plywood thickness and sheet count for S&G Petrel Play

Submitted byLRM2 onMon, 04/22/2019 - 19:48

Hi all,

Sorry if this has been addressed already, but if so I could not find the answer. I'm thinking of building a Petrel Play and have a couple of initial questions.  First, what thickness plywood? I would expect to use Okoume.  Seems like 4mm might be a good combination of weight, strength and bendability, but I saw one post that suggests 3mm.  What is recommended or generally used?  Second, how many sheets are needed?



I built a S&G PP from kit a few years ago.  I can't offer the sheet count question because the wood comes precut in the kit.  I am pretty certain that the wood was 3mm but not 100%.  (I am on the road now so can't look at the manual or boat to tell you for certain).  In any event, I'd recommend 3mm because there is a lot of bend in this boat, especially with the deck and hatch recesses.  One last construction note, you may consider buying the kit from CLC.  Unless you have a good source of inexpensive Okoume nearby, the price is pretty competitive and the CNC cut parts are OMG good.

Performance wise, I absolutely LOVE this boat.  I have had it for 5 years now and it is my absolutely favorite boat to paddle.  Below is a review that I wrote several years ago.  The only change is that have added a skeg since writing that.  The boat does not need a skeg in rough water or when actively paddling.  I primarily added it to help keep the boat straight when I stop paddling to take pictures in flat water.


When I built my Petrel Play during the spring of 2014, the Play was only available as a kit from Chesapeake Light Craft or as plans from Guillemot Kayaks.  As of this writing, it appears that completed Petrel Plays will soon be available for purchase.  One of the former CLC employees, who still teaches classes for CLC, has started a small shop called Turning Point Kayaks, which will reportedly be offering custom built Petrel Plays in fiberglass, carbon fiber, Kevlar or wood strip.

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.  Both primary and secondary stability are 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 3’ waves 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.



Hey Lewis, I got home last night and had a chance to measure the ply on my S&G PP.  I was wrong in my post above, the plywood in the CLC kit was definitely 4mm.  I do not know what is specified on the plans, but you may want to talk to Nick before deviating from his plans.  

You definitely want to build this boat!



Wed, 04/24/2019 - 12:14

I've built S&G boats from kits and from plans.


I would pay a BIG surcharge to get the kit. It is just much easier - fitting S&G panels is no fun, and things can 'go sideways' in a hurry.

Smooth out a bumpy edge and the panel is smaller, now the curve doesn't match up with the adjacent panel, now this side is different from the other, etc...


As has been pointed out, with a kit you are not wasting a lot of plywood, so saving on those costs as well.