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September 21, 2007

Baha 340 King Cat

Most of the power catamarans that have been flowing out of dealers' showrooms at an exceptional rate as of late have been outboard-powered. But one small Florida company is trying to change that. Baha makes a line of inboard-powered cats that fishermen around the world have come to appreciate.

Baha's 340 King Cat is a large, brawny offshore boat that's clearly meant for day-in and day-out use. It boasts a very large cockpit that rivals those found on many larger boats, with room for a full-size fighting chair, padded coaming and more. Baha owner Felix Nall showed us around his personal 340 recently, and we came away from the ride quite impressed.

Performance Test

specificationsFirst, let's discuss performance. The 340 has a high freeboard, a common characteristic of catamarans, and consequently offers a very dry ride and great visibility from the helm. The ocean off the Florida Keys had been whipped into a stiff, short chop by a relentless southeast wind for several days before our test, but the big cat's twin planing hulls easily sliced through the slop. It performed remarkably well at all angles to the seas, and was very stable at rest, too.

The test boat had twin 370-hp Cummins diesels for power, and cruised at 25.4 knots at 2600 rpm, reaching 32 knots at a wide-open 3000 rpm. The amazing part is that you can cruise at these respectable speeds in all but the worst offshore conditions. And with the props positioned so far apart, the boat spins like no other we've tested. It redefines maneuverability.

cockpitThe cockpit has a transom gate to starboard, and recessed trim tabs reduce the threat of cutting off a fish when fighting it around the stern. Four hatches in the cockpit sole provide inner-hull access, the aft two offering access to the fuel-tank sending units, as well as to the bilge pumps and rudder posts. The forward hatches cover the engines. When these hatches are removed, the mains are completely exposed, placing everything within easy reach.

Forward on the step-up bridgedeck is a two-burner stove and a refrigerator to starboard, with passenger seating to port. The curved settee contains an insulated drink cooler and dry storage, and beneath the stove lies a massive tackle-storage area with 14 drawers.

Baha sells the 340 with a flybridge or without one in a hardtop, express version. Our boat sported the bridge, which is reached via a handy centerline ladder. The wraparound helm area has an incredible amount of room for electronics, as Felix's boat demonstrated. He had installed a sophisticated array of machines, including a Raytheon radar, a Furuno ten-inch sounder, a Pinpoint PC-based plotter, and a Pinpoint side-scanning sonar. The fish don't have a chance when this boat's around.

Down below, the 340 offers simple yet comfortable accommodations. All catamarans with cabins have to work around the centerline tunnel, but Baha has managed to squeeze in three berths and a head. The head is forward and to port, with a large bunk forward and to starboard. Two more bunks extend aft beneath the bridgedeck.

The 340 King Cat is heavily built for years of no-worry fishing, and may be just right for those of you interested in a catamaran, but who have been hoping something a little larger would come along. Now it has. Felix Nall has produced a boat that combines the well-documented advantages of the catamaran design with the efficiency and reliability of inboard diesel power, and the results are impressive.

F.R.P. Industries, Inc., Mayo, FL; (904) 294-2431; www.bahacruisers.com