Fitting in a Chatham 17

I understand it
it’s a damn comfortable boat

but if you’re 250#'s, don’t roll and your regular boat is a 27.5" wide rec kayak it makes no sense to jump in a boat that you can’t be comfortable in.

bit bigger boat
i agree with the assertion that there’s no great reason to go into the smallest, tender kayak, even if you are drawn to it, over a larger, more stable for your size, boat. the reserve bouyancy, and added stability, is only a bonus, and the tradeoffs are insignificant, as Salty mentioned. a T180, Impex Assateague, CD Gulfstream, Capella 173, all are very friendly, very playful boats, with maybe some extra wiggle room for freedom of movement, and some body language in performing fancy strokes. too snug a fit in a sea kayak, actually hampers the ability to effectively perform many strokes and associated body movements. your knees should be sufficiently up, with some room in the hips to be able to move around and rotate and move the legs. also being able to put the knees together and then back under the deck at will is useful.

its only 21" wide
consider a sea kayak maybe 22-23" wide, such as the CD solctice.

too hard to turn
putting a heavy guy into a Solstice makes it even harder to turn and less responsive requiring use of the rudder to turn,which is ok except it eliminates a whole range of skills development,besides the fact a maneuverable kayak is a nice attribute in waves where going in a straight line is often a function of zig-zagging through a three dimensional surface. I owned a Solstice and found it’s flatwater stability unpredictable in choppy conditions since the ends are so fine and sharp.

I don’t have a reason.
I just found that it’s an attractive boat - nice lines, nice look. And, I actually did like the idea of the low-volume hull.

I definately hear you about the lack of stability because of my size.

I’m not definately looking at a plastic boat. My initial thoughts were for the composite boat. At my skill level (ironic, I know) - the plastic just seemed like a better idea. I didn’t know what advantage the fiberglass gained me.

My goal is to try out a handful of boats - find something that fits and that I think I’ll grow into.

My own beginner’s story is

– Last Updated: Jun-23-08 6:20 PM EST –

probably similar to that of many others and may be yours...

I've been paddling in a Sit on Top 12' by 30" for a couple of seasons when the "serious" kayak bug finally bit me.

I did not know much about boat features and ended-up with a Tsunami 145. That's a 23.5 or so inches wide and with a very solid initial stability. When I first got it, I did not know how to brace or lean it. It felt twitchy and I was a little scared of it as it moved under me more than the SOT had. I almost capsized on the first outing and had hard time getting in and out of it at the low shore with the paddle as support on the rear deck.

Two outings later, it did not feel twitchy at all. I was able to get in or out without even thinking much - I knew the boat would not flip under me at entry.

Two months later, and I felt it is restrictive and slow and way too wide and stable to allow learning of advanced techniques and not as much fun as I wanted. I knew I can lean in it with a lot of weight and it would still not flip - very forgiving and stable even in confused cross-waves from boat wakes and wind.

So, I sold the Tsunami and got a 17' x 22" P&H Outlander a couple of weeks back. I can tell you that it felt *really* twitchy for me after the false sense of accomplishment I had with the Teunami 145. Afterall, I had felt comfortable enough in the Tsunami to surf the standing waves in rapids that moved a lot faster than I could paddle and was not afraid to capsize with it (re-entry was not an issue without any aids - big cocpit, stable hull). But with the Outlander, I felt it was too much for me and I doubted I would ever feel comfortable with it.

Fastforward by about 50-100 miles worth of paddling in the Outlander - I am almost as confident handling it as I was in the Tsunami two weeks earlier. I can lean it, surf boat wakes, it turns a lot better than the shorter Tsunami yet tracks a lot better when I deploy the skeg (the Tsunami did not have a skeg or rudder).

My point is, that a "transitional" boat like the Tsunami is a great tool to learn. May be it is even faster to learn in such a boat since your learning curve will not be as steep as with a more demanding boat. Don't know which way it is... But if one is serious about learning, one should either buy it well used and cheap (to be able to sell it at no loss if one outgrows it) or skip it alltogether and go directly to something in the 22" width that is known to be forgiving, yet fun. The Tempest 170 or 180 will fit the bill IMO as would the Impex Assateague and some other boats. I liked the Assateague a lot when I test paddled it a week or two ago and it has enough volume and room for you. Recently I paddled next to a Tempest 180 last week and the Tempest seemed to have a lot of room and was standing very high above the water with a paddler who was probably at least #210 and about 6' tall if not a little more. I thought it would be unecessarily big for most people, unless they plan to load it with gear. The other difference with the 170 is the size of the cokpit - the 180 has a longer and wider cockpit, which is nice if you like it this way. The Chatham 17 is probably allright as well but I have not paddled one to know how it handles. It has lower front deck than the Tempest 170 (which in turn has a bit lower profile than the 180). You should fit in any them without a problem and as long as they feel comfortable, then you will certainly progress past the initial instability feeling. The Tempest 170 may be too tight for you with the hip pads, but without them it should be a good fit. My 36" waist feels very snug with the pads in and I am not sure if I can live with them for a long paddle or not - will find out soon enough as I'm expecting delivery of a poly Tempest 170 this week or early next week.

I would suggest that you also try and paddle the Tempest 170 as it is usually available for demo or rental and compare to your Chatham 17 experience. If they sufficiently feel similar in how stable they are, then you can be certain that with some practice this twitchiness you felt will be gone in a half a dozen outings.

I'm ligter than you at 190lb but I am taller at 6'4" and IMO the above mentioned boats should offer less stability to me than to you as my center of gravity is higher and I keep the boat higher in the water as well.

Take a class or rent so you can spend more than 30 minutes in a few boats and you will see if you are making progress. If you still feel after that that these are too much for you, there is nothing wrong with going with something wider - I would not want to go to a super narrow boat or one that is too demanding of my attention all the time (like the Prijon Barracuda for instance, where I can't relax yet). I think there is a certain "golden middle" with boats in the 21.5 to 22.5 wide range if they are built with stability in mind that allows most people to relax, yet they still offer good cruising speed and, depending on hull shape, can be very playful. For short-ish paddles of a couplke of hours at a time, IMO a playful boat is more enjoyable than a stable straight-tracking one - boat wakes and wind chop are no longer a nuisance - they are fun -;)

if you take a look
at the hip pads on the T-170 you will notice that you can add or subtract shims in the packet on each side to make it snugger or looser

Chatham 17
I’ve been paddling a RM Chatham 17 for 3 years, am 6,2 230 lbs, and find it to be a great day boat. Super predictable in rough water, great to develop skills, nice fitting cockpit. Would be a great light tripping boat as well if you can get your kit down to an ultra-light level. As for tippy, I found once I got some seat time, the Chatham is a super stable platform to get some skill development. Still my go to boat for rough water day trips\surfing…

Own 2 CH17s, in both poly and composite. Outstanding boats…that’s why the fixation with them!!

Regarding your situation, buy the CH17, paddle hard, lose 20 pounds, and life is good.


Own 2 CH17s, in both poly and composite. Outstanding boats…that’s why the fixation with them!! BTW, I also own a CH18, and the cockpit size is very similar.

Regarding your situation, buy the CH17, paddle hard, lose 20 pounds, and life is good. :slight_smile: