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The Cetus is a heavy boat. I own a clear carbon/kevlar hull version with skeg and rudder. I added an electric bilge pump behind the seat (as the dealer ordered the vertical bulkhead) with a pheunomic switch. My kayak weighs 28kg. I originally thought that I would only use my Cetus for overnight or extended trips but it has become my kayak of choice for day paddles as well.
The Cetus is surprisingly maneuverable with excellent initial and secondary stability. It does not track very well without a bit of skeg and it does have a tendency to weather cock even with full skeg and that is where the rudder comes in very handy. The smart track pedals with toe clips are great. I like being able to brace on them without having to lock them in place like my previous kayak.
I have made numerous modifications to my Cetus. I have replaced the P&H seat with a Bumfortables seat from New Zealand. The new seat sits lower in my kayak which I find more comfortable as I can bend legs more and fit the thigh bracing better. It also has the added benefit that my hips are more secure.
The other major modification I had done was to shorten the length of the glove box. Due my short legs I found that feet did not clear the end of the tube and I found it very hard to move my feet. If I straightened my legs out for a stretch I was often getting my feet stuck between the pedals and the tube as there was not much clearance, especially when wearing booties. By shortening the tube by 150mm my feet now extend past the tube and I am much more comfortable. As I only use the glovebox for muesli bars and a compact digital camera the loss of volume is not an issue to me.
I have not had a problem the skeg system like other Cetus owners but I did have a transport accident that managed break the skeg controller. P&H were good to deal with and sent replacement parts to me very quickly and gave me good detailed instructions on how to repair the problem.
Since buying my Cetus I have sold my other 2 kayaks as the Cetus out performs them( Point65 Sea Cruiser and a Current Designs Squall) even though it is a much longer boat. My wife has also bought a Cetus for herself after paddling mine. People are often commenting to us about how eye catching and beautiful the kayaks look especially the clear carbon/kevlar hulls. The finish and build quality of both kayaks is excellent.
I have been very happy with the Cetus and would highly recommend it.
I often receive compliments on how the boat looks. The quality of the finish and fittings is very good and everything still is in good shape after 3 years of hard use.
I bought the Cetus after months of research and trying several other kayaks. After three seasons I feel that I got what I paid for: a high quality sea kayak that does what it was designed to do.
All in all this is a very good expedition boat. It is very fast (I have held 5 mph for a 10 mile paddle), and very maneuverable (which I really like in an 18' boat). It does tend to weathercock a bit unloaded, but is much better behaved loaded. The skeg easily handles the weathercocking. The boat fits me well (6'1", 180 lbs) and rolls easily. The low foredeck makes allows me to use a greenland paddle without rapping my knuckles every stroke. The fourth hatch is a fabulously useful feature. Loaded, the boat has phenomenal stability, while being pretty dang maneuverable. I paddled through some pretty rough chop like I was cutting butter with a hot knife. The boat has excellent capacity for long trips.
It's a bit heavy, but then I'm not particularly kind to my boats, so they need to be able to take the abuse I dish out. I have landed it on large rocks, sand, gravel, trees, and the Cetus handled it all while only collecting the requisite scratches. The back band was a bit high for rolling when I received it, but I cut it down and it works fine now. I like to "wear" my boats, so I installed much more aggressive thigh braces for better control. Others may not like to be so tightly wedged into their boat.
I rate the boat a 9 because of it's weight, it's tendency to weathercock (not a fatal flaw by any means), and that fact that I don't believe in perfect boats. There are always compromises, so decide what your priorities are and choose your boat accordingly.
It's helpful to note that the Cetus is a Swede-form shape. Indeed, although spec'd at 21.5" beam at the cockpit, its widest point is a full 22.5" across its fat ass. Its this wide girth AND very forward-mounted cockpit that contributes to the oversteer characteristics noted by others so well. The Cetus therefore really does turn like a great 16' playboat, yet has outstanding secondary when leaned hard. Its tendency for twitchiness is easily noted in even mild wind, where deploying 1/2 skeg provides the requisite tracking for even short distances. Above 15 knots you really need a full skeg. More about this later.(Removing the seat pad results in improved handling and, surprisingly, the molded seat is comfy!)
