Not even 10 years ago, a pleasure catamaran with twin 650-hp engines produced serious dockside buzz. Today, it barely rates a mutter. Seems like it takes blown engines in the 1,000-plus-hp range for a boat to be the talk of the docks, which is at once impressive and absurd. By most motor-sports standards, just one 650 horsepower engine, much less two, provides a lot of juice.
That's why Jay Pilini, owner of Spectre Powerboats in Clearwater, Fla., seemed almost apologetic for bringing us a 36' catamaran with a pair of MDG 650 engines. He needn't have been—we still have enough perspective to know that 1,300 hp in a true catamaran with no center pod and triple-step sponsons is a lot of boat.
Top speed for the Spectre 36 was 118.7 mph with the reliable, easy-shifting, smooth-idling engines turning 5,500 rpm. Backing off the throttles and cutting engine speed to 4,500 rpm produced a perfectly fine cruising speed of 96 mph. Not that drivers or co-pilots will feel much breeze at those speeds, thanks to quarter canopies.
But the strongest aspect of the Spectre 36's performance wasn't speed—it was handling. The boat carved slalom turns with ease and grace and didn't lean hard to the outside, which was especially impressive for a cat without a center pod. It was equally dazzling in wide circle turns, especially in the 70- to 80-mph range. Offshore, the Spectre easily tackled 2- to 4-footers.
The catamaran's soft offshore ride was much appreciated since its cockpit is far from the deepest in its class. Lack of jarring and bouncing is a positive quality in a relatively shallow cockpit. It boosts passenger comfort, particularly for those sitting on the rear bench.
To further the confidence level and comfort of rear passengers, Spectre designed the bench with a body-hugging bolster at each of the four positions. Between each mini-bolster was an armrest and a grab handle. High-back bucket seats were provided for the driver and co-pilot.
The co-pilot's position sported above-average features, including a Garmin GPSMAP 180 unit, a Sony Xplode stereo system and an anodized blue grab handle. Mounted in a console between the buckets were the throttles and shifters from Marine Machine. To keep bench passengers up to speed, so to speak, the builder installed a 160-mph Livorsi Marine speedometer on the back of the console. Helm station gauges, also from Livorsi had blue rims and were installed in carbon-fiber panels. Toggle switches activated the accessories.
Spectre expertly handled the paint work for the 36-footer, but even that was kept simple. The graphic understatement actually made the boat stand out when viewed from a distance.
You can order the Spectre 36 with more power. You can have it finished with a more elaborate paint job. But even in "mellow" dress, the 36-footer is one heck of a catamaran.