Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman Boat Test

Noosa Cats benefit from a proud heritage, but have evolved and improved considerably since the first Shark Cats revolutionised bar crossing safety and opened up ocean fishing from coastal river mouths. For a seven-metre trailerboat, the Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman’s rough-water potential, enormous deck space and capacity to carry large loads add further benefits for serious offshore fishing.

Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman Boat Test

Boat Test Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman: THIS CAT LEARNED NEW TRICKS
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe

This boat test ran in ISSUE 102 of BlueWater magazine – MAR-APRIL 2014

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

Among the legacy of Shark Cat, none of Bruce Harris’s creations are more legendary than the old 23 footer. It was peerless among bad-water boats and an original 23-foot Shark Cat could still hold its head up today. It’s a remarkably soft-riding and safe seven-metre bluewater fishing boat, particularly if you need to cross a river bar to access offshore waters.

But Shark Cat hasn’t been Shark Cat for years. Although the brand struggled on for some years after Bruce retired, it wasn’t until Wayne Hennig picked up the pieces and Shark Cat morphed into Noosa Cat that things got back on track again. Wayne has developed Noosa Cats a long way from where Bruce left off, and current generation boats can accurately be described as contemporary designs.

The Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman is a vastly different boat to the 23-foot Shark Cat. It’s also a vastly better boat. Wayne retained all the good points of the original, such as a soft ride, rock-solid stability and a self-draining deck, while methodically eliminating all the not-so-good aspects, of which the 23-foot Shark Cat had a few.

Refined Design

While still recognisable as a Shark Cat descendent, the Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman has been tweaked and fine-tuned in many areas. The sponsons have been reshaped until the vessel sits noticeably more level at speed – the characteristic bows-up ‘squat’ of its grandparents is long gone. A lot of attention was also given to dramatically improving spray deflection while the new sponson shapes were under development.

The Noosa Cat tunnel now features a ‘wave breaker’ to soften the slamming impact the original occasionally managed at slow speeds. Perhaps most significantly, the engines are now mounted on pods instead of being bolted directly to the transom as they were back in the day. Pods were all the rage a few years back and a lot of boat builders added them to help their hulls cope with the added weight of 4-stroke outboards.

Noosa Cat also used bolt-on pods as the popularity of 4-strokes boomed, but bolt-on pods were a couple of generations older than those on the boat tested. In fact, this boat’s pods have already been superseded.

The Noosa Cat’s pods, perhaps now more accurately described as engine mounts, are neatly moulded as an integral part of each sponson and achieve far more than simply having the engines outboard. Obviously they help support the additional weight of 4-stroke motors, asthe early bolt-on pods achieved. However, it’s in the boat’s ‘stance’ that the overall effect of the integrated pods on the hull’s performance and ride is most profound.

It’s worth referring back to BlueWater’s (Issue 89) review of the 3000-series Noosa Cat, as the 2300 mould has been changed to incorporate a refinement introduced with the 3000-series’ pods. In that review, Yamaha technician Glenn Gibson remarked how dry the outboard cowls were after sea trials were conducted in some fairly ordinary weather off Noosa Heads.

It’s likely the 2300-series boat we tested for this article is already outdated. This model was powered by a pair of 130hp ‘Saltwater’-series Yamaha 2-stroke outboards. These are ‘old tech’, carburettor V4 engines quite reminiscent of the 135 and 150hp Evinrude and Johnson carburettor 2-strokes that powered the Shark Cats of the past. The newer version is powered by 150hp 4-strokes and performs even better.

At speed, the 130s did what old tech 2-strokes did so well and really boogied along. But from the low end to middle rev-range, it was quite apparent how far electronic fuel-injection and the software controlling it have brought modern 4-stroke motors from the days of float chambers and accelerator pumps!

The modern Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman is designed around 4-stroke outboards in the 115 to150hp bracket, with most owners choosing either Yamaha or Suzuki motors. The 115s weigh in at around 190kg, and 150s at about 220kg.

Carburettor 2-strokes weigh around 170kg for a V4 – like the ones on this boat – and 190kg for a V6. Given that they have to cope with an extra 60kg, it’s easy to see why Noosa Cat had to invest so much effort into upgrading their hulls.

