A 680 SF On A Kevlacat 7.2
Right around Australia, many of the countrys best sportfishing
teams are looking to upgrade from the long serving, extremely
soft riding OMC Haines Hunter 680 SF. In this special report,
the Brisbane based Olsen family describe how they went around
the process, investing in a beautifully packaged Kevlacat
7.2 m. Typically, they wanted a much bigger range, more sleeping
room, twin sterndrives (for fuel economy) and a dead flat
rear fighting cockpit.
With our new 7.2m Kevlacat "Real Sport" now on the
water, and having already caught heaps of fish in our favourite
fishing grounds off Hervey Bay, on the norwestern side
of Fraser Island, it seems a long time ago that my father
and I were putting a fair bit of thought into where to go
after the 680SF.
Through the early part of 1997, we hadnt made a formal
decision to change boats, until F&Bs Editor Peter
Webster suggested that when the time came to consider upgrading
the 680 SF, maybe we should look at one of the newly released
7.2 m Kevlacats hed just tested for F&B. Peter knew
we wanted to run further and wider offshore than the fuel
range of the single engined 680 SF allowed, and after an episode
of having our single engine almost go down with plastic through
the fuel lines and filters, we were certainly conscious of
the need to go for twin engines as we ventured further afield.
As it happened, we needed little convincing that a Kevlacat
was potentially what we wanted. Years of walking around marinas,
boat shows and looking at Kevlacats in magazines such as F&B,
meant that a Kevlacat was already on the top of our wish list.
But there was a big gap between what we could get for the
680 SF, and the ready-to-fish price of Kevlacat 7.2 m, and
months of homework was involved to make sure we developed
the best possible combination of power, range, economy, capital
cost and fishability in the new boat.
In the next few pages, wed like to share some of the
planning and research with you.
Why sell the 680 SF? I must initially say that the
680 SF is a great boat and in most situations suited us just
fine. The truth of the matter is that if PW hadnt brought
up the issue of a Kevlacat 7.2, the development of the new
boat probably wouldnt have happened at all.
Over the last few years our fishing had turned more and more
to the Hervey Bay area. This are is quite unique in the demands
and requirements it places on crew and equipment.
The most obvious problems concern the vast distances involved
reaching the hot spots around the Breaksea Spit
and up around Lady Elliot Island.
Trying to make a day trip out to (say) the Breaksea Lightship
(a 220 km return trip) is absolutely out of the question.
We found the best way to tackle this area was to spend 2-3
days at a time on the boat, coming back to the calm anchorage
at the top end of Fraser Island each night. This way, we saved
fuel and only had anywhere from 20-55 km to get out to the
However, we soon realised that the Haines Hunters 350
1 fuel tank just wasnt big enough. This meant that on
some trips we needed to take up to 200 litres of extra fuel
in jerry cans and drums.
So from this scenario it became obvious that firstly the Haines
Hunter 680 SF simply couldnt carry enough petrol to
do what we wanted, and secondly, with three people camped
on board for up to three days it was becoming a bit crowded.
So in reality, we needed more from a boat than the 680 SF
was ever designed to deliver. It wasnt as if the 680
SF was unsatisfactory in any major area. We just grew out
of it, and needed something bigger to satisfy our needs.
I would however, like to take this opportunity to comment
on a few areas where the 680 SF could have been improved.
These observations not only relate to Haines 680 SF
model but also to many of the "walkaround" models
currently available. One of our concerns in this boat had
to do with the walkaround set-up along the top of the canopy.
This was the 680 SF "Timewarp" featured in F&Bs
pages some years back. It took quite a lot of fancy stainless
steel work to position these grabrails, but I have no doubt
that the expense would have been worth it.
The only other thing we ever had to complain about was the
so called self draining deck on the boat. Firstly let me say
that I have not seen a trailerable production monohull with
a satisfactory self draining deck, but the 680 SF is probably
one of the best of an average bunch.
It was only recently that a fellow at the marina at Mooloolaba
came up to me to have a look at the new Kevlacat and started
telling us about his new large walkaround monohull, and basically
how there was always water on the back deck because it did
not properly self drain.
