P&H Quest / Impex Force 4 / Explorer???

I am about to order another Explorer…but before I do so I figure I should consider all other options.

Two boats I have never tried are the Quest or the Force 4. Both have good reviews and fill the niche I am looking for (probably the only two 18 foot boats I haven’t already owned). Actually I have never paddled any P&H boats nor Impex. I have some reservations abotu the P&H boats’ cockpit though…I have never sat in one but their thigh braces appear awfully small and I am not sure how locked-in one would feel in such a cockpit.

Can anyone give me some feedback from their experiences? Particularly performance in surf and rough water.

The Explorer for me is a tough boat to beat. It fits me very well, is super capable in all conditions, surfs well, etc. However I am not the biggest fan of its stability profile (a little more primary stability than I would care for) and it is not the most playful.

From what I have read these other two boats seem to have perhaps a bit lower primary with a good and well defined secondary (exactly what I prefer).

I may make a trip up to Jersey Kayaker tomorrow and do a demo on these boats, but wanted to gather some opinions first. Its nearly a 3 hour drive for me to get up there. I also am not a believer that you can really tell much about a boat in a demo paddle so I am curious to hear what others with extended experience in various conditions have to say.

My criteria / experience, etc: I a 5’8, 200 pounds, 4 star paddler and like to paddle in the roughest conditions I can find around here. I am looking for an all around boat that has a good balance of speed and maneuverability. Rough water performance and performance in surf are the most critical issues to me. Something that feels more playful than the Explorer would be nice but not if it results in a boat that is not as purely capable in rough water as the Explorer.

thanks for your help


I should add…
that I am only toying with this idea. Trying out other boats in the past has gotten me into trouble since I fully believe that you can’t get a real assessment of a boat until you have paddled it for a month or more and in all conditions.

The Explorer is a safe bet for me b/c I know what it can do in all conditions…trying another boat may be a bit risky for me but I want to consider all options before sinking the money into a new boat.


Nigel Foster Kayaks
I have a Legend built by Seaward in Canada. Absolute dream to paddle,edge and do manuevering strokes in. Build quality is outstanding.

I was going to buy an Explorer, but after testing both chose the Legend. I am very happy with my decision.

Not sure a match

– Last Updated: Jan-19-08 8:46 AM EST –

Caveat: personally I like the feel of the Force more than the Explorer which is why I bought one. The Force is a very capable boat, more manuverable than most anticipate, to me it is utterly unflappable in big stuff and deals with confused junk very well with a nice level of liveliness, and based on what you say I think you would like its lower primary. I suspect you would like how controllable on edge it is, but for me it does not have that shoulder the Explorer is famous for. If you have a good sense of balance, you can hold it on edge about anywhere you want and it will come back easily when asked. It does not do all the various manuvering strokes as if on autopilot like the Explorer, but it is a very responsive boat.

However, you will really need to get it in some surf and short wind or race waves to find out if it matches what you like as that seems where you will use it the most, and it wasn't designed to play. Instead it is meant to be a fast, big water boat for going far and long with a load regardless of conditions. I think it does well with both, but I doubt you would prefer it over the Explorer as a rough water/surf boat. In short, steep waves it will tends to veer off course as the wave passes if you don't pay attention. Not a big deal really. Going into short steep waves it "slams more than an Explorer due to fuller bow. In surf, it does well and when it broaches it does so slowly so you can control things. In big following seas I think it tends to prefer not running dead down wind, but it is very well behaved and fast in following seas and rear quartering seas are no problem. To me it does not "pick up" following seas as fast/well as an Explorer. It is easy to box the compass in high winds as it has a low profile and is well balanced in the wind overall and it is easy to drive into high winds. As I said it is really a great boat for traveling "out there".

I hope this helps and does not create a self fulfilling impression when you demo it.

I do not recall if you have tried them, but given what you like to do which seems to be the more "sport/rough water" stuff my unsolicited advice would be to spend some time in a Pintail or AA. They will not show their true nature until you get them where they come alive, but seems they would be a good fit, if you fit.

Thanks. That actually was very helpful and somewhat what I gathered about the Force…appears to have a much straighter keel and less rocker than the Explorer. Sounds like a great boat, but maybe not the best for my application. I am looking for an all-arounder that will also excel as a rough water play / surf boat.

The Explorer fits this niche pretty well. Not as good a playboat as the Pintail or AA I suspect, but a much better all-arounder in my opinion.

