Purchased used. Man I love this boat! Carves great and plenty fast enough for my Lake Michigan morning paddles. As others have said, the low deck reduces the storage capacity. As a beginner, it's not the most stable yak while just sitting there on glassy water, but plenty fine once it's moving and in rough chop.
One of the greatest pros on the Chatham 17 is also it's biggest peeve for me, the low aft deck. I don't feel comfortable, even on glass, going out without a spray skirt. I'm also 220lbs, so it sits preeeety low for me (it sits low regardless).
I've paddles the Chatham 17 since 2 years now. I own an all black carbon fiber one. I've tried maybe 35 kayaks in the last 8 years, and this one is my number 1 boat. The other than I can recommend: Current design Caribou, the P&H Cetus MV, the Impex Force 4, the Impex Outer Island, the Current Design Solstice GTS, the seaward Quest X3 and accenté.
I've own 2 Chatham. The first one made in fiberglass, with some weak spots in the hull (not enought resin), but the carbon fiber Chatham is simply well build. I've tried a carbon fiber Chatham 16 to. I like it pretty much but slower.
I've used it in the Mingan Island with strong waves, and never felt it tippy. I've just forgot to drop the skeg and i've just never realize it.
Well he keep is line like no other, stable, not the better secondary but a decent one. Surf like a dream, handle waves pretty well, not the lighter carbon fiber one but just beautiful.
Just try it!!
Necky Chatham 17 is an easy to handle boat in varied water conditions. on calm water it moves effortlessly and turns quickly with minimal effort. Going into the wind she picks up speed smoothly. In rough water she is stable and with skeg down rack with minimal effort. The Chahtam is a versatile boat, stable, easy to handle in varied water and wind conditions and is a good boat for day trip of 15 to 20 miles or for short leisurely paddles.
I picked up the fiberglass Chatham 3 yrs ago and paddle extensively in the north with it. It's a great combination of stability, speed and storage for longer trips. There are faster boats but you'd give up on stability.
It's been great for both big water waves and for maneuvering in twisting rivers. I like most things about it (looks, storage, functionality, etc). The only thing I'd change is the seat... I found it to be fine for a 1- or 2-day trip but I need to upgrade it for longer trips.
This is a great boat. I got mine in 2006. Still my favorite kayak. It is fast, tough, comfortable (I'm 6'1", 195#). It is a little heavy. The hatches have started to break down over the years and I plan to replace them soon. They have redesigned them since...
This boat is way overrated. Yeah it's stable, tracks good and handles waves well but this boat is way too slow! Omg this thing is a big heavy (63 lbs), lug on the water. 15.5 Wilderness Zephr blows away the Chatham.
Maybe the Chatham is great in composite but the poly boat is a dud.
I paddled a 16 ft plastic Chatham for 2 years, and loved it's handling, surfing abilities and confidence-inspiring stability, and it turns on a dime! But it is SLOOOOOOW! And heavy in plastic, it was time to reconsider. Like many marriages, I fell in love with her beauty, but the relationship has deepened as we have gotten familiar with each other.
My first paddle with the boat was in Northern California's Pillar Point, in 18 mph winds and 3-4 foot following seas. I was initially wondering if I should even be out there,given my skill set at the time. Boy, did I realize right away I had made a good choice. This boat is rock solid in a following sea, only breaking waves at the beach will make it broach. I never felt out of control, even as speed rapidly increased on the wind wave's face.Beach surfing is a bit different, it is a long boat and I find it hard to pull out of a broach as compared to the 16 ft Chatham, which is a legendary surfer. But I find with good torso rotation and a wing paddle I can keep 4.5 to 5mph going for hours. I was able in a time trial to average 6 mph over a two mile sprint. Not bad for a British-style skeg boat!
It is not as instantly maneuverable as the 16, but with an honest edge I can still 360 in about 4 strokes. Stability is fantastic for a 20" beam, and the cockpit is very nicely outfitted, much cleaner than my old plastic 16. I have had no issues with the hatches, they let in a little bit after a day in the spray, but not enough to care about, they wipe dry after paddling with a towel. Curved bulkheads help the hatch capacity, but this is definitely a low volume boat.
