Astral Brewer Water Shoe Review – 2014 UPDATE

“Technical performance and classic style are blended perfectly to bring you the shoe whitewater kayakers have been waiting for.” -Astral Buoyancy

Brewer View

The Deets:

  • Lightweight, Minimalist Construction
  • Durable Cordura® Upper
  • Breathable Airmesh vamp & tongue
  • Balanced Geometry Midsole (zero drop)
  • Drainage at front sidewall and Silt Dump at heel
  • G.14™ outsole
  • Step-Down Heel
  • Alternate lace color provided
  • MSRP: $99.95 USD

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The Review:

I am pleased to bring you a “2014 Review” of the updated Brewer water shoe by Astral Buoyancy. While this review is technically a spin-off of Kayak Dave’s 2013 Review, keep in mind that this review comes from a different viewpoint.

I was very cautious about investing in a pair of Astral Brewer’s at first based on my experiences of past water shoes. From my prior endeavors I have found water shoes to nearly always:

1) Run too narrow

2) Have a very limited lifespan

3) Provide insignificant traction on wet/slippery surfaces

4) Lack necessary drainage and drying time

5) Trap debris and sand   

6) Create rashes/hotspots while kayaking

7) Ugly/Outdated Styling

 

It is through seven axioms that I will review the Astral Brewer, a tight order for the Brewer to fill?… I guess you’ll see.

1) Run too narrow. For most individuals, I would say more than half, shoes that run narrow do not present an issue. For myself and a small cohort of outdoor enthusiasts, I have wide feet… very wide feet to be clear… 4E Width to be exact. So finding a pair of water shoes to fit, and to fit comfortable is a rarity at best. A representative at Astral presented the following reasons why the Brewer may fit a wider foot:

a) Our footwear is designed to be narrower in the heel and mid foot, getting wider in the toe box.

b) Our shoes are made without a strobel board.  A strobel board is the static fabric stitched between medial and lateral sides of the upper.  It is underneath the insole of almost all “normal” shoes.  By not having a strobel, the EVA mid sole is free to adjust to your foot’s width width much more so than with a strobel.

c) Our uppers are made with textile and air mesh. Both of these are fabrics that have “give” and will adjust to your foot in a short period.

I purchased a pair of Brewers’ that were a half-size larger than my normal width. After wearing my Brewers for a couple of days, I found Astral’s assessment to be true. While snug at first within the break-in period, I found that the Brewers’ soon adjusted to the wide contours of my feet. They do not have any pressure points or areas where my feet feel “pinched.” I will note, however, that I wore my Brewers’ in the shower, allowing them to get wet with warm water and then dry on my feet. This helped to relax the upper fabric when forming to my foot.

 

2)      Have a very limited lifespan. As Dave mentioned in his previous review, he has experienced the limited lifespan of most water shoes, knowing the misfortune of lasting only a summer or two before beginning to fall apart. After wearing my Brewers’ in a variety of conditions over the past 8 months, from kayaking, light hiking, and every-day casual wear, I cannot see the Brewers’ starting to fall apart anytime soon. I will be sure to keep readers updated on the longevity of the Brewers’ but I can’t see it will be negative.

 

3) Provide insignificant traction on wet/slippery surfaces.  The Brewers’ are provide the best traction of any paddling shoe out there… hands down. Their newly updated G.14 outsole is like a gecko grip on all surfaces, even slick algae covered rocks. Astral definitely hit a homerun with the new G.14 outsoles, and if their next iteration is anything like these… the Brewers’ can only get better from here.

Astral Brewer G14 sole

 

4) Lack necessary drainage/drying time. I have had the misfortune to sit in wet, cold paddling shoes for hours with no relief in sight. I can happily say that those days are over now that the Brewers’ have hit the market. Not only do the Brewers’ drain as soon as you exit the water, but they dry very quickly especially when kayaking. During the summer I would estimate that they dry in about 50-115 minutes depending on the humidity and level of activity. They dry even faster when sitting in the sun.

