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 I’ve 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 kid’s 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.
I have been out in this kayak 9 times in the 3 weeks that I have owned it. I have been in 3 foot waves going with and against the waves. My only complaint is that it was taking water over the bow and I didn’t have my bilage pump or sponge to get rid of the water. However it tracked like a dream. I have also been in rivers and streams and have floated in less the 8 inches of water. This boat will turn on dime however you have to be careful not let the back end get away from you that is a very easy way to have water rush in over the side of the cockpit since the boat sits low to the water.
I plan on taking a 3 or 4 day trip camping along the river banks this boat has plenty of storage and with the air/gel seat, extremely comfortable for long days on the water. (I’m writing this review after being out on a river for 5 hours paddling up/downstream)
While practicing my entry technique after flipping the kayak I tested the buoyancy and after filling the cockpit with water I was able to sit and still stay afloat. It was hard to control and go straight, but it didn’t sink and that is what I was worried about.
If you are you looking for “The Boat” not ‘a good first boat” then I recommend this kayak without thinking twice. I am very happy and look forward to getting many years of service out of it.
Feel free to email me with any questions. Happy kayaking.
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.