Thoughts on my new Capella

After some discussion on these forums about 6 weeks ago, I bought a new RM Capella 166 as the next step up from my first kayak, an Old Town Cayuga 146. As everyone suggested, my initial concerns about it’s initial stability quickly became a non-issue. In fact, I can even do a reliable cowboy re-entry… which is a good thing, because my legs from knee to bottom of foot are longer than the width of the boat at the seat, preventing me from turning around after paddle-float re-entries!

Going out early in the mornings between heat waves, I’ve finally been able to put some miles on the boat in various conditions, and now have some thoughts… and maybe a question or two.

Last weekend my wife and I went to our usual area on Bull Shoals Lake and were fortunate to have a good breeze early in the morning… 10-15 mph, with whitecaps just beginning to appear. The area had about a 2 mile fetch, with a nice chop, with waves up to a foot or so. Coming back across the lake, with the wind on our port beam we were about 50 yards apart. At first I was having to put more effort into my windward side strokes, then as we got into more open water, I needed more of a corrective stroke… like a bow sweep. Eventually I was doing about two strokes on the winward side for each (light) stroke on the lee side. Now, I had noticed on previous solo trips that the Capella seemed to weathercock more than my Cayuga, even with the skeg fully down, but until I looked over at my wife in her Tsunami 120, stroking equally on each side of her boat and going straight towards our destination in the same conditions, I didn’t realize how bad this situation is! When we arrived back at the truck, I asked her how that was, and she said “No problem”! Her Tsunami has no skeg or rudder, and she is a beginner, having had her boat only three months.

This what I consider severe (and tiring to compensate for) weathercocking, along with the fact that she has no problem keeping up with me on casual paddles (~ 3mph average) makes me wonder if I really did “move up” that much from the Cayuga?

Sorry to hear that
Capella 166 RM has quite a bit of rocker, depending on your weight it might have even more.

Without having seen you paddle, most of comments would be quite pointless, but here on, we are always happy to advise :slight_smile:

One thing to keep in mind - if this is the new skeg setup Capella, you need to make sure that skeg is actually deployed when you think it is. If there are issues with the skeg deployment, dealer and PH will fix it for you.

If a boat weathercocks like crazy even with the skeg all the way down, the bow is trimmed heavy, you need to move seat back a bit. If moving the seat back sounds like a bit too much work, try putting water bladder in the rear hatch. I would not recommend this as permanent solution, but one of the try-and-see experiments.

New skeg
Thanks for the reply. Yes, it has the latest skeg system with the thin blue cord and it is working fine. In fact there is such a dramatic difference in tracking with the skeg down that it’s easy to tell when it’s deployed. On the plus side, with the skeg up it does turn better than my Cayuga.

The seat does appear to have a range of fore/aft adjustment and it is all the way back. Any further changes would require drilling new holes in the coaming area, which I’m reluctant to do as at this point I’m not sure that the Capella and I are going to have a long happy life together.

I’ve got a Capella RM 166 and haven’t noticed weather-cocking problems. In fact, I seldom use the skeg unless winds are persistently strong from the side. My Capella is several years old, however.

Is it possible that you were unconsciously shifting your weight to favor one side, thus turning more into the wind? If not, perhaps you need to move the seat.

Boat loaded or empty
What did you have in the boat? Was there anything in any of the hatches?

All boats have their quirks
I have paddled a Capella 169 for 6 years and I always ask for a Capella RM when I rent a boat or take a class.

All boats have their own personality and I think with time you’ll learn to handle your boat in all conditions.

The Capella is a great boat. Maybe because of your long legs, you have a little more weight forward. Try just putting whatever you do take with you in the boat in the rear hatch, practice edge turns, and get a little more time in the boat and I think you will learn to love it.

Just as an aside, I don’t understand what the length of your lower leg has to do with your ability to turn around in the seat for to finish getting in. You slide your feet and legs in as you are backing up to the seat, then spin. So the only measurement that should matter is the width of your thighs, or in an extremely short boat top to bottom your shoe size. I can’t quite see how the width of your upper legs can be greater than the width of a cockpit in the Capella 166. Am I missing something here?

