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Boat Test - Oyster-Bay Cat — by Frans Dorfling (November/December 2011)
Tested by Heinrich Kleyn

SPECIFICATIONS
Length – 35ft 6in (10.8m)
Beam – 12ft 6in (3.78m)
Min hp — 2 x 250hp
Max hp — 2 x 350hp
Buoyancy — Foam-filled
Power as tested — 2 x 250hp Evinrude E-Tec motors

I REALLY count myself privileged to have a job that involves going around and testing most of the boats on the market. Many fishermen can only dream of having this opportunity. As a result of testing each craft thoroughly, it’s easy for me to choose what characteristics I would want in my own boat — and to dream of the boats I would one day love to own. Of course, everyone has their own preferences, so it’s important for you to test a few boats yourself before making up your mind.
Frans Dorfling was also a man with a dream. Oom Frans has been fishing on ski-boats since before I was born, and he’s always wanted to build his own boat — just the way he wants it. So there I was, down at Oyster Bay to test the stunning 35ft cat that Oom Frans had built himself.
Over the past couple of years he has extensively researched different boats, harassed some boat builders, and made some people rather annoyed with his ideas, but in the end he was just living his dream. He designed his own hull, drew up the plans and started the moulds. All of this he did by himself, and then, with the help of two of his workers, he built this big boat.
I flew to Port Elizabeth, rented a car and took a drive down to Oyster Bay where my wife and I were hosted by Oom Frans and his wife. They are people from the old school, true and honest — the kind of people who call a spade a spade! I got Oom Frans to tell me his life’s story and how he began his dream of building a boat the way he thought it should be done.
He wanted a boat with a unique structural design, whose durability would contribute to the longevity of the boat. He also wanted a boat that would be safe to all onboard.
The boat’s layout has been designed according to what he thought would make for an enjoyable and comfortable day’s fishing out at sea.
After an early night, we set off for St Francis early the next morning where his 35ft craft was lying at moorings. It was still pouring with rain when we got there, so I recommended that we forget about the pictures and get going with the test, coming back for the photos at a later stage when the sun would hopefully be out.
We had long discussions about the design of the boat, the materials he used and all the other reasons he wanted to build his dream boat himself. By the time we left the harbour I realised that although it was still raining, the conditions were ideal to test the boat.
In front of the harbour the water was fairly calm with about a three-metre swell running. I tried all my normal tricks with the boat and I was already impressed at how alive she was for a boat of this size.
Oom Frans soon tired of the calm water and told me in no uncertain terms: “Kom man, moenie bang wees nie, kom ons gaan na die wasmasjien toe!” (“Come on, man, don’t be scared, let’s head for the washing machine!”)
I was a bit concerned about going out there where the swells were running 6m-8m-plus, but I like a challenge so off we went.
As I mentioned, for her size the Oyster-bay Cat rides very well from pull-away out of the hole up to full speed. In this ugly and uneven sea I comfortably pushed her up to 20 knots. We went through the washing machine, past the point and back, and only twice got some water over the front on to the windscreen. If this was any other boat we would have been soaked, even behind the console.
She ran smoothly and softly into the swell at 15 knots and gave a very soft ride overall, if you take the sea conditions into account, and it was really ugly out there. Turning around with a following sea and on the plane at speeds over 20 knots, she never gave an indication that she wanted to broach or dig in her nose.
I then turned her and ran at 25 knots with a side-on swell which she handled with ease, giving no sign that we were unsafe. In a big sea this is one of the worst tests you can do: running at speed with a side-on swell scares the devil himself, so if you can feel safe through that, you know you’re on a solid craft.
Through all the turns I did, there was hardly any cavitation. Figure-of-eight turns were perfect, once again an indication that her motors were mounted correctly. Just drifting with the swell and turning her sideways in the swell, I would happily say that this is one of the most stable boats I have been on. There were five of us on the boat, and even with three or more people on one side of the craft she stayed stable and did not lean — and I mean did not lean at all. This is a big boat and her size, safety and stability make the Oyster-bay Cat ideal for these Cape waters where anglers sometimes run 40nm just to get to the fishing grounds.
What I liked about the boat’s layout was that she just has the necessary equipment — no fussy extras — just enough to make it comfortable for Oom Frans and his crew. There’s also space — lots of space.
She has a nice big console in the front in which you could easily fit a double bed. Ahead of that there’s a huge anchor hatch with an electric motor for lifting the anchor. The front windscreen has a wiper just in case it rains. Although she did not have a flybridge, Oom Frans has made provision for one in case he wants to add one at a later stage.
The Oyster-bay Cat’s standard features include foam-filled hulls with seven watertight bulkheads, a galley with fridge, stove, sink and a drop-down tabletop, a hot-water shower and a toilet. There’s also a high-pressure water pump, an AC/DC panel with two heavy-duty batteries for AC power, and two separate batteries for the engines.
The deck was fitted with Flotex carpeting. There’s seating for at least eight people, a swimming platform at the rear, and she is fitted with two 300 litre fuel tanks. She derives her power from twin 250hp E-Tec Evinrude motors, steered by hydraulic steering. These are the smallest engines that are recommended for her, the maximum being twin 350hp motors.
I was really impressed with the man and his dream and how he achieved it with just two helpers. That takes some guts — plus lots of money. Oom Frans’s plan for the future is to build two to three boats a year, custom-made to the customer’s preferences.
The Oyster-bay Cat is strong, safe and comfortable — ideal for the rough Cape waters. If you’re interested in a boat like this, visit Oom Frans’s website which will provide all the info and details that you might need. You can contact Frans Dorfling via e-mail at or phone him on 082 826 5580, 079 503 9896 or (042) 230-0681. •
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