Submitted: 12-15-2006 by SMR
First off, Necky was right on time with their promised delivery which surprised me (in the best possible way). Prior to ordering I spent much time deliberating which boat to choose. Others that made the short list were NDK, Valley, and P&H. When it arrived I felt like I just bought a Porsche.
For the boating considerations, the deciding factor was the cockpit, it's feel, features, etc. The sliding thigh braces are easy to adjust, comfortable and very funtional for bracing, rolls, leans, etc. I added a 1/2" pad to each due to my tendancy toward aggresive paddling. I also glued hip pads carved from minicel foam directly to the alumimum seat cradle. A final addition of 1/4" minicel to the top of the seat and all is well. The adjustable back band has been another surprise. Enough support for the long haul and yet flexible enough to allow back deck rolls and static braces. The adjusment loops are plastic, eliminating the rust-out of the previous not-so-stainless buckles in Necky boats. The only draw back is they slip a tiny bit from time to time if you put alot of pressure on them. That is easily compensated for with a quick pull adjustment, however.
The greatest aspect to the Chatham 17 is what some would percieve as a compromise when trying to find the "one" boat. 16 foot boats are great for surf, rock gardens and quick maneuvres but too slow on longer trips. 18 foot boats track on rails and glide efficiently but precarious in tight quarters where quick moves are necessary. One might think the 17 would bridge this gap but lack a little on both speed and maneuverabilty. To the contrary, I've found the 17 to be almost as spry as the 16, particularly in fast current, wind waves, swell and surf zones. It carves a little slower (and I do mean little, as in barely) than the 16 but is extremely comfortable and stable when held on edge. Windage is almost non-existant due to the low decks. I've had it out in winds up to 25 knots (supposedly, but it felt like less) and it surfed like a champ. Push hard enough down the face of a four footer and you can bury the bow enough to force an open water pitch-pole! The speed factor is hardly noticable as the main drawback to such a compromise. It has good glide but tends to plow a bit getting up to it. Again, this isn't really a draw back as it is minimal, especially if you aren't planning on racing the boat. Overall, the performance is everything I hoped it would be and then some. Still finding out what it's capable of.
On the durability side the boat is solid. The boat responds well to impacts in rock gardens as well. Have had to repair the gelcoat a few times but the glass has remained solid.
If I had to make a complaint it would be the hatches leaking a bit after playing in the surf or big water all day, but that should be expected. However, in flat water (even after a couple of rolls) they will stay bone dry.
Bottom line, I love this boat.