Avocet RM or Capella 160

This is a first time post for me, been lurking for a while but now I would appreciate some help with my kayak choice.

Tried a bunch of sea kayaks last summer and have pretty much narrowed my choice down to either A Valley Avocet RM or P&H’s 160 Capella. Both fit me well and whilst if anything the Capella tracked a little stiffer I found the Avocet more fun in the rough. Really like the triple layer construction on both. I think if anything I’m a little more drawn to the Avocet but it is a close call. Can anyone give me the heads up on finer aspects of construction and design, when I was looking last year I was told both have welded plastic bulkheads, I’ve just looked at the P&H website and it says P&H are switching to glued in foam, should I see this as a plus of a minus against the Capella. Most of my paddling will be in the rough waters of the west coast of Scotland.

Thanks in anticipation of any help


Both are stout boats but I found the avocet to be a bit more snug fitting and more responsive in rough water.

Glued in bulkheads…

– Last Updated: Mar-29-07 10:40 PM EST –

There are trade-offs in everything.

Welded bulkheads are stiffer and leave more space for gear, and don't degrade from prolonged contact with water. On the other hand they are tricky to install (it's done electronically by zapping a thin strip of copper in the factory) and difficult to repair if anything goes wrong (however unlikely that may be). They are strong, but because they're so stiff, can pop the weld at the stress points.

The foam bonding process P&H has developed is very clean and solid. It's also easily repairable with a bead of silicone if you ever had a problem...but you could definitely expect years of worry-free use.

You save a bit on weight and gain some bouyancy with foam as well.

Ultimately, you've got to pick the boat that feels best for you. The bulkhead construction is a relatively minor difference. Both have all the attributes of finely-made Brit boats. Two very good choices, indeed.

--Mark (P&H Team guy)

Go welded
If split between the two in every other way go with the welded bulkheads, either a 2005 spec Capella if you can find one or a new Avocet… Triple layer plus welded bulkheads equals a true built-proof construction that will last for many years

On the subject of the switch it seams an odd decision by P&H

Decision to switch…
is explained a bit here:


The simple fact is that no bulkhead is “bulletproof.” Since welded bulkheads rely on a mechanical bond, flexing can result in separation of the substrates. So it comes down to ease of installation and ease of repairability.

P&H & Foam?
Hey Mark,

Which is which? Does P&H now use foam bulkheads or is if Valley that uses them. I have a Capella 160 & 166 that both have welded in bulkheads.

See you on the water,



Hyde Park, NY

see post below…

I would argue

– Last Updated: Mar-30-07 10:00 AM EST –

I would argue that welding has always been regarded as the strongest most reliable bond and whilst I agree nothing is 100% what better than the belt and braces of a weld plus an adhesive/sealer as currently used by ourselves and formally used by P&H. If a leak does become a problem it can still be fixed by reapplying the sealant

I do agree there is a small weigh penalty but even this has to be considered in the context of the whole boat, stronger bulkheads means they give more structural support to the shell of the kayak, meaning it will hold it shape better over time and remain truer to the intended design shape.

Buoyancy wise how much do you need, the triple layer shell is naturally buoyant and each boat has three airtight chambers, anyone ever had all three bulkheads fail?

I suppose to me there is something that just seems “right” about using the same material for bulkheads as we use for the shell of the kayak, that’s why we use glass on glass boats Kevlar on Kevlar boats and Polyethylene on Polyethylene boats. The only exceptions for us are foam on the Rapier racing boats because of the weight priority and foam on the Aquanaut club where the cost saving allows us to offer this at a very attractive price point.

Playing devils advocate it might be fair to ask how much of the efficiency saveing they mention on their website are P&H passing on to you guys the consumer in way of a price cut!

I realize that putting in foam bulkheads has to be cheaper that welding in plastic ones.

Are there actual savings once:

  1. Equipment has been purchased
  2. Protocol for welding has been established

    I would think that glueing in foam has disadvantages - one has to wait till the adhesive sets in, etc.

    So, what is the cost analysis?

    p.s. Yes, the argument that bulkheads will add floatation to a kayak is just plain lovely. I am so glad my Avo RM has a foam seat, otherwise I would be likely to drown!!!

Playing Devils Advocate…

– Last Updated: Mar-30-07 11:28 AM EST –

With all respect to Peter O,

1) The additional sealant on the plastic bulkhead is there to ensure there are no leaks, and offers some support, not to impart the strength or serve as the primary bond between the bulkhead and boat. It's the electronic welding that provides the mechanical bond that joins the bulkhead to the boat. Peter suggests using sealant as a repair...which would work fine for spot leaks. But if there's a failure of the weld itself, sealant wouldn't be enough to properly secure the bulkhead (if so, that's how it'd be installed in the first place!)...so you'd have a significantly weakened bulkhead.

