About us

Fine Wooden Kayaks, Canoes & Small Boats by Nick Schade

Nick Schade grew up around canoes and kayaks. After beginning a career as an engineer for the US Navy, he knew he wanted to get back on the water himself. But as a recent graduate, he could not afford the kind of boat he wanted. So he decided to design and build a kayak using a technique he had seen used to create canoes: the “strip-built” method. This method was popular for canoe construction but was not commonly adapted for kayaks. Nick and his brother worked together to develop the processes needed to make kayaks using the “strip-built” method.

As his skill as a kayak paddler and boat builder evolved, Nick’s designs evolved to match his changing aims. The driving goal has been to maximize the on-the-water performance while respecting the natural materials used to create the boat. Out of these efforts Nick has created the business Guillemot Kayaks, centered on designing high performance sea kayaks for other craftsmen interested in building their own boats. He is the author of two books about boat buiding: The Strip-Built Sea Kayak, an instruction book describing the strip-built method for building sea kayaks, and most recently Building Strip-Planked Boats which extends the method to canoes and row boats. Through his efforts Nick has helped foster a revival in people building their own kayaks.

Video Interview for Lincoln & Time.com

He specializes in high performance kayaks whose visual beauty is a reflection of their ability to perform on the water. His technical background has influenced his use of the latest computer modeling technology to engineer high performance into his designs. Combined with an innate aesthetic sense, the resulting boats are as beautiful as they are functional.

Video Interview by Bespoke Global:

Nick’s studio is currently located in Groton, Connecticut, where he builds prototypes of new designs and makes a select number of custom-built kayaks. He has taught kayak construction at Mystic Seaport, The WoodenBoat School and the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. His boats have paddled the bold coast of Maine and exhibited in the American Craft Museum. Guillemot Kayaks has drawn the attention of the national press, and has been featured in ForbesLife, the Robb Report and Wired Magazine. One of his kayaks is now in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. They are suitable for riding late-season hurricane generated swells or for display in a post and beam great room. They are designed by a dedicated kayaker seeking to achieve the highest performance standards and built by a craftsman who feels that beauty and performance go hand in hand.

Video by CD Morrish for Persol Sunglasses

Build Your Own

You can build your own boat. Nick offers plans and instuctions to build  your own beautiful kayak, canoe or other small boat.

Learn About Plans
Buy A Kit

All Nick’s designs are also available as complete kits through Chesapeake Light Craft. If you don’t have all the tools, this is a great way to get started with boat building.

Learn About Kits
Take a Class

Learn directly from the master. Take a week long class and get hands on experience. Nick offers both boatbuilding and kayaking classes.

Learn About Classes


You all have some questions, here are some of the most frequent:

How Long Will it Take to Build?

Each boat is built one at a time, by hand, by Nick. While the build time varies from about 1 to 6 months, the project will not start until any prior builds have been completed. The length of this waiting list varies. You should expect to wait at least several months. If your spouse’s birthday is next month, the boat will not be done in time. If timing is critical, please plan on at least a year.

See the Process

How Much Do They Weigh?

Obviously weight depends on the size of the boat, but wooden kayaks and canoes are not heavy. A typical 17′ canoe or kayak often comes in at under 40 pounds.

Learn How They Are Built

How Much Do They Cost?

Everyone wants to know. But it is hard to say. Put it this way: Imagine paying a skilled mechanic to work on your car… 
…for several months. The price varies depending on the size of the boat, materials used, level of finish desired, etc. You can expect it will be north of $10K.

See Our Boats

What Boat Should I get?

Everyone wants something different from their boat. The right boat for you depends on your size, your location, your skill, and your goals. Tell us a bit about yourself and we will help you decide what will work best for you.

Get Help Choosing

Do You Sell Plans?

If you are more of a DIY type and would like to take on the project of building one of Nick’s designs on your own, plans are available.

View Our Plans Catalog

How about Kits?

For those who want to build their own small boat, but don’t feel they are up the task of building from scratch, kits are available for all our designs

Learn more about Kits

Do they need a lot of maintenance?

No. The wood is protected by a strong layer of fiberglass and epoxy. This encapsulates the wood in a waterproof barrier that keep the wood from ever getting wet. The typical upkeep of a traditionally built wooden boat does not apply to these. If you can store the kayak, canoe or small boat inside, it should be years before any maintanence is necessary, and then it usually just wants a light sanding and fresh coat of varnish to look spiffy again.

See the Process

I would be afraid to put it in the water! I would be afraid to scratch it.

OK, this isn’t a question, but it is the most common statement I hear when discussing these boats and I feel it deserves a response:

Water does not hurt these kayaks, canoes or small craft. They are boats. They are built with the intention that they will be used. Yes, they can get scratched, but this usually happens on the bottom where it is hard to see. The scratch hurts you more than it hurts the boat. These boats are protected by a tough layer of fiberglass and epoxy and few scratches aren’t going to hurt it at all.

See the Process
Artistic Statment

My aesthetic sense is founded on functionality but makes room for a sense of whimsy

I started designing and building kayaks out of a simple desire to have one. I had the idea that I could design and build a better boat than I could buy. My efforts remain centered around that idea. A “better” kayak is efficient, seaworthy and responsive; it is also lightweight, strong and durable. Function has always been the primary design criterion. Although visual appearance is a strong secondary consideration, I understand that the power of the ocean enforces design rules of simple grace. Awkward shapes will not perform as well.

My aesthetic sense is founded on functionality but makes room for a sense of whimsy. Natural materials have their own aesthetic integrity without a need for distracting enhancements. But, if a material limitation presents itself, I like having a little fun working around it.

My construction material of choice is wood because it is lightweight, resilient, and naturally forms efficient shapes. Strength is also a result of careful craftsmanship. The natural environment rewards objects that are well put together. My design inspiration ranges from several sources: the grace and beauty of the original kayaks built by the Inuits of Greenland, the refined elegance of the “”baidarkas” of the Aleut peoples of the Bering Sea, the mahogany runabouts of the last century, as well as influences from the modern boats of the America’s Cup. The results are boats of distinctive beauty that perform to the highest standards. The outward refinement is the manifestation of careful attention to the details of how the boat will respond on the water.

View Nick’s Work
Petrel Playing at Blue Hill Falls


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