Upgrading to Nigel Dennis Explorer

I need a sanity check here please.

I paddle a 15 & 1/2 foot Perception Carolina now.

Thinking of upgrading to a Nigel Dennis Explorer.

It will be used on the MS Gulf Coast out to the barrier islands and from the GA coast out to Cumberland Island for camping 3 or 4 days so the yak will be loaded.

I’m 5’8" and 178#, short torso, a little past beginner status, ha ha. I’ve paddled out in the Gulf, launched into 3’ breaking waves from the beaches, and surfed into the beaches with the Carolina.

I want something faster than the Carolina but able to take the short very STEEP 2 to 3 foot waves in the Sound and the surf on the beaches and yet be pretty stable.

Is the Nigel boat OK for this?

NDK Explorer
I think you would like the boat based on what you describe, though the stability is best described (at least for me ) medium, but one you get used to it it is fine. I notice it more so when not moving, when underway it feels secure and in choppy water it feels darn good. It has good surf manners, over all I like the Explorer. I would just check the boat over closely and look for any QA problems, seems there are some problems, my boat did not have any problems. If you plan on a lot of camping from your boat a Valley boat may be worth a look, I like the bigger Valley Hatches than the round NDK hatches. Good luck.

VCP Aquanaut or Argonaut

– Last Updated: Apr-02-04 5:03 PM EST –

Thanks Bryan!
I've looked at the Valley boats and don't quite understand the difference between the Aquanaut and Argonaut. Can anyone explain it in simple words?

less volume

– Last Updated: Apr-03-04 10:11 PM EST –

in the aquanaut. the argonaut has a ton more volume, it is a big boat. The aquanaut is closer to the explorer. The aquanaut has less beam and deck height.

If I had to suggest something, I would suggest the aquanaut over the explorer for Quality reasons.

But do a search on the boards for "NDK quality and you will see".

I also think the new Nordkapp H20 is a really sharp kayak.

May want to think about a Foster Legend, or an Impex currituck too.


Explorer Owner
here too. A marvelous boat in terms of performance. The rougher the water, the better it gets, and I’ve yet to roll anything easier (as your skills progress)-nice low and flat rear deck. I think you’ll find it a little ‘tippy’ in terms of initial stability on flat water, but don’t be deterred; it likes to edge into its substantial secondary stability. It tracks wonderfully, yet is very responsive to leaned turns, and can be brought around quite quickly. It’s relatively speedy, although not in the same league as the faster touring kayaks. The NF Legend is faster, but also requires more attention-the Explorer is benign, it will deal you no shady cards. I like the slider skeg vs. the rope for ease of deployment, but you will rarely need it. The slider does encroach on the knee, and you may need to pad it out-I did mine, and also jettisoned the POC backband for an Immersion Research model. My boat weighs in at an honest 63 pounds-if you’re portaging (I did the Run of the Charles with mine-Can you spell Bataan Death March for the 1/2 mile carry?) you may want something lighter, but all that chopped strand mat feels substantial…or at least, heavy. The QC is no great shakes, no matter what anyone says. I have a dry one-no leakage in the hatches, and the finish is acceptable on the gel coat. It is soft, and imprints fairly easily. My seat snapped out after less than a year of use a month and a half ago, and I’ve yet to see replacement from across the pond. I’ve heard the Valley boats have better QC, but can’t directly comment on that. The Aquanaut is very similar in many respects. I do love this boat, but wish it was built with the level of fit and finish of a Current Designs, a Seaward Nigel Foster, or even my new QCC 700. If the design weren’t so impressive, what would Nigel be doing right now?

for steep chop it’s going to be your skills more than anything but it’s not an area where looking for a long or fast boat will help. I’d look for forgiving,which I hear the explorer is that,anyone have an opinion about a Capella?

The Tempest might be too big but it might be nice from a handling standpoint. I like my Mariner Express but it slaps a bit in steep chop.

