It isn’t often that something completely different comes along with boats.
In general they are pointy at one end with an engine at the other. The Blackdog Cat is an altogether different kettle of fish though – quite a different vessel indeed.
Blackdog Cat boats are made in New Zealand, home to some shocking rough waterways and also some damn-fine boats.
As the name suggests, these boats are cats – twin hull designs with some fairly serious engineering and safety features.
If there are two words to describe these boats, stability and safety would be first to mind. A close second would be ride, rarely have I been in a boat in rough water that rides like this.
The test boat was provided by Les Heyne at Snowy River Marine at Marlo. If you get a dictionary and look up ‘good bloke’ you will probably see a photo of Les. When we did the test with Les he showed us around the whole estuary system at Marlo, put us up for two nights at his caravan park, fed us and generally looked after us so incredibly well.
Les knows boats pretty much better than anyone I have met – a history of diving offshore around the Cape Conran coastline means plenty of rough water and bar way crossings: Les knows plenty about how and why boats cope with rough water, and this is why he is so confident with this brand of boat.
At first glance of the Blackdog Cat I was a tad apprehensive about their rough water capability, but after talking with Les and spending the best part of four hours on the water I am convinced that these are superb rough water boats.
The test was meant to be for a smaller boat, but a mishap with the engine didn’t allow for an on water test, so we headed out in one Les had in stock, although this was fitted with an old Johnson 90hp 2-stroke engine – although this test is about the boat and not the engine.
So Les saddled up the 4.5m boat and off we went to find some rough water.
One good test for a boat is a barway crossing, and the bar at the mouth of the Snowy River at Marlo is as good as any for some instant rough water. The bar here has benefitted from some great flushes from winter floods, so depth was no trouble at all. Out to sea a gentle swell was pushing some nice waves into the bar, meaning we had some waves!
Once this boat is up on the plane the gap between the two hulls creates a sort of ‘air-cushion’, which, (as weird as this sounds) the rougher the chop, the better it rode.
Slipping out through the bar and the 1m slop presented no drama at all – in fact it simply chewed it up. No slamming, no slapping, just a wonderful scoot out to the open sea.
So good it is that we went over the bar about five or six times. I have a dodgy back, so I chose to stand up and hold onto the grab rail over the windscreen, which has been made a lot bigger and better positioned in the latest model. I probably should have sat down and not been a goose – the ride was great.
When out as sea we scooted along the swell, into the swell, down the swell and diagonally up and down the swell. This boat stayed rock solid and displayed no tendency to be shifty under power as some boats can in this situation.
The funny thing was that once back in the estuary it did tend to shift slightly, however this was due to some weight trimming issues where the fuel load was too far forward and nothing to do with the Blackdog Cat design.
Up front two anglers can sit comfortably side by side, and electronics and other gear can be mounted or stowed with ease.
True to its working boat status, this is all about functionality; if you are looking for a boat with a footbath and piped music then this perhaps isn’t for you. If, however, you are looking for a workmanlike boat perfect for serious fishing and diving action, then this is well worth the consideration and test.
If there is one aspect of a boat that I feel is very important, it is stability. The last thing you want when fishing, especially at sea, is to feel like you can’t lean or stand near the gunnels for fear of the boat tipping too much. This thing is rock solid – make no mistake.
With three of us in the boat, and we are all of 100kg+ stature, it made very little difference to the balance and integrity of the boat. The hull is rated to 90hp, so it certainly isn’t underpowered with a full load of anglers and gear.
There is a massive door/hatch that opens up the middle of the bow to allow super-easy access to anchors and so on, as well as beach landings and so on.
At the stern there is a massive live well/bait tank that is plumbed and pumped to keep the bait fresh for those big-fish targets. The rail over the engine also has plenty of rod storage too – handy for travelling and for trolling.
Add to that a raw water wash down hose and the cutting board and anglers will be very happy.
Storage is straight forward – long pockets run either side of the boat and there is a big glove box and lots of storage under the bow,
This is a safe boat. There are seven compartments in the sponson-style construction that will keep this boat afloat under any circumstances. I have heard some criticisms of this style of construction taking up internal space, but I don’t believe this is the case here – there is loads of room inside this boat for well-organised fishing activity.
Even though we went through plenty of short sharp chop, as no stage was any water getting over the bow, or spray for that matter – these things bring a lot of confidence in a boat.
With pontoon thickness of 3mm and a hull thickness of 2.5mm, this is a strong boat. The transom is 6mm thick, making it a very solid base to hold up to 90hp of outboard power.
This hull design is just made for easy drive on retrieval. Having two hulls makes it easy to design a trailer that aligns to centre, and so it is with this boat.
Fully supported along the hull, this trailer cradles the boat and protects it from anything a rough road dishes out. If this cuddy is your first boat, then rest assured you won’t be embarrassed at the ramp – just drive it straight up the trailer and lock the winch on.
This boat is visually very different than pretty much anything on the market. By just like books, don’t judge this package by the cover.
Underneath the exterior lies an awesome rough water boat that is incredibly stable and very safe. I highly recommend a test drive for anyone in the market for a serious 4.5m boat that can handle the rough stuff and still enjoy the day.