Twin Vee Cat Thrives on Plane
By William Sisson
As I guided the 22-foot Twin Vee catamaran through the no-wake portion of the channel, my friend gave me my first lesson in how to run a power catamaran.
I was starting to accelerate when he reached over, put his hand on the throttles and shoved them all the way forward. "That," he said with a grin, "is how you run a cat."
The boat jumped on plane - which is not hyperbole with this cat - and we headed out toward an open sound for what would be the first of nearly 100 hours I would spend on this boat.
Planing (or semiplaning) cats, like those built by Twin Vee and other manufacturers, are happiest when they are doing what they are designed for: running across the top of a sloppy seaway, the air-and-spray-packed tunnel between the hulls generating both lift for more efficient running, as well as cushioning the cats reentries.
My friend with the 22-foot Awesome center console was right. Catamarans like to be pushed hard, somewhat counter-intuitive to what I'd learned about driving monohulls in bumpy water. One speeds up with a cat rather than slows down.
"When you think you should be slowing down, you should be going faster," says Roger Dunshee, 55, president and CEO of the Port Saint Lucie, Fla., company that builds 14 models of catamarans in eight sizes, from 10-1/2 feet to a 31-footer due out in late 2001. "It likes to be pushed."
That takes some getting used to, but it is the proper way to drive one of Dunshee's boats. A true enthusiast, Dunshee rattles off the advantages
of his twin-hulled boats: smooth, dry ride; cost; the ability to run with smaller (therefore less expensive) motors; and little maintenance. "You bring it back to the dock, hit it with the hose and walk away from it," he says.
For the better part of five months we had a chance to find out. We ran the 22-foot cat, powered by a pair of 90-hp Suzuki
4-strokes, in a variety of conditions - from flat calm to hang-on-tight water. By the end of it all I was
impressed by her ride and stability, ability to run in choppy, confused seas, and the forgiving, balanced way she'd come off a wave, be it in quartering, head or following sea. She didn't do anything untoward.
With the twin Suzukis we had a top end of about 35-36 mph at 5,500 rpm in ideal conditions. In more challenging conditions, the cat gave us flexibility to run farther and faster, without getting pounded to death. As a result, we cancelled fewer trips and caught more fish.
The first real rough-water test came on a blustery day in July, when we ran the 22-footer through the powerful tidal race, known as The Race, at the eastern end of Long Island. The wind was out of the west, gusting to about 25 mph. The rip was an honest 4-6 feet, white-capped and wind-blown.
We got to the rip and spent several minutes eyeballing the water. The first crossing would be uptide, with the wind at our backs. There were very few small boats at the rip during this stage of the tide.
I picked a line that would take us across a section of The Race where the rip seemed the most topsy-turvy. I wasn't sure what to expect but once you've committed to going through the rip, you're committed. It's not a good idea to come beam-to in this kind of washing machine.
The cat tracked straight through the mess without broaching or stuffing or hooking. We crossed the broken water downwind and against the tide, running up, over and down the backs of the short, breaking waves. We leapt out of the last wave and ran up ahead of the rip into relatively calm water, put the boat in neutral, and looked back downtide into the wind and curling waves.
The tide sucked us toward the edge of the rip as we got ready for the next crossing, which would take us directly into the wind and waves. The standing waves in the rip were head-high and then some.
In theory, we knew how we should run the boat in this stuff. Time to put it into practice. I brought the cat up to speed, my friend had both hands wrapped tightly around the stainless grab rail, and we danced across the shortly spaced wave tops. Again, we didn't pound, hook or stuff. The boat felt safe and balanced. When it launched, it came back down smoothly, landing on its "feet." We were impressed.
Over the course of the summer and fall, we made numerous runs down Long Island Sound in conditions that, had we been in a comparably sized monohull, we would have either avoided or been forced to take much slower, with a good deal of pounding. We ran it through rips, over sand shoals and off river mouths, where we found plenty of confused wind-against-tide conditions. We never felt uncomfortable or unsafe.
Drifting through a breaking rip, however, the boat occasionally shipped some water over its flat bow. That's something to keep in mind if you intend to do a lot of that type of specialized fishing. But the hull is filled with foam, and the deck is self-bailing. Dunshee says it floats level, completely filled with water.
The 22 Twin Vee is a simple, stiff, basic boat built around a good hull design that Dunshee says he spent two years developing. The hulls employ a sharp entry for slicing through waves, lifting chines and a tracking pad that runs the length of the keels.
The Awesome 22 weighs 1,850 pounds, draws about 1 foot and has a beam of 8 feet, 6 inches. It carries 80 gallons of fuel in two 40-gallon tanks. The boats are not put together with an interior liner, but rather have a rolled edge or gunwale. The fit-and-finish is not what one will find on other boats, but that's not Dunshee's goal.
"Our boats aren't as pretty as some of the other boats out there," says Dunshee. "But what's pretty about our boat is the ride." And the price.
Dunshee said the 22 was designed to be affordable for the "blue-collar" boater. The base price for the 22 without power is $14,995. With twin 90-hp Suzukis, the price of boat, motors and trailer is about $31,000.
The deck, transom and stringers are made from a treated wood product that has a lifetime warranty against rot or delamination, according to the builder. The hull is laid up from 24-ounce woven roving. The keel tracking pad that runs along the bottom of the sponsons is about 2 inches thick on the bottom, about 1 inch thick on the side, Dunshee says. "We definitely overbuild our boats," he says.
The hull carries a lifetime warranty. Contact Twin Vee, 1650 S.E. Village Green Drive, Port Saint Lucie, FL 34952. Phone: (561) 337-0633.