Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Hey guys,

i want to start with paddling, tested it just 2-3 times with an older race-kayak which makes a lot of fun, but had a very small cockpit, so i had problems to get in and out.

I fell in love with the Chesapeake 17LT - but i'm not quite sure if its the right boat for me.

I'm 6,1 foot tall and about 185lbs. (Hope I converted it right - 1,85m and 84kg).

I just want to make some miles on our lakes, dont have the need for Camping Equipment and so on. 

Do you think a Chesapeake 17LT is the right boat to start with paddling? I dont have the opportunity to test kayaks  here, so it is a little bit complicated for me to decide.

Important for me is the get some speed and miles on the water, but also some kind of a comfortable seat position with some leg- and knee-room.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me!







17 replies:

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RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Forgot the other question:

Or would a Sheerwater Sport be a better alternative for me? 



RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

   I'd vote for the C-17Lt  if you want to do miles with some speed.  I have a C-17  that  we can average 3.5 mph (trip average)  and have paddled for up to 26 miles per day.  You might want to put a rudder on it to dampen out the tendancy to round up into the wind. It likes to go straight otherwise. If you creek is small and windy you will not like the turns. 


The Shearwater sport has a wider beam and shorter length. It would be more likely a short trip play boat. But I know some that would propell it well. This would be better for the windy, lots of turns,  creek. . 

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Hi Marcus, 

the first kayak that i ever owned (and built) was a Chesapeake 17LT and i bought it without a test paddle after somebody let me borrow their kayak and i wanted to get a kayak for myself.

while i always recommend a test paddle, sometimes it just is hard to find someone close by.  if you were not aware, there is a 'builders club' where a lot of builders list the boats they have, so i would at least take a look or let folks in the forum know where you are....maybe there is one close by.  the link for the builders club is here:

getting back to your question, i am 5'10" and 185 lbs and i found the chesapeake 17 LT very comfortable, good looking and fast.  and i was always very comfortable to let my friends who were new to kayaking use it.   i have friends who are six feet and about your weight...and they had no problems.  you do want to check things like foot that is an important measurement and see how that looks.  but based on what you shared, there is no clear warning sign to say avoid this boat.

the shearwater sport is a more modern design and is only about 14 feet long....and has similar performance.....but it is a tad slower.  you can compare the clc designs using this link and see how they line up side-by-side.  just hit the link below then select the boats you want to compare and then go to the bottom and hit 'compare'.

so if you are space limited, 14 1/2  feet is shorter than 16 feet 10 that can be an important factor.  but otherwise, i think its really about what looks good to you and if there are gating factors like size.

for whatever its worth, the size issue for me is tied into where i keep the boat.  these boats, while rugged and beautiful, are best kept in a garage or other protected space vs living on a rack outdoors.  so for me, the factor that has often made the decision for me is what garage i have and how long a boat can it accomodate.

anyway, both these boats are great.  you can't go wrong with either...but i think the clc 17 LT is really sweet. here is a picture of the first three boats i built a long time ago.  the red was my first clc 17 LT, the green one is the second CLC 17 LT which i built for guests who came to visit,  and the yellow is a Chesapeake 14 for my wife who is small.

the other option to consider, in my opinion, if you are considering a 17LT is a shearwater 17....which is also an incredible boat that would probably fit you and just performs wonderfully.  i had one for a long time and it was always good with beginners too.  picture of that one too is below:

anyway, let us know where you live.   lots of good choices. 

good luck




RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

   But let me say this about the Shearwater. I've been thinking about building one. I like the "tumble home" deck. I have been having problems hitting the buckles on my contact tow/deck lines with my paddle. Something the "slanted" deck line at the C-17 clamps doesnt have. the other thing is the multi chine forward gives better turns. I build strip boats and the Shearwater makes better lines with plywood than the C-17.

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

   PS won't let me review or edit. Basically I like the lines of the Shearwater better.  It allows plywood to meet strip boat geometry better.  I think both would be within a beginner's building skills. However the C-17LT has fewer pieces. I think the Shearwater would allow you to progress more to the next stage in paddling skills. 

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

   I have a Chess 17 (not LT) and a Shearwater Sport.  You'll not go wrong with either boat.  Both glide plenty easily, but I'm sure the 17 (including LT) will be a little faster.  I did put a rudder on my 17 after my first year because I got a Windsail.  Now I like the to use the rudder in most conditions, but it certainly isn't necessary for me unless sailing.  Both builds are relatively easy and I didn't find any significant difference in level of effort.  You will find the Shearwater Sport a bit more stable than the 17LT and the Shearwater Sport cockpit opening feels much bigger (because it is bigger) and overall more roomy.  At 6 ft tall with big thighs I can lift one bent-leg knee up at a time up into the open air while paddling the Shearwater if I need a little "position relief" time while underway - can't do that very comfortably in the Chess.  Entry and exit is much easier in the Shearwater Sport, so if that is an important factor, give it due consideration.

