I finished my SW17 early this spring (although I am still adding stuff to it), While building your own boat may seem intimidating at first, the kits take out much of the guess work and can be very addicting and rewarding. The ability to customize and personalize the boat is second to none. The kit went together easily and the online support forums are very beneficial and a great source of ideas for customizing your boat.
This is a big improvement over my plastic boat, it is lighter, stronger and stiffer (good for handling, bad for hitting things). It is more stable than I would have guessed and turns very easily with simple leans, so much so that I won't be adding the rudder I purchased for it. I added a happy bottom seat and a performance backband. The boat fits like a glove. It is very easy to get into and out of. Like many boats it is intended for a specific range of paddler, I am 5'10", 175 with size 12 shoes. Anyone over 6'2" may have to move the bulkhead forward to increase leg room.
The Shearwater tracks very well, and suffers from very little weathercocking and is easier to turn (compared to my plastic Sealion). It's a fast and predictable handling boat, a great all around sea kayak in the traditional greenland style. I have used mine on lakes and rivers, the bow slices thru most wave trains on the river as opposed to riding up and bouncing as my Sea Lion does. The hull shape gives it less buoyancy in the at the ends but I have yet to find a negative to this. I wish I had built one sooner.
- Good all around performer, fast, stable and predictable. Very responsive to leans and strokes.
- A good compromise between plastic (lighter and stiffer) and fiberglass/carbon boats (stonger, more durable, easier to repair).
- It is hard to argue with the beauty of a nice wood boat, people stop to comment every time you take is somewhere.
- Ability to customize and design your own unique looking boat
- Easy to repair
- If you want your wood boat to last it requires some maintenance. Keep it dry and out of the sun when not in use (UV is bad for plastic and carbon boats too). It should be given a new coat of varnish every year or so of steady use.
- Not as indestructible as plastic
- Small sized hatches limit the size of objects you can store (probably not the best expedition boat from a storage standpoint, although of course you can make them larger)
- Cockpit is limited in size; may feel cramped to some larger paddlers.