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
Far from ordinary, setting the trends for the future, redefining comfort and fishability, this new offering from the Doughertys is an exceptional example of design and craftsmanship that is consistent with their vision: building the best-designed and best-built production boats you can buy.
Everglades Boats has consistently produced boats that are beyond ordinary in every way. They are doing things other boat builders only dream about. Powder-coating all the exposed metal components, building electrical systems to military specifications and providing standard features that others have as options. Simply put, creating long-term value for their owners.
I attended the Everglades Boats Dealer meeting in Edgewater, FL last fall and saw the prototype of the 290 Pilot. It was just a hull with a mock-up console created from a scale model Bob Dougherty built. (Bob is still going strong in his mid-70s and probably has made more important design innovations than anyone in the boating industry. He and his son Stephen are the driving force behind Everglades Boats, and as a team, have built the most successful new boat company in the industry.) There were so many unique and functional aspects to the boat that were just design concepts at that time, we all wondered if it could be pulled together in time for the Miami International Boat Show. Not only was the Everglades 290 Pilot ready, it won the 2005 NMMA Innovation Awards in Miami, sole winner in the Fishing Boats category for innovative achievement.
The 290 Pilot is a day boat with legs. It has enough range for a 250-mile outing with fuel to spare. What this means to the fisherman is the oil rigs and other distant areas are reachable with relative ease. The Command Console allows for all-weather running and converts into a fully-enclosed, Dougherty-designed pilothouse. There is almost no wind noise with the doors on, which makes for a less fatiguing boating experience. This is not a triple engine King Mackerel Tournament speed demon for young guys that like to hang off the tee-top to preserve their dental work and knee joints. It's more akin to a Lexus Sedan than a Corvette. Not to say this is a slow boat by any means--with twin 225 hp Hondas or Yamahas, it will reach out and touch 50 miles an hour.
One of the first things you notice upon boarding this boat is the seating. There is a brilliantly-designed dual-use stern jump seat built for strength and durability using aluminum and epoxy-powder coat. Two handles operate this feature--one deploys the very comfortable seat and the other raises the whole apparatus to reveal the "service entrance". Another piece of 1/4-by-10-inch aluminum C channel across the stringers supports two starting and one house battery that are held down with a stainless steel clamping system. Above the batteries is a neat wiring harness for the onboard charging system and battery monitor systems. Below, and within easy reach, are the pumps, thru-hulls and rigging tubes. This is just good design. The circuit breaker panel is above deck for easy access and includes an emergency crossover switch for the engines and batteries. The Fisherman's Transom sports six rod holders and comes complete with a bait prep area, a water spigot and a slide-out cooler. On the starboard side is the transom door, fitted with a very high-quality magnetic latch that secures the door in both the closed and open positions.
Moving forward to the rear of the console you'll find a 66-gallon lighted live well with extra aeration system, surrounded by a truly functional tackle/rigging station. The rigging station features multiple drawers and compartments with ample room for baits, rigs, lures and tackle components. Knife and pliers holders are at your fingertips and the bait well lid doubles as a full-size cutting board. To the right is a sink plumbed for both fresh and saltwater. There is lighting above for night vision as well as a rear spreader light to illuminate the cockpit. Overhead there are six rocket launchers as well as two pointing aft for rigging convenience. Kingfish rod holders--one of the few options on this boat--point out laterally from the rear corners of the top. At your feet is one of two huge, below-deck fish boxes.
Coaming pads and toe rails are incorporated into the gunwales as we move towards the unique "Pilot Console". The console sets this boat apart from the rest. There are two distinct driving positions, both comfortable and selectable by either the passenger or the driver. The retractable bolster can be in the leaning post position, or as a full seat with backrest and footrest molded into the console. There is even an armrest with stainless steel beverage holders between the seats. The dashboard has ample space for flush-mounted electronics and features a retractable, motorized "security shield" to protect the screens and provide a clean look. Our test boat had the Honda Fuel Management system installed which is incorporated into the tachometer and speedometer and tied into the engines ECMs for accuracy.