 

5) Trap debris and sand. While the Brewers’ are not perfect at keeping debris out, especially when walking around in dry conditions, most small debris will flush out upon entering the water. I have worn these to the beach and walked in wet sand up to my ankles to find that the Brewers’ do a moderately good job at keeping wet, loose sand out. While sand does enter the shoes from top, it easily washes away upon kicking your feet in the water. Larger debris can be an issue such as small pebbles and wood chips which I have found to get kicked into the Brewers quite easily. Unlike smaller debris which washes out of the rear ports, they must be taken off in order to remove larger pieces which does not happen with neoprene paddling shoes.

Astral Brewer in sand

5)  Create rashes/hotspots while kayaking. I have paddled in several races and paddling trips with the Brewers’, both wet and dry, and have yet to develop any type of rubbing or rash. They do a great job at protecting the food when inside even tight cockpits, and keep your feet elevated for great foot brace contact. The slight rocker of the toe allows for easy contact with the ball of your foot without impending proper torso rotation. If you are wondering why your foot position is important to proper torso rotation, see article Kayaking: A low-impact high intensity exercise.

 

7) Ugly/Outdated styling. This category should not need a lot of detailed explanation after seeing a pair of the Astral Brewers.’ These are so beautifully designed from top to bottom that 99% percent of people won’t even know they’re water shoes. Enough said.

Brewer 2014

Note about color options: I purchase the Black/White Brewer (as seen in the first photo), and the white portion does get very dirty and scuffed. While it can be cleaned to an extent, they show wear a lot more than their darker counterparts.

Keep on paddling!

-Alex

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Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag Review

Overview:

“With its multiple tie-down points, bungees, and side straps for added storage, you will have plenty of room for added gear with our Deluxe Deck Bag.” – Seattle Sports

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag

The Deets:

Materials: RF-welded Vinyl

Height x Width x Depth: 6in x 13in x 14in

Volume: 791 cubic inches

Weight: 2lbs 4oz

Colors: Yellow

MSRP: $64.95

 

Review:

It seems to me that deck bags have been out of vogue over the past few years thanks in part to the fact that manufacturers are putting so much emphasis on integrated deck pods. These deck pods have been touted as a superior storage solution to deck bags because they are “integrated, recessed, and remain easy to access from the cockpit.”  I make the point to fully investigate these deck pods when I try out new boats and I’ve been largely unimpressed; they’re not removable like deck bags, they take up space in the cockpit, and it’s often difficult to access their contents while paddling. Sometimes it requires the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast to reach any gear that has slipped into the nether-reaches of a pod. These are just some of the reasons why I still prefer deck bags!

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag (Front)

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Deluxe Deck Bag by Seattle Sports remains one of the best deck bags on the market! Seattle Sports prides itself on the superior quality of its RF-welded vinyl products and the Deluxe Deck bag is no exception. I’ve had the chance to test this deck bag to the max and found that it’s fully RF-welded seams keep the water out even when your deck gets washed over! Furthermore, its low-profile design presents minimal windage when strapped on the fore deck.

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag (Open)

The designers also put a lot of thought into the functionality of this deck bag. It has multiple tie-down points, bungees and side straps for added storage. There is also a clear window (a bit on the small side) that faces cockpit to allow the paddler to locate their essential gear (e.g. gloves, rain coat, snack) more easily. The opposite end of the bag features a reflective patch and lashing mount for a strobe light to help keep you visible. The one thing that I’m not a huge fan of is the fact that the bag doesn’t open fully. This is probably to prevent gear from spilling out but it would be much easier to get larger items into the bag if the zippers were extended another inch on each side.

Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag (SUP)

Deck bags have long been synonymous with kayaks. However, my favorite use for the Deluxe Deck Bag in on the deck of my SUP! Indeed, kayaks hold many storage options such as hatches, bungee cords, and the like. SUPs, on the other hand, offer very little in terms of storage and nothing in terms of dry storage for those few essential items (jacket, hammock, ect) that make a half-day adventure all that much better. Yes, you could always throw these things in a dry bag but the low-profile and flat bottom of the Deluxe Deck Bag lends itself nicely to stowing gear on the nose of the SUP. I’ve often used the Deluxe Deck Bag in the fashion on afternoon SUP trips to The Island. It carries my Hammock and Kindle like a champ!

