KBL have 3 distinct lines of boats, the Bay Boats Fusion range from 15-21 foot (of which the Fusion 19 is part of) and then the Multi-Hull range which includes the SeaCat range from 5.1 to 6.36m and their most popular of Centre Consoles to Forward Consoles, the Eclipse range of Cat Hulls, which are a proven offshore boat in South Africa's rough conditions. Before the launch, while the SeaCat 6.36 Forward Console Hardtop sat on the trailer at the ramp, it gave me a little time to do the customary 'walk around'. First impressions were very high with things like the placement, and quality of the fittings and the design of the actual hull, in particular, the underside. Once the boat is in the water, the underside of the hull is no longer visible, so I like to get a real good look at this either prior to, or following the water test, as the design can tell you a lot about just how the boat is going to perform under power, and also at rest. With the twin hull design, it was very obvious that this boat was going to sit nice and steady at rest - a big plus for those trips out wide when you want to target fish on the drop for example. The one thing I was unsure of though was just how well this type of hull would handle turning while under power. In my experience, this is generally the trade-off with the majority of cats as they generally broach, or 'skid' when put into a tight turn. Once on the water, I learnt that this characteristic was certainly not evident with this boat. More on this later...
Once launched, which was a very simple affair at the ramp, we took a little time to go over the internal layout and look at things like fittings, etc. But, before I go into this, I should add that one of the design considerations put into this boat was the fact that it was made to be extremely capable of beach launching. I'm no expert on this, but I have launched and retrieved a few boats from the beach, and it's never been an enjoyable experience, however with a properly designed boat, and a well thought out trailer configuration, I can see how this particular boat would be a standout.
Back to the internal layout. Being a forward control console, this gives you a stack of room towards the stern and the SeaCat takes full advantage of this. I could picture myself and a few mates, hooked up to a mix of coral trout and reds being able to easily move about without getting in each other's way. As a family man, I could also picture a day out on the water with my family of 4 not getting in each others' hair. While focusing on the family, the other stand out point with this boat is the generous amount of room forward of the bulkhead. This area is accessed via a hinged door and leads into a generously spaced area with a single mattress. Absolutely perfect for the kids to kick back or those overnighters with the family. While still taking the family into consideration, one of the other features that I liked was the clear inspection window for the live bait tank, located at the stern of the boat. While I am sure its intended purpose was for anglers to monitor their live bait, I could see this as a real attraction with younger children on the boat - just like the telly or iPad, but better.
With safety in mind, the deck is also self-draining. A feature that I think should be on a lot more boats. The draining system is very simple, yet effective, utilising a 'ball in the cage' system that allows water from inside the boat to escape, yet restricting water flowing back in the other direction. The hull also features foam filled stringers with full foam underdeck, providing excellent floatation.
Other features that I liked included the amount of available dry space all accessed via hinged hatches. This was evident in the forward console, under the seats and also in the sides of the boat. As mentioned before, a generous sized live bait tank (with clear inspection hatch) and 'kill bin' are the ideal ingredients for those fishing trips. Rod storage is also not an issue, with available space under the gunwales to store your fishing rods, and also the rocket launchers, which are part of the hardtop design. The sizeable forward console also has plenty of room to mount all of your favourite electronics and more.
The SeaCat has also addressed the issue of redundancy by ensuring that each of the twin motors (Yamaha 130HP fitted to our review boat) has its' own separate fuel lines and filter, primer bulb, and battery (with isolators). Given the fact that we had a pair of brand new Yamaha outboards, I very much doubt that this would even be an issue, but you never know when Murphy's law decides to knock on your door.
Speaking of outboards, let's move along to the performance of the SeaCat 636. Obviously, with the twin hulls, the stability at rest was exceptional. This continued through once we were up and on the plane with a top speed on the day of 80kmp/h at 6000 rpm. On the test day, we had the winds blowing from 10-15 knots. Certainly not too much of an issue, particularly with a boat like this, so Reef Marine Director, Greg Camilleri, took the cat out of the river and headed out the front where we were faced with a good swell rolling in. My first impressions were that this boat didn't seem to suffer the dreaded 'thud' when coming off the back of the waves, which is generally the case, particularly with the forward controls placed over the bulkhead. Again, clever design comes into play. The next thing Greg did certainly grabbed my attention and increased my confidence and appreciation of this boat. Heading straight into the swell/waves under power, Greg turned to me and said two words "hang on". No sooner had I grabbed the stainless grab rails, and as we approached the next wave Greg spun the wheel and had the big 636 Cat turning on rails and had us going back down the very same wave we had just come up on. I still can't get over just how stable the boat was during this type of manoeuvre, but also the fact that I felt completely safe. Obviously, this isn't the sort of thing you'd usually do while out on the water, but it certainly highlighted to me that this boat is more than capable of turning effortlessly and safely so that, in the unlikely event that you are caught out in some rough seas. The 636 SeaCat handles better than a monohull in cornering on waves and has the softer ride like a cat hull has. Put simply, it's the best of both worlds with this boat, and if the weather takes a turn for the worse when you're out on the water, this boat will get you and your crew back home again safely.