I'm late to the party regarding this venerable 90s design kayak. I bought a 2010 Explorer 3 months ago and have paddled in sea states that range from challenging to quite relaxed.
I've read all the reviews I could find and the reviews tell me that the Explorer is 1. the best kayak ever, 2. boring, 3. slow, 4. poorly built, 5. bombproof construction, 6. etc, etc.
So my experience? I really enjoy paddling it. And I look forward to paddling the explorer on weekends.
I tried to glean as much I unbiased information as I could from all the reviews and decided that it was the kayak I needed. I had an Impex Cat 5, which I liked a great deal. The reason I went for the Explorer, as a direct replacement was not because I thought it better, but because I felt it was better suited to my style of paddling & our local conditions. I experience a lot of surf -breaking waves & rebound and what the Explorer offers that the Impex did not, is a fuller bow that resists pearling on steeper waves, a lower rear cockpit rim allowing greater flexibilty of movement, a much better seat (if you have the performance seat, otherwise -worse), smaller round hatch covers, better skeg assembly and nice features like recessed deck fittings that you can simply unscrew to make deck rigging very simple.
This is my second NDK and I like the performance seat & cockpit layout very much. The Explorer is stable & reassuring in rough seas, but I would not say that it feels any more stable than my Impex, Gemini or Aquanaut LV... all are superb rough water boats.
The Impex Force is a fast kayak, and faster than the Explorer, but the NDK is fast enough. It has more rocker than the Force (which has none) and is therefore more work to handle in following seas & wind swell, but on the other hand it seems to pick up waves so easily. The force is incredibly easy to steer when on a wave but I have pitch poled on really a steep, fast wave, where the explorer would have stayed on the wave due to it's rocker & fuller, more bouyant bow. The Explorer is definitely easier to bring about which is another positive for me, in surf zones.
I wish I had room to keep both kayaks, as on a longer trip, I would take the Impex for sure. Having said that, the Explorer will be fine as a tourer.
Honestly, apart from the features I've mentioned which suit the style of coastal day paddling that I do, both boats are top shelf sea kayaks and brilliant "paddlers" boats in all conditions. You would be hard pressed to find better. Read my review of the Impex for more detail on why I think its such a great sea kayak.
Ultimately, I like the feel of the Explorer very much & do not find it at all boring. The construction of my boat is just great (as was my Greenlander Pro) especially when I compare with the thin & inconsistent layer of gel-coat on Valley Gemini SP. Also, the Explorer is no heavier than any other sea kayak I've owned of similar length. I'm guessing it weighs about 24 -25kg with hatch covers on.
I would rather feel stable in rough water than constantly challenged. For me, it makes the journey more fun and I can enjoy the scenery, wildlife : conversations with friends better than if I was on constant high alert.
I have owned a kayak that kept me on high alert in the rough & although I tried, I ultimately struggled to see the point of it, as a sea kayak. I certainly didn't enjoy going out on my own anymore, which was limiting.
Outstanding for extended…
Outstanding for extended expeditions or playing in surf. Comfortable keyhole cockpit is setup for easy access but secure fit when needed. The Explorer tracks very well, better when loaded. Fast and nimble the 22” beam creates amazing secondary stability and the increased rocker helps it turn on a dime especially with a comfortable edge. Tons of room in the three hatches including an easy access hatch just behind the paddler. Easy to roll, fun to surf and very responsive. I may be biased but this is and has been the best kayak on the water and most copied.
The Romany Explorer still…
The Romany Explorer still stands as the model most designers have been trying to emulate. It's outstanding in rough conditions empty or full on long expeditions. Fun to surf, fast and very maneuverable. High secondary stability gives the Explorer great edging ability for aggressive turns when needed. Comfortable key hole cockpit and seat. Easy to roll and empty water from cockpit when practicing rescues. I have had a few of Nigels kayaks and haven't paddled anything that comes close to its responsiveness.
In mid summer of 2016, I…
In mid summer of 2016, I purchased an older (1996) NDK Romany Explorer which is nowadays sold as a SKUK Explorer, of nearly identical design. This kayak was dirty and disheveled, even a bit stinky. However, it was fundamentally sound and featured a well known classic design. I cleaned it up, added new rigging, a paddle park, a keel strip, a new back band, and fixed a minor rear hatch leak. It was my intent to then sell the now enhanced kayak.
At this time my primary kayak was a Mariner Express, also a cult classic – quite famous for needing neither rudder nor skeg. It certainly lived up to that reputation. However, I was learning to roll and was having a hard time rolling the Express, even with my very supportive Pawlata roll. I failed more often than not and was essentially making zero progress. I consider a roll to be an important safety technique. So I was discouraged and, at 76 years old, was almost ready to forget rolling.
On a whim, I decided to try rolling the NDK. In my first session, I rolled on each of my 17 attempts. The rolls were shaky, but this was very encouraging. Was this a rolling breakthrough? No, on returning to the Mariner, I was about the same as earlier. So I stuck with the NDK for many weeks, until I knew where I was underwater. My technique had really firmed up. At this point I tried the Mariner and was quite successful, although the rolls were again on the shaky side.
So, for starters, I would say that the NDK Explorer is quite easy to roll, even for an elder. The kayak is 17’ 8” long and with a 21.5” beam and has enough rocker to be maneuverable. It isn’t a really fast boat for those dimensions, but it is certainly fast enough. It has a rope skeg, which I rather like for the ease of repair. However, I have yet to actually need the skeg – this kayak is quite neutral, maybe not so much as the Mariner, but not significantly inferior.
I have not weighed the NDK. but it is clearly on the heavy side. The older NDK kayaks are very sturdy, considered somewhat bombproof. The kayak may be slightly roomy for me at 5’ 5” and 145 pounds, yet I rather like that. I’ve read that the NDK Explorer LV does not have room for my hooves, so the standard model is the appropriate one anyway.
