Vela in coastal waters - Celia?

I demoed two boats today at AKT. First I (finally) got into a plastic Avocet. From all the great posts about Avocets, I had been looking forward to that, but to my disappointment I just couldn’t get comfortable in it. Couldn’t get my knees to splay out far enough, feet fell asleep in no time, etc. Great boat otherwise, just not a good fit.

Second boat I tried was a Vela. A bit over my budget but what a difference. This is perhaps the most comfortable boat I’ve ever been in. Good contact, without feeling totally wedged in. The back band was a bit high so laying back was not easy. I know that can be switched out, though it was very comfortable. The boat was pretty fast (I raced against my husband in a much longer Quest, and of course in the end he was ahead, but boy, that Vela just shot out of the starting blocks).

I was wondering though, how does this fairly short boat do in coastal waters? Celia, do you use this boat in Maine or a different one? Because of my limited skills, I had to use the skeg halfway down just to make it track straight most of the time, in some wind, but nothing serious. And could it hold enough to camp out for say, 4 days? As an “advanced beginner” would I just be in way over my head in the ocean in this one? I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

[Other boats that were suggested I try to find and demo by the staff were Elaho, Romany, Eliza composite, and Capella 161, although none of these available where I demoed today. A Skye was available but I didn’t try it. I’m 5’7" and 140lbs.]

Re: Vela in coastal waters
I am about your size (5’7 140lb) and skill level. I have paddled all the boats on your list except the Eliza. My favorites off your list would be the Romany LV and the Vela. Both fits me reasonably well. In calm water, the Vela accelarates from standstill effortlessly and tracks straight without using the skeg. However, if you do get blown off course in high wind and choppy water, I found that the Vela does not respond to edging and steering strokes as eagerly as I would like. In addition, I found it much easier to hold the edge and to perform an eskimo roll in the Romany than the Vela. It is possible that the difference is due to deck height (the Romany has a lower deck so that I don’t need to raise my knee to ensure firm contact with the thigh brace). However, I did not get the chance to pad up the Vela to see if that makes any difference. Overall I feel the Romany is a better choice if you are looking for a boat that encourages skill development and gives you confidence in big water. However if you paddle mostly in flat water and your top priorities are efficiency and tracking, then the Vela might be the right boat for you.

BTW the boat I ended up buying is the CD Suka which is essentially a Low Volume version of the Caribu S. It rolls as easily and handles rough water as well as the Romany, but much faster, lighter (42 lb) and track better. I found it surprisingly responsive to edging and very easy to carve turn and make course corrections despite very little hull rocker. The fit is very snug - my knees are locked in like a white water kayak without any customer padding. The other kayak I seriously considered (apart from the Romany LV and CD Suka) but did not get the chance to demo due to local availability is the Impex Force 3. I think these 3 are amongst the best high-performance sea kayaks available for smaller paddlers to develop advanced skills and venture in big water.

thanks jcj
Sounds like we’re trying similar boats. The Romany LV was actually, not a great fit for me (deck just a bit too low for my legs to be comfortable) but the regular Romany might be. The Suka also felt too tight in the thigh braces to me (they have a really great raspberry color though!). I guess I want a little more bend in my legs. The Force 3 and the Vela were both very comfortable, as was the Montauk. They’re all pretty expensive boats, even used. But they’re such a pleasure to paddle compared to the plastic ones I’ve been in so far. Have you taken your Suka into the ocean anywhere? I was just curious how a smaller boat handles waves and wind and chop, compared to the larger boats I’ve been in. Are the smaller, more agile boats a lot more likely to capsize in those conditions? Trying to find a happy medium between a boat that challenges me to improve skills, but is supportive enough that it doesn’t keep dumping me in less than ideal conditions the process.


– Last Updated: Sep-10-10 1:59 AM EST –

I'm just back from a 4 h salt water tour in my Vela...
I didn't try a Romany LV, but I've checked many other boats and I'm happy that I've chosen the Vela. It fits me perfect, no other boat came close. I love the higher foredeck, so I can move my legs during a long ride or just wedge into the boat if the sea gets rough.
Speed is good for it's length, no problem keeping up with a NF Silhouette yesterday. The Vela "likes" waves and is a fun to paddle. Using the skeg you can adjust and really fine tune the course depending on the wind direction. Without the skeg it's hard to keep the course if you have high winds from behind. But that's the case with most kayaks...
If you get the chance to view "This is the Sea II" you'll find a Vela performing at "the Bitches", including some rolls.
Again, a nice boat.

is in Maine (where else?), I believe - it may be a few days before she gets to a computer to check mail and give you an answer.


I’m here

– Last Updated: Jul-09-07 12:03 PM EST –

Hi - just stopped into the Rockland Library to renew our temporary cards, need to pick up a Reed's at Hamilton Marine too.

I haven't brought the Vela to Maine because for our three weeks here I tend to grab the boat that requires the least of my attention. That'd be the Explorer LV. But I have had the Vela in downright bitchy conditions in Narragansett Bay (poor decision-making, not intentional) - winds gusting over 30 mph and steep close waves, not huge but in the trough I couldn't see fully over them. I also took the boat to a surf clinic where the stuff was coming in at more like 4 plus feet than the two plus that the coaches had wanted. So I've had the boat in some nasty stuff, just not for tons of hours.

