P&H Vela - Experience with

My husband and I are starting to look around more seriously for a day boat, and yesterday we demo’d a Vela. I am exactly right for the boat on the P&H design specs. I actually went to see if I could resolve my issues with the Avocet being so darned oversized (love the hull but I still feel like I am wearing two inches too much boat on each side). But this little Vela took me quite by surprise.

My expedition boat is an NDK Explorer LV. So a Romany is out - I’d like my day boat to be a different kind of hull performance.

The fit on the Vela was real good. Even with the dratted high front deck, the braces caught my thighs decently and the seat width was just right. The backband seemed at least adequate.

As to handling, following are my impressions of the Vela from being on flat water. I’d appreciate feedback from anyone who has time in this boat to see if they are on the mark, especially anyone who has had it in lumpy water.

Speed - it’s fast for its length, and sprightly! I was doing backwards ovals rather than circles, because I was tending to go too fast. I was probably overpowering the stroke after being used to the LV. Seems like the Vela would easily keep up with its longer cousins.

Turning - Felt stiffer for its length than an Avocet and doesn’t carve as smoothly, but when I was willing to edge it harder the front came right around. I suspect that it would turn on a dime if I kept it on a more prononunced lean so that it was sitting fully on the forward chine.

Stability - Primary is a little light. I couldn’t be as casual as I am in my LV when climbing around on the boat, sitting atop it in the water. But with time to acclimate I could probably get to a lot of that.

Secondary is a little fussier than the LV and the Avocet (at my body weight). While I can pretty much fall onto it in the latter two and feel the boat stop, the Vela wasn’t inclined to be quite as protective. I could get to the secondary point and feel it coming on beforehand just fine, and there was definite holding power there, but it didn’t feel as much like a hitting a wall as the others.

I wasn’t sure of the secondary stability angle, but proportionate to the boat it’s probably healthy. The edge of my skirt was more than an inch under water when I was holding it comfortably on edge.

Bracing, rolling etc - Responded great to braces, also to a moderate scull. I only tried one roll because the water looked so bad I was glad I had my full Hepatitis shots, but the boat responded to my initial thigh kick so fast that I was halfway up before the rest of me was ready to finish it nicely.

At my present skill level (have done BCU 2/3 star training), I’m pretty sure the Vela would make me work for my supper were I to encounter unforeseen bad conditions on a day paddle. But at 15’8", this little boat has the personality of a much bigger one and I suspect would be up to moderate waves and chop (up to 3 ft) as long as I supported it correctly.

Any comments from Vela paddlers?


i really like the vela
i think it is probably one of the best “small” kayaks around.

It has an unusual hull profile which is not unlike a Nigel Foster kayak in that the bottom is fairly rounded and the kayak has hard chines.

I think you’ll find if you learn to edge with your body arched over the hull the kayak’s tail will skid out really well.

I also think the deck is a bit high, but if everything else is ok, just pad the thigh braces out a bit.


what a coincidence. I bought mine this weekend and started a small tour on a local sea at 5 Beaufort. The boat fits exactly, I felt save every minute. Putting it on edge it carves beautyful, without it traces very well. Originally I wanted a rudder (my older yak had one, so I thought I can’t do it without), but the skeg allows a real fine tuning for every wind. No need for a rudder. The hull shape keeps you dry in high waves. If you have special questions, just ask. I’ll put some photos on my site next week and paste the URL.

The only problem for me was to get in or out. Not on the water, I didn’t capsize, but at the shore. It’s very tippy compared to my old “tank”…

I More Inclined Towards The Vela
probably because it’s a tighter fit and it performs more like my skin on frame. It’s more of a tracker than playful. The Avocet reminds me of my Montuak – a more forgiving rounded hull and slightly more rocker than the Avocet for a little more playfullness. The Avocet is a nice boat but still a bit big for me.

I can’t remember where but I recently heard sometime about a true, low volume sea kayak for smaller paddlers may be in the works by a reputable company and reputable designer. We shall see. I am happy about the prospect but not as excited as I would be in the past since I more in surfing and white water these days than touring. I have my eyes on another surf boat before a sea kayak.


The photos
…are here


In german, but the pics are international :wink:

can’t fit in one
but a woman who I had in a couple classes bought one and it looks very nice,there are so few smaller sea kayaks around.

shin skin
I demoed the Vela on Saturday as well. What a great hull! Very quick boat that both tracks well and responds beautifully to leans, edging, ruddering and draws.

Unfortunately, I am 6’ tall and it took a noticable amount of skin off my shins both times getting into the boat. Once in the boat I could brace off of the bulkhead and had a great fit. If I had any ability to safely get in and out of the boat on water, I would grab one.

proxy report
My wife doesn’t like the internet, but she says it is ok if I speak for her.

She has owned a Vela for 1 1/2years, and has paddled for about 8…maybe 9 years. It has been difficult to find a boat that meets her needs, and the Vela is the best she has found.

Size matters- she is 5’3", 95lb. Not strong, but very skilled; she has not pursued assessment, but would easily pass a BCU 4*(I would know, I am a BCU C4 coach).

She has used it in force 5 winds, regularly paddles in and out of 3ft surf zone, and used it for 3-4day journeys.

Her comments mostly center around the fit. It is one of the very few boats with the coaming low enough not to inhibit motion. Interestingly enough, she really likes the ramp angle on the coaming, ie, the higher front. Context helps; she regularly paddles flatwater race boats, and even in lumpy water,when paddling long distances, she likes to keep her knees together, out of the thigh hooks. Another boat she likes (Anas Acuta) would not let her do that.You should also know that her boat has a custom forward bulkhead, therefore no footpegs.

Another thing she liked compared to other boats she has used is the ease of manouvering in high wind (even 25kn). Also noted was the acceleration, a big plus in the surf zone.

And, she likes the stability profile a lot, and feels very comfortable on edge.

Weaknesses are noted. She thinks it glides less efficiently than her last boat (I notice she still keeps up, however, and she is not strong), also, the bow is slightly stiff relative to the stern. This means two things, one, despite the low windage, it does have quite the weatherhelm;two, it doesnt surf quit as well as some others. But, it is also very easy to correct the weatherhelm (not just using the skeg, either), and it still surfs well enough.


Thanks all!
(I am 5’4 1/2" and 135 lb, by the way. Am trying to get 5 pounds off, or at least relocate it, but I can’t imagine seeing 100 again…)

We are going with the Vela! It may be in the basement within a week. For a day boat I need something that’ll keep up with the longer boats, be enough of a boat to allow me to practice skills on any given paddle, and challenge my habits and skills some. It sounds like the Vela does all of these. As far as surf… I am holding off on messing with any breaking waves until I get my offside roll down and reliable and can take water up my nose OK. So that’ll probably be next season, and I’ll probably look to start in some real abusable used plastic boat.

The boat will be a demo, so alas no custom bulkheads like on my Explorer LV. But we plan to pull out the footpegs and rails and get it set up with bulkhead blocks later this season. It just may take a while to get enough of them cut.

Interesting note on the bow being a little stiff compared to the stern - it may have contributed to my backwards circles being ovals. For that manuver, the Vela may require a different finesse than my loose bow Explorer. And I may grow to like the higher front deck over time, or at lest the first time I am out in something that gets unexpectedly messy.