Capella 163, Cetus Revisited
And Daniel he heralded the boat
and directed her well
across the wind and waves
A couple days ago I took Mary down to Rutabaga in Madison to test paddle the P&H Cetus. Mary owns a Romany but does not paddle often so it feels a bit wild when conditions get rough. I had a feeling the Cetus while longer than the Romany, might fit her needs better. It was certainly worth a go. Meanwhile since I was there anyway it seemed like a good time to try out the P&H Capella 163…
The Capella 163 is a sharp, classic British designed sea kayak which stands on a line with the Romany, the Avocet or the slightly longer Alaw Bach. It’s the kayak you want to surf, bum around in rock gardens, teach or generally mess about in boats, the classic “all around” kayak. So I was jazzed to give it a go. The thing was, once I actually sat in it I was in for a bit of a surprise. I didn’t fit. Well, I shouldn’t say I didn’t fit. I should say in the “review” vernacular that the design of the cockpit caused my lower body to have less than desirable connection to the hull… but more on that later.
Atlantic Kayak Tours offers the exact quick overview I would have given the Capella. It’s certainly stable. It fits nicely in between wobbly [when empty] Bahiya and the rock solid Cetus. Much of that comes from the obvious sense of how high you are off the water depending on hull shape. In the Bahiya you feel as if you are sitting on a ball high above the waves. The Capella brings you down to a more comfortable relationship with the waterline, and the Cetus sets you right in the water.
On the day I took it out we had pretty crazy winds which was pretty much the same conditions I had the day before when I took my Rockpool out, and again the same conditions as a few days prior when I test paddled the Cetus. So I’m getting used to the feel of kayaks in crazy winds recently. In the Capella 163 I never found need of the skeg. It seemed happy to live in its own little world with little notice of the harsh winds for the most part. Once when I was turning off the wind I did notice that I had to really convince the kayak to turn. My sense is that it would react more to wave but as it was, we had lots of wind but no waves to speak of.
In protected waters, the Capella turned quickly and sat solidly on edge. It acted just as I would expect it to without any noticeable unique personality quirks. The Capella is as advertised, “a nimble, go everywhere, do everything” sort of kayak and should be on everyone’s list of kayaks to test paddle when shopping for a new boat.
Now when I mention the Capella in relationship to other kayaks in it’s class you might wonder why you would choose this one over one of the others. Good question. Each kayak has it’s own little ways as it were. Something that sings to one person or another. If you like the Romany, Avocet, Alaw, Capella class of kayaks one will probably speak to you more than the others. However, I can say, least for the moment the P&H boats are impressive in their quality and quality control. They are well made boats which is not as common as you may think.
Now, the reason I feel I couldn’t give a totally fair accounting of the Capella 163 as I said was that it simply didn’t fit my body. The thigh braces were too far forward and the deck was high enough that I had to get up on my toes to get any sort of connection to the hull. This meant of course that I could try things in big brush ways, but I couldn’t control it more subtly. I could roll it for instance, but I didn’t feel connected enough to try more finicky rolls. I’m told that the combing in the Capella 163 is slightly different and that the Capella 167 may fit better. I’ll have to try that out sometime. While the 163 is a great boat, I’d have to do some creative mini-cell work to get really comfortable.
Oh, and how did Mary feel about the Cetus? Like me, she loved it.. but for totally different reasons. And that’s what really excites me about that kayak. An experienced paddler can do a lot with it, while at the same time someone of less experience can jump in and feel confident enough to stretch themselves. That added confidence in an agile boat means a lot. It means less self-assured or less experienced paddlers can relax and enjoy a day on the water even if there is a bit of wind and wave out there. That’s a rare quality and why I’m feeling pretty much sold on the Cetus at this point. Unless something that’s a shockingly better fit [for me] comes along…soon.