I paddled a Capella 166 for three years and absolutely loved the boat. I didn't want to purchase a kayak I would out grow and the Capella fit the bill 100%.
I am 6'3 240lbs 33" inseam and found the boat very comfortable for me. The tracking was great, cutting turns, secondary stability was also very good. During the same time I was paddling a Seda Kevlar Glider and found the Capella very efficient especially for a plastic boat. With a good paddle stroke, there where not many that could power away from me, composite or not...After using many of the reviews on this site to pick a new kayak, its only fair that I post my own, now that I have purchased. Took my new P&H Capella 166 out for its first run last week and loved it. I would probably be best described as a novice, 210lbs, 6'1 and this is my first Sea Kayak, although have paddled a few club/school boats over the last year. I wanted to buy something that would give me confidence as a novice, but that I wouldn't feel compelled to trade up after 6 months. Needed something to see me through a few years at least and I think I found it!
A very efficient plastic boat.
Before buying the Capella tried out an Esky 15, P&H Scorpio and also a Dagger Cortez. I also considered the Point 65 Sea Cruiser which is in the same price range but was advised that it was a bit tippy for a starter like me. I found the Capella to be a great kayak and from the first time I tested it, I knew it was the one for me. Excellent stability, edges so easily, good speed, and on my first trip managed over 15Km's mainly in calm water, but towards the end of the trip got hit with very strong inner harbor winds that meant we had a lot of chop to contend with it. The Kayak handled this brilliantly. Head on into the strong wind and swell, was no problem at all. With the skeg down, had no problem keeping her steady and straight until I felt ready to make a dash to the shore. Great to have a kayak that is fast, but also gives this beginner confidence when needed, while not being too boring. Checked all hatches and they were completely dry after my first run. Looking forward to getting out again.I'm a 200lb, 6' long time ww and surf kayaker but new to sea kayaks and distance.
Demo'd the Capella versus several other 16' playful class kayaks, Chatham and Tempest, etc. Capella seemed faster and better tracking, but then also was super comfortable leaned on edge for turns either at speed or rest. Other boats seemed quite twitchy on edge. Other boats spun faster when flat but seemed to suffer in speed and tracking. Edged turns reminded me on my english gate practice back in the old dancer style boats. Best of both worlds.
Did some roll, reentry and roll, paddle float entry practice. Rolling was way easy skirt or not. First outing, paddled 8 miles in wind, fog and chop, comfortably going 1/2 mile offshore solo. Got some light surfing in. 2nd outing paddled 12 miles in 3 hours on the river and decided no feather might be nicer on the wrists. 3rd outing, explored double overhead bowling offshore reef breaks in 14 sec surf after tiring in the surf boat. Hmm, yes, must surf them soon in the finned boat. Super comfortable and confidence inspiring boat. Maybe overconfidence inspiring, so I put in a foot operated bilge pump just in case I ever dump it off shore in the long cold water season we have in the NE.
Happy with the boat but unfortunately I've now gotten the go-fast bug and can't stop looking at paddles and surf skis.I have owned my Capella 166 RM for about a month, and I've paddled it about 75 miles during 10 outings so far. My outfitter let me demo it over a weekend, and I decided to keep it since it paddled so nice.
Initial stability is less than my first kayak (Necky Manitou 13), and I tipped over the first time I climbed in the Capella. Fortunately I haven't repeated that gaffe, and the secondary stability is excellent. The Capella tracks very nice even with the skeg retracted, but the skeg is great when paddling in certain winds. It is easy to edge and turns well. It also handles very well in rough water and waves, and I actually seek out boat wakes when I'm paddling it because it's so fun.
The Capella has tons of storage space and would be suitable for touring. It has 3 separate hatches and bulkheads, which is a great safety feature as well as providing storage. The hatch covers are easy to use and seal great. The kayak also has plenty of riggings.
The P&H seat, for me, is it's strongest point. It provides plenty of support and is very comfortable. I paddled my Capella 16 miles over 5 hours the second day I had it, and my rear was never uncomfortable. In my Manitou, I would have been squirming after the first hour or so.
The Capella RM is not particularly fast, if that is important to you. My average speed in the 16'7" Capella is barely faster than my 13' Manitou, although it's easier to maintain a faster pace over long periods.
