Feedback needed on plan sources

Submitted bygatorkiter onThu, 07/30/2020 - 09:11

I'm doing research for building my first strip kayak. I'm a skilled woodworker with an outfitted shop, in case you are wondering why plans vs a kit. I also bought the book "Kayak Craft" by Ted Moores. 

I see many companies on the web that offer plans. Can I get some feedback on what people here think are the better plan vendors? I know to look for plans with full-sized templates, so I won't have to enlarge the diagrams.



Thu, 07/30/2020 - 11:05

Are you looking for free plans?

Which sources are on your list?

What sort of kayak do you want to build?

I've built several boats designed by Bjorn Thomasson and like them, though some are in the 'more difficult' build category because they have a more complex hull and deck shape.


Thu, 07/30/2020 - 19:33

I think that OneOcean and Redfish have sold quite a few plans, and I've seen builds mentioned here in the past.

Rob Macks (Laughing Loon) is another designer who sells plans and has videos online.

The Siskiwit boats by Bryan Hansel would be worth a look.

Questions to ask:

Is the designer a good paddler? How was the prototype tested and were changes necessary? How many boats have been built from the plans?

Matching the boat to the size and skill of the user, and the intended use, is important. 

Day paddles or tripping? Bayous or the Oregon coast? Taking classes and building skill? etc...

Is this boat for you? Do you have a kayak now?  How will the new boat be used? Where? 

It's a lot of work, so you want to give yourself the best chance of having a great boat that fits your needs when you are finished.

A woodworking 'work of art' is another thing entirely, IMO.


if you are looking for a 'small' sea kayak...but a real sea kayak none-the-less, look at a petrel play.

its 14 feet length overall, fits most normal sized adults and has great performance for just messing around or a more traditional paddle.

if you are feeling up to it, there are lots of potential variations of rigging and stripping as well as a rertactable skeg to show your skills.

i have built a lot of traditional sea kayaks in the 17 to 18 foot range but have been planning a petrel play build because i just want something light and easy to go out with but still a real sea kayak that can perform.  as i have gotten older, building a boat that is easy to pick up and go has become a key feature for me.   i am still working on my approach but i am hoping to build one that will come in at about 30lbs even.


I am sure the Petrel Play is a solid choice, you should also consider Bjorn Thomasson's  Frej. It comes in 3 different sizes and can be increased or decreased in length by up to 10% to suit the builder. I am building Frej reduced by 10%  to get a light weight very easy handling kayak on and off the water for day trips. At 71 years old I'm beginning to appreciate light weight................George

John VanBuren

Fri, 07/31/2020 - 09:01

Of the strip built boats I have tried, I liked the Petrel Play best. At the time of the trial paddles, I was in my mid-60's and at 6' weighed around 200 pounds.


John VB

on the rotating pictures, you can see the frej i built for my wife with a reduction that brought the boat to ~15 feet.  it only weighs about 25 lbs.....but i am a bigger guy.  i have  regular petrel for me that is slightly over 30 lbs built with s glass and 3/16 western red cedar and super careful epoxy work ......yep...light is really easy.

Let's step back a few steps.  All of the plan vendors you mentioned and others mentioned provide good quality plans.  Guillemot,  Bjorn Thomasson, CLC, Redfish, Laughing Loon, ..,  Could you describe what type of water you will be paddling on, what type of paddling you will be doing, and what type of building experience you want to have and then we could point you in the right direction.  For example will you be on the ocean, lakes, or rivers.  Will you be fishing, doing photography, playing in waves or rock gardens, muti day tripping or 30 minute paddles, rolling, racing, just poking around or hanging the kayak on the wall and admiring it..,  Do you want a really challenging build or a pretty easy build?



Mon, 08/03/2020 - 14:26

In reply to by sbaxter

Thanks for the feedback. Many of you asked what type of kayak I want to build, and I can see why that would an impact on the plan source.  I play on using this kayak in the intercoastal waterway (also called the Indian River, but it is not a river) near Melbourne, FL. Most of my time paddling will be near shore and in small tributaries of the river, but to get to different shorelines, I will need to cross the "river" which can be as wide as 1.5 miles and can have waves, hence I thought I might need some type of sea kayak, or a hybrid, like the Petrel Play.  I am not a fisherman nor a racer, but, like most, I would like an efficient kayak. I mostly just want exercise and to explore. 


