Aquanaut MV vs Cetus MV

I am a relatively new paddler, but paddle often and am very athletic. I am a little tall at 5’9’’ and generally fit best in the MV boats. I am trying to buy my second kayak, but first “Real” sea kayak. I paddle a lot on my own, and cover a lot of ground (15+ miles is pretty normal) but mostly day trips, and only a few camping trips on occasion. I can definitely be found out in the ocean and occasionally doing open water crossings with groups. I want a longer boat as I know it will give me some extra speed (I am a strong paddler), but also know that flat water speed and speed in water with some white in it are very different.

I have paddled a number of boats including am Explorer, Romany, Greenlander Pro, Ellsmere, Schoodic and Isle a Haut (Lincoln Boats), Aquanaut and Cetus (which was WAAAAAAY to big). I am going to paddle the Cetus MV next week.

Early on, I kind of like the Ellsmere and thought I might just buy a used one, but it’s initial stability isn’t inspiring and I haven’t had it out much in anything more than a little chop. The Explorer didn’t do much for me, it was “ok” and I certainly didn’t like it when I recently had one out in a 3-4 foot chop with confused seas, following tide and wind. I LOVED the Aquanaut but only paddled it for a short time on very flat water. It did just feel “right” in a lot of ways. I know the Cetus MV is very different than the Cetus which was way to large, and I’ve read great things about it but won’t get to paddle it until next week and it won’t really be a true test as it will be a short paddle on flat water.

I eliminated some of the boats as I would prefer a longer, fast boat that has a more modern all around design. So I am left with the Aquanaut and Cetus MV.

My dilemma is that unless I paddle the boats in lots of conditions, it’s really hard to know which boat I’ll like best, so some of this is a leap of faith and I know there is no perfect boat. When I talk to the dealers they all of course love their boats best and are quick to tell you what’s not great about the other boat. And hence this is why I’ve come here. I’m looking for other’s input on these two boats stacked against each other. Any advice?


Both Aquanaut MV and Cetus MV are expedition boats, you don’t appear to go on expeditions that often. Also, the hulls are not that similar - it is almost like apples and oranges comparison.

Also, you are a relatively recent paddler. Boats that are really unstable tend to firm up after some time in the seat. I have yet to meet any paddler who finds Explorer’s stability challenging after spending a few months paddling it.

As a 5.9 female you might not have enough weight to load any of the long boats properly, especially for day paddles - might explain unexpected handling.

I see you are from Maine. Thom Berg from the Maine Island Kayak ( ) has year of experience of paddling and coaching, and putting people in the boats. It might be money well spent to hook up with his company

Good advice above^^^ There is no
substitute for paddling the boats and getting some advice to go along with it. I have owned the Cetus HV and Aquanaut LV RM. Both boats have very high stability profiles. The Cetus is a faster hull with more storage room and better construction, beyond this I found it to be inferior to the Aquanaut in every other respect. I sold the Cetus and still own the Aquanaut. My admiration for the Aquanaut and loathing of the Cetus is a little over the top and thus I will stop here so not to let emotion erode my case. I have been told that the Cetus MV is a much different boat than the original or HV. If this is true, you owe it to yourself to give it a thorough testing. I would also look at Tidrace, Rockpool Alaw Bach TCC, and Eddyline Fathom LV. Good luck and enjoy the experience, you only mistake could be buying too soon and even that can be remedied. Bill

How about the LV?
You are 5’9" and I think the Cetus MV may be on the big side for you, especially if you are under 160lb. Did you try the LV?

At 6’4" I actually fit in the Cetus LV and if my feet were not size 15 and if I was 20-30lb lighter (I’m 180-190lb) it would actually be a good fit for a day boat. The MV I felt fit me perfectly and behaved better on the water for me compared to the LV or the full size.

You might also consider the Tempest 165. I am not familiar with the Aquanaut other than reading about it, so can’t compare, but they too come in the LV type…

A couple of questions

– Last Updated: Mar-02-11 1:38 PM EST –

Just so you know - you are on the light side for the Explorer hull. If anything it should have been easier for you to turn, since you had less hull in the water than a bigger guy, unless you were fighting wind. It's one of my boats (the LV which really is the same volume though) - I know it well. In confused stuff and wind it bounces around a bit, but that's all it does. Don't take this the wrong way - but this is a boat that stays upright quite well and turns out to be a great babysitter. At the end of a long paddle, I'm getting old enough to appreciate that.

