REVIEW: BLACKDOG CAT 6.3 WHT

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

Beauty may be only skin deep, but JOHN FORD believes you’ll need a thick skin to be seen in this new cat from New Zealand.

Blackdog -Cat -6.3-WHT

REVIEW: BLACKDOG CAT 6.3 WHT

HIGHS

• Cavernous cabin

• Quality construction

• Utilitarian appeal

LOWS

• Only a mother could love those looks

The popularity of catamarans in Australia is high, and our love of tinnies is a given.

But while there are a handful of twin-hull fibreglass models from which to choose, when it comes to alloy, we seem restricted to the more substantial offerings of brands such as Sailfish or custom builds.

It’s not like local builders haven’t tried.

Webster had a good run with its funky line of cats, before hitting the financial doldrums and floundering a few years back, despite having a brand that filled demand and found support amongst local fisherfolk.

My own involvement with cats goes back to my first offshore boat – a 3.8m Markham Whaler which impressed with its load carrying capacity, fishing room and, thankfully – as it turned out – its unsinkability if you forget to put the bungs in.

So, having an appreciation for twin hull designs, it stirred my interest when I heard that Jason Graham from Aussie Boat Sales ACT and NSW had struck a deal with New Zealand’s Blackdog Cat to distribute the brand on the East Coast.

SINGULAR BEAUTY

Following the success of a small tiller-steered surf cat 10 years ago, Blackdog has now grown to offer a range of "… pontoon boats to access remote locations for fishing, diving and hunting."

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The 6.3m Walkthrough Hard Top on test is the longest model, and when he saw it, Graham recognised its potential to fill a gap in the Aussie boat scene.

When I arrived at the Pittwater ramp for our review, Graham told me the over-engineered construction and the beauty of the welds throughout the boat impressed him.

He further offered that when he went for a ride, it became clear he was on a winner.

But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Graham’s eye must be a little skewed.

While the welds are in fact supreme, and it does look over-engineered, this boat is seriously ugly.

And don’t just take my word for it – there was a Labrador at the ramp that wouldn’t stop barking and growling at it.

MEGA CAB

On the trailer, the shape and size of the pontoons impart a serious intent. The forward and rear sections are built from separate 5083 alloy sheets, and the joining weld marks the change of direction as the bows head skyward to sharp points.

This gives plenty of buoyancy to keep the forward section high out of the water, especially when running into a following sea.

From outside the cabin looks high in comparison to the boat’s length and further adds to the aesthetically-challenged image.

However it did prove roomy and airy once we got on board and provided excellent protection from the chilly 20kt westerly we endured for the test.

The Blackdog launched smoothly from its custom Redco Alloy Series trailer, and we headed for a quiet cove for a look around.

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The single-engine sits on a pod in the centre of the extended transom, so it’s in the exit of the tunnel between the hulls, but far enough back to be in clean water and achieve drive without cavitation.

Swimplatforms sit either side, and the photos hereabouts will show a nifty retractable bracket for the transducer and a fold-down boarding ladder.

PRACTICAL CONCESSIONS

On board, it’s all about fishing.

A plumbed livebait tank is built into the portside access step in the transom, and this includes a transparent panel and a light.

There’s an industrial-strength bait table with storage shelf, washdown hose, side storage shelf with tube matting, rod holders and handholds everywhere, padded side decks broad enough for seating, high sides and sensible footholds.

The full-width hardtop has sliding side windows and a three-piece windscreen for excellent all-round vision and a flow of air when you need it.

Headroom is enormous and there’s room for three to stand behind the helm chairs.

The central window and a low door open out to the bow, where you will find a separate casting deck surrounded by a high rail.

BLACKDOG-CAT-6.3-WHT-4

At the helm are Relaxn chairs with armrests on alloy bases with tackle storage.

Apart from the carpet-lined roof, the padding on the chairs is the only concession to soft furnishing in the cabin, so it has the look of a practical, rather than stylish fit-out, that can be easily cleaned and will withstand rough treatment.

AT THE HELM

Instruments and electronics are laid out in a black non-reflective flat dash ahead of the skipper.

A 10in Garmin 7410 XSV screen serves for both navigation and sounder duties, and there’s a 4in Garmin GM120 screen for diagnostics from the BF200 Honda.

Lower down is a Fusion sound system, Garmin VHF radio and a panel of switches for lights, pumps and accessories.

For our drive we had a 20kt westerly throwing up a short, sharp chop inside Pittwater, that turned into a nasty 1m chop offshore, so we had plenty to challenge the Dog-Cat.

CAT ON THE WATER

It’s a given that driving a catamaran is a different experience and Jason tells me there is a degree of apprehension amongst some buyers.

The advantages though, are that cats have more room, should be more stable at rest and can deliver a softer ride.

Probably the main fear is the way a twin hull will lean out in turns, whereas a mono leans into a corner like a motorbike.

To my mind, the best way to overcome any problem is to respect the quirks of the twin hull and to not drive like an idiot.

BLACKDOG-CAT-6.3-WHT-5

Having said that, we tried our hardest to find the limits of the Blackdog and came away satisfied that you would have to be doing something pretty silly to get into trouble. Progress over the bay chop was soft, and the handling was predictable.

It even seemed to get softer the quicker we went!

At speed, the ride felt different to a mono in that as the boat leaned across the waves, the lower hull became more buoyant as it dipped into the water and forced the cat into a more upright stance.

In the open ocean, the experience was equally impressive.

The landings over bigger waves were soft, and there was no bow steer as the boat came back in contact with the water.

THE WRAP

Pricing for this cat starts at $110,000 and moves to $116,000 ready to go with the lifting transducer bracket, bait table and a Sav winch.

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Just like dog people versus cat people, mono and multihull lovers are different breeds, but this NZ company has tried to steer a happy path amongst them.

Will it convert the one-eyed monohull brigade? Maybe.

If you’re only interested in how your boat looks, then move on, there’s nothing to see here.

But if your "must haves" includes well-engineered, supremely practical fishing boat with loads of room that’s easy to clean and maintain, then check out the new 6.3 WHT. 

SPECIFICATIONS

PRICED FROM
$110,000

OPTIONS FITTED
Lifting transducer bracket, bait table; price includes Sav winch

PRICE AS TESTED
$116,000

GENERAL
MATERIAL 4mm alloy
TYPE Pontoon boat
LENGTH 6.3m
BEAM 2.2m
WEIGHT 1200kg(hull only)

CAPACITIES
PEOPLE 6
FUEL 2x 110L

ENGINE
MAKE/MODEL Honda BF200
TYPE fuel-injected, DOHC V6 four-stroke
RATED HP 150- 200
DISPLACEMENT 3471cc
WEIGHT 277kg
GEAR RATIO 1:1.86
PROPELLER Solas 3-blade 17in

MANUFACTURED BY
Blackdog Cat
Whangarei NZ

SUPPLIED BY
Aussie Boat Sales ACT and NSW
Phone Jason. 0433 531226
Cromer NSW – Batemans Bay NSW – Mitchell ACT
WEB www.aussieboatsales360.com.au

Check out the full review in issue #504 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.

 


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