You mention a few points that highlight some of the Explorer’s strengths…it’s bouyant bow which resists plunging, and its uncanny ability to avoid broaching in following seas and surf. These are two factors I really like about the Exlporer and have yet to find another boat that does as well in these regards.

I probably will stick with the Explorer, but still am interested to hear what people say about these boats. I think the Force 4 is probably not for me. The Legend is a neat boat but I prefered my Greenlander Pro for a hard chine boat, and ultimately found my Explorer to be better all around than the GP. Also did not like the fit of the Legend. Silhouette was a pretty cool boat though (with the seat ripped out so I could fit in it).

Again, probably will stick with the Explorer and be done with it…a safe bet. Still interested to hear what people say about the Quest.



– Last Updated: Jan-19-08 9:17 AM EST –

There is a reason why so many big name paddlers stick with the Explorer: it probably is the best all rounder out there.

The Quest is a wonderful kayak--I sold two Explorers to go back to a Quest--but for expedition paddling, not day paddling or surfing. The Quest is a dream loaded with a months worth of gear, where the Explorer is a slug. On the other hand, the Quest isn't (unless you put in ballast) much for surfing and even with ballast it isn't nearly as good at rough water play as the Explorer.

In contrast to the Quest, the Force 4 was designed as an Explorer killer. Ditto I think the Rockpool/Tiderace kayaks. They try to keep the all round quality of the Explorer while adding speed and playfulness. I've spent some time in the Force 4 (and own an OI), but haven't paddled the others. I like the Force 4 and if I could only have one boat, that might be it if for no other reason that I hate the Explorer hatches. It's a lot of work on long trips in bad weather or bad bugs struggling to get gear in and out of a small hatch compared to a larger hatch. Do it side by side and you can see how much extra energy and time it takes.

My sense in watching you is that you need to make a choice between a fleet of boats that serve specific needs--Salty's suggestion and the option I've chosen--or finding just one boat and accepting the compromises that come with that choice. It is a continuous debate. I still have moments when I want to sell everything except my Black Pearl, and go get another Explorer.

Anyway, there's no right or wrong answer to the question. In genomics, most of the risk genes for human disease have a relative small effect. Ditto for the environment. But when you put them together (i.e. a G x E interaction) you get a big effect for the interaction. Your focus on the kayak is misplaced. It is a B1 x kayak interaction that will tell the story, not the B1 or the kayak.

My advice to you is to answer the 1 kayak, 2 kayaks or a fleet of kayaks question. If you go the first route, get an Explorer. After all, Freya just paddled one around the South Island of New Zealand. If you go the second, get a camping kayak (opt for comfort and speed under load, not surfing ability) + a Romany for day paddles and surfing. If you go the third route, get a fleet of kayaks something like what I list on my profile.

If you search on Quest or my name, you'll find detailed comments on the Quest.

Have fun,


Riot Aura

– Last Updated: Jan-19-08 9:50 AM EST –

I owned one once, but unfortunately my skill set at that time was was primarily only good for one thing, going foward (left, right and backwards wasn't really much in the vocabulary then) so I can't speak to what the boat can do in the applications you are looking for. It supposedly has it's roots in Foster's design theory, but does seem to have a little more pronounced chine then Foster's boats giving it some of the attributes of the Explorer. Not a lot of the rocker, but I don't think the Force 4-5 do either. Its' bottom is rounded so plafulness and a lot of speed it does have. My biggest complaint was that the seat and backrest were almost all the way back to the combing. I am bigger then you so I maxed out the fit. I had no complaints on the build quality. There was a used one on Vermont Craigslist that I don't think sold last fall. It was fast and close to a QCC 700 in that department and the few times I did have it out in rougher water it didn't surprise me.



– Last Updated: Jan-19-08 11:43 AM EST –

I was describing your Outer Island to my buddy, Ken, and he was very interested. Maybe when the weather warms up we could meet up and he could try it? Jordan? Mackintosh maybe?

Get 'em all
and throw a Cetus in there for good measure while you’re at it. :wink:

Gotta keep up with John’s fleet. :slight_smile:

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


Riot Aura is Azul Sultan
I believe these are the same boat. As such it is fast,and responsive with lighter primary than Explorer, Quest, or Force 4.

I find a full sized Quest enormous. I paddled a Quest LV for a day on Muscongus Bay and found it less well mannered than a Cetus, Force 4, or Aquanaut.

