Kari's Boat
Building a CLC "Mill Creek 13" from Plans
by Steve Miller

After building my Swifty 12 from a kit I decided to build a boat from plans. I chose the Mill Creek 13 from Chesapeake Light Craft due to its classic looks and size. Since the boat will be for my daughter, Kari, she had a lot of input into the boat selection as well.

Their website describes it : "The Mill Creek 13 echoes the look and feel of 1920's "double paddle" canoes. Combining the stability and comfortable seating of a canoe with the light weight and decked-in security of a kayak, the Mill Creek 13 is perfect for photography, fly fishing, birding, or just relaxed paddling. Like all the Mill Creeks, the 13 is surprisingly fast thanks to her efficient 5-panel multichine hull and feather-light 40lb weight. The cockpit is 54" long, so entry and egress are easy for everyone."

Length: 13"
Beam: 29.5"
Weight: 40 lbs (finished boat is very close to this figure)

The Mill Creek plans come with several sheets of detailed drawings. Key parts are shown full size. The instruction - building guide book is over 200 pages long and worth the price of the plans even if you never build the boat. It is full of great how-to ideas and information.

The Builders Forum on the CLC website is the best place to get your questions answered. I did run into a few conflicts or head scratching steps in the manual that were cleared up by a post to the forum. It is a good idea to consult the CLC Shop Tips as well as the forum to check anything that is not clear. The Shop Tips had some good ideas that I printed out and inserted into the manual where I would need the tip.

By cutting out my own kit of parts I figure I saved about $300 over the factory kit. It took less than 15 hours to mark and cut all the parts. Lofting and scarfing the hull pieces were a first for me. I researched the process online and had no real trouble other than nerves. Next time I would finish the scarf cuts on the 4mm plywood pieces with a sander to prevent slight tearing of the grain at the feather edge of the cuts. The finished scarfs look really good anyway.

There is so much fear of lofting that I feel I need to mention that marking the hull piece blanks by using the table of offsets and then a batten to draw the lines was actually very easy. I enjoyed the process. This is one of the areas in the CLC manual that is well done.

I scarfed the hull piece blanks first so I could loft the planks full size. Then you transfer the end shape to each plank using a pattern from the plans. The patterns did not fit the lofted plank shapes exactly so I split the difference and it worked fine but it appears that the patterns are a bit off since I have heard from other builders that had the same problem.

Probably the biggest question I had in the whole stitching process was where to start stitching the bottom panel (at the bow) to the lower hull panels. The mark on the plans is confusing. I was off by about an inch when I got to the stern of the boat. Easily fixed with a hand plane to make the bottom panel one inch shorter. Now that I have done it I can see what they want you to do. The best way to check the placement is to wire the planks together at the bow and stern then check the fit to the bottom panel. Turns out they show this in a diagram but there is no text in the manual that refers to it.

I learned from the CLC forum it is not unusual for the two bulkheads to not fit the stitched hull very well at the positions marked on the plans. I would wait to cut my bulkheads from cardboard patterns made from the stitched up hull the next time since mine did not fit when cut to the pattern on the plans.

The boat goes together very quickly. I took about 80 hours total to build the boat and another 20 to paint and varnish the exterior (the interior was finished before the deck went on). I work slow but I enjoy every minute.

The two details I love are the little oak nose block (at the front of the cockpit coaming) and the bigger than spec'd coaming rim pieces. I tapered the rim pieces and the graceful sweep turned out nicely. My daughter vetoed the rubrails called out in the plans. She said it spoiled the lines of the boat. I agree.

The boat turned out great. The amount of epoxy work required for a stitch and glue boat however makes me want to try a plywood on frame boat for the next project. Maybe a traditional rowing skiff. I don't have one of those yet. Stitch and glue is very easy and fast however and the results are great.

My daughter just loves her Mill Creek. It is much faster than her Mom's Perception "plastic" kayak but a bit harder to turn than Mom's boat since it is 2 feet longer. She is still learning to do turns by leaning. It just glides forever in calm water. The boat is a dream to paddle. My daughters first time was in about 12 - 14 mph of wind on a large lake. There was considerable wind chop and waves. She paddled right out of the calm dock area into the rough water. The Mill Creek took it in stride. She did get tired of waiting for Mom to catch up in her slower "plastic" boat.

The initial stability takes a bit of getting used to. The secondary stability is outstanding. You can roll the boat over until the sheer is in the water and feel rock solid. Since I am a bit big for the boat (6'1" and heavy) I would opt for the bigger model if I built one for my own use. I have only paddled the boat twice and honestly prefer my Swifty 12 with its 5'3" beam!

I built the boat for my daughter Kari as her high school graduation present. At her graduation party she had it out on the deck with balloons tied to the bow and stern padeyes! She even posed for pictures next to her boat. She is off at college now and the boat is sitting in the shop waiting for some paint touch up this winter. Years from now she will have the boat at her own house and hopefully think of her old dad, the boatbuilder, when she takes her own kids kayaking. She was the only one at her school who got a boat for graduation. There were lots of jealous kids!

A full building log with pictures is available at:

My Website

Other links:

Chesapeake Light Craft Website

System 3 Epoxy Website

My Website about Building the Swifty 12