P&H Capella 166 RM Sea and Touring kayak
Length 5.05 (16'7") Beam 56cm Weight 24.5kg Capacity 120kg
Avg continuous comfortable cruise 4.0/4.3mph - sprint 6.5mph
This is a review of the later post 2004 P&H triple layer plastic version (same material as the P&H Scorpio) with round/oval hatch covers not the current cheaper, and less stiff, single layer plastic Venture branded version.
PLEASE NOTE: The early, pre 2004, version of the Capella RM had square hatches not round/oval hatches and P&H declared the square hatch version out of support in 2020. I believe the hull shape of the square hatch version was also slightly different with a little less stability although some claim it also handled slightly better. P&H no longer make replacement square rubber hatch covers and also advise that as the older version was moulded for them by a previous different company they cannot guarantee that the plastic used in the older square hatch version is still safe to use as it may have UV degraded (They have actually said it should not be used anywhere you would not be comfortable swimming to the shore!).
Contrary to my fears, despite it's narrower beam within minutes I felt comfortably stable and confident in it (big relief!). It has great secondary stability. Also managed a sprint speed of 6.5mph equalling the fastest speed I have so far managed in any kayak (although initially I had only been able to equal the speeds achieved in the Easky 15). On my standard test cruise average speeds were slightly higher than the Easky 15 and quite a lot faster than the Pro SI 149. It edges easily and responds to an edge well. It doesn't track quite as well as the Easky 15 (or the Pro SI), and has a tendency to weathercock, but that is the price you pay for a little more manoueverability and the increased rocker. This can be easily corrected though by judicious use of the skeg. The seat is slighty more comfortable than the Easky 15 ( a little more padding) but doesn't have the option of the flip up additional back support on the seat (which I never use anyway) and the cockpit is not quite as roomy, foot space is a bit tighter. Experienced sea kayakers will quote this as an advantage, being more in contact with the kayak, but recreational kayakers may appreciate the slightly larger cockpit space of the Easky 15. Personally, as my experience has grown, I have begun to appreciate the control advantages of a snug fitting boat and have added strategic padding so subtle movements of hip and knees are more directly transmitted to the hull. The triple skin hull is nice and stiff. The additional day hatch behind the cockpit, accessible while on the water, is useful. The large rear hatch comfortably swallowed my, dismantled, C-Tug trolley. Having encountered a stiff breeze and a short, steep, confused chop the theory of a narrower slightly more tippy (less initial stability) hull being better than a wider more stable hull in waves was proved correct. The kayak tended to stay upright with the waves passing beneath it rather than heeling following the surface of the waves and I felt nicely in control and in no danger of a capsize. All in all I am delighted with this kayak and it probably does as much as I will ever need (Now I just need to test the P&H Scorpio/Cetus MV/Tiderace Xcite and Xplore, SKUK Explorer!! Kayak/Canoe Acquisiton Syndrome seems to be a comon problem with paddlers!!!). I frequently paddle this on the sea now and it continues to display good characteristics and has proved stiff and robust.
Intermediate Paddler Review Update: Nice all round triple layer plastic sea kayak equally at home at sea or touring round the Norfolk Broads. The seat and thigh braces/cockpit outfitting are more comfortable than many sea kayaks I have paddled (one of the only sea kayaks I didn't feel the need to refit/customise the cockpit). Good initial and secondary stability and manoeuvrable when edged. Prone to weathercocking when lightly loaded but this reduces the more weight is added. Low Volume version (160) LV version also available for lighter loadings (but at at 82kg and a touch under 6' with UK size 10/11 feet I didn't have enough foot room in the 160 whereas my 166 is fine). Check for well documented P&H skeg control issues (modifications to later versions helped). I probably paddled this more than any of my previous kayaks and I don't regret buying it but after a recent test paddle in a Seabird Scott I upgraded to a longer/narrower/more expensive composite sea kayak (although I would probably have kept the Capella as well had funds permitted as it is more robust than a composite boat)! Very reasonably priced on the secondhand market now so makes a good value buy (I would recommend NOT buying an older square hatch version as per P&H statement - see notice at top of review).