Many of us in the passagemaking community have watched the progressive evolution of the power catamaran. In the last decade, I have seen truly impressive power cats around the world voyaging in safety and comfort. These designs often combine lightweight composite construction with sound engineering to create strong structural integrity that offers many advantages over traditional displacement hull forms. While sailing cats have been around a long time, the catamaran concept is very well suited, in my opinion, to a power boat.
Too many people confuse heavy with strength, and the ability to make faster passages in a lighter boat is not to be dismissed. Being able to outrun weather at speed is just as important as the economy of needing less fuel for voyaging long distance. The power cat offers both. And many power cats have shallow draft, something to be appreciated in paradise.
With engines set far apart, maneuverability is outstanding, eliminating the need for thrusters of any kind. It also has a very stable ride, not needing complex machinery such as active fin stabilizers to reduce roll. As a result, even a large power cat can be outfitted simply, while still providing outstanding performance characteristics underway and at anchor. The “less is more” mantra well describes the power cat genre.
A cat‘s narrow hulls make for exceptional efficiency and fuel economy, which is an important consideration when planning long distance cruising with today‘s fuel costs.
It is true that ultimate load-carrying ability of a power cat is somewhat less than that of a displacement powerboat, but that is not the issue it might seem. The late Malcolm Tennant, a well-known New Zealand designer, preached fighting the urge to bring everything aboard, something that is easy to do with so much space. (He also crusaded against granite countertops and heavy hardwood interiors.) Cruising boats tend to get loaded down with all kinds of real or imagined “must have” essentials.
But I believe it is a matter of perspective and approaching the situation with a certain attitude. Instead of carrying 800 gallons of water, install a water maker and lose the weight. Instead of loading the boat with one‘s entire library of books, download them onto a Kindle or iPad. Do the same for CDs and DVD movies and music onto an MP3 player or iPod. It has become the way of the world for many people anyway. Instead of a massive davit crane to bring the dinghy atop the boat deck, a simple pair of davits will hold a large dinghy up close and personal between the two hulls at the stern, or a hydraulic platform to cradle the dinghy between the hulls. Think simple.
There is much that can be argued for choosing a power cat as one‘s cruising boat, but the four key features that support the choice are comfort, efficiency, speed, and stability.
Pioneer Robert Beebe didn‘t know about power cats, as they have only recently come of age, but I believe they are the passagemakers of the future. It‘s all about attitude.