Chatham 17

I am posting this here to see if anyone with a Chatham 17 who has not posted in the reviews can give me some insight.

Looking at one for use on lakes and possibly ocean. Day trips, perhaps an occasional overnight.

I am 5’8", 145lb, male.

Have taken a lesson in a Zoar Sport. Generally liked the fit for me and also the way I could lean into turns. Liked the knee braces. Thoughts the Chatham would be a good day-touring.

Also want to learn how to roll (have only learned self and buddy rescue), so thinking this would be a good model.


all in all, a really great boat

– Last Updated: May-08-07 5:42 PM EST –

I have not paddled the Zoar in years, but different hulls I think (multi-chine versus boxy Explorer shape). Solid primary stability, remains solid in waves (I've only been in waves up to 4 feet). Low windage = low volume, so great for lakes or the ocean, day trips or overnight. The only thing people ever complain about is the cockpit volume (big). I like it, though, cause I'm 6' & 220 lbs--
fits me like a glove (I'm probably too heavy for the specs of the boat). At your weight, it will be perfect. For a tighter fit, you just may need to pad it out a bit. With its low back deck, it's a snap
to roll.

My complaints--if any--would be: 1) Sometimes that low back deck gets in the way: In a forward sweep with agressive edging, the back deck can "trip" over the water as it turns. That may just be a function of my weight, though. 2) in spite of what the literature says, the Chatham 18 is FAR more maneuverable--the 17 tracks pretty stiff. 3) the "dip" in the fore deck that lowers windage has negative consequences as well: 1) in an assisted rescue (T or X), even with the deck over the deck of another boat, because of the shape, it can leave your cockpit in the water (= hard to empty out); 2) if you store your spare paddle on the fore deck, the paddle shaft is suspended ABOVE the gap. That's not a problem until your BCU assessor asks you to scramble down the front deck of your "canoe" and kiss the bow. Then it becomes a problem: at 220, your weight is liable to break your fancy paddle shaft (not that I would know anything about that ... grrr). Since the bow "locks" in the water when paddling forward, I'm not sure why they designed it that way. It's not like the wind is going to make you lee cock. And I would appreciate the small gain in extra storage. (Necky, are you listening?)

All in all, a great boat. With slightly more volume, I'm sure the Ch17 gets even better in composite! If you're in the market for blue plastic, check out my ad:

Chatham 16?

– Last Updated: May-08-07 10:42 AM EST –

At your weight, you might enjoy the Chatham 16. It is a more playful boat that is a good skils platform for learning.

Bohemia, which BCU assessment and assessor asked you to 'kiss the bow.'

I’m not naming any names

– Last Updated: May-08-07 11:00 AM EST –

but their initials are ...

edit: reply off line

Excellent boat!
Agree with bohemia’s post, except to point out that the newer CH17 boats come with a low back-band that isn’t so prone to dig in, and that the composite model has a slightly more reasonable foredeck profile. Would also think the CH16 to be a bit better for your dimensions. I have both the CH 17 and 18, and find the 18 to be at least as maneuverable as the 17, but new paddlers might find the 17 to be a bit more stable in primary.

All in all, Chathams are awesome boats, and are extremely durable.

Some thoughts
The lead designer of those boats has been a very good friend for 15 years. Ironically these boats are as Brit as the well know Brit boats. Spike grew up in England and paddled for England. He subsequently went to BC to coach the Canadian Olympic slalom team. He is also a superb, world class high peformance surf kayaker.

The 16 is not a beginner boat. It’s stable for sure, but this buoyancy allows for it to be thrown around on edge in rock gardens etc. You’ll likely see some footage of Spike in upcoming Justine stuff… The 17 is a more popular hull that tracks better and is very neutral in wind. Not as lively as the 16, but a better wide range boat. The 16 is a specific outer coastal rough sea boat. It excells in that environment. The 18 is more playful than the 17 and a great distance tourer in rough seas. A couple of Spikes ex-Olympic pals choose that boat for expeditioning.

These are three excellent boats. Boats from Valley, NDK, Impex, Foster, Kajak Sport, and more are also excellent products. Of the Tempests, I like the composite 165 and would add that to the above list.

Behind all these products are passionate paddlers. You really can’t go wrong.

Some further thoughts…

– Last Updated: May-08-07 3:28 PM EST –

I'd like to publicly thank salty for his willingness to share his vast experience and expertise. I had a discussion or two with him some time back regarding specific boats, and found his commentary to be unbiased, and spot-on. BTW, salty, the CH18 is everything you said it'd be!

Hmmm...a Brit-designed boat, made in the USA...we all win! :)

Brit-designed boat, made in the USA…
The Chathams have the respect of many of the best BCU paddlers I know. I wish my Valley boat was as well made (and light) as my friend’s Chatham 18.

One of the very well known Brit boat guiys suggested I might want to wait for the Chathams to be available before ordering my Valley boat from him!

For those who like ‘Brit boats’ there are now many North American produced boats that fit that niche.