I need advice on P&H kayaks.

-- Last Updated: Jan-18-08 8:03 AM EST --

I am out shopping for another kayak. I planned on buying another Eddyline; a Fathom that my wife could use sometimes but it would be mostly for me. I am now thinking of the a longer low back deck boat with a tighter cockpit than my Nighthawk 17.5. Other than the Eddyline Falcon 18 and maybe the NDK Explorer HV, the only other boats my fat a-- fits into are made by P&H. The Quest HV, the Cetus, and the Capella 173. I like the Cetus the most, but the cockpit is a little tight on top of my thighs, and the day hatch could make footwear a little too tight. The Quest fits well, but my friend feels his quest is a little on the twitchy side. The Capella 173 fits most comfortably, but is almost too large and lay backs are not as easy as the Cetus. One person I talked to who has paddled all three (but he was really too small for all of them) liked the Quest the most, felt the Cetus was sluggish compared to the Quest, and said the Capella was their best all around boat. I paddled the Capella 173 before I bought my Eddyline, and went with the Eddyline because I thought it was faster and more stable. Now the boat is starting to feel a little too stable/big. I am 6'3" and will be around 225lbs this spring. I want speed, open water capabilty, and good rollabilty. Can any of you P&H guys offer me some advice. Thanks.

Capella 173
Not your size, but FYI I heard last summer that they were tweaking the Capella 173 along the lines of what they did with the 161. I spent two days in the 161 in the Gulf of Maine. Aside from the seat needing to be flattened out a bit for my comfort (I have an unusual response to their seat), the boat was a great all-around performer. Handled conditions well, felt lively and fun but still very solid, didn’t have to think about the boat in waves, and seemed able to keep up with the faster paddlers much better than in my Explorer LV. The stern took a hard surprise kick once in some big swells off of Eastern Egg, but it recovered without any help from me.

Great layups too by the way - they seem (tho’ no factual evidence) a bit more robust re abuse than Eddyline’s.

There is one thing to consider - we have been told by a local dealer that, if you order a new boat now, P&H’s promise time for a custom boat is out to 2009. There are a good number of them already in country, so you’d likely want to look for one out of existing stock.

P&H Options
You approach the new boat decision with good comparisons. For size comparison I am 6’ 200lbs so it would seem that you’re the next size bigger paddler than me. If the only time you have sat in the Cetus was on dryland then taking a test paddle may feel different. Granted, if your still cramped up on the water then it’s just not going to loosen up over time. As to footwear an fit, my size 11’s fit without issue wearing NRS Kickers. A thicker heeled shoe will obviously affect fit. The 173 will probably be as good of an all round kayak for you as the 161 is for a smaller individual. I would definitely try out the Cetus to see if it feels “sluggish” on you rather than taking someone else’s opinion on it, as I think it has faster glide per paddlestroke than the 173. Something else that comes to mind, did you have the seat pad in place when you sat in it? If so, try removing it. I know a fair # of P&H paddlers that remove the seat pad and replace it with something like an IR neoprene self stick seat pad that doesn’t add bulk/height to your seating position. The Cetus is a surprisingly maneuverable kayak at 17’10" but if it is more glide per paddle stroke and speed then going a bit more narrow in a kayak like an Impex Force 5 may be worth trying but again it’s going to be real world fit and feel not postings on a board. Want to hop a flight to go out and play on the Hudson? Sun’s out here, don’t want to be in the showroom today. Need water.

Ultimately you should paddle the finalists on your list and take home the boat that makes you smile the most on the water.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


Cleveland Rocks!
Well, it does.

Mark at kayak41north.com has both cap173 and cetus. As far as I know, cap173 is for sale.

Send him email

P&H Quest
I have owned a (regular) Quest for the past five years or so, and have been very happy with it. This boat has a failry high deck, in front, which make it really roomy and comfortable, especially for larger paddlers. The back deck is also low, which is great for rolling. I find this boat to be very comfortable, especially for long paddles, and it’s the boat I use for overnight trips. It has good storage, and large, easy to load hatches. The boat does feel a little twitchy, at first, but that goes away after you spend some time paddling. I also think it handles rough water really well. I I’ve had it in 8-10 foot waves on Lake Michigan, and I’ve had no problem controlling the boat. The only issue had been the back-band, but I’ve replaced it with one from IR, and it seems great.