All in all, IMHO, the perfect cross between a mileage maker and a play boat, and absolutely ideal for the wide variety of conditions that are found in the San Francisco Bay, which is my boat's primary place to be enjoyed. A day Cruiser par excellence! Get this boat, a cheap plastic Looksha Sport for the rocks and coast, and a Seda Swift for packing with gear, and you will have every boat you will ever need,although the answer to the question"How many boats should you own?" is always the same, "Just one more!" Happy Paddling!
I'm rating it as a 10 because it's the best kayak. The best all around kayak. Buy it once and be pleased with it for 10 years. There are other kayaks with more speed, capacity or whatever but no other kayak does everything so well.
I collect legendary kayaks. It's not as fast as the Seda Glider or the Epic 18X Sport. But if I'm launching into the surf I'm taking the Chatham. And still keeping pace with the group. What really impressed me was the customer support. Just email them the serial number and they'll send you an MSO (manufacturer's statement of origin, if it hasn't been previously issued) butyl rubber seals for the hatch coaming, or color matched polyethylene to make invisible repairs. All for free. I've done it.
I love the rubber hatch covers. Hatches you can access in seconds with one hand! And if you coat them with Aerospace 303 protectorant they'll last 10 years instead of the normal 5 years.
Unlike the kayaks with rudders, it responds especially well using a West Greenland style wooden paddle. Raise the skeg, lean into the turn a little and make a 90* turn with one stroke. The Necky Chatham has a real advantage over other 17 footers in creeks etc.
If I could only have one kayak it would be the Necky Chatham 17 poly. You can do anything with this boat. Explore creeks, tour, surf or pole it over oyster beds.
Ok kayak. Seems a bit slow, but the most bothersome aspect is the seat. The adjustment belts don't maintain their place and the back rest is garbage. Most of the time, your back is against hard plastic which is very uncomfortable. This kayak needs a better seat.
I have to admit that I was a bit worried about space after popping the hatches and looking inside. Although it is a good bit longer than my CLC Chesapeake 16, there is less apparent volume/length owing to the lower profile deck, narrowness, and skeg box in the rear hold. Nonetheless, I packed everything I needed for a 5 day voyage and had room to spare (not much, but I probably could have geared up for 8 or maybe even 9 days if I needed to). Note that I do not pack my tent or sleeping bag in their own dry bags. This takes up way too much space IMO. Instead, I cram those types of items up into the bow and stern stems. As I was camping on Gulf of Mexico Islands (Horn, E and W Ship, Cat), I did not even use the sleeping bag, but had I been somewhere colder, I probably would have put that in its own dry bag. However, I had full faith in the gold standard Valley hatches and have found them empirically to keep the compartments bone dry. Of course, on an outing such as this, I was not rolling or playing around in the surf, but have on other occasions and never found any leakage.
All the way around, the outfitting on the boat is very good. I believe that Necky is a component of Johnson Marine, so one would think that they are not feeling their way along as they go...and one would be right. They know their s@#t. I really appreciate the day hatch. It is plenty roomy, perhaps excessively so as I found that I packed all I needed for a day trip and used the remaining space for other items that could have gone into either the rear or forwards hatch. I am 5'6" and found also that their was room in the cockpit, ahead of the footpegs, for more items.
The boat has rock solid primary stability. It is not at all tipsy. I find (@190 lbs) that I can't get too far into a lean to explore the secondary stability, because the boat just doesn't want to go over that much. I can push it, but it feels to me that the zone of secondary stability is somewhat narrow and when I really push it into a heavy lean, I either push it too far and go over, beyond the last stability point (where I can remain upright only with a brace) or just have to be very careful to not go beyond that point. To me, it just seems hard to stay balanced when near the tipping point. You have to use a lot of force to get it to that point, and then you are in danger of going over. Their website suggests that the boat does very well with leaning and edging and so on, so demo it for yourself and see what you think.
