One of the things I've noticed over all the years I've been messin' around in boats is that West Australians love huge cockpits. When they build a fishing boat, they give you plenty of room to move.
The Leeder Tomcat 240 is no exception. Fair dinkum, a cricket team could fish comfortably out of this craft... well, almost. The cockpit is huge, in excess of 7sqm, and I would venture to suggest that it could be the largest cockpit in its made-in-Australia class.
Although designated as a 24-footer (7.3m), because of the hull length, LOA is actually around 28ft (8.65m) when you add in the bowsprit and very wide swim platform on the blunt end. It's a big lump of a boat all right, and weighs in at around 3.5 tonnes half fuelled on the dual-axle, full-roller Dunbier trailer.
While the father-son Leeder business has been around for many years, we haven't seen much product on the eastern seaboard. I suspect that's going to change, though, with dealers recently appointed in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. Building fishing boats is also somewhat new to Leeder, as its forte in the past has been pleasure cruisers, according to "junior partner" Murray Tiesse - but the company is determined to have a real crack at the fishing market with this boat and other, smaller models.
The 240 is a very pretty boat with a substantial bowsprit that houses the anchor and a nicely-proportioned raised foredeck sweeping gently to a high, five-piece, toughened-glass windscreen. The deck has square patterned non-slip moulding similar to the cockpit sole. A full, one-piece bowrail, twin cleats and electric anchor windlass completes the hardware forward. A smoked-glass deck hatch lets light into the cabin, but was a little small if you ever wanted to squirm through on rough days to get to the anchor or a jammed windlass.
That wouldn't occur too often, I'd say, because access to the foredeck around the cabin is very good via wide, non-slip walkways, which have twin step-up arrangements on either side from the cockpit. This narrows the "bridge" area a little, but not as much as a full walkaround boat - and I think the compromise works very well.
The size of the cabin is affected by the Tomcat's fine bow entry and the fishing room out back, but it is still large enough for a six-footer to kip in comfort on the vee-berth. Access is through a bi-fold coated-timber door in front of the navigator's chair, and maybe the deep step down to the carpeted floor could be made a little easier with another step. The footwell area in the cabin is narrow, compromised by the fine entry hull and the generous width of the vee-berth. The starboard berth is shorter than the other due to the adjacent helmstation, but is still more than adequate. There is provision under the port bunk for a 100lt freshwater tank for the optional transom shower. Sidepockets are huge and backrests padded, however these curiously feature a piece of triangular beading intended for visual panache, but which digs into your back. I suspect that will be dropped fairly quickly.
The cabin is fully lined, has a toilet of your choice under the starboard cushion, an access hatch to the anchor locker and an interior light. The five-piece windscreen is the wraparound style and is centrally supported by twin pillars. There is no grabrail around the screen, but there are two small grabs on the side and in front of the navigator's chair. Chairs are identical, adjustable, high-mount buckets on shock-absorbing pedestals and are quite comfortable. The navigator's has a flip-down footrest and the skipper's has a moulded footrest in the bulkhead below the dash layout.
IT'S PRACTICAL, DASH IT
Directly in front is the compass, and behind that a comprehensive instrument clunster, featuring rpm, trim, temp, fuel, oil, volt and hour meters - and there is plenty of space either side to flush-mount a big sounder/GPS. It's all very simple, but very effective, practical and efficient.
The wheel, however, is a little sad, looking as though it's been filched from a '76 Cortina. But that's easily rectified. Twin switch panels either side of the wheel are mounted for easy access, as is the key start, radio, bilge alarm and anchor winch on the right. The throttle comes easily and comfortably to hand.
Beneath the throttle is a huge open storage bin with space below that to store a mega tackle box. On the passenger's left elbow are equally large and open storage bins. All of these lend themselves to a little customisation if you're inclined to add specialised compartments for specific items of gear.
The targa is a substantial piece of 'glass engineering and supports a canvas cover for a large part of the bridge. However in my view it was low, being too close for comfort in a rough sea to my bald patch. Fixed to the back edge was a five-pot rocket launcher that would be okay for light rods, but not heavier game outfits. These are points that Murray will look at on future boats, and which can be custom built to your specs, anyway.
