Chatham VS Explorer

I have paddled the Chatham 17 & 18 and the NDK Explorer but none of them for long and none of them back to back. I don’t have a decent frame of reference for personal comparison. It seems that the Chatham is a shot at the Explorer and the 17 seems to have similar dimensions and perhaps share some hull characteristics of the NDK? Yes or no?

How similar are these hulls?

How would you describe the differences in paddling performance between the Chathams and the Explorer?

Good question…
I have wondered the same thing. I have paddled both briefly. I liked the Chatham a lot. It was fast and smooth and responded well to edging, but found it to have low initial stability.

I have heard many say that its rough water characteristics are not the best. Certainly one can be very confident about the rough water capability of the Explorer.

Without much experience with either my gut feeling be that the Chatham is faster, and that the Explorer is probably better in every other way.

Personally I like the Valley Aquanaut.


Chatham 18 - Explorer
The Chatham 18 is much faster than an Explorer. It has notably lower primary stability than an Explorer.

Though its chining appears similar to the Explorer, the Chatham’s secondary feels more tenuous than the Explorer’s. The Chatham tracks better and also feels much stiffer than the Explorer.

I find the Chatham 18 ill mannered in chop and quartering seas. I also find its foredeck way too high and its cockpit too large.

I’ve only paddled a 17 once briefly 2 years ago and do not recall its behavior clearly.

Tom Bergh believes the Chatham 17 is a better boat than the 18.

Chatham 18 v. Explorer

– Last Updated: Dec-21-05 8:20 AM EST –

I have the latter (LV version), have paddled the Chatham 18 a bit though not in difficult conditions. They are very different boats. (The Chatham 17 and 16 are reputed to be very different from the 18 as well.)

The LV version of the Explorer has exactly the same hull as the full size except it has a cut down deck and smaller cockpit to provide a better fit for smaller people, so it has the same characteristics as the full size. The Chatham 18 is quite a bit too large for me in the cockpit fit. I don't get either boat to its perfect waterline unloaded.

All that said - the Explorer has a (very) loose bow that slides around on waves. The Chatham 18 has a tighter bow, so it tends to cut thru waves and responds to conditions a bit differently. The Explorer tends to rock back and forth when dealing with waves in a fashion that is not hugely noticeable to the paddler, I found that to be more noticeable in the Chatham 18. The Explorer is more forgiving for off balance stuff like rolls and sculling than the Chatham 18 is - it is very happy sitting on its side or flopping you up from a not-great roll. The Chatham is more challenging and demanding in these areas - will require more specifically correct technique. It is faster than the Explorer.

My husband has the Aquanaut, which is not as forgiving as the Explorer for off-balance work but carves turns a whole lot more willingly. Between the two, they handle conditions somewhat differently but both are consumately well-mannered boats in slop. Our friend who has a Chatham 18 has spent some decent time in the Aquanaut, and has said that it is better-mannered in conditions than her Chatham 18.

All of these are good boats in their own right - much of this comes down not to the boat itself, but how much attention you want to pay to the boat.

Chatham,low rocker , high prismatic
I think the Chathams excel running down waves but they have kind of a ‘blocky’ waterplane,essentially a large flatish area that feels stable running down waves as it gets support but it doesn’t roll with the waves heading into them or hanging out as a more rockered hull can.

And yes for some reason the 18 has a very deep cockpit.

It’s funny how you can really like some characteristics but lose others in the deal.

I vacillate between wanting a more rockered hull and more easy in waves but then after awhile it’s great or I’ll shoot down a wave and decide it’s great. I think the hull shape works better in the shorter hull than the long skinny one.

No free lunch.

Can you elaborate?
“I think the hull shape works better in the shorter hull than the long skinny one.”

There is at least
one Romany owner that designs at Necky. (And now I’m on his SH*T list).

Chatham designer
The designer of the Chatham had/has a Romany.

I think you’d find that designers in general are very appreciative of others work. I know a few, and they all paddle lots of different boats. Designers understand that there is no perfect craft for all people or conditions. I’d be wary of any designer that only paddled his/her stuff, and wasn’t open minded to the fact that there are a lot of excellent kayaks out there.

The designers I know love the sport, genuinely take pride in their work, and hope that their products land with customers who are well matched for them and enjoy them.

