June 19, 2003

 
   

Sea Cat 
Back on the Prowl for Fish

By Marshall Brodie

If you are a fan of power catamarans, chances are you will recognize the name Sea Cat.

Jerry Semer, owner of Sea Cat Boats in Titusville, Fla., says the original Sea Cat was the first production outboard catamaran to be built in the United States some 15 years ago. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1990s and Semer purchased the molds, made design changes after soliciting input from fishing guides and anglers, and then reintroduced the Sea Cat boats. 
The Sea Cat line now consists of three center-console boats of 18 feet, 20 feet and 22 feet. I had the opportunity to test Sea Cat's 22 from the Ocean Reef Yacht Club in Key Largo.

It is well equipped for fishing with an 80-quart live well and a huge forward casting deck. That wide-open deck, plus Sea Cat's inherent stability, makes it a great place to cast out your lines.

Under the forward deck is a 160-quart fish box that drains overboard and is accessible through two large hatches supported by struts. The fish box is large in area but shallow. One-inch stainless side rails provide a quick hand-hold if you begin to lose your balance on the fore deck.

Like many catamarans, the high freeboard (the distance from the water line to the top of the gunwale) can make it a long stretch to reach the water to haul in or release a fish. An 8-foot 6-inch beam means plenty of room to move around the cockpit.

Ahead of the big center console is a 94-quart ice chest and cushioned seat for passengers. Standard helm seating includes twin pedestal seats, but I would recommend the optional leaning post as it provides room for an additional cooler underneath it. However, I thought the leaning post was mounted a bit too far from the helm to be comfortable.

Extra storage lies inside the console, accessible through a door under the helm. The securely mounted wiring is tin-coated for corrosion resistance but is lacking a bit in neatness. Engine gauges are grouped together and a lot of panel space is provided for navigation and fishing electronics. It would be nice if cup holders were included.

The optional T-top is sturdy and did not flex.

The aft deck has four access plates to check the fuel-guage senders and hose connections of the dual 55-gallon tanks. The hull is entirely fiberglass and foam composite - no wood is used. Three transverse bulkheads tie the deck and hulls together to create a stiff, unified boat.

Anglers can bring an assortment of rods with storage for four rods in the gunwales, four in the T-top rocket launchers and four in the leaning post.

Powering the test Sea Cat 22 was a pair of Suzuki 115-hp four-strokes, which felt like a perfect match. The boat is rated for up to 280-hp.

Out on the water, the Sea Cat 22 handled the moderate chop fine and stayed dry. The trapped air and water between the hulls of the Sea Cat 22 helped cushion the ride in the chop, especially at faster speeds. We could not find big waves that day, but the boat appeared solid, with no flexing of the deck or the hulls.

Operating a catamaran takes some getting used to if you are accustomed to a conventional deep-V boat. The Sea Cat 22 will lean outward slightly in a sharp turn, more like a car than a boat. The Sea Cat likes to ride with its bow up high. Trimming the motors in forced the bow down, which made it harder to steer a straight course.

Top speed was about 44 mph. Throttling back to 4,000 rpm, my GPS showed a speed of 26 mph. Suzuki engineers calculated that this speed resulted in a good fuel efficiency of 2.8 mpg over 275 miles.

The wide spacing of the outboard motors contributes to excellent handling that makes docking a cinch. With twin 115s, the Sea Cat was able to plane on one motor only, an important characteristic if you need to beat a storm back to port and one motor has broken down.

Some catamarans are prone to a phenomenon called ``sneezing,'' where trapped water and air are suddenly forced from under the bow and into the air in front of you. Though it was not rough, Sea Cat 22 seemed to be largely immune to this. Semer says that a lip under the bow helps redirect spray back down into the water, reducing ``sneeze.''

A trailer designed especially for the Sea Cat makes launching and retrieval a one-person operation, according to Semer. But, with its comfortable ride and space for fishing, you are likely to have plenty of company.

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Marshall Brodie writes about boats for Wheels & Waves. He can be reached by e-mail at mbboating@yahoo.com.


 
       
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