Kosi Cat 186 — A 5,7m craft by Natal Caravans & Marine

Tested by Erwin Bursik (November/December 2004)

Bill Harrison Tel: (031) 702-7291 • Fax: (031) 702-7209
E-mail: info@natalcaravans.co.za • www.natalcaravans.co.za

NATAL Caravans & Marine’s Bill Harrison put Kosi Cat on the map in South Africa with the highly successful Kosi Cat 16. This, together with a number of offshore craft such as the 15’6” Dolphin Supreme and the Explorer Utility boat, gave Bill a good spread of craft options for the recreational inshore sportfisherman and flyfisher.

What he lacked, though, was a craft big enough for the more serious offshore angler that could carry four persons with ease and take on rough water, yet still be relatively easy to tow with an average sized 4×4. Naturally it also had to be affordable. The Kosi Cat 186 was designed and recently launched to fulfil this need, and she certainly does.

For the record, when I tested the forward console model I also had a good look at the centre console version. If she rides as well as the model tested, then that too will be a craft well worth considering for offshore use.

Bill and Natal Caravans & Marine’s MD, Brian Courtis, arrived at the Natal Deep Sea Rod & Reel Club’s slipway in Durban Harbour early on a horribly windy, overcast morning with rain pelting down. I was due to test the centre console model Kosi Cat 186, but we all agreed there would be no test that day. It was a pity, though, especially as this particular boat was being delivered to her new owner the next day. Hence I tested the forward console model a week later.

The Kosi Cat 186 is a big boat with high sides, a proud bow and a console set well forward. Both models made an impressive arrival at the slipway. What also struck me was the enormous deck area for a boat this size.

On my second date with the Kosi Cat 186, the weather was perfect, the complete opposite of our first attempt, and we launched into beautiful glassy conditions.

The weather gurus were predicting a building north-easterly, but in the protection of the marina it was only the mast tops of the moored yachts that gave any indication of the coming wind.

However, by the time we reached the harbour exit, in truth the only area we had passed that was not protected, we not only felt the wind, but also experienced quite a bumpy ride through the notorious “bar” that a north-easterly sea creates in between the north and south piers.

The north-easterly must have started blowing in the early hours of the morning, and as we moved out of the washing machine at the harbour entrance the sea was choppy, but not unfishable. In fact, it was just lively enough to give us a good test on the Kosi Cat 186.

With his Nissan 3-litre 4×4, Bill handled both the launching and retrieval of the Kosi Cat 186 with incredible ease. No doubt he’s had a lot of practice, taking into account the amount of towing his work demands,
During the retrieval I ran the boat up the trailer until the bows of both sponsons nestled against their stem blocks. All Bill had to do was clip on the restraining cable from the hand winch.

Trailers have come an incredibly long way since I first started testing boats in the mid-1970s. In fact, I would say many of them are pretty close to perfect. The Kosi Cat’s breakneck trailer was just that as far as slip launching was concerned. I haven’t tried it on the beach, but I have little doubt that it will do that job with equal aplomb.

The twin 60hp Yamaha motors that had been fitted to the Kosi Cat 186 were standard 2-stroke carburetted motors with hydraulic trims, swinging 15” pitch props. And, do you know what? They pushed the Kosi Cat 186 with unbelievable ease.

Looking at the rig when it first arrived, I had a twinge of doubt that 60hp motors on a boat this size would be adequate for serious surf work, but during the extensive and exhaustive trials I had to admit that I was staggered at just how well I got the craft to perform with Bill and I aboard. Indeed, with regard to this craft’s handling and performance, one can conclude that the motors supported, if not enhanced, the overall performance of the rig.

One aspect I must mention in particular was the ability of one Yamaha 60 to get this craft onto the plane. Even with one motor dragging, I could get her onto the plane directly into the head sea, and with the second motor tilted the performance really surprised me.

Hydraulic steering is fitted to this boat. Together with the smoothness of the controls, this not only made skippering her easy, but also allowed me to get into and pull out of incredibly tight turns almost effortlessly.

During the photo session I was on Kevin Randell’s 24ft monohull that is renowned for its soft ride, so I had a great platform from which to assess the ride of the Kosi 186 as she raced alongside us, both in a beam sea and a head sea. I could also see how the hull was working the water, sometimes as close as three metres away.

