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A new cat from Calcutta

Ellis dreaded the inevitable cocktail party conversations about stocks; he’d rather talk boats and could happily do so all night.

Steve Ellis spent more than two decades as a financial advisor on Wall Street. Though rewarding in one sense, to him the work was unfulfilling.

“After 23 years of doing that I figured out that it bored me to tears,” says Ellis. He dreaded the inevitable cocktail party conversations about stocks; he’d rather talk boats and could happily do so all night. So in 1996 Ellis started a boatbuilding business, on the side, in Palmetto, Fla. Two years ago he officially retired, moved south and put all his energy into Calcutta Marine, which builds sportfishing catamarans.

“I didn’t want to be 65 years old wishing I’d done something I enjoyed all my life,” says Ellis, who is 47. Boats, he says, have interested him since he was a kid.

An avid fisherman and savvy businessman, he looked for the right boat with which to start a business. “I liked the idea of a catamaran, but I didn’t see any boats that I really liked,” he says. “And a lot of them were ugly.”

The Calcutta 263, the company’s first boat, incorporated such features as a drop-down transom gate for easier loading and unloading of passengers and gear. With its latest boat, the 360, Ellis modestly says Calcutta did a “pretty good job” making it attractive.

“ ‘Catamarans’ and ‘nice-looking’ is generally an oxymoron, but this one has nice lines,” says Ellis. The hull is based off a 36-foot Benchmark power cat, an express boat with asymmetrical hulls that was out of production. The design is by John Kiley and emulates the lines of classic sportfishing boats, according to Ellis.

The 36-footer has a 14-foot beam, and though it has a center console layout it sleeps two couples in the forward cuddy. “It’s a large platform,” says Ellis. “The whole game plan was to build a hardcore fishing boat that you could spend a night on or spend a weekend on. It’s … not a living room with a small balcony to fish from.”

It’s called the 360 for its length and for its 360-degree fishability, an advantage over an express-style fishing boat, according to Ellis. “You fish it like you would a plain center console,” he says, adding that it offers about 300 square feet of cockpit space. “At the same time, you do have the creature comforts to spend a weekend.”

Ellis says the boat occupies its own niche as a center console power cat built for fishing but with “yacht quality” equipment and interiors. It’s powered by a pair of 315-hp Yanmar diesels. “We’re just different; we build a different boat,” he says.

Calcutta is a five- or six-man shop, give or take, and builds semicustom boats one at a time. The 360 has cored hulls with solid fiberglass keels and a vinylester skin coat. The lighted engine rooms have an epoxy finish.

At the helm, the boat’s leaning post for three includes a centerline Tracy captain’s chair, a pair of tackle stations, storage space, and an aft-facing upholstered bench seat. Integrated into the bench is a 100-gallon circular live well with a curved side window. Other fishing features include a 40-gallon coaming-mounted bait well in the cockpit, flush-mounted rod holders, under-gunwale rod storage, and 1,841 quarts of in-deck fishboxes. The self-bailing cockpit also has courtesy lighting, molded-in non-skid decks, fresh- and raw-water washdowns, and a walkthrough transom door.

The center console and forward cabin each have cherry interiors. The console contains the head compartment and a galley equipped with a microwave, stainless steel sink, Corian or granite countertops, and an optional refrigerator. In the cabin you’ll find a cherry entertainment center, table and storage lockers — all in cherry — as well as port and starboard double berths. Options include air conditioning, a diesel generator, fiberglass hardtop and power steering.

Ellis clearly is excited about the boat, and he says he sees a childlike joy in his customers, too. “It’s something about when you get a guy who’s 50 years old and he’s acting like a 6-year-old before Christmas — I never got that in financial advising,” says Ellis. “It’s the kind of thing that makes you feel good.”


LOA: 36 feet, 2 inches

Beam: 14 feet

Draft: 3 feet, 3 inches

Displacement: 15,000 pounds

HULL TYPE: catamaran

TANKAGE: 300 gallons fuel, 42 gallons water, 15 gallons waste

STANDARD POWER:twin diesel inboards

SPEED: 42 mph top, 36 mph cruise (with twin 315-hp Yanmars) SUGGESTED PRICE: $329,000

CONTACT: Calcutta Marine, Palmetto, Fla.

Phone: (941) 721-3313.