As the site grows, we get to see an increasing number of outstanding products. So when I got invited for a delivery from the North Carolina fishing catamaran manufacturer to an angler in Sarasota the following week, I was really looking forward to it. Getting to test a new boat is always fun. Unfortunately the weather forecast had Tropical Storm Isaac within 60 miles of the coast where I live. Sarasota being 40 miles south hardly put it in the safe zone. Fortunately for our state, the storm never came close, but it did lead to a telephone interview instead of a boat ride.
Catamarans provide the stability of a v-hull and the ability to run into very skinny water because the design puts two shallow hulls under the same weight.
Two guys started Tideline Boats. One named George Stronach and the other named Michael Collins. It was Michael I was going to meet with in Sarasota to check out the unique boat. George, his partner and co-founder, was the guy I originally spent time with talking about their boats. During those conversations, and being the politically incorrect interviewer I can be at times, led to my first stupid question: What the heck made you decide to go into the boat building business?? It is a tough and competitive field.
"Michael and I are both life-long, avid fisherman and We've both been around boats all our lives. Michael was a financial advisor and I was in commercial real estate. Neither of us had a background in the industry aside from taking apart and rebuilding our own boats in the past. Michael had a 25' World Cat that he'd had since about 1998. It was a Fantastic boat. We both did a lot of offshore fishing from the North Carolina coast in that boat. The water there can get really rough. We had a good friend that had a 25' Grady White."
Now I have extensive personal experience fishing Grady boats. They are serious boats, and ones I have fished far offshore. In North Carolina, you get into deep water fast, much like you do on Florida's east coast. Living on the Gulf of Mexico, though you get accustomed to a two-hour trip to reach 150' of water. How a boat handles bad water is critical here - perhaps more than in waters where 30 minutes puts you in sight of land. West coast Floridians have to get used to the possibility of having a 50,000 footer of a thundercloud sitting between you and the safety of home where that tasty cocktail and a grill ready for fillets awaits if deeper waters are ventured to. George continued with Tideline's background story - "There was no comparison in the ride between the Grady White and the World Cat. If it was going to be a rough day, we wouldn't even consider going out in the Grady."
"In about 2003, I was looking for an inshore boat. Due to my experience on Michael's World Cat, I thought I'd like to find a shallow water cat. I had heard that Twin Vees, rightly or wrongly, were great riding boats but did not have a good reputation for customer service and had quality issues. At that time, there was a small manufacturer in eastern North Carolina that built an 18' cat called Cat Craft. I set up a test ride in Atlantic Beach, NC. The day of the test, it was blowing about 25 mph. I just assumed it would be too rough and we'd reschedule. The dealer told me to come on anyway. The ride blew me away so I bought one. The owner of Cat Craft moved to Florida about a year later, changed the name of his boats to Caracal and expanded the operation. Caracals became quite popular and had a great reputation. Unfortunately, they were a casualty of the recession and have gone out of business. World Cat has acquired their molds and is now building them as Carolina Cats.
Tideline's 19 foot white hull with T-Top
I put a lot of hours on my 18' Cat Craft and began to think it was not only the most versatile and functional boat I'd ever owned, but the most versatile and functional boat I'd ever been on. It had a bow mounted trolling motor and could fish a few miles out in the ocean for king mackerel and dolphin or striped bass in the winter but could also fish on shallow flats or creeks for trout and reds.
And I could not go to a boat ramp, gas station, or marina without someone coming over and asking me about my boat, where I had gotten it, how it handled etc. Michael and I talked for years about why cats had not caught on more than they had, despite their numerous advantages.
We learned that cats had only about 5% of the market share for power boats in the US but had a much greater market share in such places like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Our theory as to why cats haven't caught on as well in the U.S. market is due to the fact that American consumers put a lot of emphasis on style and looks. A boat is a luxury item. The typical boat buyer wants a boat with style and cats are considered to be funny looking or awkward looking as compared to more traditional hull types. Most cats are boxy and most boat purchasers want sexy. We also feel that the majority of boaters in the U.S. market have no idea what the benefits of a catamaran are and that the market needs to be educated. You could be a lifelong boater or fisherman and have spent thousands of hours on the water but if you've never actually been on a cat, you have no idea what the benefits are or differences are between a cat and a monohull. It's just a matter of time before cats begin to take a substantial share of the market from monohulls. Anyway, Michael and I thought there was a definite need for a quality catamaran with superior aesthetics compared to what was already on the market.
