If you've been reading GAFF for any amount of time, you know we do things a little different than the other publications. Our boat reviews are no exception. We don't do write-ups on boats because the manufacturer agrees to advertise with us, instead, we choose boats based on how distinctive they are and how strongly we feel our readers need to know about them. Case in point: the Calcutta 360 Sport Fishing Catamaran, by Calcutta Boats.
Now, I know I lost some of you as soon as you read the word 'catamaran,' and that's unfortunate. It also probably means you don't know as much about cats as you think you do. Here in America, change comes very slowly. Tradition means everything, and our fathers didn't own catamarans. Well, those aren't good enough reasons for me to get beat up out on the water each time I go fishing. Truth is, cats make perfect sense to me. You can either bounce on top of the waves, or you can slice right through them - pretty simple, really. It's also interesting to note more than half of the boats in Australia have cat hulls - and no, they don't have less treacherous seas than us - quite the contrary. It would seem Australians are just a little more interested in function than vanity. If only there were a functional boat that also stroked our American egos.
I don't hide that I like catamarans, but I didn't care for them until I did some research and started fishing out of one from time to time. I too felt they were ugly, boxy and designed with unimaginative lines. Yet, there was no denying the difference the twin hulls made in a bumpy sea. A difference that was evident even after returning to land. Typically, after a day on the high seas in a go-fast, conventional hull center console, your body can be literally beaten down from the constant pounding and thoroughly exhausted from continuously flexing every muscle to either hold on or maintain your footing. Sure it's exciting, so is bull riding, but I'm getting older and I don't like having to go to bed so early.
Apparently, Steve Ellis, the founder of Calcutta Boats, felt the same way back in the mid-90's. He was serious about his tournament fishing, but was desperate to find a good-looking, well-functioning boat that wouldn't wear him and his crew out. With no answers in sight, he set out to build what he believed to be the perfect vessel. A couple years later and after countless hours of R&D with sailboat design expert, Glen Henderson, and other tournament fishing captains, he released the Calcutta 263 CC catamaran. The 263 was everything he had hoped for and Calcutta Boats was off.
Skip ahead to 2006. With about 150 of his 263's turning heads out on the water, Steve decided it was time to design another cat - a big cat, a cat in a category all it's own. With the help of renowned hull designer, John Kiley, the king of all cats was born - the Calcutta 360.
Take another step forward with me to last month. The owner of the very first 360, Bob Clark, his son Trevor, and Calcutta's DOO, Capt. Sam Bucklou, invite Capt. Chuck Simpson, myself and a few of my good buddies, out for a day of fishing with a couple of GAFF Girls. The big cat, appropriately named Fat Cat sat waiting in the canal behind Bob's beautiful, waterfront home. I was told photos didn't do this boat justice before arriving, but that's what they all say. Turns out, it was an understatement. I simply couldn't believe how truly massive this boat was as I approached it. I wanted to climb on a rooftop with my camera for a better perspective, but like I said, I'm getting old.
I knew right away this boat had the look it would take to bridge the gap in mentalities. This boat was the answer. All of the esthetic issues, which have made marketing catamarans here in the States so difficult, were addressed with a brilliant blend of elegance, sophistication and American machismo.
Viewed from the side or stern, you couldn't tell this wasn't just a handsome center console - a big, fat center console, that is. At fourteen-feet wide, there's no other CC like it. Of course, there's no shortage of 36-foot center consoles out there - even cats - but with these features and at this beam... no. Steve Ellis had created a new category of boat.
Nine of us jumped aboard and marveled at the ridiculous amount of room its layout and width provided, while gliding out of Tampa Bay toward the fishing grounds. The benches fore and aft of the console comfortably sat four to five people each. Even at the helm, there is additional seating on either side of the captain.
Our first stop, after loading the huge, clear, 100-gallon baitwell with greenies under the Skyway Bridge, was the small island known as Egmont Key. Working the shoreline from a boat of this size seemed a little silly at first, but here's where this boat revealed another side of its self. Nosing up to the shallows, about 75-feet from the sand, we were able to sight fish for snook off its enormous front deck. Three of us had more than enough room to cast, while several others shared the deck to help search for fish. A couple of nice linesiders were caught and released, and then the tarpon started rolling through.
The excitement instinctively caused the guys to snatch their rods from the girls and hook on some fresh greenbacks for a chance at jumping one of the silver brutes. Again, the 360 showed its versatility, as Capt. Sam nimbly spun the boat and pursued the lumbering pod. After a half-hour of slinging baits from the vantage point of our floating stage with no takers, a lunch break was agreed upon.
The 360's great size allows for another unique feature - split rooms below the console. You enter a full galley with fridge, microwave and sink on one side, and the enclosed head on the other. That was the first time I'd ever made a sandwich inside a console while a model changed her bikini in the restroom. These things don't normally happen on center consoles. The giant front deck mentioned earlier, is the roof of a very well appointed and spacious Bimini cuddy with twin berths.
Traditionally, catamarans are notorious for having relatively little space, if any, below deck because of their tunnel hulls. However, the asymmetrical planing hulls designed by John Kiley for the 360 improved this problem immensely. His revolutionary design also solved the dilemma of how to get a pair of big engines into a planing cat. High-tech solutions also stemmed the excessive weight problems associated with having essentially two hulls under one boat. The Calcutta has a vacuum-bagged and fully cored Core-Cell hull and stringers, a Nida-Core honeycomb cored deck, and a vinylester skin coat. This shaved 4,500 pounds off its displacement, without losing any strength at all. And with the standard 315 bhp Yanmar diesels mated to 24-inch Bravo Three twin prop outdrives, this big cat runs just over 40 mph.
With our photo opportunities limited by uncooperative fish, Capt. Sam aimed the Fat Cat for the inlet. Fortunately, for Chuck and me, the inlet was a swift-moving jumble of quartering, five-foot waves. We had been hoping for a chance to experience the 360's rough water prowess, and she didn't disappoint. It seemed as if we were somehow cheating, as we smoothly cruised past white-knuckled boaters doing their best to negotiate the unruly peaks and troughs. The cat's ability to snub off the slop was no surprise to me, but Chuck's history with twin hulls was less extensive, so I looked over at him for his approval. He just looked at me grinning, and said something about it riding just like a mono hull... on clouds.
I think this is it folks. I think Calcutta Boats has developed a vessel with an unconventional hull, which diehard conventional hull tournament fishermen and families alike, can finally embrace. The 360 offers so much more than I can possibly write, so please take the time to visit their website at: www.calcuttaboats.com Expect a write-up in the near future on that 263 I keep hearing about.
Length 36' 2"
Weight (dry) 15,000 lbs.
Max Draft 3' 3"
Fuel Capacity 300 gallons
Water 42 gallons
Sleeps 4 (6 optional)
Deck Area 200 square ft.
Fish box Capacity 1841 quarts
Bait Tank Capacity 140 gallons combined
Standard Power T-Yanmar 315 hp Diesel
Optional Power T-Volvo 350 hp Diesel
Certified Test Results (standard power)
rpm mph mpg
900 6.2 5.2
1200 8.2 3.2
1500 9.3 2.1
1800 10.6 1.3
2100 15.2 1.4
2400 20.1 1.6
2700 24.9 1.8
3000 29.1 1.7
3300 33.5 1.5
3600 36.8 1.1
3900 40.7 1.0