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Submitted: 01-08-2007 by James

I bought the Cat 5 on Tuesday, but work and weather conspired against me, and I didn't get into the water until Saturday (Jan 6, 2007). The wind was SSW at 15 knots, peak gusts 25 knots. Saturday's max temperature at Lake Mohawk, NJ was 68F degrees. This is just incredible for January! A year ago, the max temp for the day was 37F.

Some background:

I first saw IMPEX boats at the Garden State Exhibit Center, during Jersey Paddler's Paddlesport event in 2005. IMPEX had a Currituck and Montauk on the floor, and I was impressed with the fit and finish, and the enthusiasm of the IMPEX staff. The Force line had not come out yet, and so I thought a Currituck was in my future.

At the time, I was paddling an Old Town Adventure XL. I had lots of lake miles under my belt, but no bracing skills. I should mention that I started paddling in 2002 with a Leisure Life WalMart special, then caught the paddling bug and almost immediately bought the Old Town.

I eventually bought a Wilderness Systems Tempest Pro 170 in FG. Up until Saturday, the WS Tempest had been my constant paddling companion, and I must say--I love that boat! I developed some bracing skills, learned to roll at a local community college, and went to a seminar, where I finally got professional coaching.

I still paddle 90% of the time in lakes and rivers and bays, though as my skills improve (and I find buddies to go with!) I hope to venture into surf and get some BCU stars working.

Back to the Force Cat 5! I was going to buy a Force 4 actually, but the only one available was found to have a starburst on the gelcoat near the skeg control. As I was foaming at the mouth in anticipation of buying the Force 4, and Lake Mohawk is 90 some-odd miles from Jersey Paddler, I would not be deterred and instead of leaving with no boat, opted for the Force Cat 5 and the extra inch of depth that came with it.

I launched from one of the beaches and struck out into the wind. I knew after a few minutes that my first adjustment would be to let a few teeth out on either side of the comfortable Immersion Research back band. After I did that, the boat fit like a glove and I was off to get acquainted. I found she tracked very well into the wind and responded nicely to a leaned turn, even though I was tentative since I didn't want to capsize and thus test my less than bombproof roll. I came across the wind and took some "waves" (hey, the fetch was at least 2 miles! :) on a low brace. I turned downwind and found she still didn't need skeg. It was only later, with a quartering tailwind did I drop the skeg, and the kayak tracked like a laser guided torpedo.

Once into a protected area, I tried some rudders and more aggressively leaned sweep strokes. I am in love with this boat already! At this juncture, I popped the headphones on and cranked up some paddling tunes for a fast cruise. A mile later, I passed the boardwalk at the NE end of the lake wearing a stupid grin. As I turned to the southwest, my reverie was broken by a capsize. Not sure how it happened, but there I was, upside down. I thought "please let me roll up on the first try!" Of all places to go over, right in front of folks sitting on the benches on a Spring day in January! I didn't relish the thought of a wet exit and subsequent paddle float re-entry in front of gawking ( and possibly guffawing) board walkers! Not to mention that one of them would probably panic, and call the rescue squad to add to my embarrassment!

I worried needlessly as I rolled up effortlessly, aided no doubt by the excellent design of this wonderful kayak! The backband not only didn't hinder my layback, it supported it. I was up and dripping water out of the headphones in a few seconds. The water chilled my noggin a little, but "The Shins" didn't miss a beat in the headphones, and I paddled on dude!

I can't say how much I am pleased with my first outing. I would have rated this kayak a "10", but I think the deck rigging could be improved somewhat. Specifically, I would have liked some bungees near the day hatch to stick my pump, and a pattern of bungees on the forward deck to slip a paddle blade under.

I am 5'6" and about 190lbs. Much larger reviewers have found this boat to be comfortable and of course, so do I. I am going to take advantage of the extra room under the deck to glass in a tube to hold flares or whatever. I will add the additional deck rigging myself as well.

I typically paddle alone, and I try to be consistent with the gear I take. Most of it is safety related: flares, smoke, water, mini-stove, tubular webbing, extra clothing in drybags, etc. etc. I spent 20 years in law enforcement and rescue not to be prepared. The extra room will be nice on extended trips as well.

Bottom Line: I give the Force Cat 5 **** 1/2 Highly recommended!

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