The boat is reasonably quick - quicker I believe than my Chesapeake, but not a speed demon. My GPS indicates a sustained touring pace of 4 mph (3.47 knots). I demo'd this boat together with a Wilderness Systems Tempest and a Seda Ikkuma and found it to be slightly faster than both. I haven't had it out in howling wind, but have been out in moderate winds and found that it tracks very well. In fact, with the skeg all the way down, I have found that it can lee-cock.
I've already mentioned the ample room of the cockpit. Combined with the excellent primary stability, this allows me pretty much lay down in the cockpit, with my head rested on my folded up PFD which I place on the aft-deck during a late afternoon coffee stop) and sip coffee for an hour or so, gently bobbing with the waves.
So in short...quality craftsmanship, very solid primary stability, hard to explore secondary stability, moderately fast, excellent tracking, ample storage for the conscientious, disciplined packer, lightweight (but if you look at the YouTube video, it can clearly take a lot of abuse), and it also looks nice IMO. This is almost the perfect boat for what I do, given that I can afford only one boat.
First let me give you some background which will add a little context to the review. I am 6'1", 225 LBS, 40 in waist, 32" inseam and size 11 shoe. I am new to this sport and not tremendously comfortable on or in the water. I went to a demo day, tried and retried several boats. Gave my list of things I wanted to each company's rep: Flat water: lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, some protected coastal waters on Cape Cod, stability* important, and it needs to look sharp. Prior to the Demo day I had done as much research as possible without paddling. The Chatham 17 was not even on the radar at Demo day because I was told it was too advanced of a boat for me by everyone at Demo day and even Necky’s YouTube videos lead you to believe the boat is for a more advance paddler. What was "recommended" were: the CD Vision 150, Necky’s Manitou 14, Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140, the Eddyline Journey and the Hurricane Tampico 140 L. I loved the way the Vision 150 felt but I hated the lack of color choices. I loved the stability and comfort of Wilderness Tsunami 140 but hated that Poly look (demo boats always make me think "This is what my boat is going to look like in a year"). I like the stability and comfort of the Eddyline Journey but I was not convinced on the longevity or reparability of Thermoform. The Manitou 14 was ok, but I liked the CD vision better.
Demo day came and went with no decision made, enter Boat store sales crew. The CD Gulfstream came highly recommended; it had the colors choices, was FG and fit me. I spent about 4 hours in this boat and found that I didn't like its stability*. The Tsunami 175 Pro was great; has all that Wilderness Systems comfort stuff, seat adjustable foot pedals from within cockpit; but only 3 color choice and none were what I wanted. But I didn’t rule it out completely.
4 weeks go by since demo day and I'm driving my boat store staff absolutely crazy by trying boat after boat and not being able to make a decision. My mind and eye keeps coming back to Necky boats in the store probably due to the fact that I think their web site is excellent, their YouTube videos are helpful if not entertaining, the boats just looks stunning for the price and their color choices are superb. But this is where it gets interesting. So far my store has steered me away from the longer Necky boats. So I go to another store and try a Necky Looksha 17 (staying away from Chatham because it's too advanced remember). We’re getting warmer, stability was good, not great. But I now have a 4 hour private lesson under my belt and about 10 more hours of rentals. I strike up a conversation with a guy fixing boats at this "other" store. I tell him about all the above and could he tell me about reliability, as I wonder what he see for repairs on a daily basis. This is where the Wilderness Tsunami gets ruled out, the "comfort features and moving parts", seat, foot pedal adjustments, etc., break often. He's got 5 boats out to repair and three of them are Wilderness Systems. That's all I need to know. While we are talking I see a real tall guy, he must be 6'4" get out of a Chatham 17 after trying it; so much for being too small for tall people. So I ask the repair guy what he thinks about a Chatham for me? He lights up and says he has a Chatham 16 and he wouldn't part with it, it's great for surfing, it's the best boat etc. etc. I have to remind him that we're talking about for me a newbie. He says, rent it for an hour and see if you like it. But what about stability* I ask. And here is the asterisk explanation for stability. His response to this question is the best I have heard or read to date about stability and matches my feeling to date on the topic exactly.