I'd echo the above sentiment re size - you should give the LV version of the Cetus and the Aquanaut a try. I can't tell if you are a weed or heftier, but there are plenty your size who have like the Cetus LV quite a bit. The Aquanaut MV is what they used to call the regular Aquanaut if I have it right, one of which is paddled by my husband. You'd come closer than me, but I still think it'd be too big. We have a friend near your height but probably heavier who is a good fit in the Aquanaut LV.

I see in your post that you think you fit best in the MV boats, but I am guessing that you haven't yet started to learn things like rolling where closer contact or a closer match on volume can make a real difference. Many people find themselves going to smaller boats as they get more skills under them.

There is the matter of how much you are pushing as well. Our typical paddling distance for a day trip doubled soon after we got our first fiberglass sea kayaks, which is not unusual, and as your distance increases you do not want to be wearing yourself out pushing more volume than you need.

So what didn't you like about the Explorer - was it the behavior in following seas? If so the Aquanaut tends to be better behaved than the Cetus. But if you felt it was tough to turn, you'd be a happier fit with the Cetus. The Aquanaut takes a deeper edge to turn than an Explorer.

As far as initial stability - was it just that the Ellesmere rocked from chine to chine? Personally I find that boat totally solid - my issue with it was the crabbing in wind, not the stability. But it is active in the water. In some conditions, both of the boats you are looking at will have more active feeling initial stability than the Explorer.

It sounds like it would be good for you to spend more time demoing so that you get used to the lesser initial stability that you'll find in any of these sea kayaks, and learn to trust what is usually called the secondary. That's not really about the boat, at least in the boats you are considering, but about the paddler. If you get by that issue, it'll be easier to choose a boat. The boats you are considering will still be there.

Absolutely check out MIKCO, or John Carmody at Sea Cliff Kayakers out of Boothbay or Carpe Diem Kayaking out of Boothbay if you are anywhere near these places. Any of these will give you a good foundation for moving to full out sea kayaks.

In case there are others that might work to recommend for you - where in Maine are you? We will be in the mid-coast region in July and are always happy to take company, and usually go up with 4 boats. If you'd like to connect, let us know.

And I should add …
… that, depending on your experience level, a boat that you did not like now may be just the right boat in a few months time. When I first had one of my fast kayaks (CD Nomad/Extreme) in 2+ foot wind waves following seas, I could not control it, it would broach all the time and it was not a particularly confidence inspiring experience. The next season I had absolutely no problems with it in the same conditions.

Cetus X, definitely
Oh, that being a biased opinion.

X = LV or MV whichever makes you the happiest.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Try Cetus LV and Explorer LV

– Last Updated: Mar-02-11 2:09 PM EST –

The Cetus LV has a large enough cockpit that you'd probably fit it. The hull is downsized from the regular Cetus.

The Explorer LV has the same hull as the regular Explorer. However, the small keyhole cockpit and lower deck might give you better contact with the boat in rough water. You didn't say exactly what made you feel uncomfortable with the full-sized Explorer, but it is possible that you were swimming inside the cockpit, fitwise. In my experience, inadequate body contact with the boat makes me feel insecure even if the boat is rock-solid stable (which the Explorer is). I own an Explorer LV and find it easy to maneuver when unloaded. Ironically, and in contrast to what I've always heard, when it is loaded it becomes difficult for me to maneuver. It feels like it is TOO stable, if there is such a thing. But I am much smaller than you are.

I ended up buying a Pilgrim Expedition a couple years later, and I love this boat. That's another one you might want to try, assuming you are not heavy.

length vs speed
Hello fellow mainer. :slight_smile: What part of the state?

I’ve got a couple thoughts, based on what you’ve said here. It appears that your priorities are to get a fast (easily driven) sea kayak, which is suitable for day paddling, and is reassuring in waves and chop. Perhaps you are also on the beginner-intermediate end of the spectrum, so your skills are likely to grow.

Longer boats are easier to paddle at really fast speeds (like 6-7 knots) than slightly shorter touring boats, but it takes tons of energy to get any boat moving that fast. Most of us paddle 99% of our time around 3 or 4 knots. For those speeds, it takes more energy to paddle a 17.5’ boat, than a similar 16.5’ boat. (In simple terms, this is because there’s more friction from all that extra length. Shorter boats have less friction at moderate speeds, so they’re easier to paddle.) The long boat will carry more weight, but it doesn’t sound like that’s a concern for you, doing mostly day paddles. So I’d suggest you’d do better looking for a shorter boat. I think you’ll go faster.

