Boat Review Date: June 2017
Author: Mike Brown
NZ aluminium boats are generally built to high standards, but the Blackdog Cat 5.1 sweeps the board. High structural strength is obvious even at first glance. To the more lingering look the welded seams are works of art, the list of built-in inclusions almost endless. The steering gear is fitted by the builder, and not a single hole is required to be drilled by the dealer. Blackdog lays on welded-in pipework for any extra wiring to be led through.
Each pontoon has three airtight compartments. Importers Dinghy World went the belt and braces route on safety and specified that they be filled with EPE closed cell foam. This has the side benefit of greatly quieting hull noise.
One exclusion is a built in fuel tank, although one is available as an option. NZ fishing trips tend to be short, and unless you really need a lot of fuel portables are always better. Fuel gets less time to go stale, condensation is easy to get rid of – your motor will love you. In Blackdog style, brackets are provided to strap a pair of tanks in place.
Space is a big feature, emphasised by an absence of seats. In standard form a box seat is included, but Dinghy World’s experience has been that a high proportion of centre console buyers are more interested in fishing space than in comfortable sitting. It is simpler to add box or pedestal seating to order.
To go with the space is the kind of cat stability that is always surprising in a vessel this small. Sit on a gunwale and nothing much happens, even when another occupant joins you. Five people could be aboard, wandering at random on the chequer plate deck, and the steadiness would probably remain jetty-like.
In the way of small cats the 5.1’s gunwales are not high, but they are a good height for sitting on and wide enough for comfort. They have non-skid material glued on for safe boarding. The space, stability and low gunwales should find favour with divers. To make them even happier there is a superb ladder with just one massive step. It makes an easy climb with the boat on the trailer and an even easier one from the water, aided by well placed grab rails.
An item that has been added is a forward platform with storage below. The platform’s edge is the site of a battery of rod holders, taking the 5.1’s total to 30; an Australian record? The T-top and the bait board are homes for more of them. The T-top is an utterly shake proof item, its frame mounted on a console matching it in strength. This has a single shelf with footprints below to take a pair of batteries. The windscreen is in armour glass, not the more common acrylic.
Unusually for a centre console the 5.1 has a humpbacked foredeck incorporating a good sized anchor well plus the ancillary cleat and bow roller. Either side of the roller a grab rail is recessed; neat and convenient for securing a line or handling the boat onto a trailer. Most of the niceties of fishing are on board, including a bait tank mounted outboard of the transom and the plumbing for a deck wash. No catch tank, but all the room for an esky or two (or should that be chilly bins?).
Power options for the 5.1 range from 80 to 115hp, with 80 possibly on the marginal side. Our 100hp Mercury was a fine match. It put us effortlessly on the plane with minimal bow lift and held likely cruising speeds in the 20s with a small throttle opening. There was plenty left for maximum loads. A pleasing feature of the handling was behaviour in turns: the older generation of cats (and some current ones) lean outwards in turns like frigates do. Disconcerting to anyone, but especially people with little boating under their belts. The Blackdog turned flat.
Three small items illustrate well the builder’s attention to detail. There is an owner’s manual; the side pockets have been lined with reeded matting for rattle prevention; and he even provided a prop cover for trailing. Small but thoughtful.
Price as reviewed AUD $66,000
Towing weight, light, from 910kg
Power range 80-115hp
Motor fitted 100hp Mercury four-stroke