"The definition of stability has more to do with the person in the boat AND the boat than the boat itself. Both initial stability and secondary stability are going to depend on the experience level of the person in the boat, the weight and height of the person in the boat added to the specs (length and width, chine, rocker etc. ) and capacity of the boat. In other words what is stable for me may be unstable for you, initial or secondary. Get in and see how it feels to you."
I was in it 10 minutes and I knew. The Chatham 17 just feels comfortable on me. The deck is not too high, I like a snug cockpit, like the Vision 150 was on me. It's snug but not tight. It's a skeg boat; no rudder debate here. It moves through the water with ease and tracks great and maneuvers fantastic for such a long boat. The Necky Hulls are great for beginners I think. AND IT'S A BEAUTIFUL BOAT. I got the Mango, which I hear they are no longer making for 2009. Good. It will be like my red Vermont Castings wood stove: a classic.
As I said earlier I was impressed by those Necky YouTube videos seeing a hammer hit the hull without any damage. That's the boat for me I thought. Unfortunately, I would have to say something is wrong there because I have a real reason to NOT believe what is presented in that video. My boat fell off my car while I was unloading it and the bow hit the pavement. There was a 7 inch crack in the gel coat along the keel of the hull and 4 inch square damage to the layup near the left foot pedal anchors probably other damage as well. I took it out on a lake for a few hours and there was water in all the hatches. Not a lot, but they are supposed to be air tight. The bow hatch I could understand because of the gel coat crack was right underneath (within) the bow hatch. But there was no visible damage to the other areas. So needless to say I am worried as my baby is in the hospital now being repaired. My store was nice enough to lend me a poly Chatham 16 and yes I fit in that as well. I can't figure why I was kept away from these boats from my other store.
LESSON: Try everything even when the sales guy says not to. Do your own research and critiquing.
I can paddle this boat for 4 hours straight and not be sore anywhere when I get out of it, it is that comfortable and fits that well AND I consider myself quite out of shape and just starting as a paddler. It can only get easier. I think the 16 is a little smaller than 17 for me capacity and cockpit wise but it is just as much fun as the 17.
So how did I end up buying a 17’ boat when I was looking for something smaller for flat water you ask? I asked myself that question a hundred times. The best answer came from the owner of the first boat store, "You can always paddle your boat down but you can't paddle it up. If you want to grow into a boat and not rule out surfing or touring at some point, you don’t want a small boat. A 17' boat will be fine on flat water, a 14' foot boat will not be fine touring on open water."
The fine folks at the KayakCentre in Wickford Rhode Island are the very best. The fine folks at Charles River Canoe and Kayak in Newton are a close second.
This was the boat of choice for my tour from Crescent City, CC to Mission Bay San Diego, approximately 1000 miles. While talking to Necky, I explained that I needed the Toyota Truck of kayaks, not the fastest but a tough boat that won't give it up. I spent around 63 continuous days in the saddle. The seat works well, in conjunction with the factory backband. The thigh bracing and foot pegs are simple and highly effective. The design for the hatches also incorporates heavy duty flanges and lid that provide a great seal and added structure to the boat. The front deck also includes provisions for a recessed compass, like the Brunton 70p. The cable that operates the skeg is simple in nature and has yet to give me any problems. I even found that skeg is easy to deploy with gloves in cold water.
The combination of the up swept bow, stern, and rocker provide awesome control in big surf, as well insane water conditions. I also found that the wind has little effect due to the low profile. This boat is by most considered to be too low volume for touring. However, I manage to fit 16 days worth of food in it between resupplies. Another issue that others mention is the weight. There is no question as too why it weighs 63lbs, when you see the heavy duty construction that went into the design of this boat. The weight is a compromise that I accept for the rugged nature of coastal paddling.