The fish-form Force4/5 has a cockpit placed a full 6" farther aft than the Cetus. It has a more naturally very tracky feel, yet turns very obediently when told to. Its behavior is thus more predictable and transparent. Correcting a turn is almost automatic, and probably easier for the novice. Skeg deployment is required only above 10-15 knots, and even then 1/2 skeg is sufficient! The Impex seat is much too narrow for the wider-hipped among us, so I finally ended up with the Necky Chatham seat glued nice and low.
The Force's trackiness allows it to FEEL slower off the line, but it cruises so steadily and quietly that this may be totally subjective. The Cetus, unloaded, has less depth to its waterline, and therefore feels lighter in the first few strokes. Indeed, when leaned, the Cetus waterline becomes much shorter, and the fore-mounted center of rotation results in playboat oversteer (think Porsche 911). The 4th hatch is great, but I've yet to try wet entries wherein I have to twist my size 11.5 feet.
The Cetus fat ass results in a heavy weight spec, so I opted to spend +$400 to shave weight via the clear-hull. although a beautiful C/K layup, the lumpy seamwork indicates that P&H has difficulty joining the deck to this thinner/lighter hull. But I'd MUCH rather be at 50lbs with compass than 58, as even my 52.5 Force5 feels heavier when solo loading.
I paddle several times each week on a large lake, where so far the Cetus has been the go-to 'yak because I'm getting to know it AND its dancelike behavior on flatwater is fun. But when the wind picks up it feels much more like my old wind-cocky Looksha IV C/K than the Force5. Remember this if your primary aim is to paddle long distances in wind. OTOH it seems that P&H designed this for "expeditions", wherein extra weight would result in a more fully submerged waterline in conditions, so maybe it'll be ok.
Most predicted that I would resell my F5 once I got the Cetus, but so far I'm reserving judgment until I get it out in bigger waves and try to track longer distances. So far my thinking predicts that I'll keep the Force5 for windy long rough trips and use the Cetus for general play and surfing. We'll see....
Waiting lists for new Ceti are still in excess of one year (!). I've heard that P&H's plans for both the LV and HV are stalled because of the backorder, so I recommend that anyone waiting for a Cetus LV strongly consider a Force4 instead. And if you're a bigger guy wanting a Cetus try out the Force5 AFTER you remove its girdling seat!
So the fact that the Cetus turns almost instinctively (and even unprovoked in any wind!) has resulted in unprecedented demand for it. Finally a "playboat" feel for those of us with long legs/feet. But I'm pretty certain that some of us will prefer the trackier Forces, Explorers et al for longer unladen daytrips in conditions.
But all of these are great boats. The "9" is of course due to wind-cockiness and the fact that you have to pay more to get the fat-ass down to average weight.
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.
I am an advanced beginner, or intermediate paddler, having been out of the sport for a few years, so this boat was a step up for me. It takes a little while to get used to, but has really impressive secondary stability, it actually feels more stable as you lean it.. Crazy. The setup of the boat is really nice, backband, skeg, 4th hatch, rigging, construction.. All top rate. My boat is carbon kevlar, and there are a couple of blemishes that may or may not be an issue on the inside, but I'm not worried about them. This boat is almost 18' long but turns quick. At a dead stop with a mild lean you can spin 180 degree's with only a couple of sweeps. It does want to wander a little in big winds, but with the skeg down just a bit it tracks fine.
I have paddled this boat on lakes, and in a pretty stiff breeze, as I get to know the boat more, and take it into more challenging situations, I will add to this post. I have set up a web page, with pictures of this boat and some more details, such as cockpit dimensions and the like:
Sorry about the tinyurl address, trying to keep down the spam to my domain name..
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