CLC Chesapeake 16 verses 17 ?

-- Last Updated: Sep-05-10 10:19 PM EST --

Being more of a do-it-yourself kinda guy I am about to buy a kit and build a kayak. After much consideration I have narrowed it down to the CLC Cheseapeake model, either the 16 or 17.

I weigh 195 and am about 5'9.

I am mostly doing day paddling around the back water areas of the Chesapeake bay and I need a faster boat than my current kayak which is 10'2 and has a 31 inch beam.....SLOW!!!

I am basically at the weight max for the CLC 16 so if I were to go on a short trip (1-2 nights) the CLC 16 would definitly not be able to carry as much gear as the 17.

I like the size of the CLC 16 and am leaning towards building it over the CLC 17, especially being that my garage is 22 feet by 11 feet the smaller boat may be a better fit and easier to make in my small garage.

To those who have paddled both kayaks, which is faster and which one do you like more?

Shearwater 17?

You don’t want to be at max weight…
Look at the Shearwater…

Go with the bigger boat
If you have your heart set on CLC and one of these two models, I would go with the longer boat. On the water, the extra 1’ 4" will be welcome. Your garage should be long enough to store either boat, and you can probably hang it from the ceiling using a Harken Hoist, or something similar. You won’t be able to park in your garage while building either boat, so that isn’t really an issue.

You are above the recommended weight range for the smaller boat even without gear. Either boat will no doubt be faster than what you have now. I haven’t built a Chesapeake, but I did build a CLC boat with a similar hard-chine hull shape (Patuxent 17.5, no longer available).

The Chesapeake 17 will very likely be faster. It does have an inch more maximum beam, but the sides of these hulls flare considerably so that the effective beam at the waterline will be a function of how deeply you sink the boat in the water. In your case, the effective beam of both boats will probably be close, and the boat with nearly a foot and a half more length at waterline should be faster.

These sharp-chined hulls can be steered and turned quite nicely using boat heel and edge control. Leaning toward the outside really facilitates your ability to turn and becomes quite instinctive after a while.

In addition to the CLC Patuxent 17.5 I also built a Pygmy Osprey Standard (also a 15’ 8" boat like the Chesapeake 16 but with an inch more beam). It was a quite different hull design however, with a multi-chine configuration. It was a nice boat, but I preferred the Patuxent by a considerable margin. I am about 25 lbs under your weight, and a 17 and a half foot long boat did not feel large at all.


– Last Updated: Sep-06-10 11:58 PM EST –

I've paddled the Chesapeake 17 and the Osprey Standard by Pygmy and preferred the Osprey. The Ches 17 felt big and boxy, the Osprey fit better and felt quicker. I am your size and the Ches 16 was too small.

As far as speediness, the extra 1'4" length of the Ches 17 over the Osprey yields an increase in theoretical hull speed of 4%, which is probably canceled by the higher wetted surface area, so there won't be much difference. Kayak length is overemphasized in my opinion.

I recommend calling both CLC and Pygmy and asking their opinion of which boat to build, they're both very helpful.

I haven’t paddled the Chesapeake 17
as I mentioned, but I concur that the Osprey Standard would handle your size and weight fine, and leave plenty of capacity for overnight tripping, if you really want a 15’ 8" boat.

Although I preferred the maneuverability and handling of a hard-chine hull over the multi-chine hull of the Osprey, the Osprey Standard is a comfortable and efficient hard-tracking boat and it’s cruising speed compared quite favorably to my CLC Patuxent 17.5.

I enjoyed building both kits and both kit designs had their advantages and disadvantages. The CLC kit seemed to require a bit more “fudging” than the Pygmy kit, but the end result was quite nice.

If you had not considered the Pygmy boats, I would definitely look them over. If I had it to do over again, I would build the Pygmy Arctic Tern instead of the Osprey Standard. The Arctic Tern was not available at the time I built my boat.


– Last Updated: Sep-07-10 9:45 PM EST –

do you want to paddle a very big box or just a big box?

