Read reviews for the Chesapeake 17 Kit 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!
While it is no longer looking like a varnished coffee table piece (like on its maiden cruise) it has served well as a pleasure day tripper among manatees in FL as well as week long camps out west. I especially like the hard chines which give ample warning before needing to brace. Thank you CLC I am looking forward to building another of your fine kayaks.
I can't believe 17 years have passed and she still looks like new except for some scraping on the hull which I touch up every few years. Had to replace the compass but otherwise she's still going strong.
Construction was a breeze with the CLC plans and took me about 8 weeks part time to complete. I used 9oz fiberglass instead of 6oz so she is really strong. I find I don't need a rudder as she is easily maneuvered even in narrow rivers. On the high seas she handles like a champ and ships little water with the spray skirt I made. Hatches are water tight for the most part and I can carry gear and wheels in them.
I recommend the experience to anyone as long as you take proper precautions in working with epoxy fumes.
As for the build, I personally prefer the sheer clamp construction of this boat to the wired deck seam of most others. It is a little more forgiving and a lot less challenging. No problems with the build. Everything went together as it should. Another great CLC boat (this was my second and I'm on to my third, a C16 for my ex-wife... don't ask. LOL)
The Chesapeake 17 is just an all round more efficient, sea worthy, and comfortable ride. The many comments garnered at the gas pumps don't hurt anything either. The capacity is abundant but not a con in any way,(of course I chose it for my week long Maine island trip). I have never really paddled a comfortable kayak, but with the happy bottom pad and the Thermarest seat and thigh pad, it's as comfortable as any kayak I've ever paddled. I installed the rudder when I built it and would not ever do that again. It's just not needed.
Bottom Line: If I could only have one kayak, It would be the Chesapeake 17. I love it. The other kayaks I own have their pros and cons, but the Chesapeake 17 is my choice, hands down.
That being said, I LOVE my C17.
I have paddled literally hundreds of miles in Lakes Superior and Michigan carrying all of my camping gear on six (so far) backcountry camping expeditions of at least 5 days. Even fully loaded with 100 pounds of gear and my 200 pound body, I can easily maintain 3 miles per hour, hour after hour.
I also get lots of compliments on her looks. When I cross the border into or back from Canada, the border agents don't ask if I have firearms or tobacco, they ask, "Did you build that thing yourself?" I have not experienced the weathercocking problems that others described.
She is a BIG boat, best for big guys like me going on big expeditions. If you are 150 pounds and looking for an afternoon on the local lake, this is not the boat for you. But for who I am and what I use her for, she is perfect.
My only complaint is the seat cushion that comes with the kit. Installing the foam seat cushion as proposed in the plans which is gluing the foam to the hull is too low and very uncomfortable to sit in for any period of time. When entering the boat water from the wet shoes and legs gathers right in front of the seat and you sit right in the puddle of water. I fixed the seat problem by cutting up an IKEA folding chair and using the wooden seat portion as a frame to glue the foam cushion on top and installing it into the boat. Not sure why the engineers that designed this boat could come up with a seat that matches the genius of the rest of the boat.
One reviewer mentioned the fact that it uses nails to attach the deck. I like this look. The nails are copper and when they are shined up before sealing with epoxy, they create a very impressive contrast to the wood. One note on the epoxy supplied with the kit. It's a slow hardening epoxy, so be aware that it can flow for quite a while after its applied. Overall, this is a very impressive kayak that I anticipate will offer me many years of enjoyable paddling experiences.
Don't get me wrong, the Chesapeake is an excellent boat. It has tons of stability--I really think a 24"-ish beam is great for beginners. A lot of beginners rush out and buy 27-30" beam recreational kayaks, and hate them because they're so sluggish. 24" is nice, because you can start to feel the effects of good edging and leaned turns, but not so twitchy that you're afraid to go out and play in larger and larger waves. I've been in 5' boat wakes with it, and had no problems at all. In fact, I was so comfortable in it, I probably outgrew it quicker than I would have in a different boat--because it helped me "feel my edge" as I slowly progressed in my skills learning. If you have a hard time packing small, you would have no problems packing the Chesapeake. I think the front hatch is a bit too small for the volume it offers, but other than that, it's a dream to pack. If you pack like a backpacker, you can fit two people's gear in this thing! I learned a lot from my Chesapeake--I can roll it--it's not the easiest touring kayak to roll, but it is rollable.
