CANOE & KAYAK - JULY 1998
CRANKING UP THE VOLUME by Ted Olinger
[Reviewed: Chesapeake Light Craft, Pygmy, Nimbus, Necky]
Welcome to the large and tall department, featuring big touring boats for big touring guys and gals.
The Chesapeake 18™ is a big, hard-chine wooden boat with a massive flared bow and abrupt-end stern, designed for home builders to construct from plans or a kit. The foredeck is extremely curved ("cambered," in the lingo) for strength and to shed water; the rear deck is almost flat. Deck rigging on kit boats is up to the builder, of course, so we can only say that on this particular boat it was a bit sparse. The plans call for a tiny forward hatch, just big enough to slip a six-pack through, curved to conform to the deck and secured by three straps and buckles. The rear hatch is much larger and flatter. Both open into vast storage compartments. A big keyhole cockpit makes getting in and out a breeze but, combined with the cambered deck, also makes proper outfitting with lots of foam essential for a firm grip. The foam seat (a kit option) was comfortable, but we all had trouble getting the back rest to stay put. The boat is light for its size, which is saying a lot, but bow-heavy for a solo carry.
Judging kit boats is possibly even more subjective than judging manufactured boats---the finish, rigging, and weight, at the very least, are determined by the builder, as is, to a lesser extent, the integrity of the hatches. (The first boat I built was smaller than the Chesapeake 18™, was 10 pounds heavier, and had sluice gates for hatches.) No one had any problem getting into this boat; even our tallest paddler, at six feet three inches, had room for a large bag between his size 12 feet and the bulkhead. The Chesapeake was easy to paddle, was faster than most of us expected, and had surprisingly good primary stability for a hard-chine boat; we really had to put the boat on edge to get a crisp turn. It weathercocked just a bit, but this was correctable with a slight upwind edge or lean. The hard chines made it easy to control in a following sea. The cambered deck makes the sides of the cockpit quite low, allowing the paddle to flow downward nicely without fear of hitting the boat during a stroke. The hatches were quite dry, as I found to my amazement after smugly opening them after roll practice to show some onlookers how this hatch design could never work. The Chesapeake 18 is a substantial boat for substantial people and well able to carry them comfortably for long distances with plenty of gear.