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Chesapeake 17 LT Kit

by Chesapeake Light Craft

"LT" stands for "light touring". LT model Chesapeakes offer the same refined handling and speed characteristics as the larger Chesapeakes, but are lower to the water for reduced windage, with a flatter aft deck for comfortable rolling and increased resistance to weather-cocking. This lower profile reduces volume in the cockpit and storage compartments, but if you pack light there is ample room for 4-7 days on the water.

Like the original Chesapeakes, the LT kayaks feature superb tracking and comfortable cockpits (especially for shorter or lighter paddlers). Standard features hatches, deck rigging, comfortable seat, and adjustable foot braces. The LT 17 is an enormously popular touring boat (over 500 on the water), fitting a wide range of paddler weights.

All Chesapeake LT kits include: Plans, instructions, pre-cut parts, hatches and bulkheads, full deck rigging, Keepers™ adjustable footbraces, epoxy kit, fiberglass for hull and deck, tractor seat, and backband.

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Reviews

I attended the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Michigan to build…

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I attended the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Michigan to build this kit. It went together beautifully and despite the 17' length it is light, tracks great, and looks awesome. I can carry camping gear, tent, sleeping bag, food and cooking items in two hatches. Anyone can purchase a plastic kayak, but there's something special about a wooden boat.

When I decided to build a Chesapeake 17LT, I was not looking…

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When I decided to build a Chesapeake 17LT, I was not looking for a new hobby and I was not really excited about the build itself. I had been looking without much luck for a fast kayak for day exercise with overnight capabilities. Nearly all of the production boats are designed for somebody much larger than I am. A few manufacturers offer a smaller "woman's" version but most of these are too small.

When I stumbled onto CLC's website, I realized that I could have a boat customized to me for the price of a production boat, as long as I was willing to provide the labor. (The Chesapeake line has six different boats, depending on your weight, size and cargo requirements: 14, 16LT, 16, 17LT, 17 & 18.)

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 build 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 rock 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.

I bought my 17LT from the builder, so this review is limited…

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I bought my 17LT from the builder, so this review is limited to performance, not construction. Overall, it's a fun, comparatively stable, adequately lively, adequately fast boat. It represents a good balance in qualities and compromises. I use it mainly as companion boat and it's a huge step up for folk used to paddling plastic.

It's appearance / profile is a strong point. The lower rear deck both looks good on the water and minimizes weather cocking.

As with any kit boat, the skill of the builder and decisions made during construction can have major impact on weight / appearance / seaworthiness. As the owner of a couple of kit boats, I would just like to suggest that being extra-generous with epoxy during the build is not necessarily a good thing.

This is my second wood project. The first was the Sand…

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This is my second wood project. The first was the Sand Dollar by Arch Davis which I built from plans. The 17lt was a last minute decision so I went with the kit late in the winter so that I could get to use it this entire season. I found it very complete and of good quality. The forum is also a nice place to visit. They have a few regulars there that seem to be really fine folks with quite a bit of experience from what I can tell.

As far as handling qualities go, I can't be that objective since this is my first kayak. I'm enjoying it quite a lot and when I am able to I will be building another.

Have been paddling the 17LT now for three years. When I…

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Have been paddling the 17LT now for three years. When I built the boat it was my first boat, but over the years I have now had a chance to build and paddle a number of other boats so I thought I could finally put a review in with some context...

>From a build perspective, the craft is a very straight-forward stitch and glue design. I have actually built three 17LTs over the year. The manual is adequate but first time builders would do well to use the CLC forum and phone support to ask questions to refine the build process and subsequent quality of the construction. One of the advantages of a well built wooden boat is how light the end result can be. However, attention is needed in order to bring the boat in at the design weight or better.

>From a paddling perspective, the boat is stable yet lively with an excellent turn of speed. I have paddled her against a CLC WR180 and coho and she will stay even for the same amount of effort in anything but the most aggressive of paddling. I routinely paddle her on a 5 mile "exercise" circuit in protected waters averaging 5.5 mph according to the GPS. I have not installed a rudder. She seem to track well enough in wind and small wave action without significant correcting strokes. I have not taken her out in any serious wave action. my height is 5'10" and i weigh about 190 lbs in paddling gear. the boat is roomy and comfortable for the feet yet low by the hips. she has been able to accomodate a wide range of guest heights and weights (from 6'2"/215 to 130 and 5'4". the deck takes a nice swoop down from its highpoint on the centerline to the sheer making it easy to paddle with an agressive style without banging your knuckles or constantly hitting the deck with the paddle.

>From an optics perspective, the boat is very pleasing. I have mine finished with bright decks and red enamel hull with the paint wrapping 1 inch over onto the decks. The LT cuts a lean and low profile to the water but she has a nice spring to her shear in the fore section that gives her a graceful yet sleek look for a modern design. The spring in the bow section also makes for a relatively dry ride when running against a chop.

This is the boat I also use as my guest boat so I am impressed at how she is handled by both beginners as well as experienced paddlers who have had the opportunity to paddle her. Her combination of looks and handling led me to building two additional boats for colleagues...who decided after a couple paddles that they just had to have one. Overall, a very well rounded, likeable design that I enjoy coming back to between explorations in other boats.

