Tested by Erwin Bursik
THE Seacat Cc made its first public appearance at the Johannesburg Boat Show in 2004, and the two models on display created an enormous amount of interest. Here was a 16ft ski-boat able to be powered by twin 40hp Yamaha motors, whose proportions made her seem like a big boat for her overall length.
Greg Bennett — “Mr Yamaha” in South Africa — told me that, in line with worldwide trends, Yamaha were pursuing the route of “selling transoms”. In essence, this means designing a range of craft, having them made in South Africa to Yamaha’s stringent requirements, and then, after mounting Yamaha motors onto their transoms, marketing them through their comprehensive South African Yamaha dealer network.
A first-time buyer or an offshore angler searching for a craft that’s stable, practical and seaworthy — and can get him to the fish and back again —can be assured that the Seacat, backed by Yamaha, is well worth considering.
I studied the Seacat carefully at the boat show and found myself returning a number of times to consider the logic behind the selling of the “transom”, as well as trying to establish in my mind how she would rate as a 16ft offshore ski-boat.
Both models looked good. I liked the high sides and wide beam, as well as the option of centre- or forward console. Her overall styling also appealed to me. Indeed, I was looking forward to testing one of the models at sea.
CONDITIONS FOR TEST
When Greg and I eventually managed to set a date for the test of the Seacat, the weather played ball too.
The sun was shining for most of the time and a strong south-westerly out at sea — aggravated by a strong, cold land breeze (north-westerly) — made for an interesting sea out deep and relatively calm water along Durban’s beachfront. There was also a mean swell that looked at times as if it was about to break over the Kinmount Bank that lies 300-odd metres off the shark nets protecting Durban’s main beaches.
It was an ideal setting in which to test Yamaha’s Seacat.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
Greg arrived at Vetch’s with two boats — the Seacat Cc (the centre-console version) which we would test, and the Explorer SLC, a 5,1m offshore-rated, single-engined monohull which I would use as a photo boat.
The Seacat was loaded onto a reasonably sturdy trailer which, although a breakneck model, was primarily designed for slip launches. On the beach, Greg launched the Seacat Cc with ease into the fairly soft shorebreak. The boat came off the trailer smoothly, and even though the water was shallow for a long way out, SKI-BOAT’s Mark Wilson and Yamaha’s Warren Gregg turned her effortlessly and pushed her into deep water.
Hand-winching any craft this size on a soft beach is never that easy, but with the aid of my 9000 Warn winch she loaded so easily. Indeed, drawing a comparison between the Warn winch and a hand winch would be ludicrous.
I must admit that the new style of using submersible tail lights and a fixed chevron makes launching and retrieving that much quicker, taking away the fiddly job of running cables and bolting and unbolting the chevron board.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
As it turned out, the twin Yamaha four-stroke 40hp motors installed on the Seacat Cc were the same motors I had reviewed a few weeks prior to the boat test. This review is carried as a separate article on page 30 in this magazine, so I will not repeat my views in this forum.
The only point I need to make is that the props had been changed from 13-pitch to 12-pitch, a switch that enhanced the craft’s performance — especially out the hole and during single-motor operations.
I was also able to use the shallow-water trim lock to good effect in the rough water. This lock, which enables one to set the trim manually, works well but lacks the ease of trim application one would obtain from a conventional hydraulic trim facility.
The Seacat Cc has a lot of built-in performance features, but she has to be driven hard to show what she is capable of.
When I first saw her through the camera lens, she appeared lackadaisical in her approach to the sea in which we were operating. On a run out of camera range, though, I saw Greg applying his hand to the throttle, and she suddenly started to look alive.
“Do that for the camera,” I chirped. He did, and the pictures show the difference.
After watching him I had an idea of how I would have to drive her, so when I took the helm I also worked the throttles and experienced how well this craft rode the ocean. I also realised why I had judged the craft’s performance to be rather leaden when I reviewed the Yamaha four-strokes on this craft on Durban Bay a few weeks prior to this test.
With this now established, throughout the trials in the big water out deep, in simulated surf work in the big swells, and while judging her take-off speed using the Vetch’s Pier’s end block as a marker, I used her motors to the fullest and she performed beautifully.
So, what’s wrong with taking it easier on the throttles and letting her run the sea at her own pace? Nothing. She will still provide a very stable, comfortable ride, even in the big seas. But, personally, I enjoy the liveliness of a craft’s hull over the water.
The four-stroke Yamaha 40s that were fitted had hydrostatic tilt which eases the effort of tilting the motor into the “up” position. They also have what Greg calls the shallow-water drive lock. This provides a degree of manual trim without having to go to the trouble of altering the trim pin.
It’s better than having no trims, but I would still like to see hydraulic trim motors on this boat, especially if one wants to run bigger motors than the 40s I tested her with. There were many occasions when I would have liked to have tweaked her ride either laterally or bow-up or down to accommodate the continually altering sea conditions, but I was unable to do this.
