CoastCat 18 — A 5,5m Craft

Tested by Erwin Bursik (SKI-BOAT March/April 2003)









LOA: 5,60 metres
Beam: 2,40 metres
Construction: GRP with marine ply transom, deck and bulkheads
Flotation: 1-litre sealed plastic bottles in 8 separate compartments
Hull weight: 780kg
Weight on trailer: 1 300kg
Rated max. & min. hp: 2x115hp/2x60hp
Power as tested: 2x115hp Johnson two-stroke

CoastCraft has a long pedigree in offshore boating in Southern African waters, and it’s this pedigree that has proved itself over three decades, making this a very popular craft in the ski-boating fraternity.

Since Waterworld acquired the right to build and market this craft in the early ’nineties, they have not rested on their laurels in terms of design. Indeed, they have continually strived to upgrade the craft both cosmetically and functionally to ensure it projects the style of the 21st century, at the same time enhancing its fishability.

Ronnie Arenson of Waterworld and Tony Lindhorst of Monaco Leisure (an associated company) know the boating game as well, if not better, than any other boat purveyor in South Africa, and their latest redesign of the CoastCat 18 shows it — both visually and “on the water”.

The first sight of a new model or remodelled craft is a mind mix of nostalgia, interest and often excitement. It’s a case of what have they retained, what’s new, and the big questions — do I like it and does it work?

When I first viewed the CoastCat 18 I immediately recognised her CoastCraft hull, but the top deck design drew my full attention. The new design, using modern GRP moulding techniques, has resulted in a remarkably good-looking craft that is extremely practical in operation.

I had fished the day before the test in a lumpy sea caused by some forces out in the ocean. It was lousy. Add to this a south-easterly that blew during the night and the swing of the wind to a progressively increasing north-easter, and I had an “interesting” sea in which to test the CoastCat 18.

Yet, as it turned out, the two craft I tested were large enough to tackle what was presented to us, thereby allowing me to experience them under all conditions, apart from high speed runs in flat water.

Tony towed the CoastCat to Durban from Johannesburg in remarkable time with his 3-litre Nissan 4×4. So, disregarding how well he said she towed, I concluded that he must have made the journey in just on seven hours.

The Nissan also launched the CoastCat very easily into the shore dump from the beach at Vetch’s. Due to a mix-up in available crew, I was destined to take out the CoastCat “man alone”, while Tony and the driver of the other vehicle launched the bigger Trophy sportfisher in Durban harbour.

With very little effort and minimal help, the CoastCat 18 was turned around and out beyond the shore dump in no time at all.

Loading the CoastCat after the test presented a little more of a problem. As it turned out, the modifications undertaken to allow the motors to kick up on beaching were not as successful as they should have been, and I did not manage to run her up onto hard sand. This, together with an excessively large guiding bar welded at the back of the trailer, caused us some problems winching her onto the otherwise well-presented and extremely sturdy trailer.

Bombardier, through its South African distributor, Boating Distributors, markets Johnson and Evinrude outboard motors in Southern Africa. Through corporate connection, Monaco Leisure of Bryanston promotes the range.

Twin 115hp Johnson two-stroke motors had been fitted to the CoastCat. I well remember testing them in Greece a year or so ago and was eager to see how they performed at sea on a ski-boat.

My words to Tony were, “Why have you put so much power on the craft? I know 90s would be more than sufficient.”

His reply was that as the 115hp motors weigh the same as the 90s, and the prices only marginally different, therefore why not have the extra horsepower?

On the ocean the power was awesome, and as they were swinging 19-pitch props, I could seldom push the throttle over 3 500/3 800 revs in the prevailing sea, for — to put it mildly — the craft was too fast.

The binnacle-style control box was neat and very smooth in operation. I initially had trouble getting used to both trim buttons being on one lever, but once I got used to it I found it very practical.
Following the launch, while getting the motors running and set — and getting to know them — my mind went back to my first impressions of the craft. Yes, her above-deck styling and configuration. It straight away felt that I had more boat around me, due primarily to the well designed and substantial forward console.

Not only has the console height been increased, but wind deflectors have been added on the top of the perspex windscreen, and they suited my height perfectly. I was extremely well-protected from the wind and any spray that might have been thrown. Yes, I liked it — very much.

