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I am 5'6" and weigh about 170lbs. The boat fits me like a glove. It's profile enables wonderful carving of turns. It's ride is incredibly stable. In some conditions I can feel my other boats flexing on the water. In this boat I feel no flex. It is not the fastest boat in the pack. However, it is a SUPER play boat. That I have thoroughly enjoyed. It's weight at 46 Lbs. also makes loading and unloading too the vehicle much easier.
I am 5'2" and this boat fits me well, tracks great, and turns easily when leaned. She's a joy to paddle.
WARNING!! Starting with a short kayak can lead to longer boats! Suggest starting with no less than a 12 footer due to better tracking. I am an avowed kayakaholic. Paddle on.
The Bad - Hatch rims have a tendency to leak from the factory (screw holes must be re-aligned and rims resealed). This is my 2nd plastic Chatham and second leaker, but since fixed it's dry. The seat I am not crazy about, and I am not the only one - but it's a very personal preference item so just make sure it works for you for as long as you plan to be spending in the boat.
Performance - As expected with a boat in it's class, it's slow on flatwater, plows considerably when empty and more so loaded for a weekend trip.
Maneuvers very well.
Stability curve is something of a personal preference, it has a very strong primary but tipping point also comes a lot sooner than a Romany (which almost has no tipping point to speak of) Unlike the Romany, it seems to be meant for maneuvering without much edging, and edging doesn't really help much, as opposed to the Romany that lives to be put on edge.
Surfing - surfs with the best of the sea kayaks, but that being the key word.
In my opinion, Romany is a nicer,more fun and more playful hull, BUT, Necky makes a way better plastic boat. If it was to be fiberglass, I'd probably pick Romany first. The new coming P&H Delphin may be the best plastic sea playboat yet,but until that is proven, Chatham 16 is probably best money can buy in plastic playboats. Valley Avocet RM close but meant for a somewhat smaller paddler. I am 6'1 and 185 and C16 fits me well.
Overall, this is a great playboat and though it's not the fastest boat on the water, it'll keep up with most boats once the conditions get rough due to it's very stable and forgiving nature. A blast to paddle....very happy with my purchase so far.
Three things I have noticed in this thread that could use comment. The boat "slams" into waves only when unladen, precisely because in these conditions it is working as a playboat. When laden with 100 lbs of gear it slices like a knife. If people would access the hydrodynamic tables on the Chatham 16 at Seakayakermagazine.com they would be amazed at the righting moment for this craft when a 150 lb. paddler with 100 lbs of cargo is considered. It is literally one of the most stable, yet manouverable kayaks produced today. Speed is often a commented topic. The boat is only 16'6". If you want more than 3.5 knots - get a longer boat.
The hatches do leak. The fix (as Necky has obviously learned) is a neatly applied coating of 3M Marine Adhesive to the rim/hull connection. As to boat volume, I pack like a hiker and have no problem packing for 6-7 days, which, if we are honest is all 95% of all of us really need.
I decided on a Necky Chatham 16 poly. I got a good deal on a new one and never looked back. I now look forward to large boat wakes, tidal currents, you name it. I would have to consciously try to flip this boat over to ever have it happen. It turns on a dime and responds well to the first paddle stroke. I'm 5'8" and 150lbs and the cockpit fits me like a glove. I especially like the thigh braces. The hatches usually have about 1 cup of water in them after about 4 hours out on moderate seas. It seems to be well made, but admittedly the poly is not as sturdy as on the Prijon.
Overall I couldn't be happier with this boat. It would be great for a beginner or anyone who likes to play in big waves or near the rocks.
As others have noted, it does give you a 'wet ride' for sure, and it does seem to ride up over and then drop down hard over big waves, unlike some other boats that seem to slice through the waves. However, this seems to add to the fun, rather than being a detriment.
Also, and unfortunately, the hatches do seem to leak unnecessarily. It's not like the compartments are flooded after a day in the surf, but they do seem to take on water where I would not have expected it. Also, and as others have noted, it is a relatively low volume boat; so it may not have the storage for touring as other boats may have.
However, this is probably why it's such a great day tripping boat for smaller paddlers like me. I've tested many different boats, plastic and 'glass, and find this boat to be one of the finest I've tested. I'm thrilled to own it and use it. I love how it handles, and how it looks. Highly recommended for a test drive if you're in the market for this kind of boat.
I would have preferred the Valley Aquanaut, but I found a real good deal on a Chatham as a demo sale and grabbed it. Call me ignorant and perhaps rookie, but after testing some of the Valley products as well as Wilderness Systems and Old Town, I have concluded that the Chatham handles and resembles the Valley's features and craftsmanship as a true western made British style boat. This is my conclusion as a rookie kayaker.
I had the opportunity to test my friends boats from other manufacturers and I could not have gone wrong with the Chatham 16. It's a boat that will allow me to apply to many styles of outings. Highly recommended. In fact, it's hard to go wrong with just about any Necky product. The Chatham 16 is a little tight on the hips. I am not overly heavy but a bit on the out of shape side.
I would have given this boat a 10 had it been a little wider on the cockpit. The Chatham 17 was too big for me. I am 5'9", about 185-190 pounds. My Necky Chatham is the plastic model. I look forward one day upgrading to the glass boats. It's a matter of funds.
