CatCraft 230: Born Free

Out of Africa.

This boat is part of a new wave of immigrants - cats from South Africa. They come from a world of huge seas and few harbors, often launching off the beach through the surf. Now in the more docile U.S., the CatCraft 23 is being built in Florida. While the best we could dish out on test day was a 20 mph wind with a nasty chop, this little cat ran smoothly and handled predictably. It is sensitive to trim, though, throwing spray until I figured out the proper engine angles for each direction relative to the waves.

The boat feels solid, with no shakes or wiggles from the hull, deck, or hardware. Its layup consists of a diagonally oriented, biaxial, stitched fabric with a foam-filled fiberglass stringer system that includes deck supports and beds for the fuel tank. The deck and transom are cored with structural foam.

The 230 has a roomy 1'9" passthrough between the console and the sidedecks. Its relatively small console means there's not much space at the helm station for your electronics. To get more space, opt for the T-top ($2,495) with its good-size electronics box. The console does have bins for small stuff, though, and a 12-volt outlet. You also get two fire extinguishers, instead of the usual one.

Up forward, there's an insole fishbox to port and a stowage box to starboard that can be fitted with a portable MSD and a snap-in privacy curtain. There are racks for two 9' rods under each gunwale, and the bow platform has a locking stowage box long enough to hold four 8' rods in racks. Up on the foredeck there are lockers for the anchor rode and dock lines, plus a single 8" cleat.

At the transom, there's a 20-gallon baitwell and a bait prep station with a sink and showerhead. There's also a raw-water washdown bib. Cables, wiring, and plumbing are accessible. The fuel tank hardware, however, is under bedded and screwed-down hatches. Other minor gripes: The spring-type hatch holders didn't provide enough support, something the builder says it will change. And the locknuts on the hatch hinges (good) have no washers (bad).

Price for the CatCraft 230 with test power, T-top, and tandem trailer is $48,334. Comparisons? Glacier Bay's 2260 with twin 115-hp Suzuki four-strokes, trailer, and T-top for $60,600. AquaSport's AquaCat 23 with twin 140-hp Suzuki two-strokes runs $54,040 without a trailer or top.

LAST WORD. You don't have to launch off the beach to appreciate how this boat handles in surfer-size seas.

LOA.....23'1" ** **

Beam.....8'6" ** **

Draft.....1'8"

Displacement (lbs., approx.)....3,750

Bridge clearance...8'0"

Minimum cockpit depth........2'0"

Fuel capacity (gal.)...130

Price (w/o power) ..........$24,500

Price (w/test power) ..........$39,746 ****

STANDARD POWER: None. ****

OPTIONAL POWER: Twin outboards up to 250 hp total.

TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 90-hp Mercury four-stroke in-line-4 outboards with 97.4 cid, 3.11" bore x 3.20" stroke, swinging 13 1/2" x 15" three-bladed ss props through 2.07:1 reductions.

STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Hydraulic steering; recessed swim ladder; freshwater shower; raw-water washdown; aerated baitwell; bow anchor roller; portable MSD w/privacy curtain.