Lorrie (RubberDuckie), Kate (noseykate) and I made it up to contocook canoe and kayak's demo day last sunday. If you're looking for a boat, this may be the place for narrowing down the field. They had P&H, boreal/lincoln/maelstrom, valley, NDK/seakayakingUK, Impex, wilderness systems and maybe a few more that I can't remember. Nice deep slow moving river to give the boats a try.
Having done the Valley boats at the RI event, and paddling an Impex boat currently, I focused on the P&H cetus's (HV and LV were there), and the Maelstrom Vaag while also trying out the explorer/romany. The Maelstrom Vaag is a very interesting boat; long waterline with a ton of rocker. Pretty fast in a straight line but responds well to turning strokes and rudders. At 17'4" it could be a very nice, playful all'round boat. Low back deck and very easy to roll. It has the new "knee" hatch at the front of the cockpit, and behind the paddler a centered day hatch. My rotational flexibility is getting better and I could get to the hatch from either side. That said, I definitely couldn't see what was in the day hatch. This boat is on the list to try in more challenging conditions.
I also tried both the Cetus (now HV) and the Cetus LV (low volume), and got remarkably different results from each boat. Having been in a the HV previously for a few paddles strokes, I tried the LV first. At 17' 4", I figured it would be playful and easy to turn like the Vaag. Instead, it was fast on the straight line and turning was unremarkable. However, at 190lbs, I outweigh the suggested range for the boat by a few pounds. In contrast, the full size Cetus had the same if not better straightline speed, but when put on edge the stern would break loose for amazingly tight turns. On edge, I could pivot the boat 360o around it's center point with just a few sweep strokes. Testing a bow rudder turn, I managed a 180 degree turn with a diameter of about a boat length. All said, an amazingly responsive boat for a length of 17'10" and someone of my weight. Just FYI, if I recall, both Lorrie and Kate found the same responsiveness in the Cetus LV that I found in the Cetus HV. I'd conclude that in P&H Cetus variants that it's important to find the boat that fits your weight, and not get something smaller expecting it to be more playful.
I did try the Explorer, but was unimpressed. I could see why folks love them for expeditions, but as mostly a day paddler I'm looking for something more playful. The seat hanger breaking when I was in the boat didn't convey a message of quality either.
Now on to find access to the Cetus MV, Rockpool and Tiderace boats in my size before I make up my mind.
The Cetus HV should be released in 2012, the current line is Cetus, Cetus MV and Cetus LV. John Carmody http://www.seacliffkayakers.com/Home.html
just received his new team boat a Cetus MV, if you would like to demo the boat he should be back in the States June 7th.
I am looking forward to getting a Cetus HV when it's release, the original Cetus shouldn't be thought of a the Cetus HV as that's a future boat.