I just found this great website and I was hoping some of you knowledgeable folks could help me with a dilemma.
My wife and I are trying to replace our old Rouge River canoe for a newer, better designed canoe. We normally paddle creeks, slow rivers, and small lakes. We were looking for a canoe that would let us take camping gear for a overnight trip every so often.We had researched and fixed on the Mad River Explorer 16ft in Royalex but then my wife saw a review for a Nova Craft Prospector 16ft and now we are stuck. We have tried to find out which one has the best bang for the buck being money is tight now but haven’t found a true standout winner. We found these two canoes for about the same price and can’t figure out which one is better for us. Any advice would be much appreciated!
I just found this great website and I was hoping some of you knowledgeable folks could help me with a dilemma.
MRC Explorer and NC Prospector
Your question will probably generate some passionate responses.
Both of these boats are jack-of-all-trades type hulls and both will carry a pretty prodigious load. I have had a Kevlar Explorer for many years. It is a half foot longer than the Royalex version. With its single center thwart/yoke it is very easy to load and unload.
Prospector canoes all evolve from the original Canadian Chestnut Prospector and many makers produce them but they are all a bit different, even those of the same length. In my opinion, the Nova Craft Prospector is one of the nicest of the bunch with just enough rocker.
I think either canoe would suit your purposes well. The biggest difference between them is the shallow V hull of the Explorer versus the shallow arch hull of the Prospector. The Prospector also seems to carry its rocker more smoothly into the center section of the boat. Shallow V hulls increase wetted surface area and slightly reduce the maximum hull speed, but that is unlikely to be a factor of any significance for you. The shallow V hull is said to enhance tracking a bit. These hulls can be turned nicely, but most folks find that shallow V hulls spin best when leaned toward the outside of the turn, so as to place the offside “flat” of the hull parallel to the water surface. Overall, though I would say the Prospector hull is a bit more nimble.
I would say that roughly the Explorer is a little more geared toward flat water paddling but can handle most rivers fine. The Prospector is perhaps a little more oriented toward river paddling but does fine on flat water as well.
Well, They’re Both Good Boats
I owned a royalex Mad River Explorer for a long time. Good boat, but that shallow V will occasionally “Hang” on something in shallow water. But, when you’ve become accustomed to the boat, you’ll find you can lean that boat on either side of that shallow V and it is very stable there.
I’ve only paddled the Novacraft Prospector once, but it’s a boat that made me smile. It’s big, it will hold a lot of gear. Maybe more than you really need? You would be making a good decision with EITHER of these boats, but let me just throw another one in there for food of thought.
Bell Northwind and Bell Prospector. Both are a bit lighter to carry than either of the other two. Bell is out of business, but Bell boats can still be found if you look. Bells version of the Prospector is a little smaller all the way around, making it a bit less susceptible to being blown about in the wind.
The Northwind is just the sweetest royalex tandem I’ve ever paddled! It is easy to get up to speed and Bell’s shouldered tumblehome (where it pulls in at the gunnels) keep you from banging them with your knuckles when you’re tired at the end of the day. The secondary stability is SO strong we never came close to dumping it. Even had an incident when we were paddling down a fast stretch and my wife stuck her paddle into a strong eddy and was pulled OVERBOARD! The canoe shipped a tiny bit of water and went back upright with me and my buddies grandaughter sitting amidships. She climbed into the bow seat so we could retrieve my wife (LOL)! I probably wouldn’t believe the story if I hadn’t seen it, but I have “Witnesses” (LOL)! If you can find a Northwind I have no doubt you’d love it. Heck, I’d buy it from you if you didn’t! We only sold ours because we paddle solo boats exclusively, now.
The good thing about your decision, is with ANY of these boats you’re making a good decision! After that Rogue, you won’t believe how much easier ANY of these boats will paddle. Here’s a few pictures of all 4 of these boats, to help you compare them side to side.
