Nick Schade has been going out on the ocean in small boats since he was a kid. First in an old trusty Grumman aluminum canoe and then in a small kayak his father made from a kit. In the early 80s he started using an old white water kayak to explore the coast of New England. While the white water kayak had a lot of advantages when playing in rock gardens where the ocean meets the land, but it was not very efficient for getting from one place to another. About this time he heard of these things called “sea kayaks” or “ocean kayaks”. This was exactly the kind of boat he was looking for.
Unfortunately, having recently graduated with an engineering degree, he did not have enough money to afford a new boat. He figured he could build one instead. After a few months drawing up different designs on the dining room floor he came up with a design which seemed suitable. A couple months later a complete strip-built sea kayak emerged from the basement. His brother liked it so much that soon another appeared from the basement. His brother’s room mate liked it enough to build another.
Nick and his brother Eric paddled these along the Long Island Sound coast of Connecticut and down east on Frenchman Bay in Maine. Over the years they did several sections of the Maine Island Trail in these first boats. As Nick’s paddling skills improved and he got restless for another boat building project he started sketching new kayak plans. At this time he also started experimenting with computer aided design. Working with improving kayaking skill, evolving kayak designs and improving CAD systems, Nick created some unique and distinctive, high performance sea kayak designs for his own use. The compliments he received on the looks and performance of his boats gave him the idea that he should share his designs. He started Guillemot Kayaks in the early 1990s. Since then Guillemot Kayaks has been known for providing top quality designs for people wanting to build their own sea kayak.
The first criteria of any Guillemot Kayak design is its performance. Wooden boats are beautiful, it does not take a particularly good design to make it look good. The goal of Guillemot Kayaks is to create designs that perform well first and look good second. It is a happy coincedence that what looks good to the water, also looks good to the eye. While performance is important, it in no way interferes with a kayak design looking beautiful as well. Guillemot Kayak designs would stand out in a crowd no matter what material they are made of. Kayaking is an aesthetic experience as well as physical one. Guillemot Kayaks contribute to the sea kayaking experience at all levels from the completely physical to the purely aesthetic.
Most of the Guillemot Kayaks boats were designed for Nick’s own use. His favorite thing to do in a sea kayak is to paddle around an exposed headland and get right in along the shore and play around rocks as the ocean swell pushes waves and surge around. This is basically white water paddling out on the ocean. Safe paddling requires a boat which can be quickly maneuvered around rocks that are suddenly exposed by the outgoing water. However, most of the most interesting paddling is also quite some distance from the closest put-in. As a result the sea kayak design must be efficient at covering distances. Efficient straight-line paddling and easy around-rock maneuvering are not generally put together in the same package. Quick maneuverability and hard tracking are at opposite ends of the same spectrum. The Guillemot series of designs by Nick are designed to be balanced in openwater crossings. They can be easily knocked off course, but they are quick to come back on line. Nick feels that a boat that requires a lot of leaning to turn will be dangerous when you most need the ability to turn quickly. He wants a boat that can be turned easily with a good sweep stroke without any leaning. If you don’t mind leaning a little, his designs will respond quickly.
Nick comes to kayak design as a sea kayaker and engineer looking to make the best performing kayaks available. He does this with no sacrifice of the beauty inherent in the sport of kayaking on the ocean.
Beyond creating his new original designs Nick has started to seek out other designers and collectors of quality designs. The goal is to gather together in one place some of the best plans available for do-it-yourself boat builders with a emphasis on designs small enough to carry on the roof of a car. This usually means kayaks, canoes and rowing craft. While small sailboats would be welcome, you will not find larger powerboats or sailboats.