Anybody have their pros and cons of these two boats in comparison to each other?
Never paddled the argonaut
but the oval hatches make it a bit easier to load.
I have paddled an explorer (regular v)extensively and flat water paddled an aquanaut last night. I was really impressed with the primary stability and maneuverability of the aquanaut but it weathercocked noticably more than my explorer.
If you cut the seat out and put in your own (lower) seat you can probably fit into an explorer regular volume.
I have an Argonaut and I love it, but I haven’t paddled an Explorer HV. A Explorer feels too twitchy for me, but I’m 6’7" so I have a higher center of gravity than most. If I had an Explorer I would rip the seat out, lowering my center of gravity and giving me a bit more room.
IMHO the VCP boats beat the NDK in construction quality, which is why so many people are buying Aquanauts and Argonauts these days, then again they’re still buying Explorers too.
In general people seem to say that the Argonaut turns easier, is a bit faster, but weathercocks a bit.
I’m in Northern Mass so if ever want to try out my Argonaut give me a yell.
VCP - NDK
I’ve paddled an Explorer (regular volume) and own an Aquanaut. I’ve never paddled an Argonaut and have yet to meet anyone who did not find it too big.
The hull profile is quite different between the Valley boats such as the Argonaut/Aquanaut/Avocet and the Explorer/Romany NDK boats.
These Valley boats are fully soft edge round chined while the NDK Romany/Explorer have, what NDK calls a ‘semi-hard chine’, aka hard chine with soft edges. The Valley boats roll onto their chine by inclination. The Valley hull feels more fluid in the water.
The Aquanaut bow digs in and cuts through much small to medium chop that the Explorer bow rides over. As a result, the Aquanaut provides a wetter ride in such seas.
My Aquanaut has very little rocker and gets is manueverability from its ease of lean. The Explorer has a good deal more rocker and turns without much lean.
This difference in rocker is likely what accounts for the Aquanaut handling following and quartering seas with greater ease than the Explorer. It also is an apsect of why the Aquanaut has a longer narrower waterline and is faster than the Explorer.
There have been many threads that include extensive discussion of the Explorer and Aquanaut
If you have not already, try a regular Explorer and an Aquanaut. Each need an amount of padding to fit an ‘average’ size (6’ 180lbs) male paddler. They may fit you without padding.
Fit on these boats
My fit on the Explorer and Aquanaut(6’ 225lbs)is to the point that I wouldn’t really need any fill or padding, but the flip side is that is with just wearing shorts and a t-shirt, which means wearing colder weather clothing would be tough. I also sit these boats somewhat deeper in the water not leaving me to much room for carrying additional gear/weight. The Argonaut is a comfortable fit with some room to spare and offers the highest secondary stability of the three to me, but I like others wonder about the volume and size of the boat. It seems something between the Argonaut and the Aquanaut would be the best fit for me, but such a beast doesn’t exist so…?
If you’re gonna carry lots of equipment and fresh water too then go with the Argonaut. It weathercocks a little, but that’s what the skeg is for. I have an Explorer (standard) and like it a lot. If you’re gonna day paddle and play, the regular Explorer might work best, even at your size, unless your thighs are big. I’ve had 300 lbs. (total) in my Explorer and it was OK but was quite a bit slower than unloaded. Try 'em all as extensively as possible. The Valley boats have a better build quality in general.
You summed it up perfectly
That is exactly how I feel in the boats. I’m 6’3" 215. I think the Aquanaut paddled nicer than the Argonaut, the Argonaut felt a little sluggish to me and weathercocked more. It’ probably mandatory to replace the seat in NDK boats. I can just fit into a Romany 16 that a friend has a custom seat in and couldn’t even get into one with the factory seat. The Explorer and Explorer HV are better and would probably be great with new seats.
Funny thing is that I just spent a week in a P&H Quest that I borrowed and liked it better than any of the above. I’d never really given it a serious look before because I thought it would be too big. You may want to try giving one a test if you haven’t already. Seemed to Have a nice balance of speed and manuverablity and was well behaved in confused chop. Very likely to be my next boat.
