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A big sportfisher thundering across the ocean is to me an awesome sight that brings to the fore a desire, almost a fixation, to be aboard the craft. Regal beauty, combined with elegance, carries an air of superiority and evokes dreams of hunting big gamefish. It encompasses, to my way of thinking, the ultimate of life’s experiences.
The Bobcat 43 evoked all these feelings in me. I watched her idle her way out of Cape Town’s Table Bay harbour. I saw her bow lift and simultaneously heard the increasing drone as her twin 440hp diesel motors exerted the thrust to get her onto the plane and racing across Table Bay into the north-west. She was truly a magnificent ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak, dreary, rainy day.
“Just let me board her,” was my fervent wish.
I hadn’t heard that Two Oceans Marine were building such a large boat, so I admit to being a little surprised when Rod Delaney invited me to Cape Town to review her. “She’s a 13 metre craft that will be based at St Francis Bay,” he added, “and she’s powered by twin inboard diesels.” I wanted to know more, but he insisted I come and see for myself. And see for myself I certainly did.
There she was, lying at her mooring in Table Bay Marina where she dwarfed the craft berthed alongside her. “What’s her pedigree?” I asked myself. I could instantly see much of the Two Oceans Marine influence, and I’d also been told that Bob van Niekerk had had an influence in her design.
Well, in reality, Bob’s basic mould had been used to provide the client’s overall specification. Under Bob’s watchful eye, Rod and Mark Delaney set about moulding the hull, plus designing and fabricating the top deck and superstructure. The result of their mammoth task now lay before me.
My wonder and admiration at their achievement was only overshadowed by Table Mountain and the proud “fathers”, Rod and Mark, who were more than pleased with their new “baby” — all 13 metres of her!
As we moved out into Table Bay, the north-westerly that had been blowing fairly lightly gradually began to increase in strength. Mark, aboard the Bobcat 43, set course directly into this, while Rod and I on the Magnum 25 Demonstrator attempted to position ourselves to capture on film the magnificence of this craft on that dim, dreary, overcast and rainy Cape day.
It has become a bit of an obsession of mine of late to view the water and wave action of a new craft through the magnification of my camera lens as the she thunders up behind the craft I am on. It’s both intriguing and frightening, yet there is no better way of seeing how a craft’s hull works the water at 20 knots-plus, and then revisiting the experience once the film has been developed.
Further more, watching a craft perform at speed from close quarters, and having 60-odd photographs of her performance from every conceivable angle, almost negates the necessity of actually testing the craft. Well ... almost, except for that most important aspect — the thrill I personally get skippering a craft such as the Bobcat 43.
Up on the BobCat 43’s flybridge, I eventually took the helm and felt her reaction as I slipped the electronic Morse binnacle controls from neutral into gear and the throttle began to open.
To feel the throb of the twin 440hp Yanmar 6LY2 diesels (both turbo-charged and intercooled) as they begin to pick up revs, hear the turbos come in, experience the sensation as the eight-ton craft gets onto the plane — freeing herself of the drag of the water — is a mind-blowing experience. Anyone who loves boats or has experienced the sensation will know what I mean. To others, dream on, for you may one day get this unique privilege.
As the rev counter began to climb, I simultaneously watched the SOG on the GPS. At 2 000 revs she was on the plane, and at 2 700 we were cruising at 21 knots directly into the north-westerly wind. As I increased the throttle, first to 3 000 revs — 25 knots — and then to full throttle at 3 700 revs, we hit 30 knots SOG. She was flying, barely noticing the chop the 15 knot north-wester was putting on the sea, and I began to feel the craft’s sensitivity through the steering as most of her hulls were out of the water. Just the props, rudder and aft transom area were planing on the surface to maintain stability. (Note: On one motor at 3 000 revs she attained 17/18 knots into the sea and was on the plane.)
Robben Island was approaching very quickly on our port bow as I pulled back on the throttles to settle at 3 000 revs and about 25 knots. I say “pulled back on the throttles”, but in fact this is a vast exaggeration as the electronic Morse binnacle controls, unlike cabled controls, do not give one a sense of push/pull. The feel is light and very smooth, obviously the only drag being in the actual lever mechanism. As one goes from neutral into gear or the converse, an inbuilt electronic delay of a few seconds prevents one pulling back directly from forward into reverse.
Mark told me there was a two second delay between moving from forward into neutral, and a further two seconds before selecting reverse, no matter how quickly one pulled the lever from forward into reverse. Throughout the trials — including backing up and the difficult procedure of reversing a boat this size into a tight marina berth in windy conditions — the response seemed immediate, in spite of the inbuilt two-second delays. Amongst other things, listening to and feeling the effect and the smoothness on the gearbox proved to me the benefit of the system.
Whilst on this aspect of the craft, her response to backing up was very good, considering her length and the twin sponsons that have to be pulled around during this manoeuvre. While backing up at reasonable speed, she didn’t tend to dig in her transom and only took limited water over the back. It must be remembered that in the docking/mooring proceedings, many boats this size have the advantage of bow thrusters to aid pulling the bow around or holding the craft beam-on in windy conditions.
