Power catamarans come into their own when the going gets tough. Put simply, they can handle bumpy offshore conditions like no other boats.
Issue: December 2002
In a perfect world offshore fishos wouldn't need boats like the Kevlacat 2100 Offshore. But in the real world of offshore fishing, coping with weather, more often windy and rough than calm is the norm.
And while any boat can handle calm conditions power catamarans come into their own when the going gets tough. Put simply, they can handle bumpy offshore conditions like no other boats.
Kevlacats are an excellent example of all that's good about power catamarans. The new Kevlacat 5.8m hull is based on their previous 5.2m model.
It was extensively reworked not only to extend its length, but to cope with the added weight of the four-stroke outboards that are so popular now.
There's also a completely new foredeck mould that features a slightly convex curve and lacks sidedecks on the cuddy cabin. These combine to provide significant gains in interior space.
Past generations of Kevlacats were renowned for requiring less power than other power catamarans of their era. For example, early Shark Cats never really gave that legendary power cat performance without heaps of poke strapped to their backs.
In their day, 18' Shark Cats running a pair of 90, or even 115hp V4s, were commonplace. But the Kevlacats of the same era performed remarkably well with only a pair of 70s on their transoms. So you can imagine the raised eyebrows in the Modern Boating team when we found a pair of 115hp Mercury four-strokes gracing the transom of the 2100 Offshore test boat.
With this much power onboard we weren't too surprised when the guy from Kevlacat driving during our performance testing back-peddled quickly after we recorded the boat's top speed in choppy conditions. Kevlacat admitted the test boat was overpowered. Nonetheless, they also pointed out that some 70hp four-strokes weigh exactly the same as the new 115hp Mercurys, so why not have the power if needed.
The factory recommended twin 90hp and the team agree. It was also our that boy oh boy, you'd need to be hauling big loads to need all the power of the 115s.
The only unpleasant thing about the two Mercury four-strokes was their controls. We've seen this new twin binnacle control box work well on other boats, but here, forget it. The Kevlacat guys were most apologetic about not having dealt with whatever was causing them to be stiff and unpredictable.
Any cat takes some getting used to, even more so when they are fitted with individual trim switches for fine tuning of the boat.
A quiet suggestion from Kevlacat's John Postle soon had us on the right track, although the recalcitrant controls continued to make driving difficult.
Still, the controls can be fixed easily enough and that was pretty well the only thing about the Kevlacat 2100 Offshore we didn't like. Various commentators have described the Kevlacats performance at sea as 'a magic carpet ride' and this boat did nothing to lessen that opinion.
Cats take so much in their stride they make rough water handling look easy. So if you are an 'unbeliever' of a power cats legendary handling abilities there's a simple way to become a convert. Simply try to chase one down someday.
The Modern Boating team have been in many bigger mono hulls that would have knocked the tripe out off their occupants running as hard as this boat could in the prevailing conditions. But here we were relaxed on the magic carpet and discussed important things like sex and fishing.
Back inside the Mooloolah River we took time for a close inspection of the boat's interior. We didn't find anything to reduce our already glowing impression of the boat.
Starting at what would be the sharp end of a mono hull, the rounded shape of the 2100 Offshore's cabin may not do much for the boat's looks, but it does add to the space inside the cuddy cabin.
One power catamaran shortcoming is that they don't have the deep central well you find in a mono hull. The effect in this boat is a pair of long, comfortable single bunks with a wide space between them.
The bunks do taper inward and bend upward slightly at the bow end of the sponsons, but that's where the pillows go anyway, so two can expect a comfortable night's sleep onboard.
There's also a portable toilet hidden away under the port bunk. The only downside of the cuddy cabin is that you do have to almost crawl to get inside, but once in it's quite roomy. The cuddy cabin also features a pair of lockable cabin doors for security.
Moving around the sides of the boat to the front, the ground tackle is stored under a large hatch in the carpet lined cabin top. There's an anchor well in front of this behind a divided bowrail and fairlead. The electric anchor winch was an optional extra.
A soft top bimini comes as standard on the 2100 Offshore. Our test boat had an optional hardtop and stainless rocket launcher rod rack, which at $1200 would be hard to pass up.
The helm area is comfortable for both driver and passenger. With the hardtop and clears fitted this area was well protected.
Moulded footrests for both helm and passenger are set in front of the two Reelax seats. The passenger also has a substantial grab bar mounted on the cabin bulkhead.
Kevlacat also adjust the height of the pedestal to suit each customer at the factory prior to delivery. Each seat, or rather their pedestals, was mounted on the top of storage lockers. The one on the passenger's side had been insulated to serve as a decent-sized icebox, while the one under the helm seat was divided into two separate compartments. Upholstered pads on the lids provided extra seating facing aft.
We suspect these would get plenty of use during a day's fishing. Both of the Reelax seats were adjustable fore and aft to allow for passengers with longer or shorter legs, or for the skipper to move the seat out of the way to stand while travelling.
Additional small storage spaces provided beside the seats included a (optional) built-in tackle box beside the passenger seat. The fire extinguisher and EPIRB were in a special recess under the helm seat.
The dash in front of the helm had ample space for the doubled instrumentation of the twin motor installation, plus the all important fish finding and navigational equipment.
In the passenger's seat bulkhead was a recessed radio/stereo compartment with a lockable smoked perspex door.
The cockpit is self-draining, while a full deck mould with raised shelves solves any toes in under leg support problems.
The transom tops contain a pair of bait wells, the port well being plumbed as a livewell. This livewell pump also supplies water to the deck wash hose.
With the 115hp four-strokes and fully tricked up, the test boat had a price tag of $92,500, which is getting up there.
A basic 2100 Offshore will set you back about $78,500 with a pair of Yamaha's two-stroke 90s. The $92,000 cost was buoyed, because all the fittings on this Kevlacat are all top quality, but it only takes a ride in a 2100 Offshore to convince anyone of that this boat is well worth the purchase price.
This boat was powered by a pair of Mercury 115hp four-strokes, this power proving to be excessive, however, the Mercury 115 is similar in weight to other four-strokes of 90 hp and even less in some cases.
Being committed to re-engineering the boat to handle the added weight of four-stroke, fitting the maximum rated 115hp was an experiment by the Kevlacat development crew. We discussed power at some length with Kevlacat on the day and they agreed that a pair of 90's would be better suited.
With a pair of four-blade 17" Trophy props the test boat planed at 10.7 knots pulling 2200rpm. At 3500rpm it cruised at 25 knots, but we all cried enough at 35 knots and 4800rpm with 700rpm still to come.
Story by Warren Steptoe