I don't want anyone to get the impression that I'm knocking the Chesapeake--it's just a very large boat, and often larger than most people need for a day-paddling boat. It is very comfortable in big seas, and for carrying larger people or lots of heavy gear. I have no problems squeezing my 6'-6" frame and size 14's into it.
It's a good boat, but not a great boat. More like a canoe than a kayak. An able and seaworthy craft capable of carrying huge loads, but bigger than 95% of the people out there need, and not an ear-to-ear grin fun boat. It's like driving a pickup on a windy road. You can do it, but it would be more fun in a sports car, and not necessarily more dangerous, either.
I also have paddled the boat on Central Florida rivers and creeks. The boat carves edged turns nicely, allowing me to maintain full power strokes while negotiating river bends.
I built the boat with additional strengthening ('glassed deck and bulkheads, through-bolted deck hardware, additional deck ribs, additional 'glass inside hull), resulting in a total weight of 52 pounds.
Two friends of mine, weighing over 200 pounds, have paddled the boat in open water conditions, and the boat handles better for them than for me. It has less of a tendency to weathercock.
It does track nicely and handles well with a following or quartering sea with little tendency to broach. In 2 to 3-foot chop, the high-volume bow will rise and fall to the water with a slap.
The kit was very complete, with a few exceptions. The supplied foot braces are small trapezoids of wood which have to be glued in exactly the right place, because they're in there permanently. I didn't know exactly where that place would be, and I wanted to allow other, different-sized people to try out my boat, so I ordered the adjustable foot braces. The boat doesn't come with a spray skirt.
The main shortcoming, from my point of view, was comfort. The supplied back band didn't offer any support, and seemed to squash my kidneys. I bought a taller, stiffer back band from a bargain bin at a local shop, and am now happy and comfortable. I also found the supplied seat to be very uncomfortable. I bought a pool float from Wal-Mart and a sleeping pad from Big 5, and was able to glue together some added support for my legs. Finally, I've ordered a plush Thermarest seat from REI, because my bottom was getting very sore on my last paddle.
Having said all that, I have to say, I LOVE MY BOAT! It paddles great and is very fast. It holds tons of gear. I haven't had the opportunity to go on a tour, but I have been able to paddle across our local bay to the sand spit, where I've set up a camp chair (which fits in the aft 'cargo hold') to read in peace and contentment. The boat attracts a lot of attention wherever I go, from all sorts of people. A power boater said it was a "bitchin'" boat. A guy leading a group of tourists on a kayak outing, who was paddling a nice, "store-bought" sea kayak, said, "Now that's a beautiful boat!" I agree.
I talked a friend into building the Chessy 17 LT version, and it is virtually identical in handling to mine. With both being hard chine boats and relatively light, they accelerate quickly, but have an initial tippy feel that "goes away" during the first hour of operation. They track very well, and for that reason must be leaned quite far on the chine to turn quickly. I'd give mine a 10 for fun, but since I'm 5'-10" and 160 lbs, the 17 rides high with no additional load and I occasionally hit the coaming with my paddle when trying to go fast. The LT is better in this regard.
The Chesapeake folks furnish a first-rate kit , reasonably priced, and are very responsive to questions. The rank beginner should turn out an excellent kayak from their kits by following directions and taking care in the process. Although I am not partial to construction materials, the wood boat has an indescribable "feel" as compared to a plastic kayak of the same size, but you'll be committed to scratch removal and repaint during winters if you want it to look nice over the years.
I'm 60 and feared the legs-out kayak sitting position as being bad for my aging back, but the boat is more comfortable than I thought it would be. 2-hour paddling periods thus far are no problem.
Not only does it look good, it tracks straight, has great initial and secondary stability, GLIDES over the water with very little effort, has large hatch covers, rigging is solidly attached to the deck and turns on a dime! It does scratch easily when I disembark on a rocky beach. (light sanding and a quick coat of varnish gets rid of the scratch).
The kayak is relatively easy to assemble with simple tools and some patience. Highly reccomended!