Submitted: 11-16-2004 by LeeG
I got a glass Chatham18 recently. I've had it out in gentle conditions off Annapolis about a dozen times this month. Waves around 1' and wind less than 15mph. It is related to the Chatham 16,,more maneuverable than expected for a long/low rocker hull,,but tracks well enough for a reasonably fast hull although not a really fast hull, but I'm not a fast paddler so go figure. In other words another kayak that's faster than me. This description may sound wishy-washy but I'm not,,someone tried to make this kayak do a lot of things well,,and it does. It's related to the 16 regarding excellent handling in wind but you wanted 'faster' and more volume. If you ever wanted a kayak that only needed a little skeg trim this is it,,if you wanted a kayak that could still be maneuvered in changeable conditions with a disabled skeg,,this is it. Try paddling a Tempest170 with a broken skeg with a beam wind and stern seas to see what I mean.
The few times I got onto small surfing waves it was surprising to find it 'settled down' while flying. Most kayaks get kind of 'busy' when the transition to high speed happens on a wave but this one gets 'settled'. The bow develops lift at surfing speeds that you don't discover until moving fast down a wave. "Hmmm,,this was meant to be this way". Hopefully it'll be as satisfying in the ocean as the Chatham16 turned out to be.
The beam measurement doesn't mean much,,it's more stable than you'd think a 20" wide kayak would be. Certainly more comfortable than an Elaho HV.
One aspect that I'm sure is a marketing decision is that the cockpit is big,,the foredeck could be an inch lower. I'm 5'9" with size 11 feet and have a extra inch of foot room with feet oriented straight up,,which makes me think it'll fit folks 6'4" with size 14 feet just fine if they're accustomed to narrow kayaks. I'm happy for you 6'4" paddlers with size 14ft but you're outside the bell curve,,Necky? bring out a lower foredeck boat with a smidge less aft deck por favor. As it is I'm rigging the underside of the foredeck with LOTS of bungie for misc. gear.
Details,,the construction technique is fairly unique, it looks to involve less labor in deck/hull assembly than the average deck/hull construction that uses interior glass tape, it uses an adhesive with no interior/exterior seam tape. It's got a very low resin/glass ratio which would imply a higher strength/weight ratio. I wasn't aware that the interior glass deck/hull flange was a guide and not a structural bonding element so don't worry if it looks like there isn't adhesive between the flange and the hull,,the adhesive is on the exterior flange. I figure if you got something in there it might as well be bonded but the folks at Necky say it's fine. So I'm going to take them at their word and USE it well.
You'll get a kick out of the construction,,shine a flashlight in the compartments and run your hands around the inside,,,different, I'm charmed with it. Messing with kayak building can do that to a person.
Unfortunately you can't get one shipped with the forward bulkhead uninstalled for custom placement but that was fortuitous in my case. I had it shipped without footbraces installed and was considering cutting out the bulkhead then re-installing one further aft with interior mounted Yakimas as there's a LOT of unused volume in the cockpit. In the mean time I've stuffed three big blocks of 3" minicell for footbraces. All these years I've put up with footbraces,,no more,,I might eventually reposition the bulkhead but in the mean time it's nice having a larger footbrace area than just the ball of the feet,,much better.
The glassing around the aft end of skeg box needs to be re-figured as there is one exterior 5" gel coat crack in the hull that came as delivered, I suspect the skeg box provides a rigid point from the flexible hull panel but it doesn't look like a structural issue regarding the hull itself,,more that the gel coat can't bridge the transition. For folks unfamiliar with gel coat it'll be disconcerting,,and most folks spending $3000 will probably make the dealer fix it or send it back but I'm doing so much stuff to it that it's minor. In heavy use your average glass kayak gets stress cracks in the gel coat,,something tells me this kind of construction won't get as many.
When the Perception Sea Lion came out years ago it was THE boat you'd get if you were a beginner who wanted to learn with the bar set a bit higher than a beginners comfort level. The Chatham 18 is kind of like that but with a higher bar for the average customer now that the average customer should know how to brace/roll. Kind of like when an athlete decides to get into cycling and jumps straight to a road bike with skinny hard tires after riding mtn. bike with larger tires and shocks. The Chatham18 has show room leg comfort, predictable handling on the water, it'll force a beginner to learn how to brace and lean but not be so far out there to eliminate the experienced paddler who likes some stability.
There isn't an appreciable weight/cost difference between the glass and carbon/glass version so Necky should market the attraction of the carbon/glass composite better.
More misc. thoughts,,the ratchet back band adjustments are ridiculous,,all that work to make recessed hardware in the coaming to accomodate them,,toss them out. Who adjusts a backband while paddling a 20" wide kayak??? That's like needing tennis shoes that can be retied while running. Makes no sense.
I haven't bought a new composite kayak in 12 yrs and this is worth it so far. I've owned a dozen kayaks, teach sea kayaking.