I am not a kayak camper, but would note that the NDK (with skeg box lurking in the rear hatch) reduces your packing options. This would not hinder a backpacker at all, but I would need to become more efficient in terms of what gear to bring for an extended trip. Further, I like to keep my deck relatively clean.
I’ve owned my share of kayaks, and would rank this as the best of those. These kayaks would include:
- Seaward Endeavor
- North Shore Calypso
- NDK Romany (classic)
- Boreal Design Ellesmere
- Mariner Express
This isn’t quite a fair comparison, because my skill level has evolved as well. Finally, if the kayak were lighter, I’d be a bit more pleased, but otherwise I am happy.
My review will not go into…
My review will not go into the great handling of the boat as enough as been documented on it. I had a QCC 400 and decided to attend a NDK symposium in North Carolina (which is excellent). While taking the different training sessions I got to try out the different NDKs. I could never roll my QCC but the first time in the NDK I executed a roll, very impressive. Later in the month I took a sea kayak expedition training course, the QCC performed well but really took a beating and was very slow compared to the NDKs I was paddling with. In fairness to the QCC, a 15'3" kayak will not be as fast as a 17'6" kayak. My QCC aged a lot in 3 days of training. I decided to sell the QCC and get a NDK.
I have the standard heavy fiberglass layup but when you are doing that kind of stuff your kayak really gets beat up. The lighter boats will show it real quick. I have no complaints about the quality of my boat. I did not have a choice of color (British Racing Green) for the price I paid but if I had a choice it would be white, cream, yellow or some light color. The lighter colors are cooler to the touch temperature wise in the hot summer sun and are lighter in weight. I am 6'4" so I have a HV version with a foam seat. I like the foam seat because you can position it anywhere in the cockpit and it easy to add foam to. The back band was replaced with a NSI one, IR also makes a good one.
We have owned 2 Explorers for…
We have owned 2 Explorers for over a year now. Both are "Elites" which are lighter (6-7 lbs.)for loading and unloading. The lay-up is not what you find in a regular Explorer; but is okay for 90% of paddlers. We found the quality and finish to be excellent.
This boat will not set any speed records, but cannot be beat in what it does well. Excellent stability, turns well, predictable, almost never need the skeg. The opening of hatches are smaller than most boats; requires careful planning when packing for a camping trip. The seat in the LV is nothing more than a pad glued to the bottom of the hull. The regular volume has a comfortable seat. Both of us have replaced the backbands with ones from Snapdragon.
We both love the Explorer and would buy it again. Have not paddled anything that will do everything as well as the Explorer.
The Explorer has been my main…
The Explorer has been my main boat for 10 years. I have paddled it mostly in Lake Superior and Georgian Bay, including a circumnavigation of Isle Royale, the Pukaskwa Coast, and the LSPP coast. She has performed like a dream. The rougher conditions got the better she performed. She surfed solidly if the given a tailwind and never weathercocked in a headwind. I never had an accidental spill, but she rolled back up all by herself. Cannot say enough good things about this boat.
I purchased my Explorer HV in…
I purchased my Explorer HV in 2005. I am 5' 11" and 180 lbs. It is a normal lay-up boat with a rope-skeg system. I have been sea kayaking for a little over 20 years now and have paddled in almost every type of wind and water conditions to be found on Lake Michigan and Superior. I previously owned a standard Explorer, a Valley Canoe Selkie, a Valley Skerry RM, a P & H Orion, and my first boat, the legendary (tongue placed firmly in cheek)Aquaterra Chinook. The Explorer is by far the best handling boat that I have ever had the pleasure of paddling and owning. I am currently 54 years old and I have no plans to purchase anything else because I don't believe there is anything better out there, and I plan to continue paddling, God willing, for the next 20 years if I can.
The quality concerns that others have written about are valid comments. Although personally I have had pretty good luck with the two Explorers I have owned, I have talked to a number of others that have had problems, and there are a LOT of Explorers out there.
I was at home in the cockpit from the first moment I sat in it, although I do feel much more comfortable in the HV version I currently own. For some reason my back and my thighs don't hurt me like they did in the standard model. That could be more a function of my age than anything else.
Now on to boat handling. I don't know if I can add to what has already been said in praise of this topic but I have been in very rough conditions, like 6' - 8' swells, 25 - 30 mph winds, and even 4' dumping surf in all of the boat models I have owned, and the Explorer is THE best boat to have under you when the going is rough. The handling is responsive, predictable, forgiving, supportive, and just the best damn kayak out there period. I am considering being buried in it some day rather than a coffin (okay, I jest) but if you are considering purchasing a serious all-around camping, day-tripping, surfing, durable, rough water handling sea kayak, just buy it. But, check for defects on the hull and test paddle it if you can to make sure there aren't any major leaks anywhere. Get a good one, but get one!
My 2006 was picked…
My 2006 was picked specifically from a number of Explorer's on arrival by previous owner so quality and finish - superb!
How it behaves in water gives a 10, especially in rough seas. Would not hesitate to buy it as a first boat as a beginner either, but you might need a couple of hours getting used to it.
Top speed is not what you are looking for in this one, but for touring another 10.
With the rope skeg you will never need anything but an additional rope and a knife to fix it on site :-) Although it needs some time to get used to getting it in the right position. But then again, the skeg is only a thing for long crossings in those winds directions requiring it.
Dry as a desert for soon to be 3 years - the hatches might in fact pop off if the kayak is on ground in the sun.
Why not a 10 total? Because it is a bit heavy - listed as 25 kg's mine is actually 27 kg's. But the beating it can take is tremendous though. And because for me personally the odd leg gets asleep now and then - but that happens in other kayaks as well....
