Review: Blackdog Cat 5.5SS Cuddy

By: Norman Holtzhausen, Photography by: Norman Holtzhausen


BLACKDOG CAT 5 5SS POWERCAT BLACKDOG CAT 5 5SS POWERCAT
BLACKDOG CAT 5 5SS DASH BLACKDOG CAT 5 5SS DASH
BLACKDOG CAT 5 5SS PORT SIDE BLACKDOG CAT 5 5SS PORT SIDE
BLACKDOG CAT CUDDY BLACKDOG CAT CUDDY
BLACKDOG CAT T TOP BLACKDOG CAT T TOP

The stunning graphics of the Blackdog Cat 5.5SS ensure it doesn’t go unnoticed.

It’s hard to believe just four years have passed since the first Blackdog Cat powercat had us all a-flutter as we took on the surf in a tiller-steered four metre model. More than 140 of these clever aluminium fishing boats (in seven different models) are now in the hands of happy owners around its homeland, New Zealand. So owner, designer and chief engineer Luke Seuren can feel justifiably proud of the growth of his brand and the track record he has built up with these radical boats.

Each Blackdog Cat shares the same basic hull design – two pencil pontoons providing unrivalled stability and space. Each pontoon, constructed of 4mm marine-grade alloy, contains three independently sealed and pressure-tested air chambers to make these boats arguably among the most unsinkable vessels on the water today.

 

BLACKDOG CATS

BLACKDOG CAT 5.5SS CUDDY

The Blackdog Cat 5.5SS is Seuren’s biggest model yet. The cuddy cabin features a walkthrough door, which provides access to the bow for anchoring or beach access. Each pontoon has a flat section, covered in non-slip mat, which could be used when fishing or swimming, but with no bow rails.

The Blackdog Cat 5.5SS has just two seats, upholstered plastic numbers fitted to welded pods. These are non-adjustable but have a movable bolster that swings down from a back-support position to extend the lower part. The pods also provide storage space for small items underneath, while the angle of the pods maximizes cockpit floor space.

The skipper’s position is comfortable, with a welded footrest, although I found the seat slightly too far from the steering wheel, but this could be customised to suit. The large flat dash is dominated by the Lowrance HDS-10 colour GPS/chartplotter, a fantastic unit with 3D maps. Electronic gauges for the Yamaha outboard motor fill the dash, alongside a Uniden VHF. I would have liked to see another grab-handle welded to the hull for the skipper, because apart from the steering wheel, the only thing worth holding onto was the edge of the windscreen.

 

LAYOUT

BLACKDOG CAT 5.5SS COCKPIT

The deck is aluminum checkerplate, with optional tube mat sitting on top. The pontoons have an additional section welded on top to raise the gunwale height while also providing a generous parcel shelf for loose items. This increased gunwale height provides thigh support when standing, but it’s also just right for sitting on.

The transom is dominated by a black bait station, containing a livebait tank accessed by lifting up the baitboard. The starboard side of the transom has the battery storage – lifted well clear of the deck – while the port side gets a storage compartment. A bilge pump tucked under the transom takes care of any water that gets in, although since the deck is just above water height, there shouldn’t be much need for this.

 

HANDLING AND RIDE

BLACKDOG CAT 5.5

Despite the morning’s fair forecast the wind had built up to a fresh 15–20kt easterly by the time we launched from a private ramp among the ships of Port Whangarei. Our target was Bream Head, some 12nm from the inner harbor, and we could see that conditions were getting progressively worse.

By the time we were clear of the harbour entrance and into Bream Bay we had a swell of nearly one metre running and whitecaps coming at us from the stern quarter. In many boats, this means trimming the motor in and slowing down to control the tendency to surf down the waves. In the Blackdog though, the correct response was the reverse – go faster!

