Submitted: 09-16-2008 by dkehlenbach
After several years of sea kayaking, I found myself enjoying the tranquility of quiet water paddling much more often than the challenges of open water. Lakes, ponds, creeks and sheltered bays open up a whole different world to the kayaker and provide an ideal environment to introduce others to paddling. Using a 17’ sea kayak in small creeks and lakes was a bit overkill, so I started looking into a more suitable boat for calm water, but nothing appealed to me. Sure, there were some nice poly and fiberglass boats out there that would do just fine, but nothing really piqued my interest until Chesapeake Light Craft came out with their Wood Duck series.
Wooden boats always have had a certain appeal to me, but to be honest, I was a bit intimidated by the building process. My father-in-law was gracious in building the boat for me, and it was very exciting seeing flat sheets of plywood become a beautiful work of art. All in all, I would say the entire construction process took about 60 hours of work.
In fitting out the kayak, I decided to use a VCP oval hatch instead of the flush-mounted hatch, and I am very glad. I have had VCP hatches before, and they are probably as close to watertight as can be expected from a hatch system. I also opted not to put deck rigging on the boat. The cockpit of this boat is huge – a small child can sit in front of an adult with no problems whatsoever, so it would be a long reach to the front deck rigging. Besides, I don’t see this boat being used like the typical sea kayak, so it is unlikely that a chart, compass and other navigational aides will need to be on deck. I simply place any items that I need in the cavernous cockpit. Another option added to the boat was a footbrace mounting kit to avoid drilling through the hull to mount the footbraces. The braces are fiberglassed to the inside of the hull and provide a much cleaner looking installation. I also added a Therm-a-rest seat pad to the standard foam seat.
How does it paddle? One word – a dream. A 12-foot boat is much more maneuverable in tight conditions than a longer sea kayak, making this boat ideal for creeks and slow-moving rivers. This boat is fairly wide (30”) but using a 240-cm paddle makes for easy work, and since the sheer panels are “tumbled home” clearance is greatly improved. As stated before, the cockpit is huge. I am fairly tall (6’1”) with long legs, and I can sit with my legs crossed, or knees up, which makes for very comfortable photography and bird watching. This would be an ideal boat for fishing as well – its stability is remarkable.
I give this boat a 10. It is the perfect boat for me, and the paddling I anticipate doing. If you ever have the chance to attend a get-together or demos by Chesapeake Light Craft, by all means do so – you will be able to test paddle their different designs and talk to other builders.