Overall, I was quite impressed with the Seattle Sports Deluxe Deck Bag. This is a quality product with a lot of well-thought-out features! Kayakers and SUPers alike should consider the Deluxe Deck Bag as a legitimate storage solution to make those small essentials more accessible!

Happy Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

P.S:  We also had the chance to send our Deluxe Deck Bag up to Alaska for some additional field testing. We’re looking forward to hearing a report from our friend up North!

 

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Ocean Conditions: What to Expect While Sea Kayaking

CoreyMinot

At some point in a sea kayaker’s ventures, he/she will encounter water and weather conditions that don’t exactly fit the definition of calm. This can occur either by accident, or the paddler deliberately chooses to paddle in those conditions. Regardless of how they are encountered, I would like to dissect three main conditions and how they can affect a paddler’s journey: wind, current and waves. For less seasoned paddlers who may have never paddled in the conditions that follow, this article offers a brief insight of what to expect, and as well as some techniques used to expedite a trip.

 

Wind

As most paddlers will discover, wind is a factor that can change and intensify dramatically, sometimes without warning. However, wind does not always have the potential to completely immobilize a paddler and or push them out to sea. A wind coming from the stern can be a fantastic situation if it is boosting you in the desired direction. However, a headwind or broadside wind is a different situation…

Wind Cartoon

A well-seasoned paddler with an appropriate kayak and technique can safely handle winds up to 20mph. From my personal experience, winds of 25mph are rather arduous, but reaching the targeted destination is still possible. Being able to reach a destination in severe winds requires a healthy balance of three main concepts; endurance, paddling technique, and vectoring. A less experienced paddler will most likely become exhausted quickly due to lack of proper paddling technique (i.e. torso rotation) and insufficient paddling fitness. Nothing beats spending time in your kayak to gain fitness and confidence for more challenging conditions!

Small Craft Advisories are posted when winds exceed 25mph. Consider kayaking on another day!

Small Craft Advisories are posted when winds exceed 25mph. Consider kayaking on another day!

Vectoring is an important navigational technique (compass required) used by paddlers to stay on course. In a broadside wind, for example, paddling towards a fixed object will cause the boat’s path to curve. This increases paddling distance, takes more time, and uses more energy. Vectoring makes use of a compass to aim towards a selected heading upwind from the target. This will allow the wind to push you in a straight line path that involves less distance traveled, less time taken, and less energy used.

 

Current

Currents are another major force that the kayaker will encounter at sea. We will discuss two types of currents including: rip currents and tidal current. Rip currents exist where water moves out to sea perpendicular to the shore. A kayaker caught in a rip may notice that their kayak is “slipping” out to sea, perpendicular to their direction of travel. Rip currents can be wide and strong enough to catch a kayaker off guard. The key to handling rip currents is to not panic or waste energy fighting it. Simply continue on the planned course perpendicular to the current. Eventually you will pass out of the rip current largely unscathed albeit a bit further from shore.

The Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book is a great resource for ocean currents published annually.

The Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book is a great resource for ocean currents published annually.

Tidal currents have a much stronger effect on kayakers. Similar to wind, tidal currents can set a paddler off course when encountered broadside. To compensate for this effect, vectoring should be used as previously described. Paddling in fast tidal currents head-on requires endurance similar in windy situations as the kayaks headway speed can drastically decreased, therefore increasing time and using more energy. This is why it is important to research what the tides will be doing so you can plan your trip efficiently and safely navigate any strong currents that they may create.

 

Waves

Sea kayaks are called sea kayaks for a reason. They are specifically designed to handle conditions of the sea…especially waves! Being comfortable with waves comes with experience and it’s up to the paddler to set their own threshold for how big is too big. Most folks will do just fine in ocean waves of 1-3ft in height. However, breaking waves of even this small height can pack a lot of punch and can be tricky to navigate without the proper skill set. More experienced paddlers may be comfortable in ocean waves of 4-6ft or even greater and this is well within the capabilities of the average sea kayak. However, these ocean conditions often make new-comers feel uneasy (and often queasy). Breaking waves of this size can be down-right dangerous and should not be attempted without the proper experience and equipment (helmet).

