Tested by Heinrich Kleyn (SKI-BOAT July/August 2009)
AT A GLANCE
Approx weight: 820kg
Fuel capacity: 90 litre
Rated min hp: 90hp x 2hp
Rated max hp: 150hp x 2hp
Power as tested: 2 x 115hp Evinrude E-Tec motors
SOME companies think that with the current economic climate they have to put everything on ice and not spend any money on advertising or development. Then there are others — shall we describe them as “more dynamic”? — who are positive, bite the bullet, work a bit harder for a sale and put a lot of time and effort into development.
This is exactly what Michael Barnes and his team at Mallards Marine are doing during this difficult period. They have designed and developed a new Cobra Cat 630 that has all the credentials to take the market by storm. This craft came about after they had a close look at the old 625 Cobra and the 640 Cobra to see what they could improve upon in their quest to design a near perfect fishing vessel.
Of course, everybody has his own idea of what makes a perfect boat and the way he would like a boat to be, but Mallards’ philosophy of never standing still and always keeping up with the most advanced trends in boat building keeps them on the winning track.
Indeed, the first Cobra Cat 630 that was presented to me looked superb, and I was assured by Mike that they’ve put a lot of effort, time and money into this project.
Like Mallards, I believe there is a market for the bigger ski-boat, but not too big. Although this craft is much bigger than the average ski-boat, they have gone out of their way to make her a little lighter and therefore still very easy to tow.
I’ve followed the progress of the Cobra Cat 630 from the beginning when the mould was made until after the demo boat went into the mould. Indeed, there were a lot of excited people waiting for the first 630 to be put together.
When the bare hull was on the floor in the factory, she did not look that imposing, but once everything was fitted and she was loaded onto the trailer, I suddenly realised how big she really was. Visually, this boat will make an impression wherever she is towed.
I was most impressed with the differences I noticed between the old guard Cobra Cat models and the all-new Cobra Cat 630. Lots of curves have been rounded, changes have been made to the tunnel, and the front console has been moved slightly forward to create more deck space.
The first demo model that came out has been kept plain white which makes her look even more striking.
When I contacted Mike to tell him that I was ready for the test, we were both worried that the sea would be too flat to give her a proper trial. We decided to wait until after midday that day, for once hoping that the wind would pick up. If conditions are too flat, it makes a boat test easy and less challenging for the boat, but a little bit of wind just adds honesty to a craft’s performance and an opportunity to prove her worth.
Neither of us could actually see the sea from inside Durban harbour where we launched at the public slipway, but the local weather bureau assured us that the sea was flat and calm. Much to our surprise, when we actually left the harbour we discovered that the sea was totally on its head.
With a relatively strong east-to-northeasterly blowing at about 15 knots, there were white horses everywhere. The conditions weren’t good at all, so it was going to be a very interesting test …
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
Towing the Cobra Cat 630 went smoothly and easily, even through the Durban traffic. When we pushed her into the water from the slipway in the harbour, she glided off the trailer very easily without any hassles. With a double-axle trailer it is so much easier to control the boat on the road, as well when loading and offloading.
Putting her back on the trailer was also effortless. I imagine that when you have to do a beach launch, it would be simple enough to dump her in the surf from her breakneck trailer without any hassles.
Loading and offloading can be a pain if you don’t do it very often, but if you do it two or three times a week, it becomes dead easy.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
Although Mallards is one of the major Mercury dealers in South Africa, the test boat had been fitted with two 115hp Evinrude E-Tec demo motors to see how they would perform on a Cobra Cat. The motors pushed the 630 effortlessly through the water, and even with just one engine we managed to reach 40km/h. With both motors trimmed to the right height we managed to get to 60km/h. That’s quite impressive if you consider the size of the boat.
The controls were binnacle-mounted cable controls, situated in the front next to the steering, a very nice, smooth combination indeed. Hydraulic steering is a must for engines of this size. Indeed, you would hang onto the steering the whole time if you didn’t have it.
The motors were very smooth, even though they were still new and a little bit on the tight side.
