Kayaking on the Hudson

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Catalyst 12.8 by Dagger

I love Dagger kayaks, because they are not afraid to try something new.  In this case, they took the hull of a whitewater kayak, stretched it, and turned it into a recreational kayak.  For good measure they added two bulkheads and deck bungees.  I am not sure what they were trying to make, but the result is another quirky but fun kayak from Dagger.

My Catalyst is an older 12.8.  That is 12.8 feet which translates to 12’11” long and 27” wide with a cockpit that is big enough that none of my spray skirts fit on it. (I am sure you could find one that would fit.)  This kayak is very, very stable and the cockpit is moved a bit forward which gives the paddler the feeling of a much smaller kayak.  Dagger claims the tracking is excellent, but I beg to differ.  It tends to spin slightly with each stroke- a nod to its whitewater heritage.  The flat hull makes it very susceptible to wind, so Dagger put a nice rudder system on mine.  I am not a big fan of rudders overall, but this one works quite well.
Catalyst 12.8 kayak from Dagger
Make no mistake, despite the two bulkheads, this is a recreational kayak.  Being a serious sea kayaker, I was pretty sure I would not like paddling this kayak.  Then I went out on the Fishkill creek to do some cleanup work.  I had a blast twisting and turning my way up river.  This kayak turns on a dime!  I wouldn’t recommend it for long trips or rough water, but it is a fun kayak that is long enough to do some good day trips.

The outfitting is a mixed bag.  It has deck bungees, but no deck lines.  (A serious drawback if you have to do any rescues- I added front deck lines to mine.)  Mine has the old blow-up Dagger seat which of course no longer works, but later versions came with a foam seat instead.  Mine has no thigh bracing to speak of, but later versions added some foam on the cockpit combing (borrowed from its cousin, the Pungo). 
Of course, Dagger’s willingness to experiment with kayak designs goes hand-in-hand with their willingness to discontinue models.  The Catalyst is no longer available, but you can find them on the used market.