The only feature that I am not entirely sold on is the day hatch, that is more of preference though. My other kayaks include Prijon Kodiak and Seayak. I also found that this boat rolls effortlessly, and has a nice stiff combing that works well with my sprayskirt. Soft shine and narrow beam work well also. This is quality boat that has made me believer in the Necky Design team. Would consider using a composite Chatham 17 as well.
In all my years of paddling I have never seen such a fine job of laying out the cloth in such a manner that it appears to be one piece of material with no seems. Oh yes, I got a clear coat black carbon boat. Looking like a dream is only the start because it paddles even better than it looks, if that were possible. I have been paddling the Chatam now for around 8 months and love the solid feel the edging and the great glide.
The Chatam handles waves and chop without a problem. The Chatam just feels right either moving or sitting the boat feels solid and like it is much wider than it's specs. The only thing I changed on my boat was adding a slightly wider back band. The factory back band was good but my new band is a little wider with a little addition support. Seat and thigh braces are very comfortable. Hatches are very dry and very easy to get in and out of. The curved bulkheads and smooth inside finish for places where your feet and legs touch make this boat even better. It also has a large cockpit which makes entry and exit very easy. Foot room is also excellent for my size 12 feet. So my rating is 10, 10, 10. Yes it is that good.
I've been paddling a Chatham 17 RM for two seasons, and totally love the boat. I'm an intermediate paddler (whatever that means these days) 6'2" 225lbs. with size 13s, so I think I'm on the large side for this boat. It's snug, but a comfortable, fit for me. The Chatham's outfitting for me creates a direct interface with the yak. I use the Chatham as a day touring\\play boat. I think if I were 30lbs lighter the Chatham would be great for touring, so long as you went light and fast with compact gear. Definitely not a boat suited for extended expeditions. I suppose that's what the Chatham 18 is for.
Things I've noticed in the two seasons of owning my Chatham:
-It locks in when there is any type of energy on the water, and is easy to trim direction with the skeg. Putting the skeg all the way down, the boat will go down wind\\wave almost on its own. The skeg will also trim for quartering, or running parallel to the wind.
-I do use the skeg regularly about a quarter of the way down to keep it moving straight. Takes a lot of edging\\corrective strokes for me to paddle it with no skeg, except directly upwind.
-It surfs really well, and loves bumpy conditions.
-It and I love rough water, the boat is confidence inspiring in the rough stuff, it just digs in and goes where you want. The flat bottom and soft chines work well for me.
-I did have to reseal the hatches. Now they are bone dry.
-The boat has stood up well to two years of heavy use, and other than the hatches, I have had no issues with it.
-The boat is no fun in flat conditions, and for me feels slow. Once there is any type of energy in the water, it seems to come alive.
-There aren't many Chathams in the Northeast.
-Its easy to roll, and turns on a dime.
-The super low profile is sweet once conditions pick up, the boat just snakes through the water.
-In high wind (25+) the boat will be obstinate when broadside to the wind, and needs a little coercion to get either up\\down wind. The "locking in" characteristics of the boat seem to work against itself a little here, but getting the boat either nosed a little up or down wind, the boats snaps out of it. All that is needed is a little lean and a strong sweep.
-The backband is comfortable, but the adjustment straps do work themselves loose while you are paddling the boat. I haven't tied them in yet, I simply readjust them a few times a day. I suppose I should just tie them in.
-I've never had any problems with the skeg, the Necky wire system is bombproof, at least so far (knocks on wood.)
-I wish it had enough capacity for me to take it on some extended expeditions (2-3 weeks) but I'd need to use a snorkel if I tried packing that much food, or for places like baja, water into it. I did take it on a 5 day trip in Maine, but again I almost needed a snorkel at the beginning of the trip. I was pretty much a torso on the water, waves were washing over the back deck pretty regularly.
All said, I think Chatham 17 is an excellent boats. For me the Chatham 17 excels in rough water\\play. I find the Chatham maneuverable.