Clears (incorporating a zip-out front panel) kept out most the spray, but there was just a little too much water coming through under the press studs for my liking - although the test was done in fairly wild conditions. Nevertheless, if you're going to spend a few grand on electronics, you don't want water dripping into the works when the going gets tough. A hardtop is an option.
The cockpit is fully moulded, as are the sidepockets. The sole is non-slip, square-patterned moulding with drainage gutters either side leading to the scuppers in the back corners. Although this type of moulding doesn't allow toe holds, it seems to work really well and will certainly help to keep feet dry. The cockpit sole is quite high out of the water, too, which means water "blow-back" doesn't seem to happen at all. There are two huge hatches in-floor at either end of a centrally-mounted 300lt fuel tank. The sub-floor kill tank is fitted with its own bilge pump.
Gunwales are thigh-height and incorporate three rodholders as well as two moulded grabs either side. The port sidepocket is the longest I've ever seen on a trailerboat and could just about accommodate a surf rod! The starboard pocket is shorter, but still large enough for a wide variety of gear. Both coamings feature mouldings for fire extinguisher and EPIRB.
The "swallowtail" transom treatment of the Tomcat 240 is in keeping with modern trends. The test boat was the sterndrive model (it is available in single or twin outboard configurations), and the engine box was not intrusive at all. You'd need a hell of a long rod to fish over the combined width of the transom and moulded swim/dive platform. No, Joyce, please fish over the side, that's the girl.
On the portside of the engine box is a transom door, and on the starboard side a shallow livebait tank. Beneath the tank is a twin battery setup. Uniquely, a swing-up panel on the front of the engine box reveals a battery switch, circuit breakers, three-way valve for deckwash and livebait tank as well as a neatly coiled deck hose. A transom bench seat is optional. The wide swim platform features a lift-up panel that reveals a telescopic, swing-down transom ladder.
The constant deadrise hull features a fine entry, twin strakes and wide chines. Deadrise at the stern is a relatively-standard 18&176: for such a large boat, but certainly gives the Tomcat exceptional stability at rest.
BORN TO BE WILD
Test day on Port Phillip Bay was, well, very testing indeed, with 1-1.5m waves and an occasional two-metre ridge coming through - so going for WOT would have been plain stupid. According to Murray, the 220hp 4.3lt V6 MerCruiser MPI will push the Tomcat to a top speed of 65kmh at 4800rpm, while the boat cruises comfortably at 38kmh at 2830rpm.
Certainly the boat performed very well despite the awkward conditions, and the prop (a 15¼ x 15 alloy number) tended to cavitate badly in anything but a straight line "downhill". The boat's ability at speed down and across seas was impressive indeed, and only the savage headsea produced some loosening of the fillings when we tried too hard to push the Tomcat far beyond what one would normally do in such conditions.
This was the boat's first trip on to the briny - having not long been cracked from its shrink-wrap for the trip across the Nullarbor - so no prop testing had been done. Mentone Marine's John Willis has that as a first priority. A larger stainless wheel would probably be the go.
But despite the limited test, the Tomcat is an impressive tabby. It's very well built (hull weight 1920kg, which I like) but lacks the finishing touches and finesse of comparable American fishing craft. That "finishing", of course, adds to the bottom line - which, thankfully, is under that nasty six-figure sum - so maybe that's not all bad. And it gives you the opportunity to customise the boat to your own satisfaction.
|LEEDER TOMCAT 240|
|Price as tested: $93,000 package on trailer|
|Targa arch, rear lounge|
|Priced from: As above|
|Length (overall): 8.65m|
|Rec/max hp: 260|
|Towing weight: 3.5 tonnes|
|Make/model: MerCruiser 4.3 MPI V6|
|Type: Petrol sterndrive|
|Rated hp: 220|
|Prop: Three-blade 15¼ x 15 alloy|
|Supplied by: Mentone Marine, Mentone, tel (03) 9585 4566|