Yes it comes from a country of low labour costs, but South African manufacturing has a long history of quality – including boat manufacturing. Seacat’s builders have been making off-the-beach boats for three generations. They build them near Durban on a long stretch of coast with big swell, no protecting reef, and not a single sheltered ramp. Boats have to be tough to cope with a launch straight into surf and a return that sees the boat drive straight up the beach. The 510 gets stainless keel strips to cope with the abrasion, and crash bars to protect the motors if the boat is rolled during either manoeuvre. It is light to ease the manhandling, and this also makes towing easier: practically anything with four wheels can haul its 400kg hull weight.
East coast South Africans do not go day cruising: they go on the ocean to catch fish or to dive, and the Seacat caters purely for those pursuits. Its modest length encompasses a lot of usable deck space and, as for stability; it would have to be aground to be any steadier. Clever layout is part of the reason for the room. Instead of a double transverse seat at the centre console limiting the clearance between the seat and the boat sides, the seat runs fore and aft. This allows it to be bigger, and a bigger seat gets a bigger storage compartment below it.
The two under deck catch tanks are big too. Long enough for major fish, they could house scuba bottles if they were carpet lined. Storage is virtually limitless on this boat: there is a cavern under the fore deck, useful space in the console, and a locker within a central bulge of the transom. A live bait tank sits on top of this locker, fed by a pick-up within the tunnel, although an electric pump is an option.
Rod racks take up the volume within the bulwarks. The space, as well as the racks themselves, is carpet covered. Vertical rod holders also abound, in the coamings and in the Bimini’s rocket launchers.
The Targa carrying the Bimini is something special. Large-section stainless steel, well braced and very competently welded makes a super-rigid frame. These things get hung onto and are called on to handle big loads; a pity most are not this good. For parking under low roofs, unscrewing four wing nuts will lower it. The Targa is far from the only handhold provided, though. There are also coaming grab rails, a bow rail, and a pipe framework around the windscreen.
A pair of 40hp Evinrude ETECs powered the review boat. Unfamiliar with the Seacat, I at first thought we had a case of under powering, but I was completely wrong. At the 5,000rpm that was the maximum we used we reached 31 knots in quick time so more would be available at full throttle. There was probably more efficiency to be had by playing with motor height; this boat was fresh out of the box, and all the fine adjustments had yet to be made.
Steering is dual hydraulic. This gives redundancy and easy adjustment. A three-way valve allows quick correction of the motors’ toe-in, a nightmare task with a single system.
Another desirable feature fitted was the sync-unsync control for the motor’s trim. Once settled on a course in a cat, you want to adjust trim individually to get the ride right. When you have it right you then set to sync, and nose up, nose down happens in unison.
I had a great time playing with throttles and trim buttons. This small boat has great riding characteristics, and it has the charm under some conditions of just riding better with more throttle on.
The only reason more people do not own cats is the price most of them are; the Seacat has removed that obstacle.
Model: Seacat 510
Hull length: 5.10m
Hull weight: 400kg
Motors: 2 x 40hp Evinrude ETEC two-strokes