VCP Nordkapp sh20 vs NDK Explorer

Ok, so after doing some searches throughout the archives, I came across a thread, several actually, that mentioned the NDK explorer has ‘replaced’ the Nordkapp as choice for expedition boat. I myself did not like the explorer much…but I am curious to know why ppl say the explorer is the new choice of expedition boat? In my opinion (and I have never paddled a nordkapp) the nordkapp is much more appealing to me.

Can anyone provide some insight as to this?


Could you first provide some insight…
into why you find a kayak you’ve never paddled “more appealing”.

What about it have you read that gives you that impression? What didn’t you like about the Explorer? (I’ve never paddled a Nordkapp either, but have paddled the Explorer.)

Just curious (and might help others who have paddled both answer as to +/-).

I paddle a Nordkapp Jubilee
and love it for what it is: an expedition boat.

Maybe too much volume for a fun day boat but certainly capable of handling big loads and rough water. Not a speed demon on flat water but not many boats are faster in the “real world”.

I can’t add anything to the very good review from Seakayaker.

I paddled an Explorer once for about 20 minutes so I can’t tell you much about differences, I just noticed 2 things: laybacks are easier on the Explorer (lower rear deck) and the Nordkapp is lighter. Actually the Explorer felt very, very heavy to me.

it’s not just you
the Explorer is a tank. I like the Explorer quite a bit but I swear that thing is like 70 lbs or something.

Well, its wrong I know…but I am making
my impression of the Nordkapp based solely on looking at the boat and hearing reviews. The explorer, I just found to be a ‘large’ boat and had a higher initial stability than I preferred. I, in no way would advise someone not to buy an explorer - based on the amount of paddlers (and the calibre) of the paddlers who choose that as their craft, it is a high quality boat.

Thanks, jim.

Not sure “replaced” is it
But I have spoken with a number of people who had the older Nordkapp and found themselves never using it over their Explorer, or for one a Gulfstream. The biggest reasons I’ve heard from these folks (all extremely good paddlers) seemed to be because the older Nordkapp was not so well behaved (never hit an easy waterline) unless it was carrying a decent sized expedition load. One guy simply got tired of hauling a 50 pound string of weights out of his boat at the end of every day paddle, another did coaching and guiding and needed to be able to devote all of his attention to the group. Both of these paddled primarily in Maine coastal waters.

That said, one of the points Valley made with the Aquanaut and at least one of the two newer versions of the Nordkapp is that they will get to a decent waterline without a full expedition load. There is some sense that the Aquanaut, while still a boat that many believe requires more attention than the Explorer, is becoming more popular with guides because it is a good bit better mannered than the original Nordkapp. Also because getting an Explorer got a bit more difficult last year when GRO had stopped handling them and MIKCO and Sea Kayak Georgia were just working out how to adapt. (I don’t have any numbers on this.)

As to weight - though no one wants to believe it the newer Explorers are a good bit lighter.

we’re all just skeptical! :slight_smile:
As we all know NDK doesn’t have the best quality record in the world and their quoted weights have in the past been a bit “optomistic.” With that said, they have fantastic hulls and I hope that they can get their act together and come out with a consistently quality product like P&H, Valley, Impex, or Current Designs.

Celia, I noticed that you have the Explorer LV. If I ever bought an NDK kayak, that would be the one that would be the most appealing for me. How do you like it?

My LV, Weight
I absolutely love my boat. It’s an allaround forgiving boat (it’s secondary stability saved my bacon in swill off an island in the Gulf of Maine last year), it supports learning advanced skills very well (it still can do lots more than me), and best of all the darned thing fits me right. The extra small cockpit, close to the effect of adding a keyhole to an ocean cockpit, and the lowered deck give me great purchase. I’d gotten up on a roll with my Squall, but the LV really jumped my ability to make it repeatable. The low flat back deck is great. While the thigh braces are not positive as they were in my Squall, the keyhole is cut in deep enough that they work just as well.

I do have a couple of comfort adjustments. The NDK backband was replaced with a Bomber Gear (very recommended), I am bracing against foam blocks rather than footpegs, and it has the fancy carbon seat. I also have a somewhat different layup which includes some extra dialene stripping along the keel line, kevlar at the ends, a combination that makes for an altogether lighter boat. It was a special order boat that reflects some of but is not exactly the same as what was defined as their alternate layup in 2004.

My husband’s Aquanaut comes in at 50 pounds, my boat is noticeably lighter so we figure 45 is both the goal NDK stated and what they achieved. I can handle it myself, though it involves strap-on knee pads and a cart and some time. (I think the rails and pegs would have added another 5 or so pounds.)

There are a few big diff’s I noticed between the LV and the Squall, which had absolutely no rocker. Unlike the rudder which I found basically vestigial on the Squall, in following seas or in some windy situations I’ve had to learn to actually use the skeg. It’s a relatively new habit to use a tracking device, so I’m still figuring that part out. Again due to the rocker, I have to say that the Squall had more glide. When I was coming on friendly rollers (non-breaking) in that boat I could pretty much set her up and then sit with very minor adjustments. With the LV I have to get the skeg down right and pay a bit more attention to maintain forward momentum.

