Chatham Vs. Susquehanna

Necky Chatham vs. the Impex Susquehanna. Which is better? Ok, I realize they are likely just different, but which boat would you prefer?


? Many Chathams…
Just one Susquehanna…

“The Chatham”…

– Last Updated: Dec-20-08 9:08 AM EST –

isn't. As above, the 16 is quite playful and well-liked for things like rock gardening, the 17 is an all-around boat that probably comes closest to the NDK Explorer or the WS Tempest and the 18 is a boat with a character different and (IMO) more challenging than either of the other two.

Personally, I am still not quite sure why Necky gave three such different boats the same name - you are not the first to think of them as more closely related than they are.

As to the Susquehanna, it's been redesigned and has been a boat with a good bit of rocker. Perhaps compare to the Chatham 16?

Good point
Well, I think I would like the Chatham 16, as I prefer maneuverability and playfulness in to speed in a hull. However, at nearly 200lbs, maybe the 17 would be better? That brings us into the realm of the Impex Currituk.

So, to make a more complicated question, do you reckon I would prefer the Chatham 16 or the Impex Susquehanna? What about between the Impex Currituk and the Chatham 17?

And, just to keep the whole can of worms open, if I like these three boats, what others should I look at?

Thanks again

Volume etc.
I didn’t look, but I suspect that the volume/paddler weight is the same range for all three of the Chathams. If I am right, the only diff would be if the cockpits were tweaked differently enough to make fit an issue. Take a look at the Necky site or call them to check on that.

FYI, 200 lbs is at most at the higher end of average paddler for kayaks. On the weight alone, that shouldn’t be at all limiting and you have lots more boat choices than I do. If you have really long legs or really big feet, maybe that’d start being a fit consideration.

As to what boat/other boats, it’d appear that the Currituck is the boat closest to the Susquehanna in the “Performance Touring” line of Impex’s boats. But it’s still more of a distance boat, and at 21.5" width could be quite interesting.

'Zactly how much do you care about speed versus playfulness, and what kind of use would you put the boat to? Also, how challenged do you want to be by the kayak - a little, or really gotta get a roll soon because you’ll be using it a lot, that kind of thing. That might make it easier for people to suggest boats.

All purpose?
Well, even though I own lots of canoes for different purposes, I only want one sea kayak.

I expect I would do mostly short trips from 1-4 days on Lake Winnipeg. I might do a longer trip of a week or two on occasion.

I don’t need a speed boat because I tend to be in no great hurry (by canoe standards, I prefer Prospectors to Wenonahs).

Definite differences
I’ll let others chime in on the Chathams as while I’ve had a number of Necky’s and paddled others in the past (Thasis-Kevlar, Looksha and paddled enough Zoars to last me for the forseeable future) I’ve not had a good reaction with the Chathams.

What I can tell you more on is in the Impex lineup. Just for referrence I’m 6’ 205# size 11 shoe and use a variety of Impex and composite P&H kayaks in my instructional fleet. The Susquehanna is an extremely manuverable kayak. With the amount of rocker fore/aft it excels at play in waves. The cockpit area is a wetter ride so a sprayskirt is going to be more mandatory even on a calm day as compared to the Currituck. Outfitting wise, the Susquehanna thighbraces are built a bit lower and the cockpit radius is rounded out more in the front than the Currituck which means that I need to slide in from the back deck as compared to the Currituck where I can just get my leg clear to sling sideways in the seat for a sidesaddle dismount from the kayak when landing but this also makes for an easier reach with the legs to make contact which can be great for folks with shorter or skinnier legs but could be a problem if you have larger thighs. Tracking on the Susquehanna will be greatly enhanced by use of the skeg just a wee bit or if you come from a canoeing background and have a good J-Stroke then you can probably make anything go straight. One of the other performance diffences I find between the two is the stability curve transitioning from primary to secondary stability. The Susquehanna has a much smoother, liquidy, feel going from keel down to on-edge, much like the Outer Island. The Currituck has a more distinct zone of happiness with either keel down or on it’s side but with a quicker transition from one to the other. I’m sure that an engineer here can give all kinds of quantitative data for what I am describing but my preferrence is for teaching and paddling these boats not designing.