The first five pics are the two I’ve owned, the Explorer and Northwind. The last two pics are the Novacraft Prospector and Bell Prospector both being paddled solo by friends.
The MR Explorer is Ok when you paddle it as a solo boat and it is OK in really shallow stuff. I think it might be better in the wind but and a tiny bit faster in the flats.
I think you’ll be really happy with either boat.
You need to paddle them both
You may find that reviews that you read and this thread are accurate and nevertheless you find one boat more suitable than the other on the water .
Some people love Prospectors and others hate them when the wind comes up. Its a nimble boat but to get the best out of it the team has to have good correction strokes. But that might be a boat that you want to grow into.
As things depend as much about the paddlers goals as the boat…Which is best is darn hard to answer.
I owned and paddled both boats extensively. Honestly, while I am a bit of a boat snob and obsess over minor differences, they are almost the same. Both are very good all-round boats. If I was running big whitewater I might prefer the Nova. On a lake in the wind I might prefer the Explorer. Loaded down and pushed hardI think the Nova may move a bit faster, while the Explorer might track a bit better. Again, differences will be minimal.
Both are much better in twisty streams than a 17’ Penobscot or a Spirit II. Both are fine solo boats if the wind isn’t too strong. Both will carry a good camping load for a week or more. Both are tough as nails.
Both good choices.
IMO, Explorer is underperforming
Neither hull was designed to be high performance in any one arena. That said, it has been my experience the Explorer is more barge like. The NC Prospector is a very good Prospector. I think that the learning curve will be higher with the Prospector. But I also think the Explorer will be somewhat of a boring sedan.
So it depends what you want. You’ve stuck with paddling through a Rogue River, which is no small accomplishment. I’d say if you want to become canoeists, go for the Prospector. Windy days on open lakes may be a touch frustrating at first, but in the end you will be better paddlers.
Both Good But…
I have a MR Explorer. It’s a darn good all around canoe and I’m very pleased with it. BUT if I were to go back in time and make the purchase over again, I’d probably go with a Prospector. I find it to be slightly more nimble and a little better for solo paddling.
I’d say if you are going to be paddling mostly lakes, go with the Explorer. If you are going to be paddling mostly rivers and streams go with the Prospector.
I’ve owned both over the years.
They are similar. I was happiest with the prospector. The most important thing for me was performance in moving water - especially class 2 3 4 white water. The prospector really shines. In other conditions I don’t think there is a heck of a lot of performance difference. The prospector is a gorgeous looking hull in my mind. Looks like a canoe is supposed to look.
Thanks for all the advice!
My wife and I think that all the info points toward the Nova Craft Prospector. We really appreciate all the great info that y’all had to share and the good comparisons between the two canoes. I am so glad that I posted/looked here first before making my choice and I’m sure it’s going to be a good one. Thanks again for all yalls help! Now all I have to do is figure out the best way to put it on a trailer.
I own a 16ft MR Explorer and a 15ft Nova Craft Prospecter.
All the above posters said it perfectly. I am not selling my Explorer but the Prospector is a lot more fun. Both boats would serve You well.
More decisions -
how to trim it out. If I remember there are options. Standard is great. The only thing I would say is this - not sure what the seats are strung with - but my personal preference is cane. Some will disagree. It is not as durable as other options. But it is very pretty and also very functional. It can be quite durable as well so long as you protect it when in long term storage (store indoors?) and so long as everyone understands that you step on the frame, not the cane. Something to consider. It sure is pretty.
Great boat upgrade. Same for paddling?