I was about your size when I built a Ch16 with the side panels cut down 1/2" as it was obvious to me the standard 16 was too deep and the LT16 was too shallow. The Ch17 is simply huge, the development of the LT series came as a result of immediate feedback from the local paddlers at Pier 7 when CLC would bring their new kayaks down to share with the local club. "damn that thing is big". The large volume and depth of the Chesapeake series came as a series of consequences on the drawing board extrapolated from the Cape Charles series more than from a process of paddling and feedback from the water and paddlers.

You will discover something with either boat though. They track well and weather cock moderately. The only problem is that the normal lean-to-turn characteristics you'll prefer in any kayak stop beyond about a 20degree lean. The ends of the kayak do not lift out of the water do to the nature of the rocker and shape of the ends. The net result is that in winds above 10mph leaning becomes ineffective and above 15mph you better get a skeg or rudder.
None of that is the end of the world but it illustrates a basic flaw in the design, my sense is the designer never tested the hull in wind/waves as the effort required to make the ends fuller would work against the pre-glued sheerclamp and spread side panels construction with one piece deck method. In other words the marketing verbiage that the Chesapeakes have "ultra-high volume bows" is completely incorrect,er, opposite from reality. I'll explain why below.
The 17 is too deep for your torso and will be like a sail in winds above 15mph.
Either boat can be paddled quickly but the problem with turning will also present itself down waves in that the sharp low volume bow(at the waterline) will provide an immediate pivot point for broaching compared to kayaks like the Shearwaters which have more gradual rocker and flared ends as they have no pre-glued sheerclamps or one piece deck defining the hull shape.
My suggestion would be to decide between the Shearwater 16 and 17. They both track well and respond normally in wind/waves to a lean. The difference between the Cheasapeake and the Shearwaters is like the difference between a truck with solid rear axle and a sedan with independent suspension on all wheels.
If you want to see what is possible with four panels of plywood look at the Current Designs Caribou. That kayak was originally made in plywood before Currrent Designs bought the design and made it in fiberglass. While the ends were not high volume due to the low shear using one piece deck the actual hull in the water had a fairly high prismatic coefficient, in other words the bottom panels were not pinched tightly but flared out substantially. With plywood that is ONLY possible using internal and external frames in construction. Other plywood kayaks like the Arctic Hawk and Betsy bay solved the issue of getting a prefered hull shape by using temporary frames in construction but also by increasing the shear at the ends which necessitated the two piece deck you see where the deck is flat forward of the bulkhead and arched/tortured back to the coaming.
The problem with the pre-glued 3/4"x1 1/4" (or smaller dimensions on some models) cypress sheerclamp on the side panels is that it stiffens the panel against bending so the ends of the kayak don't bend hardly at all but more importantly the tension in the ends of the stitched up bottom and side panels pushes the bottom panels down creating a skeg like shape. Nothing wrong with a tight exit in the stern, it's a good place for skegs and rudders. But in the bow? ahhh, now that's a problem.
This is something I observed when designing and building a modifed NorthBay (retired CLC kayak) with a former CLC employee who was running the CNC machine and did most of the drawings 10yrs ago. The limitations of the pre-glued sheer clamp construction was further validated when building the Mergansers (Shearwater kayaks) and more Pygmys. Essentially the pre-glued sheerclamp gives you a very sharp stern AND bow. Nothing wrong with a skeg like stern but in the bow it's got problems unless you can get it out of the water. The early Cape Charles did that with a rockered hull but the result was a strong weathercocking and the bow buried easily. The Cheasapeaks tried to solve those issues with a nearly flat center keel section (tracked better) and cockpit set aft (better windage balance for weathercocking) and much greater freeboard (more footroom and less bow burying). The problem with the latter change is that it simply made the entire kayak a high volume kayak and not the bow. The nature of it's broaching will be evident in either the LT or standard series and the LT will show green water over the deck in any waves.
These design elements are hard to notice looking at the boats on land but it's obvious in the water. I built a Merganser 16 (skinnier than Shearwater16 but similar hull) after having paddled a Merganser 17(similar to Shearwater 17 but different deck) and although I was too heavy for the 16'x21 Shearwater 16 it paddled in the surf zone in a predictable manner. Just as the bow was about to bury it would cork up. The Chesapeake 16 I made was a much larger hull volume and could easily carry my 195lbs but in waves the bow immediately buries in the first two feet before corking up but down wave performance is like night and day. The Shearwater still tracks firmly but follows a clearly defined arc down wave, the Chesapeake will get up and scoot quickly on it's large flat bottom but the second 1' of the bow is pushed down wave you're immediately going into a broach.
If you want a stable high volume kayak the Chesapeake 16 is a good choice, if you want a kayak that responds well in wind/waves I'd suggest the Merganser 17. The two actually have similar volume in the water.

Chesapeakes are different

– Last Updated: Sep-13-10 10:03 AM EST –

I also built a Patuxent 17 but it's more related to the Cape Charles than the Chesapeakes. , it's essentially a skinny Cape Charles. I paddled the Patuxent 17 in the S.F. Bay and off the coast with another fellow who had a Pygmy Golden Eye(same hull as Osprey). While I'm not a fan of the Ospreys straight keeled boats the GE/Osprey is much, much better in waves/wind. The Patuxents 17 bow burying to the coaming in 18" waves pretty much declared the design was limited and untested.
The Arctic Tern was a good evolution on Pygmys original four paneled kayak the Queen Charlotte just as the Coho, Borealis and Penguino are evolutions on the Golden Eye.
The Chesapeakes were an improvement on the CapeCharles but adherence to a construction technique limits the potential hull shapes from four panels.

pre-glued sheer clamp
I’ve read some of your past posts on CLC boats with interest. This is the first time I’ve taken note of the problem with pre-glued sheer clamps.

I built a Shearwater 16 hybrid, which also has a pre-glued sheer clamp. (I was surprised when exchanging emails with a builder of the non-hybrid Shearwater, that hull construction was different.) I guess/hope the problem you’ve noted was overcome with temporary forms? Well, only two for the hull, and a bunch for the deck.

are the Shearwater shear clamps pre-glued a or added after the hull is glued up? On the Arctic hawk they’re just two 4mm strips of ply added AFTER the hull is glued up. My understanding is that the Shearwater uses temporary hull forms but I could be wrong. On the Merganser the only forms were the bulkheads.

This was all driven home when building a highly modified Northbay, the Northbay is a long skinny Chesapeak (regarding keeline shape) like the Patuxent is a long skinny Cape Charles. On my modified version I tried to get a particular rocker shape and upswept bow. In order to have the shear at the bow curve up AND retain the one piece deck I had to pre-glue a small stiffener down the underside of the deck piece. That way the deck wouldn’t fold as is the solution used in the Arctic Hawk and Betsy Bay kayaks. Ok, as I was stitching up the hull of my design using the pre-grued sheer clamps I had beam dimensions that were expected at stations from bow to stern. Up at the bow the side panels were too close together according to the computer but if I put in a spreader stick to get them correct the wires would have ripped out the wires holding the panels together at the bow. In the computer drawing what should have been a clear arc to the bow was a stepped entry where the pinched ends presented a deeper/tighter forefoot. That’s where you get a contributor to weathercocking and broaching IF it’s not corrected for elsewhere in the design.

I was building a Shearwater 16 around the same time and was struck with how easily it could be straightened up without twist before gluing but the part that was not evident visually was how the kayak would handle in waves. Turning the Merganser 16 over next to the Chesapeake 16 to view the hull shape you’d think the Merganser would bury until tomorrow in waves but that’s not the case, the balance of rocker and volume corks the bow up just as it’s about to bury but MORE importantly the SHAPE of that entry on the Chesapeake commits you to a broach (or weathercocking unresponsive to a lean).

