I'm novice to intermediate, 5'10" and 180-185 lbs and looking at a used Aquanaut HV and a Chatham 17 at roughly the same price. I've heard the RM valley boats are nicely built and famous for good hull designs. Does that make it a faster and better handling boat over the necky? I really really like the shape of the Chatham, probably won't need lots of internal storage, and it's a tad cheaper, but is that higher end Aquanaut really a superior boat? Does anyone here have experience in both boats and can make an objective comparison?
I am sorry, but I find these comparisons somewhat meaningless. One variable is the paddler (skills, weight, height etc), the other is what the paddler wants to achieve in his/her kayak (rock hopping, expeditions etc.) Get in the boats and try them out. They are both well designed kayaks, but you may find one is a much better fit than the other for your needs and skills/size. Finally, stop worrying about speed unless you maintain a speed above 4-4.5 knots when you paddle. You should not expect any of these kayaks to be much faster than what you currently paddle (just trying to set expectations). Good luck.
Aquanaut HV too big…
I think you will likely find that the Aquanaut HV is too high volume to perform well carrying your weight.
I agree, even the LV is “big”.
Paddle both of them to see if there are any obvious differences to you. If you look at the build quality, I think you will see obvious differences. Good Luck.