Since their founding nine years ago, I have followed the development of Blackdog Cat’s boats closely, having been impressed with their performance and ‘fit for purpose’ diving and fishing demeanour.
All the boats ride well and the company has raised the bar when it comes to finish and build quality. While they are catamarans, they have been designed specifically for single engine operation.
In late October I went to Marsden Cove where I jumped on board the Blackdog Cat 6.5 Hardtop with Kevin Ogle. It was an early start for two reasons – the fishing and the weather. The former had been fantastic in Bream Bay with the work-ups close inshore while the latter was forecast to get up to 30 knots later in the day. While it is always good to have a little rough water in which to put a boat through its paces, no-one in their right mind goes out in such conditions on purpose.
Blasting down Whangarei Harbour towards the entrance and open water, the first thing that struck me was the roomy cockpit. Being a catamaran, the 6.5 Hardtop boasts an expansive work space for its length.
A decent Coleman bin sat in the centre of the cockpit below the convenient work station and drawers, leaving plenty of room for four anglers to fish without getting in each other’s way. I liked the gunwale height, and with good toe-room beneath them, it is possible to get solid leverage through your thighs.
When fighting a decent fish, the cambered corner of the baitboard/rigging station will provide welcome back support and something to lean against.
The lighting is all Hella Marine with their latest product, the Sea Hawk 470 light bar, as well as cockpit floods, featuring in the boat. Being LEDs these lights are bright and draw little power.
There is a heap of storage with shelving running the full length of the cockpit, swallowing up gaffs, boat hooks and a myriad of angling paraphernalia. There is plenty of tackle storage in the two drawers beneath the bait board and I counted eight rod holders around the gunwales set up for trolling, a further five across the bait board and six more in the rocket launcher. Certainly, enough rod holders to swallow the combos of all but the worst afflicted tackle-aholics!
There is further storage space under each pedestal seat. Kevin is keen to do overnight missions and plans to utilise one of these spaces for a drawer fridge and the other perhaps for a small freshwater tank.
Batteries are kept up off the floor in their own transom compartment with a handy storage space beside it on the starboard side and the livebait tank below the step-through on the port side. The livebait well would be capable of sustaining at least 30 good-sized jack mackerel.
There is a spacious helm station where the Simrad NSS12 Evo III chart-plotter/sounder has pride of place. Kevin says Simrad is his electronics brand of choice for its simple operation and clear screen. Blackdog Cat has developed a sliding system which allows the transducer to be raised and lowered via a Lenco actuator on the dash to maximise sounder effectiveness. Genius!
A Garmin engine management system links up to the Honda, giving the helmsman a range of information regarding trim, fuel consumption, revs and the like. A Fusion sound system is interfaced with the Simrad – can’t go fishing without sounds, man!
The trim system is ZipWake, operating via two interceptor blades to automatically control pitch and roll. This system is one of the fastest available, reacting quickly to changing conditions without an input from the skipper when set on auto. Manual input is another option, but it has been my experience with ZipWake that it can be ‘set and forget’.
The ground tackle can be deployed from the helm via a SavWinch drum system. If need be, the winch can be accessed via the forward hatch in the cuddy, but the design and operation is such that going forward is not a necessity.
A Simrad VHF and a couple of switch panels, including iPhone charging ports, complete the helm station. The hardtop offers good 180-degree vision, from both standing and seated positions. Sliding side-windows provide good airflow on those hot summer days. Wipers offer clear vision on both the skipper’s and navigator’s windscreens.
The king and queen seating arrangement includes two swivelling pedestal bases and upholstered high-backed seats facing forward with padded seats looking astern, the latter a comfortable spot from which to watch the lures.
With overnighting on his agenda, Kevin has a bunk infill to create a double berth. Given the 1.83m internal beam of the vessel, it would be possible to sleep three, either conventionally, or even across the cabin. A portable toilet is located on the port side of the cuddy. Heating a meal or boiling the billy will be achieved using a portable gas cooker or boat barbecue.
Ice Maiden carries 200 litres of fuel – 100l a side – and given the excellent economy provided by the Honda 200hp outboard, this offers the range to cover off a couple of days’ game fishing. It is possible to extend the fuel capacity to 300 litres.
The Honda 200hp is a good fit for the Blackdog Cat 6.5HT. There is no shortage of horsepower for these easily driven hulls. The manufacturer, working in conjunction with Honda’s technical team, is still working on getting the best out of the combo and included in the mix is coming to terms with the capabilities of the ZipWake trim tab system.
In the calm of the harbour I felt they had yet to find the sweet spot through the mid-range, but once we got out into the rougher water, the hull’s performance was at is best. Given a fistful off throttle, Ice Maiden jumped to attention, dismissing the half-metre chop with ease. Within reason, the faster we went, the more it liked it, something my dodgy knees and back appreciated!
Rough water handling is one of Blackdog’s selling points, whichever way you want to take the conditions on.
There are other options available. These include an electric motor bracket, engine trim plate, vinyl wraps, metallic paint, stone guard and road/overnight covers, dive bottle retainers and fold-up or clip-on seats. Being manufactured from aluminium, Blackdog cats can be fully customised to suit their owner’s needs
In conclusion, I was genuinely impressed with Ice Maiden. Her layout reflects the fishing and diving backgrounds of the Ogle family – dad Kevin and sons Jonny and Luke. They are particularly proud of the 6.5 Hard Top and it thoroughly deserves the many accolades it received from those who were aboard during the recent Auckland On Water Boat Show.
Length (LOA) 6.5m
Recommended HP 175-225
Transom Height 25 inches (0.635m)
Beam: External 2.27m
Internal (gunwale) 1.83m
Internal (floor) 2.03
Gunwale height 0.75m
Hull weight (dry) 1400kg approx.
Tow weight 2000kg approx
Trailer DMW Custom (twin-axle) 2500kg rated
Height on trailer 3.1m
Width on trailer 2.4m
Price as tested $125,000
Packages from $115,000
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