A trend-defying cat with a cabin

Calcutta aims to fill a market void by putting fisherman-type accommodations into its inboard-powered 480
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The Calcutta 263 is the company’s bread-and-butter boat — a twin-outboard center console cat first built in the late 1990s.

The Calcutta 263 is the company’s bread-and-butter boat ��� a twin-outboard center console cat first built in the late 1990s.

Boat companies, including builders of power catamarans, continue to push out big outboard-powered center consoles, but at least one small company on the Gulf Coast believes there’s room in the market for a big inboard-powered cat with a cabin.

Calcutta Boats next year expects to complete a two-stateroom, two-head catamaran powered with twin 550-hp Cummins diesels and Arneson surface drives, with an estimated top end of 48 knots and a 40-knot cruise. The Calcutta 480 will be nothing like the big center console cats you’ve seen come out lately from other builders, says Steve Ellis, president of Calcutta Marine International Inc., a 12-employee operation in Palmetto, just south of St. Petersburg, Fla.

“There is a void in the market for a boat like this, a fishing boat but with the accommodations of a big convertible sportfish,” says Ellis, a former Merrill Lynch financial adviser I met recently while working on a story about the Calcutta 263 center console cat for our sister publication, Anglers Journal.

“I founded the company in 1996, and the first boat [a 263] was completed in 1998,” says Ellis, 56, who grew up sailing a Hobie Cat in the St. Pete Beach area. “I was doing both jobs until I left Merrill Lynch in 2005 to run the boat business full time — just in time for the wheels to come off the economy … ouch!”

But Ellis has turned that pain into gain. His business has steadily grown since 2012.

The Calcutta 480, built with a cored e-glass/carbon hull using the resin infusion process, should fuel that momentum and take his business to the next level. He now builds about 15 boats a year. Ellis has sold about 110 Calcutta 263s, his bread-and-butter boat. Naval architect Glenn Henderson designed it.

Calcutta builds the 480 with a cored e-glass/carbon hull that is resin-infused.

Calcutta builds the 480 with a cored e-glass/carbon hull that is resin-infused.

Larry Mastry has one of the first 263s. “I bought it brand new in 1999 and have repowered it three times,” says Mastry, who has owned Mastry’s Bait & Tackle shop in St. Petersburg for 40 years. “The boat was originally designed with low gunwales and a fold-down sea gate so you can slide a fish right into the boat. The wide-open stern is great for swimming and diving, too. It eats through a 2- to 3-foot chop. It’s also stable at low speeds and drifting without rolling.”

The company also builds a 39-foot center console cat, the 390, which can be powered with outboards or inboards. Calcutta has been working on the 480 for about a year and expects to complete it by mid-2017, says Robert Helmick, production manager. “It’ll be nothing like you’ve ever seen,” says Helmick.

Ellis calls the 480 an express hybrid. “In terms of layout and accommodations, we looked at how most people actually use a boat,” says Ellis, who worked in an auto body shop as a teen. “We realized that most owners of sportfishing boats don’t use the cabin much — rarely, if ever, do they use the galley. So our cabin will consist of very large bunks and heads. The living area will be on the bridgedeck, with most cooking being done at the cockpit grilling station.”

Ellis is building the first 480 for a customer who already owns a Calcutta 390 and a 263.

Will there be other 480s, or was this a one-off? “We are making a mold set for future orders,” he says. “We really think we have something here. We put a lot of thought into this boat and how people will use it. It’s a great overnight, great weekend boat. It’s one-third cabin, one-third living area and one-third cockpit. I think the boat is a good fit for people who have had the express cruiser or express saloon type of boat but don’t want to spend 90 percent of their time in the cabin.”

Naval architect Jim Ryan, owner of Locus Designs in Easton, Md., designed the hull and deck.

“The boat is very unique, as you can tell by just looking at it,” says Ryan, 45. “It’s big; it will be powerful; it’ll cut through chop like it’s not there; and it will cruise in the 40s [knots].”

Calcutta president Steve Ellis expects the Calcutta 480 to top out at an estimated 46 knots. She’ll be completed in mid-2017.

Calcutta president Steve Ellis expects the Calcutta 480 to top out at an estimated 46 knots. She’ll be completed in mid-2017.

The asymmetrical sponsons will allow the boat to bank into its turns, much like the Calcutta 390, he says.

Flat pads aft will provide lift. The hulls transition into wave-splitting vee shapes going forward. The spray rails and chines are built with a slight turndown to reduce spray, and the tunnel also has a vee shape to break up waves.

“The surface drives will help draw air through to clean out the tunnel and reduce the sneezing,” says Ryan. The boat carries some noticeable flare in the bow, and crisp lines give the 480 a modern look.

“I want the builder to be proud to build it and the owner proud to own it,” he adds. “That’s why I design boats.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.

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