The CH 18 is the 2nd Kayak I owned and the 2nd boat I have built. I have had it in the water 5-6 times at the time of writing. The kit went together OK, a few probles that were resolved by either re-reading the instructions or by an email to CLC. The problems were really due to the lack of information within the manual - a bit unclear at times. I did make several customisations to the boat during the build as well. -- Rating: 8/10
Size: This is a big boat - for the Big paddler. I am 6'1 and 300lb and I built this boat because there is not many suitable boats for us bigger paddlers out there. My biggest complaint about this kit is that it comes with a cockpit opening designed for the smaller paddler! - Little guys do not build this boat the cockpit opening should be bigger! I made mine bigger - moving it out to 20" wide and 35" long and it is an easy fit for me getting in and out. There is plenty of room in the cockpit once you are in. -- Rating: 7/10
Stability: It has rock-solid primary stability. I came from a plastic SOT and was a bit concerned about the stability of the boat, but after a few hours, I found that it was almost as good as the much wider plastic boat I came from. I have not really found the secondary limits yet (too cold!), but it seems to be pretty good.
I have been out in 20kn winds, with approx 2foot waves and power boat chop and it never feels like you are going over. -- Rating 9/10
Paddling: I built this boat becasue I wanted something faster than my plastic boat and I have not been dissapointed. Easily do 5+ mph in good conditions, and with a 15kn tail wind, 7+ mph. -- Rating 9/10
Tracking: I built this boat because I like to do Marathons (read 60+ Mile Marathons) and built it with a rudder. When Building, I added a fair bit of extra rocker to the boat -ending up with about 5". Even without the rudder it tracks rock-solid and I have found that it only needs minimal rudder input to keep on track. -- Rating: 9/10
Weight: Well the plans say the hull weight should be 48lb. My finished boat, including rudder came in at 44lb. This includes me adding in an extra bulkhead for a day hatch.
I think If I had been concentrating on the weight, I could have got the weight down to the high 30's without too much effort at all. There are Several areas within the build where substantial weight savings can be made without comprimising the build. There is no need to add 3/4 lb of epoxy in each end, when 2oz and a bit of fibreglass will give you more strength! -- Rating: 10/10
Build Time: I spent about 9 months (off and on) from kit to water and probably spent around 150 hours building and finishing the boat. This is a lot longer than suggested by the instructions, but then again, taking your time means ending up with a better product. Do not kid yourself - the finish will take around 1/3 of the build time. -- Rating: 7/10
The more time I get in this boat the more I like it. Build this boat if you are a bigger paddler looking for a rock-solid performer that will allow you to easily keep up with the plastic fleet.The Chesapeake 18 is the second kayak I own and even though I've only paddled it once, I think it's a great kayak. I just finished building it from the kit with no major problems at all. Definitely read the Chesapeake manual first once through before starting construction.
Boat Size: The Chesapeake 18 is a big kayak. I'm 6', 240-lbs and fit comfortably in the boat with room to spare. I added a foot operated bilge pump I found on-line from The Bosworth Company. To accommodate operating the foot pump, I moved the front bulkhead closer towards the cockpit and I still have more than adequate legroom. The amount of storage space is massive, and the front hatch isn't too small.
Stability: When I first put the boat in the water, the initial stability felt a little shaky, but after discovering the secondary stability is excellent, and getting the feel of the boat, the initial stability is just fine – 8 out of 10.
The secondary stability is 10 of 10. I can lean the boat over on an edge until water starts to enter the cockpit and still not tip over for nearly 4 out of 5 tries. I wanted to practice my self-rescue technique, so I was seeing how far the boat would lean before capsizing.
Paddling: The boat paddles easy at 4 to 4.5-mph – 9 out of 10.
I've paddled in a Seda Glider, Seda Impulse, and a Pygmy Osprey HP (My other kayak is a Wilderness Systems 16' Tarpon SOT). The Chesapeake 18 doesn't go as fast as these other kayaks, but at 4 to 4.5-mph it paddles just as easy.
Tracking: The boat turns left or right too easily while paddling, but that's my fault.
The boat has about 2” of rocker according to the plan dimensions. During construction, I added a lot of weight inside the bottom of the hull (temporarily) to correct a depression in the keel at the cockpit before gluing the hull together. Adding the weight pushed the depression out, but it also pushed the keel down even further and added even more rocker, approximately another inch, giving me 3 inches total. This was unintentional, as I was trying to get a depression out of the keel not introduce rocker. This was not the correct method for fixing depressions in the hull, but I cheated – oops.
Subsequently, with 3” of rocker, the boat at times turns like a top left or right while paddling. By the end of my first trip though, I was able to correct most of the unwanted turning using a slight edging opposite the turn.
