Caribbean Cougar Review

Issue: January 2000

While adventurer Hans Tholstrup made headlines recently for completing a solo, small-boat journey from Darwin to Japan, almost 30 years earlier he achieved the first circumnavigation of Australia in an open runabout.

There were many doubters who believed his round-Australia trip was foolhardy, badly planned and doomed to fail. That was until Tholstrup reached Perth – then the experts began to agree that ‘he might be lucky enough to make it’. And he did.

The hull was a 5.3m Caribbean Cougar, launched by International Marine two years earlier, and the circumnavigation, coupled with success on the offshore and marathon race circuit, established the Cougar as a leading performer of its age. The name is still synonymous with rough-water performance, although in its current guise the only similarities are the 190 deadrise and the open runabout configuration. This new model exhibits much of today’s thinking as far as transom treatment, bow access and seating are concerned, but is still a fairly conservative boat. The hull itself doesn’t incorporate any special features yet it runs as easily, confidently and smoothly as many of the more high-tech designs. In smooth water, other hulls may be slightly more efficient, but the average family boater needn’t be too concerned.

After all, the Cougar does provide plenty of onboard space, good storage, and comfortable seating for 5 to 7 adults. The test boat had a conventional folding rear lounge and twin swivel bucket seats instead of the back-to-back lounges. While these buckets are secure and comfortable, they need to be relocated because they only swivel in one direction if you want to turn through 1800. The stern treatment is an interesting cross of a conventional straight transom and an integrated boarding platform with flush well, in which no portion of the deck moulding overhangs the transom. The starboard quarter accommodates a small lift-out livebait tank/storage well with hinged lid/bait cutting board. It’s interesting to look back on the wide horsepower range that has been used on the Cougar.

Tholstrup had a 4-cylinder 80hp Merc (65-70hp by today’s standards) for a top speed of 25 knots or so, and there were race models powered by twin 110 and 125hp Mercs which peaked somewhere between 45 and 50 knots.

Today the Cougar is rated to 175, and recommended for 150. Our test boat was powered by a ’96-model carburetted V6 Mariner 150 that produced the ideal performance for general family boating. It planed the boat effortlessly, with no climb over the hump. A good cruising speed range of 25 to 30 knots can be maintained around 3500 to 4000 revs. The top speed of 43 knots is just over 50mph in old language. You need to use the engine trim to achieve this and the hull isn’t really happy when trying to squeeze every ounce of speed out of it. There’s a slight bounce – more of a skip actually – but trim the engine back in and everything is fine. The finish is good and the hull certainly feels solid and sturdy out on the bay. The screen gives plenty of protection from any spray or wet weather, though throughout the test we never took any water over the screen or into the cockpit. It is a good, comfortable and dry bay and harbour boat with fine performance particularly in the cruise range with a mid-power V6 outboard engine.

Story & Photos by David Toyer.