One cool Cat
Most would agree you can never have enough room on any boat, particularly those under five metres in length that are ideal for long-distance towing. BARRY WISEMAN looks at what the Kingfisher 450 Minicat Side Console offers anglers.
The trusty tinnie can go almost anywhere.
They are tough enough to take a few knocks on and off the water, lightweight for towing making long distance travel easy on the wallet, create hardly any drag resistance behind your vehicle, can accommodate a small outboard motor and will store all your baggage and camping gear.
Often the first venture into boating, I recall my first dinghy was a 3m Doggett which sat on the roof rack atop our Valiant sedan almost 50 years ago.
The 4hp Johnson would go in the boot and we would launch at the Colour Patch boat ramp at Augusta to fish the Deadwater at the mouth of the Blackwood River and chase king george whiting back up to Molloy Island.
It also saw plenty of blue manna crabs come aboard in Cockburn Sound and at the Mandurah estuaries.
Within a few years our family of two became three and we outgrew the 3m car topper, plus my father-in-law bought one of the first 4.25m Stacer runabouts with the lean-through windscreen and Evinrude motor on the back. Bloody luxury!
That boat allowed us to venture farther offshore and saw heaps of whiting too, however with four or five people on board we had to be careful when moving about while on board.
Stability is an issue in all craft, but particularly in small vessels and Department of Transport statistics show many deaths at sea in WA happen close to shore when dinghies have capsized.
Often elderly males pulling rock lobster pots have lost their lives when their boat has overturned near a reef.
That’s where the Kingfisher 450SC Minicat comes into its own.
This New Zealand-built plate aluminium vessel is available in assorted sizes and configurations and the review boat was the side console model with the cathedral hull that puts it miles in front of your standard 4.5m boat.
It’s a catamaran, built to suit a single outboard and extremely stable.
I was with skipper Troy from Bunbury’s Sportsmarine and together, we would be close to 250kg in total weight.
With both of us standing on one side, there was hardly a hint of listing – excellent stuff.
Yet the Kingfisher 450 is small enough to launch on your own, does not need much in a powerhouse and the twin hulls come with flotation just in case you take some water over the side.
That is doubtful due to the high freeboard of what is an extremely popular size of craft, for the reasons mentioned earlier.
There are thousands of boats in the 4-5m range travelling the highways or launched at ramps state-wide so why would you not consider what is a very stable and roomy craft.
Plus, the plate aluminium is a huge bonus compared to pressed ali.
In this case 4mm thick on the bottom and sides, and the twin-hull design gives a beam of more than two metres.
The Minicat follows in the wake of the Kingfisher Powercat catamarans, twin-hulled vessels from 6-10m and used by New Zealand’s recreational and commercial fishers.
The company is based at Mount Maunganui on the North Island and offers a range of mono hulls plus custom designed craft.
Available in centre or side console, cuddy cabin and open tiller steer versions, the Kingfisher brand is imported by Greg Collett of Sportsmarine, the biggest marine dealership in the South-West.
On the review boat, the side console is set to starboard, and this vessel was without the pedestal seat that’s available.
Instead, skipper Troy stood behind the helm, enabling him to move freely at will.
Inviting me aboard, I simply walked off the floating jetty and stood on the port rear transom seat and stepped down into the vessel, without any listing.
The rear seats are separated by the transom bait station and a plumbed live-bait tank with fold-down lid/cutting board.
The single battery is housed underneath and available via a hatch cover.
While aluminium rod holders are built into the gunwales, my initial thinking was there’s space for another one each side of the console.
The volume of space on this boat hits you immediately, both in the cockpit and up front on the raised casting platform.
Being a catamaran, the beam amidships is carried through to the bow.
All the deck areas are covered with high density non-slip foam for safety and the raised foredeck has two large storage lockers in the pontoon hull up front.
The anchor well is located up front and flush with the decking.
A low profile has been selected for the grab rails up front so as not to interfere with casting a lure, and navigation lights are located port and starboard.
This no-frills vessel was fitted with a Yamaha F60hp four-stroke motor, which on the review day packed heaps of power.
The Kingfisher 450 is ideal for those shallow-water casting fishers working the rivers and creeks, but if you are more adventurous it is well capable of heading offshore to tackle bottom dwellers or pelagics.
As you head to the bow, the shoulders of this vessel are raised to cope with the offshore chop and the narrow pontoons boast a sharp entry plus acute reverse chines, throwing the water away and down from the vessel to help make a dry boat.
