Read reviews for the NC 17 Quest by NC Kayaks as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
As for NC Kayaks themselves ... I had the benefit of being a friend with one of the builders and the process of meeting the owner and witnessing the dedication to truly hand-built craftsmanship means a lot to me. These are not stamped out boats. The quality level is evident and I can tell is a labor of passion for everyone in this shop.
I recommend both NC Kayaks and can tell you I feel like my Quest 17 will last a lifetime regardless of the skill level I obtain. This is a pro-level craft built for any skill level. Do yourself a favor and add these guys to your short list.
P.S. if you are in the Seattle metro area ... give them a call and ask for a test paddle in Tacoma (I got to race a pacific white-sided dolphin, he is colloquially known as Glen).
Because this was the first boat that I'd purchased in quite a while, I went with the following options: the lightweight layup, a hatch in the bulkhead, and a metal flake finish. This boat is very light, I can pick it up and put it on my shoulder with one hand. The primary stability is good, and the secondary is excellent. The bulkhead hatch allows me to put my tent and a camp chair in the front without having to disassemble my tent and I don't have to share the cockpit with my camp chair.
My boat is dark blue with gold metal flake, and it is a head turner. The gel coat finish is flawless, and the boat looks like its made of bronze in the sun. I was worried that I might not like the metal flake while paddling, but when I'm sitting in the boat I don't get any glare off of it.
Long story short, a 10 in my opinion, one of the best touring kayaks I've paddled.
I am 5'10, about 155 pounds and I love the fit of this kayak. I have a small fleet of kayaks and this one is my favorites for long term comfort. It has become my primary boat. The flange has a secondary benefit of protecting the boat finish both on and off the water. Like a protective bumper extending a half inch (all the way around the boat), it has saved the gel coat from getting scratched on many, many occasions.
I love the back hatch, but the front hatch is a screw on type that gets stuck on a hot summer day. I combat this by loosening the hatch a bit before taking it outside in the sun. If it still gets stuck anyway, I splash water on it to cool it a bit and cover it with something for a minute or so. I understand NC has switched suppliers now, so that may no longer be an issue.
The people at NC were great, and the build and delivery estimate was right on the mark. I had some trepidations about purchasing a boat sight unseen, but It was a good buying experience. The boat was packaged well and was quite a beauty when delivered brand new! She has some fading now and scratches from heavy use, but she still looks great on the water.
Because we live in the NW we were able to see the boats before purchasing and the guys were patient with us and answered all our questions.
Overall impression is very good. This is a boat that wants to go straight and fast. No need for a rudder. Paddlers just starting will quickly settle in. If you want a nimble surfing boat this is not it. Down wind / down current turns are a challenge. With that said we had both boats in the Oregon surf last weekend and they did fine. Punched thru 3' to 4' breakers without a problem. On flat water we can keep up with anybody.
There are a few things I would change. First, the grab lines are inadequate for rescue work. I have relined the deck all the way to both ends and it's much better. Second, the grab handles need to be single line, not loops, that extend past the ends of the boat. In surf conditions when you are trying to control a boat while in the water it can trap a finger or leverage the boat out of your hand instead of letting it rotate. Third, we are having trouble sealing the hatches. In normal rainy conditions it may only be a couple of tablespoons. In a full day surf class when your in (capsized) and out of the water a lot we got well in excess of a cup.
Summary assessment is this is great starting boat for normal touring particularly at the price. Much better than any roto mold boat I've seen. An easy retrofit makes it much safer in challenging conditions but is not needed if most of your kayaking is on calm water.
There are only a couple of things I'd fault. One is the organization of the lines on the boat. I plan to rig mine differently at some point. I also plan to replace the seat at some point.
Overall, though, I'm very happy with it. It really does track well and, with a little practice, it does turn nicely. This isn't a boat I'd use in a rocky river but I'd go anywhere in open water in it. Good looking, very well built, a lot of fun to paddle long distances.
Speed-wise, like I said earlier, it glides and goes. Very pleased. It rolls easily as well. I am an intermediate kayaker and if I can roll it, then it must be easy to roll. The back deck is low enough that I can lay back flat on it.
The hatches are great - secure and keeps good dry. I kept my jacket in the bow compartment and it was dry.
The guys at NC are great. They made a few customizations for me before I picked it up. Very pleased.
Overall, I am very very pleased with the boat. I give it a 8 because nothing deserves a 10 - ever. And surely there is something out there that I think will be better. I am an anti-superlative guy so an 8 is very high mark for me.