HANDLING AND PERFORMANCE
This is what the boat test is all about — the aspect that all the boat builders fear the most — the moment of truth when we move in behind the steering and push the boat to her limit, and sometimes beyond. After all, it’s our job to see how the boat reacts under all circumstances and to write about it for prospective buyers.
Remember, however, that these are my opinions. Normally, if I’m asked which boat I think is the best, I ask the customer what type of boat he likes, and then I would recommend he tries out all of them in that category. If they’ve got friends who own one of the boats they are interested in, it’s even better if they can tag along one day on a trip out to sea and test drive them to get an idea of how these craft ride.
Back to the Cobra 630 … Performance-wise I really couldn’t fault her, although I would love to try her again with two 140hp four-stroke motors. Personally, I think with a little bit more weight at the back she could perform even better.
With the hydraulic steering, controlling the boat was easy, and considering the sea conditions I must compliment Mallards for once again putting together quite a boat. Even in the rough sea we experienced, I could turn her in any direction and open up without having to worry about cavitation. With the swell she ran beautifully, and even into the swell I had no hassles controlling her. Running sideways into the swell she was even smoother and we were able to maintain a fair speed.
Out the hole, even with the two 115hp E-Tec motors, she was on the plane in less than three seconds. This is the type of boat that could easily be beach-launched through the surf. Just remember, though, that she is a big boat with a lot of life! Tjaart van der Walt from Mallards was riding shotgun, and I saw his eyes bulge a couple of times, but I’m sure he will get over it.
All in all, I could not fault her performance in the surf or out at sea.
Even though this is the smaller sister of the Cobra Cat 700, she will not take a back seat when it comes to performance.
A few changes have been made to the layout of the new Cobra Cat 630 in comparison to the previous models. Firstly, the fish hatches and petrol hatches have been made larger, as has the whole deck. The hatches have also been fitted with a recessed channel that runs along the edges.
This allows water to run off the deck easily and prevents water from running into the hatches whenever you wash the boat or when it rains. I think this feature should have been incorporated on most boats a long time ago.
At the stern they have fitted a splashwell with a false transom and a livebait well with a see-through window. Mallards have made the transom a walkthrough for easy access from behind.
The battery compartments are also in the stern, one on each side. An interesting feature on the demo model is there are no rod holder frames in the stern. Instead they have fitted removable rod holders on the gunnels at the back. This could be altered if a customer prefers raised rod holders at the back, but with rods stored in the gunnels they are out of the way when launching or beaching.
The gunnels are more or less the average man’s knee height, and Mallards have made them a little wider than usual. This makes it easier to walk along the gunnels towards the bow if you need to get to your anchor.
The Cobra Cat 630 is also fitted with outrigger holders on the sides forwhen you decide to go marlin fishing. The demo model had a extra box seat in the middle, but that could be replaced with a fighting chair. The boat comes with a stainless T-top fitted with seven rod holders on top for those who spend a lot of time out at sea and like the shade. If you prefer a hard top, that can also be arranged
The glass windscreen has been replaced with one made of glass-fibre. The electronics were flush-mounted on the front console, but if you prefer to have a drop-in console, Mallards can change it for you. The forward console has big double doors on the port side and a smaller door under the steering for access to the storage cabin in the front.
The finish on this boat is, like all the Cobra Cats, superb, and the craft was beautifully presented.
As mentioned before, this is a boat for the serious fisherman — whether a competition angler or if social fishing is his game. This boat would be suitable for big gamefishing, both trolling the deep ocean as well as the waters closer in where we fish for ’cuda. She’s equally suited to the bottomfisherman who wants to either drift or lie on anchor, because she is as stable a boat as you’ll ever get.
There’s more than enough space to move around without bumping into one another, and is also comfortable if you would like to take customers for a lovely day out at sea.
No one needs reminding that the economy is not in the best of health at the moment, but what provides at least a little ray of a sunshine is that companies like Mallards are still going the extra mile in boat development terms. They are most certainly not waiting for the tide to turn.
If you’re in the market for a boat in this class, it’s certainly worth having a look at the new Cobra Cat 630. If you get the opportunity to test her, grab it with both hands. You won’t be disappointed.