My Capella is the light blue color (sort of a Robin's egg blue) and it discolors easily. Mine quickly developed marks on the hull where it rests on my Yakima rack, and it also stains easily in dirty water. The marks are not easy to clean off. However, the top portion (above water) of the hull still looks like new.
The Corelite plastic used in the Capella's hull has relatively rough finish, which may slow its speed. The roughness also prevents suction devices (such as LED lights) from attaching well to the hull.
Overall I am very pleased with my Capella, despite the shortcomings. I also paddled the P&H Scorpio and liked it even more (felt much quicker) but couldn't justify the additional cost. My Capella was on sale for $1,000 new, and the Scorpio would have cost nearly twice as much ($800-900 more).
The quality of construction and attention to detail is great on my Capella. I have also heard very good reports on their customer service and warranty protection.Purchased a 166RM and 160RM last year at Kittery Trading Post. Larger model for me (210 lbs and 6 ft). My wife (5'3" and 125 lbs) uses the smaller one. This is my 3rd season paddling and had a tandem prior to upgrading to the Capellas. It was an excellent purchase and the transition to a conventional sea kayak was a non-event.
The Capellas are extremely stable. I have been out in howling winds and 8 foot seas (or 4 ft by nautical scale) and felt perfectly comfortable, in fact...even did a bit of surfing. They track well, no bow spray in waves, water tight storage, great seats and pads...simply a great product!!
Other members of my family who had never paddled before tried the Capellas and had the hang of it in no time.
These are extremely well built boats and have great warranty coverage. I know this from personal experience as I had a warranty issue that was handled quickly and professionally by the folks at P&H Kayaks in North Carolina.I purchased the boat as a second boat for daily paddling as I have a FG Valley Aquanaut HV for touring. I am 6'2" and 230 Lbs. I have a 32 inch inseam.
Keep up the good work Jim, Dinver and Kevin.
The thigh braces and seat are top notch. A new lower back band might be my next purchase and is my only complainant about the Capella. There is lots of room for my feet and I feel like I am in full control of the boat with the thigh supports. (Trying to purchase some for my Valley.)
The boat paddles like a FG model. It tracks very well and does not need the skeg to keep a straight track on flat open water. I paddled it in 20 km/h winds with half meter waves. I had to put the skeg down on following seas which kept the boat straight as an arrow. There is a bit of a learning curve on using the skeg. The trick is to push the release button not squeeze it. The boat feels very stable with good initial and secondary stability.
If you are looking for a fun boat that you can surf, take pictures and day trip in I highly recommend this boat. This boat could be used as a touring boat 4-5 days max if you pack like a backpacker. This boat would be good for all skill levels including those new to the sport.I was looking for a plastic touring/play boat. I have a larger glass boat, so I wanted a shorter plastic boat that I could take on day trips or longer that was more maneuverable and could take a beating. I decided that I wanted a skeg boat and paddled the Tempest 170, Scirocco, and Chatham 17 before trying the Capella. I was ready to buy the Chatham when the store suggested I take the Capella and Chatham out and compare. They were confident I would choose the Capella. They were right.
The seat and back band were the most comfortable I had tried. The knee braces were rock solid and adjustable. The initial stability was less than the Chatham due to the hard chine but still good. The secondary stability is great. The boat edges well for nice turns. Construction is outstanding and I truly enjoy paddling it. It is surprisingly quick for its size. It won't keep up with my glass boat but it does well. I highly recommend anyone looking for a plastic touring kayak to take the Capella for a paddle. Never buy a boat you have not paddled.I bought a Capella RM 166 used early this year and have paddled it extensively. I'm 5'10" and 230 lbs and the kayak fits great. I really like its stability, stiffness and it seems to be faster than other plastic kayaks of similar size. The hatches stay dry, the skeg works well and overall I'm very happy with the boat.
A few negatives: The seat back is pretty uncomfortable - I usually end up with a back rash if I'm not comfortable. I kinked the skeg cable, as I guess every skeg owner does, but on the Capella you have to replace the entire skeg for $38 - the cable is an integral part of the skeg. Easy to do but a bit steep.