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Cetus vs Force4/5... Anyone have exp in conditons?


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Thanks to Suz I got to paddle the new P&H Cetus and Cap 167 at CRCK this week, and came away profoundly impressed with the Cetus.

Although a relatively high volume (100gal) boat, it didn't feel like one, as it both accelerated and especially edged with ease.

The flatwater steering quality was extremely linear, wherein only the slightest lean would translate into a nice turn, and further impetus resulted in a continuity of feel reminiscent of fine RWD and AWD suspensions (I'm a car guy, after all....).

The cockpit IS a full 34" long, and thus much easier to get shin-skinless entry for us long-legged types compared to the Cap167. The seat is wider than the Force4/5's, and thus much more comfortable for me.

Thigh brace placement is rather far back, though, so padding would be required at the knee contact points. Happily the skeg-box is far enough back (unlike the Forces) to not result in knee placement asymmetry. I like the Impex skeg control better than the P&H ratchet, though.

I paddled my Force5 yesterday, trying to note differences carefully. It felt like a fine friend, but I still got really sore after 2 hrs.

I confirmed that the Force requires more work to accelerate initially (waterline length?), and does indeed track considerably better than the Cetus without skeg. I'd initially say that in a 10 knot crosswind the difference is about a 1/2 skeg, wherein I simply rarely need ANY skeg with the Force, whereas needed help early on with the twistier Cetus.

The Cetus' bow is decidedly "looser" and higher than the Force when unloaded, so I'm curious as to how the waterlines change with weight. I would suspect that the Cetus gets trackier with gear (as it's touted by P&H), whereas the Force's behavior is more consistent across load (less rocker?).

As I've NOT paddled the Cetus in more than 1/2 ft lake wake and chop I'm curious about whether it feels TOO loose for an intermediate paddler (me), and whether it noisily plops and bobs over waves rather than steadily punching through them. The Cetus' greater change in bow-hull shape as a function of load/immersion compared to the Forces may make it TOO playful in conditions unless loaded?

Whaddayathink Cathy, Suz?

The Cetus' 4th hatch is pretty nice, but I don't know if it impedes rescue leg access.

The bow height at a 6 footer's foot position is about the same in both boats, but, aside from the 4th hatch incursion, there may be a bit more footroom in the Cetus as its front deck curve forward is more linear than the Force's (unfortunately) concave one...requiring the taller Force 5 instead of the 4 for my 11.5 feet, for example.

The Cetus FEELS lighter paddling than the Force4/5, despite that it's heavier! (my Force5 C/K 52.5lbs, 53w/ compass; Cetus normal C/K ($3800) specs 57lbs, verified by P&H distributor yesterday as running around 57-58lbs; this is relatively heavy because, like Impex, they use still use some glass in the matrix as it's easier than laying C/K in tight corners.

The GLASS ($3200) Cetus apparently runs a full 62-63lbs, but lifting an empty one didn't feel that heavy Wednesday....

Interestingly, P&H offers a "Lightweight C/K" layup that uses less glass in the hull, for only +$100 ($3900) and that runs "52-55lbs". This may be a good choice indeed.

But for +$500 ($4300...gulp!), the "Lightweight C/K CLEAR HULL" weighs only about 49 lbs as, in addition to saving weight on pigment, the transparent hull requires additional care in layup fitting, resulting in less weighty epoxy needed as well.

As my loaded Force5 (about 60lbs) is getting borderline too heavy to solo-load, I'm attracted to saving that that extra 4 lbs....

Delivery from P&H is now quoted as 3-4 months max (I'm sure Suz and CRCK will have updates).

In the meantime I'll try to improve my skills in my Force5, despite the pinching seat hangers, and hope to determine if the Cetus, being such a playful 18 footer, is best as a second boat for lighter winds and shorter distances now that I have the trackier Force5, or will time prove that the Cetus is sufficiently solid in all conditions that it makes having the Force5 superfluous...and thus for sale next spring.

So I'm very curious to hear from those who've paddled the Cetus in conditions...especially if they've compared it to the Force4/5.



