How much difference does 16" really make

-- Last Updated: Jul-20-07 6:15 PM EST --

Ok, this seems like a good place to toss this out. My wife and I bought kayaks 3 years ago. We both had only rented before the purchase. We went to a kayak demo day in RI where we got to try dozens of boats for fairly extended periods. I picked a Chatham 18, and she chose the Chatham 16. We both picked the boats that felt the most comfortable, and as far as that goes, we've both been happy with our choices. The issue has become speed. Paddling together has become frustrating for both of us. I try very hard to slow down, but I really have to slow down a lot. On some longer crossings I am fighting my own natural inclination to push myself, and it is really annoying, and I know it is tough on her. This is a hobby we took up to do together! On our next paddle we are going to swap boats, so I guess I will have my answer soon enough. I realize it is not only the length, but also the hull shape, my 18 is a faster boat. But how much difference does this difference really make? We are talking about selling the 16 and getting her something faster, but I fear it is more than the boats. So, how much faster is the longer boat really, (is it a pronounced difference?) and any recomendations for a boats for my wife to try that would be a bit faster than my Chatham 18'? (She is comfortable in her present boat, I'm not about to guess her weight and measurements on a board, I'm really bad at that and I might get killed, but she's tall, about 5' 10",and very fit.)

youre faster
the boats dont make that much difference imho especially when comparing the two boats in question. my girlfriend, a strong paddler, has little problem on her 13’ sot keeping up with me in my 17’ greenland boat, and i’m no weakling either. at least for shorter distances. i suggest you add some variety to your paddling routine to keep her in your space. paddle ahead, spin around with a hard edged turn, paddle back behind her, spin around, whatever.

tend to agree
Fiancee paddles a Roamny 16, I’m in the Explorer HV. She has a hard time keeping up with me. When we go out with the local club, she is usually in the lead, if not the lead group.

One the other hand, the flatter the water the more you’ll notice the difference. Once the water gets a little texture to it, the 16 stands right up and takes off.

Save your marriage: know that when you two are paddling, you go her pace and enjoy it. She may not feel comfortable handling a longer boat.

My experience, since you asked.


Forget about changing boats.
You are probably a stronger paddler than she is.

Might I suggest you do what I do:

My wife and I both love to race, and I am exactly 1MPH faster than her no matter weather it is a two mile race or a ten mile race.

When we are training, at about every two tenths of a mile I’ll make a big circle so that I am right back beside her.

When I first started doing this it irked the hell out of me, because you can imagine what it did to my speed average, but after a while I realized I was paddling even harder on those big turns and even though my speed average at the end of a training paddle is about four tenths of a mile slower than it should be I am still getting just as hard if not harder workout than I would be getting if I was paddling straight.

Try something like that before you change boats.

Then when you guys are just pleasure paddling, also use my criteria. I kind of enjoy hanging back with the slowest paddler in the group, (which in your case and mine would be our wives).



You’re on the right track. Switch boats
and check if that makes the difference. You’ll probably discover that it’s a combination of boat and paddling style. Her being fit is good,but I’ld bet you have a stronger stroke than she does. Good luck and happy paddling.

Good point
I’ll do a giant slalom course, or big zig zag sometimes, as she paddles in a straght line.

You could obviously try swapping boats. That might be interesting. Or maybe you could outfit the boat with something that would give you a slight amount of additional drag…

It’s mostly about the motor
There just really isn’t that much difference in drag between any kayak at the speeds most recreational kayakers paddle.

The better performance of a longer boat doesn’t start coming into play until you get up above 4 or 5 knots.

Some representative hydrodynamic data:

is it possible?

– Last Updated: Jul-21-07 1:53 AM EST –

Given the boat choices you made, and that I know I don't fit in a Chatham 16 (my girlfriend has one and I don't fit in it), I suspect that you are similar sized to me and swapping boats just won't be possible.

My guess is that it really isn't the boat, but the motors. Perhaps you can try to give her an advantage over you by sending her for a course in optimizing her paddle form (but you can't also go, otherwise the imbalance would continue).