2) Foam is used as pillar support structure in whitewater boats to prevent collapse during a pin. If mini-cell can hold up to those kind of forces, it should serve very well in offering cross-sectional support for a sea boat...especially in 3-layer boat, which is stiffer to begin with.

Additionally, minicell spreads its pressure out over a larger surface area. Both the Avocets and the Capellas in our instructional fleet had little ridges on the outside of the boat where the bulkhead joined with the boat...would this be deformation caused by the bulkhead not flexing with the boat? Or is it a result of overall contraction of the material after manufacturing?

3) With regard to efficiency trickling down to the consumer: it's hard to put a price on things like a having a steady supply chain (no agonizingly long waits for kayaks to come in), reliability, and ease of maintainence. It's the same philosophy that's led to developments like the new kink-free skeg system (which is being phased into the existing line and is already available on the Cetus and Cap 167). Sometimes simpler is better.

Bracing against bulkhead
I know the Valley welded bulkheads are solid enough to brace off of instead of using foot pegs. Many of us prefer to brace against the forward bulkhead for a number of reasons. Are P&H’s glued in bulkheads sturdy enough to brace against?

Bracing on bulkheads…
I wouldn’t use a plastic or foam bulkhead to brace against, and I don’t think Valley would recommend using plastic bulkheads in place of a foot rest, but Peter could better comment on that.

Unlike a composite boat, where you can position the bulkhead anywhere and lay it up as part of the boat, the poly boat bulkheads are shaped to fit in a specific location…you’d need some pretty long legs to pull that off!

I admit i should have added such a cavea
Yes I admit i should have added such a caveat about sealant only being a suitable repair so long as the welded bulkhead is still firmly in place. However the sealant is the same as that used to fix foam bulkheads in place, therefore as long as the preparation is done properly you could use this to structurally bond the plastic bulkhead in place.

The reason why plastic bulkheads are not as suitable for the adhesive process as foam is down to the rigidity of the plastic. If one part of the bond failed the rigidity of the material would mean that further pressure or movement exerted on the bulkhead would create a stress raising effect at the edges of the failed portion of the bond causing the faliure to rapidly spread. In comparison foam bulkheads are relatively fail-safe to adhesive breakdown, yes over time some parts of the bond might fail but given the larger surface area of the joint and the flexible nature of the foam bulkhead the areas of failed bonding would spread much more slowly and would be less likely to result in catastrophic bulkhead failure.

As I conceded there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems and that is why we do use both systems dependant on product, so I am not against foam bulkheads. However ask me which is best for a sea kayak that is going to be given a tough life by an experienced paddler and I maintain the system that is ultimately most reliable (excepting that it is not as easy to repair in the field in the very very unlikely event that it were to fail) is a structural plastic weld backed up by a good PU (polyurethane) sealant/adhesive.

On a final note the sealant we use on both our Poly and foam bulkheads is the same high grade single-part PU, I believe this is the same system P&H use on their foam bulkheads and with proper preparation does give reliable results

you’d need some pretty long legs
"…you’d need some pretty long legs to pull that off!"

No just mini-cell foam. While my Aquanaut was custom ordered and the bulkhead placed so I only need an inch of foam to brace against, my Romany has standard bulkhead placement so I’m bracing on >4 inches of foam. I know paddlers that have 6-8 inches of foam on their forward bulkhead in order to brace against.

Ahhhh…I see…
Thanks for pointing out the update.

Looks like I have some '06 models with the welded in bulkhead.

See you on the water,



ps-know anyone that wants a welded in bulkhead Capella? :wink:

Daddy long legs…
requires bulkhead to brace from sometimes, even with NRS rodeo socks as footwear. Some plastic boats are useable with footpegs, some footpegs are still too short. Foam bulkheads eliminates them from consideration, unfortunately, in too many cases. Additionally, foam bulkheads can be quite thick, up to 3"s each, eating up to 9"s of linear space in the kayak. P&H, Valley, Necky and WS all offer great boats in plastic, but not all models are in play due to this.


OTOH, if it isn’t broken,
why fix it?

In other words, was it a frequency of failure of the poly bulkhead that made you switch, or was it solving a problem that really wasn’t that big?

Not exactly…
Two of the bulkheads butt up against the cockpit and are generally positioned so that the width is oriented inward toward the paddler. So you’re not necessarily losing 9" of storage space…just 3" in the day hatch.

Actually, you’re losing 5-6" of cockpit volume, which means less water to fill your boat during a rescue.

3" in a day hatch
is quite a bit of space.

I could fill my entire boat with structural foam and then no water would get in it. But I don’t really think you meant that seriously :wink:

not true
Especially with the front bulkhead because the inward (toward the paddler) surface is positioned to give enough room for the longest of normal legs, therefore if positioned the same, as the should be, the extra 3" intrudes into the front loading space