Submitted by: David Langdon on 5/30/2017
I have been putting off this review for awhile. It actually doesn't, probably, belong here since P&H is now Venture kayaks. I did not know that upon purchase of this kayak. I have since read a lot about the merger and the downside of Venture. I purchased this kayak new and unused from Craigslist for $900. It was listed on CL as a P&H boat. However, it is definitely stamped "Venture" on the side. What that means for me....I don't know?
I'm 6'5" and 250 pounds without any gear or clothing. I have a 36 inch leg inseam and that poses many problems for me in the realm of kayaking. I have been paddling a Valley Nordkapp RM for a couple of years. I didn't know much about paddling flatwater when I purchased that boat (former WW paddler), but I realized rather quickly that it was much to small for me despite the fact that I could squeeze into the cockpit. And that was certainly a squeeze. In calm and warm weather I tried to re-enter the Nordkapp after taking a practice swim. It was impossible. Far too narrow for a guy of my size. Although I paddled it hundreds of miles, I was not comfortable not being able to regain access to the boat in the event of a swim. That was a bit scary, even if I feel that I would never have to swim.....
So, the Nordkapp was great in many ways, but very undersized. At my size, the initial stability was awful. As long as I was paddling forward, it felt like there was nothing that I could not handle. Stopping to grab a snack or snap a picture....however, was a dangerous undertaking.
So, I wanted something better...and with more initial stability...and safer. I had the chance to purchase a P&H Capella 166 brand new at used prices. It is a 2016 model.
I met the seller and paddled it out on a lake. Felt nice, but definitely felt shorter than the Nordkapp. That didn't seem to be a problem, however, It still paddled a bit like my Nordkapp. I initially felt like it was slower....but I did notice the extra two inches in width and the immediate change in initial stability. I felt like I could actually stop and take a photo without cascading over. Maybe have a snack. Sit comfortably without paddling...
I bought it and started putting it through the paces. Here is what I know...
It doesn't track at all like my Nordkapp. I seldom dropped the skeg on the Nordkapp unless I was crossing some totally wind blown open water stretch, but I drop the skeg much more often on the Capella. Very often actually. I seem quite dependent on the skeg at times. Without it, it has sometimes been a struggle to fight the wind. Even just light wind and chop.
However, with the skeg down, or even half down, all my problems were solved. The kayak paddles well and is much more nimble with the skeg down than the Nordkapp. That might be because of my size. "Skeg down" in the Nordkapp basically meant I was heading forward and not trying to turn much at all. "Skeg down" in the Capella means I can still follow shoreline contours and make subtle adjustments without pulling it back up. I don't feel like I'm fighting the skeg. More like it is helping me get where I want to go.
I did not enjoy the outfitting in the Nordkapp. This is probably because I am much too large for that kayak. The seat was uncomfortable and the backband was "barely there".
There is a vast difference with the Capella 166. The thigh hooks are great and form fitting. Even with a 36 inch inseam, I don't have the pedals at the furthest setting from me. The seat is set dead center and I still can put further distance on the pedals. I can also take my feet off the pedals and stretch my legs. My toes can just barely reach the front bulkhead. I can also pull my knees up through the cockpit if I want to move around a bit and stretch some more. This was unheard of in the Nordkapp for a guy my size.
However....the back band and thigh hooks are made of the same material. With dry pants on, those thigh hooks felt like pillows on my legs. Absolutely amazing. Yet, if you put those same thigh hooks or backband on bare skin....they eventually feel like sandpaper. It can become quite uncomfortable in a short amount of time. The material of both the thigh hooks and backband are quite abrasive to bare skin. It's hard to know how to score that detail. It is why the Capella is not receiving 5 stars.
Not the only reason, however. The Nordkapp drop skeg control was perfectly set on my left hand side. It was wire driven and prone to kinks, but it was really easy to adjust. The Capella....not so much. It's behind you on the left hand side. It's rope controlled, and for me, impossible to see no matter what angel I tried. It's in a very awkward place to try and take control of the skeg. Without a lot of effort, the skeg is either up or down. It's very difficult to get a "little skeg". I pretty much have to do that blindly. I can neither look over my left shoulder on under my arm to see the skeg setting. Seeing as the Capella is a kayak that could often use about a "half skeg", the controls are inadequate at best. Yet, I still will take that over a rudder. Your mileage may vary.