So we whipped her up to 25kts and largely skimmed across the wave tops. The ride in this cat is something that needs to be experienced, as the twin hulls trapped air and provided soft landings. Think bouncy castle and you have the idea. There’s no crash and bang of a conventional monohull and while the quartering swell did try to rock us, by keeping the speed up we nearly eliminated those effects. The hydraulic steering is very light and responsive and it was no sweat to actively steer from swell top to swell top.

 

FISHABILITY

BLACKDOG CAT 5.5SS DECK

This boat is ideally suited to divers as well as many styles of fishing, and I’d come prepared. Parked in the lee of Mouitaha Island I geared up and the huge cockpit made this very easy. The broad flat gunwales also simplify single-handedly putting on a BCD and dive tank – a task that is a struggle on most boats.

After finding a couple of crayfish that wanted to come home with me, I surfaced to find Seuren and the photo boat had disappeared. Oh, well. Climbing back on board is simple enough, even single-handed, thanks to the low boarding platform and T-style ladder, which means it can be used even with fins still on your feet. I had just finished stripping off my gear and was drying off when an apologetic Seuren arrived back, explaining that he spotted a workup a few hundred meters away and just had to go and throw a stickbait at the massive school of Kahawai. And who wouldn’t?

 

THE VERDICT

BLACKDOG CAT 5.5SS CABIN

Coming back into Whangarei the wind had dropped just fractionally, so once inside the sheltered inner water we were able to put the hammer down. The big Yamaha 150hp outboard jumped forward well in excess of 35kts, with a bit more grunt still left in reserve. This was despite two adults, a nearly full fuel tank and dive gear on board. So I have no doubt the 5.5SS would perform extremely well with a 135hp motor or even the minimum recommended 115hp. But after experiencing the power of 150 horses one might ask, why not have the power in reserve?

Back at the ramp the boat was easily loaded single-handed onto the custom trailer, thanks to wheels on the guide bars which run down the centre of the hull. It is impossible to go wrong, and after powering onto the trailer, the skipper can lean over the bow and hook the winch up without getting wet.

Even as a self-confessed fan of twin hull boats, this is one of the best I have tested. It is the first boat I have been able to rate a 10 out of 10 both for handling and stability.

Of course, it is a bit unfair to compare it to a monohull, but hey, life isn’t always fair!

 

HIGHS

  • The stability
  • The performance at speed

 

LOWS

  • Grab handles everywhere – except for the helm position.

 

BLACKDOG CAT 5.5SS (CUDDY CABIN) SPECIFICATIONS

 

PRICE AS TESTED

Blackdog Cat 5.5SS price: $64,000 (subject to exchange rate)

 

STANDARD FEATURES

Integrated buoyancy (2500L), walkthrough cuddy, hydraulic steering, self-draining deck, two swivel seats, nav lights, four-way switch panel with DC outlet, four plastic rod holders, utility bars with ski points, anchorwell, bowsprit and anchor cleat, bow and gunwales non-slip tread, exterior and front hand rails.

 

OPTIONS FITTED

Lowrance HDS7 GPS/sounder, Uniden Solara VHF aerial, boarding ladder, paint and graphics, rocket launcher, bait station and livebait tank.

 

PRICED FROM

$NZ 61,000 (with Yamaha F150 four-stroke outboard motor)

 

GENERAL

TYPE Multi-use cat

MATERIAL Marine-grade aluminium

LENGTH 5.5m

BEAM 2.45m

WEIGHT 780kg (dry)

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE Six

REC. HP 115-150hp

MAX. HP 200hp

FUEL 230L

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Yamaha F150 outboard

TYPE AETOL four-stroke outboard motor

 

MANUFACTURED & SUPPLIED BY

Blackdog Cat,

14 Okara Drive, Whangarei, New Zealand

Tel (+64) 272764 506

Web blackdogcat.co.nz

 

BLACKDOG CAT 5.5SS TRANSOM

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #450, March / April 2014. Why not subscribe today?

Find Black Dog boats for sale.

 


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