Many anglers have yet to drive or even ride in a catamaran. Sure, they look different from the single V-hull designs many are accustomed to, but the Calcutta 263 is one cool cat bound to make many into converts.
The clean lines and roominess of the layout got my attention right away. Anglers aboard the Calcutta 263 can follow a hooked fish around the boat without hindrance. The bow remains tall to safely take on the waves and mitigate spray, but the gunwales slope down aft of the console, reducing freeboard for crew members to comfortably reach the water to lip or bill a fish and release it.
The next thing to stand out was the transom, or lack thereof. Instead of the usual rear bulkhead, Calcutta incorporates its innovative SeaGate fold-down transom. In the down position, it extends the aft cockpit and allows easy access to the bilge, motors and integrated swim platform, which has openings to port and starboard so it’s easy to boat a big fish or get back on board after taking a dip. When the fold-down transom is up, it keeps the deck completely dry, blocking water from entering the cockpit, even when backing down at a good clip.
An elevated deck at the bow is the ideal platform to throw a cast net or pitch baits from a high vantage point without encroaching on the forward cockpit. A hatch on it opens to a generous anchor locker. A step behind, twin hatches afford access to a massive 350-quart fish box, double insulated and plumbed to drain overboard.
A Yeti cooler with cushion serves as the forward console seat. A lockable door enables entry to the console for access to systems and marine-grade-tinned wiring, which is second to none, clearly labeled and expertly arranged for convenience, featuring heat-shrink connections. An acrylic wraparound windshield keeps rain and spray off the Ritchie compass atop the console, as well as the dash spacious enough for dual displays, digital gauges, and a backlit 13-switch panel with accessory plug. Just below, the steering wheel and controls sit at a comfortable angle with room for a stereo and trim-tab switches between them.
Double helm seats with flip-up bolsters and armrests accommodate the skipper and a companion, either standing or seated. The seats rest on a module with incorporated storage, an aft-facing bench, and a 42-gallon pressurized livewell finished in calming blue underneath.
Twin aft in-deck compartments to port and starboard, 300 quarts each, offer extra storage. Four flush-mount rod holders come standard, along with racks for three rods below each gunwale, indirect waterproof LED lighting in the cockpit and a raw-water washdown to keep the decks clean.
Cats are well-known for stability. The Calcutta doesn’t disappoint in that regard, but it’s far more than a stable fishing platform. It deserves high marks on handling and performance. Acceleration was astoundingly quick with no squatting whatsoever upon takeoff. The pair of E-Tec 150s in back pushed the boat from 0 to 30 mph in just five seconds. It took 18 seconds to do it with just one motor, and once on plane, the boat ran fine with the single outboard, cruising easily at 25 to 30 mph. It’s nice to know it won’t take all day to return to port if you lose an engine far from shore.
The ride, even at high speed, remains quite comfortable. The Calcutta hull design takes on a chop with ease, cushioning any bumps from large wakes or rogue waves, preventing bone-jarring jolts and eliminating pounding. In the turns, the 263 stays level and stable, and I didn’t notice any bow steering nor the slightest slippage in tracking during numerous maneuvers.
Efficiency is another strong suit of the Calcutta hull. It stays on plane at ridiculously slow speed, and at 3,550 rpm, the boat ran 28.3 mph while burning a scant 12.6 gph. Then came time to let the cat eat, so I pushed the throttle forth to see what it delivered. We reached our top-end speed — 48.4 mph while turning 5,400 rpm — in a jiffy. At a good pace, as when trolling for wahoo, both the speed and bearing remain constant without the need to continuously micromanage either throttle or steering.
Calcutta’s ability to customize the boat to fit its owners’ needs and style of fishing is another big plus. The list of standard features on the 263 is a long one, yet the builder also offers a number of optional features, including a T-top or hardtop with rod holders, spreader lights, an electronics box and life-jacket storage; a full tower with upper and lower controls; outriggers; coaming pads; a transom ladder; integrated 65-gallon livewell with clear lid; aluminum leaning post with rocket launcher on the backrest and 90-quart cooler underneath; and it remains open to other enhancements.
If you haven’t tried a catamaran, I can’t think of a better one to shatter any lingering misconceptions than the Calcutta 263. Offshore and nearshore, this 26-footer excels. And with its 13-inch draft, you can even chase fish in shallow bays. At the risk of sounding trite, I have to say the boat is truly the cat’s meow.