Submitted: 05-28-2008 by thesubaruguru
I'll limit my review only to addenda for the outstanding comments below!
I own both a clear-hull Cetus (49.5lbs) and a similar length/volume Impex Force5, so my comparisons are between these two 'yaks.
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.