Live wells and fold down seats in all the right places show the connection between the two guys responsible for manufacturing the Tideline boat and the sport we are all involved in.
So we kicked this idea around for awhile before we finally decided to go for it. We designed the boat ourselves with the assistance of Nick Boksa, a naval architect, and Ken Adams, a custom boat builder. We designed it to look like a custom built sport fishing boat with as much bow flare as it could handle, a broken/raised shearline, and a wide rounded bow. The interior layout, which is roomy and functional, is a result of years on the water and knowing what features we ourselves would want or not want. Our wives even talked us into the rear foldup seats, which are actually extremely comfortable, and numerous drink holders. Nick Boksa and Ken Adams helped us tweak the running surface more than anything else. Ken had a background in building custom offshore racing catamarans and we hired him to build our tooling for us. We first built a wooden prototype that we were able to hang an engine on and test and tweak. Once we got the weight distribution, the engine height, prop, etc dialed in so that the boat performed how we wanted it to, we built a mold and I think we've hit a home run with our design."
The main thing that sets Tideline boats apart from other 20' (or smaller) is how they handle in rough water. The beam is 8'6" (the max width to trailer a boat without a permit in most states); that means it has a lot of room for a 19' boat. The broad looks way more like a twenty-two or twenty-three footer. A 27' World Cat has the same beam, while most 19' boats offer seven-six or at the widest 8'. Tideline boats offer anglers a comfortable and safe ride while the craftsmanship and materials are as good as they come. They will handle rough nearshore as easily as they will take you into skinny water, and I wasn't surprised to see a trolling motor mounted on the front of the craft either. These are true fishing boats and are made just as well as any local boats I know of. And nobody we know makes cats.
A relationship with the community...
Tideline Boats is two years old, and doing very well considering the economic makeup of our world right now. They have built sixteen of the 19' boats in 2 years, and will have a 23' model available at the beginning of 2013. Five of their existing sixteen boats are being fished in our waters - and uniqueness aside, this is another reason why I became interested in talking to them and finding out what the deal was with these fishing catamarans in the first place. I wanted to know what was so cool about their boats that 30% of those existing are on Florida water fishing for Florida's species :).
Why cats are good...
One last thing before we leave. Cats are more fuel efficient, more stable, and offer a superior ride in tough water. Usually, there is some type of trade-off regarding all "normal" hull types. The deep-v hulls many of us use in offshore boats tend to have a smoother ride in big seas but the trade off is cost of fuel, and they are useless in skinny water. Flatter hull types get better fuel efficiency and provide shallow water access - but you get slammed in bad water. Catamarans are the best of all worlds; they are far more fuel efficient, stable, and have a shallow draft, as well as an incredibly smooth ride in rough seas.
More than half the boats they have built are running on Florida waters. The design and fishiness of the boat tell us why that happened. We talked to these guys the first time while they were delivering a boat from North Carolina.
You can find out everything you need to know about the company by visiting their site - www.tidelineboats.com - and if you have any questions and end up talking to one of the two people behind this outstanding American company, tell them you heard about their boats at TheOnlineFisherman.com!
Combining all the benefits of a cat hull with the looks and performance of a first-class fishing boat sure makes sense when you think about it. Tideline Boats are definitely onto something here. George and Michael deserve all the credit in the world for designing, creating and bringing to market such a high quality and unique fishing craft. Tideline boats are sold direct from where they are manufactured in North Carolina - but you can see one up close at the Tampa Boat Show - September 28-30 at the Tampa Convention Center. Maybe I can still get that boat ride that hurricane wanna-be Isaac deprived me of...
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