On the converse, the hull performance was a replay of many, many hours at sea on a CoastCraft. This tried and tested hull design worked well.

I mention this because of the effect the two bigger motors and any additional windage, caused by the revamped superstructure, might have had on the craft’s performance. I had to make sure that hull-over-water performance was the same — or had it been affected?

Initially I thought it had indeed been affected, but after getting the feel of the motors and adjusting the trims satisfactorily, the CoastCraft traditional ride returned.

The powerful motors did, however, have a number of advantages over the performance I would have expected from, say, twin 90s. In the first instance, the torque produced from the 115hp motors via the 19-pitch props was, to put it mildly, awesome. She was out of the hole and onto the plane almost instantaneously. However, one has to be sure the motor trim is well “tucked in”.

I found in tight surf conditions, where you don’t want bow lift, any trim on the motors lifted the CoastCat 18’s bow too much.

Her turning was very tight and I experienced no cavitation. It was while pulling the craft out of a tight turn that I had also to control and, to a degree, restrain the power at my disposal. A little too much throttle, and pulling her out of a turn was a little difficult. When, however, the bite of the props was needed after exiting a very tight turn, minimal throttle got her onto the plane and racing for the gap.

During long runs directly into the easterly chop — and taking it on either bow quarter — she rode well at 3 200 revs which gave me an SOG of approximately 18 knots. In that sea I considered it a sustainable, comfortable speed that wouldn’t pound the crew to death or soak them. Of the latter I was impressed with the new forward console protection against any spray that was thrown.

When I tried to open the throttle, the sea conditions prevented any sustained high speed, and it was just plain stupid to force it.

On a reciprocal bearing she rode beautifully. I lifted the bow slightly and ran with, as well as outrunning, the easterly swell and chop.

Needless to say, on one motor she got onto the plane reasonably easily, but once the motor in question got its revs up, she flew, necessitating much backing off of the throttle.

During all other trials at slow and fast troll speeds, as well as drifting, the CoastCat 18 did everything as well if not better than her predecessors have done over three decades.

I think by now you will have gathered that I liked the newly designed forward console setup very much. A lot of thought has been put into it and the craft’s beauty is definitely not only skin deep. Nice and elegant as she is, she is also extremely practical and comfortable during one’s time on the ocean.

In redesigning the previously very basic forward console top deck styling and using modern moulding techniques, they have incorporated into the deck moulding an entire range of functions, from stern to stern. Yes, from the anchor hatches up front to the full console, full transom and motor wells, everything one needs on a ski-boat of this size has been incorporated.

With the forward console area, the front cupboards, sounder and tackle cupboards are well positioned for practical application. The positioning of the motor controls, mounted on a well positioned ledge, not only makes for comfortable skippering, but also allows the manufacturer to hide away unsightly cables and wiring.

In the deck layout, CoastCraft have retained the above deck coffin hatch that holds six cans of fuel, and the padded top cover provides aft seating. Two fair-sized underdeck fish hatches with “postbox” access and two livebait wells aft, provide the standard wet storage required by offshore anglers.

A full transom with incorporated motor wells completes the deck layout and allows for the motor batteries and oil tanks to be neatly tucked away in a position that is practical to access.

Needless to say, the deck surface was carpeted with Flotex that finished off the craft perfectly.

Having also played with an imported craft on the same day, it was interesting to compare the degree of basic finishes attained.

The CoastCat 18 can stand tall. Her GRP moulding was solid, well-styled and exceedingly well finished off. I might add that this aspect was very comparable to the imported craft’s basic moulding and fitment.

After a hull and top deck are moulded and married, the “basic craft” — as I call it — is then added to by money in that this is all it takes to finish off a craft. On the CoastCat 18, sufficient money has been spent to fit her out with most of the fittings, hardware and trimmings that will satisfy the majority of deep sea anglers.
Of importance, however, is that — in my opinion — all the niceties were well fitted, of good quality and nicely positioned.

The new CoastCat 18 by Viking Boats is an old but very new boat on the market. With her pedigree going back many decades and her new look, she will not only appeal to CoastCraft admirers of the past, but is sure to gather a whole lot of new worshippers in the future.

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