Boat companies continue to push out big outboard-powered center consoles, including builders of power catamarans, but at least one small company on Florida’s 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 48-foot catamaran powered with twin 550-hp Cummins diesels and Arneson surface drives with an estimated top-end speed 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, said Steve Ellis, president of Calcutta Marine International Inc., a 12-employee operation in Palmetto, just south of St. Petersburg.
"There is a void in the market for a boat like this — a fishing boat, but with the accommodations of a big convertible sportfish," said Ellis, a former Merrill Lynch financial adviser who I met this week 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," said 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 of the economy — ouch!"
But Ellis has turned that pain into gain, with his business steadily growing 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, a 26-footer that naval architect Glenn Henderson designed. 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, production manager Robert Helmick said. "It’ll be nothing like you've ever seen," he said.
Ellis calls the 480 an express hybrid.
"In terms of layout and accommodations, we looked at how most people actually use a boat," said 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 both a Calcutta 390 and a 263.
Will there be other 480s or is this a one-off?
“We are making a mold set for future orders,” Ellis said. “We really think we have something here. We put a lot of thought into this boat and how people will use it.”