I will say that the set-up on our 680 SF was really not that
bad. It was at times noticeable, (with cold toes in winter!)
but it was never something that was a problem or an annoyance.
Most of the time we were fishing, it was a real benefit having
the self draining deck. This in combination with the deck
wash, allowed the boat to be kept much cleaner, as all the
blood and guts could be simply hosed away out the back of
So where to now? After talking to PW about the Kevlacat, we
realised if we were going to put so much effort (and money)
into a big new boat, we should consider all the other options.
Firstly we decided what the boat had to do. There wasnt
much point getting a boat that could still only sleep 2 people
and was still uncomfortable to spend a few days aboard. The
following summarises some of our major requirements:-
The boat needed to be able to have three people living
aboard comfortably for between 3-5 days. This meant some sort
of cooking and freezing/refrigeration facilities and an extra
A range of around 450 nautical miles, around 800-900
km. This may seem a lot to ask, but for most of the Queensland
coast, its needed.
Two motors were preferable, but not essential.
We wanted inboard or shaft drive configuration
to provide a completely flat back deck.
A boat that used a similar or smaller amount of
fuel to the previous 680 SF (i.e that was around 45 1/hr)
and cruised offshore at about 22-25 kn.
The boat had to be primarily a fishing boat suited
to sport and game fishing but also bottom bouncing.
Obviously a boat with a better ride would be expected
to make the change worthwhile.
Other things such as a toilet, freshwater tank,
livebait tank and deckwash were expected, but all these things
can be fitted to most boats.
Now this seems to be fairly comprehensive list, but when you
think about it, these specifications could be filled by quite
a few boats. But with these primary requirements and a certain
budget, we were most likely looking at a boat under the 8.0
m mark-something between 24-28 ft.
Of course with this sort of budget ($100,000+) we had a huge
second hand market to consider, but it was going to be pretty
hard to satisfy our requirements with a used boat.
Still, we had a fairly small new boat market to choose from.
If you think about the range of basically non-trailerable
fishing boats in the 7-8 m range, youll agree there
isnt many boats to choose from.
It really boiled down to three main options a cat,
a glass mono, or a plate alloy boat. Now if you look down
the above list it seems clear that a plate alloy boat wasnt
going to be able to satisfy us. It is a generally accepted
fact that plate boats are harder riding than their fibreglass
equivalents. This meant that even an 8 m plate boat probably
wasnt going to give a sufficiently better ride than
the silky smooth ride of the 680 SF (its best feature) to
justify the extra expenditure.
However a 7.5-8.0 m Cairns Customer Craft, for instance, was
something that received a lot of thought. One thing that really
stands out about these Cairns based plate boats is their high
level and flexibility of fit-out. The two main things that
stopped us looking further into a CCC was the distance from
Cairns to Brisbane (making organisation difficult) and the
aforementioned possible harder ride.
The other option, staying with a new boat, was something like
a Blackwatch 26. These boats are clearly a class product,
and anyone would be proud to own one. However, if looking
at one of these boats we probably would have wanted the flybridge
option, increasing available space, but unfortunately this
sort of option put the boat out of our price range. We could
have opted for a Blackwatch 26 without the flybridge or tower,
but really, we saw the 7.2 m Kevlacat as being better for
us than a non-flybridge Blackwatch.
If, for instance, the 26 Blackwatch with the flybridge had
been a similar price to the 7.2 m Kevlacat the decision would
have been much more difficult. However for a lot of reasons,
which well look at shortly, I think we may still have
ended up with the Kevlacat.
One thing which must be realised about both of these alternatives
is that they are only really a single engine proposition in
the sterndrive/shaftdrive configuration. This set-up also
often results in the back deck being slightly raised above
the engines, which is something we were trying to avoid.
So after ruling out the other options we were really then
left with a choice between cats. The decision was made pretty
simple because Kevlacat was the only cat manufacturer with
a craft that suited our needs within our budget.
Other cats came close, but after one look at the 7.2 m Kevlacat
we knew this was the boat. With the list of options available
(which showed there obviously wasnt going to be a problem
satisfying our fit-out requirements) and Kevlacat Managing
Director Fred Temmincks valuable assistance, the only
problem was going to be sticking to the budget.
