Elaho & Chatham 16 fit

I’ve been resisting the urge to order a Chatham 16 until I can get to the mainland for a test paddle, but that free tent giveaway is kind of cool, and I’m not very good at the patience thing. I got a chance to sit in an Elaho the other day and had plenty of room. Can someone who’s paddled both tell me whether the two boats similar in cockpit fit? Thighs are probably the question mark. I would probably have had trouble with the original seat width but understand that’s been fixed.


but different. How is that for an answer!

I had an Elaho for some time, the original model with the gravity skeg (worthless, btw). I sold it to buy a… you guessed it, C16.

The Elaho had a lower deck around the cockpit, both fore and aft. It was quite snug around the thighs for me, but then my thighs are, uh, muscular. As in thick. The width was fine, despite my, uh, muscular butt.

The C16 has more room for the thighs, and slightly more foot room. The new seat hangers were better than the original, but still somewhat tight. No matter, I took out the seat hangers anyway.

The seat, BTW, is adustable fore/aft by use of velcro, works well. The seat did not quite fit me, but all I did was take it out, and carve out some foam underneath. Fits great now.

Very different personalities. The El was unusually manoeverable, and was great in tight spots; it also had heinous weatherhelm, and was annoying to correct. While it surfed well, you had to be quick with a stern rudder to keep it from broaching. The C16, OTOH, is utterly remarkable in wind- highly resistant to weatherhelm, and still easy to correct if it does. While not as quick to respond, it does resist broaching better.

Good boat.

karl (6ft, 210lb, for comparison purposes)

I would highly recommend against buying the Chatham 16 until you have had the opportunity to paddle if for at least an hour.

I say this because I think it is EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE----painful----to paddle. I owned one for about 10 days but could not take it. I am 5’8, 175 pounds. I found that the boat is very comfortable at first, but after about 45 minutes in gets painfull. The boat’s thigh braces are in a very bad location. You pretty much end up having to have your knees braced under the coaming, cocked outward sharply. My knees, feet, ankles and back start to hurt very bad after a while—to the point that I almost can’t stand it.

One of the guides at my local shop has the same experience with it. He is about the same size.

I find the Elaho much more comfortable, but still not great. Be advised that the thigh braces vary on the Elaho. To me the most comfortable are the integral braces on the glass version.

Please also note that the other Chathams fit and feel different. I find the 18 foot version to be very comfortable.


Being able to test paddle something is always a good idea, but…

the thigh braces in the C16 are extremely adjustable, both fore/aft, and also angle. That is an unusual feature on a sea kayak, I am sort suprised you think they are “in a wrong place”.

But then, there is also a school of thought that you buy a hull, and if the volume is right, modify to fit.

WW paddlers have had that attitude for as long as I can remember, but it still confused me when sea kayakers think it should fit out of the box.

I have never owned a boat that wasn’t heavily modified to fit me.

karl (no backbands in any of my boats, many with a foot strap ala sprint boats)

thigh braces
Yes, you are right that they are adjustable. This did not help me though as I found that the problem was that they were not in the right place laterally. That was why I had to place my knees under the coaming in order to some purchase. I also found that their shape and size a bit off for me.

The thigh braces may feel good for someone else. They were not right for me. Furthermore the boat was painful to paddle for me… maybe because of my towering 5’8 height and massive 175 pound frame—I need a pretty roomy boat to fit my large size 9.5 feet as well. Excuse the humor (or lack of it). My point is that if I find it a tight and uncomfortable fit at my size, I would think most paddlers would find it even worse.

I realize that boat fit is personal and I hope that he tests it for himself. I would just say that you really need to paddle it for a while in order to get a good feel for the boat.


too bad
I put in a carved seat, removed the thigh braces and backband adjustors, moved the metal frame back and put in some more minicell forward of the hangers/jammed for side thigh support. The metal clips surrounding the back band adjustors pointed straight into my thighs and reduced the side/side dimensions to a ridiculous 14.25". My legs are just long enough to have adequate bracing without the thigh braces,you’re right they are angled a bit wrong.

Best lay backs
The Elaho (original version) has the best rear coaming and deck design for comfortable lay backs of any boat I’ve ever been in.

I own an original version drop skeg Elaho and love the positive thigh braces, Bomber back band and very low decks. It is a fun and very responsive boat. It has a strong personality which can be a pain in rear quartering seas.

I was not overly impressed when I demoed a Chatham 16. If you can’t find your way to an Avocet or Romany, the Chatham might be the next best - though I like the Chatham 18 a lot better than the 16.

Painful, in the wrong location,

– Last Updated: May-11-05 2:26 AM EST –

removed and modified because or ridiculous dimensions..... Is it just me, am I the only one who cannot understand what is happening here ???.........

I’ve seen a lot of good feedback on the boat, and the fact that I can order it locally is a major plus. Realistically, the only thing a test paddle is going to be good for is fit, since I have so little seat time in closed-deck boats and probably wouldn’t get to try it in conditions anyway. Having at least something to compare to that I’ve been in is helpful.

