I completed the arctic hawk kit sold by CLC in the winter of 2004/2005. Since completing the boat I have put about 200 miles on her typically 5 to 10 miles at a time day paddles.
While CLC manufactures the kit, the brains behind it are that of Mark Rodgers of Superior Kayaks.
The kit is true to Mark Rodgers design and construction techniques. An experienced builder can create the same boat that is sold by Superior Kayaks and avoid the 5K+ price tag and two year waiting list.
With respect to construction, the boat is accompanied by an almost 500 page detailed step by step manual with careful elaboration of all construction issues and finishing technique. I, for one, found significant value in the manual in terms of improving my appreciation of the finer points of wood kayak construction. That being said, as stitch and glue kits go, this strikes me as an advanced project in order to get the fit and finish of the professional built boat. I easily put 200 hours into the construction with lots of thinking time. It is the eighth wood kayak I have built.
The results, however, are worth it. With a traditional Greenland look, the boat in mahogany is gorgeous. Its paddling qualities match its looks. It will drive straight but it is extremely responsive to a leaned turn. She glides with little effort and its low deck makes for an easy stroke with little chance of banging your knuckles or your paddle. I mostly paddle in calm protected waters but have also taken her into 2 foot swells. Given her high bow, she has little tendency to pierce waves and rides up over most everything. The boat does weathercock in strong winds but a little lean will typically correct the problem avoiding the need for correcting strokes. I have not rolled her, but the low coaming makes it easy to lean back and the upturned ends make her want to come back up.
I routinely paddle her with a friend who has the exact same boat (by Wilderness Systems) executed in fibreglass. The advantages of the wood construction are obvious in the weight of the boats. The kit I built came in at 42 lbs....the glass version is almost 50. That being said, my colleague is certainly more laisez faire about running her up on a beach than I am. (would you run your Stradivarius up on a beach?) We constantly get comments from other paddlers about the great looks and lines of these boats.
If there is a downside to the Arctic Hawk it relates to her interior volume and deck height relative to almost every other modern sea kayak out there. She is low volume with a relative low deck at the knees. In addition, the coaming, even with the keyhole option is small relative to almost all production boats. This is a kayak that you put on...not get on.
I weight about 195lbs with gear and am 5' 10". The boat allows little room for bending the knees and even with the key hole cockpit, I cannot get my knees out first....so I have to slide into it on getting in and pull myself out of it exiting. This, I found, to be extremely challenging at first. It took a while to get used to it. It is not a boat that I ever lend to inexperienced paddlers as a result.
Given the overall length of the boat, 18ft, this was a surprise to me when I first paddled it (No, I never did take a test ride). So I highly recommend taking a test paddle before committing to this kit...particularly if you are a bit large (over 180 lbs) and or don't have great flexibility because as I said earlier, it has very low cockpit height and a small coaming relative to most every other boat of comparable size.
Overall, I give this boat a 9 out of 10. I would summarize my experience as somebody who was totally seduced by the Arctic Hawk's great looks and paddling qualities but wishes for just a bit more room. CLC is apparently working with Superior Kayaks on several other projects involving "cousins" of the Arctic Hawk, one a bit larger and one a bit smaller in size. Maybe the larger one is the 10 for me.