boat tests 2800 series

Kevlacat 6.5m Offshore

6.5 metre ‘Offshore’. They relate to a trip back to the Mooloola river mouth from Mudjimba Island.

Having the digital speed readout on the GPS scroll up 30 mph when you’re travelling across the usual 15 knot south east wind chop typical of offshore south east Queensland is one thing, but what is really remarkable is how many other non-offshore racing boats could have even kept the Kevlacat in sight.

It has nothing to do with dramatics, so much as the lack of them. No great sky-grabbing airs followed by landings that peel sheets of white spray out each side of the sponsons. It was just an unbelievably rapid passage across water that would have slowed hulls twice the size down to half the speed.
The 6.5 metre ‘Offshore SF 2400’ is an all-new Kevlacat. Kevlacats long ago redefined power catamarans by laying to rest what had, until then, been the established norm in power cats. Kevlacats weren’t tank-heavy like their predecessors, and as a result didn’t need massive, fuel-gulping powerplants to make them perform.

Now we’re looking at a ‘next generation’ of Kevlacats. It’s probably fair to say that their predecessors were good enough not to leave a lot of room for improvement. Still, what we’re looking at with the new 6.5 is again nothing so much ‘dramatic’ as a noticeably further-refined Kevlacat.
This is evident when you stagger barefoot around the cockpit trying to keep five figures worth of Nikon’s finest focused on another Kevlacat powering along beside. The point here is that several rolls of Fujichrome later, all toes and things are in fine shape.

Any boat claiming to be a serious offshore fishing boat should have toes-in-under, thigh-high leg support all around the cockpit. So few achieve this that you tend to accept small toe busters here and there as inevitable.

This Kevlacat simply won’t bust your toes right around all three sides of the cockpit – there’s simply nothing to stub your toe on. Even the batteries and oil bottles are up above the deck. They’re accessible through hatches, but are in compartments that don’t leave them swimming when there’s water on the deck.

It’s funny how it shows when boat designers and builders are fish heads themselves. When you walk into Kevlacat’s office there’s the usual cast of a (bloody big!) sailfish on the wall – although lots of boat builders have such.

The difference is when you enter Kevlacat el-supremo Fred Temminck’s inner-sanctum. Here, it takes just a moment to peel away the PR veneer before you’re being shown the photos from the previous week’s fishing literally just a few k’s offshore from Kevlacat’s factory on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Perhaps what’s significant about that isn’t so much that Fred fishes. It’s that fishing holds a high-enough priority for him to create sufficient time out of the frantic lifestyle running a large boat building business demands to fish as much as he does.

This in turn explains the attention to detail there is in a Kevlacat. So, when you get to the new 6.5 which replaces the old 6.2 (a classic by any definition) you might take a while to appreciate the little refinements which add up to a further refined whole.

There aren’t any radical changes to the hull either. New chine shapes, finer entry points and a different angle to the forefoot are about it. Inside it’s the same subtle touches here and there.

However, readers may not be familiar with the old 6.2, so let’s take a tour of the 6.5, leaving for now further comment on what’s refined, polished, better, or – for that matter – what’s new.

At 6.5 metres, the Offshore is big enough to offer both an ample cockpit and two bunks in a cabin large enough to make sleeping aboard a realistic proposition. Not that the cabin is huge – it could be likened more to a two-person tent than a marquee.

Tropical residents might find the single hatch and door somewhat inadequate for ventilation on steamier nights. However, the couple who owned the boat pictured here had already spent several comfortable nights in a marina at Mooloolaba when we borrowed their boat for the photographic session.

The cockpit is ample and we’ve already heaped completely justifiable praise on its periphery and how the batteries and oil bottles are tucked out of harm’s way. The test boat has a deck wash similarly stowed, and the amount of sundries the owners had tucked into the side pockets testifies to their capacity.

Kevlacat have always built to buyer specs and while with the new 6.5 they’re trying to offer a base model and a fully-fitted version, it will be a wonder if a historically-discerning customer will allow them to. The boat photographed is the fully-fitted version, offering a range of things optioned on the base model as standard. To prove our prediction, Glen Piper – the new owner – opted for a few details of his own.

Nonetheless, the standard equipment seen here on the fully-fitted version (optional on the basic model) includes cabin windows, cabin hatch, cabin doors, much of the instrumentation, the hardtop and its folding add-on at the rear, and the ‘targa bar’. Similarly, the seat base/ice/storage boxes seen here and the toilet tucked under the port side bunk are standard on the Offshore and optional on the base model.
The one thing I found uncomfortable was the seating/driving position. I thought the wheel was too low in that it forced an unnatural hunched-over, head-up driving position.

When this was mentioned to Fred (between skiting about how many fish I’d caught lately), he was quite surprised to hear it because others had loved the driving position. It may have something to do with Fred claiming two metres plus of altitude to my somewhat height-disadvantaged 1.7. All that can be said is to check it out for yourself.

Kevlacat might be trying to educate their customers into a this-way or that-way option list, but you rest assured that changing something as important as the helm position would be dealt with as a matter of course.

Having praised the cockpit and the layout generally in surprising few words, let’s get back out on the water. No; before we do that, perhaps a brief rewind to reiterate that the cockpit, seating area, cabin and foredeck access, and anchoring arrangements are all exceptionally good might get me out of trouble.
Out of Mooloolaba it took about 100 metres beyond the end of the six knot limit (inside the river) to find that those twin 130s can press you back into the seat. Many Kevlacats could operate extremely well with amazingly small motors.

We accept this; they’ve proved the point and with the twin 90s listed as the minimum factory option, I’m sure the new 6.5 metre would do a good job. Two 140s is the specified maximum, with 115s being the standard fitment to the ‘Offshore SF 2400’ version.

The twin 130s felt ‘right’. They lifted nearly a tonne and a half of boat up and out of there smartly. Owner Glen told me he’d seen 37 mph on the GPS a few weeks previously while motors were still freeing up. As we found out, over 30 mph across a pretty ordinary sea was effortless.

At around 20 mph the motors were lofting along at 3000 rpm. This is where offshore travelling finds distance covered, maximum fuel efficiency and comfort in any sort of sea. The urge to point the 6.5 for Cairns or Port Macquarie was extremely strong.
As some kind of an ultimate offshore fishing boat, you won’t use many fingers to count its peers.

Article taken from Modern Fishing, April 1998.