Why a Kevlacat? The Kevlacat 7.2 m in particular, had
a lot going for it above and beyond the other options. While
still only being a 7.2 m boat, the square cat
shape allowed for probably as much, if not more room than
even an 8m monohull. Along with the 2.77 m beam (carried nearly
all the way to the bow) we were looking at quite a large boat.
The Kevlacat 7.2 was also appealing for its amazing ride in
rough offshore water. This aspect of cats which has been well
emphasised by the Editor of this magazine in his various reviews
over the years. And as we expected, every work of praise aimed
at the cats by PW proved to be amazingly correct during our
first ride in the 7.2 m Kevlacat with Fred Temminck.
F&Bs Editor has for many years been troubled by
the lack of appreciation for cats in this, and many other
countries. So next time PW does a review of a cat and tells
us that the ride is brilliant or sensational, you better believe
he aint kidding.
Being able to now speak from experience, the ride and handling
of our new boat in rough offshore water is something that
has to be experienced to be believed. Only now can I understand
PWs frustration at the difficulties hes experienced
finding the words that adequately describe the incredibly
high level of ride and handling these boats deliver. Let me
just say that if you have never been for a ride in a cat,
youre missing out on something exceptional so
just go and do it, soon!
Further advantages of the Kevlacat over the other boats, (including
some other cats) related to the ability to have twin sterndrive
engines with a flat back deck.
Nearly any suitable diesel or petrol sterndrive or shaftdrive
combination can be fitted to the 7.2 m model while still keeping
the engines located below the level of the deck. This feature
is a huge benefit when the boat is used for gamefishing. When
backing up on fish, and to make it easy on the angler when
moving around, a clear back deck with no outboards hanging
off the stern is a great asset.
In addition to this, the Kevlacat 7.2s ability to carry
2 x 450 litre fuel tanks was another major factor to us. This
capacity (900 litres) is something that is almost impossible
to find on many other boats in this size range. What this
meant for us was that along with the predicted fuel efficiency
of the motors, we were looking at a range of 800-900 km, easily
enough for 4-5 days at sea.
Probably the other main factors in our decision related to
things inherent to most cats. The amazingly large flat back
deck is something which would be quite difficult to find on
a monohull of the same size. The size of the back deck on
the 7.2 m Kevlacat has drawn a great deal of comment from
owners of much larger craft. Certainly there would be no difficulty
in fitting a heavy tackle game chair on the deck if required.
The 7.2 m Kevlacat, as with most cats, is an extremely stable
craft at rest and also under way. This is a feature which
is not so much noticeable in very good or in very bad conditions,
but something which is appreciated in what would be termed
To put it in simple terms, the main factors that led us toward
a Kevlacat, over other monohulls and cats, were the high level
of ride, the flexibility of motor configuration and the very
large fuel capacity. This is however a fairly simplistic view
of things. Clearly the aesthetics of the boat and the high
level of fit-out and customisation apparent on all other Kevlacats
we had ever seen meant we went into the whole process with
a pre-conceived view that a Kevlacat was what we wanted.
Which engines to choose? The next, and seemingly most
controversial decision in the whole process was to decide
how the boat was going to be powered. I say this because of
the large number of people who have asked "Why the hell
did you go and put sterndrives in it?"
Personally, I feel it is pretty obvious that the V-6 EFI 210
hp MerCruiser sterndrives were the best choice for the boat.
However, it clearly seems worth discussing why these particular
sterndrives were chosen over other options.
The options we had to choose from consisted of outboards (say
2 x 200 hp), diesel or petrol inboards in either the sterndrive
or shaftdrive configuration. The diesel option would have
been either Yanmar or Volvo Penta engines around 170 hp. Whereas
the petrol engines would be either Volvo Penta or MerCruiser
engines around 200 hp.
The outboard option was never really considered. Firstly,
they (twins) use far too much petrol (likely to be around
70-80 1/hr total for 2 outboards at cruising speed) and secondly,
they hang out off the back and would really get in the way
especially with the serious billfishing we were planning.