I Would Think So…
how many designers really start from zero (or a vacuum) and put out a totally new boat that actually works well? (Okay, excluding the “Wavewalk” craft…" :slight_smile:


Paddle 'em both
Agree with much of the above.

Chatham 18 Pros: built well, much lighter than the Explorer, very comfortable seat - can snug yourself in pretty well with the adjustable back band and thigh bracing. I like to use it for surfing point breaks, keeping up with the racing crowd, and surfing along with following seas

Cons: a little more twitchy than the Explorer in big water and when fear contaminates your roll discipline not as reliable a roller as the Explorer. Cockpit hardware rusts.

Chatham thrives in:

Explorer Pro: best confused bigwater boat I know of, stable picture taking platform in rough water (can flip very fast looking thru the viewfinder with a shipped paddle in a Chatham), dream roller.

Con: all the usual stuff - little to add here. Might say the Chatham is easier to bring up into and across the wind in near-gale conditions than the Explorer

Conditions where I prefer the Explorer:

Depicted overfalls at Blue Hill, ME - very fast current and standing waves


Carl, Cool Pics!!! NM

The Chatham is wonderful in high wind and surfing down a wave without much desire to maneuver. So if you’re just hanging out or traveling through waves that one attribute of feeling very secure zooming along on one portion of the wave has the consequence of ‘bumping’ up/down with waves from different directions with the low rocker. This is really splitting hairs in the 18’ boat. But if you’re really enjoying zooming down waves you don’t need that much of a waterline and the shorter boat starts making sense.

I’m guessing if one goes for the most efficiency in the long waterline boat then you aren’t going to get the same stability or security in surfing.

This is way past Good/Bad descriptions,more personal preference.

Nothing like a picture,Chodups,that’s exactly what I’m talking about. For the choppy mixed up water the long skinny and straighter keeled Chatham18 gets torqued about more,you’re not going to be hanging out nibbling on a snack with one hand and sculling with another in the mixed up stuff. The shorter Chatham16 makes a better trade for that stuff even though it’ll also wiggle about. Then of course when you paddle the Chatham 16 on flat stuff you’ll think,“maybe something with a bit more glide?” Hmmm,that explains the Chatham17. I’m guessing the 17 is more stable than the Explorer with better weathercocking trim and roomier cockpit but not as efficient at crusing speeds but that’s a guess.

Where the Chatham shines is on a predictable portion of a wave where you might normally feel insecure it gives you a lot of comfort room where things can transition a lot. With the Chatham you’ll be surprised to feel some dynamic support at the bow as you go down a wave so instead of things getting dicey all of a sudden the boat almost feels more stable,it’s a weird feeling expecting some kind of loss of stability and it doesn’t happen. The flip side is that the other 95% of the time you aren’t doing exactly that it’ll jiggle about more compared to a more rockered hull.

I haven’t paddled the Explorer but Carls pictures are exactly what I’m thinking of.

No free lunch,if the boat does some things very well it’ll lose out elsewhere. This is personal preference territory.

No basis for comparison, but I do love this boat. I have noticed it seems to fly when you ride in on the fast ferry wakes. I hope to find out how it rolls next spring when I learn how.

which model is that?

Chatham 18
Chatham 18 (glass)

sing, (and a few more pics)
As a New Englander, surfer, and longboater, you might enjoy attending one of our bigwater invitational events next summer in The Race or the reefs off-shore southeast RI. Posted a few more fun shots from past gatherings of NE rough water enthusiasts for your enjoyment. And, LeeG, not sure where you live, but this might interest you also.


Sounds Like Fun…
Some of the NSPNers were talking about the races at our post christmas day surf session. The pics make it look like a heck of a lot of fun. When does the event take place?


PS. Hope the RISK session is on and to catch up with you there.

I’d bet not many!
Just take a look at all the “sameness” - alot of the popular models appear to be rather slight variations on a theme. Almost makes you wonder if some designers buy a competitor’s popular model and then play around with some bondo and minor surgeries to make a “new” plug for their “new” design.

Sea kayak design in particular seems to be very staid and traditional (maybe because the designs are “tried & true”, maybe because the “non-traditional” does not sell as well, or maybe the non traditional are not marketed as well).