PS Despite John Carmody's comments re the Cap167, I found it to edge clunkily (nonlinearly), accelerate only fairly well, and not glide much. But it's easy for me to have comments colored by the skinned shins I bloodied up just getting in and out of the thing. It's cockpit is decidely NOT the same as the Cetus. It'll perhaps feel better to a shorter (but isn't that what the 163 is for?) or heavy (but that's the 173?) paddler. I don't quite "get" the 167. But I'm still quite an inexperienced paddler....

PPS I've tried Explorers and an Aquanaut, and still prefer the Force5 and the Cetus (if it behaves when hammered).

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Both Bob and I have paddled the Cetus. While it's too big for me (I'm waiting for the LV version as I liked the boat muchly), Bob loved it. He's 5'9"/145 lbs and didn't find it to be too large for him; in fact, it's the first P&H boat he's paddled that fit him well.

He reviewed the boat on Wet Planet www.wetplanet.org if you'd like to read his review. He hasn't paddled it in rougher conditions but hopes to off Sakonnet Pt as he demo'ed the boat through Osprey Sea Kayak.

I don't think the boat is too heavy but then I paddle NDKs and both our personal preferences have been for fiberglass over kevlar.

Deb M

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>So I'm very curious to hear from those who've paddled the

>Cetus in conditions.

You might want to contact Peter Brady about the Cetus. He put in some decent paddle time this weekend in one playing about in more than benign conditions. I think he formed some opinions about it.

Ed Lawson

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I've only had my Cetus on the ocean twice, both in pretty benign conditions (about 1 ft chop). So I don't feel I can really give a good review. That said, the more I paddle it the better I like it. Despite it's long length, this boat can really turn. In a following sea (even though it was small) the Cetus really takes off and I found it very easy to maintain control. I'm sure more skilled paddlers would find it even more responsive. The boat has great initial and secondary stability and is very fogiving of mistakes. As you have experienced, the Cetus is very easy to put on edge and hold it there.

I'm a slow paddler and I have found it easy to keep up with better paddlers. The boat gets up to speed fast and the speed is easy to maintain.

Several NDK owners have "test drove" my Cetus on flat water and the concensus has been its a very good boat and certainly got their attention. I've had to remind them the "test drive" was over and they needed to give it back! LOL I would emphasize that the Cetus is definitely not an Explorer. Given the choice, I'm not sure how many loyal NDK owners would trade for a Cetus. I know for me personally, the Cetus has turned out to be the right boat.

The other two features that everyone seems to love is #1 the front deck hatch/knee tube. It's really nice to just be able to lean forward and grab something quick like a water bottle. The second is the rope skeg that is in a "notched" slider. You can put just the amount of skeg down you want and it won't move until you change it.

The one thing I really did not like was the seat. P&H makes a really comfortable seat with the pad, but I felt I sat too high in the boat the way they had it mounted. I removed it after the first day and carved my own foam seat. For me this has worked out better.

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Friday, I paddled the Cetus for the better part of a day at Popham Beach.

It was not a “big day” at Popham but we sought out the roughest stuff we could find, played in standing waves, surfed zippers, got worked by breaking waves,paddled in current etc.

My first impression of the Cetus was what a superior surfer it was to the Explorer. I’m not an accomplished surfer, but I had an easier time maneuvering the Cetus into position to catch a wave, it accelerated better, and once on a wave I could more easily fine tune the boat with edging, stern rudders etc. These impressions were seconded by Mr. Carmody; we had switched boats and he found that, back to surfing an Explorer after paddling the Cetus for a few months, the Explorer felt like a blunt tool.

Throughout the day the Cetus was utterly stable in bumpy water; I didn’t come close to capsizing or needed little in the way of recovery braces; I had one surf etiquette capsize (when two boats are surfing towards each other in a zipper, who is upwave and who is downwave? better to capsize and discuss afterwards…) and it rolled up as easy as pie.

The Cetus edges very well. I’m not a great edger, and I had my spraydeck in the water with little trouble. The boat felt like a big, very fast Pintail.

So, in short, I would call it a superior rough water boat, maybe the best (definitely the fastest) I’ve ever paddled. I would, however, think about the boats tracking; for me it was very skeg dependent in beam and rear quarter winds : On a 2 mile crossing in my Explorer with a rear quarter 15 knot wind and a broken skeg, I would not be happy but I’d get there okay. In the Cetus, I would be concerned. However, Mr. Carmody has found no special problems in this area , so this may just reflect some deficiency or quirk in my own paddling. It might be best to say that the Cetus requires “more advanced boat handling skills” in beam and rear quarter winds.

