Submitted: 06-05-2000 by SS
This is *THE* small/light person's boat!! The Vela is new for 2000 from P&H. It has a rounded hull bottom between curving hard chines. At 21.25" wide and a hull that tapers quickly to a fine entry and exit point, a lighter person will sit down in the water like a heavier person does in a larger/longer boat. Therefore, the Vela's hull interacts with the water the way a kayak *should* for us lightweights. No more bobbing around on the surface of the water like a cork, at the mercy of the wind, or banging your hands on the deck and sides. It has a retractable skeg but tracks very well without it. The low deck makes windage minimal. Secure footbraces, glassed inside, not bolted through the hull, and recessed deck fittings are also glassed so as not to snag inside. Three bulkheads allow for two large oval Kajak Sport hatches and one small round hatch over a rear day compartment; there has been no leakage. The white hull makes repairs/touchups easy to match. Like all P&H! boats, it's gorgeous, too.
It has rather low initial stability, but very good secondary. It might not feel comfortable for a beginner who's not willing to develop some skills, but this is a boat you won't outgrow skill-wise. The chines/slight rocker allow for great turning, but tracking is remarkably good. There's not a huge overhang above the water fore and aft, so the waterline is probably deceptively long for a boat that's rather short as sea kayaks go. I can lift it easily to my shoulder where it balances perfectly, in spite of low upper body/arm strength. My kevlar Dagger Meridian is a struggle to lift and impossible to paddle in the wind, at my weight range.
The only drawback is is a little deck flex in my very early kevlar model, although the hull is like steel. The fiberglass decks may be stiffer or P&H may tweak the later production runs. Check for that flaw, the only reason I rate it 9 rather than 10. But at only 42 lbs., it's soooo manageable off the water. I haven't taken it in the ocean so can't comment on that. This is probably a better flatwater touring boat than surf kayak.
At 5'5" and 120 lbs, the Vela fits like a glove, responds like a boat *should*, but is simply scaled down for the lighter person. What a joy. If you are light/small, try this sea kayak before buying one, try lifting them all, and then decide.