I met Andrew and Kevin, owners of Atlantic Suzuki, at the Oceana Power Boat club on probably the worst boating day I have ever experienced. It was just as our offices were closing for the 2011 year end break, and I really wasn’t looking forward to this review when I arrived as I knew there were a few ‘unresolved issues’ I had with the big guy upstairs, being on the raw end of a crazy year. I figured that if the Butt Cat has been trusted for years to get commercial fishermen home, then surely I had nothing to worry about? The swell in the bay was pretty big, roughly three metres in height excluding some serious chop, and it had been a while since I’d been to church. With clammy palms, I boarded the craft and we set out into the open ocean.
The Butt Cat 685 is designed as a walk around cabin – which most anglers will agree is the right layout for a number of reasons – if you’re serious about fishing. The 685’s helm console is as big as it can be, which means the walk-around passage between the station and gunwale is a bit small. However, I personally appreciate it being slightly narrow so that I could comfortably wedge myself in while fighting a fish and not feel like I could fall overboard. I would’ve liked for the cushioning at the stern (which keeps your thighs from going dead while angling) to have continued all the way forward, and not stopped just before the helm station.
On the bow, you’ll find two lockers - one for the anchor and another for a variety of items – such as fenders or mooring lines. A stainless bow rail is also found here and complements the craft’s shape. Bow seating is located on the front of the helm station and has ample storage space below. The stern is where you’ll find the benefits of this boat as she is clearly designed and built for sports angling. This is evident in even the smallest detail – such as all corners and edges being rounded to prevent accidents if you fall over during massive swell, etc.
Thought and ingenuity has gone into making the stern console as the sink and the two storage lockers can be swapped around or changed at whim – depending on your preference. Added to its list of uses, this console is mainly used for storage, and gives you the option to add cushions and have plenty of seating to allow an angler to be close to the trawling rods. As you can expect, rod storage is found in the gunwales and a live bait well (with a transparent lid) is located in the transom walkway.
Neat Scotty rod holders have been installed on the trawling bars and a fold-down ladder at the stern allows for maximum ease in landing a fish, or for boarding the craft from the trailer. Once up and locked, this ladder becomes a gate to ensure no accidental ‘man over board’ situations. In the helm station, you’ll find this craft has been nicely set out for the skipper as there’s sufficient ventilation, a good view all around the craft, a comfortable driving position and a few toys to keep you entertained – like the Lowrance HDS 7 M and HDS 5 chart-plotters and fish-finders which have been installed on this Butt Cat 685. This state-of-the-art equipment is sure to put you onto the fish and ensures you come back with the best fishing tales! A huge lockable compartment built into the helm gives you plenty of space to keep life jackets, tackle boxes, towels and much more safely from the elements.
This particular model of Butt Cat measures 6.8 metres and has a beam of 2.6 metres. Although that’s pretty big, it doesn’t seem to show in her weight, which dry and on the trailer, tips the scale at 2.750 tonnes. Powering this craft as reviewed were twin Suzuki 115 HP outboards, which seemed to be perfectly matched for this craft for their weight, efficiency and muscle. In terms of options, you could alternatively choose to mount from twin 90 HP’s to dual 140 HP’s – but it’s my opinion that the option as reviewed would be the best all-round combination. From the club’s jetty, I was hoping for my safe return as a strong north-westerly wind was causing havoc on the water’s surface. We were by far the smallest boat on the water that day, and my nerves were nearly shot after barely being able to see the crest of the next wave through the windscreen as we entered the trough of the swell just passed. With each passing wave, my confidence grew in this Butt Cat, and after a few minutes, I was wishing I had my rod to wet some line. “What wind?”, I thought, with a sudden urge to drink a Captain and Coke! The Butt Cat 685 was nippy, claiming a top speed of 33 knots when we found sheltered water along the harbour wall. Her turning was great too – nice and neatly inwards, which means she’s great for getting you out of tough situations.
The truth be told, I fast became very comfortable on this 685. Upon arrival back at the club, I tried to make a list as to the boats in the same size category I wouldn’t mind experiencing with that same weather. So far, this Butt Cat hasn’t got much competition, I reckon. Since the review, I’ve had a chat on our Facebook fan page (LeisureBoating) with the crafts owner, who only had good things to say about the Butt Cat. Fanie Kloppers commented, “She is stable and loves the Cape Town wind”, and signalled the end to his recent fishing trip, “it was great to be able to get home in rough sea without ever feeling like she was out of her league”. I don’t think I could agree more. Not a word of a lie, the craft drove nicely up the waves and landed softly on the other side, even when the drop off was steep. In a following sea, the engines were trimmed pretty flat and the craft didn’t feel in danger of pitching over. A nice benefit of this craft is that she has two 125-litre built-in fuel tanks. Pair that with the efficiency of those 115 HP Suzuki’s, and that’s plenty of time to catch and release at least three billfish!
A very important role of a boat is to keep its passengers safe, and sometimes, the weather can unexpectedly get very bad, very quick. If I was out that day fishing on the Butt Cat, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it at all. I would’ve stayed out and appreciated the quietness! The Butt Cat with 115 HP’s, on the trailer will cost you R530 000 as standard fare. For more information, contact Atlantic Suzuki on (021) 555 1977.
Full article in the April 2012 issue of Leisure Boating Magazine.