Tue, 08/04/2020 - 06:49

I would also recommend that you look at  They have free plans for two boats:  the Shrike (S&G) and Vember (Strip hull with plywood deck).  Beautiful boats.   The plans come with a detailed build manual.  I personally have built two Vembers.  More than 300 Shrikes have been built.  Checkout


Tue, 08/04/2020 - 12:23

More questions (some have been asked already):

Do you own a kayak and gear already? Do you know how to paddle and do basic self rescues? Few of the plans specify the deck rigging and details like thigh pads, things that are essential and the difference between 'wall hanger' and a good  safe usable boat. Having a good kayak nearby to imitate helps a lot.

Taking some lessons and using rented boats will tell you what type of boat you want. Things like cockpit size and foot room are critical.

Can you drop your butt into the seat and then get your legs in?

Will your feet in your preferred paddling shoes fit comfortably under the deck?

This depends on your inseam - the deck gets lower and the boat narrows the further forward you go.

Most of the 'Greenland' style boats have low decks and require your feet to be pointed forward and jammed into the boat.

It is worthwhile to make a mockup of the boat in the area where your feet will land (using cardboard and some outside frames made from scrap plywood is one method- if you are capable of building a kayak you will figure out something 'quick and dirty'.). You don't want to find nasty surprises after many hours of work.

How heavy are you ? For day paddling,  don't pick a design (tripping, expedition) that performs properly with 300 lbs aboard but blows around on the surface loaded with a 150 lb paddler and lunch .

For 95% of kayaks a skeg or rudder is necessary if you want to avoid a lot of tiresome course correcting strokes when it gets breezy. Not a huge problem if you plan ahead, but it does add more work (and expense) to the build.

To the questions above:

I do not own a kayak or gear. I've paddled one several times and although I have never tried a kayak self rescue, I've been kitesurfing for 15 years, so I'm a quick learner with watersports.  But I appreciate your input on what to look at to make a kayak safe; I will research those things. 

Good idea on trying out different types of kayaks but the rentals I see around here look like the cheap ones from a department store. But I'll check around. I do need to decide on the type of kayak I want to build. 

On the comment about fitting into the cockpit - I'm 5'10" and weight 140 pounds, but I didn't know some decks are so low I might not be able to fit my feet in upright. 

Good idea on the rudder. It typically gets windy where I want to kayak. I do not see myself carrying much gear aboard, and I'm light, so do single chine designs track better than multi chines?

In summary, I want a design that works well for a smaller person, tracks well in wind, moves efficiently through the water, not carrying lots of gear, can handle 2-3' waves once in awhile, but not to surf, and no racing.  Difficult builds would not scare me away. 



Tue, 08/04/2020 - 16:45


I don't think there are any 'hard and fast rules' about  the number of chines (or even hard chine vs rounded) and tracking. It's complex.

Generally a boat with a straight keel-line will be harder to turn than one with more rocker. A 'straight tracking' boat can be a handful to paddle in confused wave conditions like you will get from wind and boat wakes in the ICW. Once it gets shoved off course, that 'straight tracking boat' can require work to get pointed in the right direction again.

You don't necessarily need a rudder - a good kayak with a skeg can handle well in windy conditions. You can install a commercial skeg 'kit', which saves quite a bit of work.

Something like a NDK Romany  Classic would probably suit you well, so you could look for that type in a DIY project. e.g. a 'Brit boat, in the 15-16' LOA range. Siskiwit is quite Romany-like in design. Add a skeg.

Another possibility - more challenging build- would be a Thomasson Frej . If foot room is a problem,  I'd advise building one of the higher deck versions, perhaps the 'L' and shortening it . You don't need the increased capacity for heavy loads. Bjorn provides info on shortening and lengthening his designs, and also answers emails promptly unless he is away from home.  So you could ask him. I know he has sent partial plans (via email) to potential builders who had questions about deck height and footroom. Make a mockup and see how it fits before you commit to cutting all the forms. I recently modified the deck on my standard Frej because I could only wear light neoprene boots over my Sz 10 feet in it - any more bulky footwear and my feet were pretty much jammed in place. Even a cm can make a difference. Add a skeg.

Whatever you build- make the cockpit larger Brit/USA size, not 'Ocean' or 'Greenland'. You want to be able to enter butt first, for convenience and safety (self or assisted rescues).

Boats like those will be something you will still find interesting and fun as your skills increase.

Nothing wider than about 22"  (54-55 cm max).