Get her a better paddle…
Lighter and maybe shorter might be a better more efficient match for her.

wollyworld, consider yourself lucky
that your wife IS fit. When I read your post I said “thats my predicament”. However, I dont think my wife is quite that strong in the upper body. She enjoys paddling, however, she is afraid to get wet. My biggest issue is in bigger water, which I have recently involved her in with me. When the water gets tough I want to stay behind her to keep an eye on her. But I feel more comfortable pushin it hard thru tougher water. So I get really tense when I have to use a rudder stop to slow down with 3 ft waves comin in on my tail just to stay behind in water like that. I told her she may end up killin both of us. Oh well, hope the life insurance is paid up!

So, good luck to you and all folks in the “same boat”.

Speed control
Here you go - this should increase your workout while keeping you in step with the better half:

Mintjulep is right on!
Here’s the truth… your spouse has enough power to propell the average sea kayak at x knots. Period! You are in a very efficient fast big water cruiser, she a very efficient coastal rough sea play boat.

She’d do better in a composite Eliza. BTW I know a thing or two about your boats… Both excellent, but as others have said, this is about engine Vs hull. Putting her in your boat will not make her faster. Putting her in a lower drag hull will, and that will be narrower and probably shorter, and tippier.

if you want to paddle together

– Last Updated: Jul-21-07 8:08 AM EST –

paddle together. The boats are irrelevant. It makes absolutely no sense that you can't cruise at her speed. It's less effort so it should be easy, you're framing the question in terms of her matching your speed, it's a lot easier for you to drop down in speed than for her to increase speed. If it's too hard for you then you have other priorities than paddling together.
That being said the Chatham 16 is not an efficient hull for a lower hp person. Something like a QCC600 would probably be faster than your 18. If you had marginal technique and she wanted to drag you around it would be a good choice.
She's got a lower cg than you so she could paddle a very slippery narrow hull and be comfortable. The Chatham 16 isn't that. The waterline length of a QCC600 is probably longer than your 18 and narrower. She'd notice the difference between it and the Chatham16 immediately. And if she still paddled slower than you you'd still be in the same place figuring out how to paddle slower.

look at the waterlines of the Ch18 and QCC600
If she's closer to 200lbs than 150lbs then the QCC700 is a better choice but from a pure ease of paddling the 600 will take very little effort to move through the water.

I used to have a Chatham 18 and now paddle a plastic Chatham 16. Going fast requires effort so I'm happy in the 16.

I agree that the most difference will be
made in getting lessons and really working on efficiency and form. AND it may be that your wife needs a different boat for the kind of water you paddle in. Not longer necessarily (I paddle a 14’ Impex Mystic and have no problem keeping up with my paddling pals), but maybe lighter and really designed for her weight class and the kind of paddling she plans to do most. But I’d start with the classes and really developing technique.

Thank you for the feed back
I am not terribly surprised by the responses, I have often thought the boats probably don’t make that much difference. This is actually a good thing in one way, we both like our boats! I actually tried the 16 when we were demoing, and I didn’t like the fit, the keyhole felt too small. There are a lot of good suggestions here, I will have to mix it up a bit and see what happens. We actually have both done some instruction, a couple of all day classes down at the Kayak Centre, and I have done some skills work with a local kayak club. I think that my wife taking a class or two by herself might be very helpful.

Heading out to the Boston Harbor Islands today for a paddle, I’ll definitely try working on putting my boat in edge and making a lot of hard turns.


for you the boat won’t make the diff
if you can’t drop down in speed it won’t matter what she gets. For her a boat like the QCC600 is noticably easier to move through the water. But if that means she goes 4mph instead of 3.5 and you like going 4.5 nothing has changed.

Start at different times
When my ex and I would go jogging (back when I could still do that), I would start about 15 minutes early. He would pass me, and then take a longer route. We’d meet up at the end for the last mile home. I’d be warmed up and at my fastest. He’s be tired and at his slowest…and not so critical about how slow I was going. It worked well for us.

Push yourself solo the day before NM

Or an hour ealier.