At the time CLC had the NorthBay and Northbay XL for sale and I layed those two boats over next to mine and it became obvious how much of ChrisK original designs were a consequence of drawing and construction and not paddling on the water. The NorthBay had symmetrical entry/exit just like the old Patuxents except it’s less rocker made wave handling even worse. My version where I intentionally tried to get the bow entry to be more open and less v’d (more actual volume at the waterline) with a less symmetrical hull shape. It was much better in wind/waves but the design needed a bit more tweaking. The NorthBay XL on the other hand had MORE v in the bow and less in the stern which pretty much explains why it has such heinous and uncontrollable weathercocking characteristics. You could have turned the deck around and paddled it backwards and it would be better.

The Chesapeakes (good name) grabbed a niche market during a time of economic growth in the 90’s with marketing to builders (WoodenBoat magazine) and not paddlers where most simply want to “build a boat” . This pretty much ensured that the feedback on the design would come primarily from non-paddlers and what feedback did come back was two years down the line after the paddler/builder became educated on other four panel s&g designs. At which point a new model was introduced and the older one retired.


– Last Updated: Sep-07-10 11:07 AM EST –

The sheer clamps of the Shearwater 16 hybrid are glued on after the side panels are assembled to full length. Laying flat, the sheer line is a fairly elaborate compound curve, so some effort goes into getting it bent and clamped in place while the epoxy sets.

There were full-V temporary forms wired into the hull about 2 feet from each end. The many temporary forms for the deck were hot-glued at sides only, and made no contact with the bottom panels.

that 1/2" wide sheerclamp was the dimension used on the earlier west river 162,164 and MillCreek 13. It’s what I used on my 18’x21" design that had more sweep to the sheer than the CHesapeake/Northbay.

Looks like Eric is accomodating CLCs construction and production using the pre-glued sheerclamps and the temporary bulkheads are keeping the hull shape together. One thing you’ll notice with your Shearwater is the upswept bow, that curve is not possible with the one piece Chesapeake deck. It takes a particular amount of rocker and above waterline buoyancy to make a four panel kayak handle waves well. The paneled deck of the Shearwater and the strip deck is what allows that shear line to curve upwards. The Arctic Hawk and Betsy Bays do it with a flat deck forward of the bulkhead which is what a one piece plywood deck will naturally do when presented with three dimensional bending, it’ll fold before it can stretch/torture.

I managed to get some of that with my modified Northbay but it became obvious that I was limiting possible hull shapes to accomodate a one piece deck and sprung sheerclamp construction where forming bulkheads are avoided in the construction. Not until the Paxs and West River 18 were forming bulkheads used to develop the hull. The permanent fore/aft bulkheads were designed to fit AFTER the initial side panels were cut and built into a hull. The Arctic Hawk was the first CLC kit that required forming bulkheads and kind of broke the ice in house since all of CLCs early ChrisK. designs touted the builder friendly design where bulkheads weren’t needed.

is one easier to make

– Last Updated: Sep-12-10 10:20 PM EST –

LeeG, Since you have built both a Chesapeake and Sheerwater kayak, do you agree with CLC's website that the difficulty level for each build is about the same? Do you think one is easier to make than the other?

I was able to find lots of info showing the build process for the Chesapeake and it looks easy enough. I could not find as much info for the Sheerwater.

difference not worth considering

– Last Updated: Sep-13-10 10:02 AM EST –

There are more Chesapeakes so there are more websites and hints for construction. CLCs Shearwater 17 would be a better pick for speed/efficiency in wind/waves than either Chesapeake. With the Chesapeake you have to make certain within a few stiches of wiring up that twist hasn't developed, it's not something you can correct after wiring the whole hull up as stated in the manuals. With the Chesapeake you have a few extra lbs of wood that don't contribute to durability.

I haven't built CLCs Shearwater, only Eric Schades Merganser under his company name of Shearwater. My vague understanding is that the CLC Shearwater deck involves some bending of the deck panel but it also has more internal forms than the Shearwater Merganser.
The main reason for building the Chesapeake16 is that you want a 16' high volume kayak with lots of stability. The main reason for building the Shearwater 17 is that you like to have a responsive kayak for paddling in wind/waves.