For pure play I would go for the Romany - and maybe that's next on the list if I should buy another kayak. But first I will build a Black Pearl to check out the outer end of kayak range
(NDK) Explorer Elite seems to…
(NDK) Explorer Elite seems to have a higher than normal combing particularly on the front. Compartments take on some water in rough seas, not sure from where yet.
Performance - Head on seas very mild mannered thin bow will just nose a hair under the wave and pop right up, quietly and smoothly. Following seas and some surf, dead on no hint of broaching, perhaps the most stable boat in these conditions that I’ve ever encountered. Beam and or confused seas - because of the fairly active primary the Explorer is happy to be on one cheek or the other in these conditions. For the novice the feeling is that you might capsize and there is the tendency to brace, however the firm secondary will not let you capsize. This is an area to get more comfortable with the boat over time and learn to trust it.
Speed - a steady cruiser, does not give a feeling of speed but neither does it feel stodgy. I’m able to stay with my companion paddlers comfortably. The Explorer tracks very well and even in beam wind or sea needs only the shifting from one cheek to the other to keep your bearing. On a long crossing under those conditions dropping the skeg maybe 20 percent is all that’s needed. The hull is so well designed to be neutral that a large amount of skeg results in moving the bow downwind. Turning is particularly good for a long boat; a sweep and and falling on the opposite inside edge will bring the boat around nicely. My Elite is published to be 8-10 lbs lighter than the standard lay-up and so may require my ballasting the boat with same weight to achieve optimum performance. I weigh 178 lbs.
The carbon NDK seat that looks like it was designed to torture its sitter has been surprisingly comfortable over long hours. The back band was replaced by the original owner with an NSI anatomical band, which works as advertised. I do a lot of rolling practice and the sloping bulkhead behind the seat is a marvelous idea when all else fails and you need to dump the water out of the cockpit. Speaking of rolling, my initial attempts were frustrating. With it’s low rear deck the Explorer was supposed to be an easy roller. Well, for a long boat it is, just took a little bit of time to get used to it. Speaking of the low rear deck and sloping low rear combing, this cockpit is wonderful for a low torso paddler who is happy to keep the bottom of his rib cage from whacking into the combing when rolling or low bracing or any moderate torso twists. Build quality is acceptable-hull shows some ripples under the right light, the above mentioned water leakage, hatch covers not tethered, combing hole in deck roughly cut as well as the internal bulkheads. Bungees are loose and deck lines are tight.
I have a 2006 Explorer in…
I have a 2006 Explorer in fiberglass layup. First the good news: this boat handles beautifully, just as others have eloquently described: it carves turns, tracks well, performs well in following seas... actually, in any seas I've been through! The hull and deck are finished well, and it's generally a great looking kayak.
The bad news? Sadly, their quality control problems have not been taken care of completely. I've never seen this poor quality of workmanship and attention to detail on a kayak of this caliber. The skeg was kinked out of the box (and the poor design means I'll be dealing with this again), the layup inside around the skeg and seams looks (and feels) like an afterthought, the combing looks as if it was just crammed into a roughed in hole, and the cheap backrest buckle won't hold.
Why did I buy it? Well, like I said, it's a dream to paddle. Would I recommend it to someone else? Yes, but be prepared to walk away from it if it doesn't live up to your expectations of quality.
I had initial concerns about…
I had initial concerns about the workmanship of this boat after reading several reviews and hearing comments about poor workmanship. I ordered my first NDK Explorer in 2004 and I'm happy to say that the workmanship appeared to be flawless. I had some custom things done such as moving the forward bulkhead up to give me more stowage space.
Unfortunately there was some miscommunication and I was unable to use footpegs as now the cockpit was too small for my long legs, on a more minor note, the custom colour I had specified was not used, but a lighter shade. Fortunately I bought the boat from a good dealer and by late 2004, I had another NDK Explorer. My advice, and this holds true when buying any brand kayak - stick to the ones you can actually see and test out, as special ordering is always somewhat of a crapshoot. That being said, after a year of using this boat, I have nothing but praise for the NDK Explorer's handling abilities, especially in rough water. I have never had to use the skeg, even in very windy conditions where others felt compelled to drop their rudders, this boat really resists weathercocking, turns easily and handles waves well. The workmanship is great - I have never seen water in my bulkheads even after playing in the surf and rolling several times. It is an easy boat to roll too and this has added to my confidence in addition to it's rough water handling. If I would change anything it would be to place a larger oval VCP hatch on the rear bulkhead, as I do camping from my kayak.
If you're a backpacker then this boat presents no problems, otherwise you have to substitute your large dry bags for smaller ones. This has not presented a problem for me thus far as I'm not trying to pack a large tent or other bulky equipment. We tried to put a folding kayak cart in the rear bulkhead once and the hatch opening was just a bit too small for it. All in all I'm very pleased with the boat and would highly recommend it for intermediate to advanced paddlers who are looking for a boat that can handle rougher waters and still get you through an expedition.
I have been the proud owner…
I have been the proud owner of an HV Explorer since March and now cannot imagine ever wanting to paddle any other sea kayak. My Explorer has looked after me exceptionally in some pretty rough water, over falls, and tide races here in West Wales and off Anglesey and handles beautifully. To turn the boat you really just need more of a nudge than a full edge, it is so responsive and well balanced, and it was several months before I started occasionally using the skeg as it is remarkably immune from significant weathercocking. It also rolls like a dream.
The secondary stability is superb, but it can be a little lively unladen if you are used to a wider boat, so if you want a boat for taking photographs from and eating your sandwiches whilst bobbing about on day trips it is perhaps not the obvious choice, but if you want a fast and responsive boat with a real appetite for rough water, then this is certainly the best sea kayak money can buy.
