Submitted: 03-03-2010 by Narragansett_Bill
I purchased the NC 17 Quest in February 2009 from NC Kayaks, the light-layup version that weighs 46 pounds (instead of the standard 55 pounds). I live in Rhode Island, just half a mile from Narragansett Bay. It survived its long shipping trek from Tacoma, WA in perfect condition. I have been kayaking for only two years, but I have been doing a lot of it. Most of my trips have been on Narragansett Bay, with additional trips near Cape Ann in Massachusetts and the Connecticut Coast.
The kayak does everything it was designed to do: it is very fast; it tracks exceptionally well; it is well-constructed; it is light and therefore easy to carry; it has plenty of storage space in its bow and stern hatches; and it is easy to roll. For these reasons, it earns a rating of a full "10". Let me elaborate on my assessment. At the end I'll also mention what the kayak is not optimal for.
Receiving the kayak in February presented a practical problem, because the bay was only 34 degrees F. Not having the patience to try it out several months later, I took it to a YMCA pool that was having kayak lessons. First, to my pleasant surprise I didn't tip over. I was used to a much wider Seda Viking, so with my lack of experience on narrow kayaks I expected the worst. I'd rate the primary stability as moderate: not too tipsy, but in 2-foot seas I'd hesitate to try to take a photograph off to the side. Second, I was pleasantly surprised to roll it successfully five out of six attempts. My surprise came because I had learned to roll in the same pool only a month before and I had not practiced between those visits. The only roll I can manage on any kayak is a lay-back roll, and the Quest's low stern makes it easy. The seat and combing also aren't too high to get in the way.
I haven't yet attempted to load up the kayak with gear for an expedition, but I can attest to quite a bit of room under each of the two hatches. Because the kayak has no skeg, moreover, the rear storage section is roomier than otherwise.
I love the kayak's light weight. At 63 years old, my knees aren't what they used to be and I value a light boat. To me the light layup is worth a $1000 premium. The kayak's long length adds to its hull speed, which I greatly appreciated on long trips of 20 miles or more. I also have no trouble keeping up with younger, stronger, more experienced kayakers. I am 6 foot, 1 inch tall, and the kayak is plenty roomy for my long legs and size-12 feet.
My knees received some support from the inside of the combing, but I wanted a snugger fit and added foam knee braces. I am narrow at the hips and also added padding there. Customizing the kayak presented no problems. Because the kayak is narrow, one constraint is that I can't comfortably wear my chunkiest boots, but the tradeoff for speed is worth it to me.
My only complaint is a minor one: the front and rear perimeter grab lines don't extend all the way to the bow and stern. I wish the company would have an option for perimeter lines to go all the way forward and back. Despite this complaint, the kayak excels in all those other design specifications; it earns the top rating.
The NC 17 Quest is not my only kayak, because different designs are optimized for different conditions. When I want a "play boat" for rock gardens, where maneuvering quickly is required, I use my Necky Chatham 16. This boat has more rocker than the Quest, and unlike the Quest the bow and stern are more pointed – without a more vertical keel structure. The Chatham is also plastic, so I feel uninhibited as I try to master taking off and landing through surf. The Chatham is heavy but I'll work around that as long as it is not my only boat. Finally, when I want a kayak with very high initial stability – such as when I take a novice out on the bay – my old Seda Viking serves that purpose.
In sum, the NC 17 Quest does everything it was designed to do. No boat meets all needs, and therefore I wouldn't call it an "all-around boat." If you have some experience and want a high-end fiberglass boat, I strongly recommend this product.