On a Roll

posted Jul 15, 2017, 8:05 AM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Jul 16, 2017, 7:02 PM ]

In the summer of 2016 I purchased the kayak of my dreams, a Mariner Express refurbished by the inimitable John Abercrombie (of Victoria) to include bow, stern, and day hatches – a truly professional job. Having neither rudder nor skeg, the kayak behaves well even in rough water with no need to carry skeg or rudder repair parts. I am selling it. What?


I have a compromised lower back from a long ago ski injury, reducing my torso rotation and inhibiting my reach. The Mariner seat is too deep for me and even with adding some seat padding, I have significant difficulty rolling this fine kayak with any consistency. At age 76, it is not productive for me to learn to roll this boat – I need to improve my rolling, not spend another year or two trying to start on a roll.

Coincidentally, I picked up a neglected, disheveled, older NDK Explorer. My plan was to refurbish this and sell it at a modest profit – not for enough to pay for my labor, but sufficient for continuing this hobby. Working hard at rolling my Mariner, I decided on a whim to try the Explorer. My inadequate roll was suddenly 100% successful in the NDK. I continued going back and forth, attempting to roll these two boats. Success with the Explorer was splendid, that with the Mariner was dismal.

The Explorer leaks a bit in the stern hatch when rolling, but otherwise not in normal upright paddling. I’ll get around to addressing this, but there is no urgency. I have cleaned up the kayak, adding rigging, repairing the skeg, replacing the backband, including a keel strip, etc. The hull and deck are fine, albeit not with their original luster. I’ll continue to tweak this until it is where I want it.


This kayak is somewhat heavy for a fiberglass kayak, reinforced with diolen (poor man’s kevlar) here and there. It is truly a sturdy craft, perhaps a bit long for me, perhaps not. It is reputed to handle rough water well, even without the skeg, until conditions get waygnar. It has the rope skeg, which is easily repaired in the field (even I know how). I once had an older Romany Classic, which would likely be a better choice for fit, although slower. I wasn’t much into rolling then, but did find that particular boat to weathercock more than this Explorer.

Of course, the NDK Explorer has a name … Xena.


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