You do need to use the skeg in wind - it has a very tight bow and the skeg is more needed than in some other boats to balance that out. But it settles down fine after that. It is an active hull - in conditions you will get noticeably kicked around. But it's not going to throw you for the heck of it - great secondary. As far as turning it against wind - I would agree with the above post that it isn't the easiest thing to do. It'll take a lot of edge if you try turning the bow, and in some conditions skidding out the stern (the easier course in this boat at times) isn't super easy either. But I'm not sure that's anything unique to this boat. That day in Narragansett I did ask for a bump on my bow from a fellow paddler to help get around because he was in position and I was getting just plain exhausted. But 15 minutes later he couldn't get his Explorer bow turned either in the wind - in fact he ended up having to back up to get to the rest of us. And we are talking about a quite strong paddler with excellent skills. Some days wind and waves are wind and waves and no boat is going to be easy.

At the surf session the boat side-surfed wonderfully, and from what I have heard from people better than me runs down the front of the wave face quite well too. Unfortunately the few times I went for a real surf I caught an edge and reacted poorly, so it turned into a swim to shore. (Hadn't gotten down a roll in conditions yet.) But take a look at it in TITS2 - it's the white boat with I think red trim in the section on the Bitches. Obviously it does that fine in the right hands.

I haven't tried camping out of it. I can only offer that I know people do long weekends out of this boat, but it'd probably require a reasonable set of packing practices rather than my kitchen sink approach. I don't see any reason offhand it wouldn't work with proper gear.

As to the boat's comfort - the nice thing for you would be that, at 5'7", you could probably skip padding down the thigh braces. The Vela is fast off the mark and will facilitate a good forward stroke better than many other larger boats because of its responsiveness and relative narrowness. The boat does start to lose some efficiency against some longer hulled boats at higher speeds - I forget the break points in the various tests. But it's fast enough for anything you are likely to want to do. The reality is that very few paddlers go out and actually tour at 5 plus mph.

Mine is a 2000 - I find the seat to be very comfortable for a few hours and then it turns and my sciatica on the left just takes off. But I received advice this last week from someone who knows the boat to cut away some of the foam at the front edge of the seat so that it lies a little flatter rather than rising so much under my thigh. I haven't done it yet but I am pretty sure it'll work - if I think about the diff between that seat and the one I can sit in all day much of it is in the flatness.

As to the Romany - you should be sized right for a regular Romany mostly because NDK understands what keyhole cockpit should be like. The Romany is the epitomy of a schooling boat - it'll make more advanced skills fun and easy and still protect beginners quite well. It's not as fast as the Vela, really really needs to have its bow trimmed a bit heavy in high winds (very loose bow), and really comes from a completely different design ethic. There are some things it'll do probably more easily than the Vela with a real beginner, but honestly I haven't found anything that is dreadfully more difficult in the Vela. The Vela is slightly more picky on the roll, is slightly less forgiving for some of the Greenland stuff, but overall it is still an easy roller, braces super nicely and has all the advantages of a low volume boat.

The only diff I have found between the two boats in performance is that, if you are trying to get a large or tall person onto your deck, the Romany is flatter and a little easier and is more likely to be willing to move with that weight on the front or the back. On the Vela, the front is kinda dicey on balance and the back is just light on real estate. Though it does lighten that tight bow. But I had a kid climb up onto my back deck of the Vela and sit there at a recent demo day while I was cursing out trying to empty a rec boat and I honestly didn't even realize he wasn't hanging off the toggle until I turned around and saw him at eye level. So obviously his weight was not particularly disturbing me.

Overall, the biggest thing about the Vela is its personality. It has one, big league compared to a lot of boats. Those I have encountered who like it and have it as their only long boat have never looked back.

Thanks very much for the response and info. Just curious, what’s your height and weight, and your skill level?

nice shots on your site
I’m actually from Holland originally, so thanks for the pics looking towards Holland!

hi there Celia
Hope you had a great time in Maine. I will be going there at the end of August for a workshop, not sure how much paddling I’ll get in.

Thanks so much for the long and detailed response. This is very useful info for me, especially your comment that the Vela needs more attention than your Explorer LV. It’s really thanks to you and others on this site that I am even looking at this type of boat (I started out thinking Tsunami 140) so I really appreciate all the response from people who have actually paddled these in non-demo conditions. I do wish the Vela had a compass recess.

Still want to demo the regular Romany, and the Capella 161. It amazing how different they all are, and it’s been an interesting process.

It seems that all boats I am interested in (now that I’m spoiled, having paddled them!) are in that same price range, all a bit more than I intended to spend. There’s no way around that. So I either have to just go for it, or take a step back to a “starter boat” cost wise and step it up in a year or two.

My husband got smitten by the Quest he demoed. Just loved it.

5’54 / 138 (1,69m/63 kg)

Skill - no “official licence” (BCU or similar), paddling since, hmmm, about 30 years. Maybe intermediate? Conditions here are often windy, no surf, short, choppy waves, tide currents (but not like Penrhyn Mawr…)

I agree with most of the things Celia mentioned below. I tried the Capella 163 (161 wasn’t on the market then), but it was too big. Same to several other kayaks (Kajak Sport, Lettmann, Prijon, North Shore,…). I bought mine in - Holland!

The compass found it’s place on the front hatch cover, no problems. I removed the foot rests and padded the bulk head, much better.

And yes - the boat has personality!