Reviewed by Erwin Bursik (SKI-BOAT November/December 2017)
FUN DAYS LIE AHEAD
Butt Cat 25 Yellowfin Edition By Nauti-Tech
THE “ode” to the Butt Cat goes right back to 1955 when Stan Butt built his first Butt Cat on the banks of the Bushmans River near Kenton on Sea on the Eastern Cape coast. Primarily targeting the commercial linefishermen, Stan built his craft to take on the notably choppy seas off the coastline with a full complement of crew and often a large catch of fish. The craft had to be able to carry a lot of weight, but be stable, take heavy seas and negotiate the surf, yet needed to be within the price range the commercial operators could afford and should ideally be powered by relatively small motors.
Stan’s Butt Cats worked, and although they were “rough and ready” during that period, they proved extremely popular in the Eastern- and Western Cape and had the reputation of being extremely seaworthy craft.
It was not till the 1980s and 1990s that the Butt Cat started to be considered by a few recreational ski-boaters specifically because of their renowned seakeeping capabilities.
During the first decade of the 21st century the Butt Cat’s future hung in the balance because of the trials and tribulations the business experienced. However the Butt Cat’s solid basic design eventually saw this brand enter much calmer waters under the control of Nauti-Tech’s Warren Rachman, Len van Kempen and Ian Burrell.
Today Butt Cat is making waves in the sportfishing arena where its performance on the water is being appreciated along with its overall finishes and modern construction methods which put these craft into the upper echelons of the great offshore sportfisher craft on the South African market today.
During lengthy discussions with Warren and Len at the recent Johannesburg Boat Show, I was asked to go to Port Elizabeth a week after the show as Nauti-Tech had three models of their Butt Cat range that were available to be reviewed prior to delivery.
I was very keen to keep this date as the opportunity to ride three models of the Butt Cat range and find out for myself how they handled the ocean, was too good to pass up.
Surprisingly, prior to 2015 I had never been aboard a Butt Cat. That year, after a Marlin Seminar that Ryan Williamson of Pulsator Lures and I hosted at Suid Punt Hengel Klub at Struisbaai, I went to sea with Danie Jacobs aboard his Butt Cat 865, Le Boss, which was rigged for serious big game fishing. Since that day I have spent two weeks aboard Le Boss fishing the infamous waters off the southern tip of Africa during the 2016 and 2017 Two Oceans Marlin tournaments. I experienced beautiful conditions and horrendous conditions aboard Le Boss and really appreciated how this craft’s hull handled those seas.
Before setting out my views on the Butt Cat 25 Yellowfin edition that I have chosen to cover in this issue — the Butt Cat 930 and Butt Cat 660 will follow in the next two issues — I need to provide some background information.
After Nauti-Tech acquired the rights to finish, distribute, install and market Butt Cats, a number of features came into being. The first was the manufacture of the hull and the top deck which John Butt and his daughter, Kerry, were contracted to continue building at Kenton on Sea, but utilising the most modern construction methods and composite materials to ensure maximum strength and a much lighter finished craft.
The basic sponson design below the chine line has been religiously adhered to, but the height of the tunnel has been increased to release the water build-up that was restricting performance in the earlier models. They then restyled the top deck and deck layout with new tooling to ensure that the incredibly high demands of the top end of the recreational sportfishing market were attained.
Once a basic hull with its basic top deck and furniture assembled — and fully foam-filled with polyurethane — is complete, it’s transported to Nauti-Tech’s Port Elizabeth factory where the final finishes together with fitting of the stainless steel, motors, electronics and other niceties are undertaken under the watchful eyes of Warren and Len.
The Yellowfin edition of the Butt Cat 25 is the latest of Nauti-Tech’s many models they produce aimed primarily at the Cape market where yellowfin tuna is the main target species. The boat can, however, be customised to accommodate the KZN gamefishing application.
When designing a boat for this market, the most important requirement was for a craft that was big enough to travel the long runs to the tuna grounds in comfort using 140hp motors and that was economical on fuel. Of course it also needed a large fish hatch.
The day we had chosen to do the reviews was calm — an unusual occurrence for Port Elizabeth — and as such all the trials performed had to include a fair deal of presumption about its performance based on my experiences of the Butt Cat 865’s performance in the horrible seas off Cape Agulhas.
When you’re loading and running a boat it’s critical that the on-deck structures, crew, fuel and fish weight are distributed evenly, with slightly more of the weight aft of the craft’s “see-saw” point. I found this craft to be ideally balanced, thus requiring very little bow up or bow down trim during all the various manoeuvres I put her through.
I was intrigued by the almost total lack of lateral torque of all three craft I reviewed and spoke at length with Warren and Len regarding this.
From what I worked out, the aft sponson design that largely controls the craft’s ride and speed is so designed that its planing surface and shape overrides the craft’s tendency to react to the torque of the motors. I found this very interesting. Not only did I not have to trim against lateral torque, but it also seemed to hold the offside sponson from dropping during long runs in a quartering sea.
