Forgive the departure
from the three boats you mentioned, but have you even considered the Necky Chatham 16? I’ve heard it compares extremely well to the design and handling of the Romany… is low volume… has outstanding workmanship… and handles like a dream. I couldn’t be happier with mine. I have to admit, you need to be fairly slender to enjoy the close fit of the cockpit and stock seat. I’m 6’2" and 190 lbs… fairly slender build. But this sucker has leg room to spare and fits me like a veritable glove. I’ve never been so confident, and she also reminds me of Greenland designs.
Or… the Tempest 170? Wild. Experience’s mid volume boat? Another very excellent comparison to the three boats you mentioned.
Just thought I’d throw these other two into the ring. So many folks are raving about them, it wouldn’t be fair IMHO to look only at NDK and VCP boats… with all due respect to their reputations.
Forgive the departure
Back from my demo “Impressions”
First of all... beautiful day today, second...I only spent 20-30 minutes in each of these boats, so my "Impreessions" may not be complete. First boat I tried was the Romany, (this was my first choice based completely on other peoples reviews and suggestions), I found this boat to be everything everyone said, handles like a dream, very predictable, lively, tracks well, doesn't weather cock much, seemed to carry good speed for a 16' boat. My only problem with the Romany was the fit, the thigh brace locations seemed to be too far aft, the fit was very tight on the front of my upper thighs (uncomfortably tight). From my experience, thigh braces should be down closer to the inside of the lower thigh, just above the knee. Tom told me that this is a trait of the Romany and either you like it or you don't (I didn't).
Now to the Explorer...same cockpit fit problem, felt identical to the Romany. Handling...I could tell right away that this was not the boat I was looking for, it's just not "playfull" enough for me. I could easily tell why this is such a popular boat though, "Extremely Predictable". On to the Avocet...first, more cockpit room, more comfortable. My initial impression was a little less primary stablity, I quickly adjusted to that. Secondary stability is unbelievable, I was able to put this boat way over on edge no problem, I don't know if this was due to the better fit and being more comfortable, or if that is a trait of the boat. The Avocet seemed a little faster than the Romany. I really liked this boat and felt "at home" in it. Tom Berg (the owner of MIKCo) spent alot of time with me, he is a true gentleman and loves to talk kayaks. His experience and insights were very helpful. We talked about different layups, rope vs. slider skegs, custom bulkhead placement vs. foot pegs, and seat designs and custom fitting cockpits. Well, good thing he didn't have a Avocet in stock for sale or I may have come home with two kayaks (I paddled my Capella out there). I'm going to sleep on it, and maybe go back and spend the day in the Avocet and get it out in some conditions. My Capella is an extemely comfortable boat, and I want to make sure the Avocet also provides all day comfort.
I took a few pictures of my brother who went with me on our "Post Demo Paddle" you can view them here http://www.kayakpics.com/gallery/micko062304
Here are some pics my brother took of me.
Good On You
that the reputation of the Romany didn't overwhelm your sense that something didn't fit just quite right. :) However, if you find that it performs more to your liking than the Avocet, it would not be impossible to cut the thigh brace down and glass new ones further forward where you like. Sounds like a doable weekend job. But this is coming from someone who has only read about glass work but has not actually done it, though Brian would probably be a good consult in that arena. The other downside with this that it may be impact on resale value unless the job was done well enough that it looks "NDK factory done." :)
Also you can lower the seat a tad
by putting in a seat ala nystrom, if you have the torso length for that. Gives the boat better stability.
Of course since you live in New England you must leave room for a drysuit and some fuzzy pants too!
Go for the Avocet
The kayak fits you great and you liked the way it performed. I wouldn’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole with the Romany.
Looks like a nice place to paddle.
14 foot boats (waterline) ?
Try my boats - you will fit these
This is the most common knock on the Romany / Explorer fit. I too have the classic American man-size thighs that don’t fit really well under the Romany / Explorer “thigh braces”.
I buy all of my boats w/o seats and then custom carve foam sets as per my body. I have little doubt that you could fit into my boats and you’d get a chance to really test them. It’s an interesting coincidence that all of my boats are Quill over Quill with a Quill seam. When I looked at your photo’s I was trying to figure out who that guy the guy was paddling my boat in southern Casco. But after a second look I saw the Capella’s skeg slider and calmed back down.
I own a Romany, Avocet & Greenlander Pro (All from MIKCO) all with custom seats so that normal to large American male thighs can actually fit in them. Another local paddler Franz Schwimmer has an Explorer done up the same way and his is almost too loose for me. My Explorer should be in within a couple of days and it too will have no factory seat. If you want to try out some of my boats send me an email. I live in Goffstown (southern) NH, near a lake. We’re actually headed to the lake tonight to play around if you want to join.
PS Your impressions of the boats sounds accurate although the Explorer can do quite a bit more than you might think at this point.
You mentioned Romany, Avocet and Explorer. Did you try an Aquanaut? It is as confident as an Explorer, but snugger, faster and more lively.
The Aquanaut is sort of a Nordkapp for those of us who are not world class paddlers.
Aquanaut on Ebay
There is an Aquanaut for sale on Ebay. Prolite layup, etc…
Bought the Avocet Today
I was really impressed with the Avocet, so on Tom Bergs recommendation I called Country Canoeist and Wickford Kayak Centre this morning to see what they had in stock, and wouldn't you know that Wickford had a 2003 Avocet (fiberglass seat, 2004's have a plastic seat) in the pro-lite layup, White over white with black trim, on sale $500 off retail. Needless to say, I left work a little early, and I am now the proud owner of a new Avocet. I think tomorrow may also be an early day out of work...LOL.
PS...For Sale...All White Carbon/Kevlar Capella, 1 year old, $2200. Includes Northwater under deck bag.
NDK Container shipment
MIKCo is recieving their NDK boats tomorrow morning.
You found the boat you wanted, in stock and on sale. Now go out and play, and keep us posted. You two are going to have fun…
Have you followed the delays in this shipment? My wife has been waiting for her Explorer LV, so we have been getting regular updates.
The NDK shipment was supposed to be on the same ship as the VCP shipment to MIKCo, but was not. Subsequently, it has been a long strange trip.
The up side is that it seems that NDK has finally enforced genuine quality control.