Chatham 18 vs Chatham 17

The Chatham 18 is 20" wide and 17’ 9" long, and the Chatham 17 is 21.5" wide and 17’5" long. That is a difference of only 4" in length and a more significant 1.5" in width.

Is the Chatham 17 significantly more stable than the 18? besides stability issues, how do these two compare in speed, tracking\manueverability and rough water handling?

Thanks, Marshall

you have to paddle hard to go fast
the 17 is more forgiving. If you’re really interested in speed I’d suggest picking a different design altogether.

not fast
I have to agree with Lee. I paddled a Chatham 18 on flat water next to a Viviane. I could keep up with the Viviane but the guy in the Viviane wasn’t working nearly as hard as I was and the Chatham 18 was making a wake that someone could surf. The Viviane was barely making a ripple.

For a go fast skegged kayak I think their are faster choices out there.

Chatham 17 and 18 comparison
Has anyone paddled the 17 and 18 side by side? I paddled the 18, but have not found a 17 to try out.

I am interested in knowing more than just speed. What advantages and disadvantages are there in the 18 with the slight increase in length and decrease in width?


I’ve owned and paddled both
Salty, who knows more about Chathams than I do always begs to differ with my impressions, but what can I say–my impressions are my impressions. I’m 6’ and weigh 230. Keep that in mind. Your results my vary. And so, with that in mind, for what it’s worth …

First, the positives.

I find Chathams to be the most comfortable boats I’ve ever paddled. I don’t know what the magic is–the seat is such a simple design–but others have said that too. I installed the Necky WW thigh hooks in both boats to help with rolling and was pleased with the results. It’s a $50 upgrade. You might think about it. With the thigh hooks they both rolled like a charm. Plus both come with a nice low back deck.

I also like the deck rigging. Necky uses thicker bungees than most and the layout is nice.

Speaking of layout, the lay UP in newer boats (newer than the ones I owned) is really nice. They was nothing wrong with the old ones, they’ve just gotten even better than the industry as a whole. Even on my 2005 boats, the layup was immaculate. The materials and workmanship and technology is first rate (e.g. check out the ‘honeycomb’ stiffener).

Other things that I like (and then I’ll start complaining): VCP hatch covers are legendary. I like the size of the oval, and they don’t leak. Necky tauts its skeg system and I never had any problems with mine.

Now on to some of the “problems”.

Some people complain about the low volume–less room to pack for a trip. It’s true, but I didn’t see that as a problem, just something to live with and work around; you have to pack like a backpacker. either you have a low back deck or you have volume; you can’t have it both ways. The only sense in which ‘low volume’ affected me was in footroom: the C17 didn’t allow my toes to point straight up and sometimes your feet get tired of always being pointed in the same direction on a long paddle.

Another common complaint involves the rear bulkhead in the cockpit. It isn’t flush with the rear of the cockpit to drain water in a rescue like it is in some other brands (NDK, for example). The flip side of this is that you can use it for storage, putting things like a water bladder closer to the center of the boat. It’s six of one, half dozen of another. You make the call.

Neither boat cut particularly sharp turns. I discovered this accidentally paddling backwards: the C17 cut a much sharper turn going backwards than it did going forwards. Salty has said the C18 is the more maneuverable boat; that was not my experience. When I went to put the boat on edge, I found there was no edge; the boat was flush with my side. The C17, on the other hand, because it was wider, could get up on edge which helped the tailed to skid more in rudders and turns.

As for speed, I agree with what others have said and would add to it: the C18 is shaped like a hotdog just out of the package: it’s boxy as far forward as the front hatch and pushes water aside instead of slicing through it. The C17 shared this tendency, but not as pronounced.

All in all I like the C17 better and hope to get another someday. Hope this helps.

I think the Ch18 is more volume
and can carry more with huge footroom. The thing about the 16,17,18 that I like is the low weathercocking and very user friendly down wave performance. You could still get around with a non-functional skeg on a Chatham whereas with some other designs it’ll be a struggle. The other selling point is down wave stability, that’s why they push that bow wave curl, esp. the 16. I don’t have natural bracing skills compared to most folks who’ve paddled the same time as I have and I find the down wave characteristics of the Chathams great. Those two areas are places where beginners struggle to develop skills and these boats provide a very good self-teaching opportunity. And for folks who brace and roll just fine they provide more “smell the flowers” enjoyment.

My $.02 is that the 18 takes that hull shape that gives a great down wave performance to a limit where it starts giving up some “hang out” comfort in choppy stuff. The low rocker and fairly flat bottom jiggles around more than I like.

While they’re related kayaks the 17 is more well rounded/foregiving and the 18 is for big feet and more load. If you want fast you have to paddle hard and should be looking at different boats. If you have big feet and don’t mind the lessened stability and jiggliness in waves the 18 is it.