Necky Chatham 18 Comments

Any comments on the Chatham 18? - handling, speed, overall quality, hatch water tightness, etc.? Thanks.

Limited experience…
I paddled one once and recently inspected one at a local shop…

I liked the way it paddled. Fast, easy to edge, turned well, a bit limited on ititial stability. It has a large cockpit…bigger than most would need, but comfortable outfitting.

Don’t plan on putting much in the hatches. I would think you would be hard-pressed to carry enough for an overnight trip unless you are a very light packer (tiny capacity, especially for a boat this size).

Boat is light, but probably a trade-off in durability (very light and flexy layup).

I have heard it is not the greatest in rough water, which I believe would be true.

But, as I said, I have limited experience so someone else can probably tell you more.

Would I buy one…no. There are better boats out there in this category…the Aquanaut and Explorer are better in my opinion, as are some of the Impex models.

If you found a great deal on a used one, then maybe, but otherwise I would not chooese this boat over some of the other available options filling a similar niche.


Don’t like it
I demoed one and it looked and felt like a box. Almost flat bottom, hard chines. It didn’t feel like it belonged on the water.

I have one for sell
It’s great going down wave and control for weathercocking. It’s a bit too flat bottomed/straight keeled I think I’d like a long boat that had a bit more rocker. It’s a bit jiggly.

The high fordeck accentuates the boxy look. It has enough volume for gear. I moved the front bulkhead back nearly 9" for footbracing.

Had mine for a month or so…

– Last Updated: May-25-06 12:19 AM EST –

.....I like it.
Some folks think it's fast. I don't. It certainly doesn't move through the water as easily or as fast as my Coho did.

I like the way it edges. Nice and crisp. Responds more crisply to edged turns than my Tern 14. Course corrections are a snap that way. The secondary stability seems very solid to me.

Tracks well and trims well in wind with the skeg. Can be a wet ride in rough water but my hatches stay dry.

Enough storage for me on a two week trip but I would have to be frugal. No big deal. Depending on how you like to travel it might be too small for some folks, I suppose. Too small for overnight? I can't see that but maybe if you like to take a four person tent plus a parawing, folding chair, two burner Coleman stove, ice chest, a box of wine, big sleeping bag, a few changes of clothing then, yeah, it might be too small.

On the other hand I can fit a 2 person tent w/ footprint, sleeping bag and thermarest, first aid kit, stove and cook kit, extra fuel, adequate layers of clothing, two pairs of footwear, freeze dried food, a 10 pound bag of potatoes, 5 pounds of onions, some garlic, three 10 liter Dromedary bags of water, an extra tarp, hatchet and fishing gear if I so choose. That leaves the back deck clear for rescues. If I pack really well I can fit a bottle of bourbon in there someplace but it won't be readily accessible. Anyone can live fine with that amount of gear though it may not be in the style that you prefer.

The front bulkhead is way too far forward for my tastes which cuts way down on the storage accessible through the front hatch. Wish they would fix that. That day hatch thing is a waste in my opinion. It means that a third bulkhead has to be placed which really limits useable storage ahead of the skegbox. I would really prefer any boat without that feature. It doesn't work for me.

Storage/Bulkhead Location

– Last Updated: May-25-06 7:39 AM EST –

A friend of ours has one, and the one absolutely ridiculous thing they did with hers was to have the front bulkhead so far forward that storage is quite limited up there and Wilt Chamberlin could probably get his legs in. I don't know if Necky now offers it with a more flexible forward bulkhead placement that would make sense for most people - last I knew they didn't offer a lot of options there.

The cockpit in hers is huge too, so thigh contact is compromised for someone who isn't fairly tall, and if your legs are the right length the skeg control could be felt. I don't recall the details, but it's not covered to keep it from bothering the paddler the way the sliding skeg control is in my Vela. I don't know if newer ones have a different cockpit - hers was the first year.

She is fine with the boat in conditions, but is also a very strong and aggressive paddler with a background in whitewater in her younger days. It's not the most forgiving boat out there. She's commented that my husband's Aquanaut is much better mannered in conditions when they have traded boats in paddles on bigger water.

I don't know exactly how fast it rates - I think its up there in its grouping though. Hatches have been bone dry, and it has some nice layup features like extra reinforcement under where the heels are expected to be.

The things like the way too far forward bulkhead and the very large cockpit were apparently due to changes that the manufacturer made to assure that more people (at once in my case) would fit into it, not the designer's idea. The hull is an interesting one, just not forgiving in the way that the Chatham 16 appears to be. The bow is tight, quite different from my Explorer LV which really does have a somewhat loose bow. But I haven't paddled it in real conditions myself, just on relatively flat stuff, so don't know how that would translate into big water handling.

I should add that none of the above is meant to indicate that the Chatham 18 isn't a nice boat. There are just some decisions that were made in the final presentation of the boat that don't seem to have been as well thought out in terms of practicality for the likely paddler.

Storage Space…
Okay, I was being a bit dramatic when I said that it would not have enough space for an overnight trip…but I don’t know how you are fitting that much stuff in the boat. I just took a look in the hatches, but from the look of it they were pretty small. It did not look like you could fit much of anything in the rear due to the skeg and wire housing–maybe a 2 man tent.