All in all, I like this Venture Capella 166. I have achieved a steady pace of 4.5 mph in the last 3 outings. I took it out on some moving water this weekend and found that it was pretty easy to ferry and keep an upstream angle.
Wind has really been its major downfall. The skeg solves that, but it's not as much fun to have the skeg down in my opinion.
Submitted by: bilbo on 3/19/2016
Submitted by: Castman on 10/10/2014
I Purchased a new 2012 Capella 166RM this Past June. I wanted the P&H version and not the Venture kayak one due to placement of skeg control. We took a trip on Lake Michigan in what turned into 3 foot waves and high winds, the Capella handled spectacular and the skeg being deployed kept me on track. The plastic is very stiff and I had no issue due to flexing. I would rate this as my favorite of my three boats.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 7/20/2011
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...
A very efficient plastic boat.
Submitted by: DougKing on 1/24/2011
I've owned my Capella RM166 for 5 years and love it. The plastic is as stiff a plastic boat I have seen and is durable too. Primary and secondary stability is good and the boat handles well in wind and waves. The Capella RM166 is a good boat for intermediate paddlers and will grow with you as your skills develop. I own 4 kayaks and I will never get rid of this kayak because it does everything well. As roto plastic kayaks go, I haven't found another that handles like my Capella. I'm 53, 6' and 210 lbs.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 1/4/2010
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!
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.
Submitted by: tarwheel on 7/15/2009
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.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 5/6/2009
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.
Keep up the good work Jim, Dinver and Kevin.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 4/28/2009
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.
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.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 6/5/2008
The Capella 166 is fast, stable, and does well in wind and in waves. It carries a lot of stuff and is truly fun to paddle. The skeg does require a bit of thought as it functions poorly when jammed with mud and efforts to force it to work will break it. The smart course is to wash the mud out; then, the skeg will work fine. The skeg is not necessary as the kayak is a great tracker. Also, the cockpit is easy to enter and to exit. The seat is quite comfortable. All in all, a great choice for either expedition or for touring.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 5/16/2008
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.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 11/27/2007
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.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 8/30/2007
My only complaint is when I am in too big a hurry to exit the boat I tend to damage my shins (I'm 6 foot 175lb) on the sharp edge of the front cockpit. I can't help but wonder if this has been modified since. The only trouble I have had was my rubber hatch covers rotted after about 4 years, but they were left exposed during that time.
High marks and definitely a great boat.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 6/18/2007
Submitted by: Anonymous on 6/4/2007
I was looking for something to bang around in a good all around boat and stumbled on the Capella. From cruising the harbor to being out in 4'seas I never lost faith in that boat.
Surprised me how fast/efficient the Capella was esp for a plastic boat.... Stroke for stroke I could keep pace with "most" glass boats that I paddled with.
I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a more efficient plastic boat. I am 6'3" 245 lbs and had no issues at all with it.
I sold it and now wished I hadn't.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 2/7/2007
Anyway- the boat is fine stability wise unladen, and laden it is brilliantly stable- it lowers the freeboard quite a bit which means less weathercocking. The kayak is very strong, the kajaksport hatch covers fit tight and the skeg is excellent.
The only major gripe I have with it's actual performance relates to the rough textured finish all over the boat. I feel the boat should be quicker, and recently tried a Current Designs Scirocco, which has a highly polished finish in comparison, and this felt much quicker(even though it has terrible outfitting and the hull flexes way too much...) I'm currently on a few websites trying to work out if it's possible to somehow polish the boat to make it smoother- I don't want a composite yet, as I haven't had a full season with a "real" sea kayak of any sort and would rather wait a year or two to POSSIBLY make that change.
