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Submitted: 08-24-2009 by JeffA
I bought my Cat 4 about three months ago and have paddled it about 35 times. I am 6'2" tall and about 195 lbs and this boat fits me perfectly. The seat is very comfortable, the molded thigh braces fit well and I have absolutely no need for any additional outfitting. The build quality, overall layup, seams, bulkheads and gelcoat are absolutely perfect.
I ordered this boat through Pelee Wings, which is near Leamington Ontario, and when they ordered my custom color, Impex said that it was not in stock on the Cat 4. They adjusted their schedule, built the boat and I had my new kayak two weeks after it was ordered. Actually, I was not looking at the Cat 4 when I finished my research and started test paddling new fiberglass kayaks. I was interested in the Impex Currituck and Assateague (wasn't quite sure which would fit better), Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 and the Current Designs Gulfstream. The Currituck was too small for me and didn't handle all that well with my physical build. I carry my weight more in my chest and shoulders (swimmers build) and I found the Currituck a bit twitchy. The Assateague is much larger and felt too big (sorry if this is sounding like a three little bears story).
According to the Impex website there is a significant crossover for paddler size between these two models but I felt that there is a size gap that I fell right in the middle of. The Tempest is a great design, but I saw four different boats from three different retailers and well....there is no nice way to put this....the build quality was lousy. The bulkheads were sloppy and looked like they were put in by a kid, I could see fiberglass fabric pattern showing through various areas of the hulls and it turned out to be the most expensive boat I was looking at ($3500 Cdn). The design is good and the boat handles very well but the company just needs to put more effort into quality control.
I own a CD Sirocco, which I love, and looked at the Gulfstream since it is the fiberglass version with only a few minor size/shape differences. This is a classic design, but it appears that CD has put great emphasis on weight reduction and has it down to about 50 lbs in fiberglass. It felt like I was paddling a big eggshell and I have concerns about its durability.
When I paddled the Cat 4 it immediately caught my attention with great primary stability and easy maneuvering on edge. This I didn't expect, due to the narrow beam and flat rocker on this 18 foot cruiser. It edges easily and holds on the very solid secondary stability. I have had it out in 3-4' waves on Lake Erie and Lake Huron, finding it is a very good rough water boat. It rides following seas like it's on rails and surfing this boat is quite easy, with a little edge and stern rudder. I had heard that it was only average when it came to rolling. Actually, I found it quite easy to roll and my Sirocco is only slightly better (and it practically rolls itself). The VCP hatch covers keep the compartments bone dry and I have never found a drop of water in the hatches even after rolling practice in waves and surf.
I am a solid intermediate paddler and have found that this boat is has more potential than I currently have abilities. My skills improve each time I paddle it and I am looking forward to growing with my new Cat 4 for many years to come.
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