The Explorer is in the middle of the pack about on speed, definately slower than my husband’s Aquanaut. But the 'Naut is out there among the fastest and the LV easily maintains a reasonable touring speed, which is all I need.

And while the Squall was good on secondary, the LV is better. I was on a pond last night practicing (braces). Even being quite tentative because the water was still 45 degrees and I wasn’t relishing a swim, I had her up well past 45 degrees flashing my keel line and didn’t feel like I was going to go over as long as I held the opposing C shape.

I tried I think the Jubilee edition of the Nordkapp as a Symposium last year and found it to be a very interesting boat. But frankly it is so oversized for me, with the higher front deck especially, my flat little LV was looking pretty good the next day.

Manufacturer’s Listed Weights…
are suspect at best. I owned a 2003 Explorer that weighed in at an honest 62 lbs., including hatches, and an IR backband that immediately replaced the flimsy buttock pincher that came stock. Managed to hump the NDK for my first Run of the Charles; six portages, the longest being about a half mile in length. Even my carbon/kevlar QCC 700 is heavier than manufacturer’s claimed weight. A common practice is to weigh the boats sans hatches. Bicycle manufacturers do something similar, weighing the smallest frame sizes minus the pedals. That said, my Explorer did feel heavy, but also bulletproof. While not a fast boat by any means, its handling is well-mannered and as confidence inspiring as they come, particularly in adverse conditions, which it literally scoffs at. Edging forces build extremely linearly…feedback, feedback. Rolling is effortless. QC on mine was nowhere near the QCC, fit and finish-wise. Aside from a broken seat though, not a problem arose, and the hatches were always bone dry, unlike the QCC. I found it picked up the slightest swell, and was a hoot to surf, provided you had the horsepower to accelerate its mass up to speed to catch the wave. Great, great boat, which in retrospect, I never should have sold.

explorer explanation
I believe that the talk of the explorer was due to the fact that last time that Chris Duff paddled around Iceland he was outfitted by NDK and even though he had always done his trips with a Nordkapp, this time he was paddling an explorer, to the suprise of everyone

I find that the old model Nordkapp does not require a 50 pound load, I paddled one empty (I am 205#)and my wife now paddles it without 50 pounds of dead weight. (she only weights arround 135) It does handle different with lots of gear, but still is just fine without any. It does require you to paddle it more than a few times a year to feel comfortable. It is a serious paddlerers boat and will not tollerate being left on a rack for too many weeks in a row. If that is your plan - do not buy an older model Nordkapp, it is not a barge, it will not be tipped by a wave from the side. you can ride right up the side of a steep breaking wave untill the top breaks over your shoulder. All the nordkapps share this, and shine the best when the water gets lively. The explorer is also a fine hull, It can be paddled less often and still feel comfortable, It (to me)lacks the attitude that the Nordkapp has. I love my Nordkapp

As a guide boat, the explorer is a little beter rescue platform, and the Nordkapp would have you sitting arround a lot waiting for the clients to catch up, but then even a pintail might be to fast with some groups

Best Wishes


Jim you need to find a older Nordkapp and paddle it. Then and only then will you know.

Tom Berg told me…

– Last Updated: Apr-23-05 10:17 AM EST –

When I asked him about the Nordkapp (prior to the newest model) that it is a boat "that few could or should paddle well."

A number of people (Tom Bergh included) went to paddling Explorers because they "didn't have to think about the boat."

The Nordkapp was designed as a full expedition boat for expert paddlers -- that was Valley's own characterization of their boat. The Explorer is a more all round boat which can be comfortably paddled by relative novices. MIKCo puts newbies in Explorers.

Valley has not had such a boat. The Aquanaut is the closest and many guides and coaches are adopting it. However, no outfitter I know is putting novice paddlers in Aquanauts. Valley characterizes it as a boat for "intermediate to advanced padlers." The reviewers for Sea Kayaker expressed the same sentiment, adding the adjective 'agressive' to intermediate.

The Explorer still seems to be most often the boat of choice for outfitters and coaches who use expedition length sea kayaks. As noted above, the Explorer is a very suitable platform for rescues. The deck just ahead of the cockpit even has reinforcement to support the weight of a loaded boat.

Yep, I agree.
I work as a Guide and will be continuing to do so in the future. I think the Nordkapp will make me a very happy paddler. I dont’ intend to leave my boat on the rack at all - I can’t tolerate having it on the rack anymore than the boat would want to be. Thanks for the detailed reply - brought alot of things to the boat that I was looking for.

I’m going to do some reading, will post later :slight_smile:



Vanilla vs. Other Flavors
I’d agree in this assessment of the Explorer; it’s a benign handler, a known quantity. To the more experienced, this may translate as featureless, very vanilla-like and lacking in personality in the way that say, a NF Legend might offer. It can also make for a reassuring platform from which to dance. Some of the scenes from ‘This is the Sea’ exemplify this. Only tried an older model Nordkapp once, so I’ll not make any sweeping generalities, although I did find it pleasingly fast-definitely more personality than the Explorer, and not at all ill-mannered. Funny how some tools of recreation demand the most from their owners to exact their full capabilities. One of my mountain bikes is this way, my Cannondale Scalpel. It likes to ridden hard and fast, and rewards with razor (sic) sharp precision when you’re on top of your game-flat out flies. Ride it at 7/10, or shelve it for a while then climb back on, and it’ll promptly spit you off. This, I suppose is one of the reasons why we acquire stables/quivers of bikes and boats also. Hard to find one that does it all, and lucky for you if you managed to do so.