I rented a Chatham 17 from Citi Kayak in San Francisco, California and spent a
very pleasant afternoon paddling it around the Bay.
I'm a big guy (6'2", 210 pounds) and, at 21 inches wide, the Chatham 17 is a fairly narrow boat. Nevertheless, I felt very comfortable in it. I found the thigh bracking particularly well-done, as it enabled me to get a very firm but comfortable grip on the boat. I liked the seat, too.
Being a racer who uses a wing paddle, I prefer an upright paddling posture, and this seat definitely helped me maintain it. I mostly paddled it with the skeg deployed. It tracks very well and feels very stable, even when taking the occasional large wake from passing tug boats. I did not find it at all tippy, but as I am trained to paddle an olympic-sytle K-1 (that most-tippy of boats), mine is perhaps not the most credible endorsement of stability.
Now to the negatives: the Chatham 17 was not nearly as fast of a boat as I was expecting it to be, given its rather slender width. I could maintain a speed, as measured by a GPS odometer, of 5.7 m.p.h. without much trouble, and sprint the boat up to 6.3 m.p.h., but I can reach these speeds in almost any 17+ foot boat.
Two other negatives are noteworthy: I consider any boat that weighs more than 50 pounds to be a chiropractor's dream, and this one comes in at 63; and I dislike stiff rubber deck hatches, like the ones on the Chatham 17, for they are extremely hard to close with cold, wet hands.
First off, Necky was right on time with their promised delivery which surprised me (in the best possible way). Prior to ordering I spent much time deliberating which boat to choose. Others that made the short list were NDK, Valley, and P&H. When it arrived I felt like I just bought a Porsche.
For the boating considerations, the deciding factor was the cockpit, it's feel, features, etc. The sliding thigh braces are easy to adjust, comfortable and very funtional for bracing, rolls, leans, etc. I added a 1/2" pad to each due to my tendancy toward aggresive paddling. I also glued hip pads carved from minicel foam directly to the alumimum seat cradle. A final addition of 1/4" minicel to the top of the seat and all is well. The adjustable back band has been another surprise. Enough support for the long haul and yet flexible enough to allow back deck rolls and static braces. The adjusment loops are plastic, eliminating the rust-out of the previous not-so-stainless buckles in Necky boats. The only draw back is they slip a tiny bit from time to time if you put alot of pressure on them. That is easily compensated for with a quick pull adjustment, however.
The greatest aspect to the Chatham 17 is what some would percieve as a compromise when trying to find the "one" boat. 16 foot boats are great for surf, rock gardens and quick maneuvres but too slow on longer trips. 18 foot boats track on rails and glide efficiently but precarious in tight quarters where quick moves are necessary. One might think the 17 would bridge this gap but lack a little on both speed and maneuverabilty. To the contrary, I've found the 17 to be almost as spry as the 16, particularly in fast current, wind waves, swell and surf zones. It carves a little slower (and I do mean little, as in barely) than the 16 but is extremely comfortable and stable when held on edge. Windage is almost non-existant due to the low decks. I've had it out in winds up to 25 knots (supposedly, but it felt like less) and it surfed like a champ. Push hard enough down the face of a four footer and you can bury the bow enough to force an open water pitch-pole! The speed factor is hardly noticable as the main drawback to such a compromise. It has good glide but tends to plow a bit getting up to it. Again, this isn't really a draw back as it is minimal, especially if you aren't planning on racing the boat. Overall, the performance is everything I hoped it would be and then some. Still finding out what it's capable of.
On the durability side the boat is solid. The boat responds well to impacts in rock gardens as well. Have had to repair the gelcoat a few times but the glass has remained solid.
If I had to make a complaint it would be the hatches leaking a bit after playing in the surf or big water all day, but that should be expected. However, in flat water (even after a couple of rolls) they will stay bone dry.
Bottom line, I love this boat.
