Read reviews for the Chesapeake 16 LT by Chesapeake Light Craft as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
On launch day, I let my wife paddle the boat and she instantly fell in love with it. Based upon the specs, we decided that the 16LT was the best fit for her, so I built one. Since the 16LT is really just a scaled down version of the 17LT, this review will cover both boats.
I built my Chesapeake 17LT from kit late winter/spring of 2013. This was my first build and previously I had only the most basic of carpentry skills. Both the kit and build manual were excellent. Even better is the other support available: the CLC website has a builder's tips section which includes videos of the entire Chesapeake build process, there is a very active builder's forum, and CLC is very good about answering questions via email or telephone. They really do make it easy for a novice to build a really good looking boat. The build took me just under three months (46 work periods) and around 110 man-hours. The fully rigged boat weighs 50#. The only surprise regarding the build was how much I enjoyed it. The construction of the 16LT took about the same amount of time but the quality was vastly improved due to learning curve. The 16LT came in about 2# lighter. I now have a new hobby and am about to start my 5th kayak build.
On the water, the boats are good all-around performers. Both boats move effortlessly with no wake at 4-4.5 mph. As speed increases above that, the bow wave starts to form and drag increases significantly. Do to LWL, the 17LT is no doubt a little faster. I don’t have many hard numbers for the 16LT but I have seen my wife (5’2”/118#) paddle it at over 5 mph when properly motivated (often provided by the sighting of a large alligator). I am an athletic 5'7"/155# and can sprint the 17LT at over 6.5 mph. My one hour exercise pace is 5.5 mph and four hour pace is 5.2 mph.
The cockpits of these boats are very roomy and comfortable for people our size, although larger people may find them a bit tight. The storage compartments have sufficient space for a night or two camping provided that you pack carefully. There is really no need for a rudder on these boats. They track very well but respond nicely to edged turns. As expected, they track more strongly when heavily loaded, and the 16LT is a bit more maneuverable than the 17LT. Due to the low deck, they are affected very little by quartering winds. Lastly, these are very stable kayaks. They are the kind of boat that you can put a novice in with no worries about an unplanned swim.
The only real negative with these boats are that they are not idea for steep waves/surf. With their low volume bow/stern and very little rocker, they tend to submarine through steep waves/chop rather than riding over them.
One real surprise with these boats has been just how hardy and durable they are. Despite numerous encounters with rocks and logs over 2+ years of hard use, we have had only light cosmetic damage. I have found that a couple of hours with sandpaper, paint and varnish once per year gives you a new looking boat again.
After 2+ years of hard use, I have no regrets selecting to build these boats. They are great looking, fast and comfortable kayaks that are good for a variety uses. I must not be the only one that feels that way, since CLC claims that there are 8000+ Chesapeake kayaks complete and afloat.
If I were going to build another, I might consider using Sapele for the deck instead of the standard Okoume. The Sapele has a darker color and more interesting grain. I would also consider doing flush mount hatches instead of the raised hatch covers that come with the kit.
If you are a larger person, will be doing extended trips and/or paddling in steep waves, you may consider going with the standard (non-LT) version of these boats. If you are looking for the easiest possible build, you might consider either the Wood Duck or Shearwater models.
This review is only for the building part, as I am just finishing with the varnish. The kit came with everything except hand tools. The pieces were perfectly cut and the kit came with great instructions and a companion DVD. The greatest asset was the customer care that I received from CLC. Any question I had (via email) about a step in the building process was quickly and completely answered the same day or early the next. Made the process go a lot faster. After 3 coats of varnish, the kayak is gorgeous. All I need to do is install the seat and we're ready for the water test.