It’s no wonder that as Kiwis, we love our boats and utes – both are vehicles to get us outdoor enthusiasts into nature. Whether that be to our ‘secret’ fishing spot, the maimai, the forest car park or the head of the mountain trail, both are great for throwing your gear into with family and friends and heading off on an outing.
In my opinion, having access to a boat opens up a raft of opportunities for adventure, whether that be hunting, fishing, diving or something else. As Rat said in one of my favourite childhood storybooks: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” (Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame 1908)
I couldn’t agree more with Rat, and so that’s why when you get asked by someone like Takacat NZ to review a boat, it’s an easy yes.
Takacat are not new to the NZ boat market; they’ve been manufacturing inflatable catamaran boats since 2007 with a focus on innovation, quality and design. Versatility and portability are two of the key aspects to Takacat’s inflatable boats. From the outset, they rapidly gained a following with the NZ boating public and dive community and have continued to refine and develop their products ever since.
Fast forward to 2021, and Takacat are a global brand distributing to Australia, North America, Middle East, Asia, Europe and, of course, to their birth country – New Zealand!
With a range of size options in NZ from 2.6m all the way up to a 4.2m model, there are sizes to suit almost all application and needs.
With new owners at the helm of the NZ and Pacific distribution channel – Paul and Helen Powney – some fresh ideas have come through. Paul was keen to bring the Takacat innovation to the hunting market with some new camouflage options in their range (Woodland and Digital Camo) aimed towards hunters – specifically duck hunters – as a portable, affordable, lightweight versatile option.
After a few phone calls and emails with Paul and Helen, it was decided that after the Auckland Boat Show in May, we’d review the 3.8m Woodland Camo model. With the end of May looming and only a few days of duck season left available to test, the boat was shipped overnight to Taupo in time for the weekend.
Being that the boat is fully inflatable, including the hull, it fits into two large carry bags – the heaviest being 27kg, which contained the hull’s oversized inflatable tubes. The second 15kg bag held the 4-piece transom, hand pump, air deck floor, two oars and a fin. In case you’re wondering, the fin fits into the built-in fin box on the air deck floor. This in turn gives you an option to use the air deck floor as an inflatable stand up paddle board (iSUP) – very cool.
With the 3.8m boat weighing only 42 kgs – that’s pretty light – straight off the bat, I was impressed … plus talk about being transportable! When packed into the bags, it easily fits into a station wagon or on a ute tray – you could even mount it onto roof racks.
For the testing, we also received some optional accessories: quick-release wheels, rod holders and a quality electric pump.
Takacat’s catamaran tubes are made from 0.9mm 1000-denier PVC and are anti-UV tested to international standards. On the 3.8m and 4.2m models, the tubes are made of four internal safety float chambers and have four inflation valves. Heavy-duty rubber protection strips run the entire length of the tubes both at the sides and underneath providing protection and security when beaching or launching at ramps and river access points. The heavy-duty lifting handles make for easy manoeuvring on and off land. Safety lines are standard on all models, and the D-rings intermittently spaced make for great points to attach gear to in rough weather.
The seams and fittings are all glued and tested to international standards. The air deck floor makes up the fifth float chamber and provides additional stability for the hull. The unique open transom is made from marine-grade stainless tube and two quality timber plates. Another advantage is, in the unlikely event you somehow manage to damage a tube and your Takacat needs to be ‘re-tubed’, the innovative transom design makes this far easier and less costly than a standard inflatable with a ‘fixed transom’.
I decided the testing would take place where I usually hunt – at Lake Kuratau, a hydro lake fed by the Kuratau River, which eventually empties into Lake Taupo.
The last few seasons’ Opening Weekends have seen the lake levels fluctuate dramatically, which unfortunately means some maimais are left high and dry. This means access (which for most is via boat) can be frustrating due to the already shallow shoreline. The Takacat’s shallow draft would be perfect for this.
The family and I headed out on the second to last Sunday of the season loaded up with gear for an arvo hunt. Once at the lake, we were straight into set-up mode, starting with inflating the two side tubes that make up the catamaran hull. There’s no need to worry about overinflation during pumping or during high heat periods in summer as the tubes have ‘over-pressure relief valves’ meaning they’ll automatically expel any pressure build-up past their set rating. And yes, I was lazy and choose the easy electric pump option, which has a 12V car adaptor – simply set the PSI and away you go!
Next, we installed the open tube transom. This is where the innovation comes in – this design is unique and allows for less weight and easier packability of the boat.
Lastly, we inserted the air deck floor; it fits snugly under the bottom transom mounts and side tubes and is secured at the bow via two D-shackles and a strap. With the air deck installed, this adds rigidity to the whole boat. The 3.8m transom is recommended to hold up to a 15hp outboard; for the test, I used my trusty 2hp, which is what we had available at the time of testing. All models come with a good quality set of paddles which attach direct to the built-in rowlocks. The inflatable tube seat that’s provided with each model base package is a nice touch and has an additional use as a safety buoy!
