Submitted: 04-05-2004 by FVH
In my quest for a light day-touring kayak I demo'd this boat. So these are my comments from a 2.5 hour paddle.
Sitting in the boat I felt immediately comfortable. The seat is very pleasant, with the pump-up back. The cockpit is wide, with little place to brace your knees. Initial stability felt excellent, and I never pushed it to try the secondary.
For the first 30 minutes or so I paddled with the rudder up. In a stiff cross-wind the boat wanted to turn into the wind, and it kept me busy trying to track it straight. It is nicely maneuverable with the rudder up.
I didn't feel the rudder was an "option"; for my skill level in that wind it made a huge difference when I finally got it wet. Suddenly the boat tracked like it was on rails and my job got a lot easier. The rudder is highly recommended in windy conditions.
The boat was slower than I expected. I thought it would be at least as fast as the Necky Manitou; the GPS said otherwise. This boat does plow through the water a bit. Dagger advertises this kayak as a boat that "thinks it's a touring boat". I'm not convinced myself.
The kayak really slapped through the chop. It didn't cut through it at all; rather the bow would rise up then fall down with a splash. Heading straight into the wind this motion all but killed any forward speed, and the splashes made me rather wet to boot.
Wondering if I was imagining all this, I went for a another paddle on the Manitou right afterwards. Sure enough it cut right through the chop and paddled much faster.
I suspect the Catalyst could be a very decent "crossover" river / lake boat. The maneuverability with the rudder up would be good on a river. And the fore & aft hatches would be great for camping-gear storage. Unfortunately that's not what I'm looking for (no river paddling for us, for the most part), so the slapping in the chop and the relatively slow speed were point deductions for me.
Overall, a nice boat to paddle, but a bit too slow in the open water for my taste.