I have now a NDK explorer,…
I have now a NDK explorer, standard layup, after paddling many other kayaks that are close to the british design that everybody trys to copy. and never get it right, this kayak is the best i ever owned and paddled handles well in winds and tracks really well i never use the skeg it dont need it. rolls and edges perfect and turns. as of now i have got my BCU 3 star in this boat! NDK explorer is the best.
It might deserve a 10, but…
It might deserve a 10, but I've only paddled it for about 10 minutes. I tracks well, has good stability on the lean, turns well and with its low back deck, permits easy layback rolls. Charlie's HV also fit me well enough even though I only stand 5'8.5" with a 32" inseam. No trouble hipflicking the hull. The cockpit fit helped me understand why another friend enjoys his NDK Romany so well. Nice boat if a bit heavy.
Having paddled the Explorer…
Having paddled the Explorer for several years now, and owned other boats prior, I can say it handles conditions better than most kayaks. Explorer tracks well, yet is very responsive on a lean. Unlike many similar boats, holding a sustained edge is easy and has more effect in sustained winds to counteract weather cocking - likely due to its relatively deeper chine (not really a hard chine). Rock solid on a lean. Doesn't really need a skeg in most conditions, but VCP cable-slider probably the best (rope skegs on other boats I've owned are difficult to deploy due to rear placement and aren't as "trimmable" for 1/4, 1/2 skeg, etc.) Strength of layup the best in business - experienced paddlers appreciate this. Boat is meant to take scratches and withstand impacts. Weight only downside. Awesome amount of storage for a boat this form-fitting and responsive. Many copy-cat designs of late. Can't think of any significant downsides - so give it 10 out of 10.
Mine is a 2004. Whatever…
Mine is a 2004. Whatever quality control problems NDK had in the past, are gone. My Explorer HV is flawless. The boat handles any kind of water and is just a pure joy to own and use. The Explorer is everthing people say it is, it handles like you read about.
I purchased an Explorer HV…
I purchased an Explorer HV last winter but have waited to post my thoughts on it until after I had a chance to get it out in some rough water. Prior to owning the Explorer I had a fiberglass P&H Capella, a Nigel Foster Legend and a Silhouette. I’ve owned all of these kayaks in the short time span of about three years, but I’ve been searching for just the right boat for me. I found what I was looking for in the Explorer. I wish the quality control was better and that it was lighter. It is a back breaker to haul around on land. But, I have come up with some moving/lifting techniques that make it fairly easy. So, enough complaining about these short comings-that’s not what is important to me. I recently paddled through some confused seas (in the North Channel of Lake Huron) that would have normally required me to brace and worry. But, the Explorer just allowed me to handle these conditions with a little hip flick here and there. I have a much higher confidence level in the Explorer than I ever did in the other kayaks I owned. Partly, this may be due to improved skills but I am convinced that the Explorer is simply better in rough water. I don’t find weatehrcocking to be much of a problem when it’s loaded for a trip, but I do use the skeg on occasion. I think the rope skeg is fantastic-much, much better than the slider with wire cable. Also, I really like the keyhole cockpit; if I need to I can sit my butt in first and then put my legs in. That technique can come in really handy at times-especially with the rocky shores of Lake Huron. Since it’s a keyhole and not an oval cockpit, there is a lot of room to hook your thighs under-it is fantastic for bracing and rolling. I can generate a great deal of rolling power in the Explorer with my knees. Eventually, I may end up selling my HV and getting a standard Explorer as I have lost some weight. I’m not sure about this though. I am 6’2” and weigh about 205. When I purchased the Explorer I was closer to 230. I think I still fit in the HV just fine but I am curious to see how I would fit in the standard Explorer.
Well, something not yet mentioned about the explorer. It can pick up very small swell. I was coming in after a long days paddle in small surf. The Explorer gave me good rides even at a fairly off angle to the waves. Then as we came into the bay I stopped with some of my buddies to BS. All of a sudden, (really a while, but we were busy talking) half of our party was way ahead about 200 yards or so. I said "lets catch them" my buds said "yeah right", then I hopped on ths 12-18 inch swell and made incredible speed. No one except me believed it but I know the Explorer.
Mine is one of the early ones, she is very heavy, and very solid. In places where a boat with more primary would have made me nervous (or upside down)she just lets the little stuff go and the secondary is a dream. Slower than some 18 foot boats I have owned. I weigh 235 and paddle the standard version. I love the rope skeg, every skeg boat I've paddled has been annoying to my knee except those equipped with a rear rope skeg. She doesn't need it much unless I'm feeling lazy. She will ship water if I practice an over the back deck rescue, but if you cannot roll this boat you cannot roll. Yeah, the usual niggles, needs a foam seat and different backband. I've yet to paddle the T 170 or anything from Mariner, but for right now in rough water she is THE THING, with a bag of chips, salsa, and 4 gigs of RAM. I love the day hatch and keep my cell phone (in dry case), thermos of ginger tea, first aid kit, (need Dramamine or got blisters anyone), some boat repair stuff and other tricks in there. Radio and flares are on me.
When I first looked at the…
When I first looked at the Explorer HV I thought it would be a barge: high windage, track bad, turn so-so, to big, etc. After paddling several and now have access to one whenever it's one of the best yaks in rough water I've ever had the pleasure to paddle. Primary stability is a bit twitchy-meaning it's responsive-but the secondary is truly amazing. I was doing lean turns in steep and short-wavelength waves at the bar of a bay. Let me stress the secondary stability: it's amazing! The down side to yak is the horrible construction, I had to repair the TRULY S***** seam in two places that leaked! Whoever did the lay-up must have been blind or criminally inept. Also, the hatches are way too small for meaningful extended trips. The only time I ever thought to drop the skeg, not that I needed to, I found that it was jammed in the box. Besides the seam repairs, I cut out the seat and put in a foam seat and a minicell back rest. I also improved the front bulkhead and added a Bosworth Guzzler footpump. For all that I get to paddle it essentially whenever I want. One truly memorable paddle was an evening paddle out 11 miles to a offshore buoy and back in large swells. The yak tracked well without the skeg, was a joy in the seas, wasn't affected by the winds and that amazing secondary stability...