Overhead, the hardtop's underside features two electronic boxes--one forward above the dash and one aft, between built-in stereo speakers. The underside also features both red L.E.D. lighting for preserving night vision and white L.E.D. lighting. Atop the hardtop are Taco adjustable 18-foot outriggers. They are easily accessed from below with no gymnastic abilities required.
Below this "command center" is a very large step-down shower/head. The head is made of porcelain and utilizes a Y-valve and holding tank. With six feet of headroom and plenty of ventilation, claustrophobia is no longer an issue. You could comfortably read the newspaper in there if you so desired. There is a sink and counter space with plenty of storage and a sump pump in the floor for the overhead shower. This is a great asset to divers as well as to those just wishing to freshen up after a long day on the water.
As we look toward the stern from the bow area, another feature that is unique to this boat becomes apparent--a curved, tempered glass windshield with an automotive style wiper/washer. This is a first on a boat this size and is an extremely useful feature. Below the windshield on the front of the console is an aviation-inspired dual seat, with headrests, that is undeniably comfortable. The bow seating area is nicely cushioned and has two large storage compartments and two lockable rod lockers for eight rods. This area is perfect for sunning or socializing and makes this boat a little more useful than the hardcore fish boats devoid of creature comforts. The bow floor consists of a 160-gallon fish box with pump and drain. On the front of every 290 Pilot is a standard windlass. The anchor locker it feeds will hold enough rode for even the most dedicated deepwater bottom bouncer. High intensity docking lights are built into the hull and are also standard.
The patented RAMCAP(TM) hull is consistent with the Everglades look--with the sweeping, turned-down spray chine around the sharp entry and the 21 degrees of dead rise at the stern. The average dead rise is 37 degrees. This means there is enough vee to soften the seas but not so much as to make the boat unstable at rest. Recessed trim tabs are standard, giving even more control to compensate for load, wind, and sea state. The RAMCAP(TM) process results in a one-piece, rigid hull structure, which is unsinkable and feels and sounds more solid than traditional construction methods. The foam core is high-density and hand-fitted to its structural spaces. Then the hull and deck are vacuum-bonded together for a truly unsinkable boat. This process is unique in the industry.
The Everglades 290 Pilot combines big boat performance with trailerability. A 3/4-ton vehicle will have no problem pulling it, although many will reside in boat lifts. This is a head-turner that can fill the needs of families who play and fish hard and who demand the security of an uncompromising and unsinkable offshore boat for the safest experience on the water.
A little less than 8 months ago, I was strolling along the eastern tip of Dog Island with my wife, Trina, and our two children when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an unusual boat speeding through the water. It was the speed and color that caught my attention. I couldn't guess its length or maker, but ripping past the tip of the island was a solid orange center console with fat twins on the back that appeared to be doing close to 60 mph! Caught off guard by its appearance in this tranquil little setting, I decided, if I could find out who owned it, I needed to do a review of it.
Time slipped by and quite honestly I'd forgotten about the mystery boat and my initial intentions. Then, I received a call from a boat manufacturer called Seminole Marine. Located in Cairo, Georgia, it was only thirty miles from the GAFF offices in Tallahassee. Denny Warren, the VP of sales and marketing, told me about their hot, new SKA tournament-ready, 23 footer. As soon as I realized these were the folks that made Sailfish boats, I decided to pay them a visit.
As with most manufacturers placing quality ahead of quantity, Seminole Marine is not a massive operation. It is clean and orderly and the employees were so focused that they hardly noticed Denny and me as we toured the departments. While weaving our way through the hulls and molds, I suddenly caught a glimpse of a boat that took me back in time. "There it is!" I exclaimed. "That's the orange boat I saw blazing past Dog Island."
"And it's the reason I brought you here," remarked Denny. "Let me introduce you to its owner." Greg Holmstrom is a passionate SKA competitor who heads up the product development department--that is, when he isn't out chasing kings. He's the guy who looks at a boat and says, "Man, there's got to be a better way to use this space," and then creates something that shows up on next year's model as a standard feature.
