Tested by Kevin smith.
Length – 4.9m/16ft
Beam – 2.13m/7ft
Flotation — Foam-filled (1 300l)
Hull weight – 400kg
Min hp – 2 x 40hp
Max hp – 2 x 70hp
Power as tested:
2 x 50hp 2-strokes (centre console)
2 x 50hp 4-strokes (forward console)
THE beginning of a new year is always exciting in the boating and fishing industry, with most of the manufacturers and dealers pushing out new or upgraded products. This year was no different, with Yamaha getting us to again review the Seacat FC (forward console) and Seacat CC (centre console) now that they’ve undergone a few changes — all for the better.
Well, it took the better of two months to synchronise dates and times and to get the natural elements to work in our favour for the tests. Eventually we got it right and arrived at the Durban Ski-Boat Club for the tests on the day in question.
The Seacat Centre Console was originally reviewed by Erwin Bursik in 2005, but it was going to be interesting testing both models together. I was especially keen because I had not yet driven either of the craft.
The Yamaha team of Shaun Lavery and Anthony Daniels arrived at DSBC with the Seacat sisters in tow. My first viewings of these craft was a few years back at the factory, and what immediately struck me was the modernised, foreign look about them — notably their curvy lines, wider beam and higher gunnels — which I automatically liked. These Seacats looked well-proportioned for their size and, judging by their looks, I was pretty sure that they would ride well too.
The launch was calm and the ocean was average, with the leftover chop and swell from a north-easter making it ideal for a true boat test.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
The first of the Seacats up for test was the forward console version, complete with all the bells and whistles. The trailer was a decent galvanised, breakneck model and handled offloading on the beach with ease. Having dropped her into the wash, swinging the bow around was fairly easy for Shaun and I, as was the short push through the shorebreak. The Seacat FC’s good, shallow draft contributed a lot towards this ease of operation.
Trailering her at the end of the day was also a simple task, as the check chains were set correctly. They enable you to drive the trailer at least halfway in, reducing the distance you need to hand-winch.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
The Seacat FC was tested with the new model Yamaha 50hp 4-strokes (trim-and-tilt) with 13 pitch props. This particular boat has the new, luxury 704 control boxes which do not come standard with the motors.
The 704 controls are exceptionally smooth, and what’s nice about them is that trimming of the motors can be done simultaneously off one switch, or individually.
Weight-wise, these motors are heavier than standard 2-strokes, but in this case they were well suited to the forward console version because they compensated for the extra bow weight. Another advantage of the 4-strokes is that they run very quietly and have reduced smoke emissions. They are also very economical when it comes to fuel costs.
The Seacat FC I tested was fitted with a standard cable steering system. For an entry-level craft and to save costs, it is workable, but personally I would rather fit the hydraulic steering system and do away with something else that’s nice to have but not necessary. The hydraulic steering systems definitely help to control the boat better in the surf zone and offshore.
Acceleration on the Seacat FC was quick off the mark. The low-down torque on the new Yamaha 50hp 4-strokes, along with 13 pitch props, provided ample power to push her onto the plane quickly and smoothly, and without me having to push full throttle.
In full lock to port and starboard, she accelerated out of the hole fast on a tight turn, with no cavitation being detected.
When I pushed the Seacat FC up to higher speeds in the offshore chop, she ran comfortably around 4 500rpm. As with all boats, fine-tuning on the trims is necessary to create a better ride. At higher speeds I found it better to ride with the bow slightly higher in the rough conditions. This softened the ride and kept it drier.
Cruising into the leftover north-easterly swell and chop, a good ride at speeds of approximately 12-15 knots could be maintained. Side-on and running with the swell and chop, the Seacat’s ride was still good, and at times a higher speed could be maintained by working the throttles. Again, with the ample power of the 50hp 4-strokes, she powered out of the trough with ease, with no signs of ploughing or major broaching.
One thing I did find was that she climbed to high revs fast, which is not a problem as the power came with the revs. I am positive that the Seacat would still have ample power if she were running 15 pitch props, and this change might improve the ride and economy further.
Testing her at all the different angles and speeds, I definitely found that the wider beam gives better stability all round for a craft of this size, and that’s a good characteristic.
The Seacat FC, being the “super model” of the two craft, has ample space for two to four anglers. The boat is set up to suit the serious angler, having all the bells and whistles to make fishing extra comfortable. The gunnels are a decent height so that you can balance against them while fishing, and there’s enough space to move around the craft if necessary.
The two fish hatches are now longer than before and their lids are mounted flush with the deck. Another new addition is the livebait well, something I find essential on any ski-boat. From an angling aspect, this model works well as far as comfort and protection are concerned, keeping you out of the wind and spray. The T-Top gives good shade coverage and provides stowage space for rods.
Pushing into the swell and chop at both fast and slow troll speeds, the Seacat FC remained comfortable and stable for her size. Running side-on and with the swell and chop, the stability and comfort were also good. When stationary and drifting with the wind, she wasn’t quite as stable, but considering the rough conditions there was no real need to complain.
Set up like this, the Seacat FC would definitely keep you out on the ocean for longer.
The Seacat FC has a well-designed, compact false transom area which keeps all the motor fittings neatly out of the way. As previously mentioned, these craft now boast the addition of a livebait well, and also have the standard dual stainless-steel roll bars mounted.