My wife and I were new to kayaking. We spent about 6 weeks researching kayaks for the type of large river, lake, and coastal sea kayaking we planned to do. We took lessons, demo'd boats at local dealers and attended demo days. We tried 15-18' boats from Perception, Eddyline, Current Designs, P&H, & Wilderness Systems. Although, like anyone, we loved the look of the glass/composite/carbon/kevlar boats, we decided that we would buy poly models for cost reasons (we were buying two...gulp). (Although the durability of poly for novice kayakers was a plus.) What we didn't want to do was buy a boat that our skills would outgrow in the 3-5 years we expected to own it.
Considering the general rule of thumb about narrowness of beam and instability, we thought we'd be more comfortable in a wider beam boat. After "trying on" many boats, we both tended to like a snug cockpit that made us feel more attached to the kayak. There is a lot of science and engineering that goes into designing and building a kayak, but we're of the opinion that you buy one because of the way it feels. Specs become secondary, paddling reveals all. That, and a lot of patient advice from the very nice folks at Alder Creek Kayak.
To make a 6 week long story short, we both found that we liked the Necky line. We concentrated a bit more time on their longer sea kayak models in poly (Elaho, Chatham 16, Chatham 17). Conclusion: we both loved the Chatham 17. Surprisingly, it's probably the narrowest beamed boat we paddled but it felt completely stable. The cockpit is also very snug while the foot pegs are long enough to accommodate my 6'2" frame.
So we've been taking more lessons and paddling lakes and rivers nearly weekend since April. We've had no buyer's remorse. The Chatham 17's respond to every new skill we acquire and have been a delight. They can track well without the skeg and edge better than anything else we tried. They are a great compromise between kayak designs that are meant to go straight as an arrow and those that can turn but can't track. We've found windage to be minimal...it's not a high volume boat and is pretty low slung (though it can handle large wake on the Willamette and Columbia without a problem). Drop the skeg and you can handle a windy day on Vancouver Lake.
We love our Chatham 17's. Would recommend that you try one if your criteria for a boat are similar to ours.
I have just bought a Chatham poly 17 in Sep so have not had it that long but have had it out several times now on calm waters. I will agree with most of the previous lengthy review but add the following points. I'm 6'5" and 225 lbs and I still fit in ok which surprised me, and have size 14 feet. Even @ 6'5" my feet can not touch the front bulkhead unless I stretch as far as I can so it's not an issue. I upgraded from a Necky Zoar Sport and it is a great upgrade. It is fairly low volume compared to the Zoar Sport but not good if you want to take it camping as the hatch space is small but since I'm not much of a camper there's no problem there.
I found the thigh braces just got in my way and I just removed them from day 1 and it worked a lot better for entry and exit. A smaller person might want to keep them though. I also was not keen on the rear bungy straps as that's where I like to strap in my PFD on calm waters and the way they have it makes it very difficult to do so. I found the skeg worked well but did not slide too easily so will try and lube it up. You tend to not need it much other than in windy conditions though. And speaking of wind, I also found it weathercocked in the wind.
Maybe in time I'll get better acquainted with my new boat and that won't happen though. That's all I can think about for now. Oh, and my 240 cm paddle is now too long for the much narrower boat so I have to go get a 220 or a 230cm.
I purchased a Chatham 17 (RM) at the end of June, and after paddling it for the summer I feel I can write an informed review. FYI, I’m 6’1” and weigh about 185. I do most of my paddling in bays and oceans…been paddling off and on since 1991.
Cruising: This boat has a lot of wetted surface, so theoretically it has a pretty good top speed…but you’ll find yourself needing to increase your strokes to achieve it! At an all day, touring cadence, this boat feels efficient (it won’t tire you out) but it’s not particularly fast. Pick up the pace, however, and the boat is more than adequate in the speed department. It has decent glide, requires little effort, yet by no means is it a speed demon. It is significantly faster than its cousin, the Chatham 16. If all you want to do is go fast, there are certainly better boats out there. Personally, I found that having good stability + good tracking + decent speed leaves me feeling less tired at the end of the day than if I paddled a boat requiring constant correction or lots of bracing.
