The way the Senator behaves gives the impression it would be completely unflappable – easily capable of handling whatever long-range offshore adventures Dan has in mind.
- Simple to operate and own
- Light to tow, easy to manage
- Roto-moulded plastic construction is durable and tough
- Remarkably stable
- Performs well with a single outboard
- Large, useable deck
The easier it is to go boating, the more likely we are to make the effort.
Small boats are easy to launch and retrieve, need minimal horsepower, are cheap to buy, cheap to run and easy to store. Of course, they have limitations too: their small size restricts the number of occupants they can accommodate and their use is often limited to sheltered waters in good weather.
Lightning Marine’s Fatcat 4000 sticks with the ‘simple is best’ small boat ethos, but addresses some of their disadvantages, most noticeably lack of space, poor stability at rest and safety concerns.
Built locally from roto-moulded MDPE (medium density polyethylene), the Fatcat 4000 is a single-engine catamaran almost as wide as it is long (1.95m beam, 3.8m length). Suitable for fishers, divers, hunters or commercial applications, it’s powered by a single 15–40hp long-shaft outboard.
The base boat is as simple as it could be, but sold ‘ready to go’, including anchor and warp, four rod holders, a 24-litre tote tank with tie-downs and a 30hp, manual trim, tiller-steer Parsun two-stroke outboard (other engines are available).
Supplied on a custom galvanised steel trailer with rego, WOF, motor yoke, tie-downs and prop flag, you get all this for just $15, 595. That’s a pretty cheap entry to boating fun – just hitch it up and go.
That’s what we did with Lightning Marine’s bright-orange demo boat (there are seven colours), picking it up from the factory at Whangaparaoa and launching at Gulf Harbour. The vessel slipped off its bunk trailer easily enough and pretty soon the pair of us were heading up the peninsula looking for fishing action. At 240kg, plus engine, trailer and gear, the Fatcat 4000 is light to tow and easy to manage at the ramp. Sacrificial wear plates protect the hull from damage when launching and retrieving.
The Fatcat gets along pretty well. It’s not especially fast, but then it’s not very big either. We each seated ourselves on chilly bins – the amount of open deck space (4m2) is phenomenal – but the Ultralon-covered side decks make good seats. A couple of floor-level niches under the foredeck are big enough for tackle bags.
The Fatcat has a central sponson under the wing deck that gets lower, wider and flatter towards the transom. This helps smooth the water flow over the propeller to avoid cavitation, which can be an issue for catamarans with only one engine.
A cavitation plate was also fitted to the Parsun, which Lightning Marine recommends, so we experienced no cavitation or handling issues. Indeed, the boat is easy to steer, goes where it’s pointed and rides almost flat in the turns.
A spray deflector has been added to the forward chines, but the 4000 is an open boat so we did catch some spray when the wind was on the beam. The decks, lined with sealed and painted marine ply (chequerplate aluminium optional), drain through scuppers. The self-draining anchor locker has with room left over for a painter.
The tow hook and fairlead are powder-coated alloy, bolted to the bow; anchor cleat and roller are acrylic.
The Fatcat’s stability is exceptional. We stood up to fish, and while the boat’s sides are low, it’s such a stable platform there’s little danger of toppling out. The boat is safe in other ways too: the hull is filled with 300 litres of foam and the plastic itself is buoyant, so sinking is impossible.
We chased work-ups off the tip of the peninsula for a couple of hours, hooking snapper, kahawai and kingfish. The wind gradually got up, but the little Fatcat gave us a comfortable ride. The polymer material flexes slightly, softening any hard bangs, and the catamaran hull handles well. Moving our bodies aft subtly trimmed the boat, for a drier ride running down-sea.
We finished our short spell with a few snapper in the bin and big smiles on our faces. The Fatcat is a great fishing platform – basic, but that’s a big part of its appeal. Certainly, cleaning up at the end of the day couldn’t be easier and the rugged polymer hull promises to be maintenance-free.
The boat we tested is Lightning Marine’s entry level spec, but it offers quite a range of accessories, including twin, single and centre consoles, bimini tops, seats, grab rails, dive ladders, rocket launchers and more to trick up the basic boat. However, most of the 40-odd Fatcats sold last year ago were entry-level versions.
Basic or blinged up, with the Fatcat 4000, you get the convenience of a small boat in an affordable package that offers more space than most with built-in safety and incredibly stability./>