The Cetus merits a 10 for effort if nothing else. The effort in this case being first noted in the superbly executed 4th hatch. This hatch is the most prominent feature of this P/H product. I could write volumes on the usefullness/functionality of this hatch but I'm thinking it's obvious.
The next effort by P/H is noted in the footpeg controls - ingenious because unlike Wilderness Systems (which are far better than most on the market)the P/H controls will not release (and allow the footpegs to slide) when the kayak is upside down. The footpeg effort doesn't stop here, the actual footpegs are larger than normal and are 'tacky'. It's the first off the shelf kayak I've added that I don't feel inclined to add a custom bulkhead mounted foam block.
Next on the effort list is the pressure valves in the bulkheads... if you've ever lost a hatch cover maybe it was due to pressure build up and the hatch blowing off with force. The pressure values will help reduce this. Of course P/H tethers the hatch covers for you - not all manufactures do.
Next sign of effort is discovered in the process of sitting. You will find that P/H has advanced the art of the seat in a Brit style kayak and to a high level. Compared to a Wilderness Systems seat it is still a year behind, but compared to Valley (who has also made significant advances in cockpit outfitting)it is ahead.
Another nicety and maybe missed upon cursory inspection of the Cetus are the cutouts on the deck proper. This 'scallops' of removed material will allow the high strokers to count less strikes against the deck with the paddle.
The next show of great effort in the design of the Cetus shows up later in the day when you begin to play around with the skeg. If you play enough you'll realize that it is easily removable and replaceable. The skeg adjustment control is another matter and will be discussed below.
Fit and finish of the kayak delivered to me by Team P/H was flawless. In comparing it to a Valley Q received last fall, I can say that both P/H and Valley are to be commended for excellent Q/A for products that leave their facilities.
Weight: this is a heavy kayak in my opinion. P/H states 57 pounds for a FG version like mine but you know this up front before ordering so it cannot be considered a detractor.
Handling: I've only paddled in 'real' conditions in a Nordkapp Jubilee and a Q-boat, both Valley products. I have paddled the Cetus in some varying conditions that range in perfectly flat water to constant winds of 15-17mph.
In all my paddles in the Cetus I was mentally comparing it to the Valley Q-boat. When I first saw the Cetus pictured on various websites I thought it might be a large Tempest 165 - wrong! but the similarities to the Q-boat are remarkable. The differences are in the cockpit sizing with the Q-boat having a much tighter fit (I bet the Cetus LV will be even more comparable to the Q-boat).
Initial stability- medium to high (this compared to all kayaks I've paddled). Same compared to a Q-boat.
Secondary stability- high, slightly higher than the Q-boat and with a def. feel for the locking point (or broaching point).
Speed- comparing the Q-boat and the Cetus, and this is after hopping out of one and into the other, the Q-boat wins by ever so slight a hair. I think it would take a machine to discern the difference here.
Rollability- Q-boat wins here but the Cetus is an easy roller. The Q wins because of the lower rear deck and easier layback rolls.
Turning/Handling- such commonality between the Cetus and the Q in turning ability. If you've read the reviews on the Q in regard to turning you'll discover than some paddlers don't like the fact that once the Q-boat is leaned and a strong sweep stroke applied that the Q will continue to turn even after the kayak is righted. The Cetus will respond in like fashion though slightly less but you will still have to sweep on the opposite side even after righting to stop the continued turn. How to deal with this? Same as in the Q, both kayaks have the ability to turn even with some skeg deployed. Having some skeg will prevent some of the oversteer. Having said this, know that both kayaks will turn even with the skeg fully deployed if a good lean is initiated prior. Just like the Q-boat, with no skeg, strong sweep, and a nice lean, the Cetus will almost do a 180 degree turn. Also like the Q-boat, with full skeg on the Cetus will track straight.
Paddle camping- here the Cetus gets the nod. Obviously with its higher rear deck it simply has more capacity than a Q-boat for more food (your kit for 3 days will probably be the same for 3 months).
OK, if you are struck between choosing the Q or the Cetus the division line will be whether you prefer easier layback rolls or the ability to carry more cargo. Both kayaks are extremely maneuverable, both (since they handle with such great similarity I'm transferring my rough water experience in the Q to the Cetus) move along quite well for kayaks that aren't really designed for speed (if you have a need for speed in a sea kayak look for a true racing kayak), both are almost assured of being placed in your hands in perfect condition.
Cetus weaknesses- debatable at best... but the skeg control requires that you grip and pinch a release before the skeg will travel. Nice in that it stays put but maybe an irritant if your fingers are cold/tired or so heavily gloved you can't quite pinch the release.
How to improve the Cetus? If I were P/H I would add an integral rudder, copy as much of the Mirage design as patents would allow!!! and KEEP the skeg. This would end the endless debate of rudder versus skeg. It would also allow on the long long paddles the use of a rudder to avoid the constant corrective strokes and tiring leans during turns.
The beauty of the Mirage rudder is that it is integral to the hull shape-if the feet are no pushing the control pedals the rudder returns to a neutral position and you effectively don't have a rudder or its drag.
All in all a wonderful kayak. It's also a nice kayak to day paddle in so don't let the 'expedition ready' title push you away from it.