Tracking: I was told by someone at Necky that the 17 has the strongest tracking of the Chatham family, including the 18. It’s pretty tight steering. Good cockpit fit is essential in this boat because you’ll find yourself using a lot of hip for turning. It’s relatively easy to make gentle micro-corrections while paddling. Folks coming from loose-steering boats or who rely extensively on rudders will need to take some time to get comfortable on this front. Because of the solid tracking, I find that I use the skeg very little. At the end of the day, I’d be willing to sacrifice some of the Chatham 17’s tracking for a boat that’s a little more responsive/has a more delicate feel.
Stability: Very strong primary stability, especially given the narrow beam. Secondary is very good. I’ve had beginner paddlers in this boat and they’ve felt completely at ease in it. Plenty of stability for doing things like popping your skirt to grab something below deck, taking a photo, etc. The boat it feels lively edge to edge, it’s fun, yet it’s predictable and controllable.
Surfing: This boat is easily fast enough for catching swells. And the boat surfs well…it’s a blast. But if surfing is your focus, consider the Chatham 16 instead. The additional rocker will make carving way more dynamic.
Rolling: It can’t get much easier than rolling a Chatham 17. The low stern deck makes it easy to lie back, and the boat comes around quickly. This is a British-inspired design, meaning that it roughly approximates Greenlandic designs, most of which are stellar rollers.
Ride and weathercocking: Weathercocking is *very* minimal and well within any reasonable paddler’s tolerance…in the wind, this boat’s low profile is a tremendous asset. The bow had good volume for resurfacing, and generally stays above the waves. The deck doesn’t throw up spray in most cases and it sheds water quickly. All in all, a dry ride. It’s smooth in chop—rather than smacking down, it settles into the troughs. The 17 is a predictable performer. I’d describe everything as a bit dampened (bear with me here…) no movement is sudden or snappy—the secondary stability as you brace is pretty constant, turning describes a gradual arc, the boat gets up to speed in a few moments and once there, will glide well. There are no sudden surprises. In my opinion, this makes the boat a clear favorite in rough water—you simply know what it’s going to do. It’s very solid in confused water. Yet predictable doesn’t mean boring. With proper outfitting, the fit is snug and you feel connected to the boat and the water.
Fit/finish: Necky is known for their quality construction, and this boat certainly adheres to high quality standards. I had a small problem with the skeg, and Necky’s customer service was top notch about resolving it. I happen to like the looks and I think the deck layout is functional. The dayhatch is handy. Hatches are watertight and the compartments stay dry. I wish there was a bit of space behind the seat to store a camelback.
Cockpit and seat: The large cockpit is comfortable and secure. Necky’s thigh hooks are fully adjustable and give excellent support during rolling and bracing. Necky’s ’06 seat is the best non-custom seat I’ve used…it alleviates nearly all the lower back and leg pain I’ve experienced with other commercial seats. The ratcheting backband is incredibly comfortable and supportive, but doesn’t hinder rolling. There is a problem with the ratchets rusting up, but Necky has since engineered a replacement part. The hip pads are somewhat ridiculous—I ended up throwing them away and getting an aftermarket product. I have a 34” waist the pads that came with boat gave me a loose, sloppy fit. There’s plenty of room for my size 11 1/2 feet.
Final word: This boat is a great all-arounder. I’d recommend this boat to anyone looking for an RM day-tripper that excels in a wide variety of conditions. Consider the Chatham if you’re looking for an all-in-one day-tripper, rough-water boat, and occasional weekender. The Chatham truly shines in chop and rough stuff, tracks incredibly well, and had acceptable speed. There isn’t a ton of volume for packing a lot of gear, but it’s adequate for go-light camping. And in exchange for that lack of volume, you gain better performance and better feel. If I could change anything, it’d be to loosen up the steering a bit. I give it an 8 out of 10, which I consider high marks.
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.