Material: Triple Layer Polyethylene
Class: Performance Touring
Length: 16’ 4”
Weight: 51 lbs
Cockpit Size: 31.5 x 17 inches
Skeg/Rudder?: Rope skeg
Ideal Weight Range: 88-230 lbs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pros: Design/construction, tracking, comfort, secondary stability
Cons: Initial stability, long waterline makes maneuverability in surf difficult