Submitted: 05-26-2005 by AusCat
Earlier this year after losing a lot of weight (18Kg - 40lbs) I decided that I needed to do something to keep it that way. I thought paddling might be the answer because my 50+ body isn't up to anything high impact. I bought a small sit on top (Dagger Hula - I think it's sold as a Perception Aloha in the US) because I wasn't confident about a sit in boat and it's easy to slide off a sit on. It wasn't long before I was hooked and getting withdrawal symptoms if I wasn't paddling every day either in one of the local man made lakes (Canberra - Australia) or in the blue Pacific near our beach shack.
While the little sit on was great fun in the surf and very stable, it was hard work on flat water and a very wet ride. With the approach of winter I wasn't happy about being so wet and didn't want to stop paddling. As I could only afford (or at least justify) having one boat I started looking for something that was good for fitness paddling and flexible enough for a bit of day touring and maybe the odd overnighter. I finally decided on a Catalyst 12.8 with rudder (mostly because the 13 isn't yet being imported into Australia and the 12.8 only comes in with rudder attached).
I picked up my Cat 3 weeks ago and have been out in it for at least an hour a day since in all sorts of conditions, from the inky black stillness of the pre-dawn on our local lake to 1.5 meter swells with 20 knot winds on the coast. While still very much a beginner paddler with plenty to learn I find this boat absolutely fantastic and very forgiving.
Like all the other reviews I concur that the rudder is a godsend when the wind picks up as the boat tend to weathercock pretty badly but the rudder tames that problem. The boat is very forgiving and stable and compared to the Hula (not much of a comparison) the speed is blinding.
Paddleability is excellent and while it takes a bit more to turn it than the 7ft Hula it is still very maneuverable. The seat is very comfortable even during extended paddle sessions and the storage compartments are fairly watertight although I have had water (not enough to be a great concern) in both when I swamped the boat a few times in the surf zone.
The only problem Iíve had at all is getting out in the surf with the spray deck my dealer first sold me. It really didn't suit the boat at all. It was a nylon and gortex thing that sagged a bit and the cord in it wasn't thick/strong enough to grip the coaming when any water ponded in it, so when I went out through the surf the first bit of wash over the deck ponded and cracked the seal on the skirt and the next lot of wave wash flooded the cockpit which caused it to wallow and broach. The boys at the dealer swapped it over for a similar deck, but with a zip up entry and changed the cord for some mid thickness shock cord. They also gave me a kidís blow up beach ball to stick between my knees on the way out to hold the deck up - and voila problem solved.
I would have given it an 11 out of 10 but the option wasn't available.