If you want to get feedback/answers with pictures, you could participate in the WestCoastPaddler forum - there are folks from 'all over' there, not just west coasters. There's a building sub-forum.

at your height/weight i ithink you would find the petrel or frej really nice.   i am partial to the petrel compared to the frej....mostly due to the sophisticated hull design on the petrel with soft chines forward and hard chines aft which gives it some really great handling properties.

 i am 5 10, 168 lbs and really enjoy my petrel (not the petrel play) which is drop-dead geougeous, light and within your weight range....and plenty roomy unless you have some odd measurements.   handles chop extremely well, very maneuvarable and when i put the skeg down, tracks straight as a train.

mine came in at 35 lbs so really easy to use....its my go-to exercise/skittering around boat...and routinely take it on 8 to 10 mile journeys....mostky flat, but a comforting boat when it gets sloppy.   when i am out on a longer ride, i swap out to a night-heron.



at your height/weight i ithink you would find the petrel or frej really nice.   i am partial to the petrel compared to the frej....mostly due to the sophisticated hull design on the petrel with soft chines forward and hard chines aft which gives it some really great handling properties.

 i am 5 10, 168 lbs and really enjoy my petrel (not the petrel play) which is drop-dead geougeous, light and within your weight range....and plenty roomy unless you have some odd measurements.   handles chop extremely well, very maneuvarable and when i put the skeg down, tracks straight as a train.

mine came in at 35 lbs so really easy to use....its my go-to exercise/skittering around boat...and routinely take it on 8 to 10 mile journeys....mostky flat, but a comforting boat when it gets sloppy.   when i am out on a longer ride, i swap out to a night-heron.



Howard - Thanks for the feedback. I also like the Petrel. Maybe even the Petrel Play, but either way they seem to be nice designs that would fit my needs. Looks like a challenging build with those complex hull lines, but what else do I have to do? :)  

if you have a google account you should be able to see some pictures of my petrel that i put in a public folder.  i tried to upload a pciture but that feature, for some reason is returning an error.  if somebody knows how to fix that or what the problem might be, please let me know……

the petrel is a challenging build so you will get your money's worth...but if you are a skilled, patient woodworker, have some humility (we all have a lot to learn) and use the forums and all the on-line material and reach out to local builders, you can do it.


Fri, 08/07/2020 - 16:19

I looked into the Siskiwit, which looks like it would fit my needs well, but it doesn't comes with any instructions, just files. I could probably print them at my local print shop on their plotter. I can't tell from the Paddling Light website if the plans are theirs or another vendor since the website has the message: Paddling Light may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. My point being, if I have an issue, can I ask them a question?


Anyways, thanks for your help John.



Fri, 08/07/2020 - 20:35

As far as I know:

Bryan Hansel designed the Siskiwit boats. He owns the PaddlingLight website and seems to be doing a lot of reviews lately, with links to purchase the items he mentions. I think that's the explanation for the 'earn a commission' idea.

I don't know how much support Bryan gives to  builders. My usual tactic when I wonder about support from a vendor is to send an email and see if a reply comes back promptly.

I don't know if Nick Schade gives support to buyers of his plans. He doesn't seem to be around here much any more, and it's his forum.

Really , if you have a set of drawings that show the cross sections and the seat/cockpit position, and a couple of the standard books (Moores Kayakcraft, Nick's Building a Strip Kayak) you should be set to go.

Once you narrow your list to a few designs, you could post that info here or at WCP (with lines at WCP) and ask for feedback again.

Petrel, Cirrus LT(?), Siskiwit LV, Frej or .....


Sat, 08/08/2020 - 06:18

A couple of years ago I built a Siskiwit Bay SOF.  Bryan was very supportive during the build process and answered my emails to him promptly.   There is no build manual. The plans for all his boats can be printed on a large format printer at any copy shop.   


p.s. I don’t know about the strip version of the Siskiwit Bay but the SOF could definitely benefit from a skeg when it is windy.   I suspect the strip version does as well


Sat, 08/08/2020 - 17:39

Make sure you watch all of Nick’s videos on YouTube regardless of whether or not you build one of his designs.  They are amazingly detailed and very well done.   His book is also quite good.   Also you might have a look at the build manual for the Vember at   While some of it will not apply to a boat with a strip deck it has a ton of advice that is free.  It is very well written.

Personally, I am skeptical of Nick’s use of an internal strong back for the forms.  Yes, maybe it will work  if you a comparable piece of aluminum tubing to that which Nick uses, but building such a box out of 8’ lengths of super high quality plywood (e.g. Baltic birch) and ending up with something that is perfectly true and without any twist will itself be a challenge.   The importance of a good strongback cannot be over emphasized.