The Explorer is a great all-around boat, equally reassuring in an 8-knot tide race as it is capable of a week long camping trip. But it’s not a small boat, or a fast boat.

The Aquanaut is very similar - a little faster, quicker to edge, harder to turn without leaning. And again, it’s an expedition boat. This is the boat I use (6’, 185#) for multi-day trips, and day-trips when I need to carry 30 pounds or so of extra guide gear. Unless you’re heavier than me, I think you’d do a lot better in a smaller, shorter boat.

The Aquanaut LV is an expedition boat for smaller paddlers and is half a foot shorter than the standard Aquanaut. It should be a faster boat with a medium-sized paddler at moderate speeds (3-4 knots). And if you feel comfortable in the cockpit, this might be a good choice. It’s probably going to feel tippier than the Explorer, but you’ll grow out of that feeling with some practice.

The Cetus boats are also designed with expeditioning in mind. The LV is shorter than the other two, and if you feel comfortable in it, it could be a decent choice. Definitely consider it alongside the MV. (I’d highly recommend contacting John Carmody - - to talk about the Cetus. He is a great coach, and can order P&H boats. Going out to test boats with him would be really helpful for you, I think.)

I think the Valley Avocet might be a really good choice for you. Maneuverable, reassuring in conditions, and pretty low resistance, so you’ll have an easy time at 3-4 knot speeds.

Maybe one of the new NDK Pilgrim boats? But they sound like they fit your needs. You’d have to decide if they fit your size.

Good luck. Have fun.

A few clarifications
When I say I’ve paddled the Explorer, I mean, Ive paddled the MV and the LV WITH Tom Berg (the HV was clearly too big), not just gone and paddled around the little harbor in Peaks. We tried a few, decided on fit and went out and played in the rocks. I then paddled the MV Explorer again for 3 hours in all sports of conditions. I have no problem edging a boat, bracing and turning. In a 3-4 wind chop I had no fun when I would put the Explorer on edge to try and keep it straight down a wave, the wind hit the more exposed side of the boat, grab me and bring me around in the OTHER direction. Ugh. Could it be worse in an Aquanaut or other boat? Sure, but just paddling Aquanaut vs Explorer I enjoyed the Aquanaut better and felt it WAS faster. It also felt easier for me to get and keep on edge and turn than the Explorer seemed to be. It’s also lighter which is a huge factor for me getting it on my truck and down to the water.

When I chose the Aquanaut MV to paddle, I did so after sitting in the MV and considered going smaller but my hips were tight as it was and the added room to move around a little (the LV’s deck is one inch lower it’s not any narrower, just shorter).

When I added the Cetus to my list it was after playing around in the boat (it was way too big) so I thought I would look at the smaller version. I have spoken with John Carmody at Sea Cliff Kayakers and reading many of the reviews and info here. Of course I will try try both the MV and LV when I paddle those boats next week (unfortunately not with John as he is in FL).

As far as the Ellsemere goes, it’s not that I didn’t like it per say, it’s more, that compared to being in an Aquanaut or even and Explorer, it didn’t “float my boat” (pun definitely intended). It was nice, and relatively easy to turn and keep on edge, but as you stated I always seemed to be rocking from chine to chine. I am sure once I would be in one for a while I could get used to that. I also am having a much harder time finding used/demo ellies with a keyhole cockpit. Older ocean cockpits aren’t as hard to find but that’s not a place I am going yet.

As far as weight goes, this is tricky. I am extremely athletic from years of elite athletics (other sports) and most people guess my weight around 160 but are well under my true weight. My boat generally, with me in it including most gear clothing, etc has 200-210 lbs of weight, sometimes more for a day trip. In pictures of me in the Aquanaut MV taken with almost no gear but what I was wearing (dry suit, etc) for example put the letters halfway underwater.

In response to NateHanson length vs speed I would say Tom (Berg) and I have had this exact conversation and I understand that a shorter boat that is easier to maneuver in more of a chop and can be easier to push through the water, hence meaning more speed. My average sped (GPS logged on most paddles) is 4 knots, occasionally more but it depends a lot on current and wind in Maine. Tom and I have also discussed that for each paddle stroke on flatter water, more waterline = more glide and less effort.

I appreciate everyone’s input but it gets confusing some when someone gives me input on different size boat such as a Cetus (HV) vs the MV and it muddies the waters as often the boat is much different (as someone did note about the MV vs standard/HV Cetus. Even if the boats I’m comparing are apples and oranges, what are the differences? I know the Cetus has more rocker, John would tell me it is still really fast, the Valley dealer I visited would say the Aquanaut is faster. I’m looking for help with these types of differences.

