P&H Cetus LV Sea Kayak Quick Review

P&H Cetus LV Sea Kayak
P&H Cetus LV Sea Kayak

I had a chance to paddle John Fleming’s hot new P&H Cetus LV. I had fallen out of love with most of P&H‘s line after selling my Quest some years ago. Their lineup was bloated with a lot of big, high volume craft that didn’t excel in any given area. I was concerned when I saw the Cetus, because it was much the same in terms of overall volume as the Quest and the Bahiya. I had the chance to paddle the full volume Cetus on a beautiful blustery summer day on Lake Michigan. I did like the paddling characteristics of the full volume Cetus, but it was really too big for me. It caught wind rides easily and was fun to edge and carve with while riding downwind. I felt much the same way about the Cetus LV, I really liked the hull design and the handling characteristics. I have to say I immediately liked the Cetus LV.

I paddled John Fleming’s Cetus LV on Sunday on the Kalamazoo river. It was a good fit and still had plenty of volume for edging, and carving. The midsection has ample volume without making the foredeck overly high, which is a huge problem with most of P&H Sea Kayaks lineup. The aft deck was surprisingly low, another nice surprise as this was another problem with most of the P&H lineup, the Quest, Bahiya, and Sirius all had very high aft decks. John removed the backband and added a foam block off of the back bulkhead which is now ever so slightly slanted like most of the other british style sea kayaks. Thumbs up on this feature! The deck rigging ends up being a bit weird with the forehatch. But ostensibly you could store gear in there that would otherwise be on deck.

The kayak carved and turned easily. By shifting my weight forward or back, I could really change the dynamic of how the boat turned, which means it is responsive within the weight range. A tip for beginners, if you want to know if a boat is too big for you or not, paddle hard with a forward stroke, edge the boat hard and lean back, and see what happens. Do the same leaning forward, and see what happens. You should see some difference in the turn based on the wind and your shift in body weight. If there is little difference, chances are when the boat is empty, the boat is really too big for you. This is not a hard and fast rule, but more of a guide for size, fit and feel are just as important. I would error on the side of slightly smaller than larger as most of us paddle empty.

John Fleming astutely observed this is the least v bottomed hull that P&Hhas developed in a while. The Vela, (another favorite now called a classic which means even I am getting old) had a round bottom and hard chines like my Silhouette.

My only disappointment is that while 17’6″ or (seventeen foot six inches) sounds really long, I was able to hit the wall pretty easily while paddling forward. I never seem to hit that in the Silhouette. Apparently a more moderate volume size will become available late this year, with a Cetus MV or mid volume.

Lee’s Paddle Sports in Kalamazoo Michigan stocks P&H Sea Kayaks if you want a demo.


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  2. As I recently had a roughly 1 hour flatwater demo in the Cetus LV I read your comments with interest. First, I will acknowledge that from what I have read and the folks I have talked, most love the Cetus LV. For me the jury is still out. Maybe my expectations were too high. Many people seem to come away from paddling the Cetus LV or recently introduced MV with a ‘WOW!’ For me it was more an ‘OK’. I have previously owned and paddled a NF Silhouette and the P&H Vela. I currently paddle a Valley Avocet and an Aquanaut LV.

    Yes, I easily prefer the Cetus LV to either the Silhouette or the Vela. I would not currently trade my Aquanaut LV for one. As you indicated the Cetus LV does not seem as ‘quick’ as the Silhouette, but it is superior in the maneuverability, initial stability and secondary stability departments by quite a margin. The build quality on the Cetus was possibly the best I have ever seen. Seating was comfortable, but with my size ten water shoes I felt very close to max shoe size the boat would take. I am not sure my cold weather Chota Muks would fit under the Cetus LV deck without some ‘shoe-horning’ and KY jelly. The skeg slider on the boat I tried was a bit stiff. Far stiffer than the skegs on either of my Valleys, but apparently the P&H skegs are not nearly as prone to damage.

    Clearly the original Cetus (HV) is an expedition kayak, however, P&H is marketing the entire Cetus line as an ‘Expedition Ready’. At 292 liters the Cetus LV is really not a gear hauler. At nearly 17.5′ it seemed a bit long to me to be a great day boat, although several Cetus LV buyers I know selected the Cetus just with that in mind. So is Cetus LV an expedition kayak or a day boat? I’m not sure?

    Final Comments: When my regional P&H dealer asked me to demo the Cetus LV, he also brought a new North Shore Polar. I initially ignored the Polar. I really wanted to put the Cetus through some paces. I grudgingly gave up the Cetus LV, when he politely asked me to give the Polar a try. To my surprise the Polar gave me that ‘WOW!’. To me the Polar was as maneuverable and quick as the Cetus. It actual beat the Cetus in the secondary stability department. In fairness P&H offers more lay-ups and options on their composite boats than North Shore. The P&H outfitting is flashy and high-tech to North Shore’s utilitarian. Even though the Polar gives one the appearance of a low volume boat and it is at least 8″ shorter than the Cetus, it can carry nearly 60 more liters of gear. Interestingly enough due to the Polar’s hull design both kayaks have similar length wetted waterlines. If I had purchase a boat today it would be the Polar. I still want to put additional butt-in-boat time in on the Cetus LV and see if I am truly missing something. Of course as in all things YMMV.

    • Good Comments Joe, thanks for posting that.

      I agree that the cetus does not seem as fast as the Silhouette, hence why I still own one and probably won’t switch in the near future.

  3. I had the pleasure to paddle a Cetus LV Saturday @ KTP’s demo day… the boat was a delight, nothing like a Capella 161… Stable, fast, comfortable from the start.

    Definately worth the effort to demo one for an hour or so.

  4. I would like to add that the Outfitter in Harbor Springs, MI also stocks P&H and are happy to demo them!