Nigel Foster Shadow v. Chatham 18

I’m considering both boats, but since there aren’t many where I live, I’ve had very limited time in both. Does anyone have any experience paddling both? If so, what are your thoughts about how they compare?

Hello, I have a Shadow built by Seaward . It is a pretty nice boat though I have not

kayaked in the last year . It has a tippy initial stability at times while the secondary is

pretty good . The hard chines take some getting use to . It has good speed and seems

to weathercock only a bit . I have not had it out in big waves so cant say how it performs

in them . It has a nice smooth ride . Where do you live ? I am in northern NJ .

I haven’t paddled the Necky, but I have a Shadow. I have paddled a lot of Valley, P&H, and WS kayaks.

The Shadow is really different. It is a wider (23") version of the Legend, and Alex Mathews’ review of the Legend applies 100% to the Shadow.

The Seaward build quality is fantastic. It is built very strong, but not very light for a kevlar boat. The more I paddle it, the more I appreciate a lot of little details that Nigel Foster put into this boat, like the day hatch on the left and perfectly placed. The VCP hatches fit better than my wife’s Valley Avocet. The back band looks strange, but is very comfy and adjustable. The seat adjusts and is great. etc. etc.

The different thing about the Shadow is the quite shallow arched (flattish) bottom with the long, very hard chine. What you get is great turning, great secondary, stability on side, roomy & comfy cockpit and very good speed.

The hard chines take some time. The boat wants to be on edge. As Alex Mathews said of the legend, if you don’t like edging, you won’t like this boat. I recently had it on Lake Tahoe returning six miles with waves from beam and rear quarter, sometimes breaking over my chest. The hard chine is more work than a more conventional design here, at least with my skills.

It seems to me that the hard chine picks up more of the waves’ energy from the side. The flattish bottom also wants to pitch you a bit if you are not ready. At first I was really working hard - harder than the other boats in the group. As I learned to lean into the chine and relax and trust the secondary, it got a lot better, and I did not go over (a Capella in the group did), but until I learned to trust the chine & secondary, I was worried and tight.

I had some really expert advice choosing the boat, and I think it applies. It is a boat that you will grow with, and never outgrow, but is approachable for an ambitious beginner or intermediate paddler. It is a boat with a personality, I think a great personality.

both great boats
and very different.

As stated, the Shadow has ultra hard chines and a “slippery” bottom. Until you get used to it (and you will–with a little time in the boat, your muscles will figure it out), it feels unstable at first. The Chatham by contrast, while “boxy” in cross-section, has rounded chines–no edges for waves to “grab”.

One big difference is depth/height. The Shadow is a far bigger boat depth-wise, with far more freeboard than the Necky boat. The Chatham aft deck is right at the water line–more like an Outer Islander–more of a fiberglass Greenland boat. A pleasure to roll.

As a result, the Shadow will carve a sharper turn than the Chatham.

NF touts the day hatch on the port side, the theory being that the right hand is dominant and preferable for bracing, leaving the left hand free to rumage around in the day hatch. But I’m not sure I agree. For example, while I am righthanded, for bracing my left hand is the “go to” hand. Plus, it assumes that you would rather fish around with the less dominant hand. All in all, I see the right-hand/left-hand thing as more of a marketing gimmick. (Either way I prefer to raft up first.)

Where the Shadow falls short is in deck rigging: NF boats have gaps without deck lines. Plus no bungees up front for a spare paddle on the fore deck–another executive decision that dictates how you must paddle (I prefer a choice).

The construction of both boats is excellent. Seaward is synonymous with well built, and with its foam core the Chatham 18 seems to be universally recognized as an innovative and well built boat.

Unless you get it used, the NF boat is markedly more expensive.

In sum, while different you can’t lose with either boat. (I opted for the Chatham.) But if you get the Shadow, add more deck line.

NF deckline myths
Stock rigging, yes, there are “gaps” in the perimeter lines. However, it takes about $3 in rope and 5 minutes to fill in the gaps, using the stock RDF’s. This is a NON-ISSUE! Please, let’s all just quit talking about it.

The paddle storage issue requires a scrap of bungee about 24" and two secure knots of your choosing. Again, non-issue.

I own a Legend, but have never been in a Shadow or Chattam. I don’t care which you choose, but don’t base your decision on deck rigging…

If you want choice, spend some time and effort in learning how to DIY. Stock boats are made for the masses.