 

Waves1

Waves2

Paddling in larger waves can certainly be fun, but new paddlers looking for this next level of paddling must be aware that taking on waves of greater height than experienced before can be intimidating and could result in capsize. Proper high and low bracing should be mastered before challenging oneself in rougher seas. Protected bays and friendly shore breaks offer great places to practice these skills. It also doesn’t hurt to sign up for an advanced sea kayaking class and have an instructor work with you on proper bracing techniques!

There’s lots of room to grow as a paddler, and understanding the concepts of wind, currents, and waves are a significant step in the right direction. The best way to experience new and challenging conditions is to get out there and be exposed to them, but do so with an instructor or another paddler who is more experienced in those conditions. That way you can learn from their experience and they can extinguish a potential situation before things go wrong.

-CORAY

 

 

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Exclusive Sneak Peak – NEW MTI Adventurewear Lifejackets for 2015!!!

It’s been another super-busy week at the shop but I had a chance to sneak away for a few hours to visit some of our local paddlesport manufacturers this past Tuesday. We’re lucky to have the headquarters of our friends at MTI Adventurewear just up the street. Owners Lili and Gordon Colby have been strong supporters of KayakDave.com and our Duct Tape Kayak Project over the years and it was high time that I paid them a visit to see what they have cooking for 2015!

Remember, we’re still a good 10 days out from the annual Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. This typically marks the unofficial “launch point” of next years’ product lines for many outdoor gear companies and most keep their skunk-works projects under lock and key until the market opens. However, Lili and I agreed that it might be fun to bend the “rules” a little bit so she granted KayakDave.com full access to their secret showroom and permission to post this exclusive sneak peak of the MTI Adventurewear 2015 PFDs!!!

MTI owner Lili Colby attempts to keep the new color palette a secrete...oops!

MTI owner Lili Colby attempts to keep the new color palette a secrete…oops!

MTI has been busy making a number of great changes to their wonderful line of life jackets. One of their major focuses for 2015 is to pay more attention to the ladies who love watersports. They obtained exclusive approval from the USCG to manufacture some of their life jackets in four new colors including: coral, berry, periwinkle and sky. They also introduced their new, tropical-inspired “Cabrie Print” on the Moxie life jacket. The way that the panels are cut makes every vest unique! I also liked the look of the coral fabric on the simple and affordable (yet surprisingly comfortable) Reflex PFD. We use the youth model for our rental jackets at the shop and I’m sure the kids in our latest SUP camp (ten, 8-to-14-year-old girls) would have loved the option of coral/berry-colored vests over the “boy-blue” variety that we made them wear!

New external radio loop on the MTI Slipstream

New external radio loop on the MTI Slipstream

The designers at MTI also added a few new features to improve functionality. The most inventive is their “Daisy Chain Attachment System” now found on a number of models including the Moxie, PFDiva, and Slipstream. These climber-inspired webbing loops offer a great place to secure various accessories such as lights, whistles and other do-dads to your PFD. I’m especially impressed with the technical changes made to the Slipstream PFD. We had a chance to review this great life jacket last year and now it’s even better thanks to the addition of a radio loop to accept a larger VHS radio on the outside of the front pocket (thanks for listening to our feedback, MTI)!

Stay tuned for more KayakDave.com gear reviews as we wrap up our summer product testing and look forward to all of the new gear coming out this Fall!

Happy Paddling!

-Kayak Dave

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Two Kayakers Encounter Pod of Right Whales (VIDEO)

Check out this amazing video of two kayakers who approach a pod of Right whales off the coast of Argentina. This incredible experience is all caught on film from a point of view perspective. From [personal experience, I would never advise getting “up and close” with any species of whale in their natural environment. If you encounter whales while kayaking I would advise keeping at least 100 yards away in order to protect yourself and the whales.

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Capsurz – Cap Saver Product Review

Kayakers know that one of the biggest and most frustrating challenges of wearing a baseball cap or hat on the water is the risk of losing it. High winds and the fact that you’re constantly surrounded by water makes wearing a cap a losing compromise.

