Chatham 18

Turns out you experts were right,I was at a kayak demo and asked the Necky rep if they fixed the gel coat problems (cracks,chipping,poor adhesion) on the first run of AC boats. He said yes they did by getting another builder.

So this might be a warning to check the date of construction if your getting one,although I doubt there’s any sitting around in inventory.

It’s funny how you can start picking apart handling details after a few hours paddling that were missed before. It’s a great kayak in the wind and surfing down waves but the broad straight keeled bottom wiggles around a bit more than kayaks with more rocker.

But maybe too much analysis means there’s not enough paddling.

Funny that you made this post as I was just about to make a post about this boat based upon my experience paddling one yesterday at a demo (at Monterey Bay Kayaks)

I paddled this boat for about 45 minutes or so and was impressed in many ways with the boat and wanted to ask others for their impressions.

I found the boat to be very comfortable and not to be of excessive volume for a medium sized paddler like me (5’8, 175). I thought the boat and thigh braces fit quite well and it was MUCH more comfortable to paddle than the 16 foot version (which for me is very painful to paddle more than about 30 minutes).

I found the boat to track well and to carve very nice edged turns. Secondary stability was impressive, primary stability felt a bit lively at first.

Rolling the boat was very easy as well.

The only thing I was a bit disappointed with was that the boat did not feel as fast as I would have expected from a 17.5 foot boat that is only 20 inches wide. I did not have a GPS or anything to measure the speed so it was just subjective. It just did not feel as fast as I would have expected.

I can’t figure out why this would be though. It does not seem to have a lot of rocker. It ought to have a pretty long water line, and given its narrow width it out the be quite fast I would think. Am I missing something???

Any other impressions of this boat? How does it compare to some of the British designs (Aquanaut, Explorer and others in this class)?


Chatham 18 v. Explorer
I spent a little time in a friend’s Chatham 18 and normally paddle an Explorer (LV but the same huill as the regular) last year on Lake George. It is the first year Chatham 18, so it suffers from the super forward bulkhead and some of the idiotic things that the marketing people imposed on the original design. So - I was swimming in the cockpit and contact was not at all good.

That stated, the biggest diff I felt was that the front end really dug down into the water, almost a “downhill” sense, compared to my intentionally loose-bow Explorer. And I thought the primary stability was distinctly less, secondary however seemed just fine. I didn’t have it in anything higher than 2 ft. My husband, who has an Aquanaut, tried it in more water on the crossing, felt it was a boat that required more attention than his.

We were out with our friend last weekend in some messy stuff on the Hudson Riover, and she found out by accident that it does a “real life” roll just fine. She was pushing her braces and hung onto one a little too long. I looked around and she was up before I’d could confirm that I wasn’t seeing her head because whe was over rather than between waves.

Chatham 18 - Aquanaut - Explorer
The Chatham 18 is faster than an Explorer with much lower primary. Its primary feels slightly lower than an Aquanaut. To me, it feels about as fast as an Aquanaut It does not seem to be as fluid in its transitions as an Aquanaut.

My friend, whose Chatham 18 I’ve paddled, has also paddled my Aquanaut. Her summary, which is consistent with my feeling, is that the Aquanaut is better mannered. We traded boats on Lake George and paddled in pretty confused chop and boat wakes. The Chatham handled it, but seemed to get kicked around a bit more. It seemed to react more abruptly to bean or stern quatering chop.

Paddling into stiff wind and three foot waves last weekend did not seem a challange to my friend in her Chatham 18, we (I in an Aquanaut) were clearly much faster into and through the stuff than my wife’s Explorer.

The chine and bow section of the Chatham 18 appears farily close to the Explorer, but with less rocker.

Great info!!!
This is great info. I hope to get more info like this as well.

The Explorer and primarily the Aquanaut are the 2 boats that I have been thinking about, although I have not yet had the chance to paddle either. I currently have a Dagger Meridian (pretty much a Romany copy so I figure it is probably quite like the Explorer as well).

I liked paddling the Chatham and my local shop has one that I might be able to get a deal on. Everyone’s posts seem to be consistant with what I have heard about the Explorer vs. Aquanaut. Sounds like the Chatham and Aquanaut may be fairly comparable.

I look forward to more great comments!