Weight: According to the plans, the boat should weigh about 47-lbs. Mine weighs 70-lbs. I did add the foot pump and associated hardware, but at most that added 10-lbs. So the boat would've weighed in at 60-lbs. Again, this may be my fault. I ran out of epoxy (Resin & hardener). I used another quart of epoxy (Resin & hardener combined) adding extra weight, but not 13-lbs extra – 6 out of 10.
Self-Rescue: Self-rescue is tough in this boat – 5 out of 10.
The Chesapeake 18 has high fore and aft decks. This makes self-rescue difficult when trying to pull yourself up onto the back deck. I made one successful self-rescue attempt using the standard self-rescue technique (Paddle and paddle float, pulling yourself up onto the aft deck). On subsequent tries, the boat kept tipping over, so my friend suggested crawling up onto the stern of the boat. This worked much better. So be warned, the deck sits extremely high out of the water, which makes self-rescue difficult.
Overall the Chesapeake 18 is excellent - the boat is made for bigger paddlers, so it's a big kayak. I'll take it even at 70-lbs. The fit is great – I actually need to buy more foam to make it fit better for myself. It paddles easy – glides through the water at 4.5-mph. Very stable - while wanting to practice self-rescue, which means I had to capsize, it showed me just how stable this kayak really is. It tracks a little funny, but again, that was might fault for adding too much rocker during construction.Test-paddled the Ches 18 briefly a year ago. I was looking for a boat with a roomy cockpit to fit my 6'4" 260+ lb frame. The Ches 18 cockpit is HUGE. Way more than enough room. It's definitely a big boat. In the water, though, it does not feel nearly as big. Very fast, yet turns pretty easily - especially when edged. A delight to paddle.
I did find the foredeck in front of the coaming to be higher than I like. It felt like it might interfere with my rather low angle paddle style, especially if there were things like pump and water bottle under the bungies. Cargo capacity is really big, although the stock forward hatch is tiny for such a large compartment.
I decided to build the LT 18 (see that review elsewhere). I think it's worth putting a little extra fiberglass on the hull and deck, especially for a big person using the boat. Also make a new, larger front hatch cover (it's not that tough to customize even if you're building from a kit. You might need to buy another chunck of Okoume marine plywood though.) The Ches 18 is a wonderful fast boat with incredible secondary stability and gobs of carrying capacity. Tracks great, turns pretty well. Not a good option for a small person, but fantastic for us bigger folk.I built the Cheasapeake 18 after building the 16' model for my wife, so obviously I like the boat. This boat is great for 'expedition' trips or if you are simply a heavy packer like me. I have yet to see another kayak (store bought or built) with more cargo capacity.
For its size though, it handles well. The tracking is great and it turns easily especially when on edge. I did find it requires a skeg or rudder as it has a tendency to weather cock in a good wind. Also due to the higher deck/combing, it is harder to roll, although not impossible.
CLC is a good company to work with, although the manuals are difficult (you get 2 booklets plus a set of plans - information is scattered between them) there is a great boat building forum on CLC's site and their customer service is fantastic. Also, I've heard the instructions are or will be improved.
As far as building goes - the kits are very forgiving of mistakes, but they do consume alot of time. If you enjoy working with your hands and would like a kayak equivalent in weight and performance to a $2500 boat for ~$800, consider one of these.I built a CLC 18 several years ago. This is a high-volume expedition boat for a large person; my smaller friends have trouble turning her. It will comfortably fit a 6'6", 250+lb paddler, no problem. I added the large Feathercraft rudder, which makes long crossings in wind or current easier (paddling effort is translated 100% into thrust; the feet provide the effort to keep her on track). This also allows you to vary your paddling strokes, with increased endurance (I've paddled her up to 8 hours a day, in the boat up to 3 hours without a break). I would not recommend a smaller rudder for this boat. In calm water, she does just fine with the rudder raised (and like any kayak, will turn faster without the rudder when proper technique is applied).
The main problem with this boat (as built using CLC's kit) have been the forward hatch size (I would built it slightly larger than spec), and leaking around the hatch cover due to the weatherstripping getting old and hard. I'd try using a soft material for the hatch 'gasket'. Also, the original wood footpegs were definitely no good; the adjustable footbraces are much better. Mine is at least 5 lbs heavier than spec, since I double-taped the keel and added extra epoxy and deck stiffeners. It's basically bulletproof. (This boat is almost 4 years old, and I believe CLC has improved the footbraces and/or hatches since then.)
Overall, this is a great high-volume boat with good initial and secondary stability and a fairly high hull speed due to the long length. It's perfect for multiday expeditions, and for general messing around. I've used it for a 4-day river (class I) expedition, even using the rear hatch as a 'rumble seat' for a child.
Performance-wise, I don't think many recreational plastic boats would be faster. This boat is definitely not a racer, but will cruise comfortably at around 3-3.5 kts all day long with 300 lbs of paddler and gear. She handles rough water well; the high prow will catch the wind more than lower profile boats, but the rudder will cure that. A great boat to paddle, and a fun / fairly easy project to build.