Submitted: 08-18-2005 by greatmeadows
I've owned the Chatham 16 for a couple of seasons and loved the boat so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to trade it in for a new Chatham 17 composite. First thing to notice is the improved glide and speed over the 16. My boat measures 17'4-1/2" and with little rocker most of that is in the water. A 21" beam helps as well. If anything the 17 feels more stable than the 16, if that were possible. While the smaller beam allows the 17 a livelier primary and helps ease edging, the solid secondary really stiffens up as the boat is aggressively edged just like the 16. If there is anything the 16 does better than its larger brother, it is turning. The 17 is no playboat and should be better compared to other 18' boats than to some other 17' boats. The cockpit combing has been enlarged where I can now drop in butt first, impossible to do with the 16. Backband is now held in place by more conventional methods than the ratcheting hardware. New more comfortable seat makes up the cockpit changes. Oh yes, now there is even enough room to pop your knees up through the combing if you need to stretch.
I've had the 17 in the ocean about six times now and while this summer has not produced some of the rougher waters I'm used to in the fall, impressions can be nevertheless made: Encountering large forward swell, the 17 keeps more boat in the water and plops rather than crashes into the troughs. Side swells or even wakes or chop are hardly even noticed by this paddler, no nervous twitching and leaning and anticipatory bracing. Following seas require a little bit of skeg to avoid needing to correct the boat as it surges down the waves. I haven't actually beach surfed this boat yet, but that is perhaps another area where the 16 is superior. The 16 perhaps because of its large amount of rocker was always neutral in following seas. Lastly, while the skeg had its use during following or a combination of following and quartering seas, it was totally unnecessary for wind. Simply put the 17 does not weathercock.
Oh yes, typical excellent Necky finish and fit, hatches were dry. While I loved the 16, it was definitely a playboat. The 17 is closer to answering the perennial question, "If I could only own one boat, which would it be? The Chatham 17 comes perilously close.