Tested by Heinrich Kleyn (March/April 2012)
Tel: (031) 305-8081 • Fax: (031) 305-8083
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • www.natalpowerboats.co.za
Length – 6.2m
Beam – 2.6m
Min hp — 2 x 60hp
Max hp — 2 x 125 hp
Buoyancy — Option of foam or bottles
Power as tested — 2 x 115hp Mercury Optimax motors
THE V Cat is one of the latest boats that Nick Lanzanakis and Ruli Sofilas from Natal Power Boats have added to their fleet.
I have followed the building process of this boat since the day they started her because it was being custom-built for my good friend and fishing buddy, Trevor Reddy.
I have to say that the V Cat reminds me of another boat on the market, and it rides just as well. I was mightily impressed with her.
It was great to see the whole process taking place from beginning to end, and then, when she was finished, see her standing on the trailer at Rod and Reel Club on Durban bay waiting for me to try her out.
Trevor decided to make her all white with a couple of decals here and there, so she has a clean, modern look about her. She looks much bigger than she is because of the wheelhouse that was added, but despite this she’s still very spacious. Admittedly, you have to sacrifice some luxuries here and there if you want to have the comfort of the wheelhouse, but I think it’s well worth it.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
Much thought went into choosing the right motors for the boat, but eventually Trevor opted for twin 115hp Mercury Optimax motors with 17-pitch 4-blade stainless-steel props. Another friend, Roelof Visagie, has had the same combination running for a while now and he assured Trevor that he could not go wrong with this setup. I had also tested these Optimax motors before, so I was happy recommending them to Trevor, although I was a little concerned about the size of the motors in comparison to the size of the boat. I need not have worried.
The controls are binnacle-mount with cables, and they are very smooth and comfortable to use.
Trevor asked for a single-axle, galvanised breakneck trailer with brakes for his boat because he is not planning on towing her very far. She tows very easily, but you have to keep your eye on the road because she is just inside the legal limit width-wise. With the breakneck trailer, loading and offloading is very simple, and as the trailer is purpose-built to fit the boat, it works even better.
Trevor had a lot of input regarding the layout. Starting at the front he has the anchor hatch with two hatches next to it, each big enough to take two jerry cans. Then he has a hatch running down the middle of the craft from the front right up to the wheelhouse. That hatch is able to hold all your safety equipment, like life jackets, that take up a lot of space.
In the wheelhouse there’s the console with all the electronics and more than enough space to store everything you need to. There’s also a bum box for the skipper. The bum box has drawers for tackle, and it extends all the way to the livebait well at the stern, in between the two battery boxes.
On closer inspection you will find that the wheelhouse has been moved slightly towards the back, with the fuel hatches sunk into the floor. The rest of the layout is very similar to most other boats: trolling boards at the back, rod holders on the side in the gunnels, and more rod holders on top of the wheelhouse to keep the rods out of the way.
The boat has a first-class livebait well at the back — in fact, it’s so big that when it’s very hot you might jump in to cool off. This boat has been fitted with all the bells and whistles to make life easy for you, no matter what kind of fishing you do. The gunnels are at knee-height and are padded to make them comfortable to lean against when you’re pulling a fish or when you want to jig or dropshot.
Initially Trevor was worried that the wheelhouse would restrict movement on the boat and take up too much space, but it’s very easy to manoeuvre around the wheelhouse without even turning sideways to get past.
The first time I tested this boat she only had two cans of fuel and three people onboard. I am always a bit nervous when I test a new boat that I haven’t driven before, and was concerned when she felt a little loose on the water. Then I realised it was because she was so lightly loaded. In fact, the V Cat sits very high in the water because she is so light, even when fully loaded.
The next time I tested her she was fully loaded with four cans of fuel on each side. The livebait well was filled, I had all my fishing tackle and there were four of us aboard. What a difference.
Inshore the sea was nice and calm, but when we went past the 30km mark offshore the swells became messy and upside down. However, the V Cat handled it with ease. She was so comfortable that two of the crew carried on sleeping in the front without falling off the hatch.
Performance-wise she jumped out the hole onto the plane in three seconds and her turning circles were perfect. Running and trolling into the swells, I did not once get the water to come over the front of the boat. In fact, I was a little disappointed about that because that was the main reason for fitting the wheelhouse — we were tired of getting wet. Now that we had the wheelhouse we stayed dry!
With the following sea I could not get her to give me any indication that she would broach and that was a big plus for me.
The overall ride of the V Cat is very impressive — it’s very smooth and soft and not once did I feel any pounding or shuddering through the tunnel. It’s really great to drive a boat you feel comfortable on, a boat that has been custom-built with the right combination of engines and that’s light on fuel.
In fact, these motors use even less fuel than the modern 4-strokes on the market. They might be a little noisier, but you can’t have it all. In my experience the fuel consumption of these 115hp Mercury Optimax motors is much less than that of the 90hp 4-stroke motors I had on a 17ft boat in the past. I found that while trolling for billfish with the 90hp 4-strokes, I averaged four hours on one fuel can each side. With the 115hp Optimax motors on a 20ft boat we average five hours on one jerry can of fuel each side in roughly the same sea conditions at the same speed. This is very impressive.
The V Cat is not a luxury liner, she’s a boat built for fishermen. She is neat and tidy, you can rig her out to suit your needs and is very comfortable and stable on the water at any speed.
Although this is a 20ft-plus boat, she would launch through the surf easily if you had the right combination of motors fitted correctly.
If you’re looking for a boat that’s big and spacious, but still small enough to tow, do yourself a favour and test drive the V Cat.