Submitted: 06-21-2000 by Gordon
My only kayaking experience is in sit-on-tops: a Scupper Classic and a Scrambler. Therefore, I can't comment on how my Chesapeake 17 compares with other sea kayaks. However, I love my boat, and have spent every possible moment paddling it since I finished building. The building process was pretty easy, though I'd have to say that the manuals could use an update. The kit came with the plans and two booklets - one a general treatise on building stitch and glue boats, and the other more specific, though it was a manual for more than one version of the Chesapeake design. I was able to figure most of it out by myself, though I did have to email the company to explain a few things which weren't clear in the manuals. They were very good about answering questions. One thing I've learned during this process is that many of the kit builders have a lot of prior knowledge, which leads many to make modifications to the building process. I think some of the ambiguities of the manual arise from this - they kind of assume that you know something about boat building, or have some experience in kayaks.
The kit was very complete, with a few exceptions. The supplied foot braces are small trapezoids of wood which have to be glued in exactly the right place, because they're in there permanently. I didn't know exactly where that place would be, and I wanted to allow other, different-sized people to try out my boat, so I ordered the adjustable foot braces. The boat doesn't come with a spray skirt.
The main shortcoming, from my point of view, was comfort. The supplied back band didn't offer any support, and seemed to squash my kidneys. I bought a taller, stiffer back band from a bargain bin at a local shop, and am now happy and comfortable. I also found the supplied seat to be very uncomfortable. I bought a pool float from Wal-Mart and a sleeping pad from Big 5, and was able to glue together some added support for my legs. Finally, I've ordered a plush Thermarest seat from REI, because my bottom was getting very sore on my last paddle.
Having said all that, I have to say, I LOVE MY BOAT! It paddles great and is very fast. It holds tons of gear. I haven't had the opportunity to go on a tour, but I have been able to paddle across our local bay to the sand spit, where I've set up a camp chair (which fits in the aft 'cargo hold') to read in peace and contentment. The boat attracts a lot of attention wherever I go, from all sorts of people. A power boater said it was a "bitchin'" boat. A guy leading a group of tourists on a kayak outing, who was paddling a nice, "store-bought" sea kayak, said, "Now that's a beautiful boat!" I agree.