As to the weather cocking, it sounds not unlike the diff I encounter between my Vela and my NDK Explorer. The latter hardly ever has the skeg down, but it gets fairly heavy use in the Vela unless I am feeling like working a little harder. Moving the seat back chould help - first thing to try. The other one is to load the boat stern-heavy - that is keep a bit over 50% of the weight behind you rather than loading down the bow compartment. That simple trick makes for a much happier paddle in the Vela.

Suz…have you heard this before…lol ?

day-paddle gear
The boat was loaded light… water bottle, paddle float, sunscreen, etc. in the day hatch, pfd strapped over the rear hatch (hey, the heat index was 100+, water temp 85… heat stroke seemed more threatening than a swim without pfd!!) Nothing in front of the cockpit.

As to the leaning… yes, I was intentionally leaning toward the windward side as I stroked hard on that side to try and maintain a heading.

lower leg length
Celia… the paddle float rescue videos I’ve seen put you in the boat facing backwards on your knees in the seat. When I tried that my left leg got wedged crossways as I tried to turn around. It took a couple minutes to get “unstuck”… at which point I felt vulnerable to flipping while still being stuck in the boat… not a good feeling. The “cowboy” works for me.

As I mentioned above, what little weight I did have in the boat was behind me. The seat can’t be moved further back without drilling new holes in the coaming which I’m unwilling to do right now.

Knees in seat…
While my knees are lower than the lip of the coaming in a paddle float re-entry, they aren’t actually on the seat. You just may have to alter the entry form a bit to fit your body.

There is a risk when you turn around, but in a paddle float re-entry that is usually handled by making sure if anything you increase the weight on the paddle shaft with float, use it as an outrigger, keeping as much as possible of your body centered over the back. Were you keeping some weight on that paddle as outrigger when you felt capsize was imminent turning?

And my take on your post was that the cowboy re-entry voided the need to turn around. Did I have that right?

The cowboy re-entry does eliminate the need to turn around and works very well for me. It also eliminates the dependence on a dedicated piece of equipment, which can fail or may not always be available.

Capella 169
is not the perfect comparison, but should be pretty close. Your design is updated from the 169, supposed to be designed to be a bit more stable and track a bit better. But, I should have an idea of what you’re describing. Bear in mind I don’t use my skegs and rudders, so in any case, I should be dealing with an exagerated characteristic compared to you. The couple times I toyed around with the skeg in the wind, it eliminated the weathercocking.

The 169 will turn right into the wind, and fairly quickly, if I stop paddling. On the other hand, two hard strokes on the same side of the kayak can easily have me turned 90 degrees downwind if that’s what I want to do (although in reality, on the move, I would rarely use multiple sweeps in an effort to turn). My Capella 169 is absolutely not a tracker among my kayaks(although the skeg would remedy that). It is very playful. It’s very good for learning direction control, in that I more often than in many others, actually have to control it. But it’s very easy and takes little effort to make directional adjustments. You’re dealing with a kayak that between it and your Cayuga, 2 people with equally well-developed skills trying to show what they could do or put them to the test in rougher conditions, would likely make your Cayuga look bad. But this is getting into performance levels that most will never appreciate, which is fine.

I observe what you describe quite often. People performing double, and sometimes more, strokes on the same side of the kayak, to accomplish little. The person is giving everything they’ve got with their arm. They stopped paddling on the opposite side, which ends up eliminating any torso rotation the other direction to set them up for a strong stroke on the side they want one. (In other words, rotate all the way back on the other side whether the paddle is in the water or not.) They’re not paying attention to where the other end of the lever is in terms of contact inside the kayak, and how that helps them turn if properly applied. (In other words, one end of the lever is the paddle blade - make the other end your foot on the outside of the turn to the best of your ability.) Some good practice maneouvering your kayak, figuring out contact points and what makes your kayak turn, can solve the issue. You eventually could have little desire to jump in the Cayuga given the choice.

