Autonomous Motion

Pygmy Coho Kayaks

Best kit for building a Coho kayak

Using the previously-reviewed Kayaks You Can Build book, I built my first Coho, a stich-and-glue plywood sea kayak. Before deciding on the Pygmy kit, I also considered ones offered by Mill Creek, Red Wing, Cheasapeake Light Craft, Dancing Waters, and One Ocean Design. In the end, I settled on Pygmy based on the feedback I got from other builders who touted just how very, very accurate the computer controlled router cut parts are. From the start, I realized I’ve seen a lot of Cohos out there over the years, which seemed to imply the design would be pretty well nailed down and refined by now. I was right.

The eight panels in the hull of the Coho make it a multi-chine boat, sort of half way between a strip construction and a four-panel hull. The way the deck fits elegantly onto the hull was also a big factor in my decision. I really like the fact that it is such a simple, but effective attachment. Some designs mandate you place screws or nails through the deck to the shear — to me that just seemed wrong. I also liked the more modern vertical stern, though the bow still very much keeps with a classic Greenland kayak shape. The hull is not too wide, but very stable and the deck’s extra two panels create a shape that reduces the knocking of your knuckles when you’re paddling. Also, the thinner panels of the hull really allow them to twist and create intriguing transitions that are simply not possible with a four-panel hull.

The staff at Pygmy are very friendly and helpful. My mom lives in Port Townsend, WA where Pygmy is located. I had always thought building a kayak would be neat, even before I discovered their shop near the marina. On one trip they let my son and I paddle a double around the bay. Several years later, I was at Eagle Lake, CA and someone had a Pygmy Arctic Tern. The boat paddled like a dream — reminded me of the first time I rode a high quality road racing bicycle. I was finally sold. Not long after, I bought my Coho kit from Pygmy.

If you are in Washington, I would really take a test paddle. I have a Perception Dagger which I use on the Sacramento River, a knock-around boat I can drag across the rocks or loan out to anyone without worrying. It does not track at all like the Coho. The response and performance are impeccable.

I took a pretty leisurely approach and probably spent about 300 hours, until it was done. After that, there is always something to consider adding — a carrying cart, some kind of a sail rig, etc. So I guess it is never really all finished! There really are only two problems with the Coho: 1) though they are very durable, you have so much time in them, you still really want to take care of them, 2) just about every trip I go on I get about six people a day stopping and asking me questions. It can actually delay your leaving the beach!

-- Mark Forwalter 11/7/08

© 2022