The military is testing them, sailboats have used their basic hull design for decades, passenger ferryboats are switching to them from monohulls and New Zealanders are known for building them. What are they? Power catamarans — and they prove that cats are not just for sailing anymore.
Catamarans are inherently more stable than most monohulls, and cats have less surface area touching the water — decreasing water resistance and helping to increase hull speed through the water, with less power. However, one question always arises when comparing multihulls to traditional monohulls: "Won't you will lose a lot of interior space, due to the void between the two hulls?"
Granted, the cat's interior design is different — but keep in mind that a catamaran is basically a rectangle shape that gives a lot of usable space, unlike the curvature of a monohull.
Meet the New Cat
We traveled up the coast to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California to meet Bill Falkenstein, the president of McFalk Enterprises. Falkenstein is the importer of the Cat Concepts NZ38, a new power cat from New Zealand designed by Roger Hill. I have cruised on cats from 3.5 meters on up, and I was eager to give this cat a test on the usually rough waters outside Channel Islands Harbor.
When I arrived at the marina, Falkenstein had two NZ38s ready for us to tour: one rigged for family cruising and the other rigged as a sportfishing machine. Many cats have an especially wide beam, yet the NZ38's beam is only 14 feet, 3 inches — allowing it to easily fit into most slips.
We decided to test run the family cruising cat, but it was nice to see both configurations available.
The NZ38's twin hulls are full symmetrical planing hulls, with vinylester below the waterline, balsa-cored GRP laminate up to the high chine line and divinycell in the sides. I noticed that between the hulls, the underside has a convex curve instead of being straight across, to direct the volume of air and water flowing underneath — creating a smooth ride and preventing the bow from getting buried.
The swim step is a solid contiguous extension of the cockpit, and the swim step has a very solid feel, for loading or fishing. The swim step almost appears to be part of the guest space, and a dinghy fits vertically on the edge of the step.
The cockpit is large, with access to the engines through hatches in the sole on both the starboard and port sides. The engine compartments have ample room for servicing the engines and auxiliary generator, adding a water-maker and storage.
The NZ38 is powered by twin 300 hp MerCruiser diesels with Bravo II outdrives, or you can have a V-drive as an option. Our test boat was equipped with convenient cockpit controls.
All the exterior hatches on the boat are lockable. One innovation is that the fresh water and diesel fill caps open with just a push and twist.
A nice feature on the NZ38 configured for sportfishing is a cockpit island bait tank, directly in front of a Calypso barbecue grill that is built into the transom. You can enter the cockpit from the swim step on either side of the barbecue — and lift-out hatches can seal off the cockpit.
The cockpit has a day head compartment on the port side — an especially convenient feature when those aboard are messy from fishing or wet from swimming. On the starboard side is a storage cabinet and a window that opens to the galley, plus a ladder leading up to the flybridge.
You can reach the large bow area from either side of the cockpit. I highly recommend adding the extra flip-down step, to step up to the stainless steel rails that run full-height from the cockpit to the anchor.
The bowrails split and curve aft on each side of the anchor, making an open space to reach the anchor, but also creating a safe railed-in pocket on each side. The bow has two very large storage lockers on both sides and the anchor locker is oversized, with good access to the anchor rode. A stout stainless steel bollard is located forward of the windlass, for securing the anchor rode.
You enter the main saloon from the cockpit through glass bi-fold doors. This is a space saver over a sliding door.
The saloon is open, with the galley located on the starboard side. The electrical panel is located immediately inside the saloon, to port, with an easy to read switch panel design and digital tank monitors.
A settee and table are on the port side, and another settee is forward of the galley on the starboard side. Stairs are located forward on each side, with a forward cabinet mounted on the bulkhead. This cabinet houses a pop-up flat-screen television — or you can add an additional lower helm station here.
Each staircase leads belowdecks into one of the two separate hulls. The head and shower are located aft on the starboard side. Aft in the port hull, you'll find the guest stateroom.
