This is my second wood project. The first was the Sand Dollar by Arch Davis which I built from plans. The 17lt was a last minute decision so I went with the kit late in the winter so that I could get to use it this entire season. I found it very complete and of good quality. The forum is also a nice place to visit. They have a few regulars there that seem to be really fine folks with quite a bit of experience from what I can tell.
As far as handling qualities go, I can't be that objective since this is my first kayak. I'm enjoying it quite a lot and when I am able to I will be building another.Have been paddling the 17LT now for three years. When I built the boat it was my first boat, but over the years I have now had a chance to build and paddle a number of other boats so I thought I could finally put a review in with some context...
>From a build perspective, the craft is a very straight-forward stitch and glue design. I have actually built three 17LTs over the year. The manual is adequate but first time builders would do well to use the CLC forum and phone support to ask questions to refine the build process and subsequent quality of the construction. One of the advantages of a well built wooden boat is how light the end result can be. However, attention is needed in order to bring the boat in at the design weight or better.
>From a paddling perspective, the boat is stable yet lively with an excellent turn of speed. I have paddled her against a CLC WR180 and coho and she will stay even for the same amount of effort in anything but the most aggressive of paddling. I routinely paddle her on a 5 mile "exercise" circuit in protected waters averaging 5.5 mph according to the GPS. I have not installed a rudder. She seem to track well enough in wind and small wave action without significant correcting strokes. I have not taken her out in any serious wave action. my height is 5'10" and i weigh about 190 lbs in paddling gear. the boat is roomy and comfortable for the feet yet low by the hips. she has been able to accomodate a wide range of guest heights and weights (from 6'2"/215 to 130 and 5'4". the deck takes a nice swoop down from its highpoint on the centerline to the sheer making it easy to paddle with an agressive style without banging your knuckles or constantly hitting the deck with the paddle.
>From an optics perspective, the boat is very pleasing. I have mine finished with bright decks and red enamel hull with the paint wrapping 1 inch over onto the decks. The LT cuts a lean and low profile to the water but she has a nice spring to her shear in the fore section that gives her a graceful yet sleek look for a modern design. The spring in the bow section also makes for a relatively dry ride when running against a chop.
This is the boat I also use as my guest boat so I am impressed at how she is handled by both beginners as well as experienced paddlers who have had the opportunity to paddle her. Her combination of looks and handling led me to building two additional boats for colleagues...who decided after a couple paddles that they just had to have one. Overall, a very well rounded, likeable design that I enjoy coming back to between explorations in other boats.After much consideration, I decided to build my first kayak instead of purchasing a plastic boat. I must say that their magazine ads ultimately had their effect! The entire experience was rewarding and, with patience, can be accomplished by anyone even mildly handy with tools. What I wasn't ready for was the attention!
I live relatively close to CLC and was able to test paddle the 17LT and was sold immediately. I am 5'-9" and roughly 160lbs and is a perfect match. My girlfriend selected and built a 16LT and is equally happy with her boat and efforts. Wooden boats have the distinct advantage of being highly customizable, durable, and, if built carefully, lightweight. Both our boats weigh 47 and 41lbs. respectively.
Handling and tracking is superb with corrections needing only a corrective stroke or two. The LT17 is quick in the water and accelerates nicely. The design edges nicely and carves nice tight turns.
I built my boat mainly for kayak camping (though I've raced it twice ) and it can easily carry gear for 3-5 days, more if you pack carefully. Last August (2002) we went camping off the coast of Portland, ME for four days and the boats performed flawlessly in varied conditions. I've been kayak camping two other times since.
The CLC 17LT is a good general-purpose touring kayak for 160+ pound paddlers. Building this boat is a good way to obtain an attractive, lightweight (45 pound) touring kayak that is durable and more easily repaired that commercially-available fiberglass boats.
CLC provides both timely and knowledgeable support either by phone or via the Internet. Trust me, nothing beats the allure of a wooden boat!
The CLC 17LT tracks very well and I find that it does not need a rudder or skeg at all if weight is distributed properly. The standard foam seat is very basic, and fine for me but my wife's legs go a little numb after paddling for an hour or more without additional thigh support.
Unless one is planning primarily on extended trips, the "LT" version is a welcome lower-profile boat with less wind resistance and less "coffin" look than the regular 17. The LT also allows a lower paddling stroke, but even an inch lower would be nicer. The cockpit is too roomy for my tastes, even with extra foam outfitting.
The kit that I bought from CLC was very complete, including bulkheads, hatches and other items that some other manufacturers sell as "add-ons". The instructions are clear, and CLC's bulletin board provides good building tips. The people at CLC were invariably friendly and helpful when I asked for advice.
First time builders should generally plan on 150 hours or more to produce this mahogany plywood boat, including a fair amount of "think" time. In addition to the price of the kit, the cost of varnish, brushes, rollers, gloves, sandpaper and tools can add a few hundred dollars to the total cost.
Although this kayak does not have the elegance of a strip-built boat, the ease and satisfaction from constructing, and the "ohhs" and "ahhs" from others also make the CLC 17LT very appealing.