Last winter I had to opportunity to connect with Mari and Eric, the owners and operators of Capsurz, over a quick conversation on Twitter. After losing my fair share of hats on the ocean, I thought it would be a great I idea to try a pair of Capsurz for myself. Mari sent me a couple pairs of Capsurz to give a try first thing this season.

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 In late April I was able to break out my Capsurz for the first time of the season at the Run of the Charles Canoe & Kayak Race. As a kayak racer, if you lose your hat, there is no way you can “go back” to retrieve it without losing critical time. I was able to secure my Capsurz before that start of the race on my orange Gore-Tex cap that I frequently where on the water. The Capsurz secured with ease in a matter of seconds and easily adjusted to my desired fit. After the six-mile loop, I was happy to see that I still had my hat without having to make any time-carving pit stops.

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In early June I went out with a group of friends in Cotuit Harbor on Cape Cod. The harbor welcomed us with a pretty aggressive SW wind which chased us through the duration of the first leg. After coming around the lee side of the island, we were hit with a nasty head wind which definitely gave the Capsurz a test. Even though we were traveling directly into 20-30 knot gusts, my cap remained secure and planted on my head.

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 Overall, the Capsurz are a great and inexpensive investment for anyone looking to keep their cap secured during outdoor activities. Made in the USA of stainless steel clips and colorfast paracord, you don’t have to worry about rust or unexpected tears—Capsurz are built for the long-haul. Whether boating, kayaking, or hiking above windy tree line Capsurz are definitely a great product to list with the essentials.

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Don’t forget to windproof your “cat” too!

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DTKP Made a Splash at Hanover Day 2014!

The Duct Tape Kayak Project made a splash at Hanover Day 2014; our first fundraising event of the season! We had a great time showing off the new kit DTK in Brett’s hometown at this amazing community event. More importantly, we were able to raise over $150 to help our friends at Heroes on the Water in their mission to rehabilitate wounded veterans through kayak fishing excursions thanks to dozens of generous donors.

Hanover Day 2014

Congratulations to Tiziana Polizio of Hanover for being the lucky winner of our raffle for two Red Sox tickets. We hope that you enjoy the game against the Blue Jays later this summer!

Thanks for your support and be sure to check us out at the Plymouth Waterfront Festival later this summer!

-Kayak Dave

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Bajau Laut Girl Bails Out Canoe with Feet – Amazing!

Check out this awesome video of a little girl in Malaysia who bails out a canoe with just her feet, leg strength, and whole lot of balance. This is awesome!

 

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Dagger Tybee S Review

Dagger Tybee Specs

The Deets:

Material: Fiberglass Composite

Class: Light Touring/Transitional

Length: 14’10”

Width: 23”

Weight: 43lbs

Hatches/Bulkheads: Bow and Stern

Hatch Volume (bow/stern): 25/92 liters

Deck Height: 11.75”

Max. Capacity: 255lbs

Cockpit: 31.5” x 16.5”

Rudder/Skeg: Rudder

MSRP: *Discontinued in August 2002*

 

Dagger Tybee S

The Review:

Note: This review is focusing on the Dagger Tybee “S” which is designed with a lower volume deck trimmed for smaller paddlers. While nearly identical in performance and overall dimensions to the standard Dagger Tybee, the “S” is slightly lighter in weight at 43lbs verses 47lbs, and has a lower carrying capacity.

 

First Impressions

I had the unique opportunity to purchase a Dagger Tybee S this winter which allowed me the opportunity to paddle it from the beginning of the 2014 season. The Dagger Tybee is a beautifully designed and built kayak- discontinued in 2002, it was designed for lightweight performance, stability, and maneuverability. The Tybee has a visually noticeable high quality layup, and while lightweight, one can see that its gel coat and composite is not thin.  Upon my first impression, I found that Dagger Tybee to be very stable and very comfortable. The thigh braces fit snugly and comfortably, and I had not problems getting into the cockpit. Even though the Tybee S is a low-volume kayak, it shares the same cockpit as the Dagger Tybee and Dagger Meridian which provides plenty of space for entry and exit.