Even though it has a raised fuel hatch that carries six jerry cans for fuel, and serves as a seating area, the deck area is still spacious enough for angling purposes. On the craft I tested the deck area was carpeted with Flotex for extra comfort.
As I mentioned earlier, the deck also houses two flush-mount fish hatches. Standard rod holders are mounted into the gunnels, with a flush panel covering, which gives better protection to the rods and prevents crew stubbing their toes.
The forward console section is fitted with a fair sized T-Top, along with plenty of extra dry stowage space for any other equipment. Other console fittings and trimmings include a full windscreen and stainless steel grab rails.
The bow section has dual anchor hatches with non-slip lids, and a full stainless-steel bowrail to complement it.
The Seacat FC comes across as a far larger craft than her actual size. The new, modern look of curvy lines and higher gunnels, along with all the extras, gives her a nice finish that anyone would be proud to tow out of a showroom.
TESTING two different models of the same hull can be fairly tricky at times, but it can also be quite beneficial, as you get to test and view the boats in action when someone else is at the helm.
When Erwin Bursik tested this model in 2005, she was carrying Yamaha 40hp 4-strokes. For this test, Yamaha 50hp 2-strokes were used. It was going to be interesting to compare the two.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
As was the case with the FC model, the Seacat CC comes on a decent galvanised breakneck trailer that is easy to operate, and can handle some of our poorly-kept roads. Launching the Seacat CC was equally as simple as launching her sister — she slid off the trailer with ease and her shallow draft made it easy enough for Mark and Anthony to turn her into the shorebreak and push out. Like the forward console model, it was also fairly simple to get her back on the trailer on the beach once we’d completed the test.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
As tested, the Seacat CC was running two Yamaha trim-and-tilt 50hp 2-strokes. My expectation was that the 2-strokes would out-perform the 4-strokes, but I have to admit that the performance levels were very similar. Both sets of motors had ample power on the bottom- and top ends. As far as motors are concerned I prefer having extra power. Both the Yamaha 2- and 4-strokes are well suited to these craft.
The 2-strokes on this model come standard with 703 control boxes which have individual trims. This model is also fitted with cable steering and, as previously mentioned, I believe hydraulic steering is the way to go to achieve added control and comfort.
Having just tested the forward console model, I was not expecting the centre console to be as comfortable, especially considering that a south-westerly had breezed upon us, turning the ocean to white caps with speed. However, when I crossed over to the Seacat CC I was pleasantly surprised at her stability in the rough conditions.
Acceleration with the 2-strokes was fast, and within a short time of setting the trims I had her riding extremely comfortably. Out of the hole she climbed onto the plane fast, and from a stationary position, in full lock to port and starboard, she spun on less than a ticky with no cavitation when I worked the throttles.
Heading into the now messed-up ocean, I could maintain a good, soft, comfortable ride at speed without working the throttles. Running her side-on and with the swell and chop, the Seacat CC handled really well, again showing good stability. By tweaking the bow up, I kept the ride reasonably dry considering the conditions. Even when pushing into the troughs at speed she showed no tendencies to plough or broach, which automatically gives you confidence in the boat’s handling capabilities.
This model actually seemed to perform better when I worked the throttles at speed, which is not usually the case on smaller craft. As with the forward console, the wider beam seemed to give the craft really good stability at all angles. Sure, the spray was a bit more evident, but in those conditions most small boats are wet, so, it was definitely nothing to cry about. Personally, I enjoy open boats like this model and found the performance perfectly suited to my preferences.
Being a centre console model, the boat automatically has plenty of space for walking around while fishing, but the wider beam adds to this. Like the forward console, she too has high gunnels.
This model is suitable for the general offshore fisherman and is a definite win for the avid deep sea flyfisher. The bow section is slightly raised and is perfect for balancing against when casting flies or plugs. The anchor hatch area could also be used as a casting platform since it has a non-slip coating.
The centre console model has the same fish hatch layout as the forward console model, as well as a livebait well and decent rod rack stowage.
At high and low troll speeds, maintaining a constant speed was simple, as it was when running side on and with the swell. In each direction the stability and comfort was really good for a boat of this size in the rough conditions we were experiencing. When sitting stationary on the drift, I still felt comfortable while balancing against the gunnels and moving around and I didn’t feel any major roll on the hull.
As with the forward console model, the Seacat centre console’s transom area was compact and neat, and is also fitted with dual roll bars and the new livebait well. The deck area is spacious and uncluttered with a large petrol hatch (holds six jerry cans) which also serves as comfortable seating behind the main console. The centre console version also has decent sized fish hatches that are flush-mounted into the deck.
The centre console is large and has plenty of dry stowage space fitted with stainless-steel grab rails and a wraparound windscreen. Although the console is large, there is still plenty of space to get past to the bow area.
The bow section has two forward entrance hatches, dual anchor hatches that are easily accessible and full bow rails to complement it.
Although the Seacat CC does not have all the bells and whistles that the forward console model boasts, she still has the same modern look with a nice finish to her. Being the standard entry-level craft in this range, you can still add on the trinkets when the budget allows.
Although she’s classed as an entry-level craft, the Seacat centre console still boasts many more features than other entry-level craft. The Seacat CC is really practical, is simple to handle in all areas, is ideal for two to three anglers and is a nice size to tow, which facilitates quick fishing getaways.
If you’re in the market for a boat of this size, you definitely ought to take another look at these craft. •