I have demoed kayaks all over…
I have demoed kayaks all over the Northeast for the past several months in hopes of finding my ideal kayak. Some of the boats I have demoed include the Current Designs Gulfstream, Caribou S, Andromeda and Extreme; P&H Quest; Valley Nordkapp, Argonaut and Aquanaut; Nigel Foster Legend and Shadow; and Nigel Dennis Explorer and Greenlander Pro.Out of all the kayaks I tested, I have to say that one has stood out head and shoulders above the rest, and that would be the Nigel Dennis Explorer. It is a tremendous all around kayak. Its tracking, even in steady beam winds is excellent. The medium chine allows the boat to be easily placed on edge and makes carving turns a dream. If the Explorer weathercocks a bit, very often all that is needed is just a little hip steer to put it back on course. The boat also handles extremely well in rough water and is reasonably fast, although not the fastest boat I tested. While the Explorer may not be the best in each individual category, it is the combination of high performance in all categories that makes this my favorite kayak. Negatives on the Explorer would include its heavy weight in Fiberglass (56 lbs), a slider skeg control that gets in the way of your knee (I would recommend the rear rope skeg, which also doesn't jam), a seat that lacks good thigh support (you can always add a foam seat), and hatch rims that are strangely screwed in. These negatives result in a 9 out of 10. Great kayak Nigel!
Great kayak: It took a few…
Great kayak: It took a few paddling days to figure out why I didn't feel comfortable in my high volume Explorer. I didn't fit it properly. I needed more support for my back so I made a back band out of minicell foam plus I took a Padz foam seat cut it in half and stuck them under the deck. By doing those two iteams I fit the kayak like a glove and
became part of the kayak instead of just sitting in it, more control was what I was looking for. The Explorer is a real performer, I like the way it handles in flat water to the ruff stuff. I think Nigel could do a better design on the skeg drop.
The rope works but doesn't really cut the mustard. Thats my only complaint. Nigel should look at the CD kayaks for a better idea. The NDK Explorer is a keeper and I love it.
Finally the ice has thawed on…
Finally the ice has thawed on the local lakes, and was able to go for a three hour fitness paddle in some blustery conditions. The wind was whipping up small whitecaps, coming in sudden gusts. Overall, I am quite impressed with this boat's poise; it is almost unaffected by these conditions, that would have had my Eclipse spinning in circles. I can't say its a fast boat-dwelling on this alone has me wistfully wishing I had bought the NF Legend. However, the Explorer tracks beautifully, yet carves easily and gracefully on edge. Once more, it seems far easier to do this in wind and chop than many other boats I've tried-it inspires confidence. As noted in a message board post, the fit and finish is cobby, but tolerable-it is a handmade boat and looks that way upon close inspection. The bulkheads seem to have been eyed for fit with irregular gaps, the interior fiberglass application is inconsistent, with some areas that show exposed fibers, the fill work on the slider skeg control looks trowelled, etc. The gelcoat finish itself isn't perfect, but isn't bad either; it's a pretty boat. I know I need to do something about the backband/seat combination. The band rotates down despite cranking down on the bungees, and the seat itself would benefit from a higher rear flange. That edge is sharp and cruel-perhaps gluing some coaming edge stripping on would help. Maybe they designed it to promote weight loss; if you can pinch anything at all around your midsection, then you will certainly get pinched here-it's a good motivator to lose that winter roll. Beyond that, the only other criticism is the slider skeg assembly protrudes slightly into the space occupied by your left kneecap. It's not painful, just noticeable; although over the course of a day it could elevate to annoyance status. That's it; I'm done criticizing. The skeg drops smoothly and is huge. Honestly, I can't see using it too often except for maybe trimming it down a bit to true my course. The boat weathercocks very slightly and predictably, easily corrected by small strokes. As one reviewer also noted, if the water's choppy and the wind's whipping, this not so fast boat is unruffled and makes up time. You can really see its lineage when the weather conditions worsen. The hatches, etc. remain dry so far. It's obvious the bulhead area is airtight from the rubber covers' 'Tupperware-like' expansion and contraction in changing air and water temps-very good. I give it an '8' on the holistic score of handling/performance vs. fit/finish/ergonomics. (Plus it has a good beat, and you can dance to it.) In all, one fine boat.
I paddled an Explorer HV one…
I paddled an Explorer HV one time for about an hour and liked it. The water conditions were flat and no wind. All kayaks paddle great under those conditions. Well I bought one anyway, it was late in the season and I went out for the day in very windy conditions. It handled very well and I LOVE THE KAYAK. I was told it was a good rough water kayak and they were right. It has a rope skeg, I index the rope with magic maker. Each mark let me know how far down the skeg is, no guessing for various wind and wave conditions. I've read reviews where there were complaints of the skeg box leaking. The deck and skeg box (housing) are connected with a hose and hose clamps at each end. Check the hose and clamps to see if they didn't loosen up during shipping. This is the only place the assembly could leak so check it out. One happy owner.
I am 184cm tall and 80kg.…
I am 184cm tall and 80kg. I've been messing about in kayaks for about twenty years and have owned 15 kayaks ranging from freestyle and slalom boats to marathon boats but this is my first sea kayak.
I have a three piece explorer without a skeg which I bought second hand from a sponsored paddler two years ago. I have since addead an electric bilge pump and a sail kit. Before purchasing it I tried a number of different sea kayaks and felt happiest in this one, possibly because it feels more like a river boat.
