Good day Everyone,
I recently acquired a Tacakat Lite 340 (3.4 meter) inflatable
boat as a tender/portable fishing
vessel. Since I do not see a proper review anywhere online and the knowledge I have acquired from this amazing forum is priceless...I figured it's time to pay it forward and do a proper review to help others.
I was looking at getting a small tender
for a 33 footer Fourwinns sport cruiser which I take around Sydney
harbour and surrounds. My requirements are that it has to be foldable/storable at the back of my car, and in my garage shelf as driving around a trailer for a tender
does not really sound appealing to me.
I initially bought a Mercury
Airdeck 2.7m for this purpose, but I sold it after a few months due to the following reason; It is not ideal to tow behind a cruiser going 7-10 knots since the wake behind the boat is enough to flip it around like a pancake and fill it up with water
in no time. If cruising at 5-6knots, its not a problem; However, due to certain weather
conditions here in Oz, it is not always safe to go slow and in some instances, you need to actually keep the bow up at about 10knots or so, to tackle certain swells. Having said that, towing an inflatable
that scoops in water
is not the best idea.
Here is where the Takacat comes in. Mind you, I have heard of them before through a friend who owns one but their older design, which was a closed transom and open bow design, looked more like a floating "bailing bucket" so I did not consider it. Their new design however, is an open transom, open bow. This basically changed my perspective about it so I went ahead and ordered one.
ORDERING and UNBOXING:
To be honest, I was quite impressed with how they handled my inquiry and purchase
. I emailed them, inquiring about the boat and the next day, got a reply from Greg, the owner of the company himself. He was very patient at answering all my queries. A few weeks later, I finalized my order so was referred to their Australian distributor, paid for it, 3 days later...I got a delivery
I received 3 boxes in total. The tubes are on box 1; box 2 contains the airdeck, accessories and transom parts
, box 3 contains the optional wheels and rod holders.
The accessories box include the following:
1. Pressure gauge (Generic)
2. Repair kit (Generic)
3. Spare Halkey-Roberts valve (Generic)
4. Foot Pump
5. Two Carry bags
6. Winged Nuts and bolts for the transom
7. Transom and a wood chuck
9. Two inflatable seats
Halkey-Roberts valve and pressure gauge are generic, unbranded ones, so quality remains to be seen. It seems to be the same as the ones installed and as of this writing, it has been faultless.The pressure gauge I got was off by .7-1 psi so I do not use it anymore(I already have a better one). I've used this type of repair kit before and I actually find it decent. To be honest, I can't really complain since I did not have any of those when I purchased the Mercury
airdeck (apart from the repair patch kit)
The foot pump looks well built, but I don't really use it since I got an electric
My kit included 6 winged nuts and washers total. You only need 4, so the rest are spares.
The carry bags are made of durable material, but the zippers are not of the best quality so you have to take care when pulling it (I already broke one handle).
I also got the optional wheels and rod holders and these are actually of good quality. The pins on the wheels are well made and rigid so I don't think it will break anytime soon. The welded areas seemed good, according to my brother in law who is a welder.
The oars are decent; light but sturdy at the same time. Only downside is they don't float (they do at first, but after a minute or so, they start to sink).
The inflatable seats are good when packing since they don't occupy a lot of space in the bag. However, you can not utilize the space under for storage
, making me miss the underseat storage
bag of my Mercury. However, I recently sourced out an ice box that fit perfectly in the boat so that doubles as a seat now so I don't use the inflatable ones. I will probably cut it and use as a patch someday since they are the same material as the tubes.
One thing I was actually hoping to get but didn't, an Owner's Manual. One of my pleasures when buying
new toys is spending an hour or two reading the manual. I felt a bit sad because I was not given this opportunity. LOL!
Having said that, everything is self-explanatory and easy to understand so you can figure how to assemble it eventually.
TUBES, AIRDECK and TRANSOM
The tubes are well made, and of good quality. They are glued together, not like the mercury thermo welded ones. They have been glued well, and with quality two part glue. I tried to peel off a portion but couldn't do it by hand. They are stuck together well. IMHO, I prefer the glued ones than the thermo welded ones since they are easier to repair. Just stick them together when the glue comes undone.Normally with the thermo welded ones, they tear on the seams so you need to cut a custom size patch to fix it.
The important joints (transom holder, front flooring
, etc.) have been reinforced with another layer or two of PVC fabric
so they are durable.
It has lots of grab handles around, which at first I thought was overkill, but after using the boat with a decent sized motor
, I then realized their purpose.
The oar locks are the standard screw-in type you commonly see on other inflatable boats. Again, making me miss the quick-detach one my Mercury.