If you can’t have more than one boat, I think, for now, you are best off with an Explorer. I can envision that after a time with the Explorer you will long for the spriteliness of the Nordkapp LV :wink:

Aura - Sultan

– Last Updated: Jan-19-08 11:03 AM EST –

Yes they are the same boat. Only threw it out there as I didn't know if the Aura-Sultan's spriteliness would put it somewhere between the Explorer and The Nordkapp which seems to be where he is looking. I've never paddled a Nordkapp and know that my own experiences and skills set level aren't ones to answer that question though.

Something about low volume
"I still have moments when I want to sell everything except my Black Pearl,"

I suspect this says a great deal about just how enjoyable low volume boats tend to be. You can really get attached to them and too bad more people do not spend time in them. There is something about being closely coupled (which is not the same as being tightly fitted) with the boat so it is simply an extension of you.

Just based on specs and pics, the Black Pearl must be one highly seductive boat in this category.

is a very neat boat. Probably the fastest Brit style boat I’ve paddled. Responds well to bow ruddering and bracing. Paddles backwards better than any other boat I’ve tried.

One caveat, as mentioned above, the backband was mounted on the rear coaming and laybacks were very painful.

Black Pearl
Yes, the feel of a low volume true Greenland kayak simply cannot be duplicated in any of the commercial alternatives, even by a close relative like the Anus Acuta. My favorite day paddling spots are inlets with multiple bars and 2 and 3 way zippers, e.g. really confused seas. With the BP, it feels like there’s nothing between me and the sea. When I’m relaxed and into it, the BP let’s me dance on the water, putting the kayak anywhere I want by moment-to-moment intention translated into movement w/o thinking. The words are stilted, but the experience is really wonderful. My guess is that’s what BP1 was after with the NordLV. If that’s true, maybe he ought to get an Explorer plus a SOF or strip-built Greenland kayak. On the other hand, most of the folks I know that are into the BCU sequence are a different bunch that the skinny stick crew. I wonder if Matt’s ever played around with Greenland style paddling?

Hi Rex
Sure, though am thinking about keeping it and leaving it in our home in Asheville. Be great to paddle together in any event.

Why only the Explorer?
I’m a two boat owner: NDK Explorer and Chatham 16. I owned the Chatham first and loved it for surfing, stability and manuverability. Since paddling the Explorer and getting used to it’s ease of edging and rolling, my Chatham has been gathering dust. Everything the shorter and flatter hull Chatham was designed for and excels in (rough water), the Explorer does as well. Eventually, if this keeps up another season I may wind up a one boat owner as well!

Downside of looking for the perfect boat
Hi Matt,

I’m glad that everything worked out with your Valley, and as I said in one of my PM’s, you owe me a beer. It sounds like you are getting a new and perfect boat for the price of the damaged demo. That is Valley for you.

Anyhow, one thing you might consider is the down side of frequently changing boats. I am speaking from experience, as I have been through a couple myself looking for that goldilocks boat that is just right.

I paddle with and take lessons from a world class paddler (actually World Champion - congrats to Sean Morley who recently won the world Masters surf kayaking championships in Spain). When I asked Sean what was the most important thing for me to develop as a paddler, he said without hestitation that it was to stay in the same boat for at least one year.

It makes sense, although it was not what I wanted to hear. But I am sure Sean is right. Most of getting better is developing your own skills once you have a boat that works for you. There is a reason you keep going back to the Explorer - it works for you.

A P&H Capella 163 could also be a great boat for you. So could the Nordkapp LV, and so could the Explorer.

But if you spent the same time and energy used on the boat search to, say, get a personal trainer and get leaner, stronger, and more flexible, while you stayed in one boat, you would probably be ahead of the game.

BTW, I hope we get a chance to meet sometime, and I will insist on that beer.


Was was the issue you had with…

– Last Updated: Jan-19-08 3:07 PM EST –

...the full-size Nordkapp?

Edit: What (darn subject line--can't edit) was the issue you had with the full size Nordkapp?


Go post over there. They have a bunch of Quest paddlers. From what I’ve heard(never paddled one) it’s pretty much a tripping boat(no, not that kind of tripping). In other words, it paddles better laden.

I think you need the explorer…just buy more boats to fill niches like the the Nord LV. Oh yeah, you went down that lane. Well you could…

Seems to me there are a lot more
options beside

P&H Quest / Impex Force 4 / Explorer

Kajaksport, Feathercraft, Seda, Boreal, Necky, Wilderness Systems are some of the manufacturers and maybe take a look at an Impex Currituck. Or maybe you can get lucky and score a Mariner.