On the Currituck end, it will track easier than the Susquehanna and will provide more glide per paddlestroke than the Susquehanna for the same paddler comparison. When heeled over the Currituck is plenty manuverable and deals with chop and swell fine. At least in the 8’ swells that I’ve had it out in (not the Hudson River here in Hyde Park) I’ve usually called the Currituck our Sport Utility Kayak as it fits 85% of the new paddlers coming out on our programs. As to Celia’s concern about it being 21.5" wide being interesting, I have no idea what that refers to.

Ultimately you will need to try both on the water and paddle what fits you and your needs best but most importantly whichever makes you smile the most on the water.

Back to shovelling snow for me.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Chathams are very nice
I own the CH17 in both poly and composite, as well as the composite Ch18. Doubt at your size (comparable to mine) that you’ll fit in the Ch16, with its 14.25" cockpit opening width!

The 17 is an excellent all-around boat. Very high quality, unlike what I’ve seen with some of it’s competition. I’ve also found the CH18 to be quite maneuverable, and frankly, not really that “challenging”, as has been reported above. Believe it has something to do with our weight, which might be better-suited to the boat than someone much lighter. Both are very, very good boats.

Every opinion you have read here
and every opinion you will read on this board or others is just that. In fact you’ll get expert commentary from folk who don’t paddle said boats or have limited time in them. All well meaning, but beyond general categorizing not nearly as meaningful as YOU paddling.

Also boats can get a legacy based on a few of said reviews and some of those are bogus. The Chatham 16 for example is no “slower” than many of it’s competitors in that class. In big seas very efficient!

These are all excellent kayaks from tewo good builders. The new Necky composites are epoxy resined re-engineered construction that is insanely tough. I just got one.

I’m not knocking folks advice…mine is in the same category. It’s akin to saying this or that ski or ski boot is best for you when we aren’t you.

You must balance all the commentary with a grain of “salt”. Remember some have agenda’s even if it’s only trying to confirm their biases.

Step 1. Figure out what type of paddling you enjoy.

Step 2. Understand that EVERY kayak is a compromise.

Step 3. Select a handful of boats that are designed to do what you want.

Step 4. Paddle all of them in a variety of seas.

Step 5. Choose the one that subjectively does it for you…REGARDLESS of the logo on the boat.

Step 6. Go have fun with it! And know that whatever you bought is a good kayak.

I was a pro tester for magazines some years ago and I can tell you that it’s business and not really objective…

Listen to your body and your sub-concious. They won’t lie to you.

Chatham vs Susquehanna
Well, I’ve paddled both and I must say that Chatham Strait is much nicer than the Susquehanna River. If you consider its junction with Lynn Canal, just north of Chichagof Island, it is one of the longest fjords in the world. Lots of humpbacks, great camping sites and, in summer, typically good weather. Both have eagles, but Chatham has more. What really sets Chatham apart from the Susquehanna is, of course, the lack of motor vessels and people. There are more 7-11’s within walking distance of the Susquehanna, and its warmer.

Don’t know anything about the kayaks, though.

Thank you Marshal for all the detailed info you took the time to offer - much appreciated.

Also, Salty, thanks for adding the grain of salt warning. I know, of course, that test paddling boats helps a lot. However, because I am not really going to be able to try that many, and because I have paddled a few different styles of kayaks, I am hoping to just make a decision and order one. As long as I don’t try others after I get mine, I will never know what I am missing! You are right, I think, in suggesting that they are all going to be decent, and, as such, I think I will be happy.

With canoes, I searched for the elusive “perfect” tripping canoe and owned at least a dozen in the quest. Now that I have a few of the best, I think of how even the tenth or twentieth best canoe would still be adequate and provide satisfaction to 95% of the world.

My local dealers carry Necky, Current Designs, Impex, Seward, Prijon, Wilderness Systems, P&H, and Nigel Foster. While this seems like an impressive list, when we pare it down to the boats in stock it is a bit limited.

Thanks again for all the help. If I may add one to the mix, the P&H Capella 166 plastic and 163 fiberglass look good too.