If you’re deploying the skeg and having this issue with a Capella without a major design flaw, you have very minimal directional control skills. It is these same skills that will make a playful boat shine. Start there, and have fun with it. Good luck.

well said…
i am new to my Scorpio and need to keep hearing this. I may just print this out and carry it around.

you lack the track!
Cape Fear is correct about the most likely cause of poor tracking is your stroke. I see it in an increasing number of students and there are a lot of reasons so the BEST thing you could do is to have yourself video taped! You can catch all kinds of crimes and misdemeanors (as they say-the tape doesn’t lie) Your stroke could be low angle on one side and higher on the other. Or you might be planting the blade at your feet on one side but closer to the hips at the other. Before you smirk and say “no way” check yourself out. Curious-did you change paddle length with your new boat? Used to have the same problem with a Skerry I owned years ago and by slowing my stroke way way way down I could actually feel where I was out of whack and under-powering my left stroke. Yupper…caught myself pulling on that side instead of rotating and pushing…

As for the re-enter use what works and just get fast doing it. Not sure why any poster would argue around doing the corkscrew re-enter when there are multiple ways of going about it. Good luck and have fun in your new boat!

Well, I don’t have this problem with my Cayuga, or my wife’s Tsunami. They both exhibit slight weathercocking, but it’s easily controlled, and at least in those boats I can paddle on both sides in a crosswind or quartering downwind.

How do you explain paddling on the weather side ONLY and the boat still having a tendency to turn up into the wind?

The way i look at is…
every time you are in a new boat/or different one it will teach you something new or teach you a better way to go about things. In the long run we will be a better paddler and a more versatile paddler. hard for me to remember when i am out on the water and things feel like they are falling apart, but i keep trying and i agree having someone tape you will help a lot…i taught myself how to ride and show horses this way.

Keep working on the turning around

– Last Updated: Aug-11-10 9:57 AM EST –

It's never a bad idea to be able to balance more adroitly on or in your boat, and it's the warmest part of the year so now is the time to mess around with things that'll leave you wet. That will translate to making something like the cowboy a viable option in somewhat bumpy stuff, and in general enhance your self-rescue options.

Just the paddle can be a more useful outrigger than many people realize - they get too hung up in relying on the paddle float.

One good exercise is to get out of the seat and turn around facing the stern, crawl to it, then do the reverse turning around again behind the seat. Crawl forward as well. Try turning around at the bow and the stern - you'll be on your belly and will find the paddle very helpful here.

Leaning or shifting weight?
I’ve seen what is strictly speaking leaning produce counter results, my guess is because it stiffens up the body. So the paddler is leaning like hell to try and get that outside edge, and lifting similarly with the outside knee, but the result in how the boat sits is exactly opposite of the desired.

Have you tried just shimmying your seat over so that you are sitting somewhat on the side of the seat, rather than dead center in it? I find that can help a decent bit with weather cocking, and it leaves the rest of me loose and relaxed.

Poly Capella

– Last Updated: Aug-11-10 11:18 AM EST –

The poly Capella is a great boat and IMO it handles very nicely in just about any wind and wave condition. It does weathercock more than most boats, but it is quicker to turn than most boats too. As people have said above, it takes time to get to know a new boat and to develop new skills.

A couple ideas -
Don't be afraid to use the skeg. I once had the idea that real kayakers don't need skegs. Sean Morley is a real kayaker (and a P&H rep) and he convinced me that real kayakers always use skegs to trim their boat to the conditions.

Also, as you know, you can use edging to trim the boat to the wind and wave conditions - which is a great skill to have. When learning about edging, most people start well, but release the edge as they paddle on the high side. If you can learn to hold the edge steady regardless of what you are doing with your upper body, that will help in many ways. The second that you release the edge, that boat will want to respond.

I doubt that your weathercocking has much to do with your stroke technique, since I assume that it weather cocks to port or starboard equally depending on the direction of the wind. If you don't want to use your skeg, or it is broken, you can shift your hands to make the paddle longer on the windward side, and make the stroke on that side more of a sweep.

A good stroke to have to counter the occasional wind puff is a forward stroke that transitions into a stern draw. It is a good stroke because the weathercocking is caused by the stern sliding out, so the correction in the stern is the way to go.

But that boat has a much looser tail than your old boat, which is one reason you will eventually love it. But it will create a problem with weathercocking until you learn how to deal with it.