Romany vs Capella vs Grand Illusion

My decision for next boat is coming down, most probably, to these 3. I have test paddled 1st and last, but at different times and both in flat water. I am interested in getting a boat that is very good in rough water, not a slow poke, agile, decent storage capacity, good tracking but agile (at least with skeg up). I believe all 3 are well rated vis-a-vis these characteristics, but maybe someone who has more extensive experience with at least 2 of these boats could weigh in on which they prefer and why, or relative pro’s and cons. Thanks a bunch.

I have only paddled the Romany classic but the Romany is only about 16 feet long and about 135 liters hatch capacity which is about what my Valley Avocet RM can hold. The Grand illusion is just over 17 feet long 23.5 wide. I would think that would hold quite abit more than a Romany. No idea about the discontinued Capella. Grand Illusion is pricey kayak can go as high as 8 grand, yikes. You could easily find a used Romany. I would get the one that fits you best. I myself could never afford the Grand illusion out of my budget. Good luck.

I know.
You were very specific about the boats you are interested in, but all three of the boats you mentioned are quite different, so I’m going to suggest that you expand your choice just a bit and do yourself a favor. Try out an Eddyline Raven. Another one that I would suggest is the Maelstrom Vaag, but that might be a bit harder to find.

which capella?

Capella Alternate
Being that P&H sunset-ed the Capella in composite I found a close replacement for the performance of the Capella 161 and 167 in the way of the North Shore Atlantic and Atlantic LV in fiberglass. A bit more nimble due to more rounded transition at the keel to stems than the Capella which has more of the sharper P&H corners and a bit rounder under the cockpit than on the 167 but with a very similar transition from it’s primary through secondary stability. The weight tends to be lighter fiberglass to fiberglass layup on the North Shore vs. P&H. Might be worth a look for the Capella class category.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

how about?
Your question is very specific and, this being a forum, you’ll get many responses that aren’t so specific. This is such.

Of the boats mentioned, I had a Romany for a while and rather liked it. I also had a Boreal Design Ellesmere. The time came when I needed a boat with more room for camping gear, so I needed to trade out one of those two skeg boats. I preferred the Ellesmere to the Romany and kept the former. My point is, how about an Ellesmere?

romany is slow compared to grnd illusio
I found the grand illusion way more comfortable.

The gel coat on the romany is prob 2-3x as thick as the other boats. Good for dragging on rocks. bad for carrying.

Grand illusion is mucho better in surf. that huge rockered bow wont submerge very easily and it turns super quick.

The gel coat on my reflection is a bit thin but the hull itself is bullet proof.

The grand illusion is good choice for a coastal trip boat for big people. The romany is good for smaller people or for people who can get their friends to carry their gear.

Thanks for the input

– Last Updated: Mar-07-15 11:01 AM EST –

The Capella was a last minute addition. Didn't know it was no longer in prediction. So scratch that. Sterling Donalson is quite a salesman and I came away from a brief demo on a calm (unfortunately as a critical deciding factor would be performance in significantly 'textured' water) lake quite impressed. I just wish I liked the aesthetics of the Grand Illusion (or regular Illusion) better. It looks like a fat banana to me, and I don't like the standard paint job with the painted part of the deck so high (and no seam). I also miss my ~16 ft boats (my first boat was a Sealution, my 2nd was a Chesapeake 16….my current boat is a Chatham 17). So that pushes me to the Romany more than a Sterling boat. Still, despite the larger size, the Sterling boats are lighter and that matters to me.

What makes the Chatham 17 not work?
You say you have one now. It is a solid all around boat, which seems to also be what you are looking for. Or are you trying to get from RM to composite?

I have owned two…
Capella 160 (RM)…which i found to be very vague in all respects and not very good at anything. Romany…excellent in rough water…one of the least skeg dependent Brit form boats I’ve ever owned…rolls itself…and the hull cross section is so boxy that it really holds a lot of gear. Two weeks is doable if you pack like an ultralight backpacker…down side is it’s pretty slow and not easily driven (speed-wise, glide-wise)…and don’t even think about buying anything older than 2005 due to rampant QC issues. Another EXCELLENT boat that never quite caught on in the states is the Rockpool Alaw Bach. Basically the same dynamics as the Romany (same designer) but even more wind neutral…AND an absolute orgasmic beast in the surf zone…best I’ve ever had, including a Tiderace Xtreme. Two more excellent all rounders would be the Tiderace Xplore S or M…much faster, less initial stability and way more skeg dependent, and last but not least NDK Pilgrim Expedition…friendly, predictable but faster than Romany.

