December 2003 Issue
By John Clemans
 

 
   

Cat Lovers

World Cat owners are passionate about their boats, we learn during the launch of the 33 Tournament Edition in the Bahamas.

Don’t back off!” yelled World Cat Director of Marketing Pete Peterson.

Too late. A wad of water hit him in the chest, drenching his World Cat whites. I’d done it again —succumbed to my natural inclination to slow down when a particularly steep wave loomed ahead. Isn’t that what any sane helmsman would do?

Not the group I was with —World Cat owners all, attending a Bahamas rendezvous organized by the now-soggy Peterson. These guys speed up in steep seas …but they don’t pay the usual price.

I was testing the new World Cat 33 Tournament Edition off Walker’s Cay, the legendary fishing resort just over 100 miles due east of Stuart, Fla. I had the boat pointed northeast into swells straight out of Africa that were being undercut by the tidal flow off the Little Bahama Bank. The result resembled the breakers at Oahu. Most men in monohulls reduce speed in such conditions for fear of replacing water with air beneath their hulls. But that’s exactly what you want to do in a World Cat —catch air!

“Water doesn’t compress, but air does,” enthused World Cat President Mike O ’Connell during a recent tour of the World Cat factory in Tarboro, N.C. “It cushions the ride.” And when a World Cat reenters the water, its sharply-veed twin hulls offer nothing flat for seas to slam against —which renders the ride softer still.

I remember my first demo ride in a World Cat. The driver seemed hell bent on compressing not air, but our knee joints and vertebrae as he headed into a serious head sea at full speed. Up we went, and down we came. I braced myself for the expected impact. But it wasn’t there.

Off Walker’s, what I’d been guilty of by slowing the 33 was causing the bow to “sneeze.” That’s what happens when air trapped between the hulls is forced out the front end of the tunnel, carrying water with it. At trolling speed, you can trim the engines to achieve an attitude that stifles the sneeze in a head sea. But sneezes happen. (I believe all boats benefit from trim tabs, but World Cat claims they’re not needed.)

World Cat owners are experts on the dynamics of their craft —owners like Jeff Eder of Boynton Beach, Fla., an ex-Viking captain. “I did a lot of research before buying a boat of my own, because I needed something suitable for running the Boynton inlet, one of the roughest on the East Coast. The choice came down to two catamarans,” he told me at the rendezvous. Eder settled on a cuddy cabin World Cat 266SF…and was soon glad that he had. On a run out the inlet with his little boy, Jake, in six-foot breaking seas, he inadvertently pulled the kill switch lanyard“. The boat went sideways to the sea and I couldn’t restart the engines [not realizing what he had done]. I thought I’d broach, but the boat was amazingly stable. I’d have been in real trouble in a monohull.”

Like Eder, the other World Cat owners at Walker’s disparaged monohulls as tantamount to bad memories. Seventy-year-old Dr. Richard Ehlers wouldn’t even have a boat if a monohull were his only option. As it is, he and his wife, Jean, trailered their 266SF across Florida from Sarasota to join the rendezvous fleet led by Chuck Stillwell of Lentine Marine, World Cat ’s dealership in Stuart, Fla.“ At my age, a monohull is too hard on the body,” said “Doc ”Ehlers, who has cleverly customized his 26, including adding an observation tower.

“World Cats appeal to veteran boaters who are sick of pounding,” said O ’Connell, who has been at the manufacturer’s helm for a year now. “It’s a niche market, and our customers, who comprise something of a cult, are our best salesmen. They’re veteran boat owners who are sick of pounding.”

Orders are brisk for the new 330TE, the largest World Cat yet. These power cats may look square, but they’re not for squares. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently bought a 33 to use at his Bermuda vacation residence; and football celeb Terry Bradshaw bought one in Sarasota.