Back to the craft’s performance, the chop on the water was nothing to the BobCat 43. She made the chop and low swell seem almost lake-like, a big change compared to the 25ft Magnum I had been riding a little while earlier.
No, I did not have big head seas to run her in, but from the way she rode I would expect no problem with this. I would, however, have been interested to see how she rode a big following sea, seeing as her angle of attack at speed did not give a lot of bow lift.
Mark has since informed me that a big westerly hit them just past Mossel Bay, on the way to St Francis Bay. “Sitting on the flybridge with the autopilot engaged and a huge wave coming up behind us was an unnerving experience,” he said. “I just wanted to grasp the wheel, but after a few waves had pushed us and the craft had handled them beautifully, I was both relieved and confident enough to relax and enjoy the ride, leaving the autopilot to do the work.”
As can be expected, from the control station inside the main cabin — into which he retreated as the conditions worsened — the seas, especially following seas, never look quite as bad as they do from atop the flybridge.
I had put the BobCat 43 through a range of trolling speeds with the wind blowing from every angle to see how it affected her momentum. Speed-wise, at 1 500 rpm she did 9 knots; 1 300 — 7 knots; 1 000 — 5 knots; and at idle 700 — 3 knots. Her directional stability was very good, only picking up wind effect at very low speed with the wind on a port or starboard quarter.
This craft produces a very flat wake with minimal white water at troll speeds, less than a quarter of the white water produced by the outboard-powered Magnum 25 trolling next to us at the same speed. Therein lies, I believe, another theory of the benefits of trolling big lures behind inboard-powered craft as opposed to outboard-powered craft.
Before trying to understand the niceties incorporated in this magnificent craft, the owner’s requirements must be explained. Peter Sprung is a German national based in Hong Kong where he has a 43 Bertram. He intends fishing the BobCat 43 off St Francis while staying at his holiday home in that area. Peter has fished extensively around the world and was adamant that he wanted a sportfishing boat and not a “party boat”, and his criteria flowed from that directive.
As a result, fancy cabin space and decor is minimal, but in its place, forward in the one sponson is a large tackle “room” with rod racks, a work bench with a sturdy vice, plus many cupboards and drawers for tackle. This is the most sensible use of forward space I have come across.
Peter does have a small master bedroom and small skipper’s cabin, but they are plain and functional for a fishing craft. A good feature is a very well-designed and spacious shower/toilet/bathroom, big enough for even a large guy like myself to move around in, without feeling claustrophobic every time I try to get into the toilet, let alone shower, of a sportfisher.
To carry on the theme, the large main saloon interior is beautifully yet practically appointed. It’s a saloon one will be impressed by, and yet a fisherman can still enter and not be intimidated, as if he was entering the Lord Mayor’s parlour.
The main control/helm area is midships in the BobCat 43 and is one of the most spacious, well designed and instrumented I have seen on a craft of this size and price range. Having incorporated the entire Navnet electronic integrated network of sonar GPS mapping system, auto pilot and radar — including flybridge electronics — it must make the craft one of the best equipped in the country, as well as a very interesting boat to skipper. Yes, there are indeed lots of toys to play with.
When it comes to the fishing deck, this boat is huge with a practical and extremely attractive strip teak decking. This is the ideal platform for stand-up fishing for tuna and billfish, but is also practical for the odd stint of bottomfishing. A decision on whether to mount a fighting chair is to be left until Peter has explored the fishing potential, marlin-wise, off St Francis. Again, being both fishing wise and practical, a fighting chair may look great on the deck of this fine boat, but if it’s never used, why have it? It will only get in the way — especially during tuna fishing.
A central bait-cum-tackle station has been cleverly designed as it incorporates the access to the flybridge. This access is easy to climb, but — more importantly — one can get from the flybridge to the deck very quickly, even if one has to take a shortcut across the top of the bait station.
Peter is not concerned about large fish hatches as he believes in quality above quantity. Therefore, he has opted for two smallish fish hatches, forward of the large motor access hatches in the aft of the deck. They are big enough to contain the fish required for family and friends.
Cape-style trolling boards adorn the top of the transom, as do stainless-steel rails along the deck port gunnels, again additions based on practicality over aesthetics. In both port and starboard corners of the transom, a marlin door has been fitted which, in addition to making loading of big gamefish simple, allows one to embark or disembark the cockpit deck with ease when in the marina.
The BobCat 43 was 98% completed at the time of the review, with only minimal finishing touches to be done prior to delivery.
In line with the overall concept of the craft, the finishes were not only of the best material and extremely well made and completed, but were also rugged and practical. However, rugged is perhaps an inappropriate description as many of the aspects of overall finishes have a lot of finesse, yet are still solid and substantial. It’s these sort of finishes that I favour in a sportfishing craft.
While Mark was giving me a bow-to-stern tour of the craft, I thought about the incredible conceptualisation that goes into creating the thousands of extras that fit into the basic hull and superstructure when the first of a new model like the BobCat 43 is built.
I have great admiration for what Rod, Mark and all the staff at Two Oceans Marine have put into the BobCat 43. She’s a boat that not only looks stunning but performs — dare I say it — beyond the expectations of all who designed and built her. •