With these images fixed in my mind — and later confirmed when I looked at the photographs — I began to experience for myself the ride of the Kosi Cat 186.
But before I further discuss her handling, I must point out that Jerry Govender, who designed the new 18ft 6 inch craft from scratch (not just a scaled up version of the Kosi Cat 16), has curved her gunnel quite radically and modified the aft sponson substantially, including a wide planing strake. I have no doubt that this is what gets this craft onto the plane so easily and stabilises it laterally, especially when running with the sea.

After boarding her at sea I ran quite a long way north, angling her ride so that I quartered the steadily growing north-easterly chop. This way I could ride at a good speed while I got the feel of the craft and her reaction to trim before I put her bow into the wind for a run out to sea.
From the outset I found she liked a reasonable amount of bow-up trim. As she carries the crew weight well forward, this marginal assistance from the motor trim enables her to ride very smoothly. However, I found that with too much trim-up she starts pounding, and with too little the bows tend to plough water. This was especially evident when we headed out to sea.

Having established all this, I took the sea head-on for a while at reasonable speed. As the sea was not that nice and both crew and boat were starting to take strain, I brought her bow around to a heading that had the wind on our aft port quarter. That was fun boating! I increased speed to just over 20 knots at 4 500 rpm and ran down the coast until I reached the vicinity of Cave Rock.

This run allowed me to feel the craft’s performance in relation to the semi-following sea. She rode well — very well — with her large bow throwing water wide and aft. When we overtook a big crest, she showed no tendency to yaw nor choose an erratic path down the wave face. She simply rode straight and true. This was an aspect I particularly liked when I eventually took her into the big sets that were running into Cave Rock at the end of Durban’s Bluff.

Before going into this surf zone, I spent a fair bit of time pushing her into and pulling her out of very tight turns so as to judge how quickly she dug herself out of the resulting hole and got onto the plane. I also wanted to make sure that this new boat would work — and carry on working — before I went in too close.

She worked beautifully and did everything I needed her to do, the twin 60hp Yamahas providing all the out-of-the-hole performance I required after having turned in front of a cresting swell and then taken off to angle the craft over it.

A while later, to test the motors even further, I attempted to accelerate from a standing start from the protection of the fixed point of the block at the end of the old Vetch’s Pier, get over an incoming swell, and then race along the face of the following swell to safe, open water. She did it with ease.

Trolling at “lure” speed of 2 000 rpm on two motors out in the deep through all the points of the compass is always a good test for a craft. Not only does this show how stable she is, but also how the craft reacts to sea taken at all angles, and whether or not the crew get soaked in the process. She passed with merit.

At lower troll speed she was fine and stable. This also proved true when on the drift and side-on to the sea, even when Bill and I moved extensively around the fish deck as if fishing and gaffing.

Whilst simplistic in overall concept and fashioned to maximise deck space, the deck layout of the Kosi Cat 186 is not only practical but also well executed.

A number of good ideas have been incorporated, and these add to the user-friendliness of the craft and make life that little bit easier for the angler aboard.

One example is the array of side compartments in the inner face of the gunnel cowling. Each has gusset plates that compartmentalise each locker and also firm up the gunnel face so that one can lean up or wedge against it while fishing or in rough conditions.

The one coffin hatch that is aft holds six cans of fuel and is fixed, whereas the forward one is removable, with four wing nuts holding its carpeted base very firmly to the carpeted deck.

The forward/command helm station is comfortable and well protected from the elements. There is no shortage of stowage facilities in this area either, and it also has an adequate splash-proof area for the onboard electronics.

A half shelf in the port forward locker is handy to separate all the extras we fishermen pack into our boats.

Access to the two large anchor hatches is relatively easy, as the centre section of the windscreen is removable. There is also a raised platform forming part of the front console on which one can stand when working the anchor.

A full transom ahead of the motor-wells, with solid roll bars and an access step between the motors, finishes off the opposite end of the craft.

The aesthetic finish of the craft, as well as the basic solidness of construction and feel of her when she is working rough waters, are of a high standard.

As this craft is built and finished for a specific market and price tag, she has more than sufficient niceties and finishes to make her a craft to be proud of.

Any extra niceties can be added as and when finances become available, for in truth, all the extras found on top-of-the-range craft depend on one thing — money.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing with the Kosi Cat 186, and it was a case of the more I pushed her the more I liked her response.

She is a lot of boat and yet can be towed relatively easily with a ±2,5 litre 4×4 vehicle, making the various South African and Moçambican fishing destinations one’s ultimate playground.

The Kosi Cat 186 is sure to give offshore anglers — both experienced and first-timers — many, many happy hours pursuing their sport.

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