I told Greg about the day at Dog Island and he remembered it. That day, he was testing some of the tweaks he made to last year's 238. While that boat was hot, the one I was checking out in front of me was smokin' with every improvement he could envision added to the new '04, 238. It was apparent that this boat was designed to win kingfish tournaments. The bright orange hull was solid as a rock, and with a water line length of 22'-5", it easily qualifies for the Southern Kingfish Association's 23-foot class, regardless of the fact that the 238 measures in at 26 feet overall. Even though previous tests show this boat performs outstandingly with a pair of twin 200's, Greg couldn't resist mounting the maximum allowable horse power on the back of this one--twin 250 hp Yamaha HPDI's with custom cowlings and paint to match the hull. To help control this kind of power, Sailfish 238's come with high speed, heavy duty, Lenco trim tabs.
It soon became obvious that no expense was spared in making the 238. Once on board, the first thing I noticed was the massive, 60-gallon live well incorporated into the back of the leaning post. Round and deep, it's plumbed with a 1,100 gallon-per-hour pump that provides complete water exchange every 5 minutes. This boat was made with serious fishermen in mind. From the heavy duty, stainless steel, pop-up hardware and the inset toe rails, to the recessed grab rails and the console foot brace, this boat was made to fish. I especially liked the slough of rod holders across the transom that included places for beverages. Greg even installed a waterproof remote control for the Sirius satellite stereo beside the custom boarding ladder so that he and his team could operate the stereo from the water if they decided to go for a swim.
As much as I was enjoying the tour, I really wanted to experience this boat out on the ocean. Greg was more than happy to oblige, so the next day we found ourselves at a public boat ramp on Timber Island. To say this boat turns heads is an understatement. Nobody has a boat that color orange, and very few people throw 500 horses on the back of a 23-footer. The winds were blowing out of the South at 10-15 knots, creating a one-foot chop on the protected waters between the Carrabelle River mouth and the cut between Dog and St. George Islands. These were perfect conditions for burying the throttles. Pinned to the leaning post and loving it, I noticed the GPS had our speed at 61.5 mph. I can't think of a reason why I would ever want to go any faster than that on the water. Greg backed off just a tad as we entered the cut and encountered the unorganized 3-footers refracting off the beaches to either side of us. This is where the 238's 22- to 24-degree variable deadrise hull showed off as it cut through the tricky conditions. Unlike a lot of the other boats in its class, the Sailfish 238 has a generous bow flare to keep its occupants as dry as possible.
To further get a feel for this tournament rig, I had Greg run her due south for about ten minutes in the sloppy 2- to 3-foot seas. At 50 mph, it was easy to see how a team of anglers could travel great distances in a short amount of time in their efforts to get to the most productive fishing grounds. And with 185 gallons of fuel and twin 5-gallon oil reservoirs, refueling and adding oil during a two-day tournament is now a thing of the past.
Although we made no attempt to wet any hooks, you could see by the layout that this boat would be a breeze to fish from. Efficiency and functionality are always on Greg's mind when he implements a new feature--like the tackle and storage compartments in and around the 238. My favorite feature is the large, recessed, waterproof bin on top of the console. After all, isn't that where all of your junk gets thrown anyway?
I had hoped to learn more about the boat's handling characteristics on our way back to port, especially in a following sea. Unfortunately, at those speeds, there really is no such thing as a following sea.
So what it all boils down to is this: if you are interested in competing on the kingfish tournament circuit in the 23-foot class, you need to check out the Sailfish 238 CC Tournament Edition. I experienced Greg's slightly tricked-out version, but right out of the box, the 238 rocks. Keep in mind that even though this boat was designed for serious king fishermen, those same features make it a great choice for other offshore fishing missions.
I always felt that few things in this world were sexier than those long, sleek, over-powered, deep-v, center consoles that we so often see associated with the Southern Kingfish Association. You know the kind of boat I'm talking about - roaring across three foot seas at fifty-five miles per hour, while the motors are sucking in gas quicker than the cooling systems can suck in water. Even if I never fished again, just coming home to one of those beauties in my driveway would keep a smile on my face and prove to all that drove by that I was a force to be reckoned with in the offshore fishing arena.