Nothing personal Bohemia. Just a general concept we can all improve on.

difference is in the volume
The Shadow has much more volume so it is really loud when paddling, and the Necky is much lower in volume so it is much quieter on the water. ;^]

Seriously, though, the Shadow has much more volume than the Chatham. A bigger guy (220-275) will fit more comfortably in the Shadow and put the boat where it was desinged to be in regards to water line depth.

Price, Shadow < Chatham
Simple Google search reveals that, Seaward currently has an ex-demo Shadow ‘02 HIN# for $2750 CDN (less than MSRP for a new Chatham 18) and another ‘07 for $3825CDN.,’%,%’&x_Status=Demo.

I have no finacial interest, but this is how I got my Legend last Fall, and it worked out great. The boat was like new, with full warrantee, deliver to me in PA.

Again, pick the boat you like the best, price need not be a determining factor.

Do note though, Foster made a few very minor changes around '04ish i.e. switched from Valley to Kajaksport hatches (downgrade IMHO) and more argressive thigh braces (needed minicell either way for me, DIY thing again…), etc. No change whatsoever in the hull of the Shadow as far as I know. This is likely why Seaward is liquidating their older demo’s, as they do not precisely match the current range.

Good luck…

Nigel Foster Shadow v. Chatham 18
Thanks, there is some really good information here.

Based on the responses, I wonder if at 260 lbs. I’m outside the optimal weight range for the Chatham? I know I fit in both cockpits, although the Shadow is a little roomier. If I’m going to spend this much money on a boat, I want to make sure I’ll get every bit of performance out of it. Do you know what is the optimal weight range for the Chatham 18?

I’m trying to find a boat that will help me improve my technique. It seems that the Shadow might really reward me for using good form by responding well to edging. Alternatively, the Chatham 18 might be more forgiving, which might not encourage proper technique, but might give me more confidence to really test my limits. Does that sound right?


– Last Updated: Oct-01-07 10:33 AM EST –

Rest assured that the Chatham is an expert boat "that" based on it's hull design is reasonably beginner comfortable. It was designed by a world class paddler who was also an Olympic Slalom coach.(Those folk understand turning a kayak..) A hard edge gets all sorts of things attributed to it, when it's the overall hull shape / rocker / cross-sectional profile, that really matters - Cp etc. Ever see a "really sharp" edge on a surf board? Think about that for a moment. A really sharp edge does not bite a wave face, rather skids. That may be a good thing, depending on design intent. The opposite of what one might assume, but, this is way too techy and best left for surf board shapers probably. (I'm guessing it will be misunderstood here) BTW, I get that from a shaper with 10,000 boards to his credit...3 world record holding boardsail boards.

Having said that I think they are both excellent kayaks, but for your weight I'd probably go with the Shadow.

Sounds right

– Last Updated: Oct-01-07 11:59 AM EST –

You have a couple of really good boats there. Two more to look at are the Capella 173 and the Valley Aquanaut HV, which will also take your weight very well. Any of these boats are great.

What will really make the difference IMO is getting lessons and paddling regularly with a club or group of some kind.

Paddling was also a motivation for me to lose some weight, since the weight was making some things more difficult for me. LOL, I may get too light for the Shadow by next year, but that is a good excuse for a new boat.

The bow wake on the Chatham 18 is noisey compared to that of a Foster boat :wink:

After paddling a friend’s Chatham 18, Tom Bergh told me ‘listen to the bow.’ I thought it was a BCU/Zen instruction, but it turned out that the bow is noisey as it throws a curling wave.

Seattle area?
If you happen to be in the PNW you are more than welcome to paddle my sweet C-18, which is for sale. Check it out in the want ads.

hard chine attributes
there does seem to be the inclination to ascribe a lot of definitive boat characteristics to hard chines. in my experience, they don’t make a tremendous difference, and i think it’s the whole design, that makes a boat perform the way it does.

bring that boat down to Monterey
and let’s trade!

I love that pale 50’s institutional yellow

(mine is traffic sign/mango/yum yum yellow)

Shadow for your size
I have been paddling a Shadow for about a year and a half now and I think it’s a great boat. You can read my review of it at

For us larger paddlers, it is a much better choice than the Chatham. That said, it will take a while to get used to. It will feel very tippy when not moving until you get used to sitting on one cheek of your butt. Also, sticking a paddle out as an outrigger will help.