How much of your issue is low deck?
I’m curious because the Chatham coaming is on the narrower side of the range, so if your legs are feeling really skewed in it, is it the thigh braces themselves or more because of the deck height? Is the issue specific to the Chatham or do you have similar comfort issues with other boats in that size range?

I know I really should wait for a test paddle…

Know anyone who makes a better
mousetrap? :wink: I may make it to San Diego this summer and have a chance to check out your boats. Need to talk to you about a kid’s paddle, too.

Fairly sure I can make do in any one

– Last Updated: May-11-05 3:14 AM EST –

of a number of boats, especially since I don't really know any better. I may want something different down the road, but I just don't have the experience in that type of boat at this point to be able to do much more than assemble a list of boats that others recommend, figure out which ones fit, and go eeny meeny miny moe or something. So my inclination is to go for something I can order locally, since that will save me significant dollars to start the next-boat fund (I really need another surfski for the big days, and it would be nice to have a boat stashed at my sister's place in Portland, and...).

But I appreciate the thoughts.

too many chefs in the kitchen?
The hull is good, the aluminum seat frame allows for making ones own seat. The coaming is narrow enough to not require the bolt-on thigh bracing. I’ve been in the surf without the gucci thigh braces and had a comfortable connecton for rolling and enough room to paddle with knees together if I wish on the flats. I think that is accidental. Other manufacturers have done the same thing,they’ve got a kit bag of value added outfitting features in box A with a collection of kayaks #1-#5. Someone who isn’t out paddling the boats says “for marketing consitancy across the product line all new models will have six foldout cupholders and one fast pass toll emmitter”.

Perception did that with one of their quasi-rec kayaks putting in integral back band adjusting thigh straps that were significantly deeper than the old style thigh braces. Which of course had to be installed on the old Monterey12 kayak. Which resulted in an extremely tight fit for a kayak that would never be rolled.

The Chatham16 is a very good kayak to be stuck in high winds compared to the Elaho.

angle of the thigh brace track
really is wrong on the Ch16,ditto the intruding metal guides for the back band adjusters that route the back band straps to the edge of the coaming and to the back. It really feels like one person designed the kayak and another person designed the outfitting and another person who doesn’t paddle decided it all should go together on every model. The thigh braces work perfectly on the Ch18.

The little bolt on hip braces are silly given the small area of contact,especially when the seat frame is moved aft to clear ones thighs. What gets lost is some worthwhile outer thigh support,like an old fashioned plastic kayak seat.

I hear they’ve installed a wider seat frame but the first one had a seatframe with a vertical drop from the coaming. With an already narrow coaming compared to “the average sea kayak” plus the bolt on hip pads AND the metal back band assembly it reduced what really is a low windage kayak for a regular sized person, 180lbs, who will have some obvious fit problems. Wilderness Systems did a similar screwup with their first run Tempest seat where the seat was a normal width but the trick hip pads in their thinnest version made for a snug fit on someone with 28" hips/waist.

If Necky
The choice between a Chatham 16 and an Elaho could come down to fit.

I don’t like the system Necky installs in the Chatham for thigh braces. A number of posts on this thread have noted issues with them. If current Elahos still have the white water style braces of the early models, I think they are superior in comfort and durability.

Both boats are responsive, neither is fast.

after paddling three miles on windy day
I wouldn’t go near an Elaho. Sure it’s maneuverable, the deck and cockpit work well. The Chatham 16 outfitting is conflicted. But I’m paddling the hull. Custom outfitting is standard for me so the hull wins.

Internet experts
I,ve viewed this site for some time, and have paddled many kayaks over the years. Without exception there are things that I’d do differently with every boat. I have paddled most of the Brit designs, and the Chathams. I am puzzled by the fit issues, as I find the 16 to be a superb fit in composite. I really like that kayak in rough seas, and it is not slow in such conditions. I’m a big boy with room to spare in the 16. Find the 18 huge, but fun to paddle.

I think there are many excellent choices, but no perfect ones. It’s probably also the case that designers will never please everyone. I’d recommend building your own kayaks. Not that hard, and you can test your own theories, and have pleasure in the process.

Thanks, all
I think the C16 is going to be the way to go, but I’ll try to contain my boat lust for another couple of months until I can get to the mainland for a test paddle. Have you guys been talking to my wife? :wink:

Why contain lust?

– Last Updated: May-11-05 4:04 PM EST –

The Chatham is no doubt one of the sexiest and most interesting North American boats.

I've paddled an Elaho in tough condtions along the coast of Maine and it was no picnic. I've not paddled a Chatham 16 in challanging conditions, but all of those who have seem to be impressed with its ability.

As noted above, ultimately it is the hull you are paddling.

Go ahead, order a Chatham. Tell your wife that this is the consensus of those with whom you have conferred ;)

I keep going back and forth on it
It’s possible that if I spent some time paddling other boats I’d find that I really liked one a lot more than the others and was willing to spend the extra $ to ship it in. OTOH, there seems to be a pretty good consensus that the Chatham is one of the better hulls out there, and I have to start somewhere. Decisions, decisions.