I found the build quality on this boat to be excellent although it is heavy. I find it's more stable and handles better particularly in heavy seas than the boats used by many of the serious sea paddlers here although it is slower as the standard length for long distance touring here tends to be about 5.8m. It has excellent handling and turns well with a lean and when playing in surf you can recover from washing out at a later stage than many other boats. It handles quatering seas and winds with only a little weather cocking and I feel this would be almost eliminated with a skeg. It is the easiest boat to roll I've paddled and requires about half the effort of a whitewater kayak.
Overall I am very happy with the performance of this boat and the only thing I don't like is the weight when I have to lift it on and off the car.
This is a preliminary review…
This is a preliminary review having only had this boat for 2 months. I bought the HV version as I really needed the extra room between the deck and the hull. I am am 6'2" 240 lbs and it fits me just right,I am probably at the limit of fit though. The seat and back band are very comfy. I am going to replace the back band as it is too flexible, ie when getting in to the boat I always have to unfold the back band, but once in place it provides good support.
The initial stability is medium to low, especially since a lot of my weight is in my upper body, but the secondary is very good. It is very easy to hold a sculling brace for long periods of time. With the low initial stability putting the boat on edge is easy and predictable.
The boat rolls very nicely, easier than my Gulfstream as a comparison.
Tracking is good, yet will gracefully carve a turn when edged. Weather cocking is noticable, but manageable with some slight edging. The skeg is huge when fully deployed. With the skeg fully deployed leecocking is very noticable. The skeg control works well, it is the older rope skeg. I have noticed some skeg vibration when surfing, it is more of a humm. A skeg is not really needed, but it is helpful when you are tired and just want to make for home.
It is not a terribly fast boat on flat water given its length (17'8")and width (21.5"), but get it in some waves and rough water it is fast and predictable, waves seem to just not effect the hull at all as they just roll right under. It very good in quartering or following seas. It has good glide and I can keep a 5 mph pace with ease and can push it to 6 mph in a sprint. This boat really shines in rough water. It has good surf manners, pearling so far has not been an issue, but I have not been on any surf over 3 or 4 ft, but summer is not far away down here on the Gulf coast.
This is not a beginners boat, but would be possible for a motivated beginner in warm water, it will definetly challenge the newbie.
OK, now for quality. I really looked this boat over at the shop I purchased it from. About a week or so later, I noticed a flat spot on the right rear quarter of the hull and some spider cracks. It had a hole repaired at some point from an impact with something, it measured about 2.5" x 1.5". This was purchased as a new boat mind you. I spoke to the dealer who was surprised by it as well, he had not noticed it when he accepted the boat. He was a real pleasure to deal with, he ordered a new boat for me no questions or wishy washy feelings. It was, "this is not right, I want to keep my reputation as a good and honest dealer and I want your repeat business". So I should have a new boat arriving sometime this month. If you live in the Austin area and are looking for a great paddle shop, be sure to check out Austin Gear and Guidance, John is a great person and all 'round good bloke. The rest of the finish and quality on this boat is very good, which is fairly rare for a NDK boat. Hatches and skeg box are bone dry after surfing and rolling practice. So overall I am very happy with this boat. Highly recommended, though look the boat over carefully, it will be worth it.
I will update in another 4 months for a six month review, if I remember.
Best rough water boat I have…
Best rough water boat I have ever paddled! I've had mine 4 yrs. Moderate speed. Low/mod initial stability, high secondary. Was dry when new, leaks in front and rear now, but not enough to cause any concern. seat/backband is uncomfortable. Rolls beautifully! Finish on mine is fine, though I've heard of QA problems. Not a beginners boat.
We have recently purchased…
We have recently purchased two Explorers. One is Carbon Kevlar and the othre is fiberglass. Have had experience palleing a Dagger Meridian and an Nigle Foster Legend. Of the three designs, the Explorer is the best all around design. While the Explorer is not as fast as the Legend or as stable as the Meridian it is superb. We recently took the boats to the barrier islands on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and they handled extremely well in some very difficult conditions.
For camping, I find the circular hatches superior -- they are water tight and force you to use smaller dry bags which can better fill the hull. We had all the room we needed for a week trip -- to include ~ 10 gallons of water in each boat. The rope skeg design is, in my mind, superior to the more popular slider skegs. I do not use a skeg unless absolutely necessary so the ability to "feather" the skeg is not important. This skeg will not stick or get clogged with sand. It can be fixed in the field with not special tools and when deployed it works really well.
The Explorer performs better in following wind and seas than the Legend and the weight of the Explorer compares very favorably to the heavier Legend. All in all I am extremely pleased with the Explorer. In fact I have not had the Legend in the water since I brought the Explorers home.
Footnote on quality control. The Explorer really looks good! I can't find anything to complain about. I did have an idea about the point at which the rope attaches to the skeg and called Nigle Dennis to seek advise. I found him first to be interested and second to be very responsive. I made the adjustment which we discussed on the phone and then e-mailed the results to him -- he even answered the e-mail within 48 hours. The Explorer is one fine boat within a family of very fine boats shch as the Legend.
Just bought one, and I love…
Just bought one, and I love it. Handles all conditions I've been in very well although I haven't had it in anything too serious yet. All three hatches are dry. "Fit and finish" aren't perfect, which is common among NDK boats. This is a great boat that's well built and made for serious paddling, not meant to be a museum piece!
I agree with the last reviewers on how it handles, but at 6'-1" 225 lbs, I find the seat to be a perfect fit and did not like the Necky or Current Designs seats. This shows how the same boat fits different paddlers differently. I also find the initial stability to be low and the secondary stability very solid. This boat will make you a better paddler!
