Going to Look at a Used NDK boat

I am going to look at a used NDK boat, an explorer – what should I look out for? I have seen alot of negative comments regarding quality here so I am little concerned. I know its a good fit (assuming the cockpit has not changed over the years), and I am very sure it will be more efficient than my barge tsunami. Principle uses are day trips and one-night camping.

What I am aware of-

-check backband mounts for stress crazing

-check hatches for tightness

-check condition of fiberglass and gelcoat

-check skeg cable for binding and friction

For quite a few years we had weigh-ins at our club picnic in CT.

A few Explorers have always taken the high weight prize with one at 68 lbs. A lot of people like the boat but not many like the weight.

Quality issues
You’ve covered most of them. A;so check the bulkheads for leakage if you can, or at least look and see if there are cracks or issues with their perimeters.

Also check the seat itself - older ones has issues with the seats failing while paddling. I’ve seen it happen. If you get a good one, you’ll like it

Check the coaming height at the back
I’ve seen a few NDKs with the coaming installed so low that you could barely get a spray skirt on. You may also notice that the coaming is twisted one way or the other.

Check that the skeg cable is firmly attached to the skeg box.

Check the cheek plates for cracking, as broken seats are one of the most common complaints.

Check the hull fore and aft of the skeg box for cracks, as they’re notorious for having little or no fiberglass in that area.

The real problem is that NDK boats are built using cheap crap materials and methods unsuitable for kayak construction by a company for whom quality is a foreign concept. It’s a shame, because their designs are very good.

my experiences with this company / these boats has been nothing but good.

just had a new explorer delivered, my second. exped layup. i know it’s heavy, we jokingly call them british heavies. would i like it to be as rugged and weight 30 or 40 pounds? sure. but THAT boat doesn’t exist.

it’s perfect, not a single fault. coaming is fine, no leaks, rope skeg works fine and on the whole, it’s beautiful. stock seat - perfect and comfortable.

so either i’m fortunate a few times over with these things or maybe, just maybe, folks could lighten up on the gratuitous bashing…bnystrom.

and you’ll call me an ndk homer in response, but that’s my DIRECT experience with boats i’ve owned - i’ve heard plenty of horror stories but heard and hearsay aren’t spelled all that differently, are they?

tangent on weight
Back in the day, when I was repairing gel coat blisters on my old inboard, I learned fiberglass could absorb water (from the inside of the hull or from the outside) and that it could take quite a while to dry out. (reference West Systems Epoxy Gel Coat Blistering Application notes)…could this account for part of the extra 10lb over the data sheet weight of 58 lb?

I appreciate the advice, thanks everyone.

I saw the NDK video on youtube. A lot of the work was being done by hand, without fixturing or any apparent means to control variation, so I would expect some differences from boat to boat.

the old layups
were about a finger thick

good things to check for
on any boat you are considering buying -esp. used.

no matter who makes it.

I also like to bring a flashlight to shine it inside the bulkheads and the floor of the hull checking thin spots.

Thicker areas will also show up which could indicate repair - not necessarily a bad thing, if repairs were done correctly, just good info to have.

Second Rick’s opinion

– Last Updated: Jul-11-12 9:29 PM EST –

I've owned two NDK's and never had a problem with either of them. Besides fitting me really well, I always felt confident while paddling both the ExplorerLV and the RomanyLV. While I'm currently paddling a Valley AvocetLV, it's because I wanted something different but it was a huge toss up between it and a SKUK Pilgrim (SKUK is the new name for NDK), a boat I'm still lusting after although owning almost 16' boats is a bit redundant.

I also second all the advice you've gotten here as it applies to any boat you might buy.

I have 2 NDK kayaks
2008 Explorer LV and 2010 Pilgrim Expedition.

Weights are in line with other glass boats of similar size I’ve hefted. Could be I was just lucky, but I suspect most of them weigh about what’s normal.

You always hear more about the exceptions than the run-of-the-mill stuff.

Explorer LV is cosmetically rough around the coaming (on the outside), and the bulkheads look like a kindergartner cut them, with rough and/or sharp edges. Yet the boat has no leaks; in fact, I had to drill tiny holes in the front and rear BHs to avoid the infamous hatch puffery when going between big diffs of altitude or between hot and cold environments.

Pilgrim Expedition arrived cosmetically better (and still watertight). I would buy another NDK boat–from a responsible dealer like the one I had. Of course, that’s my policy for any make anymore.

The truth is what it is

– Last Updated: Jul-12-12 7:19 AM EST –

NDK is the only kayak manufacturer that builds boats using a chopper gun, which is the cheapest, lowest-quality, lowest-consistency way to build a fiberglass boat. It's a method that's meant to be used to build thick hulls for large boats, not for thin-skinned kayaks, which require much more precise tolerances. That's why their boats are heavy, brittle and inconsistent in weight and quality.

