NKD Explorer vs. Valley Aquanaut?????


I was wondering what comments you could make about how these two boats compare. I know that they both fill a very similar niche and are both simliar in size, weight, and design. How do you think that they compare in terms of performance ad comfort (turning, tracking, rolling, speed, stability, etc.

I am curious to hear what people have to say about these two great boats.

I currently have a Valley Aquanaut and like it, but have always heard great things about the Explorer which is basically a classic. I only had the opportunity to paddle one once, but it was not a good evaluation as it was not fitted to me at all and I did not want to make adjustments to the owner’s backband etc, but I remember that the cockpit and thigh braces were very comfortable—more so than the Aquanaut perhaps. Maybe I will look to get an Explorer for my next boat.

I have heard bad things about NDK’s quality. I also am not sure if they offer the Explorer with a wire skeg vs. rope skeg. Furthermore, I think that the Valley has the edge when it comes to hatches in that the large oval hatches seem to be superior for loading gear. I also have heard that the Aquanaut is a bit faster, as confirmed by the data in Sea Kayaker magazine (although it is close to the data for the Explorer).

I am curious to hear what you have to say!

thanks for your help


Explorer v Aquanaut

– Last Updated: May-11-06 8:20 AM EST –

I think for many who want an expedition length boat, it comes down to either an Aquanaut or Explorer. They were my final two as they were for a number of paddlers I know. I chose the 'naut, some friends have chosen the Explorer.

I prefer the way the Aquanaut handles chop, following & quartering seas etc... I find the Aquanaut notably faster, better tracking and smoother in its transitions through the water. It is a more demanding boat than an Exporer in that it requires lean to turn well and isn't as forgiving when rolling, sculling, etc. I prefer the rounder more v'd hull of the 'naut as it is livlier in the water than the Explorer's squarer, flatter hull section.

An Explorer makes a better guest and schooling boat than an Aquanaut. It has higher primary and is very forgiving. Its flatter hull and greater rocker make it easy to turn. It is a very reassurring boat that genuinely supports skills work. As with Valley boats, with NDK boats one can choose either rope or slider controlled skeg. NDK qc seems to be much better these days than in the past.

Boat churning

– Last Updated: May-11-06 11:41 AM EST –

Since they are similar boats, it seems like you might have too much money or time on your hands!

With the Aquanaut, an Explorer isn't going to do anything significantly different or better.

It's possible that an Explorer might make sense if it were more comfortable than the Aquanaut and you could not fix the Aquanaut by foaming it out for a better/more comfortable fit.

frequent subject
Those two boats show up in a lot of threads. Here’s one:


more comfortable than the Aquanaut
The Explorer has a more defined keyhole providing better contact for most paddlers than the Aquanaut. The seat in my 'naut has been moved forward about an inch, along with about an inch of shaped foam under the deck (and what qualifies as flanges in a Valley boat) I get pretty good contact. An irony of the Aquanaut having lower decks and being slightly lower volume than the Explorer is that its keyhole cockpit is overly broad.

Subaru Forester vs Outback

Another boat - make it different
If you’re thinking of another boat, keep the Aquanaut for what it does well, and get a boat that does different things well.

As frequently noted, no boat does all things well. You have a great big water, distance covering, gear hauling boat. Maybe its time to get a shorter, play boat. Many have a 17+’ boat for long paddles and camping as well as a 16’ boat for day paddles and skills work. My wife has an Explorer LV and a Vela, David L has an Aquanaut and an Avocet, Jed has a Greenlander Pro and a Romany (among others), I’ve got an Aquanaut and a Romany, etc…

The more boats the better :wink:

Which is which?
Which is the Forester and which is the Outback?

Horses for courses…

– Last Updated: May-11-06 5:53 PM EST –

I have a Romany. Two friends of mine (one larger and one smaller) like the fit of the Avocet better. I've become very comfortable in the Romany but probable would find the Avocet just as comfortable.

Anyway, the only reason to go through replacing the Aquanaut is if the Explorer was significantly more comfortable and the Aquanaut could not be fixed. They're both good boats and similar. It's a different discussion if you are looking to buy one or the other (and have neither).

Personally, I'd look at a Anas Acuta for another boat.

LV Aquanaut
The low volume is a great fit. Can’t wait to get it in conditions

I have an outback
It is not a very fast car by most standards until the road conditions deteriorate and then my outlook on life improves with its nice handling. I also have an Explorer and view its manners similarly. I hate analogies like these, why did I start that?

Oh ya, if the thread originator already has an Aquanaut, I agree with Wilso’s view of getting a day boat like a Romany/Avocet/Chatham/Force 10 from Navarrone/whatever.


