Saturday, January 19, 2008

Building the Arctic Tern Sea Kayak

The Arctic Tern Sea Kayak Specs: (standard 17' model)

LOA - 17'

Beam - 23"

Depth - 12"

Weight - 39lbs.

When I set out on the upper Chickasawhay River near Enterprise, Mississippi to paddle 240 miles to the Gulf of Mexico, my boat of choice was the versatile and extremely lightweight Arctic Tern sea kayak, designed by John Lockwood, of Pygmy Boats. Pygmy Boats offers by far the most sophisticated designs for wooden sea kayaks. These boats are built of Ocoume mahogany plywood, in the stitch and glue method with an outer laminate of 6-oz fiberglass, producing a lightweight boat with the beauty of bright-finished wood and the strength of fiberglass.

The 17-foot Arctic Tern design weighs only 39-lbs., and paddles like a dream with no rudder required. This boat is as seaworthy as any factory-produced sea kayak, with watertight bulkheads and hatches fore and aft and a standard-sized cockpit coaming for fitting a sprayskirt. These boats are only available as kits that include the precut wood panels for the hull and deck. Plans are not sold separately, except for some of the older designs. The kit prices are reasonable though, and most builders would not be able to obtain the materials separately for the same cost. Construction is straightforward, but time consuming if done to high standards.

I currently own an Arctic Tern 17 that I built on commission for my nephew, Brian Nobles, of Brandon. He used the boat a few years and sold it back to me when he transferred out of state. I had already built another Pygmy design, the Coho, for my own use, so I was familiar with their kits and construction method. The boat went together fairly easily, but as in any fine wooden boat building, it can not be built in a hurry if you expect a showroom finish. When I built these two kayaks I was already an experienced boatbuilder with both woodstrip and stitch and glue boats to my credit. Building from a kit does eliminate a lot of tedious lofting and cutting out of panels, but the assembly, epoxy fillets, and fiberglass work are always the more time consuming parts of plywood boatbuilding.

(This article was first published in the Scotts Boat Page newsletter, April 2004)

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"A boat is freedom, not just a way to reach a goal."
Bernard Moitessier - A Sea Vagabond's World


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