Sat, 08/08/2020 - 18:25

David's comments are the strongback are well-taken. With a standard ('external') strongback, as long as it's stable, it doesn't have to be extremely true (straight and untwisted) since you'll be taking the extra time to align the forms individually.

I'll throw in my "for-what-they-are-worth" comments here. 

I have used the internal plywood strong back for many builds and it is still going strong (pun intended) Mine is very straight and no twist but - - it does not have to be straight. A chalkline is snapped down the center and all measurements are referenced from this straight line. It can also have twist. The boat forms are mounted to the strongback using reference lines on the patterns. Once the forms are temporarily mounted to the strongback a strip is clamped in place at the shearline and "visually approved" before permanent mounting. The strongback holds the bulkhead forms in place once they are aligned correctly. My strongback has nothing to do with the actual bulkhead alignment.

"With a standard ('external') strongback, as long as it's stable, it doesn't have to be extremely true (straight and untwisted) since you'll be taking the extra time to align the forms individually."

I agree 100% with what John said - - I just substitute the word (internal) for his (external)



There are basically two approaches to strongback regardless if it is internal or external.  The most common approach is that you assume the strongback and your workmanship is not perfect and attach your forms in a way that allows you to make adjustments using tight strings, lasers, or what ever method you choose to align with.  The other is you have a perfectly true strong back and a precise method for attaching the forms to the strongback .  I have done both and they both work fine with the first method you spend more time aligning everything, with the second method you spend more time with precision assembly.  I currently use a piece of Faztek 15QE1530 Aluminum 6063-16 T-Slotted for an internal strongback that I got on a deal but it still cost over $100.  I also have a routing jig that allows me to make extremely precise holes in my forms.  I have built my last 5 boats with this method and will  probably continue to use it but I don't see my approach as anything more than a preference based largely on materials and tools I hat at hand.  


i just wanted to throw in my experience ... it aligns with sbaxter. 

i use an internal strongback built of wood.   it is pretty straight and it was built from a CLC Kayaks strongback kit so it was CNC cut and is basically a wooden box beam that you assemble.  fwiw, it is an inexpensive way to get a good strongback if you don't want to source and build one yourself.  while no strong back is perfect, it went together pretty well and straight and due to the nature of its construction, has shown no tendency to warp over the 8 years i have been using, and has served me now for four boats.

similar to sbaxter i don't rely on the strongback 100% for alignment and created a little mechanism to be able to move the frames up/down, right/left about 1 cm and to rotate about 10 degrees.  so while i drop them in place and make them medium tight, i the re-align everything with external sites along the reference lines on the forms and tighten down each form into a pretty near-perfect alignment.

my sense is you need a little room to make final alignments with reference marks on the forms becuase it is just very hard to keep and maintain a totally alighned internal or external strongback.



Mon, 08/10/2020 - 08:23

Its too bad its a pandemic year. Before that there were many wood boat gatherings where many boats were available for trials. Its a bit like asking "what shoes should I buy". If you could hunt down some people who would let you try their boats that would be the way to go. Nothing would beat that. And your opinions will change as your padding abilities improve. That's why most paddlers have a few or many boats. See if there are any kayaking groups in your area and that may lead you to wood boat people with boats that you might try. Since you have a size you lean towards, I don't think there are any bad designs out there (any more). Your fit and its stability characteristics will probably govern you happiness in any boat over performance at this point. Good luck.


Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:46

Anyone have opinions on the Siskiwit Bay on It's 17' x 21" (a little longer than I was targeting, but I think that is ok). 

The designer says it has a bit of rocker, which would be good for heavy chop and small waves, but he said it has a roundish hull when I asked about the number of chines. Would a roundish hull be ok for straight-tracking for touring if I add a skeg? 

Also, the designer answered two of my emails quickly which is a good sign for support. :) 

Also looking at the Expedition Sport by One Ocean. It's the smaller derivation of the Cape Ann Expedition . It's 16' 9" x 21.5" and has hard chines and what looks like a mild rocker. 


Mon, 08/10/2020 - 16:03

For day paddles, I'd generally avoid any design with the word 'Expedition' in the name or description. But the OneOcean Expedition Sport looks like an exception to my rule- just the sort of boat I'd like. Romany-like chines. John Caldiera (review comments at OneOcean) is a paddler whose opinion I'd trust - if he says it's a good boat you probably won't be disappointed.

The Siskiwit LV attracts me more than the Siskiwit Bay, but they both look nice.

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