Since I spent so much time…
Since I spent so much time seeking info, opinions and reviews for boats, I figured I could at least write one to possibly do my part. I'm 5'10-11, 175lbs. Own a Prijon and started looking for a more ocean worthy model. Over a period of a month, I spent time demoing boats, empty and with weight. Since Prijon Absolutely makes the best plastic, I started there. Seeyak was all over the place, I don't think I'm big enough to sink that boat to get the proper waterline. Kodiak was a great boat for a MUCH bigger guy and a whole lotta cargo, and the Catalina was a gem, but just a hair shy on space. Moved onto the Skerray RM, again it was all over the place (perhaps the rocker), Boreal Muktuk was comfortable, but I don't want a rudder, Avocet RM was real nice, all the way around, jumped in and tried a used NDK Poseiden, too roomy, Kayak Sport Viking was very nice. I ended up buying the Avocet(trying REAL hard to stay in plastic and keep costs down). First day out had water in rear bulkhead and day hatch. There was an unsealed spot on the bulkhead, a small hole in the bulkhead. Water also runs all along skeg cable. It was during this inspection that I found pitch in boat, as if it was set out in the sun balancing on something dead center and the ends drooped. Upon looking at several other Avocets, they all had a similar situation to varying degrees. Enough of plastic. I'm sick of worrying about it sitting in the rack on a nice day, strapping it too tight, where I leave it set during stops. Onto the Romany, very close space wise. Yes, I could pack it, I'm a backpacker and have all the gear and knowhow to keep it light and tight, but it's in a kayak, not on my back and it's a nice change of pace to have the extras (ah, a THICK Thermarest, my Roomy SD Sandman sleeping bag, bottles of wine, salmon, REAL food, my backpackers axe that would NEVER go into my backpack).
The Explorer is a dream. You may have to learn better balancing skills while turning around to look behind you or get into the day hatch (day hatches are awsome). Bit shy on the initial stability. It tracks nice, maneuvers beautifully, if you don't want to deal with the, less than others weathercocking in good winds, just a little on the skeg is all it takes. Bow lifts over waves. Not a DROP of water into the hatches or through the skeg. Bulkhead is close behind seat for easy removal of water from main compartment(won't go there). It will do whatever your little legs and hips tell it to do,,, easily. I thought the seat would be uncomfortable, it isn't at all during extended paddling, it is slippery though which I'll remedy probably with a Padz. I was all ready to be making a seat, but for now I'll wait. I'll probably modify the footpegs only because I had made about a 4"x4" bracket with thin closed cell foam on my last boat, which is just way too comfy without effecting use. And will probably add just a hint of foam to the thigh braces because I don't like any movement in my knees while they are up there, and also will probably add some thigh supports, again just because I made them for my last one and it is just too comfortable to have that support. I think that not enough attention is given to fitting a boat to your weight, mainly saying that I think many people don't weigh enough for the boat they have, to get a proper water line for speed, tracking and handling.
I can see this boat being the last one I ever buy(please oh please). In which case I won't mind the big dip into the pocket to pay for it. Just do it, don't look at your bank account, get the first scratch over with the first day (I really would have perferred not to, but at least it was over with), and enjoy an Awsome boat. Keep your plastic boat, if you have one, for those potentially rocky river trips with friends,,, you'll feel better.
Bought my Explorer new with…
Bought my Explorer new with the VCP slider skeg in 2002. Love the boat as expected having paddled the design many times before, although I might have opted for the NDK Poseidon given a 2nd chance - the Poseidon feels a bit more comfortable to me (5'10" 180 lbs)and with shorter length turns more easily and is more fun for day trips - 90% of my paddling. However, the Explorer is truly great and well worth the 9 out of 10 score I give it - hatches are water tight (although I prefer the rubber used by Valley), handles beautifully, bomb-proof construction (but heavy), attention to ergonomics such as deck lines, carry toggles, location and number of bungees on deck, angled rear bulkhead for ease in rescues - all first rate. Only two things I'd change - I opted for the VCP slider skeg control but would advise against it. On the Explorer, NDK locates the slider in front at the left knee. this causes the recess to protrude into the knee in such a way that it not only hurts a bit on long paddles, it makes for uneven leg extension which makes the feel of the boat a bit "off" when bracing/rolling, also puts my left leg to sleep after awhile. The second problem is the seat - not super bad, but considering the comfortable other seats I've tried on Current Designs, Necky and even Valley boats, the NDK seats are something of a torture device - too short with no thigh support and protruding bicycle seat-type knob that serves no purpose really when kayaking since the pressure points in a kayak should be at the hips and knees - not the crotch! (Hello???) I may swap it out with some foam. These things are so minor and fixable one would think NDK could tweak it - the design purists would still have the same great hull design etc. but the boat would be perfect. But, in any case these problems are a small price to pay for possibly the best, expedition sea kayak on the market today. I'd pick a different boat for poking around, fishing, on protected waters - but for sea wind and waves, it's superb.
Marvelous boat in the water.…
Marvelous boat in the water. I own a Capella, a Sealution and a couple of non descript kayaks. I used an Aquiterra Chinook for a couple of years and get to paddle pretty much every boat type out there. The NDK is my favourite in the water.
That said, It is heavy, the day hatch leaks, the back hatch leaks, well something back there does. the seat is uncomfortable after eight or nine hours. The skeg controle is less than great and appears fragile. The finish is not as slick as some other boats , and lets get back to heavy.
The weight is created by a much larger amount of glass in the lay up. This is for strength. I don't mind that because I like to paddle it, not take it for long walks. (That happens too though.) The small imperfections in the finish don't cause me any great pain , but if you want a smooth light work of art Eddyline Night Hawk is a well layed up and finished boat. I prefer my NDK though. This craft surfs well, handles quartering winds and seas well. Empty she is big and high for me to paddle against a strong wind. We were in less than 1 meter seas with 25 to 35 knot winds in our face. The lower profile boats fared slightly better. When we turned around and played in the waves the NDK came into its own. It handles much like my Capella but goes like hell. I rated it nine mostly on it charicteristics on the water. It remains heavy and Vacuum bagging might solve that. The weight does not matter a damn on the sea.