In my limited experience
Flat water demo, the unloaded Aquanaut seemed “corky” compared to the Explorer. (I’m about 165 lbs) So it may depend on paddler weight and whether you are paddling loaded or unloaded.

Keep the Aquanaut, your friends will appreciate you carrying all the extra gear.

For ‘corky’…
…paddle an unladen Nordkapp :wink:

What you find corky some find lively. A friend who just got an Aquanaut had a similar experience to mine when comparing it to an Explorer - the Explorer felt leaden.

The 'naut is slightly lower volume than an Explorer and has a longer narrower waterline at all loads. Its active personality on flat water is owing to its rounder chines, and more v’d hull, along with its narrower waterline beam. These characteristics also help give it very confident rough water capabilities.

The Explorer and Aquanaut are each great boats. Anyone who has one of them should feel they have a good boat for carrying gear, transversing distances, and handling challenging seas.

New Naut
I’m the one with the new-to-me Aquanaut. Both of these boats are lovely - I tried out the Explorer in waves and wind; have not had the Naut in rough water yet. The Valley hull feels a little more lively to me - I’m used to a greenland skin boat.

The big factor in my choice? There were no used Explorers to be found in the NE this spring - there were several Aquanauts. Impatience won out. But after two outings and a pool session in the past week, I’m still grinning!


Why we buy boats in flat water
These are as has been said BOTH fine boats. Neither, in reality is leaden or corky. Both are EXPEDITION boats that prefer a bit more Paddler & Gear to make them shine. They are unusual boats in that they do very well as day boats, a rare quality across all other boats, imo.

Still it really amazes me how few of us actually go out in rough water to test these boats befor buying them. A recent post got me thinking. A person who prefered an 18 ft. boat, who paddles 95% or more on flat water day paddles, getting an expedition boat that will be significantly slower than a shorter boat at speeds under 4.5 k, something he is not likely to be willing to paddle over. When I tested to Naut and Explorer, I went in big conditions. That is where they really shine, and imo, they are very similar boats with gear and in big stuff. Great transitions from primary to secondary, great at turning, wonderful in following seas, they scream of enlarging one’s possibilities and skills. There are other great boats, don’t get me wrong, either of these boats is terrific.

To me they
are both very uninspiring. Sorry…I know this is like saying there’s no Jesus…but, I much prefer a Romany to an Explorer, and a Nordkapp or Pintail to the Aquanaut. BUT, that’s just me. To each his own…

How I chose…

– Last Updated: May-12-06 3:25 PM EST –

I was fortunate in making my decisions on both of my primary boats. I bought both my Aquanaut and my Romany from Tom Bergh.

Tom would not let me order my first Brit boat (the Aquanaut) from him until I had paddled it numerous times, including a circumnavigation of Peaks Island with seas Steve Maynard referred to as 'interesting.' That last demo was with a load in the boat (Tom put in ballast to simulate paddling the boat loaded.) I've frequently retold the story of the boat's responsiveness in those conditions, which had lead Steve to bring his paddlers back into the shore, being the real final deciding factor.

By the time Tom would accept my order for the 'naut, I had demoed close to two dozen different boats.

When I started talking about a new day boat two years later, Tom would not sell me a Romany until after he loaned me one for a week of paddling on the Maine coast.

Tom is being very genuine when he says MIKCo is not about selling boats. Tom does not make it easy to buy a boat. He insists on matching a paddler with an appropriate boat.

additional context
When I was looking for a boat in 2003, I already had an original version (drop skeg poly) Elaho which is a very lively boat in line with Salty’s preferences.

I was challenged camping out of that boat without having gear stowed on deck. Also, though a very quick boat, the drag at cruising speed could be daunting.

When demoing expedition length boats, Tom suggested I keep the Elaho as a play boat. My replacing the Elaho with the Romany was from finding the Romany better behaved (especially in quartering seas) and the boat being much lighter (being an Eite layup) making the it very easy to haul around without strain or assistance even when tired.

Salty, that you grouped the Nordkapp and the Pintail together as compared to the 'naut…

I must confess … I am a Nordkapp before Explorer person, and prefer a Nordkapp to an Aquanaut…I love the Nordkapps attitude

I prefer the Pintail to the Romany

(in defence of the Explorer) it’s a work horse of a boat (but with very little attitude)

Best Wishes


Hatch sizes
I prefer the large hatches on the Valley to the NDK hatches. While I think the relative performance is similiar between the boats (and I have certainly been a loyal Nigel Dennis Kayak fan) the small hatches have kept me from purchasing a NDK boat. I do a fair amount of expeditions and the size of the stern hatch would be an annoyance to me on all but the shortest of trips. I’ve often wondered why NDK boats haven’t upgraded to a larger stern hatch.