I have been paddling for about 5 years now, I am no expert but I do not consider myself a beginner either. As with a lot of people I started kayaking by purchasing a barge from a box retailer and then attending a symposium and discovering what real kayaks are. After selling that recreation boat I started with a used Current Design Storm. I am 6'0" at 215 lbs with a size 12 shoe, my waist in pants is a size 38 and leg 32; this is today however several years ago when I first started paddling I was well over 240lbs. I mention my size as I had problems finding boats that would fit me. The Current Design Storm was a perfect boat for me to start with. It had a rudder and that first year was spent exploring the local rivers and lakes learning about this sport. I soon wanted to move to something a little smaller as when I lost the weight, the Current Design Storm just felt way too big for me. In addition I wanted to hang with the big boys on Lake Michigan. The guys and gals that paddle Lake Michigan as part of CASKA were real professionals who I could not keep up with in my CDS.
My next boat was a nice used QCC-700. Now this boat is long and fast with a skeg. Good thing I lost weight as with a beam of 20.9" the QCC-700 provides a tight fit but it works fine. I paddled it for a good couple of years improving my skills and strokes. At the end of last winter I found a great deal on a plastic Perception Eclipse with a rudder. Although I loved the QCC-700 I needed a plastic boat for some of the shallow rivers with tons of rocks hitting the bottom of my boat. Not having been in a boat with a rudder for a couple of years felt weird to me. After learning how to edge to turn without a rudder, having one almost feels like cheating. Yet the Eclipse is a perfect boat to have for the river plus to have an extra boat to introduce friends to the sport. Yet in the end I wanted a boat that would be more playful on Lake Michigan and easier to turn. The QCC-700 is great for rivers and flat lakes but not the winds and waves that Lake Michigan can kick up.
I chose the P&H Capella 167 strictly because of the great deal I got from a dealer in Detroit. Everything I read about it was that it would give me what I wanted being easy to turn and playful on the lake. My biggest concern was if I would fit so I called several P&H dealers across the United States to ask if someone with my size and build would be able to fit. All of them not only assured me that I would be able to fit, they all had stories about how they either knew larger people who paddled the boat or in one case the salesmen on the phone stated that he was larger than me and said that he fit fine. So I ordered the unit as I purchased it brand new $1,000 under the regular price. When I got home, surprise surprise surprise; I could not fit. My waist fit but my feet could not fit on the pegs comfortably, my legs were arched up too much to be comfortable. So of course my heart dropped as I did not know what to do. After several calls I was told to simply remove the pedals and it felt like a brand new boat and a smile returned to my face. The boat felt a lot more comfortable without the pedals but I needed a little something to put my feet on so I put one of the boat roof rack foam inside against the wall. After about 3 miles of paddling on the lake I took it out and went without anything against the bulkhead as it also was just a little bit too much foam. I put about 8 miles on the boat last weekend and it turns after edging very easy.
I would give the tracking about 7 out of ten without the skeg but when I put the skeg down it tracked perfectly. When the winds were about 10 to 20 miles per hour it performed fine and keep the boat straight. Yet once I hit some stronger winds gusting just over 20 the boat began to turn into the wind. Still, I am very happy with the tracking and edging. The biggest surprise was how fast this boat was. I am not a professional racing paddler but on my paddle last weekend I left my friends far behind. Perhaps it is the weight or how it cut the water I am not sure but I took moderate strokes at the same cadence as everyone else (trust me I was looking so when they took a stroke then I took a stroke) and within 10 strokes I was pulling ahead (with my traditional paddle compared to the Euro Blades they were using). When I got home I cut the foam block in half and I look forward to going out again next weekend.
Overall I love the boat but I wish it was a little bigger (or I have to lose more weight). I will report on this issue again after I paddle with it a little more.I have paddled many boats (e.g., Caribou S, Gulfstream, Kodiak, Solstice, Magellan, Q-boat) and this boat ranks up at the top. First of all, this boat is designed to play. It can move and change direction quickly -- all that is required is a slight edge and a sweep and you are going in a different direction. Second, it is fast. Third, deck layout is great. Fourth, quality is top notch. Fifth, stability (secondary and primary) is very good -- very confidence inspiring -- a boat for all levels.
I have only two criticisms.
First, the back band does not sit properly for me.
Second, you have to get used to the two step system for adjusting the skeg - first pinch and push and then adjust. This has been corrected in this year's model.
Finally, how do you spell the Capella 167 - simple -- F-U-N.
I was looking for a boat to slot between my voluminous tripper and straight keeled speed merchant. I'm of average male height and a little above the mean in weight. Extensive experience and boat ownership.
The candidates were the Avocet, Romany, Delphin and Capella. The decisive factor was a killer deal on a Capella from a cash hungry dealer, but I believe it turned out to be the best choice for me, anyway. I owned a plastic version a few years ago and this is a horse of a different color. Noticeably livelier.
First impressions. P&H quality is top drawer. The boat is point n' shoot – give it the proper input and it just does whats asked. Felt like I was sitting a tad high. Beautiful lines.
It's a nimble boat. Speed is adequate, but not blazing. Always a tradeoff. It's easy to edge or roll and handles wind and waves from all directions. Intermediate to advanced paddlers will be most satisfied with this Capella.
The deck rigging and hatch configurations are fine for my usage. The pop-on day hatch isn't the easiest access is rough water. The moderate volume, day hatch compartment and skeg box mean I'm not selling my tripper. The aft deck bar is handy for towing or security.
The highlight of the cockpit is the footpegs. They can be adjusted underway. The backband is stiff and a little high. That hasn't been an issue since the boat rolls so easily without much layback. I find the pronounced center ridge of the seat pad uncomfortable with its bra effect ("lift and separate"). The thigh braces aren't adjustable, adding to the need to glue in some knee blocking. The skeg operates adequately and is effective. The cockpit opening is on the small side and I'm not leaping out for surf landings or sticking cowboy rescues.
A very good candidate to test if quality, agility and all-seas capability are high on your list of criteria.