REVIEW: MICROCAT

By: John Ford, Photography by: John Ford


The Microcat aluminium catamaran is a genuinely new and innovative powerboat that thoroughly impressed John Ford.

Microcat boat catamaran

Editor Angelo SanGiorgio and I were strolling around the Sydney Boat Show when we spotted a little boat on the Honda stand and did a double-take. "That’s a bit different," we informed each other in unison. The boat that had taken us by surprise was the diminutive Microcat, built by Craig Jones from Blue Water Fabrication at Charmhaven on the NSW Central Coast. We got yarning to Craig and before long, we had arranged to test the new jigger on Tuggerah Lake, just a stone’s throw from his factory.

After an inspection of the production facilities a few days later, we headed down to the water and during the drive Craig explained he had originally been asked by his niece to make something that could be towed behind a car for her to practice horse-roping as part of her training for rodeo. Over time the idea evolved into something that could serve a double purpose and could also be towed behind a boat as a watertoy. A light-bulb moment arrived one evening when Craig decided to take it a step further and include a motor — the Microcat was born.

Further evolution saw the Microcat go through six different working designs before it was light, strong and stable enough to be a commercial proposition. Craig started showing it to friends and orders began to flow; he realised he was onto something unique and practical.



 

MICROCAT BOATS

Microcat catamaran

The little Microcat aluminium catamaran is just the shot for getting into shallow waterways as it will float in just 30cm. Because it can be driven by electric or low-horsepower motors it's ideal for sneaking up on fish in the shallows. One customer uses it almost exclusively for prawning on the very productive lake systems around NSW’s Central Coast.

Coupled with the innovative design, there are also some novel approaches to transporting the boat to the water. A slide arrangement has been developed for utes and trailers as well as a system for getting a smaller model onto the top of 4WDs.

Launching is simplicity itself and, without a trailer to wrangle, the Microcat can be launched almost anywhere. When we got to the water Craig backed his ute down the ramp and unhitched the safety chain, slowly reversed the winch and the boat slid into the drink on silicon tracks. Retrieval that afternoon proved just as easy and was accomplished single-handed, even in a stiff westerly.

To say the Microcat is simplicity itself is an understatement. It’s basically two pontoons and a floor with some creature comforts and simple additions to keep things in place. There’s a bimini, seats, baitboard and storage, plus your choice of a 5hp Honda or a Minn Kota for power — that’s pretty much it. But as Craig explained, it took two years and six prototypes to get the hydrodynamics and balance right so it would travel without burying the bow and could turn safely without tipping over. He reckons it’s safe as houses now and defied me to upset it when I had a drive.



 

BUILD PROCESS

Microcat alloy cat rodholder

 

Before we headed off Craig walked me through the build process — I guess to reassure me it was going to handle my weight. Marine-grade aluminium sheets are cut to size and then bent on a digital panbrake before lateral and longitudinal ribs are TIG welded into place. A top sheet is then fixed on each pontoon and pressure tested before the floor and mesh sides are attached. It sounds solid. And with the reassurance that the payload had been tested to 350kg we headed out onto a choppy Tuggerah Lake.

The attraction of boating on Tuggerah Lake was apparent as we motored over very fishy looking sandbanks. Coupled with a backdrop of the café strip at The Entrance over our shoulder, I’m sure I got an occasional whiff of coffee on the breeze.

I’m not going to tell you that with two on board the Microcat is a rocketship, because it’s not. As we headed into a 15kt breeze looking for protected water, the going was sedate with some slop coming aboard and running along the deck. Happily there are storage boxes to keep things dry and there were some simple pedestal seats to keep us off the deck.

We found a sand island near The Entrance and I went ashore to get some images while the skipper did his best to upend the boat in sharp turns, ran around the deck and jumped up and down to demonstrate the Microcat’s stability. There’s not much boat to decorate but Craig has managed to make what is there look attractive with a two-part automotive paint and distinctive graphics.



 

HANDLING AND RIDE

Microcat boat underway

 

When it was my turn Craig demonstrated the driving position, which necessitated lifting the tiller handle of the engine to get the most comfortable grip. Driving directly into the strong run-out tide the little Honda pushed us along at 3.5kts, but with the flow we hit warp speed around 6.5kts, so let’s average it out to a genuine top speed of 5kts. Even at full speed and through sharp turns, it’s incredibly stable for a boat only 3.2m long.

A few standard accessories add usability to the simple layout. Mesh grills along the sides make it safer for kids and provide an anchoring point for eskys and other carry-on items to augment the storage in two open sidepockets. A wet box on the bow has a cutting board on the lid. At the back is a combination bait and barbecue table while strategically placed cleats facilitate mooring. A front-mounted prawning light, some rod holders and the bimini complete the package but Craig pointed out that he has camped on the boat in a swag, so you could say there is optional overnight accommodation.

Because the boat is aimed at fishing I had a few casts into the shallows with a soft plastic — purely for demonstration purposes, of course — and the stability is certainly very good when moving about.



 

THE VERDICT

Microcat mini cat

It’s great to see someone come up with something so fresh and inventive. This is an innovative product that will appeal to many people who like the idea of a boat that is simple, safe and easy to handle.

One has already been utilised by a keen prawner on Lake Macquarie, who has skids set up in his backyard to launch and retrieve. And Craig tells me he has even sold one to a keen surfing photographer who takes it out past the surf break to get some amazing shots.

Development of the range continues and Craig has been experimenting with a 9.9hp engine, which he says stays within the regulations in NSW to avoid registration costs and gets the boat on the plane.

Whether prawning along the shores of a big lake, fishing the reaches of the mighty Murray or chasing down that elusive barra in the crocodile-infested waters of the Top End, the Microcat is a great little boat with a real safety advantage. Starting at $7900 as tested, it also represents great value.



ON THE PLANE...

· Great handling and soft ride

· Huge fun factor

· Very good water access for swimming and diving

· Easy to dock



DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

· Close to the elements





 

MICROCAT SPECIFICATIONS

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $7900

Options fitted: Nil



GENERAL

Type: Catamaran

Material: Aluminium

Length: 3.2m

Beam: 1.6m

We



CAPACITIES

People: 2

Rec. HP: 5

Max. HP: 9.9

Fuel: 15L



ENGINE

Make/model: Honda 5hp

Type: 4-stroke OHV, single cylinder

Weight: 27kg

Displacement: 127cc

Gear ratio: 2.08:1

Propeller: 7 7/8 X 6 3/4in alloy



SUPPLIED & MANUFACTURED BY

Blue Water Fabrication

5/10 O’Hart Cl,

Charmhaven, NSW, 2263.

Tel: (02) 4392 8866

Web: www.bluewaterfabrication.com.au

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #300, October / November 2013

Find Microcat boats for sale.

 


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