I have yet to paddle a t180 or

– Last Updated: Apr-03-04 11:03 PM EST –

chatham 18 or aquanaut. When the chop is rough the explorer comforts me like none other. Check out my review (amongst others by better paddlers) on p.net for more info if you like.

the legend is faster no doubt, even my 23 inch wide foster shadow is faster. Still it is great in the rough, responsive to lean, has amazing secondary, and I love mine! I'd rather have it under me in steep stuff than anything i've paddled. I agree it is a dream to roll. I could perhaps get used to a legend but I can relax in the explorer. the legend is really loose fron chine to chine, and I weigh 225 so my feeling of stability in that boat is marginal.

A bear if not well built, no doubt. Mine is a webb custom I think, not built by ndk. It works fine!

The Explorer and Aquanaut can handle any sea conditions in which you can sanely end up.

They are close enough in design that the choice is highly personal. You can read the Sea Kayaker reviews of each to get a pretty good sense of these boats. One diference you will note is the Aquanaut has a longer narrower waterline.

Objectively, the Aquanaut has an edge over the Explorer in Quality Control and larger hatches.

The Currituck is a very nice boat. It is about a half foot shorter than the Explorer and Aquanaut. It has Valley hatches and a better back band than either NDK or VCP boats.

Recent Impex layups are excellent. They are significantly lighter than Brit layups. This can be either an advatage or a disadvantage - easier to carry, though maybe not as able to withstand impact.

IMHO the Currituck feels stiffer in confused seas and does not provide the confident feel that both the Explorer and Aquanaut have in challanging conditions.

All three of these boats are very good designs. You cannot go wrong whichever you choose (providing the NDK does not have serious qc issues). So, the best thing is to test paddle them…

The boat that feels best to you while you are paddling it, is the right boat for you.

is a very nice boat. A good friend has one and we trade off frequently for fun. My take vs. the Explorer is the Curri is a harder tracker-it requires more edge to initiate a turn, and I can’t bring it around as quickly as the Explorer. It is much lighter-both a boon and a benefit. My friend cracked the deck glass on his by overtightening a rack strap, and there are now some small spiderweb cracks radiating from his footpeg mounting bolts-doubt that would happen with the layup on my Explorer, unless I slammed it into a rock wall. The Curri has a very smooth slider setup for the skeg, and the large oval hatches are a nice feature-IR backband too, standard issue. I prefer the way the Explorer rolls though (effortlessly), and it feels faster overall. Haven’t had the Curri out in severe wind and chop like I have my boat, but the Explorer grabs a swell marvelously and surfs downwind extremely well (Yahoo!); the Curri less so-it doesn’t have that same feeling of ‘I’ll take care of you no matter what,’ although it the grand scheme of things, it is very confident-plus you can buy kevlar for about the price of a glass NDK. Just my two cents…

Given your height,
you might want to see if you fit better in the Low Volume (LV) model of the Explorer. The fit would be tighter than you’re used to, but would give you much greater control of the boat. It’s an excellent, well-mannered, boat. Also rolls very easily, esp. in the LV version.


My take on NDK QA
I have an Explorer built Sept of 2003, one month after the new QA program began. It is exceptionally well built. I believe the attention to detail is as good in this kayak as in the P&H Capella I had a few years ago. It is as well built or better than the Walden/Foster boats I owned. But, until more people report the same findings, I would certainly look carefully at any NDK boat you buy (I would do that with any boat).

Also, I don’t know much about the construction materials used in the NDK boats or Valley boats, etc. But, here’s what I have noticed. There is plenty of gelcoat on the NDK boats-a small scrape won’t dig into the fiberglass. In comparison, a friend’s VCP kayak is showing glass after just a few milimeters of gel coat was scraped off. I recommend that you read the reviews on the Explorer. Even with some QA problems Explorer owners love their kayaks. Most of the negative stuff you will read here about NDK’s on paddling.net is from people that do not own an Explorer. Does their opinon really matter to you? Hope this helps. I’m not trying to re-start the old NDK flame…


I personally think there is still a big
difference between P&H, and NDK.

