Autonomous Motion

Kayaks You Can Build

Guide to constructing Coho boats

I have built several simple fiberglass canoes and repaired my sailboats, but using this book I was able to build my first “real,” high-performance boat, a Pygmy Coho, a stitch and glue plywood construction sea kayak which was also reviewed in Cool Tools. I read a lot of books on kayak construction, stitch and glue type in particular. I also used the Coho building manual from Pygmy some. But I absolutely would not have been as successful with my boat had I not read this book before building and referenced it during building. The detail, sharing of practical experience, the tons of photos, clarity in explanation and the examples of the exact same boat — the Coho — made this the only choice. The book lays out everything in terms of what you can expect to accomplish on Day 1, Day 2 and so forth. Even if you don’t follow it step by step, the book provides the fundamentals to make good alternative building decisions.

I was able to do all of the following alternatives: Rigged up my own plumbing for a built in bilge pump. Added 4-oz glass to the deck for strength. Added the bulkheads to also gain rear deck strength. Doubled the coaming lip for strength and aesthetics. Added in hardwood keys at the coaming spacer joints for strength. Fiberglassed the entire coaming (probably really not necessary). Made my own jigs with hot glue and pop sickle sticks as prealignment tools for bulkheads, seat braces, deck joint, etc.

Above all else, the book explains how to build a very flat, level, elevated worktable with internal/external stations to hold the boat in position. That aspect alone is reason enough to go with this book. I am currently building a skin-on-frame, Greenland style kayak for my wife, but I would re-read this book before building any other stitch and glue boat. I also recommend the Greenland kayak website, Qajaq USA and Guillemont Kayak’s boat-building forum, where there is a wealth of information for the construction and use of stitch and glue, strip building and traditional skin-on-frame (SOF) kayaks.

-- Mark Fowalter 07/18/08


In order to achieve professional results, each stage of your work should be completed with the least number of steps as well as prepare you for the next stage. For example, if you apply the filler casually with a stick, before the next step can happen the excess will have to be sanded off. Professionals eliminate the cleanup step by placing just enough filler in the right place to do the job. When the masking tape is peeled off, the step is complete and ready for the next one. Keeping the filler under control saves time and minimizes exposure to the bad stuff. That's a pretty fair payoff, but there's also a bonus that comes with thinking lazy. That bonus is professional results. You cannot build a professional-quality boat when you are doing damage control between each step... We are all good at something; by combining an understanding of what needs to be done with what is already familiar, we find that practical solutions present themselves.

The less epoxy you put on, the less you have to sand off. If the epoxy is kept under control when wet, expect about one day of sanding, preferably outside. Tidy glue application brings the additional benefits of less unhealthy dust produced and more efficient -- and less costly -- use of the epoxy.

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