If the thought of owning one of those boats makes you feel anything like the way I do... or did, and you would prefer to continue feeling that way, then stop reading now, or get ready to trade that giddy smile in for a look of disbelief.Oh well, your decision.
Anyway, I suppose we have all come across somebody at one time or another that has tried to impress upon us how great a catamaran style boat works in rough chop or heavy seas. I know I have, and I always get that feeling you get when you answer your door on a Sunday afternoon and some odd looking person starts trying to talk you into changing your entire religious belief system while they wait. I mean come on, if there was really a better hull design out there, don't you think the people who make their living screaming cross the oceans looking for fish would be using it? Well, recently, a less argumentative buddy of mine named Paul gave in to the cat pushers hype and decided to see for himself if these double hulled boats were really all they're cracked up to be. He did some research and decided to set up a sea trial with a dealership in Apalachicola, Florida called Wefing's Marine. Wefing's carries several different makes and models of boats, but they're focus as of late has been on a line of catamarans by Twin Vee Power Cats out of Port St. Lucie, Florida.
On the morning of Paul's scheduled sea trial, I received a call from him asking me if I would like to join him in evaluating the performance of the 26' Twin Vee Power Cat. Normally, I would jump at any opportunity to get out on the water, but this day was different. A large tropical storm was pushing through, and no sane people were even on the road, much less, planning a trip out into the Gulf. I tried my tactful best to decline the offer, citing a house full of sick children requiring my constant attention, but it fell on deaf ears. Realizing Paul's determination not to postpone was based on his unrelenting work schedule, I reluctantly gave in. Besides, who in their right mind at Wefing's would match Paul's commitment to go through with the plan anyway? The President, Marc Grove, that's who. In fact, when we called Marc to make sure the plans were still on, he quickly pointed out that as long as the seas were under ten feet, he had no reservations about putting the 26' Twin Vee through its paces.
After several hours of driving through intense wind and rain, we finally pulled into Wefing's Marine. Immediately we were greeted by Marc as he handed us two yellow slickers and hurried us into the tow vehicle. The boat landing was only two blocks away and unless the Coast Guard was there launching a rescue mission, we felt fairly confident we would have the ramp to ourselves. The weather was so bad at times that I honestly thought to myself, this might be the last stupid thing I ever get to do. If not for Marc's enthusiasm and confidence in the vessel, I most certainly would have sat this one out.
Boarding the boat gave me my first real opportunity to survey this unconventional cat. The first thing that strikes you is that it really doesn't look like any other catamaran you've ever seen before. It has a much lower profile than you are used to seeing, and in order to keep the weight and cost down, the designers at Twin Vee opted to go without a liner, which in turn, increased the boats interior space dramatically. And at 25' - 6" in length by 8' - 6" across the beam, this cat has a ton of fishing room. Being that our test boat was the "weekender" model, it was also equipped with a large cuddy cabin sporting a queen size bed, portable head, a sink, and enough storage compartments inside to keep even your wife's belongings out of plain view. Another thing that jumps out at you is the aluminum tube work. It's all oversized from the bow rail and gunwale rails to the elaborate T top, which on this model features a telescoping rear section that when open, provides an additional four feet of shade toward the stern. And speaking of sterns, that's where you'll find the round 35 gallon live well and two bench seats with optional back rests. The helm is starboard and huge, with a large enough leaning post to slide a 128-quart cooler underneath. And there are enough gold anodized rocket launchers on board to invade a small port city.
As we idled away from the docks, I was reminded of how quiet these new four stroke motors are. This boat was being pushed by a pair of Suzuki 140s and with the thumping of the rain, it was impossible to know they were running without watching them pee. Easing out from the protection of the marina, Marc's eyes lit up with excitement as we were greeted by an ugly, whipped up sea. The conditions were just what he was hoping for, 3 to 4 feet without a single white cap missing. It became obvious that this voyage would tell us everything there was to know about this breed of cat. Marc leaned into the throttles, jumping the big boat up on plane with virtually no bow rise, and aimed us straight into the breakers. Now I've been in seas like this plenty of times, less maybe the winds, and I know in these conditions you want to bring your speed down quite a bit so you don't beat your boat or yourself up too badly. So when Marc hit the heavy chop at full speed, I took a death grip to the T top, bent my knees and started looking around for something to use as a mouthpiece.