The test boat came with optional accessories of quick-release wheels and quick-release rod holders; these wheels made moving and launching the boat super easy and can be stowed in the upright position when underway. However, I did find at low speeds, if you needed to make tight turns, they slightly reduce the swing of the outboard. With the two rod holders, which easily clipped onto the top transom mounts, we were now ready to hit the water!
Although this was my first go at set-up and I was stopping to take photos, the total set-up time was just 18 minutes. With practice, I’d estimate setting up in just 10-12 mins would be easily achievable – using the electric pump and doing it solo was easy.
The Takacat’ on-off bow design makes this quick and easy and my ‘crew’, who didn’t have waders, managed to keep their feet dry! For anyone with limited mobility, the Takacat’s bow would make boarding far easier as well.
My little 2hp did valiantly propelling three people and a bunch of gear down the lake at a reasonable speed although, as you can see by the images, we didn’t quite get up and plane. Later, even with four people and a bunch of gear – decoys, blind bags, guns, camo net, spare fuel, etc. – it coped well.
The shallow draft was perfect for getting up close to the maimai for unloading. With four people on board as well as our gear, I’d estimate the load to have been approx. 350kg – well within the 640kg load limit. So, for transporting 4-5 hunters and gear, the 3.8m model is ideal.
The fixed rowlocks and oars performed well and are ideally located for easy manoeuvrability, though the location of them on the tubes and the alloy finish was a little reflective in the sunlight – I’d probably address this with some matt black paint.
The flared bow saw none of the afternoon lake chop come on board during testing; if any did, the air deck floor and open transom design allows for water to egress easily, keeping the floor dry. The internal/external safety lines made for easy handholds and, along with the D-rings, provide good tie-down points for any gear in rough weather. Tracking was reasonable considering we only had the 2hp outboard, and although some strong 30-40km winds that came up in the afternoon, minimal correction was required at the helm.
Initially I couldn’t see any options of where to attach an anchor, except to tie it onto the two D-rings that hold the floor in place under the bow – this could make the anchor retrieval tricky without a trip rope. However, after talking with Paul at Takacat, there is a solution in a bridal-style accessory that fixes to both forward mounted D-rings on the tubes and to the air deck floor D-rings. They also have the recommended 2kg grapple-style anchor kit available to purchase. I’d recommend this option, and if using your T-cat as a maimai or layout boat, then two would be required.
Stability and Versatility
Being a catamaran and having oversized tubes, stability was excellent; there wasn’t much thought required for load balancing. Standing up while underway or stationary was easy, and I didn’t feel unbalanced at all. As a shooting platform, I don’t see any issues with stability. In fact, as a floating maimai, drift boat or a layout boat, the Takacat would be fairly easy to convert with some minor additions such as the aforementioned anchor kits, covering the reflective stainless with some camo tape and attaching some brush/raupo as extra cover.
I could see the flat-bottom floor with the flare towards the bow being comfortable for long periods as a layout boat. I would’ve loved to have tested the T-cat for this purpose, however due to time constraints and the fact this boat was already sold to a new owner – who’d graciously allowed us to use his new toy for reviewing – I was reluctant to risk any scratching or damage. So, unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be possible.
As a versatile, portable and stable boat, the Takacat delivers on all fronts. For a family or 4-5 hunting mates, I found the 3.8m to be an ideal size. If you were going to use the Takacat as a gunboat or maimai, then depending on intended hunter numbers, either the 3.8m or 4.2m should offer enough elbow and gun-swinging room to allow good safety protocols to be followed. However, I’d recommend more horsepower than the 2hp motor I had for the 3.8m.
For the duck hunter, all model sizes are available in either Woodland or Digital camouflage options. So, if you prefer to hunt on your own, one of the smaller models would suit to!
Whether you choose to pump the boat up in the early hours of Opening Morning upon arrival at your spot or prefer to arrive with it already inflated on the ute tray, roof racks or trailer is personal preference, but both options would work. One thing is for sure – for a 3.8m boat weighing only 42kg, it’s easily handled and the ability to set up on your own is a major advantage.
The quality of the materials and workmanship is of a high standard. I did feel there are a few minor tweaks that would make the Takacat more duck-hunting friendly, such as offering the oars in a matt black or dark colour option. You’d also want to cover/wrap the reflective SS transom with some camo tape/cloth, or maybe paint, and the same goes for the D-shackles.
The 3.80LX model retails at $3390, which I think is a reasonable price even when you add the additional $500 for the camo finish.
The level of innovation and tech put into these boats is apparent. The versatility will keep the hunter, fisher, diver and family happy. Unfortunately, testing the Takacat as a fishing platform for lakes or saltwater wasn’t possible this time; we may just have to trial that at a later stage …
$3,390 (camo finish additional $500)