Fitting in a Chatham 17

I’ve been oogling the Chatham kayaks for a while. But, I’ve got some reservations about it. My current boat is a a Dirigo 14 (27.5" wide) and I’m 5’ 11", by a porky 250 lbs. I’m a fair novice at paddling touring/skinny boats.

Anyway, I test paddled the Chatham 17 yesterday. Sitting in the boat with it’s standard outfitting, I was snug and felt really good. Out on the water, the river was a little rough from some wind and a lot of boat wakes. I felt twitchy and not all that comfortable. Because of my twitchiness, after a few minutes of paddling, I went over and wet exited.

My question isn’t one that you can answer, but maybe help me figure out… was it the boat that was twitchy? Am I to big of a person for this boat (i.e. I’m about as wide in my bum as the boat is)?

My assumptions - I’ve only really paddled in flat water (and once in the ocean, where we had swells to contend with). I’ve never dealt with boat wakes and the choppy waves. So, this was new.

I was twitchy because I was in a boat that’s unlike anything that I’ve been in before (I’ve paddled a Tsunami 165 a couple of times, regularly paddle a Perception Carolina and my Dirigo).

Anyway… thoughts? opinions? witty commentary?

If you’ve own or have paddled a Chatham, was size are you?

it may be the chatam 17 is
too small for you or it may also be your just not used to paddling in conditions in a sea touring boat. Your best idea is to borrow or rent the types of kayaks you are interested in to get a feel for what’s best to you—also might want to take some lessons–other boats to try would be a W/S Tempest 170 or 180, an NDK Exlorer(HV–or high volume)a Current Designs Sirroco–this list is by no means exhaustive–there are plenty of other boats out there for larger people.

Thanks for the info
I’ve got a couple of classes under my belt (they’re actually where I got into the W/S Tsunami) - I’m comfortable paddling and knew I needed to brace (I thought it, but the paddle just didn’t go).

I’m going to try out other boats. I’d definately like to try the Chatham again, but in calmer water. See if it was my inexperience w/ the boat & the conditions; OR- if it was me in a boat that’s too small.

If it was the conditions, I think it should be something I can grow into.

You’re right about trying boats out. I’ve got all summer (and heck, winter too) before I really want to get into my next boat.

Thank ya.

Chatham 17
I am 6’ and weigh about 220. I have an Assateague and recently purchased a Chatham 17 RM. I have never had any “tippy” problems in flat water. Just recently I had the Chatham in some pretty rough water. 1 1/2 ft chop with a following sea and major boat wakes from all directions. It was definitely not what I was used to. I did survive with some bracing. Wet exiting is nothing but good practice. Give the Chatham some more time. Most people say that the boat really comes alive in rough water. I know I really like the boat. Hope this might help

I’m 230#
and have been told by Necky folks that the Chatham 17 is too small for me, so 250# is pushing it.

The Chatham 18 has a higher capacity, but is an even skinnier boat.

Dreamweaver, give it some time. I’ve been out in 25 knot/4 foot seas and the boat stayed up when I was sure we were both going down. Another nice thing: it rolls really well. Even better than the 18. Consider retrofitting the thigh hooks with the more aggressive Necky WW hooks. Good stuff.


– Last Updated: Jun-16-08 10:35 PM EST –

Setzer: Is the majority of your mass situated in your upper body, or midsection and legs? If you have a thick but squat torso and big legs, this is far better as regards stability than if you have a tall, large upper body, due to this resulting in a lower CG.

If your mass results in a lower CG and you fit in the boat, then you may not be terribly far off (when the boat is otherwise unloaded) from the handling qualities experienced by a somewhat lighter paddler who packs the boat with gear. No, not at all near "identical", but not completely out of the ball-park. Hey, the skinny guys always think the manly men are to big for most boats. If you can paddle it, then you can paddle it. Besides that, you stick with it, and paddle hard, and you WILL lose weight! :)

Some more choices for you
I’m 5’9" and currently am 230lb but going down. Boats that I’ve owned, liked, and fit me were the Gulfstream, Capella, and Nigel Foster Shadow (very twitchy until you get used to it). I also like the Explorer HV. All good boats–try them and get what feels good to you.

I have the Chatham 16. I’m 6 feet tall, 155lbs male. I almost feel like I’m on the bigger side for my boat. I can’t imagine being over 200 lbs in it. My friend that is over 200 lbs. paddles the Carolina. But hey, the Chatham is a sweet boat so keep trying, if you like it.

you need a wider range of stability
the Chatham has a flattish bottom and shallow freeboard, for tall or high cg people you’ll run out of a range of control near the capsize angle. Try out a Gulfstream or similar kayak. The Scirocco will feel to0 tippy. Maybe a CD Vision. Ignore dimensions, beam/width, numbers are meaningless except to tell you what size of hole the kayak can fit through.


– Last Updated: Jun-17-08 1:48 PM EST –

I've been paddling a Chatham 18 for 3 years now, it was my first kayak. (6' 170lbs) I tried it at a demo day in Rhode Island. Tippy is a relative term. Before I sat in the Chatham I tried a couple of Valley and Nigel Foster kayaks, I think it was one of the Foster's I swamped. The Chatham felt stable by comparison. I don't know if that is technically correct, but that's what it felt like. On paper the Chatham's are supposed to have very good primary and secondary stability. I don't really understand technical specs, but it feels stable to me. I had previously rented much more stable kayaks, but the adjustment didn't take long. I take mine out up and down the South Shore near Boston. I've had it out in some very textured water, it stopped feeling tippy a long time ago. It just took a little getting used to. Now I actually find the responsiveness to be a plus in rougher water. I just need to learn how to roll the thing and I'll be a happy paddler!

