Question about Chesapeake 16LT

Hello all, I am looking into building either a Chesapeake 16LT or a Shearwater Sport.  First does anybody have any suggestions between these two boats or suggestions in general for building a CLC kit.  My question about the 16LT is the depth though.  I am a mens size 11 and the 16LT description says size 10 is reccomended.  So what is the depth of this kayak and would I be comfortable paddling it?  Thanks!

8 replies:

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RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

Hey Boatbuilder, welcome to the club.

I will start with your second question first.  Building from CLC kit is a great approach, especially if you are a first time builder and/or you don't have a good supplier of high quality plywood nearby.  You may be able to build via plans a little cheaper, but a kit takes a lot of risk out of the equation.  I built kayaks, 1,2,3,4 and 7 from CLC kit.  They don't offer a kit for the #8 boat that I am building (Nick Schade Yukon) but I bought forms, strongback and strips from CLC.  They are good people, easy to deal with and their stuff is high quality.

The Chesapeaks, Mill Creeks, Wood Ducks and Shearwaters are all great projects for a first time builder.  The Shearwaters and Wood Ducks are newer generation kits and a little easier to build because the stitching holes are pre-drilled.

The first two boats that I built were the Ch17LT and 16LT.  Below is a review that I wrote a number of years ago.  The only addition is that I added a skeg to my 17LT which makes it handle much better in waves.  Bottom line is that the 16LT is a great kayak.  My size 9 feet fit easily and I have had several larger people paddle both boats with no complaints.  If you are concerned about foot room, you may consider building the straight 16 (not LT).

 I have never paddled the Shearwater Sport, but it is a bit wider and has a bit more rocker.  I would expect it to be a little slower and handle a bit better in waves.

If you have not already, you may look in the CLC Builders Club to see if anybody near has either of the boats that you are interested in.  (Are you near Jax FL?) 

CLC Chesapeake 16LT/17LT Review

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. 

RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

   Hi Mark, thanks so much for the reply!  I think I will look into the Shearwater a little more as the idea of drill holes already being in makes it seem less daunting for a first time build.  However the 16LT and 16 are still of interest to me.  I think it will come down to which kit I can buy most cost effectively in a few months depending on the sales.  I am also in CT so not near you.  Thanks again for the reply and advice!




RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

As far as the holes go, there are only 4 panels that need drilling in the Chessies and 2 of them only need one edge drilled. It's pretty much the easiest part of the whole job, especially if you have an electric hand drill.

You can make a template (a 1"x4" piece of scrap 1/4" wood) and use that to set the spacing so that there's no measuring tapes or rulers involved. The 1/4" thickness is the distance from the edge of the panel and the 4" length is the spacing between the holes. Just put the template on the panel against the panel edge standing on its 1/4" edge and drill at the inner corners. About 10 seconds (or less) per hole.

It really doesn't have to be super-precise. You can also stack the pieces of wood and drill through 2 layers at once to get perfect alignment in half the time.

Whatever choice you make, don't be put off by drilling the holes. Even for a first-timer, they're really easy.

BTW, living in CT puts you in or near Schade territory. You might be able to make arrangements with Eric to try the Shearwater Sport up there if he has one laying around. And if he doesn't, there's always the Builders' Club to find someone near you.

Finally, the only thing I have to add to Mark's comments are that he is absolutely right in everything he says.

Good luck,



RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

i have built both the shearwater and chesapeake series - the 17LT and the shearwater 17.

if you can get a test ride, that's the best and there are a lot of the 16s and shearwater sports out there.   so definetely make sure the feet and knee bend are comfortable.

the shearwaters are a bit more maneuvarable in my experience....but they are both excellent first boats and i still actively user my shearwater - i sold all three of the 17LTs i built

i think from a construction perspective, i agree with lazlo that   pre-drilled wire holes should be a non-factor.  these little holes are the easiest part of the operation.  

having built several of each model, where i see people getting challenged on the chesapeakes is dealing with the foredeck which is 'tortured'.   you bend/curve the deck around the bulkheads and a bulkhead-like element in the front of the cockpit and nail it into the shear strips....and this is probably the most difficult and tricky piece of the operation becuase you are bending the wood (and it is agressively trying to spring back) and you need to properly secure it to work it and at the same time not break the deck.   there is also a lot of planing of the shear strip required to get a good fit...another area i think beginners can be challenged with.  i would also say  its challenging, in my view, to be consistent driving nails into the structure.  fwiw,  i did not make it through a single boat without goofing up a nail or two.....which is why i suspect its rare to see one that does not have a painted hull,

the shearwater has no comparable 'challenging' piece of the construction operation so a lot less drama to manage.

the shearwater, from my perspective is a bit more sophisticated in shape and engineering and a bit more advanced from a design perspective than the chesapeake.  they of course have pretty different looks.

either one is a great choice.  so probably go with the one you think looks the best and fits you.  my knod, fwiw, tends to lie with the shearwaters.


RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

left two other thoughts out...

i do still have a Chesapeake 14 in the family inventory for my daughters and wife....the chesapeakes i have never had an issue letting a new-to- kayaking- guest borrow.  very stable.   i have also let people borrow the shearwater...but i like them to have a little experience under their belt when i do.

i think the LT versions are much prettier with the low water line than the regular versions.  still plenty of space.


RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

   Thank you everyone for the insight.  I think I will look in to seeing if I can test one of these kayaks from someone in my area.  My final question: the description for the 16LT is that the max mens shoe size is a 10, but does anyone have an actual depth in inches that they could provide?  Thanks again so much everybody for responding.

RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

For what it is worth, the side panels on the Ch16LT measure about 6" from the bottom to top (chine to top of shear clamp).  This measurement really does not mean much regarding shoe size because when you are paddling, you won't have your feet all the way outboard pressed against the sides and you won't have your toes pointing straight up.  The picture below was taken when we were making foot brace location on my wife's 16LT.  We position height of the footbrace so that it rests under the ball of the foot, with toes pointed a bit forward and heals inboard so that the feet have a natural angle with feet pointing outward.  

I suspect that the shoe size offered by CLC is a good for the average paddler but you may be different depending upon how you like your foot position.  The only way to know for certain is to sit in a boat.


RE: Question about Chesapeake 16LT

   I'm a shoe size 11 and I fit in the Shearwater Sport just fine. I'm also 250# a little heavy for the sport and way over for the C-16. .  The Shearwater sport is more of a play boat than touring boat that the Cheasapeake line is. The C-16 would likely be faster than the SS and more suitable for longer trips.  The SS is rated for more pounds than the C 16LT.  Shoe size is not the only size to consider. 

 I paddle a C-17. There is good contact with the boat and plenty of room for the feet.  Well for the first two hours. But anywhere for two hours gets to be a little deserving of a get up on these old bones.  I've paddled many miles in that boat. It is a good "straight line" boat for distance. The SS is a 14ft boat and would be more suitable for those shorter paddles with more manovering.

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