On plane, the sponsons seemed to flex a bit at first. But I realized that there are some D-rings around the boat that you actually need to tie a rope
or chain to make it more rigid. Once I did that, it does not flex as much anymore. The design of the Takacat itself is modular. You can separate the airdeck to the tubes and transom. This is good in a sense that if you break one, you don't have to purchase
a new boat! (or have a transom fabricated if you break one)
The AIRDECK is firm and thick. It is very rigid too. I think they are 140-150% thicker than the Mercury. The top is covered with EVA rubber, which in my opinion, is a fantastic idea. You don't have to worry hauling in bony fish
. This to me, would probably be one of the best airdecks I have seen.
The transom is made of plywood
, and is coated with marine paint
. The quality of the transom itself is a bit poor. I find it a little soft, and not really meant to last long. The holes where the screw goes through is starting to fray now. The wood is light, similar to some goods you see from china
. Don't get me wrong, it does the job. For how long, that remains to be seen. The good thing with the Takacat is, you can actually remove/replace the transom with ease. I plan to replace it with a slightly thicker marine plywood
once it starts to show signs of deterioration.
I tried the Takacat with 3 motors, to find the best combination for it.
Mercury 3.5 HP
My friend who owns one,a closed transom design one, with a Yamaha 3.5HP fitted to it. When I tried it out, it was able to plane easy with one up. When I tried my Mercury 3.5HP 2 stroke
on the boat, I was having problems with the prop ventilating. It would not even go on plane. After some analysis, I found out that my propeller
was plastic and the yamaha has aluminum
props, which the blades are wider with a little bit less pitch
. Problem is, Mercury/Tohatsu don't have aluminum
props for the 3.5HP. It's either I have one custom made, or ditch the motor and get a new one.
I decided to go with the latter.
If you plan to install a small outboard
, make sure the prop has lots of surface area, and is pitched proper for the boat, to minimise propeller
I then tried out a Mercury 2-troke 5HP outboard
. It would plane no problem with 2 people up, which is heaps better than my Mercury airdeck. With the stock 8 inch prop, it would plane easy with 25 stone on board, without the need for weight distribution. Anything over that, then it would start to cavitate/ventilate so proper weight distribution is needed. With proper balance, it can plane at 11 knots, with 30 stone on board.
This in my opinion, is amazing. My Mercury would not even plane with 25 stone on board, on the same motor. It would try to, but not quite get there.
Top speed with one up of the Takacat on this motor is 12.5 knots.
On a side note, since prop is not cupped, you have to ease in the throttle since punching it would just cause it to cavitate/ventilate. I think with a properly cupped propeller, it can carry a bit more. I haven't done this yet so I can not guarantee.
Next up is a Tohee 9.8HP which I purchased specifically for this boat.
With the stock 8.3 pitch
prop, it had a top speed of 17 knots... with 5600 RPM
on the Tiny tach. It would however, cavitate/ventilate like crazy...getting on and during plane. I tried different motor height and trim combinations and could not remedy it. I did a bit of research
and found out it is one of the quirks of a tunnel hull
I had my propeller cupped and it eliminated 90 of ventilation but RPM's went down to 4600, below specs. I then ordered a 7 inch prop from Solas and had it properly cupped prior to delivery
. The difference was night and day. It completely eliminated the ventilation, even when on turns. I even tried trimming out the motor to the extreme, lifting the bow up while planing but it would still not ventilate.
Top speed now is 15.5-16 knots, sitting at around 5,600 RPM
. From a stand still, it would jump on plane almost instantly...and would reach top speed in about 5 seconds. Max I carried was 4 people (around 50 stones) and it would still plane at 12 knots with proper weight distribution, though it would start to ventilate a bit getting on plane.
When I put in the figures on the Mercury Propeller slip calculator, it shows up as me having between 6-9% prop slip(even prior to having the propellers cupped). That is very efficient for an inflatable.
On the Takacat website, they recommend to have your propeller cupped. In my opinion, it is a must if you want good performance from the boat. Downside of cupping is, you lose a lot of RPM by doing so, especially on a small motor. My 9.8HP lost
about 1k RPM. (The 100-200RPM only applies to larger props). The solution for it would be to purchase a prop that is pitched 1 inch less, then have it cupped; thus giving you the same amount of pitch(when cupping a prop, your pitch increases to about an inch more).
Video of the acceleration and test run
STABILITY, RIDE, HANDLING and TRACKING
The first impression you get when you get on the boat is that it is very stable. You can literally stand on one of the ponson and not feel that the boat is going to capsize
. Same as moving your weight at the bow or stern. This is ideal if you plan on using it to fish
since you can freely move around and not worry about the boat tipping over. The same can be said when vessel is underway. When my 5 year old son rides with me, I would tie a rope
to both ends of the sponson and he would stand up, holding the rope then ride the boat like a stand up jet ski...provided I only go straight.