I found trying several kayaks and being able to switch back and forth between them to be very helpful in getting a feel for the individual boats. It's good to have several boats to compare. Then I just took the ones I liked out for a longer test run.


– Last Updated: Jun-17-08 2:43 PM EST –

To original poster. At 250 you are fine for day tripping, but loaded down you may need more boat. It would never be unsafe, but you'd lose a lot of playfulness. This is somewhat abstract, which is why Necky doesn't like to put an absolute number on sea touring boats. What's too loaded for one is pleasant for another.

Based on your comments though, and your stage in paddling I think you'd do better in a higher volume kayak. There are many to choose from within the Brit / Greenland style. The Tempest 180, NDK Explorer, Kayak Sport Artisan Millenium, and several more. These are just a few.

Someone your size will not lose by going a bit bigger. Speed will be so similar it's a non-issue, you'll be more comfy, and have more reserve capacity. Just as small paddlers should be wary of going too big, so should big padlers be wary of going too small.

As the saying goes . . .

– Last Updated: Jun-17-08 5:42 PM EST –

you have to paddle the twitchiness out of the boat. I am 6 ft tall and weigh 210 lbs. I find the Chatham 17 to be a perfect fit and very stable. I started with a RM model (my first kayak) and then found a carbon fiber version (used). It's a "sweet" boat. I've been out in small craft conditions with 4 foot waves and found it barely necessary to brace. It also rolls nicely, but not as well as my Betsie Bay Recluse, a boat which I still find to be twitchy at my intermediate level.

Size and shape…
I’ve struggled answering dpcdivr’s question - “what shape am I?” I’d say that I’m pretty much big all over and have some gut. Though, proportionally- I probably carry the weight a bit higher w/ a 30" inseam.

I DO know that I’m pretty dopey. Capsizes and (for now) wet exits are a fact of life for me.

My struggle is- even if the Chatham is a little small, I did really like how it fit me. Paddling the Carolina, I don’t get very much/any contact with my thighs. I worry about getting decent contact in a high volume boat.

salty - could you elaborate on why you think a HV boat would be better based on my comments & stage in paddling.

I was talking to my wife last night about boats and the Chatham and whatnot. I’m just not the type to upgrade (anything, really), so whatever I buy next- I’ll probably hang onto for quite a while. I don’t mind twitchiness if it’s something that I can grow into (like gjohnson said, “paddle the twitchiness out of the boat”). But, if I’m just too big for the boat- then, I’d like to know that before buying it. I seem to be within 20 to 40 pounds of most of you here - that just seems to be quite a bit for the boat.

And lastly, for boat recommendations - I kinda “need” to stick within the Confluence Watersports and & Johnson Outdoors families of companies.

if you like the chatam 17
but find it a bit small why don’t you try the Chatam 18?

The CH 17
The 17 will work for you, but with a load it will sit pretty low and lose a lot of playfulness. For example, with 300 + lbs. you’ll capture water over the aft deck when edging etc. The 18 would be a better choice for you, but it’s a bit more tender. I find the 18 more playful than the 17. The 16 is awesome in rough seas, but probably too tight for you.

Having said all that if you love the feel, buy it, and just try to pack lightly if doing longer tours.

Laden yaks are not dangerous, just lose playfulness.

A boat with a bit more design displacement, freeboard will give you more capacity for gear in addition to your 250. No absolutes, but I have a lot of experience with the Chathams.

Good paddling, whatever you end up with!

The CH17 and 18
For the 18, I’m concerned about losing yet another inch in width. I’m not sure how my lard-rear will fit it. There’s one relatively near here- I might go try it out.

For the 17 and losing playfulness. I don’t know that I’m too worried about that yet. Realistically, the majority of my paddling will be day trips.

I guess I sound like I’m defending a decision to just get the CH 17. I sure sound like I keep trying to counter everything y’all say.

Thanks for the input. I’ll rent one a couple of times and see if I get any more comfortable in it. If not, I’ll look at my other options. I think someone (LeeG?) threw out the Tempest 180 and I’ve been in a Tsunami.


might also try a Tempest 170

Chatham 17 on REI Outlet
FWIW to anyone looking for RM Chatham 17’s the REI Outlet has RM Chatham 17 seconds on sale in blue for $1199.93. And I believe as always with REI if you have it shipped to a store it will be free shipping. Not sure if that’s really a good price for one or not, but thought I’d share it.

Try a re-entry before buying
The Chatham line has a low back deck, which is what makes it great for lay-back rolls. However, someone reported to me that a 140 lb student of hers swamped a Chatham 16 doing a cowboy re-entry. I find that a little hard to believe, but the point is that if you haven’t learned to roll yet, make sure you can re-enter from the stern without putting the cockpit under water.

don’t understand the fixation on Chatham
you’re not comfortable in it in bouncy water, so look for a bigger boat, you’re a bigger person. You’ll have to know how to roll in the 17 in any kind of bouncy water. Assuming you’re looking at plastic boats why not the LooskshaV,er,17. The ruddered one. It’s got a nice range of stability that a bigger person could utilize that a smaller person can’t. It’s more of a Chatham hull than a Looksha hull.

I don’t think the Tempest 180 comes in plastic.