I found the YouTube video to be quite interesting, as it shows how primitive their facilities and methods are compared to other manufacturers. Seeing people kneeling on the floor while daubing resin into fiberglass mat patches and stuffing a wad of loose glass into the end of a deck is enough to make one cringe. That's straight out of the 1960's.

As I've always said, their designs are great, but they have no clue how to build a quality boat.

Here's a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N19uNYPgKYg

been there plenty…don’t need the vid
and the vid couldn’t capture the fumes that would erase third grade outta your head. primitive conditions? seems like, but i’ve not been to another manufacturer plant so don’t have a comparison.

i won’t argue boat manufacturing process with you.

i will argue that the boars i’ve paddled have not been brittle. i’ve been bouncing one or another offa rocks for a long time and in my experience, they’re pretty rugged. any damage i’ve managed to inflict (on the boats mind you) has been highly localized, limited and for the most part easily field repaired.

Now you have me nervous

– Last Updated: Jul-12-12 5:14 PM EST –

I just bought a used 2006 NDK Greenlander Pro. With all this talk about quality control you have me nervous about my new/used boat. Mine isn't over weight. I haven't weighted it yet but seems about 54 pounds which is what its supposed to weigh. No cracks on mine or cracks on seat.

Like other have said look at the bulkheads bring a small flashlight to check it out. Test paddle it and get some water in the main compartment then afterward check to see if any got into the other compartments. Mine was dry and I had allot of water in it to check for that.

Just weighed mine its supposed to weigh 54 pounds and it weighs according to bathroom scale 54 pounds so seems like NDK weight on mine is right were its supposed to be.

also owned 2 NDK boats
Explorer LV and now Pilgrim Exp. I’ve read all Bnystrom’s tirades against these kayaks over the years but have never heard anyone call them brittle. They’re the opposite of brittle. And I’m pretty sure they’re not built with a chop gun.

The video is a selling point to me, what’s wrong with hiring a few local lads instead of sending the job overseas? You may need to tighten up a few things when they arrive, but the kayaks are solid and beautiful and take a beating like no other kayak I’ve seen.


The next time you’re up in Maine…
…stop by the Lincoln factory in Yarmouth and you’ll see how kayaks should be built.

Yes, NDK boats are brittle, which is why they crack and hole the way they do on heavy impacts. If they didn’t overbuild them and make them so friggin’ heavy, they’d never survive any abuse. That’s what’s required to compensate for poor quality materials and construction. A better quality layup is more resilient and flexes rather than cracking. It can be built much lighter and still be more durable.

If you prefer to deal with an extra 10-20 pounds of completely unnecessary weight, more power to ya! I guess if you buy your boats by the pound, NDKs are good deal. :wink:

Yes, they use a chopper gun on hulls…

– Last Updated: Jul-13-12 7:34 AM EST –

...and chopped strand mat on the decks. You can see it in the video, in the unevenness of the inner surfaces. They put a thin skim layer over the mat to hide it and improve the appearance. I've repaired a number of NDK boats, so I've seen how they're built, up close and personal.

As for the "local lads", would you really prefer to have your boat built by a teenager making minimum wage rather than someone with real experience and expertise?

seems like you’re now minimizing
their worth by calling them minimum wage employee’s? that’s rather insulting, isn’t it?

not to be melodramatic but my life has literally depended upon the experience and expertise of the local lads making those boats a few times. so far, that trust has not been misguided.

i would offer the opinion that their experience and expertise has value.

as my discussions with them while in the shop didn’t range so far afield as to include their income, i would refrain from commenting that they’re minimum wage employee’s.

why are u discounting actual experience?
Like two others here I paddle an NDK boat. It has taken a beating and contrary to your claim has not been “holed” after a severe impact.

When you continuously try to beat your drum over the actual experience others here have provided one has to question your motives.

Happens to all

– Last Updated: Jul-13-12 2:40 PM EST –

I have no interest in this food fight, but I have seen an NDK boat holed by hitting a rock. In fact, I know of several instances where that has happened and they were not all major hits. I have also seen the same thing happen if not worse to other big brands in similar situations. Whack a FG boat on the rocks often enough and you will break it sooner or later.

My understanding is one reason NDK boats are built the way they are is so they will tend to fail in a way that is easy to repair in the field. Think about slapping on duct tape or some epoxy in a small hole as opposed to dealing with a large damaged area or split seam.

Anyone who thinks NDK boats are too tough to get damaged from rough usage just hasn't used them hard enough. I believe Rick would agree from experience. Same goes for other brands. Having said that, NDK boats have earned a reputation of taking rough use and coming through and when you are way out there on a limb, that, more than techniques of construction, is what matters. I agree they tend to all around tough boats compared to some others and that does give you peace of mind which is no small thing.

If you think only NDK boats are heavy, go lift a few heavy duty Valleys or P&H boats. I have never encountered a Cetus LV that did not weigh at least 58#, once owned a super tough AA that weighed 60+#.