I am a lightweight backpacker and pack a minimal amount of gear but it still looked small to me.

Maybe your bulkhead placement is different from the one I saw as its front hatch looked about big enough for a 2 man tent and a sleeping bag or so.

If you skipped using dry bags you might be able to cram more in.


I like mine

– Last Updated: May-25-06 6:41 AM EST –

This is my first and only boat, so I have only demo's and rentals of other boats for comparison.
I paddle almost, well, no; exclusively on Boston Harbor from Hingham Harbor to Old Harbor so far. I haven't found it hard to handle, it has been more than maneuverable for the paddling I do. I imagine it could be more of an issue in tighter spots. It is easy to put on edge, which helps with the turning. The storage hasn't been put to the test, but I've been a hiker for years. All my gear is backpacking gear, light and compact, and I can definitely get more in that boat than I can get in my pack. I guess its what your used to. Definitely no room for the hot water heater.

Mine has a leaky hatch, my wife has a 16 and she's had no problem. (I'm fixing mine tonight.)

Nice looking :wink:
I’ve paddled a friend’s Chatham 18 a few times including in some real confused and quartering chop. The boat feels pretty fast - on flat water it feels as fast as my Aquanaut, but slower than an Outer Island.

I specify on flat water because the boat gets kicked around alot in chop - so much so that I cannot make as good of speed as I can in my Aquanaut in conditions. Rear quartering seas seem to suprise the boat.

Its secondary seems to come on and then suddenly disappear. It is not as reassurring as an Explorer or Aquanaut.

My friend’s boat is extremely well built. Unfortunately the fore deck is very high, cockpit huge, and forward bulkhead placed for 7’ tall paddlers.

Chatham 18
As everyone else as said the bulkhead placement on this boat is just plain stupid. I have a 36" inseam and I’ve had the bulkhead on my NF Shadow and my Argonaut moved away from me so my legs/feet would fit. In a Chatham 18 I have around a foot of space between my feet and the bulkhead. Whoever said this boat would fit some 7’ tall got it wrong, it would fit someone 7’8" tall.

The cockpit is large and very deep, this boat is built for someone who is very tall but not too large due to it’s width.

As far as being fast I was “racing” a Kajak Sport Viviane at a boat demo, the Chatham kept up but I was leaving a wake that looked like a power boat, the Viviane was gliding with almost no wake/waves. I have no doubt which boat is faster.


– Last Updated: May-26-06 10:29 AM EST –

I think what makes the Chatham so nice down waves is what gives that bow wave,,dynamic support at the entry doesn't come without a cost.

I got mine shipped without the footbraces installed thinking I would glue them on without through hull screws. I tried to get them to ship it without the front bulkhead installed but their system can't do it. Once I took out the original bulkhead and put in my own I realized how nice not having footbraces was.
I could almost understand the too high foredeck but the bulkhead placement makes no sense at all.

I want to thank all for the comments and suggestions. I did purchase a C18 and feel that it is the right boat for me at this time. I have a 17’ Pygmy Artic Tern High and Wilderness Sealution XL and wanted a narrower boat to progress to the next skill level. I tried many and could not fit do to my size of 6’ 6". The C18 was the only narrow boat that fit - like a glove. Plus I’m able to enter butt first which is important to me. The bow wake bothered me a little at first but I have no problem keeping up with everyone and the handling is great.

Thanks again.


I hadn’t realized how tall you were. Congrats on the boat.

I go by this…Necky = racing Wilderness System = touring

Your choice …hope it helps!

Necky = racing?

– Last Updated: Jun-04-06 11:51 PM EST –

C-18 is a raced boat??


not even.

btw- congrads on your purchase. I'm sure you'll have NO trouble keeping up with your buddies, especially if they're only in 'touring' boats!


hee hee


If Necky was still Necky…
It would be interesting to see what thier offerings would be on today’s circuit. There are still some pretty quick old Neckys around.

but to stereo-type 'em as RACING??


ever paddle a Sky?


touring isn’t a bad word
Sure Necky isn’t anymore oriented to racing than Chevy is to making sports cars, maybe kayakmr is taking WS marketing to heart where it shows a barcolounger photo next to Phase 3 seats?

The day hatch does not limit you…
in space if it is composite or plastic. When it is foam it is usually a 3-3.5" thick minicel thing that does take a lot of space. Composite, welded plastic or the plastic CD uses are what, 3/8ths thick? We pack our kit into smaller drybags. I also sold that sleeping bag with the fleece liner and the deer running all over it years ago. Much more space nowadays. Agreed with the Necky bulkhead being too far forward. Too much floodable volume when you do that.


Necky boats & ‘touring’
Though Necky made some pretty fast sea kayaks, over the past half decade or so it seems I saw more Looksha IVs and Elahos than any other model.

BTW, isn’t it curious that the marketers have taken the term touring and started using it for transitional boats - between rec and sea kayaks.

I still think of my Aquanaut (17’7") as my touring boat. My Romany (16’) is my play/day boat.