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October 26, 2001

World Class Cats 266 SF

Until now, cat-hulled sport-fishers were reserved only for people who appreciated funtionality and ride. Now, World Cat's offshore 26-footer adds styling and flawless design to the genre.

Just a few years ago, Sea Cat enjoyed the prestige of being the first successful production power catamaran builder in the United States. But its boats still needed refinement to take that next step to world-class quality. A man named Forest Munden took over Sea Cat's plant, designed new, more hydrodynamically efficient hulls and ironed out all the remaining bugs. He can now stand behind the new company's name with the knowledge that these truly are offshore boats to be reckoned with.

The night calm hung like a pall over the pass at Sanibel on Florida's southwest coast. Widely spaced 1- to 2-foot seas barely let you know they were there. My hopes for despicable weather for this outing were dashed. In the spreading dawn, I caught sight of a shrimper tossing out a decent wake on its way to sea. I quickly put us on an intercept course to jump it. But the steep, 3-foot wave turned out to be a non-event. The 266 carved through it unfazed.

Our boat sported twin Yamaha Saltwater Series 200s. At 5,300 rpm we ran a top speed of 53 mph. Being a semi-displacement hull, the 266 doesn't really get on plane. But its response is quick, reaching 30 mph in eight seconds. It even jumped right up and ran beautifully at 30 mph on only one engine. As you'd expect from a cat, the 266 is fuel-efficient, burning a scant 24 1/2 gallons per hour total running at 36 mph.

The wind increased as the sun came up, and the seas grew to 2 to 4 feet with the boat still riding as steady as a rock. In fact, it reminded me of those cartoons where the characters are on a truck or train going over steep hills and the wheels drop into the valleys, but the train stays at the same level.

The 266 SF displays unusual turning characteristics. With the engines trimmed full-down, the boat starts the turn by leaning outward; as you turn tighter it flattens out, until finally with the wheel hard over, it's leaning into the turn. The same thing happens when the engines are trimmed up, although then it gets to a point that you lose enough speed for the bow to actually drop into the turn, and it pivots very sharply.

Ask any professional charter captain who owns a catamaran (and a growing number of captains do) why he made that choice and he'll likely tell you two things. One is that for fishing, you cannot get a more stable platform. And second, cats can handle weather that only much larger boats could handle and do it in perfect comfort and safety.