Over the years I’ve heard many people say that the Butt Cat gives a soft ride, but only now that I’ve experienced it myself can I fully appreciate that. Again I spent much time thinking about my experience on the Butt Cat 865 off Cape Agulhas and remembering that craft’s ride and ability to track evenly in a big following sea which I couldn’t experience on the day of the review.
What I really appreciated on the day of the review was the boat’s high speed performance over small chop, especially when I was photographing. I particularly noticed just how smooth her ride was and also how little water was thrown at these speeds. A look at the accompanying photographs will show this, especially the one of the craft following the photo boat at over 20 knots where the cleaved water is spread low and wide and there’s marginal build-up of hard water in the tunnel.
Even though this 25ft hull was designed to target tuna way offshore, there are plenty of applications for this size craft off the rest of the east coast of South Africa and Moçambique. For this reason I put her through a vigorous routine of tight turns and out-the-hole trials in order to ascertain how I feel she would react to being beach launched off sites such as Sodwana Bay. Every craft has its idiosyncrasies and I needed to see how she fared.
Throughout the sea trials I had experienced her out-the-hole acceleration and ability to get up and running very quickly, but what I needed to feel was how quickly she would do an abrupt about turn and then dig in her aft and climb up onto the plane.
She performed with ease and I found the previously mentioned stern stability had no hindering effect in bringing her around in a tight turn. During this manoeuvre I used the outside motor under major thrust while the inside motor was just used to control the thrust until the turn had been completed. All worked very smartly with no indication of cavitation nor any tendency of the inside chine to bite. I did this many times swinging both to port as well as to starboard.
For this application I would have preferred a larger diameter steering wheel and not as direct a hydraulic lock-to-lock turn. These are great for this particular craft’s application but if surf work is envisaged I would change it as mentioned.
It is always interesting to test the wake pattern a specific hull generates when trolling throughout various fishing manoeuvres. Slow trolling with only one motor was effortless, but it got more interesting trolling with both motors and watching her wake develop as I increased the revs to 900rpm for 5 knots, to 1 400rpm for 7 knots, and on to 1 800rpm for 9 knots. She produces a very flat wake which is tight up to just on 8 knots and thereafter slowly spreads out. I was very happy with the wake and the ample clean water she produced where I could run lures in the typical pattern we use.
The power source provided on the Butt Cat 25 was a pair of well-used 140hp Suzuki four-stroke motors swinging three-bladed 20-pitch stainless steel props. They provided as much if not more power than I required, and eve
n when running her with one motor with the other trimmed right up I got her to plane at close to 20 knots using maximum throttle, but was able to back off the throttle to 4 500rpm and still plane at 16/17 knots.
As I stated, this craft was designed and made for a specific use and its owner was very definite in what he wanted in the way of deck layout and cubby-cabin interior design fitment. “Suitable for tuna fishing” was the only criterion. With this in mind a number of changes were effected apart from the Butt Cat’s hull itself. The major changes included increasing the height of the gunnels and stepping up the deck at the forward end of the cabin, and the inclusion of a huge, insulated, above-deck fish box and twin 140 litre fuel tanks which were incorporated in the false transom.
The extra high gunnel height was to suit the owner’s physical stature and his preference and style of stand-up fishing when attached to a large tuna. A small step in the walk-around space to the front deck area makes it easier to move forward when harnessed to a big fish.
In designing this gunnel height the owner, Ian Burrell, and Nauti-Tech made provision within the moulding to very easily lower the gunnel height if other prospective owners would prefer that configuration.
The internal layout of the cabin is clinically efficient for the skipper with a maximum of electronics selectively positioned for all-out visibility. The “bumbox” seating is wide, extremely comfortable and practical, whether you’re standing behind the wheel or sitting during those long hours of trolling. It’s certainly a very practical helm station in my opinion. The lockable forward cabin capable of storing all the yellowfin tuna tackle when Fundays is not out fishing is also a great idea.
Some of the outstanding aspects of the final finish of this craft need to be noted as they’re an indication of the effort Nauti-Tech puts into the craft they deliver. Firstly the quality and sturdiness of all the fitted hardware and especially the stainless steel work is superb. It’s made and fitted in-house by people that have spent time on the ocean fishing the heavy Cape waters.
Secondly the accessibility to and neatness of the extensive electrical wiring needed in this size craft is impressive. It’s all numbered and scheduled in a manual for easy maintenance and trouble shooting.
The deck area, both up front and right aft to the boarding platform, has been laid out to be user friendly for the tuna angler who will be fighting his quarry from her deck, often under heavy sea conditions.
This craft has been designed to not only look stunning, but also to provide her owner and those that hunt the big tuna off Cape Point with him, with a dedicated platform on which to ply their sport.
The Butt Cat 25 Yellowfin Edition is a craft that needs to be thoroughly scrutinised to be fully appreciated. Indeed, Fundays’ beauty is much more than skin deep.