Summary:  Slight speed edge = Chess 17 (and 17LT probably even a bit moreso). Roomier with easier in/out, better stability = Shearwater Sport.  The Shearwater turns a little more easily, but that probably has everything to do with the shorter length, and is never a factor unless you're really trying to do tight turns, not simple course corrections or follow typical river bends.  And you'll have to evaluate the Shearwater 17 on your own or with info above, as I don't have one of those.

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Hey guys,

thanks a lot for your detailled feedback, appreciated it! It makes it a little bit easier for me, because both of the boats will not be a bad decision.

As i said, i fell in love with the design and the lines of the C17LT, but the Shearwater seems to be the better boat for me all over. Think it doesnt matter for a beginner if i am 1/2 mph faster or slower. The Shearwater Sport track nearly as well as the C17LT as far as i understood, correct?

Regarding length: We have a big garage, so i don't mind hanging a 17 feet boat to the wall, would not cause any problems (hopefully also not with my wife ;-))

I'm still thinking about the leg- and kneeroom, if it fits my "needs" in the C17LT - if i would feel a little bit "locked in".

The best thing for me would be to have a C17LT with the cockpit of a Shearwater Sport, but this seems not to be a good way to build. ;-)

Did someone has a photo of a person sitting in a C17LT where the cockpit with the legs & knees is visible? Perhaps would be helpful for me, i'm still be skeptical there... I was looking through every Chesapeake gallery on the, but i didn't find anything like that ;-) Found one of a sheerwater with a person in the cockpit, and it seems very comfortable.

Sorry for all my very-beginner-questions, as you can see i'm still searching for the "perfect (boat) match". I live in the south of germany (bavaria), and i need to drive about 450 miles to test one of the boats at the german partner of CLC boats - probably a little bit to long. Even the Builders Club is not helpful here anymore.

Thanks a LOT for all of your responses!

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

  Marcus, I don't want to dis​suade you from building a boat, but being new to paddling have you thought about starting out with a used plastic boat? I know, it won't be the perfect boat, but having something to get out on the water with now, something to spend some real time with might go a long way toward helping you decide what boat is the perfect one to build.


RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

   At the risk of adding more to your dilema; as a first-time builder maybe you skip this idea, but... It actually wouldn't be too hard to put a bigger cockpit opening on a Chess 17 LT.  Depends on your skills and guts to do your own thing.  That's the beauty of building your own boat.  CLC *might* even be willing to swap out some kit parts for a small premium, or at least give you advice on how much extra blank sheet okume you'd need to accomplish the task.  You wouldn't need much if you are willing to have a multi-segmented top sheet on the cockpit ring, and that really woulnd't be a big deal to my eye, appearances-wise. (You would need to remember to move the foredeck support arch slightly forward as much as necessary based on your new cockpit size, and to modify that arch length/curvature appropriately - it wouldn't be much.)

FYI I'm already on my second modification to my Rhode Runner, and I haven't even started stitching the hull panels to the frames yet...

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

  Given that you are new to kayaking, I think you should listen to Bubblehead. The bigger cockpit in the Shearwater will be important to you. Getting in and out easily is very convenient -- as is being able to raise ones knees and wiggle around inside the cockpit if you are on the water for hours at a time. So I'd say, get the roomiest cockpit in the nicest looking boat. If speed matters to you, then maybe consider the Shearwater 17. All of these boats are very fast and you won't notice any real difference when you are paddling.

If you'd like to spend a whole afternoon on the water (and don't have beaches where you can stretch your legs), then you might even consider something like a Wood Duck. Laszlo swears he can stand up in his!

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

interesting developments....

on getting into/out of a kayak, i would share that i consider the ability to put your butt in the seat and then pull your legs in very important.  this also implies that if you need to reposition to stretch that you can get your knee up/out of the cockpit.  all my current boats are sized to this requirement.

boats that you have to slide into, and i have owned several, just became a pain in the butt when you have a really nice kayak and don't want to have to be aground to get in/out out of the boat or otherwise brace with paddle that can damage a hull.

at 5' 10" inches and being reasonable flexible, i can do this with my 17LT.   so i don't know where the edge of this would be if i was 6', 1" but its safe to assume you can probably do it with a cockpit of the shearwater sport that is 34 inches long compared to the 31 inches for the 17 LT (and shearwater 17).

so the shearwater sport clearly wins on that matter.  that said, i happen to like narrower boats and smaller cockpits.  i like to have the room i need, and not any a well tailored suit - very comfortable and good looking.

you could get a CLC 17 LT and have them also ship you the coaming/risers from the shearwater sport.  that would be the easiest thing to do with very little custom fabrication to make a CLC 17 T have a 34 inch cockpit.  the back position would stay the same....and you would only adjust the deck beam position - moving it forward ~ 3 inches.

all that said, the shearwater sport is great...super versatile....and if you don't want to worry....start there and get creative on boat #2 :)



RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Thanks again for your replies! :-)

I'm more and more into the Shearwater Sport, sounds like the best option for me.
Perhaps it's really the best way to start with this one.