Small boats are not meant for big seas, but occasions arise when their ability to handle such seas becomes critical. To test her resolve in these conditions I took her out into the big stuff, both head-on and running with the sea, and her ability to handle it surprised me.
Back off Glenashley north of Durban, where the south-westerly chop was quite severe, I began my run home to reach the more protected water off the beachfront. All the skippers who operate off Durban know this run is uncomfortable and, if you angle it, quite wet. However, the Seacat loved it and I ran in at 4 200 revs on each motor which gave me a comfortable 15 knots SOG.
In the smooth water I pushed her up to 4 800rpm and 20 knots, and later got nearly 30 knots with the motors running full bore.
I mentioned her stability earlier, and out in the deep I put her through a routine of slow troll on one motor and lure trolling speed, as well as on the drift, to assess this aspect. It was during these trials that her stability really came to the fore. Moving about on the craft, I felt no tendency for her to lean with the weight nor to take water over the transom nor through the aft scuppers. Above all, she was pretty dry, although wind-driven spray is always more pronounced on a centre console craft than on a forward console, and I presume an outing on the forward console model would confirm this.
In a following sea I found that if I didn’t race down the front of waves she rode better, as the natural ride-angle of the Seacat at speed is very prone. Again, I have no doubt hydraulic trims would have enabled me to get a better bow-up ride.
With her wide beam she does not come about as easily as I would have expected. In surf-like conditions she goes into the turn very quickly, but I had to use a lot of outside motor throttle to pull her around, then use bursts of the inside motor to pull her out the hole and onto the plane. During these trials I experienced no cavitation, but if I was to operate her in big surf areas with three or more big crew, I would go to at least 50hp motors.
Greg tells me that a number of rigs are running with 60hp Yamahas and some even with 70s. Those that use the bigger motors do so mainly for pulling waterskiers and water toys on inland waters where power and speed are a fashion statement.
For her offshore work I give her a good thumbs-up. I liked her very much.
As I mentioned, this craft is available in forward console and centre console models. Both will have their specific applications and will appeal to different users.
The deck layout of the centre console model I tested has been designed to cater for both the gamefishing and flyfishing fraternities, yet will still have an appeal for social activities where fishing is not on the agenda.
With a full transom backing up the motor wells, the deck is clear of obstruction, apart from the coffin-style fuel hatch and the centre console, and is extremely spacious for a craft this size. The area ahead of the centre console is also big enough to work a fish or throw a fly, and getting to and from this area past the console is easy.
The inside flush panelling does reduce deck space a bit, but the ability to conveniently store rods in the rod racks provided makes up for this. Not only does it keep them out of the way, but it also goes a long way towards preventing rod damage. So, in fact, the space is not lost, it’s merely used for a different purpose.
The console itself is well positioned quite far forward and is both comfortable and practical for the skipper.
The aft coffin hatch is designed to take 4x25 litre plastic fuel cans, which should be more than adequate for the craft, especially when using four-stroke Yamahas.
Underdeck hatches, both for livebait and caught fish, are not excessively large but will take most if not all of one’s allowable fish catch these days. Besides, when the fish hatch is full, the livebait hold should be empty and excess fish can be loaded into that.
Upfront two forward anchor and rope hatches have been provided in a slightly forward-sloping decked area. This area is still big enough and flat enough for a flyfisher to stand on and cast a line.
Adequate storage for a craft this size will enable all the necessary equipment and tackle most anglers carry with them to be packed away off the deck.
With regard to the deck covering, a non-slip surface has been laminated into the deck moulding and it works — I did not find it slippery at all.
A lot of thought has gone into the design of this craft to ensure that the two major components, the hull and the top deck, sandwich together properly in the construction process and are well reinforced. The result is a craft that feels rigid even when it takes a pounding in rough seas.
All the essential hardware is supplied on this “off-the-showroom-floor” craft, and the buyer can fit the nice-to-have extras at will.
For a production craft it is well presented and is a boat one could tow out of the showroom and straight to the launching ramp.
Describing this craft as “entry level” in the offshore market is not entirely appropriate, because although her price is affordable for first-time buyers, I feel she is more than a step up from that.
The Seacat herself comes from a long line of proven boat designs. This ensures that she is a very practical, seaworthy fishing craft and should be recognised as such. I can personally testify to that.
There are many offshore boaters who don’t want a big boat, don’t want to fish in bad weather and require a reasonably small craft that they can tow easily both on the road and on the beach. Above all, they want to be able to handle her without much effort with a crew of only two or three. The Seacat is ideal for this market.
It doesn’t surprise me to hear Greg say that this craft is selling very well, with sales split almost equally between the centre console and forward console models.•