New to Australia from across the ditch, what you see in a New Zealand-built Kingfisher Minicat is what you get, as BARRY WISEMAN reports after testing out the 570 Powercat Centre Console.
As with most plate aluminium vessels from New Zealand, you can see up close the standard of workmanship – the raw welding.
There is no disguising faults with bog and paint which are known to happen.
Not surprisingly the weld ripples on the Kingfisher are faultless, as they should be for a vessel built to suit NZ’s rough open waters which are very much the same as here off our vast west and southern coasts.
The review boat was also unpainted and built tough and capable of taking a few knocks.
When Greg Collett from Bunbury’s Sportsmarine invited me down to look at a new arrival I was unaware of the brand nor style.
Sportsmarine is one of WA’s largest marine dealers and its showrooms boast several major brands of mono hulls and catamarans, all sporting Yamaha motors.
As I approached the ramp at Koombana Bay I could see it was a twin-hulled vessel, but not the usual mammoth cats I have often been out on Bunbury Harbour in.
The review boat was the Kingfisher 570 Powercat Centre Console, the jewel in the company’s Minicat range and complete with a massive full-beam raised casting deck at the bow.
Spaciousness came to mind as skipper Troy invited me aboard.
Stepping on the gunwale from the floating jetty, the next thing to hit me was the stability as I came aboard.
My 100kg-plus weight made not the slightest difference to the way the boat was sitting on the water.
Stability and safety at sea are the catamaran’s significant traits and normally found on large sail and motor vessels, requiring equally large budgets to operate.
Here we had a cat with those very same traits in a vessel measuring less than six metres and with an affordable price.
I later discovered these cathedral hull boats come in smaller sizes down to the Powercat 370, an open dinghy with tiller steering.
No matter the size, the advantage of cats is their stability and load-carrying ability – huge advantages in smaller craft.
POWERCATS V MONOS
Kingfisher Boats is based at Mount Maunganui in NZ’s North Island and it specialises in building plate aluminium vessels in all configurations and sizes, including custom builds, monohulls, Powercats above 6m and the Minicats from 3.7-5.7m.
Whatever size, they come in mono or cathedral hull, sports cabin, centre console or open design.
Their tough build not only makes them very suitable for recreational use, but their load-carrying traits would suit commercial operators.
Plus, if you prefer your vessel sporting a particular colour scheme and decals, that’s not a problem.
The spray gun comes out or a vinyl wrap is customised and applied.
Kingfisher has built a reputation for quality custom-built vessels as well as offering its own range of mono and multi-hull boats.
Buyers can order features they need for their particular experience, whether it be angling, diving or cruising.
The design features two sharp-entry narrow pontoons, with the 570CC sporting a very solid box-design wave breaker at the bow to help cushion the water being forced through the tunnel.
The pontoons slice through the wave, the breaker parting the water between the hulls and soon the boat is lifting as power is applied on the transom.
The result is a smoother ride than you would find in a monohull, plus if there is a side sea as is often the case, the boat still is true to course and the skipper is not fighting to keep the boat heading in its required direction.
Getting up to planing speed was a breeze this day on the ocean outside Bunbury Harbour.
The stability of the ride was most noticeable, either sitting at the helm on the twin reversible-back seats or walking the deck while underway.
Coming to rest and moving about the boat to take my photographs, with Troy and I both to one side and then the other, made no impact on the freeboard.
Heading down to the transom, we both noticed the water level was still below the rear marlin boards.
STORAGE & SPACE GALORE
Up front, a step leads to the large casting platform and because of the twin pontoon design, the 2.3m width of the beam is continued most of the way to the bow.
A rope and anchor well is located under the floor, or a power winch could be mounted next to the bow sprit.
The safety rails here are low profile so as not to hinder rod action.
The side wall plates finish a good 200mm above the deck but if increased height of the railing is needed with youngsters on board, another top rail could easily be ordered.
That’s the beauty of working with aluminium as any additions and customisation are simple for metal fabricators to knock up.
A huge advantage over GPR boats made from expensive moulds.
There are two hatch covers leading to storage under the foredeck and in the front of each pontoon, offering plenty of room to store tackle boxes and extra clothing in case of a weather change.
The foredeck, as with all deck areas on this boat, is covered with high-density, non-slip foam for ease underfoot.
This is a must in our hot climate plus it helps prevent leg fatigue after hours of standing.
The good thing about this foredeck is you can sit on it facing the rear and dangle your line over the side.
The centre console configuration of the review vessel meant plenty of space to move 360 degrees about the vessel, again without affecting the stability.
The T-top bimini is supported by hefty aluminium tubing which is welded and bolted onto the console.
With travelling long distances in mind, the upper structure can be unbolted to lay down in the rear deck area to avoid drag during towing.
The pipe structure carries a bank of four rod holders plus marine radio aerial and masthead anchor light, while the navigation lights are also secured to the console.