Dagger Tybee Kayak

Outfitting

The Tybee S is outfitted with a standard rudder which is controlled by aluminum rail-mounted foot braces with adjustable straps. In addition, the Tybee is nicely arranged with both fore-and-aft composite bulkheads with KajakSport hatches.

Unlike many composite kayaks manufactured today with very thin composite or foam/poly bulkheads, the Tybee’s bulkheads are very solid. The rear bulkhead is angled slightly toward the cockpit to provide easy drainage. Static deck lines and bungees orient the deck to allow for easy handling during self-rescue and stowing while on the water. Characteristic of all Dagger composites of the early 2000s, the Tybee is outfitted with a cockpit mounted water bottle holder which does not inhibit paddler motion or seating.

The seat and back-band provide ample support while promoting proper paddling posture. Bulky footwear may have a hard time fitting into the low volume deck of the Tybee S. The first time I took out the Tybee S I was wearing Merrell mid-weight hiking boots which I found challenging to navigate around the foot braces and articulate the rudder system. Low profile footwear is highly recommended!

 

Performance

As a smaller paddler, I found that Dagger Tybee to be very comfortable and easy to adjust to once in the cockpit. The Tybee S is very stable although the primary stability may feel a bit tender at first. The secondary stability is solid, predictable, and eases the paddler into lean turns without feeling jittery or unstable. For a kayak just shy of 15’, the Tybee performs to the tune of a transitional touring kayak. It is quick to respond and gets up to speed with little hesitation. A word to the wise: be prepared the drop your rudder, the Tybee is very very maneuverable. While its playfulness is fun on smaller trips and proves to be an asset in tight rivers, the rudder may be a necessity on longer trips with greater distances. I had the opportunity to take the Tybee S on a down river trip in the Nemasket River in Middleboro, MA where the 14’10” Tybee performed perfectly. It maneuvered with ease around downed trees and tight pinches in the river but accelerated when needed.

Dagger Tybee navigating through rough terrain with ease.

Dagger Tybee navigating through rough terrain with ease.

Conclusion

Overall, the Tybee S is a great kayak and would be a great companion of anyone looking for a light touring kayak that is comfortable, stable, and playful. The Tybee is best in protected coastal, in-land lakes and ponds, estuaries, and rivers. For medium to larger paddlers, keep a lookout for the standard Dagger Tybee.  As for smaller paddlers, keep a lookout for the “S” and these are trimmed with cut-down deck height to accommodate lower weight displacement.

 

Comparison Models

If you are itching for a Dagger Tybee but just cannot seem to find one, there are a couple current models on the market today which have similar features, dimensions, and performance. Check out the: Current Designs Vision 150, Lincoln Kayaks Chebeague LV, and the Stellar S15.

 

-Alex

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P&H Capella 160 RM Review

The Deets:

Material: Triple Layer Polyethylene

Class: Performance Touring

Length: 16’ 4”

Width: 22’’

Weight: 51 lbs

Cockpit Size: 31.5 x 17 inches

Skeg/Rudder?: Rope skeg

Ideal Weight Range: 88-230 lbs

MSRP: $1599

P&H Capella 160RM

 

The Review:

The Capella is the flagship of the P&H Sea Kayak company fleet boasting a high level of versatility. The RM model is available in two sizes; the 160 for smaller paddlers, and the 166 for larger paddlers. The 160 has been my boat of choice since mid-2011, and I can proudly attest that this boat has been able to deliver the demand expected of it.