Now, this is where things got weird. And it's the reason I felt compelled to tell you folks about the Twin Vee. The way this cat handled those conditions was so unlike any other boat I've ever been on that it actually changed the way I look at boats.
You see, while I'm bracing myself for the bone jarring, physical abuse, that I know is about to be inflicted upon me...it never comes. Your body and mind gear up for the punishment that your eyes are telling you is about to take place, but the punishment isn't delivered. Its freaky...it goes against everything you've come to know about the sensations you experience while boating. Paul and I were so amazed, we let go of the top and actually stood in the cockpit, arms crossed, grinning, while Marc kept her pegged at 40 mph. We did a lot of experimenting that morning and learned that unlike conventional mono hulls, the ride in a Twin Vee improves the faster you go. The trick is the air that gets trapped between the sponsons and the underbelly as the boat tries to re-enter the water after launching off of a wave. The faster and harder the boat is about to slam off of a wave, the more air pressure develops under the boat to resist the hard landing. It's almost as if you're in a hover craft, you can feel and hear all the turbulence under the boat, the seas are chaotic all around you, and yet it's steady-as-she-goes on the deck.
A few of the things that I expected to be real sore spots for the catamaran, like spitting out from under the bow, and rocking twice for every wave while at rest, simply aren't a factor with the Twin Vee. If you are traveling slowly into the wind, occasionally the bow would sneeze out a very fine mist, but it was exactly that, a mist, barely enough moisture to cause you to wipe off your sunglasses. Marc even let the boat rest at different angles to the wind so we could get a feel for what it would be like to bottom fish on a lousy day. As it turns out, the cat rocked far less than any monohull boat I've ever been on. In fact, because the buoyancy is positioned under the gunwales, everybody on board could fish off the same side of the boat and barely cause it to tilt.
Another area where the Twin Vee shines is in the fuel efficiency department. At roughly 2,800 lbs., this cat is about half the weight of most boats of similar dimensions. So, with the twin 140 hp Suzuki's, you can expect to get about three miles to the gallon at a cruising speed of 30 mph. And with a pair of 60 gallon tanks, that puts your range safely in the 300+ mile category.
Now, before somebody tries to accuse me of moonlighting as a sales rep for Twin Vee, let me add that I did find a couple of items less than desirable. In the manufacturer's struggle to keep costs down for the consumer while not sacrificing the integrity of the vessel, they let one very important piece of equipment slip by. The bilge pumps. The factory installed pumps are far less than adequate for a boat of this size and in this price range. Fortunately, the solution is quite simple. Immediately upgrade the bilge pumps. Even the good ones are relatively inexpensive and burned up pumps are the last thing you want to discover 60 miles offshore. Another, albeit less threatening, observation I noted is that there are no fish boxes designed into this boat. I guess you know what you'll be doing with that cooler under the leaning post.
All in all, the 26' Twin Vee is a great boat. It's not the sexiest looking boat out there, but the way it handles big seas is something you have to experience for yourself to believe. If you want a lot of boat for your buck, and the thought of being able to cruise in comfort during small craft advisories appeals to you, then you need to put the Twin Vee at the top of your list of boats to test drive.
Incidentally, my buddy Paul was impressed enough to purchase a 26' Twin Vee similar to the boat we tested. On several occasions we've ventured out in four to six foot seas and made a day of it. What's really impressive is when you're cruising along at 30 mph in five foot seas enjoying a beverage, while you're blowing by the big sport fishers that are bashing there way out to sea at a mere 15 knots.