On top of this, outboards tend not to manoeuvre very well
in reverse compared to the other options.
The next option was to go with diesels, and while they would
have been nice, for us the very high initial price probably
wouldnt have paid off in the long run. We also knew
that the new V-6 EFI 210hp MerCruisers only used a bit more
fuel than the diesels and were less than half the initial
In the end we really chose the MerCruisers because we believed
they probably used less fuel than the petrol model Volvos
and were a hell of a lot cheaper than Volvo or MerCruisers
One other very important factor which encouraged us to go
for the petrol sterndrives was the new electronic fuel injection
(EFI) system. By having fuel injected motors (as distinct
from the carburetted version) we felt the EFI choice was much
safer. Because they incorporate totally sealed fuel lines,
there is, in our opinion, considerably less chance of petrol
fumes gathering in the engine room(s).
Traditionally, petrol inboard motors have experienced a fairly
tarnished reputation due to this safety issue. But these new
EFI MerCruisers now meet the stringent US Coastguard standards
and are expected to be approved by the Australian Survey authorities
in the not to distant future.
(A recently launched Queensland Water Police 10 m Cougar Cat
was fitted with EFI MerCruiser V-8s as part of the governments
evaluation process PW)
Even with this explanation, most outboard loving Aussies still
have a hard time accepting that they are the best option for
many situations. Many people who should know better
usually boat and motor dealers have gone as far as
to say that "Na mate, these new (blank) brand outboard
engines will use less petrol than that, I know one bloke who
and the story often continues from there, running off into
the land of the fairies.
These people say this even when theyve been informed
the Kevlacat MerCruiser combo only uses a total of about 40
1/hr @ 3400 rpm to do around 24 knots.
I would be just about certain that there is no 200-225 hp
outboard motor in Australia that will go within a bulls
roar of 20 1/hr at cruising speed, and anyone who says otherwise
is kidding themselves. I do speak from experience with this,
because our 680 SF was initially fitted with a 200 hp Evinrude
Ocean Pro, and then with a 225 hp Yamaha Saltwater Series
We ran both of these engines for about 12-18 months and know
exactly how much each engine used in all types of conditions.
On average, the Yamaha used around 45 1/hr @4200 rpm and the
Evinrude used at least 20% more than the Yamaha, at around
60 1/hr @ 4000 rpm.
What it really came down to was that these new four stroke
V-6 MerCruisers are probably the most fuel efficient
V-6 petrol engines on the market. So when Fred told us he
could fit them into the sponsons under the floor, they sounded
like exactly what we wanted.
The final decision involved choosing between a sterndrive
or shaftdrive configuration. This was really quite a difficult
decision, mainly because each option had advantages we wanted.
Shaftdrives presented minimal maintenance if the boat was
to be left in the water, and also had a cheaper installation
Sterndrives had the advantage of being able to be tilted up
and down for shallow water use. So for crossing coastal bars
and operating in Hervey and Moreton Bay, both littered with
shallow sandbanks, the upward tilting sterndrives presented
an obvious advantage. Also the adjustable tilt on the motors
would make it easy to trim the boat under way. But really
we wanted both something easy to maintain and something
that wouldnt get damaged when we hit a sandbank.
In the end it was the Bravo II sterndrive legs from MerCruiser
that won the day. So far, they have been great and it seems
we made the right decision. Their ability to raise the legs
up level with the bottom of the boat has been vital when spending
the night in Wathumba Creek.
Fitting out the Kevlacat: We were now in a situation
where all the major decisions had been made and there was
only the internal fit-out to consider. In all truth, we probably
spent more time thinking about how to fit out the boat rather
than considering which boat with which engine.
However, there isnt much point going through why we
chose which bits to go where. Most people are going to fit
a boat out to their personal tastes and needs and probably
wont gain much from reading about our decisions. (When
PW does the full test he can go through the options list and
give a full inventory.)
There are however a few things that are worth looking at in
more detail. These mainly relate to how the dinette/bunk arrangement
came about. A dinette is listed as a factory option in the
companys brochure. This dinette is usually fitted to
the boats which have a double transverse bunk in the front
cabin. The cabin door is normally located port side, to allow
a walk in and down entry. Once down the stairs, the crew can
actually stand up (in the port sponson) and climb up onto
the double bed.
