocked and took a ton of energy to paddle. It responded slower to turns than any of our boats (Cetus, Romany). Needs deck lines to be a sea boat.

After building from plans and paddling another manufacturer's kayak that has a…

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After building from plans and paddling another manufacturer's kayak that has a stern that acts as a sail, I wanted a boat that tracked well. When a couple of my buddies in my kayak club (Warehouse Church Kayak Shop) wanted to learn how to build a boat in 5 days (yeah, right) but they didn't need another boat, I checked out what they would be building - the Shearwater 17. CLC's review of it indicated that it tracked well and was fast, and that made it the boat for me (I'm still 'fixing' the first boat). So after a week stitching it together and glassing it, my buddies handed it off to me to "finish."

----Finishing the Shearwater 17-----

TIME AND VARNISH. Finishing is really the biggest part of building a stitch and glue boat like the Shearwater 17. This took a lot of time across a couple of months. Getting the varnish just right was a challenge, but after 7 attempts I learned that a little dab of mineral spirits across the deck and hull will do ya - and the boat does look good.

HATCH KITS. CLC provides one of their standard hatch kits with their boats. Which, per other reviewers and my experience, leaks. Going with an s-cam buckle kit from another manufacturer really provides a good seal - and dry holds.

DECK LINES. CLC like at least a couple of other kit manufacturers neglects to include deck lines for rescue - a safety feature which I did add both fore and aft. It doesn't diminish the boat's appearance, and even if it did, it's an essential safety feature all kayaks should have.

FOOT PEGS. The CLC kit provides plastic rails & foot pegs that are sorely inadequate when it comes to serious paddling when you're pushing hard with your feet – the pedals come off! Plus, the plastic Keepers require drilling holes through the sides to bolt them in. I replaced these with aluminum rails & foot pedals that attach within the cockpit - no holes required. This both improves the appearance and performance of the boat.

BACK SUPPORT. The CLC comes with a support band that is worth, well, very little. I replaced it with foam cut to extend no higher than the top of the coaming, and so far this has been pretty good.

KNEE BRACES. What remains for my boat is cutting out the foam knee braces. There is so much room in the cockpit I'll need to put fairly thick knee braces in since when attempting to roll (I'm just learning this) I end up floating around in the cockpit, not able to shift leg weight. This of course is not a problem, more space (to a point) is better.

------------Paddling the Shearwater 17---------

TRACKING, STABILITY, SPEED. Getting to performance. Wow. I could not believe the boat. No weathercocking - it tracks beautifully. No wobble - as stable as could be. And the long Loaded Waterline Length ensured a fast hull speed. Wow. I've enjoyed it in one 10-mile downstream river race already and look forward to more.

WAVES. I've just moved into intermediate paddling category - I do like waves a lot but need more time in the seat in waves to be fully comfortable and better at edging and bracing to contend with rough water. The Shearwater 17 gives me the "tool" to make going through the waves happen. What a delight.

FLAT WATER. On flat water the boat "disappears." It's so easy to paddle that you can easily get lost in the experience of being on-water.

FISHING. It's been fun using the Shearwater 17 for fishing. I built a rod holder that I easily can slip on and off under the front bungees, and use it for trolling. When it comes to casting, it's like casting from a lounge chair. It's a bit more difficult to fly cast, but whether fly casting or casting lures or live bait, the Shearwater 17 remains calm - no tendency to roll over with the shift in body weight. So far I've taken only pan fish in it, but have gone fishing for kings (which were only jumping around the days I went out).

---------A Final Note--------------------

LOOKING GOOD. Performance is what counts, and the Shearwater does not disappoint. However, the Shearwater 17 with the okume mahogany hull and sapele mahogany deck looks great. The cambered sapele deck is a delight to just look at. And the Shearwater 17 is better than a puppy for starting conversations!

Finished building my 5th CLC boat its the Shearwater 17. It's a…

Submitted by: on

Finished building my 5th CLC boat its the Shearwater 17. It's a fine looking boat and behaves quite nicely for a Hard chine. It's very predictable in different sea conditions and for a 6' 215 lbs guy like me it's a 'Skinny jeans' fit. saying that I must commend Eric Schade for a great cockpit design that enables me with only 30" in length to do an easy scramble; this is mainly achieved through the correct width in the front part of the cockpit but also the wide enough seat Area opening to drop my big behind in first.

