NDK Pilgrim Carbon Kevlar

NDK Kayak Fitting and Clean Boat Delivery in a COVID-19 Time

March 28, 2020

Custom-Ordered Boats and other New Boat Purchases

COVID-19’s first wave hit just as your and our new set of NDKs were unloaded from our pre-season container and stashed either on Peaks or in MIKCo’s Portland warehouse. FYI, all boats we ordered were received, with no apparent shipping damage, and all sit in dry, protected storage until we get your new boat(s) to you.  

While we’re all figuring out and adjusting to this Brave New World of reduced movement and ‘sheltering in place’, I have prepped and delivered a couple of our paddler’s custom-ordered brand new NDKs - in what I believe is likely a safe handling process. Below I’ve set out our suggested Covid-new-boat-prep-and-delivery process. If you are comfortable with this method of transfer, then let’s talk it out. I’m guessing that some of you hope to paddle before this COVID-19 pandemic ends sometime well into the summer. If you’re a buyer of one of our new MIKCo in-stock retail boats, the same process applies.

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NDK Explorer

NDK Explorer Review

Maine Island Kayak Co. delivered a new NDK Explorer to Canada for Paddling Magazine to write this review.

By Virginia Marshall. Originally published in Paddling Magazine.

When the going gets tough, the tough get this SKUK Classic.

If modern expedition kayaks have a phenotype—that is, a distinctive appearance and characteristics based on a combination of genetic traits and environmental factors—the Explorer may exemplify it best.

The fine lines of the upswept bow and stern, the narrow beam and the clean, functional deck layout are informed by the classic British interpretation of traditional Greenlandic kayaks. From this base DNA, designer and renowned expedition paddler, Nigel Dennis, refined the shape and layup to address the unique challenges of extended journeys on remote, exposed coastlines.

NDK Explorer Specs

  • LOA 17'6"
  • Beam 21"
  • Weight 58 lbs
  • Recommended Paddler Weight 150-220 lbs
  • Price $4,285

History of the Explorer Sea Kayak

Few other sea kayak designs can boast the expedition pedigree of the Explorer. It has been the kayak of choice for circumnavigations in some of the roughest and least accessible waters in the world: Britain, Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand, Antarctica, South Georgia Island and the Aleutian islands. Twenty-five years after it was first introduced, the Explorer is still handmade in Anglesey, North Wales, and is now sold under the label Sea Kayaking UK (SKUK), formerly Nigel Dennis Kayaks.

I borrowed a shiny new, persimmons-orange-and-white Explorer last summer to better understand the sustained popularity of this mid-sized touring kayak. Along with its devoted following in expedition circles, the Explorer is a staple among elite coaches and at symposia from Illinois to Israel. My testing regimen included a week of teaching intermediate paddling skills, four weeks of self-supported kayak-camping journeys on open waters, and as many surf sessions as the water gods saw fit to deliver.

How did Nigel Dennis’ Explorer kayak perform?

After a summer on the water, if I had to sum up the Explorer in one word, it would be consistent.

Now, in 600 words, let me explain.

Explorer Stability

First up, directional stability. The Explorer is designed for covering distance and, as such, it tracks well and is very neutral in wind and confused seas. Weathercocking is minimal, making it easy to hold course with slight edging. When deployed, the skeg works exactly as it should to enhance tracking in high winds. The skeg slider feels sturdy and is well balanced to set-it-and-forget-it on long crossings.


I found it easy to maintain a relatively quick touring speed in a wide variety of conditions, however the Explorer is exceptionally fast with a following sea. Even heavily laden with camping equipment and fresh food for 10 days—including a secret watermelon (more on that later)—I rode effortlessly ahead on the swell while my companions’ boats mired in the troughs.


A useful measure of performance for any touring kayak is a comparison of handling with paddled with empty hatches and with hatches loaded. This is where the Explorer’s versatility and consistency really shine. Whether I was out for an hour or a week, the boat felt responsive to my inputs, carving graceful turns and remaining stable and predictable in sloppy conditions.

