Tested by Kevin Smith (November/December 2006)
WHY is it, that whenever you plan to go out to sea the weather turns foul the day before, sparking a major debate on whether or not you should go out? Maybe one of us should become the weather man, as it’s fairly easy to predict the weather for the tests — a guaranteed strong south-wester or north-easter, and you can always add in the 50% chance of rain or cloud cover, with the wind possibly swinging from a light variable gusting to gale force.
Well, the night before the test the westerly did howl, then dropped — or at least dropped trees — and we were lucky enough to be greeted in the morning with a moderate south-wester and cloud cover that broke up for short intervals. Good enough to give the go ahead.
Not having met the personnel from Boating International, I wasn’t sure what they would be like and what kind of product and operation they had on offer. Two shiny new black Colts towing a cat each pulled into the slipway parking lot.
Just by glancing at the vehicles and boats, I was immediately struck by the professionalism and obvious pride portrayed by the “corporate image” on display. Indeed, first impressions do count. When equipment looks like this, then you know you’re not dealing with amateurs. Dealing with friendly, down-to-earth people like the Boating International team also makes a difference.
Not much time was allocated to viewing the boats out of the water, as it seemed like the Boating International crew were more exited than we were to set the craft upon the ocean.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
One really important aspect is having a trailer that works, and the sturdy, galvanised trailer that the Quickcatch comes on is ideal. My test boat — the Quickcatch 160 centre console — slid off effortlessly, and after the test it was hand winched back on with minimal effort.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
Despite not being warmed up first, one touch of the ignition had the Mercury 60hp Big Foot motors purring on the transom and ready for action. On the 160 with me were Silan Naiker from Lowrance SA and Durand Boshoff from Boating International. It’s always better to have the average-sized crew on board for a test, as testing alone will not give a true reflection on how a boat actually rides and performs.
A cable steering system was fitted, with binnacle mount control boxes.
We soon motored out of Durban harbour to put the 160 through its paces out at sea. I think it’s an inbred thing in all of us, to want to floor it when first trying out a boat or a car — just to check the power. Unfortunately, being in the harbour you can’t do that. I would definitely not like to be clocked by the new camera that’s been fitted on the end of the North Pier — speed limit 35kph.
After receiving clearance to leave Durban harbour, we cruised around Vetch’s Pier, keeping the boats inshore for the basic test and photography in the calmer waters.
Before I really tested the 160, I had the opportunity to put the Quickcatch 186 (another really good boat) through her paces for the photo session. One bonus of this exercise was being able to watch the 160 performing before testing it myself. This gave me the chance to see how she rode and handled from all angles.
Being fitted with 60hp Bigfoot Mercury motors, the acceleration on the 160 was extremely fast. In the calmer waters you could cruise comfortably around 20 knots at only half throttle without having to adjust the trims. The Quickcatch 160 had no problem accelerating from full lock either to port or starboard, with little or no cavitation being felt, and she gave a smooth, stable, dry ride.
Another kilometre offshore the south-wester was gusting at 8-10 knots with a two metre swell running from the south with a decent chop from the west the night before — definitely the ideal area to move out to with the 160.
Running out, with the swell and wind pushing on the starboard side, she performed as well as she had in the calmer waters. The 160 cut through the chop and swell smoothly, and with minor tweaks on the trims, I was still able to keep the ride dry by lifting the windward side. Staying dry is a big priority for me.
Another characteristic that I was impressed with was that the hull did not bang much when dropping over the swell and chop.
For a craft of her size, the 160 is a relatively wide cat, which definitely helps her lateral stability. She did not roll excessively with the side-on swell and wind, whether stationary or at a fairly high speed.
Turning to port and running with the swell and wind, I could maintain a constant speed without ploughing or broaching into the trough, and could easily accelerate out of the troughs with the ample power of the twin 60s.
Being fitted with a cable steering system made steering slightly tighter when turning to port under acceleration. Although the new cable steering systems are a lot better than the old ones, my preference would definitely be to go for hydraulic steering. And it won’t break the bank either.
Again, running the Quickcatch 160 directly into the swell and wind, she handled exceptionally well for a craft of her size. If you ride a boat like a gentleman, not a cowboy, you can create a suitable, comfortable ride even in the worst of conditions. At a reasonable speed, as well as when accelerating and decelerating, the 160 was able to carve softly and comfortably through the chop, without sending shock waves up my spine.
Most of the time smaller boats handle well in fairer weather conditions, but because of the general handling of the 160, I am confident that she would maintain all these characteristics in an even rougher ocean. If the trims are set too low the bow would take a bit of spray, but raising them up slightly eliminates most of this, keeping one dry in the process.
When stationary in the rougher conditions, very little water flooded over the transom, and even when it did, the water drained fairly fast. Another plus: if you can afford motors with trim-and-tilt, do it. Having all the extra bells and whistles definitely helps when you need to change your ride to suit the conditions. Then again, if you don’t learn how to use the gadgets properly in the first place, they’re not going to help.
At slower speeds, from idle to a trolling speed of 2-4 knots, the 160 maintained reasonable to good stability in all directions.
For her size, the 160 has plenty of deck space which is great from the fishing point of view for manoeuvrability around the boat. For general offshore fishing you could fish two to three anglers comfortably, and these craft work exceptionally well for deep sea flyfishing, the deck space and stability being the main contributing factors in this facet of angling. The 160 has reasonably high gunnels which I find easier to balance against and thus more comfortable when fighting fish.
As tested, the Quickcatch 160 was fitted with two 60hp Bigfoot Mercury motors. All cables coming off the motors are neatly tucked away, running under the deck to the console, thus leaving an uncluttered area to move around in near the transom.
A bench seat with adjustable backrest has been fitted behind the console. This can be used as a forward or rear facing seat and dry storage. The stand-up centre console comes with a built-in seat in front and provides plenty of space for fuel storage. A small T-top has been fitted to give a bit of shade on those extra hot days.
The 160 I tested had a cable steering system fitted, binnacle mount control boxes, an Eagle 128 fishfinder, and still ample extra space to mount gauges and other gadgets. For comfort, the deck is carpeted and has flush-mount, built-in fish hatches with fishing rod stowage against the gunnels, which keeps the deck uncluttered and easy to move around on.
The bow section is fitted with front opening hatches and a dual anchor hatch, creating ample space to store equipment. The rest of the 160 is fitted out with an assortment of neat stainless-steel fittings, including transom roll bars, bow rails and console handles, to mention but a few.
For an entry level boat, the Quickcatch 160 has a really good quality finish, especially for the price. From the trailer to the hull to the fittings, everything is well balanced, fitted with precision and in proportion.
The normal scenario when purchasing something is if you get it at a reasonable price, you will probably get a “reasonable” product. A bonus with the Quickcatch 160 is that you are paying a reasonable price and getting a good product.
The Quickcatch 160 is a very practical craft for the general offshore fisherman and first-time buyer. If you want a cat that is relatively small, light, only takes two or three to launch, can withstand fairly rough conditions and handles really well in the surf, then the Quickcatch 160 should be considered. Although the 160 was tested with the 60 Bigfoots, I feel that she would run just as well with 40-50hp motors.
Besides the 160’s offshore capabilities and size, she is also suitable for fishing, waterskiing and general family fun in dams, rivers or estuaries. Hook one up and head for the ocean!