Power Catamarans are relatively new to the cruising world but will become a more popular choice for local and extended cruising. Two hulls offer a wide, stable platform, but not as wide as sailing catamarans. So, the docking and slip issues associated with sailing cats are not a problem for a power cat.
There are many benefits to a power cat. The wide platform offers great stability at anchor, and the visual openness gives the illusion of a much larger boat. The two hulls are easily driven, so that the cat can be powered by two smaller engines for displacement speeds that provide fabulous economy. But larger diesels are also a good choice, allowing higher cruising speeds with excellent fuel economy compared to other planning powerboats. And the easily driven hulls do not create large wakes because they are efficient traveling through the water.
While larger cruising powerboats rely on thrusters for close quarter maneuvering, they are not needed on most power cats. With two engines so far apart, the ability to place a power cat in tight spaces is quite amazing. With a little practice, an experienced skipper can move his or her power cat literally sideways to the dock, with barely any forward or reverse movement.
Not all power cats are the same, in terms of performance and other capabilities, as some builders prefer to load up the wide platform with as many staterooms, furniture, appliances, granite counters (and the associated weight) to produce a floating palace. These are to be avoided for general cruising, as well as cats with maximum cabins, layouts better suited to vacation charters in the islands.
It is important to maintain adequate space under the bridgedeck above the water. Running into any kind of sea can cause an unsettling banging as the waves slap against the bridgedeck if it is too low. The late Malcolm Tennant recommended at least 36 inches between the bottom of the bridgedeck and the waterline for a power cat headed offshore.
Once ungainly creatures, today’s designs are much more contemporary, and they appeal to newer boaters who did not grow up with nautical traditions of teak interiors and exterior brightwork. To this new generation of cruisers, the catamaran makes perfect sense. European builders now create modern, comfortable, and bright open interiors that make cruising aboard a modern cat a pleasure.
Carrying a dinghy is usually an afterthought on boats. On large powerboats that carry dinghies, an expensive electric or hydraulic crane is required to handle the dinghy on and off the upper boat deck. On a power cat it is simple work to hang the dinghy from a davit system at the stern, between the two hulls, It is such an easy thing to pull the dinghy up for the night, quite different from the tedious job normally associated with launching and retrieving the dinghy on a monohull. This makes it ideal for a cruising boat. And the ease of getting in and out of dinghy from each hull’s swim platform is simplicity itself.
Anchoring a power cat requires the use of a bridle to keep the boat from swinging at anchor. And on many power cats, where the designer aims to keep weight out of the bows, the anchor chain comes back across the deck to the cabin where the windlass and anchor locker are located, rather than in one of the hulls.
Most power cats have easy access to the flybridge from a spacious cockpit ideal for dining and living aboard, often with a boat deck overhead to protect crew from the elements.
Running a power cat at speed in calm conditions is a delight everyone should experience. A balanced power cat is easily driven, and the small wake from the hulls adds to the tranquil morning as one overtakes one sailboat or trawler after another, speeding along with hardly a sound besides the wind rushing over the flybridge. And knowing that the fuel dock is not on the schedule for today.
In heavy weather a power cat requires some different techniques to keep everyone comfortable. In beam seas, especially on small cats, in conditions that would make a trawler or powerboat roll, a power cat can have a quick, jerky motion that is uncomfortable. Easing off one’s course, however, like tacking in a sailboat, changes the angle of the boat in relation to the seas, and quickly settles down the motion. It is a learned skill and well worth learning to round out one’s power cat handling skills.
Life can be good on a power cat.
Bill Parlatore discusses the advancement of technology and comfort in cruising boats.
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