Older Nordkapp (S) v. Rom. Explorer

-- Last Updated: Mar-07-07 4:14 AM EST --

Don't groan. Here's what I know - The Explorer is more appropriate for less experienced although still an advanced kayak. The deck on the Nordkapp is high. There is another Nordkapp which has a built in skeg which doesn't turn as easily. Older Explorers had quality issues.

What I don't understand - Why SeaKayaker Magazine gave the Nordkapp S a 2003 award for being great big water boat. Why some say the difference between the two kayaks is negligible, while others say they are two completely different kayaks.

At 5'11", 215 lbs., muscular build, good paddler, I'm VERY curious about the nuances between these kayaks. No, I can't just go and paddle both right now - too much distance and too much ice.

I'm looking for a big water boat which can handle ROUGH seas including surf. No, I don't want a Romany - I want one of these two kayaks.

Thanks, Glenn

I’ve owned an Explorer and a Nordkap HM and for your intended use I would pick the explorer. In the explorer I can relax and switch off even while playing in the surf but with the Nordkap I find I have to concentrate the whole time.

Above seems common

– Last Updated: Mar-07-07 7:56 AM EST –

When we got our expedition boats from Maine Island Kayak, Tom Bergh talked about the diff between the his older Nordkapp and the Explorer. While they have made the Nordkapp more light-load and user friendly in the more recent version, the basic personality of the boat is still there according to people we've spoken with. (And it seemed so from trying out the Nordkapp S.)

Tom basically said that he liked the Explorer, especially for guiding and coaching, because no matter what the conditions he didn't have to think about the boat. He could focus on what he needed to get done rather than boat handle. With the Nordkapp the boat still required some attention, and as a result of that the Nordkapp hadn't been wet in at least a few seasons. I should mention that he had plenty of seat time in major expeditions in the Nordkapp, because for so long it was the only boat out there.

His Nordkapp was mounted vertically along the side of the boat house. Both boats will handle the worst stuff, it really seems to come down to how the paddler wants to approach that. Also, the old Nordkapp was reputed to be much more difficult to handle unless it was loaded full, whereas the Explorer really doesn't need a full load to behave (I have the Explorer LV and can attest to that - same hull.)

Reader’s Choice award
The Sea Kayaker award was for the Nordkapp H2O (now simply the standard 'kapp) and was a reader’s choice award.

As I understand it, the newer Nordkapps are more paddler friendly than the older models. Even Valley notes better cockpit ergonomics and secondary stability.

The Explorer seems a more flexible boat doing well under varying loads and conditions.

Agree with that
I have a Nordkapp Jubilee and this kayak is great as an expedition boat (loaded), the Explorer is better as an all around boat.

If you can have only one boat I would go for the Explorer.


– Last Updated: Mar-07-07 9:55 AM EST –

Nigel Dennis has proved to the kayaking world that paddlers will trade hull efficiency for stability any day. When the Nordcapp came out you were considered advanced if you paddled one and could handle it's tippy hull. It gained a reputation as an advanced paddler's boat. If you paddle a Nordcapp for a while and get into an Explorer, you will think you are dragging something on the skeg. Tom Burgh actually told a woman friend of mine that same thing considering that she wanted an Explorer and also owns a Nigel Foster boat and a Necky.

I think the higher stability of the Explorer is a good trade and has more benefits than a slippery hull that makes you work all the time. You asked about surf or riding swells? Sometimes you need more hull speed to get good rides. But you may feel more secure not getting as many rides in the Explorer.

Have an older Nordkapp and
had a Romany, which has been likened to an Explorer. I have the HM with the integral skeg. Way different boats. The Kapp is really hard to turn but it is a blast to surf on large ocean waves. A bit of a horsing is required for playing on lake waves. The Romany was nicer for tight maneouvering in rock gardens and for quick turns in short interval surf. The Kapp is nicer for catching swell and large deep water waves and felt faster on flat water. The build on my Nordkapp is very solid. It is about 25 years old. 2 years ago I crashed it into a semi submerged rock while surfing. I took off some gelcoat but the the glass was unscathed.

Options between those two
While since its introduction, the Explorer was the primary option for those who would otherwise paddle a Nordkapp, there have been a number of boats introduced in recent years whose performance characteristics fall between those two.

Two of the most successful of these boats are the Valley Aquanaut and the Impex Force boats.

If you are truly set on limiting your choices to an old Nordkapp or an Explorer, you may be missing out on a boat that is best for your use and desires.