next boat

– Last Updated: Mar-07-15 11:03 AM EST –

Nope, my Chatham is a composite. And I may be chasing unicorns…, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. My Chatham is very nice. However, when messing about in surf, I feel that I have to work too hard to turn it around (i.e., to face rapidly approaching waves). So I would like something that feels a bit more nimble, and quick/easy to turn. I also feel that my Chatham has too much primary stability (and perhaps too little secondary, although my perception may be off a bit on the 2nd point). I feel that I have to sort of throw myself into it to get the boat up on edge and I don't do that in wavy conditions because the variability in heel angle produced by waves, after I get it up on edge, may be enough to send it past its stability point and I would have to do a quick brace. It is possible that this is partly my own fault as I removed the seat soon after I got it to lower my center of gravity (I sit on a foam camping pad, which then doubles as a sleeping bag pad when I am kayak camping). Also, although conducted at different times (albeit under similar conditions), I found the Grand Illusion to be a bit (0.3-0.5 mph) faster than my Chatham at a sustainable pace, and the acceleration of the Grand Illusion to be strikingly better (4.7 vs 3.4 mph from standstill after 4 solid strokes). Maybe I was in unusually good form on the day I demo'd the Sterling boat. Also, I used to have a reliable balance brace in my Chesapeake (which I enjoy doing), but have never been able to balance brace in my Chatham. I could almost do it when I demo'd the Grand Illusion, and that was with a Euro paddle, so I think I could do it with my GP paddle (due to the extra flotation).

OK, then my one comment between the 3
Romany will likely outshine all of them in making surf easy. But your posts keep going back to terms like speed or acceleration, and it is likely the slowest hull of the lot. Of course, that may also be part of what makes it nice is surf since slow hulls are aslo a characteristic of true WW boats…

But if I had to pick themes from your posts, I would say that the Romany would be better as a second boat to the Chatham than to replace it for all purposes.

Personally, I appreciate the boat’s talents in the right use. The Romany is one of the boats that was primarily my husband’s that is not going to be up for sale as I trim the fleet. But that is in addition to my own go-to sea kayak.

P&H Cetus
Probably worth checking out as well if around.

I’ve paddled the Romany and Capella
I’ve paddled the Romany a number of times, including surf play. I’ve always much preferred my Capella. Quicker to maneuver and faster for me. Mine has mostly been used for surf play.

Just to second the “outside the list” above, the Ellesmere is a more recent acquisition of mine. The Ellesmere is faster than both, and I found it maneuvers more in line with the Romany. It feels very settled in rough water under my 6’ 190 pounds, but still very easy to maneuver. It’s well-rockered with good bow volume distribution for rough water play. It was kind of a wonderful surprise for me, as I hadn’t seen or heard much about the Ellesmere.

I haven’t had an opportunity to try the other, although I would definitely love to.

Epic 16X is a sweet boat.
Very efficient, maneuverable, easy tracking and with a good turn of speed.

Pretty good storage.

Hard to find an Ellesmere
After reading your post, and some other reviews on the review page, I became eager to try an Ellesmere. However, their webpage links to retailers took me to a number of dead ends. I then saw that they went bankrupt a few years ago. Apparently, they have new ownership. Their webpage says that they have seen “serious investment in our thermoforming division which is new since 2013. In addition to all the upgrades we have done to the PE kayaks we have increased the quality of our polyethylene to exceed our expectations in UV resistance and durability.” I would like to at least demo an Ellesmere, but it appears less than likely at this point.

I was the proud owner of 3 NDK boats
The Romany ,Poseidon and Explorer. I’m 6’2" 200+ so the Romany was a real squeeze for me but i had some fun days playing in the surf with it and ended up buying the Poseidon which made a good fit, using it as my day boat and the Explorer for my triping. To make a lot story short i dropped off the Explorer at Sterling Kayaks for a skeg repair before the annual summer trip and left with the Grand Illusion as a loaner. I came back a week later picked up the Explorer and ordered a Grand Illusion. I sold all my NDK boats and I have the perfect day boat for play and an incredible trip boat that holds my 3 week kit easily and could push it to 4 weeks if need be. At my size the Grand Illusion handles big water better than Explorer and it’s handling is just as good empty as it is loaded. No more paddling a loaded pig on the trips!

used kevlar ellesmere
$1500 In Vancouver BC area:

needs some TLC