Twin Vee 26' Weekender Specifications
Check out the Twin-Vee Web site to learn more about all of the models they have to offer. www.twinvee.com
A special thanks to Marc Grove of Wefing's Marine in Apalachicola for opening my eyes. www.wefings.com
My first memories of Arima Boats harkens back to my Salmon and Albacore fishing days on the West Coast of Northern California. The water is numbingly cold, cold enough to quickly cause hypothermia resulting in certain death in about 30 minutes. The fact of the matter is the hardy breed of sport fishermen and women that use Arimas to pursue the Albacore tuna and Salmon are very selective about which craft they operate in the big Pacific.
It is common to run 50 miles from the dock in potentially rough and really cold conditions. I was lucky enough to captain a 26' diesel powered boat that was owned by someone other than myself. It was a 26' Fortier built in the North East, a very seaworthy vessel. I also took note of what other boats fisher folk put their faith in, especially the small ones. There is one that everybody knows and that is the venerable Boston Whaler 17 Montauk. The concept of the "unsinkable boat" was quite marketable and had a certain air of invincibility. The regular use of foul weather gear for a casual cruise or a long fishing trip was a detracting feature however, as these boats were not only known as very seaworthy but also very wet and somewhat less than comfortable. I have distinct memories of people on 16' Arimas with the standard soft top up, way out in the Pacific with the "big boys "looking as though the world was right and without discomfort or worry.
Juichi Arima and Don Gross were and still are boat builders based in Seattle. They worked for a company called Fiberform. Fiberform built big boats for the, cruising, and commercial fishing market. There are many Fiberforms still running to this day and have a sterling reputation as a strong and seaworthy West Coast boat. Don and Juichi are both sport fishermen that love the great Salmon, Cod, and Dungeness Crab fisheries, as well as the beautiful cruising opportunities available in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. They felt there was a need for a smaller, but equally seaworthy craft for the sport angler and cruiser. A boat that could be towed by a small to midsize vehicle, kept in ones garage or driveway, and still allow for comfortable and economical use in the less than tropical conditions of the Northwest. Thus, Arima Boats was founded 22 years ago.
Arima Marine is still a small company located in Auburn, Washington. Their model lineup consists of 15' through 22' foot models. The construction technique is totally handmade throughout the entire process utilizing all composite "unsinkable" structural materials and genuine human craftspeople .The designs are concepts that work for the long term with innovations such as foam filled stringer systems, and after planes on the hull which have been widely copied by numerous manufacturers .The early boats were small and tested extensively until the desired results were obtained. One of the many long-term employees told me of a picture of Don and Juch towing a 16 footer behind a Volkswagen Beetle. That gave me a familiar and historical feel to my middle aged sensibilities as well as making a statement to efficiency. Speaking of the long term, the average length of employment for Arima Craftspeople is around 10 years, which is unheard of in the fiberglass industry. Arima has employed a few for 20+ years and that says a lot in my book. A good "non corporate" company with longevity, making a good product is unusual in today's marketplace. Perhaps "old fashioned" is an applicable term.
I now reside on the Gulf of Mexico in Northern Florida. I have developed a new respect for a boat design that is comfortable and capable in the "Square Chop" By that I mean waves that are equal in height to their distance apart. That is a common condition in the Sounds of the Northwest as well as the Great Lakes and the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I think that there is far more challenge in the design and execution of boats when intended for use in these conditions. In the big rolling swells of the Atlantic and the Pacific the challenges of design are different .But if it works in the Square Chop it will work well just about anywhere. Arima has combined the design, quality, and the style to appeal to Gulf Fishermen as well as intercoastal cruisers. It's not a boat based on an image or status or "lifestyle" as much as the reality of years of testing and day-to-day function. That is an enduring statement in itself.
