This is my first review and probably will update in a few months. This is my first rudder kayak. My current kayaks of choice are Romany 16, Cetus LV and Tahe-Marine OC. Previous to those I had Nordkapp 18, Necky Chatham, Explorer and Avocet. The kayak is absolutely fast. That’s never an issue. The construction is spectacular. Attention to detail! Great finish and trims. It feels slightly tippy compared to my sea kayaks but easy to get used to the stability which is really good for a boat this narrow. I had a chance to paddle an Epic 18x before purchasing the Stellar 18 and for me, the Stellar felt better. It was my own preference. I even tried rolling the Stellar and while it’s absolutely not a rolling kayak, it’s not as hard as I imagined. i did miss a roll due to my hip snap coming out of position. The foot pedals are very well made. The seat feels a little to low for my taste. I have been paddling the seat and once I get to the hight I need I will probably raise the seat. You have the ability to place the seat in three positions away from the back of the cockpit to better trim your weight or body posture. Mine is all the way to the front to leave space for a layback roll and a water bladder behind my seat. i hate that the back band of the seat is raised by a bungee that reaches accross the deck. This makes it impossible to get a full seal from your spray skirt.The entire concept of not edging but using a rudder takes a while to get used to. The lack of a day hatch unlike the Epic 18x is very annoying. It’s obvious a person who does not camp or travel long distances in the kayak designed it. It was probably designed by someone who paddle races for 20 miles. Not 100+. If the back band and the day hatch issues were corrected in the future, this boat would be a solid 5 star. I will be adding the day hatch and bulkhead.
To give it a 10 rating would be cheating the skirt from a good rating. It deserves a rating of 12. if you are reading this review to decide what's your next skirt for your boat, this is it!
Boats used with the skirt: NDK Romany, Explorer, P&H Cetus LV and a plastic Valley Nordkapp.
I was looking for a boat with the agility of my Romany and the speed of my Nordkapp. Of course, I knew I was going to find a boat that met half way between those features. After testing all of the boats in previously listed, I ended up with the Cetus LV. I may have liked to have tried the Cetus MV, but it was not available at the price I found the Cetus LV, which was a demo boat. I purchased the boat after Russell, from Sweetwater Kayaks recommended the boat. I wanted a boat larger than my Romany with more speed to be used as a day boat.
The Quest LV was a nice boat, but a tad on the large size. Nice boat but I could not lay back on the deck. The Explorer LV was a tad too tight. The Tempest was nice, real nice but I wanted something a little longer. The Xcite was almost as tight as the Explorer. I found the boat fantastic. Great speed. Turns well and rolls very, very easy. By the way, I am just over 5'8", 170 pounds which is almost too big for the boat.
I loaded the boat with a first aide, change of shirt and pants, towel and a couple of water bottles. PFD, skirt and camera and I may have had 15-20 pounds spread throughout the front and back bulkheads. You can see half the name of the boat coming out of the water. Not too far sunk. I did not feel too tight in the boat, but I would not like to gain 10 pounds.
I guess I could give this boat a 10 if I was under 160 pounds. Bottom line, this is GREAT boat.
Coming from owning SOT Necky's (Spike and Dolphin) and then the Chatham, I felt ready for the next challenge. The Chatham is, without a doubt, one of the finest plastic boats ever. Stable, responsive. Not the fastest but able to keep up with anything. I sat in the Nordkapp on a rough water day to try it. In less than 5 seconds, I noticed that it was a responsive and perhaps "tipsy' boat. Within 30 seconds, I was upside down not sure what the heck just happened. I was in about 1 to 2 foot waves in a little bad weather. Not too challenging, but I was not used to it. The water was rough, with winds at about 25 knots. I paddled the boat stiff and scared. Scared out of my mind. I had the confidence of having taken self rescue classes and was sure I could get back into the boat if needed. I just did not want to get flipped again. I can't roll yet. Yet! With the owner of the boat with me in his other boat, we paddled for about an hour. At times I was thinking "THIS SUCKS!" I want my Chatham! But by the end of the paddle, I realized that the Nordkapp is a boat well designed and a boat I would never outgrow.
It's a boat that challenges you to become a better paddler. I purchased the boat with some hesitation, but I thought I could always sell it if I don't like it. Now, with about 10 additional trips and more hours in the boat, you could offer me twice the cash and I would not sell you my boat. My 18 foot fiberglass Nordkapp is my favorite boat by far. The design of this boat is so that the paddler decides how stable or tipsy it will be. The hull has a smooth round design where you can't really tell initial and secondary stability and it's a matter of muscle memory and experience. I am brazing, edging and playing with the boat more and more.
Now, just under 2 years of kayaking and with a bad case of paddling fever, I am sure my first roll will be in this boat. My longest trips, my most fun adventures and my best kayaking memories will be in my Nordkapp. I look forward to paddling this well designed and beautiful boat for years to come. This boat is a perfect 10.(Maybe a 9 for others with more experience) Anything less would reflect the paddlers preference, but not the boat's quality and features.
This boat is amazing. I actually paddled both of my SOT Neckys and will also share later about the Spike. Both great boats. But still, I wanted to let all know that this boat still is very popular and if anybody finds one used, you better snatch it!
Great boat for playing, fishing and touring. Yes, touring! This boat is very, very comfortable regardless of what type of seat you have. Great boat. It does feel a bit tipsy and perhaps short of scoring a perfect 10 because of that, but this tipsy feature also allows the boat to be be superior than many boats in the surf, waves and agility. This boat will stay in my fleet forever.
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.