NDK uses the chop strand mat glass, and they do not vacuum bag the glass. This will effect quality no matter what, because the materials aren’t as good.

P&H I believe uses either e-glass or s-glass. And this makes a big difference, as does the vacuum bagging.

i don’t know this for certain at a wholesale level, but it seems chop strand is a lot cheaper. This may be why NDK is using it.

VCP doesn’t vacuum bag, and uses s-glass or e, I think. and they also have alot better control over the end product.

All this said, the explorer is one of “the” nicest designs I’ve paddled. I really think the hull is excellent. You just have to check to see that what your are getting is of good quality. And as david said, this should be true with any kayak.

Valid Points All
And I agree that NDK is in part, limited by their somewhat outdated construction methods and materials used. I’ll talk your ear off about the behavioral attributes of my Explorer, more likely, encourage you to hop in and paddle it a while-you’ll no doubt love it too. If the more recent ones (and mine is a 2003 also) are displaying better QC, then more power to 'em. A thorough inspection only goes so far though-I inspected mine top to bottom also; couldn’t foresee my broken seat, not at all uncommon to the brand, from what I gather. I am irked however, by the lack of any type of timely response with a replacement. ‘We’ve been busy building new boats,’ doesn’t say much for the value placed on enthusiastic customers who already took the leap of faith to shell out their hard earned bucks to purchase their product, positive and negative aspects of their reputation notwithstanding.

I see P&h using diolen
and I am not a diolen fan. Way too flexible then you get spider cracks. Love to paddle a capella fron time to time though!

i believe

– Last Updated: Apr-04-04 9:21 AM EST –

diolene comes in the same glass weave formats as what most manufacturers are calling fiberglass.

And spidercracks come from gelcoat being either to thick, or from an impact or stress on the deck or hull. I had them too on my p&h boat from cranking it down to my roofrack.

Diolene is the woven fabric (similar in appearance to fiberglass) that the Europeans seem to favor in their layups. it is a synthetic fiber that is used in the weave and considered to be slightly stronger than fiberglass. If there is excessive flex in a hull it is usually attributed to not enough layers of fabric being used in the layup rather than the nature of the material being used. Some manufactures will compensate by useing excessive amount of resin in the layup and if they are useing a polyester resin it is a cheaper way to manufacture the boat, but by no way does it give you a stronger boat, ususally just a heavier one.

Strength is multi dimensional

– Last Updated: Apr-05-04 2:15 AM EST –

One type of strength is puncture resistance. In this I believe diolene is superior. Another is tear resistance (shear) I also believe diolene is superior here. Another is rigidity. I believe that diolene is inferior to same weight and structure fiberglass here. Love to hear from a pro on this.

BTW diolene is polyester, must be different from mineral based glass.

Flatpick, Bnystrom, Patrick, other pro type folks, you got an answer here?

Explorer LV
My wife has an Explorer LV on order (to arrive end of this month).

She says the smaller cockpit and lower deck results in such good body contact that it makes the boat very responsive. She found it felt more lively than the standard Explorer while maintaining the feel of taking care of the paddler in all conditions.

Unfortunately I’m too big to even test paddle an LV, so I can only convey her observations.

Up for a challenge?
The Explorer is a great boat, no question about it. I bought one after spending a couple of years paddling a Necky Tesla which is 25" wide so it was a big change (that I’m still getting used to). FWIW - to me, at 6’1" and 225 in the HV version, the Current Designs Gulfstream seemed to have more initial stability.

As for QC problems, my boat has been good although I hate the wire skeg. The 2004’s that I saw at Canoecopia now have a stainless rod instead of the wire which is not only very smooth but probably impossible to kink! Too bad it can’t be retrofitted (according to Nigel).

the rod
still pushes a cable. the rod is a whole 10" long, is hollow and is the sheath for the same ol’ cable. the little set screw holds the cable in place. At the skeg end she’ll still tweak.

how could a ss rod bend around to and articulate the skeg ?