Trading A 680 SF On A Kevlacat 7.2
Right around Australia, many of the country’s 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 nor’western 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 hadn’t made a formal decision to change boats, until F&B’s 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 he’d 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, we’d 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 hadn’t brought up the issue of a Kevlacat 7.2, the development of the new boat probably wouldn’t 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 grounds.
However, we soon realised that the Haines Hunter’s 350 1 fuel tank just wasn’t 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 couldn’t 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 wasn’t 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&B’s 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 the boat.
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 wasn’t 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 bunk somewhere.
• 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, it’s 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, you’ll agree there isn’t 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 wasn’t 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 wasn’t 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 we’ll 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 wasn’t going to be a problem satisfying our fit-out requirements) and Kevlacat Managing Director Fred Temminck’s 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&B’s 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 ain’t 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 PW’s frustration at the difficulties he’s 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, you’re 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 7.2’s 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 "average" conditions.
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 wouldn’t 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 purchase price.
In the end we really chose the MerCruisers because we believed they probably used less fuel than the petrol model Volvo’s and were a hell of a lot cheaper than Volvo or MerCruiser’s diesel engines.
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-8’s as part of the government’s 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 they’ve 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 bull’s 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 II.
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 MerCruiser’s 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 cost.
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 wouldn’t 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 isn’t 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 won’t 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 company’s 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, we’ll let the pictures describe the finished set-up.
However, I’m sure you’ll 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 isn’t 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 wasn’t 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 Fred’s 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 didn’t 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 I’m trying to earn a few brownie points with Fred at Kevlacat, but this simply isn’t 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 won’t 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 Kevlacat’s eternal credit, the boat went for it’s first swim on Christmas Eve!
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 Mercury’s 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 day’s fishing with us, he summed it up nicely "Jeez you know, I’d 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:
info@kevlacat.com.au

Article taken from Fisherman & Boatowner