After more than 10 years of making a living as a fly-fishing guide, I tend to look at boats a little differently when giving them the once-over.
I try not only to get an impression of how they might run, fish and pole, but also to see whether it’s a boat I’d want to spend a lot of time in – an office with a view, if you will.
The Chaos 16 fits the bill at all levels.
The first thing you’ll notice about this boat is that it doesn’t have traditional flats boat lines, but rather a more classic Carolina big-boat look. Then once on board, you’ll notice that this is a big 16-foot boat. The small cockpit, wide gunwales and spacious casting platform offer plenty of fishing room. Clean lines and snag-free design make the fly-fisher’s life a lot easier.
**Running and Poling
**We tested the Chaos on Biscayne Bay on a brisk December day with a northeast wind at around 15 knots – the kind of day I’ve had to fish plenty of times, even though I didn’t want to. The 16 handled a 2-foot chop head on and on the quarter clearly well enough to make a crossing on a body of water with a large fetch. Into the chop, the boat again performed well, with a dry ride. The hull is responsive to trim from both the engine and Lenco electric trim tabs, allowing it to run in tough conditions like a much larger model.
On the pole, the boat, weighing in at 525 pounds and with two people, wasn’t very hard to get going. But it did have enough substance to continue into the wind, even when letting up on the pole. The skiff was not as sensitive as some ultralight models and didn’t seem to require a lot of correction when trying to track straight. It also spun well, which lets anglers take advantage of unexpected shots in close quarters.
Our boat was rigged with a 90-hp Evinrude E-TEC, although Chaos prerigs with your choice of Mercury, Yamaha and Suzuki as well. With a full 22-gallon gas tank, the Chaos turns in some impressive numbers: 3.48 seconds to plane, a top end of 43.1 mph at 5,500 rpm, and a comfortable cruising speed of 26.7 mph at 3,500 rpm. A miserly 4.25-gph fuel flow gives the boat an extended range of 131 miles, more than enough to make long-range trips to the Marquesas or East Cape in Florida Bay.
**Design and Construction
|| |—| | SPECIFICATIONS| | LOA: 16 ft. 2 in. BEAM: 6 ft. 8 in. DRAFT: 7 in. WEIGHT: 525 pounds (w/o power) FUEL: 11 gal. MAX HP: 90-hp OB MSRP: $35,695 (w/90-hp Evinrude E-TEC) * * *Chaos Boatworks Hampstead, North Carolina 910-270-2665 www.chaosboatworks.com | Like most high-end skiffs, the Chaos is totally vacuum-bagged. It is built from lightweight core cell foam, although no epoxy or Kevlar is used to shave off weight.
Our test boat featured a couple of Chaos’ trademark optional accoutrements: a teak cockpit sole and toe rail to keep fly lines at bay in a stiff breeze. The company does all the woodwork, and the teak is actually milled from solid stock – not laminated – which allows maximum wear. The skiff also has two options for padded backrests: aluminum or teak.
Two livewells are available; an optional third well in the deck doubles as an insulated cooler. All compartments use bright, reliable LED lighting, as do the running lights. One nice feature that comes standard is a save-the-day kit. When owners register the boat for warranty, they receive a waterproof Pelican box outfitted with spare plugs, livewell pumps and fuses to take care of anything that might go wrong and disrupt a day on the water.