Agree with ckayaker11
Quest is a wonderful expedition kayak, comfortable, very reassuring in rough conditions, and noticably faster than the Explorer. Tracks beautifully, and yet with edging can turn on a fairly narrow radius. It has a tighter bow than the Explorer and that makes it weathercock a bit, but easily controlled with the skeg. It also makes it a bit harder to turn up wind and a bit more likely to go off track on following seas and surfing, but these “issues” are in the realm of just getting use to the kayak. Closes thing in know to the Quest is the Force 5–in my hands, the Explorer feels like a slug and the Aquanaut feels like a barge compared to the Quest.

Capella 173 for all around
I am only a little smaller than you, and was looking at the same boats. I am lucky go get to paddle with some very good paddlers, including two P&H team members (Garth Schmeck and Bryan Smith). Their advice was to go with the Capella 173 and pad it out a bit, which I did. The more I paddle in different conditions, the more I am glad I did this.

They did not even want me to try the Quest, since I do not do loaded expeditions, which is the Quest’s forte. Unloaded, it is not as stable or fun. It is a bit faster.

The Cetus is a great boat, but also more of a cruiser, and not as at home in surf. The Cetus is so quick turning that some folks have a problem with it over-turning, or being too ready to turn, but for others it is a great boat, and performs better loaded. (This is my take on what they said - they didn’t think I should even demo the Cetus at my size (like you, a bit snug) for my purposes (day paddling in a variety of conditions). Garth owns a Cetus and a Quest, which he paddles depending on conditions) He sells a lot of P&H boats, and says guys our size always wind up liking the 173 best.

The 173 is just a great all around boat if you are doing mostly day paddles.

hey bill:

Sometime we’ll have to get you into my Greenlander, might be a bit small but a had a 6’2" person in it last summer. He loved it and I think his size made it a bit more playful than it is for me.

Also, have you tried on any of the demos at Riverside Kayak? I think they have a poly Avocet, which a buddy your size paddles. Also an aquanaut LV. Not sure if they have the Romany LV but that might be another option.

Romany LV?
If you are talking about the person who posted this, they’d never make it thru the cockpit unless they lost the majority of the posted 225 pounds. The Romany LV has the same extra small cockpit as my Explorer LV, and an even lower deck.

(Tho’, if someone that size could fit, it’d save them the trouble of having to make a rolling boat for Greenland work.)

…just throwing out ideas of locally available test paddles.

Forget the romany, bill.

A couple of suggestions that echo the posts above–

I have paddled the Quest and the Capella 163 pretty extensively. I’m 6’1" and about 180#–so my impression of the boats won’t be totally on the mark with what your experience will be, but…

The Quest has plenty of room for a guy your size, but it isn’t a great day/play boat. Not super fun to surf empty–just not what it’s for. Most big guys will find it a bit twitchy when empty.Nice boat to load down for a trip. If you were looking for more of an expedition boat, the Quest would be a good one to look at.

The Capella series is probably closer to the mark for an all-arounder. Flatter cross section, more stability unloaded. More rocker. Padding out a 173 could be a really good option. The longer cockpit/deeper hull on the 173 may also be nicer for launching and landing with your longer legs. (It’s nice to be able to sit down and then pull your legs into the boat…)

The wider hull of the 173 (23") can be a good thing for a bigger guy. Still easy to put on edge, but a little bit more initial stability when you’re surfing or running with a following sea. Sometimes a boat like this can be faster on the water in real conditions than a skinnier boat would be. Comfort=confidence=better performance.

Pulling the seat pad out of a Cetus or even a 167 may be a good way to get a fit. Worth a try. They are easy to pull out and re-install.

As others have said, make sure you are wearing low-profile shoes. I have trouble getting anything with a heel into a lot of boats, even though I only have size 11 feet.

Brian Day–P&H team guy/Rutabaga guy

There are two other Romany variants
Forget the Romany LV, as celia pointed out. I’ve paddled it and it actually fits me with no additional outfitting. I can’t imagine a big guy being able to get in it, let alone paddle it comfortably.

BUT there are larger versions of the Romany that might work for the OP: the regular Romany, and the Romany S/Poseidon/Surf or whatever they’re calling it these days.

Thanks to pikabike
Yup - please remember the Romany. It’s a great boat. But for this guy, it’s one of the two she mentions.

