Aquanaut RM VS Capella RM 166

My eyes are burning from staring at a plasma screen for far too many hours recently. Doin what you ask? Researching my next boat, of course! As mentioned previously, my wife has laid claim to my Avocet RM so a replacement is needed. I have narrowed it down to the Valley Aquanaut RM and the P&H Capella RM 166, primarily because my boat MUST have welded bulkheads because I will remove the foot braces and build up the fore bulkhead with minicell foam. I know many of you don’t care for that particular modification, but I love it. I am very interested in some serious input about both boats. I have enjoyed my previous Valley boats and have no complaints about their quality, but I have never owned a P&H boat. The Aquanaut RM is listed to weigh 5 pounds more than the Capella 166. I’m 5’8" and 180# with a 30" inseam. Any input on the volume distribution of each boat? Depth at the cockpit? Overall behavior? Plastic comparison? Thanks so much!

Paddle well

Just paddled them

– Last Updated: Aug-19-05 2:41 PM EST –

I just bought a new Avocet RM for myself. While doing my own search, I test paddled the two boats you are looking at. I am very similar to your size 5'7, 175lbs, 30" inseam. If I had to choose between the two, I would take the Aquanaut RM. The plastic is high quality (triple ply) in both boats so that's not a factor. The thigh braces are adjustable in both boats. The reasons for picking the Aquanaut RM would be:

1. Although the Capella seat is very comfortable, there is no apparent way to foam out the hips. This is due to the unique design of the seat. This is confirmed by the dealer and the P&H rep. I believe that a new narrower capella seat is in design but not out yet. I would rather get a boat that is easier to customize, even if it's not as comfortable out of the box.

2. The front deck of the Aquanaut seems lower to me and I like it. The Capella seemed too roomy.

3. The Aquanaut seemed to be more responsive to me than the Capella 166 and I was looking for that.

The Capella RM's (both 160 and 166) are good boats but seemed a little less "fun" compared with the Valley boats, if that makes any sense. I know that's a totally subjective comment, but then again, purchases are often made for emotional reasons.

Hope this is of some help,

Hey, Avi…
Can you give me a short comparison between the two boats I am looking at and the Avocet RM, or simply give the reasons you chose it over the Aquanaut and the Capella. I am not totally opposed to buying another Avocet, but I thought it might be a good time to try something a little different. Thanks!

didn’t need as much boat
My reason was pretty simple. I wanted a playful boat for day use 99% of the time. I would rarely go camping in it and even then it would not be more than a weekend, so I don’t need the hatch volume. I wanted a responsive fun boat with all the known Valley attributes. I used the Avocet as a rental for both classes and trips and it felt very good to me. I know I will have to foam it out here and there but that’s ok. The two boats that you are looking at track better than the Avocet but are a bit harder to turn. It’s a known tradeoff and not a reflection on quality. They are designed for slightly different uses. The Avocet has more rocker than the Aquanaut and it was very apparent when testing them side by side, as I did. I wanted a boat that would challenge me to some degree. By all means - go out and try these boats side by side, if you can.


Ruled out the Capella today…
Just too much volume in the cockpit area for my taste! Felt like I was swimming. Looks like my choices are pretty limmited if I want welded bulkheads and high quality, either the Aquanaut or another Avocet. Any other ideas or known sales? Thanks!

On a related note,
The Capella166 shows a volume of 349 litres while the 160 only shows 288. If the difference in length is only a half a foot, how can these two hulls act similar enough to share the same name?


don’t pay too much attention to the name
If you look at specs and also test paddle, you’ll find out that boats with the same name are often differnet. The same boat in poly and glass can be very different. The Aquanaut and Aquanaut RM definitely fall into this category, although they are both very good kayaks. I went on a tour in a glass Capella 163 and it felt totally diffent from the RM’s. In this case, the RM felt more comfortable to me than the glass ones.

Model names are confusing. I would suggest approaching each boat as a separate entity and assess it on it’s own merits.


Agreed, and I guess that’s my point.
I paddled the original CapellaRM and the glass directly following. The glass version was higher in initial stability without giving up its secondary, but felt bigger too. I’m afraid people are going to read reviews on the 166 for instance and not even bother with the 160. Personally, I think the new Capellas (160&166RM)both have too boxy a cross section compared to the older version. Yeah, they increased its initial stability, but at what cost? I haven’t been able to demo either of the 2nd gen Capellas, but there are other changes that were made that turned me off too much to want to bother. Just out of curiosity though, have you paddled both CapellaRMs? The comparison may help others.

I too have been looking hard at the VCP rotos, and I’ll probably plan a day trip to the other side of the state to check 'em out before spring.

tempest 165?

Tempest is fine, but…
WildSys uses minicell foam bulkheads like the other manufacturers, and I really want to stick with welded plastic bulkheads.

Cap RM 166
I looked at a Cap 166RM today (sat in only) and I swear it had a glued in ABS bulkhead. It was definately a black plastic formed sheet and seemed to have a flexible caulk around the edges. I haven’t seen the Avocet RM in a couple of months and can’t really remember what the bulkheads looked like, but I thought the bulkheads were the same color as the rotomold boat. Am I offbase, or has P&H switched from welded plastic bulkheads to glued ABS?


Not too sure about the Capella, but the poly bulkheads in my yellow Avocet are actually white/gray marble in color. The Capellas are advertised as having welded plastic bulkheads with a lifetime warranty (just like VCP.)

kinda off topic but just how hard would it be to put in plastic bulkheads?

P&H Capella bulkheads
P&H began changing their bulkheads to the new ABS plastic formed ones now being used (see the P&H website/News).