This is an Excellent Point
I attempted to e-mail you because I thought your posts made sense re: Aquanaut, Explorer, etc.

I’m mostly looking for a play boat which can handle big stuff but still move out and run a bit fast.

Is the Aquanaut a good candidate???

cockpit fit and comfort
is a HUGE issue with any boat purchase. the Nordkapp has lower decks than you think (owned a 2005 model, purchased brand new) and seems narrower than Explorer though isn’t on paper. it gets slim very fast and holds it’s widest width over a short span. ultimately, i found the Nordkapp too tight and restricting for my leg length. made me keep my legs nearly straight, and close together. the Explorer HV is the most comfortable boat i’ve ever been in and the deck modification for legs is brilliant. also the Ex also lays on it’s side with a strange degree of poise. it is almost hard to capsize this boat as it will recover with balance from almost any brace attempt. it may not often be worded this way, but i believe that this is the boats calling card, it’s claim to fame if you will. it is playful, and endlessly forgiving. this is why so many people use it to play in heavy water. recoverability from any angle of heel at any time.

can handle big stuff but still move out
and run a bit fast"

The Aquanaut handles the big stuff very well - ask Matt Bowler, among others. It is also one of the faster Brit boats.

I greatly prefer the 'naut’s manners in seas to any other boat I’ve paddled.

It has somewhat lower primary and slightly higher secondary than an Explorer.

It has lower decks and a longer narrower waterline than a Nordkapp or Explorer.

All that being said, few would call the 'naut a playboat. If I was in the market for a long playboat, I would look to the Nordkapp LV. Livelier than an Aquanaut is has more rocker therefore turns easier without much lean. If you don’t need the very high stabilities of the flat bottom slab sided Explorer, I would suggest to look to the Aquanaut and Nordkapp LV.

second wilsoj2’s recommendation…

– Last Updated: Mar-07-07 9:13 PM EST –

It sounds like the Nordkapp LV is what you're looking for. It's fast, extremely nimble, and a lot of fun to paddle. I'd take that boat over any other larger sea kayak out there right now with the exception of maybe my Silhouette which is equally great but lots of folks do not like it's limited initial stability.

Fast brit boats
The Force boats will run away from an Explorer and even give the Nordkapp a rival.

Norkapp-fastest in a head wind

Explorer-fastest in a tail wind, more predictable in rough conditions.

Force-Fastest on flat water, a wet ride in a head wind. More stable than the Nordkapp, less room for gear than the Explorer.

The P&H Cetus will probably be the best boat on the planet, fastest, stable, playful, and built with quality.

I would recommend the Explorer if you were choosing between that and the Nordkapp.

… or, maybe check out the Cetus

– Last Updated: Mar-07-07 10:48 PM EST –

Paddled the prototype boat (thats been kicking around the east coast since last summer/fall) for a few minutes a couple of weeks ago, but was impressed with how an 18' fairly fast boat could turn. Alex, did you get a chance to paddle this beast?

I understand the production boat will have some slight modifications, but might be worth checking out.

the Cetus is on my list
Who will be stocking these in the USA? i.e. where to i have to drive to?

Time and Conditions?

– Last Updated: Mar-08-07 8:15 AM EST –

Don't know about speed comparisons since I have no objective data, but to extent you suggest the Force is mainly a fast flat water boat, I disagree. My experience has been that it is very easy to drive with the wind in any direction relative to heading. I would call its feel in rough/sloppy stuff as one of aplomb in that you can just keep paddling and maintain speed without worrying about other stuff. It can be turned easily and with more quickness than expected. For these reasons I have found it an exceptional boat in terms of having the traits needed for the design goal of a go anywhere touring boat. Not saying anything negative about the others, they are all great boats with different personalities.

Dealer List
Here is a link to the US dealer list.



Steve Maynard paddled the prototype out to the island the first day of training but he ended up swapping boats with Jeff Allen. It looked nice and Jeff seemed to like the boat but paddling straight relatively slowly in calmer conditions probably isn’t the best test. It looked a bit large to me and I’m generally biased against P&H and Pyrahna boats (they don’t fit me very well) but I’ll reserve judgment until I can try out a production model.

I think you’re leaving a few out

One thing about older Nordcapps
The cockpit coaming size is narrower than the Ocean ones used on the Anas and Pintail. They corrected that in later years. It makes for a little tougher rolling and sculling since your body wants to press on the side of the coaming when you’re on your side.