Check out the Capella
The Chatham is OK, Rolls well, can turn and twist but the Capella for the 16’6" range is a much nicer boat.

I have not paddled the Chatham 18 and she may be a sweetheart. but the Chatham 16 is a little slow.

One of out very experienced paddlers had a Chatham out for a rental and though it was a dog.

If rock hopping was my only game the Chatham would be the boat.

I will see if I can find Malcolms take on it and post it here.

I found her OK but not as nice as Capella.


And I’d say the opposite

– Last Updated: Dec-21-08 11:04 AM EST –

So who's right?? Thus my point. Plenty who say the CH 16 is a dog have been behind me and baffled. I've owned and paddled a Romany 16, Avocet, and the CH 16, and have thousands of miles to support my opinions. All are slow relative to a flat water tourer or race boat. The difference in effort at say 4-4.5 knots between them is real life. BUT, this is Pnet which of course is a different reality.

Well it is winter . . .
The thread may be BS (bio-solid), as you suggest, but I won’t be test paddling anything anytime soon, so it is all I have. In fact, there is a road currently being plowed where I want to paddle on 18" of ice!

There is useful information to be had, though, when people comment on the relative strengths of each design, as well as the build quality of the manufacturers. I could say, for instance, that a Coleman canoe isn’t worth the money, and that Esquif’s designs and construction are generally well regarded.

Thanks for your thoughts.

The Susquehanna has fantastic primary stability and very good secondary. The Chatham 16 has awesome primary and great secondary. The biggest difference in my opinion is the fit and comfort for paddlers over 200 lbs. The Chatham has a very tight and narrow cockpit while the Susquehanna comfortably fits larger and heavier paddlers with ease. I have paddled both quite a bit. The Currituck is a great boat to paddle as well and very comfortable. For me personally at 215 to 220 lbs. the Currituck was a little twitchy when compared to the other two. If I might make a suggestion rent as many different boats as you can before you buy anything. Once you get hooked the learning curve can be frustrating and expensive as most of us end up buying,selling and trading to “find the right boat” Hope this helps you somewhat.


The width comment
Wasn’t trying to be obtuse there - all I meant was that a good sized guy who is relatively new to fully equipped sea kayaks may notice the width as being on the narrow side. I see that Impex’s site says that the boat has good stability, your experience suggests that paddlers don’t notice it and I am all wet.

I’d rather be all wet metaphorically right now - it’s kinda cold in the river right now.

Weight would help

– Last Updated: Dec-20-08 11:53 PM EST –

You are quite right that my perspective on the Chatham 18 is likely a factor of weight. To me the boat takes more muscle to maneuver compared to the 17 and 16. But I am underweight for all of them, so it's really just a matter of how relatively unwieldy each feels to me.

Curiosity question - since you own both, when do you bring out the 17 and when do you take out the 18? That may help the OPer.

chatham 16 speed…
Plenty fast for +90% of the engines on the water.

Re: Cockpit and outfitting: closest I’ve seen to ww outfitting - not a bad thing in my book.

Or …

– Last Updated: Dec-21-08 9:29 AM EST –

just go buy one. They're all good boats in their unique and stylish ways.

You're on the right track. What's the harm if you buy a good boat and find you like something else better down the road? Does your dealer take trade ins? I've found several boats I like better and have already sold a couple and will probably sell two more next year. And that's OK.

Why spend hours and days test paddling in every type of condition? Just paddle some boats, or at least sit in them to see how they fit, get one, and get out there. And do paddle friends boats at every chance you get. It will make you a better paddler and you will begin to understand the nuances between boats.

If you pack like a backpacker, every one of these boats will have ample storage room for a weeks journey.

Pretty soon you'll own four anyway ...


P.S. The economy (and especially, your dealer) needs you to buy one right now.

Chatham 1g: superior build quality
My Chatham 16 is the best built boat I’ve ever paddled. Weighs around 50 pounds (fiberglass layup) but incredibly sturdy, rigid deck and hull that has taken a beating that would damage other boats . Bulkheads are beautifully constructed, watertight. Valley hatches are the best in the business. Its skeg system (includes an “unkinkable" cable made out of some space age alloy) is by far the best I’ve used.