Congratulations on taking such a huge step up in boat quality. You will love the new boat, whichever one you choose. I say that because the worst hog-backed canoe I ever paddled was an aluminum boat with a broken keel and broken ribs. It was a total slug for making forward progress and was entirely too difficult to turn, yet that poor crippled boat was hog-backed far less than every single Rogue River canoe I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a few dozen of them. I bet you will look back on this and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Along those same lines, I think that if by chance your paddling technique is entirely “home grown”, this would be a good time to take a similar step regarding how you paddle. Maybe you guys are already good paddlers (that’s quite possible since the old Rogue River canoe did not become a divorce boat for you, and you are obviously making a very informed decision about your next boat), but if not, maybe give each other an accessory gift in the form of a practical paddling DVD or book. When it comes to books, I’m partial to “Path of the Paddle” by Bill Mason, and “Paddle Your Own Canoe” by Gary and Joanie McGuffin. Bill Mason’s DVD called “Path of the Paddle” is great too. Again, I am only “covering the bases” in this case, not knowing if this is applicable in your case or not, but from my own background I know that a little attention to learning proper techniques increases the enjoyment potential every bit as much as switching from a crappy boat to a good one. Have fun!!
Have owned them both
Prefer the NC Prospector, kept that one and sold the Explorer. IMHO, the Prospector is much more responsive when paddling.
Thanks for the great advice
We really appreciate all the really great advice that everyone gave us. We ordered our new NC prospector 16 today!!! Thank you for all the paddling advice. We do have a couple paddling books and are practicing our technique. We bought the rogue river used because we had never really canoed before. We wanted to get a feel for it and decide what we really wanted in a canoe before spending such a large amount of money. Thanks again.
Nova Craft Quality
Couldn’t help you with comparing the NC Prospector and Explorer. I’ve got a 94 Explorer in kevlar which I love, but its a different critter than the royalex version. Recently purchased a NC Pal in royalex lite and am very impressed with it. The boat is very solidly crafted and the seats with the laced webbing and the contoured carry yoke are a cut above the very good standard seats and trim of most other top drawer companies. Enjoy the boat!
Modern Designs, Materials
There are more modern hull shapes available in RX, Bell’s NorthWind, MRC’s Legend, OT’s Penobscot and Swift’s DuMoine come to immediate mind, but RX hulls are heavy and slow, which seems an unhappy combination.
Modern composites will be stiffer and sleeker through the water and can weigh half what a RX weighs, which translates into more fun while walking through the woods with a canoe overhead.
Again, there are many modern designs that out perform the OP’s binary decision tree, hulls that are faster, track better and turn with less effort, some from the same manufacturers.
Canoe was delivered damaged!
Well, our canoe came shipped from REI via FedEx today. I know we should have gone and picked it up somewhere but there is no one who stocks Nova Craft canoes near by to us. Anyway the bottom was scratched and the front of the canoe was crushed and dented! I was really shocked because I thought royalex was supposed to take a beating and pop back into place. We called REI and they were going to send out a replacement canoe thru a different carrier. Can’t say I’m a fan of FedEx after this!
Damage to boats during shipping is …
... quite common. I have heard of forklifts being driven straight through the side of a composite boat, as if one needs a forklift to pick up a composite boat!!!
One of my boats was damaged in similar fashion to yours, and another identical boat was severely damaged at both ends for the same reason. Seems the truckers like to stick them in the trailer crosswise. It does not reinforce any notion that truck drivers might be smart. Surely some have some common sense, but the ones that don't sure ruin things.
Good thing REI is going to help you out with this.
Yep, GBG is correct damage is common.
I had a heck of a time recently getting a canoe delivered. Several dealers told me that they will not ever ship a canoe again, because damage is inevitable. I ended up buying from Rutabaga, and they found me a very good freight company. The driver was super nice and helped me unpack the canoe and make sure it was perfect before he left. I had to have it shipped to my place of work as they would not do a residential delivery. I loaded it right onto my truck after we unpacked it.
I've ordered from REI before and found their customer service to be top notch. I'm sure they will make this right for you.
Have you seen all those videos of Fed Ex drivers tossing packages around? Google "Fed Ex Tosses Package". Not that they would toss a canoe over a fence, but who knows what else might happen. Truck freight companies are at least used to handling extra large deliveries.