Day two was spent surfing on a sand bar in our bay that creates a fun set of waves with an outgoing tide. It will put a smile on your face when it catches a wave! For a 16' boat, it holds a good line, and I actually had it straighten out from an initial broach to get a good ride.
This would be a day / play boat for me. Too small and too slow for touring.
About the cockpit: On the positive side, I love the size and shape of it. I'm a woman, and "traditionally built.' The narrowness of the space made for a very comfortable hip to knee angle, and I felt great contact and control.
What I did NOT like was all that crazy junk in the cockpit with me. The only thing I would keep is the grey foam seat ... I actually really like that! ...but I had two entrapment issues in the two days I paddled. First my drysuit butt zipper got stuck in the metal hip / seat frame. Then my PFD pocket zipper got stuck in the adjustment slot for the thigh braces while I was loading it. And then there was the bruising from getting in and out of the boat past the sharp corners of the same said metal part. And then there's the very long sharp bolt protruding down from the afore mentioned part and threatening to impale my drysuit. The hatches did leak extensively.
I still want one. It's a fun boat. When I order, I will request that they omit all of the cockpit outfitting, and just send the grey seat part.
This boat surfs beautifully, and you can use your paddle as an outrigger as you glide down the wave face. However, coming back this boat rises and slams with every wave that you paddle through. The feeling is one of hitting the hull with a sledgehammer, with the hull shuddering on every impact. Slam, slam, slam all the way back for 8 miles into the wind. Also with each slam and shudder, a wave of water flies into the air and soakes you from the top of your paddling hat to your sprayskirt. The other boats I own also rise and drop, but without the impact and continual spray this one provides. The day hatch could double as an aquarium. I tried resealing it but to no avail. I just don't use it unless things are drybagged. Nice boat for quiet water, but for tripping or extended paddling where the effects of wind on water come into play,not my choice.
I have been out in this boat twice. Both times for about two hours in protected waters. I have found the Chatham to be very responsive with adequate initial stability and excellent secondary stability. I find it easy to edge and turn. It tracks well without the skeg and I find my speed increasing quickly in this smooth quiet boat. If you are a newbie and serious about developing yourself ino a competent kayaker, then I would highly recommend this boat.
One last thing. The fit and finish are excellent. It does scratch easily for plastic though.
First of all, my needs for the boat are specific. I already have an all-purpose boat (good in rough water, great for distance with gear), the C16 is for a day/play purpose; I prefer 16ft boats for surf and rock gardens. The C16 did very well. Stable, but still easy to edge, very good in winds, and unusually nice in the surf zone (good reserve buoyancy in the bow, stern holds its line on a break= low issues with broaching). Despite a few poundings, the compartments stayed bone dry.
I have had the demo boat out in 25kn winds, and it was easy to control, without resorting to the skeg. The adjustable thigh hooks fit me well, the seat not so well (but that is a personal issue, I am taking a molding off the seat of my sprint boat to replace it with), although the Velcro adjust on the seat is nice. The seat frame on the demo was painfully tight, my new boat has the wider frame- still tight on my large American butt, but acceptable.
Deck rigging is very nice, about time another American manufacturer gets up to date on this issue. Not sure if it was intentional, but the perimeter lines were not strung like piano wire (too common on some American boats, they are missing the point), so getting a hand under is easy.
The good wind handling does come at a cost, the boat is somewhat stiff for a 16 footer. Also, the volume/footprint that makes it so nice in the surf makes for quite a bit of wetted surface-the boat is slower to accelerate than, say, a Romany 16 or a Tempest 165. The low windage means very little pack space (again comparing to the mentioned boats).
All in all, a super fun rough water play/day boat that is very forgiving.
(I think an 8 rating is high, I have yet to find a boat I would rate a 10)
Positives: The Chatham16 is excellent for handling in high winds, mild weathercocking that skill or skeg can counteract. Similar to my Express in control but without any of the tendency to slide sideways across the surface of the water. This is the boat to have if you're stuck in high winds. Stable. Good combination of maneuverability and tracking. There are more maneuverable kayaks, there are stiffer tracking kayaks.
The cockpit is accomodating to modification but I don't think it's what Necky intended. Toss the blue minicell seat and carve your own. I've been in small surf a few times and like it. The coaming is narrow enough that with the aluminum thigh braces removed I can have adequate bracing for rolling but can paddle knees up when I want in flatter water.
Negatives: Aluminum seat frame is the wrong size to accomodate more paddlers who can fit the displacement of the hull. I've got a 31" inseam and HAD to shove the seat frame all the way to the aft setting so as to not experience cutting pain from the frame. With the new carved seat from 3" minicell, chunks of foam extending forward from the frame it's perfect. The rusting ratchet seat back widgets are worthless, throw them out. The aluminum thigh braces are ok but find the narrow coaming provides adequate control for rolling/bracing in surf. Maybe there's an old fashioned set of braces I can cut to fit. There needs to be a different hatch gasket material, redid the day hatch with 1/16" neoprene and that fixed it. The other hatches are next as they take on at least a pint in half a days worth of surf.
This is a good kayak, fixed mine with under deck bag, doubled deck bungies. Found a soccer ball on the river today, jammed it under the two doubled foredeck bungies and it made a great bass guitar. Good tone. I have a composite Chatham18 on order.
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