Each hull comes with a bilge pump, the pontoons have sealed flotation and the battery is stored high and dry in the transom bait station console.
The power rating for this hull is 40-60hp and with its clean lines and easy performance, the smaller Yamaha would still make this a very capable rig.
For a small boat, this Kingfisher 450 has plenty to say for itself – stability and high freeboard, plus storage, the main statements.
Keeping the centre of gravity low aids stability and balance, while the deck is lower than the water level on the outside of the hull.
Hence the fitting of bilge pumps in each of the sealed pontoons and no self-draining deck.
The lowered deck means the sides are higher, adding to the interior safety factor of this 4.5m boat.
For bathers, snorkelers and scuba divers, there is a ladder on the port marlin board and the side pockets are large enough to hold ropes and tackle.
There’s room between the two front hatches on the forward bulkhead to mount dive cylinder racks or extra rod holders.
There’s a large dash on the side console and in this case it was left vacant, allowing the decision on electronics up to the buyer.
Most may want to fit a windscreen and opt for deck mountings for a pair of pedestal seats. Again, that’s up to you.
Yamaha’s remote control was fixed on the starboard side and at a comfortable height when standing at the helm.
Adding strength to the hull, the designers have gone for a very solid box tube between the pontoons at the bow, which also doubles as a wave breaker to help tunnel the water through the two hulls.
When the power is applied the water and air is forced through the tunnel, giving the boat lift.
Plus, the sharp entry of each pontoon slices through the water with little resistance.
The lift is even, and the vessel remains level as power is increased true to course.
It turns without any resistance that you might expect from two parallel hulls cutting through the water.
Of course, one of the main attractions of any cathedral-designed boat is the load-taking capacity.
Any weight is spread across the whole load footprint area, not one side or the other as with a mono hull where equal weight distribution is required.
That is what makes this vessel attractive for recreational rock lobster fishers.
Pots can be stored on the big foredeck, and winch or hand hauling to retrieve them spreads the weight factor across the two pontoons and the sealed flotation in those twin hulls makes this vessel unsinkable.
Another huge plus is the Minicat gives a softer ride than a mono when the south-westerly is blowing at daybreak, and you are heading into it or side on.
You have two pontoons and a low deck to keep the centre of gravity down close to water level, there is a raised section of deck along the centreline of the vessel.
This certainly adds strength to the whole boat and will take a little getting used to as you move about the interior.
The inside decking is not totally flat, so you must get used to striding over or onto the 150mm raised centreline underfoot, but it’s not a problem once you know it’s there.
The Kingfisher 450SC is a tough, no-fuss, fishing, crabbing and diving machine, and I would think the cuddy cabin and centre console siblings would perform in the same sturdy and agile manner.
The tiller steer version would give you even more space.
The review boat was mounted on a single-axle trailer and was unpainted, making it extremely easy to check the workmanship.
All the aluminium welding was clearly visible and was first class.
Owners can request painted hulls, a poly clear coating or vinyl wrap if they choose, plus T-top and rocket launchers.
Whatever boaters require, New Zealand’s Kingfisher Boats and Powercats can provide.
Sportsmarine is solely a Yamaha dealership and supplies whatever powerpack you need on the transom, plus safety gear.
NUTS & BOLTS
- MODEL: Kingfisher 450SC Minicat
- OVERALL LENGTH: 4.5m
- BEAM: 2.07m
- DRAFT: 250mm
- HULL WEIGHT: 400kg
- BOTTOM: 4mm
- SIDES: 4mm
- TRANSOM HEIGHT: 50cm
- POWER: Yamaha F60hp four-stroke (40-60hp)
- MANUFACTUER: Kingfisher Boats and Powercats; Mount Maunganui, New Zealand; www.kingfisherboats.co.nz
- AGENT: Sportsmarine Boat Centre; 57 Strickland Street, Bunbury; Ph: (08) 9721 4390; www.sportsmarine.com.au
- PRICING: $53,000 as reviewed.
PROS & CONS
- A spacious and very stable small boat
- Available in bare aluminium, painted or with vinyl wrap
- First-class workmanship
- Low profile for easy towing
- Safety first – foam-filled sealed pontoons and high interior walls
- Sturdy wave breaker and fine entry pontoons provide a soft ride
- Excellent load capacity; 15 per cent more room than traditional mono
- Requires extra mooring cleats along the gunwales
- A couple more rod holders on the bait station would be handy