Of course I could continue the demo process forever but I want, maybe need a new/different boat, as I am pushing the 14ft boat I have way past it’s limits/design. I could drag this on for a long time or get a boat and paddle. I am mostly looking at demos and leftovers and plan to use it for a year or two while I learn more or who knows, maybe I’ll love it. I don’t expect it to last forever, but maybe it will.

Anyone here ever read Blink?


I am fairly close to you in size

– Last Updated: Mar-02-11 5:59 PM EST –

at 5'9" and 155 pounds. Obviously without a woman's hips ;-)

I am a long-term owner of an Aquanaut LV and I recently switched to a Cetus LV. I have spent a bit of on-water-time in the 'standard' Explorer and I have sat in an Explorer LV. I cannot comment on the new NDK Pilgrim or Pilgrim Expedition. I have yet to even see either of them.

To summarize my personal experiences on some of the boats mentioned:
Explorer (standard): way to big for me.
Explorer LV: foredeck too low and my hips were cramped.

Aquanaut (MV): fits me like the Explorer (std). Lack of five good points of contact and too much cockpit volume for my body.

Boreal Ellsmere: Paddled one for a day in conditions at Sakonnet Point, RI. It was OK, but I was uninspired. I really disliked the seat pan.

Aquanaut LV: Out of the boats I have mentioned it fit the best, but then it had a custom fitted bulkhead set to my inseam (no foot braces). Handles well and inspires confidence. Great all-rounder with high build quality. Not has sexy as recent releases from P&H or Tiderace. There are not many 'naut LVs here in the US and I'm really not sure why?

Cetus LV/MV: Another very nice all-rounder. Best build quality of all the boats I have owned or test paddled.
You may really like or dislike the P&H skeg system, but it does have benefits. Like anything it's personal preference. The Cetus LV is quicker than the Aquanaut LV both moving forward or to turn. I could paddle either the LV/MV, and as I indicated I own the LV. I suspect you may prefer the MV because it will give you a little more hip room, but you really need to try both!

Valley Avocet RM: This is my second boat and I love it for rock gardening. It would not be my choice for a long crossing and I have done several in this boat. It's a bit of a 'slog'. The Avocet really shines in a 'park-and-play' venue.

"So many boats, so little time."

About weight

– Last Updated: Mar-02-11 6:28 PM EST –

So you seem to be close to my weight or a little under but not by much. With just a short sleeve top in the Cetus LV I thought I'm weighting it down too much - it felt less responsive to edged turns than the MV and slower (flat water). The full size was probably as maneuverable for me if not more than the MV, but it weathercocked noticeably more in cross winds. I have not had any of them in open water so I can't really tell how they behave there. Of the three, the LV had the lowest stability for me but all were *very* reassuring. All rolled very well.
Given the new info from you, probably the MV might be a better fit for you weight-wise and thigh-brace height-wise.

Some with shorter legs complain that the front day hatch is in the way of their feet. For me it is in my way at the shins, somewhat limiting where I can put my legs. If I were to get a P&H boat with that day hatch, I would most certainly remove it...

If you really want to push for speed, you might also consider a Kirton Inuk, which should be a goot fit size-wise for you and is not as bulky as some of the other realy long and fast kayaks out there. May be more of a handful in really rough stuff than the Ceti or other similar boats though... And if playfulness is not a high priority over speed, there are other offerings that excell there while still maintaining good seaworthiness (QCC, Epic, to name a few).

I wish there was a reasonably priced demo/2-nd hand Cetus MV in my area to try for a while but these seem to be quite rare and at the same time rather costly to buy new just to see how they feel -;)

Then there is the Nordkapp H2O - someone near me lend theirs to me and I found it gives nice feedback to edging (e.g. has decent secondary stability), was not too huge in the cockpit, and should be a fast boat. The Nordkapp LV on the other hand does not have much of a secondary stability compared to the H2O but it too is a fast-ish boat when things are not totally flat. Both have somewhat high rear decks (so no flat laybacks) but still manage to roll very easy somehow and paddling them forward feels very nice and smooth.

I take it back
Sorry, I misunderstood your situation when responding the first time. I didn’t get that you’d test paddled so many of them, and with good dealer advice to boot. Also guessed your weight wrong. You’re clearly on the right track with the Aquanaut vs. the Cetus, IMO.