This boat is new , A week old. I am tickled to death with it and have lots of plans for this summer.
I have a web page at http:/pages.ivillage.com/mcgruer if anyone wants to see what we paddle in.
Bought a HV versoin of the…
Bought a HV versoin of the kayak in January of 2002 and have taken it on a number of day trips in the tidal races off south Wales, and the west coast of Scotland, UK. I found the kayak very well made, no leaks, and with a seaworthiness which made me very (very, very) grateful in some very tricky wind against tide conditions. An excellent boat.
Purchased the boat in the…
Purchased the boat in the spring of 2001. My Explore was well finished and very tight right from the start. Have surfed it on tidal waves and paddled a 7-day trip all with enjoyment and confidence. I need to modify the seat as one of my legs does not agree with extended trips. Great all-round kayak.
My 4th kayak... it handles…
My 4th kayak... it handles quite well. However, it suffers from the WORST QA I have encountered to date! Specifically, leakage from the skeg box and via the skeg control cable. Loading via the round hatches is less than ergonomic. I had to replace my med.size drybags to accomodate the access. Why not oval hatched like Valley Canoe?! As attested by my very helpful dealer also, NDK responsiveness to complaints/customer satisfaction is virtually non-existent. In the words of my grandfather "... I have seen bigger dwarves!"
I recently purchased my…
I recently purchased my second Explorer - the HV model. I paddled my first Explorer for 4 years in Washington, Oregon and the west coast of Vancouver Island. It handled and held up beautifully in rough conditions, rock gardening and surfing. It takes little to no effort to put into a leaned turn, even when fully loaded. The small hatches are a bear, but I had no trouble with leakage. It's weight (heavy!) was also a downside, but it held up to numerous rock gardening miscalculations, even while loaded.
My new HV model retains the handling characteristics, but has more room for me: 6'3" - 190lbs. - size 14 feet. I can even comfortably paddle in my Chotas finally. With the original Explorer I could get enough gear and food below decks for a solo 15 day trip along the west coast of Vancouver Island.
When I purchased my new HV, I tried a number of different boats that I could comfortable fit into, but still felt that the Explorer had the best "feel". It just seems more a part of me than a boat I'm sitting in.
I somewhat argree with Bob in his comments about quality control. This seems to be a continuing problem with NDK. The dealer I purchased from will only sell these boats with the old skeg deployment mechanism as they have had many problems with the new one jamming. Be careful in your inspection of a new boat before accepting it. HOWEVER, IT IS DEFINITELY WORTH THE TROUBLE TO GET A GOOD ONE!
I have paddled the Explorer…
I have paddled the Explorer for one season. It is my third kayak. I find it to be one of the most seaworthy kayaks out there. Not the fastest boat out there, but speedy enough. Turns very well with a lean, and has excellent secondary stability. Cockpit is a great fit for medium sized paddlers (I am 5'9" / 165) and provides excellent control. Rolls easier than any other boat I have paddled. tracks well without the skeg deployer and very very well with it. Surfs great and carries good speed in a following sea. I paddle the Connecticut Coast primarilly...in all conditions / all seasons...the boat handles very well in rough conditions...hatches and bulkheads have all been waterproof. Good boat for camping although the skeg housing requires some creative loading in the rear bulkhead compartment.
My third summer with this…
My third summer with this kayak. It tracks well without the skeg, doesn't weather cock too much, and has exceptional secondary stability. I like the day hatch and have solved the poor storage space design with the use of OR drybags. I've gained 20-25% MORE space with their use. Now can do 10 days with nothing on the deck. It is too heavy and mine is even heavier. The "expedition" lay-up is 10 lbs heavier than the "normal" lay-up. It is bomb-proof and that has helped as the boat is used primarily as a touring craft on multi-day trips here in Southeast Alaska. Only other drawback is the silly beer can holder fore of the bow hatchcover. Oh, maybe its a spot to put a compass. Anyway a bad idea since it makes loading long objects even more difficult through the small opening.
Great handling boat. Use of…
Great handling boat. Use of fibrglass mat in construction inexpensive and not worth the extra wieght in relation to added strenght. Heavier than needs to be to achieve desired result. Construction average to mediocore. Very rough on the inside. Skeg housing leaked first time out. Skeg control housing needs to be further back to not interfere with knee and thigh placment. All in all, a great design with less than satisfactory construction methods for the relatively high price.
Update on Explorer posted by Bob Haley. This kayak continues to leak from the skeg houseing, bulkheads, and possibly hatch rims. While it's a nice handling kayak, it cannot be considered seaworthy craft until the quality control inspectors at NDK get their shit together. Be prepared to sink if you are on the water more than 3 hours. Almost every owner of an NDK kayak I have come into contact with has had serious (read: not minimal)manufacturing defects in the kayak they recieved. NDK has been almost totally unresponsive in dealing with these issue with individual buyers. Nigel Dennis got an earful of complaints while in the Northwest recently. While the hull design is excellent, the workmanship is less than amatueur. With that said, the kayak rates a 4 out of 10. Purchase almost any other kayak if you want to stay afloat while paddling.
Beautiful boat. Well made.…
Beautiful boat. Well made. Heavy. Good edge control, tracks well without skeg.Feels fast, rolls easily. Hatches completly watertight. Seat was uncomfortable, I replaced it with carved foam seat, giving lowered center of gravity and more stability. Good compass placement. Very large day hatch.
Good rough water boat. Skeg…
Good rough water boat. Skeg control poor. Fairly fast. Carves turns well. Moderate capacity for trips (skeg box and day hatch interfere w storage).