Strip Built "Night Heron" Sea Kayak Course.

I was in Tasmania when I saw that Nick Schade ( was holding a course on strip building a Night Heron. I'd had my eye on these for a few years now because they look like an exceptionally good sea kayak - there was one on the trip Elli and I did round Damariscove Island 18 months ago. The 6 day course was at the Conneticut Valley School of Woodworking in January 2011 - just when I was going to be in America for Christmas with Elli's family. Incidentally I had been in correspondance with Nick some years ago, and always imagined that Schade was pronounced "Shade". Not so, it is more like "Shard-ar", which also happens to be a German word that you might use if you dropped your favourite drinking glass and broke it - meaning "oops, that was a silly thing to do".

So I took the course and have to say that I haven't enjoyed myself so much in years. I'd always imagined that fitting each narrow strip of wood would take forever, and you'd probably ruin a good few many strips doing so - because my wood working skills probably amount to being able to nail two bits of 2 X 4 together. But it was dead easy once Nick passed on all his little methods for dealing with each procedure, with some interesting little tools he has acquired over the years.

At the end of the course people who wanted the kayak we built could put their names in a hat and the winning name drawn out could then have the kayak for the cost of the materials. Only 2 people put their names in, and John Murray was the lucky person. I had intended to but on the last day decided there were too many changes I would want to make to fit it out for my personal use - and these changes were better done during the building stage. So I'm planning to build the 'hybrid' version for myself when I return to America in July this year.

Western red cedar strips - about 3/4" X 3/16".

The two forms we used (normally you'd use the same one at home). We used two so more people could have something to do.

The first strip along the gunwhale was very critical to look a smooth curve.

But then the next strips did not follow the gunwhale - this gap was filled in later.

A lot of thin strips (ash) were glued together round a former (not stuck to it) to be the lip of the cockpit.

One side of the hull pretty well finished.

The deck in progress.

Cutting a straight line along the keel.

And doing the other side.

The gaps filled in.

Sanding the deck smooth before fibre glassing.

Fibre glassing the hull - starts to bring out the grain of the wood.


Building up the cockpit rim.

Me scraping the inside of the hull smooth.


Carbon/Kevlar matt (for extra strength) ready to fibre glass inside the hull. Inside the deck was the normal fibre glass we used on the outside.


There was plenty of snow and ice around and I slipped on the ice and sprained my wrist rather badly so took no further part in the construction for the last 2 days,
but stayed there to watch the rest of the class working. I wasn't sure for a while if I'd broken my wrist, and I certainly used words stronger than "shardar".

Hull and deck taped together ready for joining.

Doing the internal join. There was an external strip round the outside as well when the tape was removed.

The team - Nick Schade, John, Tom, Me, Becca, Mike, Peg. You can see a time lapse photo production here.

The Night Heron wasn't quite finished at the end of the course - it needed another couple of coats of resin on the outside, and probably 3 coats of varnish. The hatches weren't quite finished. And the ends of the kayak weren't blocked off. All this is something for John to do when he gets it home.

So if anyone out there is like me and thinks "No, I couldn't build one of those", then do the course - it is a hell of a lot easier than you ever imagined. You too could build one like this one I found a picture of on Guillemot Kayaks website - by Ken Stone. Nick does hold courses at other places - including the Wooden Boat School in Maine.

Laurie Ford.
January, 2011.

2023 update.
Some of Nick's designs are sold through Chesapeake Light Craft in America. (

Some are also sold here in Tasmania from Denman Marine at Kettering. (

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