A tinted windscreen shields the skipper and passenger from the elements when seated at the exceptionally large helm, which in this case had been left mostly vacant awaiting the buyer’s choice of electronics.
The dash has been designed large enough to accommodate twin nine-inch monitors plus engine and anchor winch gauges.
To starboard, a binnacle has been welded into place to take the engine remote control.
On the dash facia and to the left of the steering wheel, there’s a GME VHF marine radio plus switch panel.
To the right, the Sportsmarine technicians had installed the round digital Yamaha displays for the F130hp four-stroke motor mounted on the transom.
This left the dash totally free for instrumentation.
The two recessed drink holders are also very handy.
This 570 was designed for a single engine fit up, leaving marlin boards port and starboard for bathers and divers.
The ladder is found to the left.
Very often catamarans take two engines, an excellent safety feature. If one fails, one engine should get you home.
As marine technology improves engines have become more dependable and the advent of four-strokes and oil-injection two-stroke motors means fewer problems with stale fuel blocking carburettors.
A single-engine set up also translates to less running costs in fuel and servicing.
The Yamaha 130hp was well matched to the Kingfisher 570 CC and had the vessel on the plane in no time at all.
It was a calm day, and we were soon speeding at a good clip, with the pontoons supplying a super-soft ride and heaps of agility.
Stability was great moving about the vessel at speed and at rest.
Steering was easy and there was no resistance when making tight turns.
Under the floor, the 150-litre fuel tank provides plenty of range.
One thing that does take a little getting used to is the raised interior deck between the pontoons.
Unlike previous cats I have ridden in, the Kingfisher range has a raised section along the centreline which on the 570 is about 300mm.
This design does add greatly to the strength of the vessel and there’s certainly no flexing in the deck.
As mentioned, this was a calm day but in a heavy sea I can see the strength of the vessel’s backbone as a great advantage.
It just means you must get used to walking on that raised deck area when negotiating the aft section of the vessel.
I would have been on the Kingfisher about 90 minutes during our sea trials and within 15 minutes I was comfortable with the layout.
The floor in front of the centre console is flat and includes the step up to the raised foredeck.
Like the sides and marlin boards, the fore and aft decks are also covered with the high-density foam, which helps keep the deck cool in summer and reduce noise levels in aluminium craft.
Again, the welding ripples in the flooring were plain to see and the workmanship was top class.
Across the transom there are port and starboard seats that double as steps when getting aboard.
A console in the middle housed a hatch for the batteries plus the bait station and cutting board.
Lifting the board revealed a plumbed live-bait tank which overflows into the rear transom and engine well.
There are also two rod holders here when baiting up, plus another two on the port and starboard quarters.
The two seats have reversible backs so when the skipper is powering ahead, the co-pilot can face the rear to observe skiers out the back or the kids having fun on a sea biscuit.
Also very handy when you have the rods trolling a lure out the back.
Under the seat box is space to house a large ice box or tackle gear, plus there’s a storage hatch in the front of the centre console with access from the foredeck.
As soon as you approach the Kingfisher 570CC Powercat you can see it is built for tough conditions with the beefed-up bimini pipework around the console providing great support.
The framework carrying the marine canvas shade up top doubles as grab rails when you are alongside the jetty.
The canvas can soon be removed leaving just the framework if you did not want to remove the whole structure for towing long distances.
There’d be little wind resistance from the windscreen, so towing on the tandem-axle Australian-built Pacific brand trailer is a breeze.
A good all-rounder fishing and pleasure craft for towing north or south and well capable of coping with WA’s open waters with stability and load-carrying ability in its favour.
At the time of printing, Sportsmarine in Bunbury was the sole Australian agent for the range of Kingfisher Minicats.
The 4.5m open dinghy side console is also a mover and shaker and will feature in a future review.
It too is made from plate aluminium and when stability and space is so important in a dinghy, the Kingfisher 450 SC is a must see.
NUTS & BOLTS
- MODEL: Kingfisher 570 Powercat Centre Console
- OVERALL LENGTH: 5.7m
- BEAM: 2.33m
- BOTTOM/SIDE/FLOOR PLATE: 4mm
- DRAFT: 350mm
- HULL WEIGHT: 650kg
- POWER: Yamaha F130hp four-stroke (115-150hp)
- MANUFACTURER: Kingfisher Boats, Mount Maunganui, North Island, New Zealand.
- AGENT: Sportsmarine Boat Centre; 57 Strickland Street, Bunbury; Ph: (08) 9721 4390; www.sportsmarine.com.au .
- PRICING: $97,000 including offshore safety gear.
PROS & CONS
- Cathedral hull provides important stability, deck space and load capacity
- Bult tough with workmanship clearly visible
- Unpainted and able to take knocks
- Plenty of fishing space – big casting platform up front
- The Yamaha 130hp motor is well matched – agile performer
- Twin batteries
- Easy towing on tandem-axle trailer
- Built for open waters
- Requires deck cleats port and starboard
- Personally, I would like higher safety rails around the casting deck – something to hang onto in the chop