My wife and I recently had the opportunity to sea trial a 17-foot Sea Chaser in a couple different scenarios. That is the model with the smaller cuddy cabin. The feel is of a far larger boat with room to stow amazing amounts of gear and still have what has been termed as the "spousal approval unit " otherwise known as the porta potti. The cockpit is deep and you stand at water level making gaffing or netting an easy job. The side mounted controls [as opposed to a "Center Console"] design allows for front to back utilization of space. Another unique Arima Feature is the forward driving position. The visibility is great and with the 50-degree entry dead rise the ride is excellent even though you are at the front of the boat. The boats are all made to plane with lower horsepower motors at slower speeds than most boats. In rough water it allows you to pick a comfortable speed we were able to make 18 miles an hour in 2-3 foot seas. In bigger swells the boats short length allow it to "fit" in between swells. In smooth water you can still get up and go. The boat we tested had a silky smooth 70 Suzuki 4 stroke. One of the impressions you get immediately is how stable the boat is at rest. The beam is 8' and this is on an 17 foot boat! It is almost as wide as it is long. The boat is capable of comfortably fishing 4 anglers with plenty of gear. The built in insulated fish boxes in the floor save space and there is a cover over the motor that provides a place for cutting bait, rigging tackle, and holding a beverage with the included Aroma Cozies. There are bait wells in the corners of the transom that are quite handy .One is plumbed as a live well and the other is plumbed to the fresh water tank located in the bow. Scenario 1 was a King Mackerel Trolling Day. We ventured out to the reef and found the boat to be really comfy to fish on .We were out about 20 miles and felt very safe and comfortable. Scenario 2 was a Scallop diving trip with another couple .We loaded a 200 Qt. SSI cooler in the back along with all our snorkeling gear, food, etc, and headed west in the intracoastal waterway for an 85 mile round trip to the scallop grounds. Every piece of gear had a place and there was room to spare .The boats draft with all aboard was about 12" and the side mounted dive ladder worked well .The economy was great as we burned just 17 gallons of fuel on our adventure.
This may not be the boat for everybody, but if a boat with a classic design and very high quality construction that serves multiple purposes in an economical way appeals to you, it might just be worth looking at. Their website is: www.arimaboats.com. This site is quite informative and well worth a look .If this sounds like a boat you can use and enjoy contact one of their full service dealers for more information and a sea trial.
When only quality counts.
Once again, this role I play has allowed me the opportunity to meet one of the coolest shipwrights around, and experience one of the... no, I take that back... probably the finest center console in its class in the world. I realize this is a strong statement, but no matter how closely I look, or how carefully I run my hands over her curves, I can't find room for improvement. Yes... still referring to the boat.
The man behind the architectural drawings and 400-grit sandpaper is Larry Bonadeo, the creator of Bonadeo Boatworks in Stuart, Florida. It all started when he was allowed to help build the 63' sport fish he ordered, and then ended up falling in love with the process - all the while, noticing numerous ways he could improve upon the vessel, if given full reign. After earning his 100-ton captain's license, he spent the next couple of years fishing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and brainstorming ways to build better, lighter vessels, through more advanced engineering and materials. Unable to resist his calling, Bonadeo Boatworks was soon formed.
I met Larry the night before we were to take his latest creation, the 34, out for a test ride. To say Larry is the strong silent type would be... well, it would be wrong. He's strong all right, from years of hard work and playing on the seas, but silent he's not. Instead, he's fun, rightfully proud and intensely meticulous - definitely a unique combination, and perfect for what he does. Within five minutes, we were cutting up and laughing like old friends.
The next morning we met at his shop, so I could check out the efforts that go into building a boat of this caliber and meet the rest of the crew responsible for turning it out. The street-front entrance was unexpectedly understated. His team, which includes his two sons, Tony and Dominic, and his wife, Denise, the bookkeeper, were already busy upon our arrival, but each took a moment to introduce themselves and point out their roles. This wasn't the assembly line I was used to seeing. The difference between producing "custom boats" and "production boats" was blatantly obvious. Bonadeo's shop was just that, a shop - albeit, large enough for several vessels to be under construction at once - yet still modest and personable.
The latest 34-footer took up the center of one of the bays. It was just getting ready for its top and electronics, but Larry couldn't wait to show me its features. Even under construction, the boat was so beautiful I had to warm up to climbing around freely. Kinda like your first time in a China shop; hands behind the back, super careful. But, soon it is irresistible and you have to run your hands along the surfaces to further take in the flawless radiuses and sculpted, exotic hardwoods. Seriously, more work goes into the underside of a Bonadeo hatch, than a lot of other boats put into the top of their consoles. Even the bilges are faired and painted.