Wasn’t thinking - Friday afternoons…

Thanks for the ideas everyone.
I am leaning very heavily (no pun intended) towards the Cetus. I went back today and tried many combinations of footware and seat positions and padding. The boat stock is too tight, but push the seat back and pull the pad off and it is almost loose. I would likely have to outfit the boat with a custom set up. I really like the lines and style of the Cetus, it looks like the skin over boat I have been thinking about, but without all the things I don’t like about skin overs (air chambers vs. bulkheads, no storage vs. tons of storage, smooth cockpit vs. ribs, and so on). I will paddle it next week and make my decision. For the record, I have attempted to sit in the following and do not fit…Romany, explorer lv, aquanaut, nordkapp, really all of the NDK’s and Valley’s except the Explorer hv and from what I can see I think I am more interested in the Cetus. THe Eddyline Falcon does not have day hatches and is I am told quite twitchy, the Fathom is awesome and still in the hunt. Can anyone shed more light on the Cetus???

I hear it is fast and not twitchy for its beam, and that it turns well, maybe even too well? I guess in a week I will know for myself, which must happen before anyone buys a boat. If I go next week it make have to break ice as well.

I am 6’3" 225
size 11 shoes, have been paddling the Capella 167 for a few months.

I have paddled the other P&H’s that fit.

E-mail me and I’ll give ya some details.


Too manuverable?
A nearly 18’ kayak that’s almost too manuverable? Wait a minute, does that sound right? :wink:

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


The P&H Team makes the Cetus sound
like it is for long haul/expedition type use vs. the 173 being more for day use. The Quest being not so good unless it is loaded. Right now I am 6’3" 245 and hope to be 225 by April. Am I not a walking expedition on my own at this weight? In other words, at 245/225 don’t I weigh the boats down enough to use them as a day cruiser. I want a boat to comfortably paddle 10 to 20 mile day trips on large fresh water lakes and rivers(Lake St. Clair and Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, and Lake Michigan)and that I can learn some Greenland rolling techniques with(low back deck). The boat has to handle the confused mess of chop that most of you are not familiar with unless you have paddled Lake St. Clair. Twitchy boats on Lake St. Clair are not fun. So…at my size and weight is the Cetus really not a good day boat for me? This seems almost funny considering that my Nighthawk 17.5 displaces considerably more than the Cetus, and the Cetus barely more than the 173? I am not an ocean surf guy, the closest thing would be Lake Huron or Michigan and I get on them less than 20 days a year. When you are my size the only boats that fit are called expedition boats. Yes?

What’s up Tim! Are you completely
frozen up there? Thanks for the kind offers, but you apparently did not notice my immensity. Unless I turn my hips up and want my hip bones bulging the beam, boats like yours won’t work. I sat in the Aquanaut and the cockpit rim was digging into my sides, the same for all NDK’s and Valleys that they had in the store. If the Cetus does not work, I will look at the 173, Fathom, Explorer hv, and maybe a QCC if I can find one around here. Call me if you are coming down, it would be nice to get out. If I go with the Fathom, I will have to come up to get it and we could paddle then if the lake is not iced up.

I was very impressed with the Cetus over a day of paddling on the Maine coast.

The Cetus is a very interesting boat with a combination of handling characteristics that are pretty neat. At 6’, 175lbs it is a bit big for me, but maybe just right for a larger paddler as a day boat.

Read Brian Day’s post carefully

– Last Updated: Jan-19-08 8:46 PM EST –

I see that a P&H team member, Brian Day, has posted here. He is pretty well qualified to talk about the P&H boats. http://www.phpaddlers.com/author/brian-day/

[*ERROR* One more thing that I recall from past posts is that you have a fused ankle and a long inseam. *ERROR*] The cockpit of the 173 has a large opening that will be easy for you to enter/exit/rescue. The cockpit on the Cetus is certainly a smaller and tighter affair.

Sometimes people joke about large women who insist that they fit into a small shoe. I think some of use bigger guys do the same with boats. I know I have had a hard time accepting that I cannot use the smaller, narrower, higher performing boats used by some of the folks I paddle with. As Brian suggests, I am actually faster in the 173 because I am comfortable in it and not expending lots of energy keeping upright when things get a bit rough.

The Cetus is not going to be as stable or roomy as the 173, and may even be slower in real world conditions for you. The 173 has plenty of extra room for even my son's size 14 shoes.