There are two designs available for the forward staterooms. On our test boat, the two forward staterooms were actually connected between the two hulls by raising the middle section over the boat's bottom tunnel. That creates a section that accommodates a king-size berth with access from either side. Some headroom is sacrificed over the berth, but it is a great use of space that is ideal for a cruising couple.
If you are expecting a lot of guests, one of the other layout options will fit your needs. You can have both forward hull sections offer symmetrical staterooms with queen-size berths, or have a master stateroom on one side and a stateroom with a pair of bunks on the other.
Take the Test
When it was time to leave the dock, I scurried up to the flybridge. The bridge is enclosed, with a hardtop and both forward and side glass windows. The aft mounted helm is raised, with stainless steel legs, creating an open, airy feeling. Our test boat was equipped with a Furuno NavNet 10-inch navigation display, a B&G autopilot and Mercury Marine gauges.
Bench seating wrapped around the forward portion of the flybridge, and there was room to add a mini refrigerator.
As we made our way out of the harbor, we soon appreciated the stability of the twin hulls. We had 3-foot seas, with an occasional 4-foot ground swell. The cat popped out of the harbor entrance with no noticeable change in the ride — which is what cats are known for.
Even in these sea conditions, we hit 33 knots at wide-open throttle, at 3,950 rpm. We found a comfortable cruising speed at 22.6 knots, at 3,200 rpm — and the boat did not pound once going over the swells.
The boat produced a low wake profile, and slicing back through our wake was almost unnoticeable during tight turns. The boat handled well in the seas when I simulated backing down on a fish, and we enjoyed an excellent view from the bridge to the cockpit and swim step.
We stopped the boat and went down to the cockpit to feel the effects of the seas at a dead stop. The boat angled itself not completely abeam the seas in the trough, but at a slight angle. We did not need to grab hold of a rail once on this stable platform.
We headed back for the harbor, surfing the swells, and we could watch the speed increase with each passing swell. We never had the feeling of broaching sideways.
As we returned the NZ38 to its slip, I started weighing the pros and cons of this power cat. The pros included an enviable ride, efficient performance in a wide range of sea conditions, and a roomy and nicely arranged interior. I had only one problem: I couldn't come up with any cons.
Cat Concepts NZ38 Specifications
|Draft||2'6" (drive down)|
|Fuel capacity||290 gallons|
|Water capacity||140 gallosn.|
|Price as tested with twin 300-hp MerCruiser D-Tronic 4.2L engines||$410,000|
|Top speed||33 knots|
|Cruising speed||22.6 knots|
|Miles per gallon at 22.6 knots||1.22|
|Fuel cost for 100 miles||$145.08|
|Range at 22.6-knot cruising speed||354.44 nautical miles|
(Estimated fuel cost based on fuel price of $1.77 per gallon.)
Choice of two-cabin or three-cabin layout, with one or two heads; Maxwell or equivalent windlass; safety glass windshield on flybridge; halogen and fluorescent lighting; dining table with drop leaf; PAR manual heads; propane or 110v range top; carpeting; teak and holly sole in galley; laminate benchtops; stereo system.
Hardtop or Bimini for flybridge; refrigerator/freezer unit with steps to flybridge; insert for extra berth on flybridge; island transom unit with second refrigerator and/or barbecue, sink and shower; teak decks; extra-high bowrail; slide-out tackle drawers; bait tank with pumps; extra rocket launchers; leather upholstery; Corian or Karadon countertops; convertible dinette/berth; Electrasan or VacuFlush heads; 36,000 Btu three-zone air conditioning; entertainment center with television and VCR; MMC or equivalent electronic controls (optional second station at forward end of saloon); twin 230 hp or 300 hp Yanmar diesel engines; 2000 Mastervolt inverter; Northern Lights or Onan auxiliary generator; full electronics package (quoted to individual requirements).
Full GRP laminate to High Modulus specifications; vinylester below waterline; balsa-cored GRP laminate to high chine line; balsa core over tunnel; divinycell sides.
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