Personally, the Aquanaut felt right to me, and the Cetus felt fine, but didn’t really click. In rough conditions the Aquanaut is very mannerly. It gets it done, and to me it feels like it tracks when you want it to, and then as soon as you ask it to turn, it does. Perfect fast all-around boat for me.

Your last paragraph was spot on, about not test-driving forever, and instead just getting a boat and using it for a year or two (or forever). These choices are not etched in stone. There’s always the next boat if this one isn’t a perfect fit.

If you’re up around Acadia sometime with your new boat, drop me a line and I’ll show you around if I can.


Thanks for the offer Nate, I certainly will. I did a few paddles when I was there last year in my little 14 foot boat. I started off one foggy morning and paddled from Seal cove up to my campsite at Lamoine St Park. It was beautiful heading out to the stand out there by the island by Birch I think and up through pretty marsh and into Western Bay. Amazing all the wildlife I saw! Most of my other paddles were more pedestrian while I was there and just around the coves off of Eastern Bay, but I digress.

Thanks everyone for the advice. I’m looking forward to getting in the Cetus MV and LV and then just doing it!

I’ll let you know what I decide in a week or so and then after I get back from paddling my new boat around the FL keys!

Aquanaut MV vs Cetus MV
I’m 6’, 185 pounds and have owned a standard Aquanaut (purchased from Tom Bergh)for about 7 years and spent a day on Muscongus Bay in a Cetus MV (courtesy of John Carmody).

I demoed a lot of boats before ordering an Aquanaut. My final 3 were an Ellesmere, Explorer, and Aquanaut. I chose the Aquanaut because it felt the best mannered in conditions and made me smile the most. All three are good boats. Seven years later I do not regret my decision. Even though I now also own a Romany and a Nordkapp LV, the Aquanaut remains my ‘go to’ boat for comfortably and safely covering distances…

I’ve paddled both standard and MV versions of the Cetus. The MV fit me better and felt better to paddle. It is also a good boat. The Cetus just doesn’t click for me. If considering a new boat, rather than used, you might want to try the Valley Etain. It seems to fall in design and performance somewhere between an Aquanaut and a Cetus.

If you are thinking of playing in long boats more often than covering distances, you owe it to yourself to try a Romany, an Avocet, and a Chatham 16.

It would be hard to do better for demoing boats than to paddle with Tom Bergh and John Carmody :wink:

I need to get in the Cetus, too bad it probably won’t be with John, and have a 3 day trip in Muscongus planned in June! It also sounds like we have similar boats on our list. This is going to be my first boat, I can definitely see owning something like a Romany down the road, but this boat will cover ground for sure, but I still want something that can lean towards all around more…

I agree about demoing with Tom (and I am sure John too but I have yet to paddle with him). I learned so much in an hour or so with Tom it was great!

All round…
For a while I used the Aquanaut as my all round boat. It is not as fun as my Romany nor as thrilling as my Nordkapp LV, but as mentioned it is my ‘go to’ boat.

You’ll enjoy John Carmody when you get a chance to paddle with him. He has become my favorite coach over the years. He is a born teacher. I make it a point to work with him every season.

I first met Tom Bergh in 2003. I have learned from every conversation I’ve had with him. We’ve bought three boats from Tom so far. There is no one better from whom to get a boat.

BTW, we’ll be in Friendship in July. We’ve been paddling Muscongus for many years. It is wonderful paddling.

Where in Muscongous?
It sounds like you plan on camping? I suspect that you are planning to use islands that we know fairly well and may have camped on ourselves. We stay at and paddle out of Flood’s Cove, or Ames Cove on other than quite new charts.

RE: Muscongous?
I’m not sure, I’ll be part of a group with Lincoln Canoe and Kayak doing a guide prep course and following their lead. I doubt I’ll take the exam, but I want to do the trip to learn :slight_smile:

Public islands then
You’ll have a good time. The guy who took over Lincoln Kayaks after its founder retired (more like kinda probably) and the folks he has hired are absolutely great.

If you are in a guided group, you’ll probably be staying overnight on the public islands. Thief is a likely candidate for the purpose at hand since it puts you within shooting distance of Wreck and offers a mix of more protected and more open waters to get there. Crow maybe if they are launching out of that side of the bay and want a spot close to home for the first or last night out.

If you can add a day, it’s just a run up to rt 1 and back out again to Port Clyde, where the boat for Monhegan goes out. Just call the ferry lines to check on parking - it is a bear, but in June it may be less complicated than it will be 2 weeks later.