Next, we took a look at the material and machinery used in the building of the hulls. This is where Larry morphs out of the big, fun guy, and instantly becomes a chemical/naval engineer. As much as it would appear his interests lie in esthetics, his true passion is studying different space-age materials for designing and constructing the toughest, lightest hulls possible.
A massive, custom-built form, resembling a welded web of steel tubing, sat at the back of the room. After weeks of mulling over conceptual ideas with prospective owners and the naval engineer, this is where construction begins. The recipe which has made Bonadeo's boats so sturdy and sought after, involves the process of cold-molded vacuum bagging and resin infusion, utilizing Epoxy resins, Kevlar, carbon fiber, biaxial fiberglass and composite cores. The result is a hard-as-stone hull, which is extremely resistant to both abrasion and penetration. And with the composite cross-linked structural foams available today, they're able to produce lighter, stronger vessels, with positive buoyancy - even in the 60-foot class.
Make no mistake; the Bonadeo's are yacht builders. Larry and Tony's skills make them that. But, their boats of late aren't yachts in size, only in their appointments and quality.
After lunch, we hauled his most recently completed 34 over to the water. This one had a little less brightwork, but a clean boot stripe and a pair of 300 hp Mercury Verados. You'd think we were backing Angelina Jolie into the water, by the amount of attention this boat drew at the landing. Once we made it to the inlet, Larry leaned into the throttles.
Now, I have to admit - and those of you who follow this magazine know where I'm going - it takes a lot for a mono-hull to impress me. Even a big mono-hull bangs on a rough day. So, I was expecting a typical V-hull ride in a beautifully put together boat.
Not even close. It was as if Larry had constructed the hull out of polished iron. This boat takes on waves without the slightest shake or shutter. You don't even hear a thud... nothing. With the practically silent Verados purring behind you, all you hear is the water sheeting out to either side and spilling over itself. Larry attributes the clean release of water to the sharp entry and uninterrupted, super-smooth, modified-bell/waveform hull design sucking onto the surface of the water. Much like the hull of a large sport fisher, but light and considerably faster.
Larry, determined to prove the 34 wasn't "all show and no go," put the boat through a series of high-speed turns. Again I was impressed as the boat dug and banked tightly into the turns - so tight, the first one nearly tossed me out. Eventually, I was given the controls and put the boat through more of a "real world" series of maneuvers - like slamming through the wakes of big sport fishers, just to witness once again how uneventful that can be. This is what a one-piece boat with no weaknesses feels like. It's undeniably solid, and I haven't felt it before. The way the boat cuts through the seas, only slightly effected by the water's surface, gives you the feeling you are piloting a much heavier vessel, but its response to a nudge of the handles brings you back to the fact you're in a maneuverable center console.
Behind the helm, you really are in the lap of luxury. But even with yacht features, this boat wasn't designed to be a cruiser. This boat was designed to fish and all of the tools are there. From the huge, watertight electronics lid, oversized fish boxes and elaborate tackle station aft of the leaning post, to the sculpted cockpit scuppers. Larry likes fishing almost as much as he likes building custom boats.
Wrap Up I learned a good lesson by choosing to write about the Bonadeo 34. I was solidly convinced you couldn't make a conventional hull in the under-40-foot class that could deliver the comfort of a cat hull. This was a real eye opener. Bonadeo has truly figured out the formula for building a boat with a ride like no other in its class. Safety, dependability, fishability, unquestionable quality and good looks - it's all there.
Here's another thing that opened my eyes. You'd expect a custom boat like this to set you back a pretty penny... right? Truth is, Larry's pricing is competitive with that of more familiar, higher-end boats of similar size. Since Bonadeo builds them by hand, one at a time, the sky is the limit on your options. Go all out, or keep it clean, but don't compromise on that hull!
SPECS - Bonadeo 34 Length 33' 11" Beam 9' 11" Draft 22" Fuel 300-420 gallons Horse Power "Owner Specified" Top Speed 50-60 mph Water 40-60 gallons