Guillemot Kayaks was created by Nick Schade in 1993 to share the kayak designs he created for his own use.
Nick 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 Eric 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 wrote The Strip-Built Sea Kayak, an instruction book describing the strip-built method, which has helped foster a revival in the construction of wooden kayaks.
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.
Kayaks are different from other boats. While anyone with a solid background in naval architecture can design a decent, run of the mill kayak, to create a design that is truly exceptional at performing its intended role, the designer needs to be intimately familiar with the specifics of how a kayak moves in the water. There is only one way to gain this knowledge. The designer needs to spend a lot of time on the water. Nick has been paddling canoes and kayaks since he was 10 years old, and over 40 years later he still gets out on the water all year round. Paddling in all conditions from calm backwaters to wind and wave swept surf breaks, Nick knows what makes small human powered boats work.
Combining this on-the-water experience with over 3 decades of practice building boats from wood and fiberglass he knows how to design a boat that can be put together in such a way that it will perform as intended. He has literally written the book on building kayaks, with many of his construction innovations now being used by professional and amateur boat builders world wide.
Nick's shop is currently located in Groton, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Robin and builds prototypes of new designs and makes a select number of custom-built kayaks. He has taught kayak construction at Mystic Seaport, the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking and the WoodenBoat School. His custom boats have won first prize at the prestigious Washington Craft Show and he has shown at the Fine Furnishings Providence show. His work has been exhibited at the American Craft Museum, and one of his boats is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. Nick is also a Registered Maine Guide.