Right Kind Of Cat

Being a cat fan,, I have to admit I got quite a buzz out of running the Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman offshore at speeds even the best monohulls would struggle to match. Without being unkind about it, even people with many years’ monohull experience under their belts have to go through a process of adaptation to drive a cat.

Popular wisdom has it that cats are wet, thirsty and perform poorly at low speeds, but blasting about off Noosa Heads in this specimen only reaffirmed in my mind that these faults, while once (largely) true, have now been relegated to history.

For those who are still unconvinced, I suggest arranging a sea trial with Wayne. At the very least you will be treated to a consummate display of what a good power catamaran can do.

Inside, some of the quirks of the Noosa Cat hull – such as the whopping tunnel through the centre – can never go away. The Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman has a tiny cuddy cabin with minuscule ‘bunks’, lots of bare flowcoat – and that’s about all.

Noosa Cat does offer this hull in other configurations, including a basic Cuddy and HT (hardtop) version, available in different lengths. There’s also a full cabin with a much roomier enclosed cabin and correspondingly smaller cockpit area, as well as a Walkabout or centre-cabin model.

Our 2300 Sportsman has a tiny cuddy and a truly huge cockpit area that’s some 3.8 metres long and 2.1 metres wide. When you consider that a 2300 series Noosa Cat compares favourably with larger boats in terms of rough-water ride and safety, this benefit is backed-up by cockpit space, although it’s somewhat let down by the tiny cuddy.

Customising Options

The cabin bulkhead is simply a vertical wall of gelcoat with the wheel set vertically against it. In the Sportsman model, the helm seat is set atop a moulded box.

Noosa Cats are semi-custom-built and there are several seating options available for the helm area. The cockpit periphery could also use a bit of customising too. The boat we tested was fitted out in a very basic fashion, and therefore suffered from a vertical transom bulkhead that your toes met before your leg became supported. They also had a moulded locker in each aft corner that interfered with the all-important support for the legs around the cockpit periphery. It wouldn’t take much imagination and an upholstered bolster, or even a rail, around the sidedecks and across the transom interior to improve this situation for the better.

Noosa Cats have a big walk-through deck secured by thigh-high rails between the motors, and while this is clearly a good thing, there’s no avoiding the intrusion of the large outboard motor. Handling fish along one side rather than over the transom is a better way to go in outboard-powered boats anyway.

Carries Large Payloads

The load-carrying capacity of Noosa Cats has been an asset dating way back to its early days, with the proliferation of Noosa Cats among the Volunteer Marine Rescue, commercial fishing, charter, and law-enforcement communities testimony in itself.

A 2300-series Noosa Cat on a trailer can be expected to weigh in around three tonnes. With a beam of 2.5 metres, the hull qualifies for registration on an appropriate trailer. Many mid-size 4WDs these days have a three-tonne tow rating, although once the tanks are full and other gear loaded, three tonnes might come up a little short. In this case, a larger 4WD or small truck becomes a more realistic proposition as a tow vehicle.

To launch and retrieve this boat, the trailer basically has to be drowned. I note that Noosa Cat is building its own stainless-steel trailers in-house these days, so that’s something else to consider if trailering is on the agenda.

There’s a lot to think about with this boat, and it’s likely that serious bluewater anglers would see the vessel presented here as more the foundation of a boat setup than a complete work. It’s a unique opportunity in many ways.

Highlights

  • Soft ride and inherent safety aspects of a high-set, self-draining deck.
  • If powered by modern 4-stroke motors, excellent performance with attractive fuel efficiency.

Capacities

  • Maximum Rated Power: 2 x 150hp
  • Fuel: 2 x 180-litres standard, or 2 x 225-litres or 2 x 280-litres optional
  • Fresh water: 60 litres optional
  • Max. hp: 300

General

  • Material: GRP laminates
  • Hull Type: Cuddy-cabin power catamaran
  • Length: 6.7 metres
  • LOA: 7.6 metres
  • Beam: 2.5 metres
  • Draft: 0.4 metres
  • Bridge Clearance: 2.8 metres
  • Weight: 1480kg-plus (hull only)
  • BMT Towing Weight: 3 tonnes minimum
Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman Boat Test

Boat Test Noosa Cat 2300 Sportsman : THIS CAT LEARNED NEW TRICKS
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe
Supplied by: Noosa Cat Australia

This boat test ran in ISSUE 102 of BlueWater magazine – MAR-APRIL 2014

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here