See video below.
The design of the boat is unique in its own way. In my opinion, it is not a true catamaran(both hulls supporting the boat at all times). When at rest or going displacement
speed, it acts more like a flat bottom boat. About 70% of the airdeck contacts the water, making it stable. It may also be the reason why it planes easier than other inflatables. Once you start planing,you feel the airdeck detach from the surface of the water(you can feel it more when you are sitting on the floor). It then becomes Twin-hull boat, with the sponsons supporting the entire boat (you feel the airdeck is suspended a bit). For me, the ride definitely becomes smoother.
Handling is more sensitive. It may seem squirrely at first, but once you get used to it, it is actually more precise than a normal inflatable. I can cruise
by at WOT as close as half a foot to any floating object (preferrably not a bouy) intentionally with much ease. The boat tracks really good too, with close to zero wandering...even on strong winds.
The big difference with the Twin hull
and the mono inflatable is when turning. On my Mercury, turning is similar to a motorbike. It tilts to the direction you are turning, curving towards the intended direction. With the Takacat, it turns more like a car. The boat is kept level,turning "squarely", so you feel the inertia sideways. Let's put it this way...When I'm at WOT then I turn sharply and not tell my passengers, chances are one is gonna end up wet, hence why I now understand why they is an abundance of grab handles around. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your case. But if you are aware the boat acts this way and you shift your weight while turning, then it shouldn't be a problem; plus makes for a very agile boat.(good for quickly veering away from hazzards and obstacles floating around.
Ride on choppy waters is pretty good as well. It can be smooth or rough, depending on your speed. When I jump decent sized boat wakes, the Takacat seemed to prefer it around 13 knots or so. When I land, I feel like there is an air cushion underneath. Going faster, makes it a bit more bumpy, but more fun! Waves coming from the sides makes it wander a bit, but I think that is normal on any inflatable. I haven't experienced coastal waves with it yet but I think it can handle it no problems. Also, I wouldn't be worried about taking in water due to the open transom design.
WATER OVER TRANSOM
One problem I encountered is water splashing over the transom at high speeds. What actually happens is; water hits the leg of the motor, sprays it upwards and sideways, then it hits the motor, wheels and sponnson; spraying water over the transom.It's not that bad on the 5HP, but was really noticeable on the 9.8HP.
Basically on a mono-hull, you position the motor in a way that the cavitation plate sits close to level to the hull bottom. When underway, the boat pushes the water down and to the side; thus channeling the water straight down to the propeller area. On a twin-hull, there is no hull bottom in front of the outboard. So basically, the leg is not shielded by anything, hence it is prone to any water in front of it. Also, the cavitation plate is submerged more, even on plane. I have my engine
raised 35mm now and still can't see the cavitation plate surface when on plane. Raising it more would require modifications to the transom. Also, due to the twin hull design; when planing, both hulls channel more water under the boat. This only adds to the problem.
So why is the 9.8HP more prone to it? When I compared the two, I noticed that the leg on the 5HP is closer to the transom than the 9.8HP (due to a pivot mount attached to it). What I did was make a deflector out of pvc and attached it at the bottom of the transom. This then deflects most water going to the leg, eliminating 95% of the spray. I haven't modified it yet but I know with some tweaks, I can elinimate all the spray.
See photos below of what I mean:
I installed both the SE Sport 200 and a Permatrim to the 9.8HP. I prefer the Permatrim being more rigid and streamlined. It helped with planing a bit when loaded, but affects the top speed a bit. I'm planning to remove mine and just do without it. I'll update you on this.
To end this long monologue, I am very happy with the boat. I am quite impressed how efficient, stable and agile it is. I feel more comfortable beaching this boat,due to the well padded sponson; two rubber strips under each sponson (My mercury have a rubber strip under the keel
, but it rarely goes centered when inflating, so I am always paranoid when beaching it).
It's very easy to get in and out of, changing my wife's perception about inflatable tenders.
I have a feeling that the 9.8HP still doesn't do justice to it so I'm trying to ignore the itch I have in getting a 15HP for it.(Max rating for the boat)
However, one should not expect upon purchase that it is a "buy and cruise" type boat. It does need some tweaking and tuning; like a proper boat. IMHO, I would actually be disappointed if it didn't need it.
I can not fault their customer support either. I emailed them a few queries and technical problems (i.e. cavitation problems, motor height, etc.) and they were keen to assist straight away.
All up. I highly recommend it.