Submitted: 04-14-2010 by edzep
I've been paddling my Shearwater 16 hybrid (the stripped deck version) for 11 months. I have found it to be nearly ideal for my type of paddling -- lakes, swamps, lazy creeks, and streams with up to 3 or so MPH current. I enjoy tight maneuvering, and can well control the boat with leaned turns, with the custom seat and nice set of thigh hooks I added. I also enjoy the speed of a boat this size, rather than a shorter boat that might be a more natural choice for tight areas. I've had it in rough water once, during a sudden thunderstorm, with 3-foot waves and confused chop, and we performed pretty well, headed in for cover.
I'm 5'9", 142 pounds. I have been wishing she was another inch or so narrower, but, that's on me, and not a design fault. And, while I have noted my appreciation of the boat's maneuverability, prospective owners should note that at my weight, and unloaded, the rocker and V bottom do prevent it from coasting in a straight line -- instead taking its cue from the last paddle stroke, or from environmental factors.
My boat came in at 46 pounds, rigged and ready, including some extra fiberglass at the front bulkhead to confidently support a minicell footblock in place of normal foot braces.
I was impressed with the quality of the wood, and the cut/fit of the pieces; it was better than a stitch and glue kit from another company, which I had previously built. I also liked the included MAS epoxy, and have bought more of it for other projects. The manual (version 2.5) was pretty good, but I did find some issues to note.
My biggest frustration had to do with the hatches. The instructions showed gasket material attached on the lid underside, which bizarrely conflicted with the well-designed hatch opening spacers and lips that formed a natural channel for gasket material. But, one photo showed a wide piece of gasket that did not resemble the included gasket material, again placed incorrectly with regard to the perfect gasket channel. And, while the gasket material seemed appropriate, it was indeed twice as wide as would fit into the perfect gasket channel.
I tried cutting the gasket in half, lengthwise, but it came out unsatisfactorily. I searched the web for narrower material of that exact neoprene composition and thickness, in a narrower width, and only found it available in bulk quantities. In my frustration, I publicly called out CLC for having included the "wrong" material. They never did see my point, but graciously agreed to send me more of the original material, so that I could make another attempt at slicing it. I did do a decent job the second time. The hatches have never leaked -- even in practice rescue sessions and rolling attempts. They sit down low, and look great, and the gasket material fits in that perfect channel formed with the kit parts.
I did the hidden hatch option, with wood dowels in place of stainless hooks on the underside of the lids, where the bungees grab hold. Another modification was to reduce the width of the rear hatch, so that I could move it further from the cockpit, to allow more bungee area, as well as to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Another caveat for builders to note, and which CLC might address in the manual, is that the puzzle piece joints for the hull panels give a false sense of security in making well-aligned joints; there is enough movement in the joints that care should be taken to assure that assembled panels are symmetric. I recommend building one side, for example, then using it as a guide to build the second side.
The instructions did not mention it, but, I wanted a rounded edge on the sheer clamp corner that would be exposed inside the kayak. I beveled the parts on a table saw, then finished rounding with a sanding block. I now have a palm router, which would be ideal. The edge could rounded after assembly, if the router bit is shallow enough to fit.
Another area of potential error has to do with attaching the shear clamps to the sides. Instructions give figures for how much the sheer clamp should overhang the side panel, at different locations, but, "These distances do not need to be exact -- you can always err on the side of showing too much." This is true, except that you will later lay sighting sticks or a level across the sides to true the hull, and if the overhang is not the same on both sides, this can not be done precisely.
My inside hull fillets did not come out as pretty as I wanted. I had completely forgotten about a masking tape trick shown on the CLC website that would have made them pretty. This technique should have been described in the manual (one of the photos does appear to show results of the tape technique).
In summary, it's a great boat. If it fits you and your paddling style (not necessarily what I've listed; I imagine it would be a good surf boat, for example), then take note of the above manual addenda, and build it! Your paddle buddies will be jealous of the light weight and attention your boat attracts, but, they might chide you for not being as careless as they are with their plastic craft.