Submitted: 08-23-2004 by DEC
In my opinion, one serious problem with the reviews on this site is that they are generally way too positive. Even boats that have serious problems all seem to get ratings of 8 or higher. With that said, the chatham is a great boat for certain things. I have a RM model I purchased primarily to use in rocky environments along the north Cal coast. This boat has very good initial stability and holds well up on edge also. With the skeg up it turns fairly well and the modest weathercocking I have noticed is almost completely negated by deploying the skeg even half way. In fact, I believe it performs better with the skeg only partially rather than fully deployed. On both a rental model and my own boat I have noted a tendency for the skeg to be skewed to the port side when down fully (perhaps because of the stiff control cable). The stock seat was not comfortable so I carved a foam replacement which works much better. A word of praise for Necky here, when I complained about the seat design on another message board I got an email back from one of the chatham designers discussing Necky's planned future seat modifications and offering some helpful suggestions. I have also heard various complaints about how tight the cockpit is. I am 6'1'' and 175# with a size 32 waist and I will admit I had to remove the stock hip pads. Nonetheless, if you like the control that a tight boat gives you (as I do), you will like this cockpit. The thigh braces are a strong point. Many RM boats have useless tiny or nonexistent thigh braces while the stock chatham braces are aggressive hard plastic adjustable jobs. Along with the braces the back band is attached to two adjustable ratchets that are located forward in the cockpit making on the fly adjustments a breeze. It make take initial adjusting to fine tune the fit but when you get it you will be locked into this baby. Despite the fit, wet exits when necessary are easy (probably due to the generous oval cockpit opening). If you have a larger body type, plan to be in the boat for long stretches at a time, or just dont like a tight fit, this boat is not for you. On the other hand, the fit allows very positive control. I have had this boat out in afternoon chop on Lake Tahoe and in very windy rough conditions near Point Reyes on the coast and felt the fit, handling and stability were very good for someone with modest experience like myself. The hatches and bulkheads have thus far (3 months) showed no leakage. The front storage is adequete, the rear is small due to the skeg box, and the day compartment is average. This boat is not particularly fast and coupled with the fit/comfort issues this is not a boat I will plan to use for long stretches on the water. But for banging around in the rocks and chop I think it is a good choice. I haven't yet had it out in large surf so I cant comment on that but in modest waves or following seas it surfs along easiliy and the upsewpt bow shows no tendency to pearl. The foredeck is somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of height and consequently is a dry ride in mild conditions and wet when it gets rough. The rear deck is quite low and I find easy in various re-entry/rescue situations. My own rolling skills are not consistent or strong enough to pass judgement on the rolling characteristics of the boat. In summary if this is to be your only boat, you prefer a large comfortable cockpit, have a larger body/waist, or want a fast long distance boat the chatham is not for you. If you are looking for stable dependable performance, you like a tight fitting cockpit and the control it affords, and you plan to use this boat in the conditions for which it appears to have been designed, I think the chatham just may fit your bill.