A polished Capella would be ideal- outfitting is expected so I'm not bothered about the changes there, it's a personal thing!
Submitted by: Wavespinner on 12/26/2006
Aside from those minor details, the boat is perfect. Accelerates quickly and is easy to edge and turn. It tracks pretty well without the skeg, but is dead-on with it. Sheds waves just fine. Lively enough to be interesting, but far from tippy. If you want performance without the expense and fragility of a composite boat, this is your ticket.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 9/22/2006
Submitted by: Anonymous on 4/25/2005
Submitted by: Anonymous on 7/2/2004
It's the right fit, the right length, the right weight--lighter then the pungo in the hands by the way--better balance and easier to carry over a shoulder. It is totally stable just sitting in the water--coppy or still. It only partially wind cocks into a 10 knot wint with the skeg up and with the skeg down the sucker is solid on rails. I myself and very sensative to rocky boats which is why I really haven't liked many of the 15+ foot boats that I have paddled. The WS Tempest was a nice sports car of a boat but I couldn't sit still in that boat for a second without risking sure capsite.
I am not an experienced sea kayaker so bracing strokes, knee-up swift pinwheel turns, and laying it on it's side have been hard skills for me to master in other boats. In the Capella it's as if I've been paddling for 20 years--this is not a lie. I sat in put my paddle out just a bit and with a little flex completely laid it on it's side with the gunwall almost flat on the water. The sucker has great acceleration--and with a little lean and a nice big paddle blade I pulled that boat around in 30' circle which I consider to be pretty good.
The bottom line, no matter how good any review can be on any boat YOU have to sit in it and you have paddle it. Paddle boats side by side on the same day to really tell the differences. I like the Capella that now sick in my kayak rack. See you on the water.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 3/26/2004
Submitted by: highlander on 2/19/2004
My friend also commented on the new seat system and said it improved an already comfortable kayak and the new seat is more like the ones found on P&H's fibreglass models. As for the boat feel in the water, he said it felt pretty much the way the old Capella felt (typical British Kayak feel), except he though it had a little more initial stability and tracked a little better.
He liked the boat so much he has placed an order and suggested I do the same once I've seen and tested the boat myself
Submitted by: highlander on 9/23/2003
Before purchasing the Capella I test paddled various boats, both Glass, plastic and Carbon, and decided to purchase a plastic boat because it fits the large variety of paddling I do. I paddled boats from all the well known manufacturers and some lesser known ones and found the combination of performance, quality, design, fit and finish, comfort and feel of the Capella best suited my needs.
I have paddled the boat in various conditions from flat calm to 8' swells and even surfed the boat off Long Beach on Vancouver Island (what a blast that was) and found the all round performance of the boat was excellent. To date I have not had to use the skeg once, even though I have paddled in some high wind/strong tidal conditions. In fact for a plastic boat I found the Capella tracks very well and is pretty fast. I can keep up with any of my friends in their Glass or Carbon Kevlar boats without any problem, but I am a strong paddler!
I had to add hip pads but other than that I haven't had to do anything with the fittings on the boat and find the seating to be excellent. Even without the hip pads I've found this boat is a dream to roll and very manouverable. It has decent initial stability and excellent secondary stability, which is the way I prefer in a sea kayak.
Despite its relativey small storage areas I have found carrying even a week or twos camping supplies not to be a problem, although I will admit I am a light camper.
I purchased a fully loaded version which included the built in compass and pump and although I haven't used the pump apart from pumping out friends boats, the compass has been used a lot and is great! Overall I am extremely happy with this boat and know it will serve me well for a long long time. I can highly recommend the P & H range and especially the Capella to anyone looking for a good performance Sea Kayak!
Submitted by: Anonymous on 9/15/2003
The skeg works quite well. I see no reason for a rudder - just a little lean & it carves turns quite well. It doesn't weathercock in the wind. It feels tippy, so when I want to float around or birdwatch, I take a dfferent boat. But for travelling, it's a great boat.
Submitted by: Anonymous on 4/11/2003
Submitted by: Anonymous on 1/10/2003