20" wide
that should be an indicator how useless length/beam measurements are. You could have a round bottomed kayak 24" wide and it would be faster/more efficient than a 20" wide kayak depending on how the hull is shaped. It’s “fast” enough for me as I’m not a fast paddler. It’s got a wide waterline beam with little rocker so there’s a bit more wetted area plus the entry begins to toss water a little as you paddle faster. If you go back and paddle the Chatham16 you’ll notice it really throws up a curling bow wave when paddling fast. In both boats I think that’s a way to get some bow support while moving fast down a wave. I think this is where “there’s no free lunch” applies. Likewise I’d like to try out the Aquanaut, I’m guessing it’s got less wetted area and more rocker which will make for an easier to push boat and less abrupt transition in waves but I wonder if the Aquanaut can do what the Chatham can do surfing waves.

Chatham 18 speed
I’ve only paddled this boat once, for about 3 hours as a rental on Lake Union in Seattle, so I can’t give a real detailed review of this boat. However, I was actually pretty impressed with its handling in confused chop and its surfing in short, steep wake waves. I was quite impressed with the speed (I usually paddle a surfski and a Q700, so I have some idea what a fast boat is)- I managed to keep up quite nicely for a stretch with a guy in a West Side Boat Shop Wave Exceeed (a very fast boat). He actually commented first that the Chatham 18 was an impressively fast sea kayak. If I needed another boat, or was looking to rent somewhere for a trip, I would definitely look at this boat again.


there you go
I don’t have the hp and conditioning to differentiate long boats well, it’s easy to tell if something accelerates easily but high hp speed differences get lost in the lactic acid. The Ch18 is faster than me but I can tell the Ch16 isn’t. For me it fits the niche of a touring boat that’s good in windy conditions. Waves I can handle,wind tires me out.

Rocker and beam
The Aquanaut has very little rocker. It has significantly less than an Explorer and slightly more than a Chatham 18. The Aquanaut’s responsiveness, I think, owes to its fully rounded chine. The hull profile is from the Pintail but narrower and with a lot less rocker. It is a very lively boat.

The Chatham is chined like an Explorer - round edge hard chine or as NDK puts it “modified hard chine.” I think this along with its near complete lack of rocker is what acounts for the Chatham’s stiffer feel in confused seas.

I would guess that the waterline beam of a Chatham 18 and the Aquanaut are not so different. Though the Explorer and Aquanaut have nearly the same overall measures, the Aquanuat has a bit over an inch narrower and 1.5 to 2 inch longer waterline. The Chatham’s waterline beam, like the Explorer, is likely pretty much the same as its overall width.

Spent some time in the 18 yesterday
1 foot chop, light wind.

I looked closely at the hull and noted that the bottom is almost flat, the chines slightly rounding to straight sides. It looked like a box… and felt like one too. It really seemed to lack primary stability and felt “twitchy” to me. I could not get a great fit (as the foot pegs were stuck, but I did have adequate contact with thigh braces.)

I am more used to the feel of softer chines, more of a V-shaped bottom and I think the Aquanaut will feel a bit more stable (if I can ever demo one).

I would agree…
I would agree with what most of what has been said here so far about the Chatham. I thought that the hull shape was somewhat interesting (I am still learning about hull shapes and there characteristics) as it has a nearly flat bottom with a slight V to it, and what appeared to be hard, but rounded edges.

In the water it did seem to be a bit lacking in initial stability. At first I had to be a bit more aware of my movements. It did not feel too uncomfortable in calm water.

After paddling it for a while I tested out its stability by leaning it as far as I could before I had to brace. I found that the secondary stability was excellent. You could really put it on edge. Sculling braces were quite easy. It carved very nice edged turns as well.

The low primary stability was something I got used to quickly, but it might be a bit more uncomfortable on a really choppy day (this was in nearly flat water). I am not sure how comfortable I would be in the boat in really rough water, but then again it might just be a matter of getting used to the stability profile.

One thing I really did like about the boat though was the fact that I found the cockpit and thigh braces quite comfortable. Can anyone comment on the comfort of the Aquanaut/Explorer? How well do their thigh braces engage you? The thigh braces on the Aquanaut appear to be fairly slight.


Valley thigh braces
are conceptual. Though the Aquanaut has lower fore deck than the Explorer, the cockpit has less pronounced keyhole and the thight braces are simply implied by the flanges. The Explorer has more defined keyhole with more effective thigh braces.

I have been shaping the foam under the deck to form a bit more of a brace. I will likely add in foam to make the thigh braces functonal.

Does anyone know of any good deals out there on a used Chatham 18???