After much consideration, I decided to build my first kayak instead of…

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After much consideration, I decided to build my first kayak instead of purchasing a plastic boat. I must say that their magazine ads ultimately had their effect! The entire experience was rewarding and, with patience, can be accomplished by anyone even mildly handy with tools. What I wasn't ready for was the attention!

I live relatively close to CLC and was able to test paddle the 17LT and was sold immediately. I am 5'-9" and roughly 160lbs and is a perfect match. My girlfriend selected and built a 16LT and is equally happy with her boat and efforts. Wooden boats have the distinct advantage of being highly customizable, durable, and, if built carefully, lightweight. Both our boats weigh 47 and 41lbs. respectively.

Handling and tracking is superb with corrections needing only a corrective stroke or two. The LT17 is quick in the water and accelerates nicely. The design edges nicely and carves nice tight turns.

I built my boat mainly for kayak camping (though I've raced it twice ) and it can easily carry gear for 3-5 days, more if you pack carefully. Last August (2002) we went camping off the coast of Portland, ME for four days and the boats performed flawlessly in varied conditions. I've been kayak camping two other times since.

CLC provides both timely and knowledgeable support either by phone or via the Internet. Trust me, nothing beats the allure of a wooden boat!

The CLC 17LT is a good general-purpose touring kayak for 160+ pound…

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The CLC 17LT is a good general-purpose touring kayak for 160+ pound paddlers. Building this boat is a good way to obtain an attractive, lightweight (45 pound) touring kayak that is durable and more easily repaired that commercially-available fiberglass boats.

The CLC 17LT tracks very well and I find that it does not need a rudder or skeg at all if weight is distributed properly. The standard foam seat is very basic, and fine for me but my wife's legs go a little numb after paddling for an hour or more without additional thigh support.

Unless one is planning primarily on extended trips, the "LT" version is a welcome lower-profile boat with less wind resistance and less "coffin" look than the regular 17. The LT also allows a lower paddling stroke, but even an inch lower would be nicer. The cockpit is too roomy for my tastes, even with extra foam outfitting.

The kit that I bought from CLC was very complete, including bulkheads, hatches and other items that some other manufacturers sell as "add-ons". The instructions are clear, and CLC's bulletin board provides good building tips. The people at CLC were invariably friendly and helpful when I asked for advice.

First time builders should generally plan on 150 hours or more to produce this mahogany plywood boat, including a fair amount of "think" time. In addition to the price of the kit, the cost of varnish, brushes, rollers, gloves, sandpaper and tools can add a few hundred dollars to the total cost.

Although this kayak does not have the elegance of a strip-built boat, the ease and satisfaction from constructing, and the "ohhs" and "ahhs" from others also make the CLC 17LT very appealing.

I just paddled this boat at a CLC demo day and it…

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I just paddled this boat at a CLC demo day and it was the best of the bunch. I am 5'10" 185lbs and it did it all for me.

CLC really delivers the "whole" package: a quality, well tested product, superb…

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CLC really delivers the "whole" package: a quality, well tested product, superb materials and great customer service. My 17 LT was challenging and fun to build, the kit was well put together and has lots of room for customizing, especially in the cockpit area. The finished boat is not only a beauty but handles exceptionally well on open water. I have a skeg on my boat that I much prefer over a rudder. The boat can weather cock, but careful outfitting and some weight in the stern and the problem is solved. Not only does it handle and track well on open seas it also has great maneuverability. One can carve tight turns on the ocean or sail around the twisting bayous prevalent down here in the south. I am 150# and right at the weight minimum for this boat, any one lighter should go for the 16 or the 16LT.

What a beautiful kayak to own!- I just love it. Not only…

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What a beautiful kayak to own!- I just love it. Not only is it sleek but it is fun to paddle. I've taken it into our choppy lake- 2-3' waves, and while I still get the shakes(!), I can deal with it! This kayak does what I want. I added a rudder and highly reccomend one. On the coast it glides along, and is not a tiring kayak. I stick with 6-8 mile paddles, The water has been rough- but it feels stable- better than the Magellan I used to rent. When running with the waves- it can feel a little tippy as one set is passing beyond the bow, and the next set is just catching the stern. It throws a little twist as you drop into the trough, and get lifted out at the stern, but the bow isn't free yet. But that is a matter of experience. This kayak allows me to keep up with my son as he doesn't notice the 2-4 ft waves, the beginning whitecaps, the swells. I feel comfortable in it, and I can't help but admire my handiwork as I paddle it. Chesapeake did a wonderful design jobe with this one: Chesapeake LT17.

I built this boat and it is one of the best boats…

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I built this boat and it is one of the best boats I have every paddled. This is in part due to customizing the boat for me. It is wide enough to be stable for hands off paddle work, it is fast enough for a touring boat (maintaining 4.5Kn is not a problem) and it handles waves pretty good. I have paddled it in lakes, rivers, bays and off shore. It is always in the front of the pack and garners compliments for its appearance and handling. I do wish the bow had a little more rise to the shear. That could be altered if building from plans.