What did you notice about it in different conditions? I have sat in it. Good fit on seat and comfortable, but like the Argonaut found even extra volume in cockpit area. To big for day use? Any others out there have experience with this boat?
Explorer and Argonaut
I’ve been paddling an Explorer for about a month now and would generally agree with the other assessments in this thread. The seat is not all that comfortable and will be coming out in favor of a foam seat when I get a chance. That will also provide more cockpit room. Once that’s done, you’re welcome to try it out and see how it fits. I’ve paddled an Argonaut only briefly and found it a bit too big as a day paddling boat. I’m 6’4" 200lb. The Aquanaut is a nice boat but, even at my size, it’s pretty tight… feels almost like I’m sitting ON it rather than IN it. So, yeah, something between the Aqua and the Argo would be great.
Does this mean I got to build another boat?
Sounds like the perfect way to get exactly what you want Just combine the best features of your top 3 boats!
Quest versus Explorer
I’ve owned both both and elected to keep the Quest and sell the Explorer. The Quest is more comfortable, easy to load, paddles better loaded (less a slug), is faster and has better primary stability. I’m 6" 165 and had to do extensive glassed in thigh bracing to make it fit as the cockpit volume is too large for skinny guys. Loaded, weathercocking goes away; unloaded (as a day boat)the skeg is helpful, but you often need to edge the boat in quartering or beam seas. This is because the Quest has a tighter bow than the Explorer (or Tempest), so the stern skids. For the same reason, the Explorer surfs much better than the Quest, which broaches almost immediately. If I could only have one boat, it would be the Explorer with a different seat (although I might chose the Aquanaut or the new Necky Chatham 18–haven’t paddled either) as it would be a great expedition and day boat. Since I can have two boats, I keep the Quest for long paddles (20+ miles)and for camping, and paddle a Pintail for day trips and surfing.
It will need some minicell for sure
However, I was really, really comfortable in it for long periods on the water. Loaded I could pull out the camera in 2-3 foot clapotis and take pictures of my wife blasting through waves next to me. I could move around quite a bit in the cockpit area but didn’t have any problems locking in for rolling, sculling or surfing even without padding. The seat is actually about an inch too wide for me but will pad out easily.
I was most surprised at how nimble it seemed and how incredibly well it responded to edging. It steered through rocks and along cliff faces beautifully when loaded and weathercocked only slightly. Empty it weathercocked more but was correctable with a little skeg. I’m used to paddling rudderless/skegless so the skeg was a nice convenience with quartering winds on relatively flat water. When the waves were up I tried surfing a few waves and that was where it seemed to need the skeg most. My Falcon 18 definitely surfs better, but maybe I am just more used to it. Additionally it is not as fast as the Falcon, but it felt much faster than the Argonaut or the Explorer and seems to have the balance of speed and playfulness I am looking for.
Aquanaut freeboard etc…
According to the Sea Kayaker tests the Aquanaut performs best with a load of 250lbs. The same stats show that the draft only increases from 4.3" to 5.4" when the load increases from 200 to 300 hundred pounds.
You might try sitting in one in your wetsuit and/or drysuit and see how you fit. Then paddle it.
Everyone I’ve spoken to and nearly everything I’ve read notes the Argonaut’s tendency to weather cock. The Aquanaut does not have this issue and is also faster.
Unless you have a dealer who is personal friends with Nigel Dennis, I would avoid ordering an Explorer. We ordered my wife’s from a very old friend of Nigel’s (also someone who was part of his Antartic expedition) and one of only two or three still willing to import NDK boats, and there were still screw-ups and delays. If getting an NDK boat, buy one from someone who has already taken care of whatever issues the boat may have had.
Better yet, buy a Valley or P&H boat. Both are generally highly reliable manufacturers with good quality control.
NDK Explorer HV
New NDK Explorer HV (2001) with cable skeg on sale at The Kayak Centre in Wickford, RI for $2,280.