With the door on the port side, rather than in the middle,
there must be space left in front of the dinette to allow
room for the cabin door to open. This means that in a standard
boat, the dinette is smaller and certainly not big enough
to convert to a bed.
One thing that we really needed in the boat was three bunks.
This meant that we needed the two single bunks up front and
another somewhere else. We decided that if the cabin door
was in the middle, this would allow us to stretch the dinette
out and incorporate a fold-down table which converted the
whole thing into a 1.9 m single bunk.
But with the dinette being a standard moulding, the factory
actually had to cut one of the mouldings in half and extend
it out in the middle. There were all sorts of difficulties
with incorporating the freezer into the rear dinette seat
and getting the insulation just right. But rather than me
keeping on going with the details, well let the pictures
describe the finished set-up.
However, Im sure youll agree the whole thing looks
great, and everyone at the factory did a great job of making
it all fit together nicely.
Customer Liaison: I would like to finally make a few
comments relating to the "customer service" we received
throughout the whole process. Everyone who has ever had a
new boat custom built will really appreciate what an insight
it is into the whole boating industry.
Everyone at Kevlacat, especially Fred Temminck, went out of
their way to make the boat come together extremely well. There
were a lot of decisions to be made about the placement of
many different items in the boat. It really was good to have
someone like Fred there to advise and help us through the
whole thing. Fred actually goes fishing in a Kevlacat nearly
every weekend when the weather isnt too bad up at Mooloolaba.
So along with his many years of commercial fishing and gamefishing,
he knows a hell of a lot about how to fit these boats out.
Fred was happy enough to let us make all the decisions about
the fit-out, but if we wanted something which he could see
was wrong or could be made better, he wasnt afraid to
let us know. We had a lot of ideas about what we wanted and
Fred usually knew exactly how to make them work. And when
I look around the boat as it is, I realise how lucky we were
to have Freds valuable advice during the process.
It was also great to have Fred at the factory making a lot
of the smaller decisions about where to place things. This
took a lot of the worry out of the whole process and meant
we didnt need to run up to the factory every time something
like a sounder, GPS or a gauge needed to be positioned. We
were just able to trust that Fred would put it in the right
spot every time. This may sound like a trivial thing, but
when you realise there are big permanent holes being drilled
in the fibreglass, it is pretty important.
Now it probably sounds like Im trying to earn a few
brownie points with Fred at Kevlacat, but this simply isnt
the case. PW just told me to tell it as it happened, and the
facts are that the whole Kevlacat team were great to deal
with, and were all very helpful.
Unfortunately along the same lines as "telling it as
it happened" it is difficult to aim the same praise towards
Mercury Australia. Let me firstly say that the actual MerCruiser
engines and legs have now done over 200 hrs and performed
faultlessly; we are really impressed with their performance
and fuel efficiency.
However, in our experience it seemed that the service was
not quite up to the same high level as the products.
I wont go into too much detail, but the engines actually
arrived around 2 months later than was planned. They finally
turned up one week before Christmas, and to Kevlacats
eternal credit, the boat went for its first swim on
For us, the consumer, the late arrival was an inconvenience,
but for Fred and the rest of the team at the factory it was
a real problem. The whole boat was pretty much finished about
4 weeks before Christmas so it just had to sit around
and wait for the motors to arrive.
In the end, the Kevlacat team had to finish four boats simultaneously
and they were all needed pre-Christmas by their anxious
owners. It was not a high point in Mercurys public relations
program, let me tell you.
Initial Summary: After it was all said and done, the end product
is a boat that we think is very nearly perfect and one that
even Fred was a little envious of. Last week, when Fred came
up to Hervey Bay for a few days fishing with us, he
summed it up nicely "Jeez you know, Id nearly forgotten
what a damn fine looking boat this is."
For more information please contact Kevlacat by phone on 07
5472 8470, fax 07 5472 8559 or email:
Article taken from Fisherman & Boatowner