To combine this degree of speed, stability, edging, maneuverability and carrying capacity in one design is remarkable. The designers of the Cetus, I think, caught lightning in a bottle with this one.


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Played with a Cetus very briefly this evening and concur that it does, indeed, weathercock considerably more than an Explorer. The Explorer, in turn, weathercocks more than a Force.

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> To combine this degree of speed, stability, edging,

>maneuverability and carrying capacity in one design is


If I had known you liked it that much, I would have tried to cut your time short so I could try it. There will always be a place for the Explorer just as there is for the Anas, but I find it neat that we are starting to see some modern, innovative designs. Hopefully we will start seeing some in the day/play boat category soon too. Choices are good.

Did you find the level of weathercocking constant regardless of wind velocity? For me the Force weathercocks more noticeably in light winds and gets more neutral as the velocity goes up. I suspect that is a trait of most good boats.

Ed Lawson

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"Did you find the level of weathercocking constant regardless of wind velocity? For me the Force weathercocks more noticeably in light winds and gets more neutral as the velocity goes up. I suspect that is a trait of most good boats."

I don't recall any variations in weathercocking with wind velocity , since the wind, as I recall, didn't vary too much that day, (probably under 10 knots all day) ,and I only noticed that the Cetus weathercocked in all winds, and skeg was needed, and without skeg it was a battle to stay on course. I don't know why weathercocking would diminish with increased wind speed, would intuitively expect it to become more severe, as there's more wind pushing the loose end of ones boat.

I paddled the Force 4 once at CRCK, while there were severe 20+ gusts, and found the boat to be pretty impervious to weathercocking; pretty impressive. I paddled a Capella 163 right ater and was blown about. For happily covering miles in wind, I would think it would be hard to beat the Force 4/5.

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Just back from a few days camping Down East and I took the Cetus along for the ride:)

First of all - it was a joy to pack! Oh boy could I bring everything I could even think of wanting to bring.

I packed inside the back hatch my Thermarest chair along with a ton of other stuff including a small soft side rectangular cooler which normally has to reside inside the cockpit down by the bulkhead. In my day hatch I packed full to the brim with a round stainless steel stock pot filled with beautiful Newburyport Clams that James was kind enough to dig and clean. Also in the day hatch was all my normal day hatch kit - repair kit, first aid, bits of safety gear, cag...

After packing everything including the collapsible kitchen sink, we carefully lifted her and put her in the water and found it was floating evenly but a bit deeper in the water than I normally paddle her.

Paddling out to the islands we had a rear quarter beam wind along with following seas. No skeg I found I needed to correct although not much more than I would have with the Explorer in the same situation. If the waves were big enough, I would surf them a bit and get a bit off course and then correct again. I was never in a position that I felt I couldn't change direction or course. Although the Cetus wants to turn upwind, it is manageable.

While day tripping we had light winds and no seas to speak of and no need for skeg.

When returning with a slightly lighter boat, I didn't need a skeg at all - we had 1-2' waves and paddling into a slight wind.

When she REALLY shone was paddling yesterday out of Popham. We paddled out of the river and played around in the current. She was a joy to play around with and responded to a slight edge. We were at the tail end of the flood and ended up paddling out to Seguin as there wasn't much happening as the seas were less than 1'.

After a late LONG lunch, we left Seguin with following seas and a tail wind and I felt like I was holidng back a high spirited horse. She just wanted to take off and surf back to the campground. One of two strokes and I would be on a wave and could very easily correct to maintain a heading. Winds kicked up and were probably about 20 kts and seas were about 3' +or-. I was easily able to turn in the wind either direction and to hold course when the winds were on my beam.


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Hi Suz.

I spoke with P&H/Piranha yesterday. They're quoting 4-5 mos delivery. I'm probably going with the color scheme shown on the clear hull Cap161 on p03 of the P&H cat. Meanwhile my Force5 and a lot of Alleve should get me out there more often.

Thanks. Ern

PS Been on TV lately? Me neither....

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