The 33 incorporates the high-tech construction and components that O ’Connell believes make his boats among the best built in the industry. The bottom is all glass, and Klegecel foam coring stiffens the hull-sides. Penske fiber-reinforced urethane is encapsulated in the transom and at other high-stress areas. All rails are welded and through-bolted. PVC tubes protect hoses and wiring. Easily accessed polyethylene fuel tanks are firmly strapped into trays adhered with Plexus to the hull. In short, O ’Connell’s pride in World Cat quality is well founded.

While World Cats are designed with offshore fishing in mind, their soft ride also recommends them as excellent long-range cruisers. Anglers will appreciate the twin 35-gallon, lighted and insulated live wells and the three big fish boxes in the 33. Molded-in toerails; excellent rod storage in the cockpit and cabin (which is mainly for storage, but can sleep one); abundant tackle trays; ample room for a full electronics array, and a fast draining cockpit (six scuppers) are just some of the other features that make the 33 a superb platform for bluewater fishing. The boat can also stalk prey in the shallows, because it can run in only 15 inches of water (draft is a flats boat-like eight inches with the engines up). The gunwale height (mid-thigh aft and waist-high forward) makes the 33 extremely safe. And, of course, the stability is excellent.

One drawback to the 33 is common to most catamarans —its height off the water. Because of the tunnel, the deck is several inches above the waterline. This makes reaching the water from inside the boat impossible. So, while the 33 is ideal for fishing for most offshore species, bill fishing presents a problem. A sail fish’s bill can be reached by raising the fish out of the water with the leader, but with a marlin of any size this would be difficult. Thus, when releasing bill fish from a cat, you often have to leave the hook in the fish.

Some people dislike the somewhat disjointed action cats have in quartering, beam or confused seas. There is less of a predictable “rhythm” to which you can become attuned than there is in a monohull. In other words, the pitch and roll of the boat is more unexpected. Another complaint is that they don’t “bank” in a turn and centrifugal force can throw passengers in the opposite direction from that in which the boat is turning. A sudden, common, sharp swerve by a helmsman to avoid something in the water while at high speed could potentially present a danger. I found these characteristics to be more pronounced in smaller World Cats than in the 33, however. And there are “tricks to driving cats that minimize these traits. The World Cat owners at Walkers assured me that you soon get used to how the boats behave, and unanimously proclaimed the breed’s virtues to far outweigh any vices.

Over and over, I heard the same thing: “you have a bad back ….If you have bad knees ….”

“I ’m getting old,” said Brian Boss of Lake Worth, Fla. (he’s 45). “I was looking for trailerable boat that could go anywhere, but I didn’t want to beat myself to death and come back with a sore back.” His choice was a World Cat 266SC with 130-hp Hondas. “I ’m real happy with the ride and with the Hondas. I’ve never had a problem with them, but I wish I had 200s, especially when the boat is fully loaded,” he said.

Alkis Kourkoulos, a mechanical engineer, accompanied Boss. They met on the World Cat Forum Web site. Said Kourkoulos, “From an engineering standpoint, it makes perfect sense. The two hulls are like two knives that slice through the water.” Kourkoulos fishes the Middle Grounds, 100 miles northwest of Clearwater, Fla., in a 266SC. “I give three-to four-foot seas no thought. What else is there at this length?” he asked.

If he were asking that question about the 33, the answer would be the Glacier Bay 3470, with twin cabins, head and galley and Honda 225s for $229,000 (see “Baja or Bust, ”October). ProSports has a 3660 Sport Cuddy with Yamaha 300 HPDIs for $188,000.

The 33 topped out at over 40 mph with Yamaha 250s. “Expect 50 with the new 300s,” said Peterson. (I’m skeptical.) Yamaha or Honda 225s are the most popular engines in World Cats sold so far. Peterson said they do the same job as the 250s, except for the hole shot.

Brand loyalty aside, I’ve never met so many people so enthusiastic about their boats. World Cat’s “air compressors” are addictive. When the fleet of World Cats left Walker’s, it was rough. The wind was blowing the wrong way —from the west, and they faced over 100 miles of steep head seas. But no one seemed concerned. That kind of evidence is convincing.

©Motor Boating Magazine, December 200
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