Outfitting:
The Capella 160 RM is fully outfitted with appropriate deck rigging from bow to stern. Diamond patterned bungees directly in front of the cockpit, as well as other well-configured bungees allow for storage of two extra paddles, as well as easy access and storage of other essential items. Perimeter static deck lines also run from bow to stern for safety points of contact. Three Kajak Sport hatch covers seal the three storage compartments exceptionally well with no water leakage. One 9.5” hatch at the bow, a 7.5” click on day hatch, and a 16”x9” hatch at the stern. All covers are easy to pull on and off, and the day hatch is a breeze to access while on the water. Three vented foam bulkheads seal off the three storage compartments. They work very well, but at some point you may need to reseal them with some 3M 5200 Marine Sealant. Just in front of the bow hatch is a recess for the optional Silva 70P Compass. Carrying toggles at the bow and stern are comfortable and bungee tethered close to the boat. The keyhole cockpit is very spacious for easy entry and exit, and the thigh braces are white water inspired. They contour to the natural shape of the knee/thigh, and are adjustable, as well as the modest, yet comfortable vac formed padded seat with adjustable backrest. Twist lock foot braces are simple to adjust and can be done on the water with ease without accidentally coming unlocked. The interior outfitting is highly comfortable making longer paddling trips bearable.

Capella2

Hull Design and Its Effects:

On the water, the Capella 160 RM radiates one word: Seaworthiness. Facilitating this are the rounded chines, shallow-V hull at mid-ship, and a well-defined bow and stern. The boat also carries a long water line that greatly aids in tracking. The rounded chines allow the boat to easily lean as far as the paddler desires, sometimes to a full 90° without the hindrance of the boat wanting to self-right. The sharp bow and stern reduce bow wave friction and stern turbulence generating good hydrodynamics for a plastic boat. Unique to the Capella RM is the raked bow with minimal flare, which I find to be an exceptional bow design. The raked bow in my opinion, based on paddling other boats with other bow designs, reduces the bow wave, and makes for a drier paddling experience when the boat slams down into the water after falling off the backside of a wave. However, this vertical design combined with minimal bow rocker causes the boat to go slightly through waves as opposed to over them. The rounded transition from bow to mid-ship greatly reduces stern squat and bow rise when greater speeds are desired, therefore, keeping more boat in the water to increase maximum hull speed. The hull as a whole seems to “suck up” varying water conditions, meaning that it does not get tossed around like a bath toy in rougher conditions. The rope skeg is reliable and varying the amount of skeg deployed (0-90°) always corrects the boat’s heading with wind and waves. The boat itself is made of triple layer polyethylene which makes it highly resistant to abrasion, but slightly heavy at 51 lbs.

Capella3

Stability:

The boat’s initial stability is respectable, but a novice paddler may find it a bit tippy. On edge, secondary stability has a great range of heel, and is consistently solid at all degrees within the range. In rough conditions, the boat is as stable as it is in calm waters. Be aware that the boat’s willingness to lean without self-righting characteristics will cause the boat to have no problem listing in surf, in which tipping over could result.

Capella4

Maneuverability and Tracking:

In calm conditions, maneuverability is quite good. Controlled sweep strokes with a little edging cause the boat to turn modestly. However, with the Capella’s stern looser than its bow, bow rudder increases maneuverability dramatically, in which the stern swings out making the turning radius much smaller than that of sweep strokes. In surf, the Capella’s long water line and minimal rocker make it rather difficult to turn. When it comes to tracking, heading can be well maintained without the use of the skeg, however in choppy and windy conditions, appropriate deployment of the skeg corrects heading well. I find that varying water conditions demand specific degrees of deployment.

Capella5

Speed:

The Capella’s speed in all water conditions lies somewhere between moderate/slightly above moderate for a plastic boat, and keeping pace is not difficult. Therefore, in rougher conditions, the Capella is able to maintain momentum without getting bogged down. It is able to maintain speed and heading very well with or without the skeg as conditions see fit. Crossings from point A to point B are sometimes a bit longer, but usually reachable without getting blown off course or becoming excessively fatigued.

After dissecting the ins and outs the P&H Capella 160 RM, what’s left is a boat that possesses a number of qualities that that are directed towards versatility; ranging from calm lakes to heavy surf, to instructional use as well. As I approach my fourth season paddling this boat, I can attest to the potential that the Capella RM has. Where there are drawbacks in initial stability and surf maneuverability, there are gains in momentum maintenance, secondary stability, and tracking. I would recommend this boat for experienced paddlers who favor all types of sea kayak related water conditions.

-CoRay

Pros: Design/construction, tracking, comfort, secondary stability

Cons: Initial stability, long waterline makes maneuverability in surf difficult

Rating:

4 paddles

 

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