Katy McKerney's Pygmy Kayak

Building a Standard Pygmy Goldeneye - Fall to Summer (1996-1997)

The moral of this story is that…if I can build a kayak…anyone can.

Katy McKerney

Here is Joey opening her kit with Eric Leegard,
instructor of Boat Building I class, helping out.
My buddy, Johanne Nelson (Joey) and I wanted kayaks in the worst way. Johanne insisted that she wanted to build a wooden one. I hadn't really thought that far but I knew that I didn't want her to have a cool, one-of-a-kind kayak with me having a store bought one. So, we decided to build them at the only place we could, the University of Alaska-Southeast Marine Tech. Center.

We decided to pick our own stitch and sew kit design, although we really didn't know what stitch and sew meant exactly. We imagined that all we had to mostly do was.. stitch and sew…grab our paddles and away we go. Super..when do we start?

With maybe…oh..at the outside..an hour of research (and someone said they saw a Pygmy and it looked real neat and real wooden-Ed Sasser's almost exact words) we decided to buy Pygmy Goldeneye kits from Port Townsend, Washington at $600.00 per kit (gulp).

Here is Joey laying out the hull panels
With great anticipation we peered into the kit boxes and gingerly laid out 20 hull panels for one kayak. The panels were cut from 4 mm marine grade mahogany ply. We stared in disbelief at $600.00 worth of very flat, very un-kayaky-looking pieces of super-thin plywood. All the panels were odd shaped and none of them looked remotely like they fit together. First lesson for us was that because boats are curved for floating, the pieces are cut to fit once the hull is curved into position. They don't fit laying on a flat surface. Still, we tried to suppress an element of panic thinking we just got soaked for $1200.00 and who's idea was this anyway? JOEY????

Apprehension was replaced by serious concentration as we spent our first 4 hours of kayak building trying to read the kit design directions and figure out which hull panels went together in order to join them with butt plates. Why do they call them butt plates? We never did figure that one out.

Joey and I sitting in our kayaks…
Here, Joey is gluing the butt plates over the seams.
Every six inches, 1/16 inch holes had to be drilled along the upper edge of each of the hull planks except the sheer.

Assembling the hull involved wiring the two keel panels together and then gluing in temporary frames. Then we cut a bunch of wire into 3 ½" lengths and inserted them into the drilled holes and twisted the wire ends.

This is where stitch and sew boat building gets its name. Our fingers got pretty sore after doing all the panels. Hey, no one told us we'd get SORE building a kayak!

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Contact:  Fritz Funk (fritzf@alaska.net)