Hard chines and a boxy hull profile lend the Explorer more initial stability than you’d expect from its 21-inch beam, making it a surprisingly forgiving companion for novice paddlers. Secondary stability is also very solid, especially with hatches full of cargo. I could roll smoothly into a deep edge to coax tighter turns out of the kayak’s 17.5-foot waterline.

The Explorer may lack the turn-on-a-dime maneuverability of its shorter, more highly rockered sister, the Romany, but it’s no slouch in the surf. The high-volume bow doesn’t dive or deflect easily, which makes for wonderfully controllable rides. The responsive handling meant I was able catch long surfs on three-foot-high faces, even where the wave pattern splintered unpredictably above shallow sandbars. When my concentration faltered and I found myself upside-down, the low back deck and excellent cockpit fit made rolling up easy and uneventful.

The Seat

The seat is a small, fiberglass dish that suits me just fine for all-day tours. Those accustomed to the sophisticated seat systems found in many of today’s kayaks might find SKUK’s minimalist interpretation offers less leg support.

The Explorer’s keyhole cockpit provides plenty of surface area for secure thigh and knee contact with the deck, without hindering paddler entry and exit.

NDK Explorer
NDK Explorer 3-pc cockpit
The Explorer’s Cockpit

The Explorer accomodates medium-sized paddlers, with plenty of room under the foredeck for larger shoe sizes.

Or a cleverly concealed watermelon. Surprise!

For smaller and larger paddlers, SKUK also offers the Explorer in LV and HV sizes. Volume is removed or added by modifying deck height, so waterline and width are consistent across all sizes.

Storage Volume

With 166 liters of storage volume distributed across bow, stern and day hatches, there’s ample space for carefully packed extended trips. More challenging is squeezing bulky items through SKUK’s small, round hatches—I had to leave the Outback Oven and my three-ring binder of kayak lesson plans at the put-in. The upside of these smaller openings is that all three hatches remained bone-dry even after repeated rolling and playing in surf, and the soft rubber lids are very easy to peel off and press on.


Our standard fiberglass layup Explorer employs a relatively heavy, resin-rich construction built to withstand the abuse of expedition paddling. This laminate is also straightforward to repair, as damage tends to be localized around the site of impact. For weight-conscious paddlers, SKUK offers lighter Elite, carbon/Kevlar and hybrid glass-carbon/Kevlar layups.

Whether you’re planning an expedition of your own, or just looking to cover some miles and play along the way, the Explorer is an outstanding performer as you paddle into rougher waters. Its intuitive handling and composure in any conditions ensures all paddlers feel like great explorers.

NDKs lined up on Kayak Beach

Thoughts on Fitting, Demoing and Choosing a Sea Kayak

by Tom Bergh of Maine Island Kayak Co, Peaks Island, Maine

Sea kayak designs abound in our world. The following thoughts are offered to assist you in evaluating any kayak you paddle. With so many designs and models to choose from, which kayak is “the best”? It’s my hope to help you plot a positive and useful course through this exercise.

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NDK Line Up

NDK Romany: A Quarter Century

Excerpted from an article by Neil Schulman, published in Adventure Kayak Magazine.

The year was 1993... and one of the most enduring kayaks ever made paddled onto the sea.

The Romany was produced by Nigel Dennis Kayaks - now Sea Kayaking UK - in Anglesey, Wales. It was designed to be easy to handle in rough conditions, neutral in wind, fun in the surf, have enough speed and gear storage for several days, and be strong enough to withstand a good whack on the rocks. The Romany introduced keyhole cockpits, day hatches, and skegs to North American seas.

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Nigel Dennis Kayaks Explorer

NDK Explorer Crosses Atlantic – Without a Paddler

Excerpted from an article by Wendy Killoran, published by Adventure Kayak Magazine.

Most epic kayak journeys start with a paddle stroke, but this trans-Atlantic kayak crossing was unique.

Dan Colodney was involved in a mishap at the notorious Oregon Inlet at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina when he was separated from his NDK Explorer kayak in May 2003. Colodney’s kayak drifted for nearly a year at the whim of ocean currents. It turned up floating off the shores of France.

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