I know that the "one-for-all-purposes"-kayak is not so easy, but lets have a look.
My "main"-hobby is biking, i have 3 roadbikes and 4 mountainbikes - one for every special purpose. I'm sure this could be similar for kayaks for some people... ;-)

I have a last question about building the Shearwater Sport. I've seen many videos of kayak buidling (also the Chesapeake 1h-Video from CLC) and it seems that the Shearweater ist possibly a little bit easer to build as the Cheasepeake, correct?

It seems that through the bigger amount of stitching there is no risk of a twisted boat? Or lets say of because the different building compared to the Cheasepeakes?

Thanks a lot!


(I hope that my posts are mostly understandable, everyone will surly notice that i'm not a native english speaker ;-))


RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

   Another of couple "Oh, by the way..." comments.

I built my Shearwater Sport first because I did beleive it was a best choice for a great all-around boat.

I think there are three things that make the Shearwater Sport just a bit easier to build overall: 1) the hatches are easier, 2) there is less fiddling with planing the correct angle on the gunwale stringers (or whatever they are called) and installing the deck beam, and 3) strapping down and nailing on the curved deck on the Chess (mostly a timing issue and the need to get things right before epoxy sets - two people really help in this step).  Even so, none of these steps is that big a deal. 

The one step that is a little harder or more annoying for the Shearwater is using long plastic sleaves and a stick with a brush taped to it (or whatever system you figure out) to lay in the hull-to-deck fiberglass seam tape.

AND HERE THE COMMENT THAT MADE ME DECIDE TO MAKE THIS POST: I'm sure others will have other opinions, and again my thighs (quads) are larger than average due both body shape and a lifetime of skiing and bicycling, but in both of my boats I cut the "keyhole" shaping tabs off of the cockpit coaming during initial construction, making the cockpit opening egg-shaped.  I also did not install the hip side brace panels - no real loss of structural integrity and more room to put push water bottles or sweatshirts or whatever beside your butt, or back behind your back. I put my thigh-top bracing foam glued up against the bottom of the deck under the cockpit coaming in the appropriate position, and that works fine for me - but as a flat water paddler I'm not sure that bracing against it is necessary and I rarely put much pressure against it, even though I always paddle with a dry bag of about 4 or 6 inch diameter just forward of my seat/under my knees. (Foot pegs are very necessary for a good strong stroke, however.)

Cutting off the tabs and eliminating the hip braces really helps to open up the cockpit.  I've read about and understand the whole concept of "wearing" a kayak and carving turns, etc. - but that just isn't how I use the boats.

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

   previous post is Bubblehead...

RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Thx @Bubblehead, sounds interesting! That would be a good thing the get a little bit more cockpit space out of the "standard cockpit"... :-)

I'm still struggling what to do (or which boat), but the possibility to change the cockpit coaming is also a nice one - and i'm thinking more into it. Don't think that it should affect the stability when the cockpit on the C17LT is bigger as "designed", correct?

Next week i will call the german CLC partner and ask if it's possible to order a C17LT with an additional cockpit coaming/risers of a Sheerwater Sport. I guess thats not a big deal and just a little bit of time on the CNC - and of course some extra money, but i think thats worse to test.

Let's have a look, many thanks for all you ideas, helped me a lot :-)



RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Hi Marcus, 

to answer your question, putting a larger cockpit on does not effect 'stability' as traditionally defined in a kayak. the main thing that effects stabilty measure are hull shape and center of gravity on the boat relative to that shape.  stability is traditionally thought of as a measure of resistance to tipping. (eg falling over side to side).  so stability is not a point measure but a plot of resistance as the boat is rotated along its longitudinal access as you move from right side up to inverted.

that said, there are things that builders can do that can have a big (typically bad) effect on stability.  the major sin, in this respect, is a seat that raises you any higher off the floor of the cockpit than the designer anticipated.  so as long as your modification is not basically raising the center of gravity (putting more weight higher in the boat or elevating the paddler relative to the desing assumption) you won't effect stability.

on some of bubbleheads notes, there are lots of modifcation that are easy/simple to make to make a comfortable cockpit.  the good news is that most of these are relatively easy and reversable if you don't like it (i.e, don't like the seat, take the old one out and put a new one in) 

so a lot of finalizing the cockpit can wait until you have the boat built and a couple paddles under your belt to see what you like.  i have been making boats for a long time and i would say the first season for each new boat i end up fiddling with the seat, thigh braces, hip braces, back find what seem to be most comfortable in the particular boat.  as you were joking, i have boats like you have bikes....each kind of optimized for a particular type of paddling i might be doing.  also have four road bikes too :)   as long as i only use one garage space (my car stays outside), i am at peace with my wife:)



RE: Chesapeake 17LT or Shearwater Sport for Beginner?

Marcus, you are a man after my own heart! I've got three road bikes and a gravel bike (now become an E-bike). Like you, I am an avid cyclist -- as are many of us in this forum, I think. I've also got five kayaks (three of which I built) and a CLC dory.

One of my kayaks is the Shearwater Sport. Mine is a sectional, but if I were doing it over, I would not bother making it sectional. I love the Shearwater Sport and think that CLC is exactly right in calling it "the One Kayak that does almost everything well." If you build it, I'm sure you will love it.

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