A few new things going down at Necky this year: The introduction of a new layup process called “resin infusion” that makes its composite boats lighter, and the surprising move to drop its Kevlar line entirely in favour of carbon. The venerable kayak builder has also joined the latest North American trend and put out a British-inspired boat, the Necky Chatham 16.
Necky Chatham 16 Specs
Cockpit: 31” × 15”
58 lbs (polyethylene)
49 lbs (fiberglass)
44 lbs (carbon)
$1,449 USD / $1,999 CAD (polyethylene)
$2,699 USD / $3,399 CAD (fiberglass)
$3,199 USD / $3,999 CAD (carbon)
Necky’s Chatham 16 is no fad
The Chatham 16 comes complete with a skeg, gracefully upswept “Greenland style” bow and stern, a playful rocker, steep chines, a low, streamlined deck and whitewater-inspired outfitting. This so-called British trend is a lot like low-carb dieting: some say it’s just a silly fad that’s sure to pass, while others say it’s a sign that North Americans are finally smartening up.
Paddle the Necky Chatham 16 and you’re likely to side with the latter. The Chatham is simply a joy to paddle in wind and waves and poking around in tight places. At 16 feet, she truly fits her billing as more of an ocean playboat than a long-distance tourer. Although our poly test model did not feel especially fast, it excelled in agility. On edge we could spin in place or carve 90-degree turns with one or two well-placed strokes.
The Chatham’s initial stability feels moderate; secondary stability is remarkably consistent in any degree of lean through to a complete roll, thus the Chatham is remarkable for practicing fancy sculling and rolling, almost as much fun underwater as above.
Shedding pounds and dollars
The composite Chatham that we didn’t test is likely all the more nimble at 49 pounds. Necky’s new layup technology goes a step beyond traditional vacuum-bagging to suck air out of the mould first, before injecting resin into the fabric. Necky claims there is significantly less resin in the finished product than with their old hand layups, arriving closer to an optimum resin-to-cloth ratio without the extra weight or strength-sapping brittleness of excess resin.
Amazingly, Necky’s fiberglass boats now weigh about the same as last year’s Kevlar. Prices have also slimmed across the board. Take the Tahsis, which this year dropped five pounds and about $200. Customers still happy to pay the Kevlar price can opt for the new carbon layup instead—allegedly lighter, stronger and longer lasting than Kevlar ever was.
The Necky Chatham 16 is made for play
Necky’s robust outfitting suits the “ocean playboat” theme. The seat of fabric-covered minicell foam is very comfortable and easy to customize. Hip pads attach to the aluminium stays on either side of the seat. The slim 15-inch-wide cockpit is the Chatham’s limiting factor for larger paddlers. There is, however, plenty of room for long legs. Padded aluminium thigh braces provide secure contact and are easy to adjust in multiple directions. Ski boot-type ratchets on each thigh brace wrap around to micro-adjust the backband—oodles o’ hardware, but it does the trick. A smooth aluminium slider beside the cockpit controls the lifting and lowering of the skeg.
All three storage compartments stayed dry beneath the rubber hatches by Valley Canoe Products. Necky provided the unique advantage of a front hatch that’s as big as the 16-inch-long rear—much easier to pack than a standard eight- or nine-inch round British bow hatch. A low, flat deck and high bow show off Greenland provenance. A sunken compass mount graces the deck fore of the bow hatch. Comfortably moulded hand toggles hang loose according to the traditional British prescription that they be easy for a swimmer in rough seas to grab and to hold, even while the paddler performs a roll.
The Chatham 16 is outfitted with a plastic skeg that can be fully or partially deployed to aid tracking in following/quartering seas. Ours wagged a bit and sent a very slight vibration through the boat at certain speeds. But the skeg was quite effective at preventing weathercocking, which was noticeable in a crosswind if the skeg was not down. The paddler’s feet are free to be securely braced on the aluminium foot pegs.
Go all day in the Chatham 16
For smaller to medium-sized folks who fit into it, intrepid beginners or energetic experts, the Necky Chatham 16 is a slim and sporty choice for most types of serious sea kayak play, from day trips to medium-length tours.