A good boat with a combination of vices and virtues. First of all, lets be honest -- this boat is built. It is heavy, but very well built. It can take a far bit of abuse. Second, it has pleasant lines. However, it has a few interesting vices. First, initial stability is relatively low given the vee shaped hull. It also has a tendency for me of some weathercocking (a bit of skeg did a world of difference).
A good boat but there are better out there (e.g., VCP Aquanaut, P&H Cetus).Picked boat up this past summer (1998 model I think). I've paddled for years in a 17 Hydra roto boat in all kinds of conditions on the Great Lakes and on trips lasting up to 7 days. Needless to say the Valley was a major upgrade! It did not take long to get used to the initial stability and the 2ndary stability is amazing.
The boat is very easy to roll and surprisingly easy to turn on edge. I love the style/look of the boat and the Valley hatches are truly watertight (I spend a lot of time just practicing rolls and never get a drop in the hatches).
At 6' 175# size 12 feet, the boat is very comfortable and roomy in the cockpit. The storage volume is good but not as much as I was expecting. The tail and bow is very long and slender. I paddle on long trips with a bunch of guys that own the QCC 500 that can carry more load (and they have no trouble keeping up or handling big waves).
As far as the ride, the boat handles extremely rough water with ease. The only complaint is that my skeg needs some attention. On a recent trip in September to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, I ran into trouble with the skeg sticking. We set out one day into 20+ mph winds and I had dropped the skeg by hand before taking off (we were heading into the wind but about 2 miles later we would be turning around the point of an island and coming with the wind). About half way, I had to pull the skeg up and let the boat weathercock into the wind, which made it much easier to paddle. I was a bit worried as we approached the turn, however, on how the boat would go with the wind with the skeq up. It was a bit scary until I managed to get the skeg to drop again. With the skeg down, the boat tracks like a missile in the following seas (4-6' swells) and was a blast. Extremely seaworthy boat, but the skeg is a must. I'm going to try to modify my bungee style skeg to make it operate more reliably.I bought an Aquila last spring (2001) and then took it on a 63 day trip in SE Alaska. I wanted a boat that has more room and is more stable than my Nordkapp HS. The Aquila is a great boat, and because I am familiar with the Nordkapp and the Nigel Dennis Romany, I'll compare the Aquila to them.
The Aquila may seam a bit shaky for some-particularly for those who are a bit "top-heavy," but I found its initial stability very comfortable-much more stable than the Nordkapp, but not quite as stable as the Romany. But this boat's secondary stability is rock solid. I can put this boat comfortably on its side to turn it, even in rough water, which is sometimes scary in the Nordkapp. As far as rolling and high brace recovery, the Aquila is similar to the Romany-very responsive. This boat is much easier to roll than the Nordkapp, and almost as easy to roll or high brace as the Romany. What this boat has over the Romany is that it is a faster boat and can carry more gear. In addition, the larger front and rear hatches are easier to pack and can accommodate the small size bear containers.
A complaint I have about this boat concerns how well it tracks. The boat has a lot of rocker, which makes it very easy to turn-too easy. I would gladly give up the maneuverability for something that tracks better. I often lower the skeg slightly (even in calm weather) in order to keep it from weather cocking. This is not as much of a problem with the Nordkapp or Romany.
I really like this boat and I'm sure I'll do many more long trips with it. I have a foot pump and a knee tube, which are nice features. I recommend that if you buy this boat that you order it with a custom bulkhead so that you have even more space in the front hold.