In the build up, I added a 6mm marine plywood bulkhead and created a day Hatch with the Help of a Kayaksport hatch cover kit. this adds a lot of rigidity and safety to an already great design. I think it would be great if CLC could offer this simple feature in most of their Kits.

I have 2 grievances with the boat and CLC.
The 1st is regarding their claim that the boat fits a 12.5 shoe size which it doesn't... I'm a 10.5 and when I have to go a half size larger to 11 due to The dry suit socks my feet just won't fit under the Deck. it is very cramped down there and I have read this from other builders as well, still no change on the CLC website...
The second issue has to do with a rear cockpit recess which is missing thus making layback rolls much more difficult.

My last request from CLC and the designer is to consider offering a Multichine version of these great boats and maybe incorporate a day hatch and a rear cockpit recess options and an additional 1/2 inch clearance for feet room would probably make it the perfect boat for me.

3 1/2 years later and still luvin' this boat! It's fast, stable…

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3 1/2 years later and still luvin' this boat! It's fast, stable, comfortable, and can handle some pretty severe seas. I've owned about 6 other boats and have test paddled many others and I wouldn't trade this one for any of them

I finished my SW17 early this spring (although I am still adding…

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I finished my SW17 early this spring (although I am still adding stuff to it), While building your own boat may seem intimidating at first, the kits take out much of the guess work and can be very addicting and rewarding. The ability to customize and personalize the boat is second to none. The kit went together easily and the online support forums are very beneficial and a great source of ideas for customizing your boat.

This is a big improvement over my plastic boat, it is lighter, stronger and stiffer (good for handling, bad for hitting things). It is more stable than I would have guessed and turns very easily with simple leans, so much so that I won't be adding the rudder I purchased for it. I added a happy bottom seat and a performance backband. The boat fits like a glove. It is very easy to get into and out of. Like many boats it is intended for a specific range of paddler, I am 5'10", 175 with size 12 shoes. Anyone over 6'2" may have to move the bulkhead forward to increase leg room.

The Shearwater tracks very well, and suffers from very little weathercocking and is easier to turn (compared to my plastic Sealion). It's a fast and predictable handling boat, a great all around sea kayak in the traditional greenland style. I have used mine on lakes and rivers, the bow slices thru most wave trains on the river as opposed to riding up and bouncing as my Sea Lion does. The hull shape gives it less buoyancy in the at the ends but I have yet to find a negative to this. I wish I had built one sooner.

    Pros:
  • Good all around performer, fast, stable and predictable. Very responsive to leans and strokes.
  • A good compromise between plastic (lighter and stiffer) and fiberglass/carbon boats (stonger, more durable, easier to repair).
  • It is hard to argue with the beauty of a nice wood boat, people stop to comment every time you take is somewhere.
  • Ability to customize and design your own unique looking boat
  • Easy to repair

    Cons:

  • If you want your wood boat to last it requires some maintenance. Keep it dry and out of the sun when not in use (UV is bad for plastic and carbon boats too). It should be given a new coat of varnish every year or so of steady use.
  • Not as indestructible as plastic
  • Small sized hatches limit the size of objects you can store (probably not the best expedition boat from a storage standpoint, although of course you can make them larger)
  • Cockpit is limited in size; may feel cramped to some larger paddlers.

This boat went together very easily. The puzzle joints and pre-drilled holes…

Submitted by: on

This boat went together very easily. The puzzle joints and pre-drilled holes were a really big improvement and eliminated most of the measuring and aligning that for me is the scary part of putting these boats together. I installed a skeg and a creature comfort seat. As for performance this boat is FAST!! I think it's faster than the pax20 I had previously.

It's stable, tracks well and is very responsive to edging so there's no need for a rudder. With the cc seat I'm very comfortable and have plenty of leg room. If you're thinking of building a boat that'll really make the miles fly by, this is the one!