Era and audience
When the Nordkapp was first designed and put into production, 1975, it was not within conception that someone like me (an intermediate paddler with modest skills and some experience)would be buying an expedition length boat and use it for casual paddles. The boat was designed for very challanging expeditions undertaken by very skilled paddlers.

Twenty years later, when Nigel Dennis designed and put the Explorer into production, people were using expedition length boats for less ambitious outings. More people with less experience were interested in such boats. Hence, a boat that can be easily paddled as a day boat by novices and can be used for expeditions. Nigel was also astute enough to have 16’ and 17’6" versions of this boat. (Romany and Romany Explorer).

It took Valley a long time to understand this. The Avocet (VCP’s answer to the Romany) is a pretty recent boat. The Aquanaut as Valley’s answer to the Explorer only arrived two years ago. While both are excellent boats, neither is as reassuring (high primary and unmistakeable secondary stability) as their NDK equivalents.

Well actually…
mine weighs in at 75 lb. So, yeah, way too heavy. But, it’s a sweet handling craft, so I still like it :wink: But, gimme one in a lighter layup and that would be heaven!

Carl C. in NH

What do you hate about neutrual…
in conditions? Who the fu$* wants a tippy, quirky craft when you have it pressed to the edge. I have had a CD Caribou for about 10 years and an Explorer for about 5. While I love them both for different reasons, a craft that neutral in conditions is far superior to a craft with personality.


Neutral - responsive
On my third demo of the Aquanaut, I encountered a shoal rapidly being exposed beneath me , with major rocks ahead and the only way out being to my left over a three foot (I looked up to see the white of the crest) cresting wave. Instinctively, I leaned into the face of the cresting wave, did one sweep stroke and was over the wave safely.

That is was sold me on the boat. I don’t have to think about my boat in challenging conditions, it seems as if my butt controls the boat.

I have to admit that I found the Explorer boring. I like an active hull. Though I would think twice about putting a newbie in an Aquanaut or Nordkapp H2O, these two Valley boats feel absolutely solid under my rear.

That being said, the new Nordkapp is reputed to be better behaved than earlier models and I may be acquiring a Romany as a day boat as neither my Aquanaut nor an Avocet are as reassuring as a guest boat.

This is a good way to choose a boat!
The “butt” controls the boat test is one of the better ways I have found personally and with friends over the years to choose a boat. Of course ranging from newbie to advanced one’s butt instincts change, and that is why this is a good test. The boat one starts with needs change as the signals one requires from one’s boat change with skills, ambitions, etc.

Boats are not destinations like homes, they are possibilities wating to be discovered. That is the feeling one’s butt wishes in one’s boat, the feeling of “OK let’s go” as you say especially with the maytag in the offing!

what is really tippy or responsive?
good boats (in my opinion) are responsive . people are tippy. A boat without a person in it doesn’t just tip over. The same person that sits on a bike , on two little squares of rubber, several feet off the ground, and can sit there on it , without putting their feet down, after they stop. gets into a responsive boat, sitting flat on their butt supported by water on all sides, and says “this boat is tippy”

Just a thought

My Nordkapp is not adversly affected by waves or wind. the wind hitting my body is a much bigger issue. I never have to watch what is my boat doing or about to do. I do not understand this concept. It goes on edge when I ask it too and only then. I have a HM (Jubilee). It does not turn as fast as a Pintail etc. But in caves it is the almost 18 feet of length not the turning speed that has been an issue. the same as any 18 foot long boat would be. In bays doing simulated rescues, it is not as nice as a Pintail or Romany etc. They turn quicker and tighter and allow you to play in a very small area. My HM likes large open water, but manuvers very well, I have never hit a bolder along a shore because of turning radius, even the concept is silly.

Sorry for the winded post , but although No boat is right for everyone, I believe that the Nordkapp is being undully crucified because of different paddling styles and needs. It is definately a big water boat

Best Wishes


Nord Jub HM and Explorer in Fleet
Love 'em both. Both were received in top condition and both paddle extremely well. Won’t add to what Faded Red says as I agree with him. The HM does turn, but it’s the edge you carve that makes the turn. The Explorer is my choice if I can have oinly one boat as it does everything well.

Jim, if you’d like another suggestion you should go to great lengths to test side by side a LV Explorer and a Nordkapp H20 Jubilee. I do believe you may swim a bit more in the Nordkapp cockpit. I’m 6’2.5" and weigh 225 with a 36" inseam. It fits me very well. The H2O by the way is a slightly different hull from the Jubilee S hull which I used to have. I prefer the HM so I sold the S. If I want a playboat I’ll buy a Poseidon.