The Quest LT is a very light boat for its size. I put it on the scales and got 42 pounds. It is top quality construction with choices of colors and options I have not seen from other companies. I was also able to go to meet the builders/owners in Tacoma. They are confident about their product, they are all about quality, not mass construction. They have used deck fittings and thru-hull fixtures that are built to last and remain watertight.
As for how the boat handles, tracks like a dream and glides forever after only a few strokes. It is relatively easy to hit cruising speed with minimal effort and waves, wind, and current present very little obstruction. Primary stability is reasonable for the experienced paddler and secondary is amazing. I have not rolled it yet, but I haven't tried either. The rub rail detracts slightly from the lines of the boat but keeps the spray away.
I have only a few gripes with it. First is the foot pegs, on longer outings I need to install heel pads. Second is that I would have like to have seen more rounded rub rails. These are minor things having to do more with the owner that the boat itself. So why rate it an 8? A 10 would imply that it is the perfect boat, flawless in any situation or need. That being said, this boat is perfect for my needs and I will paddle it till my arms fall off.
The kayak does everything it was designed to do: it is very fast; it tracks exceptionally well; it is well-constructed; it is light and therefore easy to carry; it has plenty of storage space in its bow and stern hatches; and it is easy to roll. For these reasons, it earns a rating of a full "10". Let me elaborate on my assessment. At the end I'll also mention what the kayak is not optimal for.
Receiving the kayak in February presented a practical problem, because the bay was only 34 degrees F. Not having the patience to try it out several months later, I took it to a YMCA pool that was having kayak lessons. First, to my pleasant surprise I didn't tip over. I was used to a much wider Seda Viking, so with my lack of experience on narrow kayaks I expected the worst. I'd rate the primary stability as moderate: not too tipsy, but in 2-foot seas I'd hesitate to try to take a photograph off to the side. Second, I was pleasantly surprised to roll it successfully five out of six attempts. My surprise came because I had learned to roll in the same pool only a month before and I had not practiced between those visits. The only roll I can manage on any kayak is a lay-back roll, and the Quest's low stern makes it easy. The seat and combing also aren't too high to get in the way.
I haven't yet attempted to load up the kayak with gear for an expedition, but I can attest to quite a bit of room under each of the two hatches. Because the kayak has no skeg, moreover, the rear storage section is roomier than otherwise.
I love the kayak's light weight. At 63 years old, my knees aren't what they used to be and I value a light boat. To me the light layup is worth a $1000 premium. The kayak's long length adds to its hull speed, which I greatly appreciated on long trips of 20 miles or more. I also have no trouble keeping up with younger, stronger, more experienced kayakers. I am 6 foot, 1 inch tall, and the kayak is plenty roomy for my long legs and size-12 feet.
My knees received some support from the inside of the combing, but I wanted a snugger fit and added foam knee braces. I am narrow at the hips and also added padding there. Customizing the kayak presented no problems. Because the kayak is narrow, one constraint is that I can't comfortably wear my chunkiest boots, but the tradeoff for speed is worth it to me.
My only complaint is a minor one: the front and rear perimeter grab lines don't extend all the way to the bow and stern. I wish the company would have an option for perimeter lines to go all the way forward and back. Despite this complaint, the kayak excels in all those other design specifications; it earns the top rating.
The NC 17 Quest is not my only kayak, because different designs are optimized for different conditions. When I want a "play boat" for rock gardens, where maneuvering quickly is required, I use my Necky Chatham 16. This boat has more rocker than the Quest, and unlike the Quest the bow and stern are more pointed – without a more vertical keel structure. The Chatham is also plastic, so I feel uninhibited as I try to master taking off and landing through surf. The Chatham is heavy but I'll work around that as long as it is not my only boat. Finally, when I want a kayak with very high initial stability – such as when I take a novice out on the bay – my old Seda Viking serves that purpose.
In sum, the NC 17 Quest does everything it was designed to do. No boat meets all needs, and therefore I wouldn't call it an "all-around boat." If you have some experience and want a high-end fiberglass boat, I strongly recommend this product.
In defense of NC, their recommended limit is for a person of 6'2" and that is probably the very limit. It is a very fast and well made kayak. I tried it in kind of cold weather so I did not push the limits of lean stability. I really like the seat, it supports the back and thighs just right. If you are 6' or shorter it would be a great boat. It is neat the way you can order colors.
The boat tracks very well as promised!
It is very stable! I entered from a floating dock in 12 feet of water, and stayed dry! The boat turns fine, for a 17 footer! I have only logged 5 miles in the kayak, so I can only give you a little detail, but I think I made a very good choice! I look forward to many more miles.