The result of a long period of evolution and development, this big cat is a solid boat both in terms of fitup and rough water performance. Ron Calcutt reports.
A nice thing happens when a company has been building a style of boat for a number of years. Little by little the rough edges get rounded off, errors of judgment are removed and things that should have been there in the first place have been added.
You get the feeling of a comfortable, complete boat that is free of frills and decoration, yet everything you need is there. There’s space where you need it, rounded corners where you might get whacked, and hardware that works for the size of boat.
The Kevlacat 6.5m Offshore SF fits into that category rather nicely. I’ve been getting to look at Kevlacats from time to time over a period of years, and you can see the steady development going on from model to model. This one impressed me no end, and at the end of the day I could find only one thing I would want changed on the whole boat, and that’s not at all bad.
I should point out up front that Kevlacat sells packaged boats, although no doubt you could have all sorts of things done to your personal requirements if you knew what you wanted. The hull in question comes in two versions, the Cuddy Cabin and the one I tested. The cuddy is a basic boat, although it has everything you need to go boating as is. It is fitted up with twin 90hp outboards and supplied on a trailer for $68,210. The Offshore I tested had everything that opens and shuts with the exception of sounder and GPS, and it sells with twin 115hp motors for $81,740.
Big cats can very easily become as appealing as a great slab of concrete wall, but this boat is particularly sleek and attractive. A profile which keeps the forward lines low probably contributes to this, as does a well designed Targa/Bimini setup. This boat has been set up well to maximise work and storage space. The cabin is an enormous storage cave, and the forward seats are mounted on two huge boxes, one insulated, that would take care of all the cockpit and cold storage you would ever need.
Starting at the start, the cab top is in fact the entire foredeck area, so you have a great expanse of flat space out there, coated in aggressive non skid. This is an area that could be used quite successfully for casting to pelagics, with excellent security afforded by upright, well designed bow rails.
You can go forward through a large cabin hatch, or via side decks that are a comfortable width.
As mentioned before, the cabin is a bit of an Aladdin’s Cave, and while it’s not overly flash, it does sport two long single bunks with extra large bins under. A toilet under the port bunk is part of the standard fitup, but I think I’d opt for the space there. There’s also excellent space running back behind the cockpit coaming for extra rods, gaffs and other awkward things to have around the place.
Access to the cabin is excellent through a wide, folding door and a generous lift-up hatch in the dash top.
The helm setup is good with a soft rimmed metal sports wheel, then gauges set at one level at an angle of around 45 degrees, then a big flat panel behind that affording thru-mount space for side by side sonar and mapping units. The six switch panel sits off to the right. The test boat was Yamaha powered so it had just three of those excellent Yamaha multi function gauges fitted.
The factory fits these boats up with three trim switches. Two of these move each engine independently, while the switch in the throttle head moves them in unison. This lets you use offset engine trim in a similar manner to trim tabs.
Over in the front of the passenger a large radio box is located with a lockable perspex door. VHF, 27 meg and stereo are part of the package with this boat.
The seating set-up involves two well made bucket seats with arm rests set on top of two enormous storage boxes. The helm seat was set a little high for me, but even so I had no problem handling the boat in rough water while remaining seated. This was largely due to very light hydraulic steering and the fact that the hull didn’t need me to do all that much. Standing the setup was perfect.
Additional seating is in the form of wide and very deep cushions set on the back of the storage boxes. A grab rail runs across the back of the bucket seats for the passenger at the back to hang onto, and when travelling it’s very comfortable to sit side on, on these seats with your back against the base of the Targa arch.
The cockpit is nice and clean with a good non skid floor pattern, and plenty of toe space under smooth, body friendly coamings. Side pockets are fairly modest, but good enough for most of the things you like to keep close at hand.
Big hatches on either side house twin batteries, with switches in the ends of the side pockets. The fuel lines actually run under the side coamings, but a helpful sign tells you exactly where the primer bulbs are.
A hatch in the transom coaming opens to reveal twin oil bottles, which I thought would have benefited greatly by having deck fillers, as they were a bit awkward to get at (my one criticism of the boat).
There are two excellent wells in the aft deck with one plumbed for livebait. A big step located between the engines makes access possible from the water and when the boat is up on its trailer.
Hardware throughout is first class, as was the canopy and clears which were well designed and a particularly good fit.
The power options range from twin 90hp to twin 140hp engines. Since top speed with the twin 115hp Yamahas fitted was in excess of 40 knots, you’d have to be in a big hurry or thinking of commercial loads to fit the 140s! I thought the 115s were prefect.
I kept thinking to myself what a great boat this would be for long range work, and the twin 360 litre fuel tanks underfloor certainly backed this idea up. It would be a very comfortable rig for a few days away from it all.
We had a fairly typical Calcutt boat testing day for the run, with 30 knots and better of offshore wind, then swells coming in from two directions on the open sea. A couple of clicks offshore the westerly was making a sea of its own, opposing the crisscross of the ocean swells. It was not small boat territory on the day, but an ideal day for a good cat.
Just offshore the swells were popping up against the wind, so I took the boat in fairly quietly, then built it up to the point where I figured we had a realistic running speed that wouldn’t involve a great series of aerial whoop-de-doos and the like. It impressed the pants right off me to discover that we could run over that stuff at 4000 to 4500, optimum cruise speeds, without ever needing to get out of our chairs.
At those rev settings the Kevlacat was zipping along at 27-30 knots, and that’s very fast for the conditions. The thing was that the boat was not just managing to keep up that pace – it was loping along as comfortable as you like.
Several times we came into steep stuff that caused me to brace, but the big impacts never came. Whether slicing it or flying over it, this hull delivers a superbly soft ride.
In typical cat fashion this boat leans out of turns, which you get used to after a while. With the strong wind we did get a lot of spray blowing across the cockpit, but I was impressed to note that this was not sucking back into the passenger area. We had the clears unzipped up front, but I thought the hull to be pretty dry under the circumstances.
Speeds through the rev range were as follows:
|2500||9.9 (just on plane)|
|3000||19.1 (clean plane)|
I liked this boat very much. It made few demands on the driver and could have been driven by anyone with a modest amount of offshore experience. Performance in the conditions prevailing on the day suggested it would be a safe and comfortable boat in much bigger seas, which is one of the things that made me think of it as a long range boat. Getting caught out a long way from home wouldn’t be all that much of a fuss in a boat like this.
Article taken from Modern Boating, May/June 1998.