Jaunary 17, 2002

 
   

Xtreme 26 Power Cat
Lightweight & Versatile


by Marshall Brodie

Power catamarans have slowly gained in popularity over the years, generally appreciated for their soft ride, solid stability and fuel efficiency.

But cats have not become as popular as some in the industry thought they might, partly because of aesthetics and expense. Besides their boxy appearance and the need for two outboard motors, which ups the price, it simply costs more to build a boat with two hulls.

This may help explain why Twin Vee PowerCats is the largest builder of power catamarans in the country. Twin Vee builds more affordable, utilitarian and lightweight catamarans from 10 1/2 feet up to 32 feet. Twin Vee keeps costs down by using traditional building materials such as polyester resin and fiberglass encapsulated plywood floors and stringers.

The company also holds the price by building their boats without an inner liner, which on most other boats is the glossy, nicely finished deck and interior that is dropped inside the hull. The downside of no inner liner is that the boat is left with a bare bones industrial look -- but one that is easy to clean and maintain.

FOAM-FILLED HULLS

Recently, I had the chance to tour Twin Vee's factory in Port St. Lucie, Fla. and try out the Xtreme 26, a center-console catamaran that is one of Twin Vee's more popular models. The Xtreme 26, like all other Twin Vees, has sealed foam-filled hulls, which Rodger Dunshee, president of Twin Vee, says provide full buoyancy and make the cockpit self-bailing.

A 60-gallon polyethylene fuel tank is mounted and foamed in place in each hull with an additional 40-gallon tank available.

The use of wood in the boat may raise a red flag with some buyers but Dunshee assured me that the plywood floors and stringers are specially treated against rot for the life of the boat, and are covered with fiberglass for further protection. Dunshee backs his claim with a lifetime hull warranty, even for commercial use. Dunshee also said that the boat was built much stronger than needed for safety.

David East of Twin Vee and I went for a test ride in two-to-three foot seas which the twin narrow hulls of the Xtreme 26 sliced through smoothly. On the occasional larger waves, I braced myself for the hard impact typical of a monohull boat but, instead, the catamaran landed softly due to the trapped air in the tunnel between the hulls. In turns, the Xtreme 26 leaned in like a conventional monohull boat, unlike some cats that lean out similar to a car, which can be disconcerting to some boaters.

The test boat was equipped with twin Mercury 150-horsepower outboard motors which provided plenty of performance. The Twin Vee cruised comfortably at 35 mph at 4,200 rpm. Pushing the throttles wide open, we reached 55.8 miles per hour at 5,400 rpm.

WIND PROTECTION

A cool day can quickly turn very cold at these speeds in an open boat, so we zipped down the optional enclosure to protect us from the wind chill. However, if we had the enclosure open, we probably would have picked up another 2 or 3 mph which makes for a fast cat. Acceleration was quick: the Xtreme 26 jumped up on plane quickly and with practically no bow rise, which provided excellent visibility at all times. It also was able to get on plane with one motor tilted up which is a nice safety feature.

The Twin Vee has a stable platform -- with both of us standing on one gunwale, the boat barely listed to one side. The Xtreme 26 would also be great for fishing at anchor or when drifting. With the engines off, the Xtreme drifted sideways which lets everyone fish off the side of the boat.

Unlike some other cats, the sides are relatively low, so gaffing or releasing fish is a breeze. With a draft of only 12 inches with the motors tilted up, the Xtreme 26 can fish offshore or in shallow bay waters.

The Xtreme 26 has a huge amount of deck space and a simple layout. Do not look for a lot of equipment though, the standard boat is pretty basic and the option list is long, allowing the customer to outfit the boat as he or she chooses. The forward casting deck has a shallow anchor locker. The large console has storage under the forward seat and through a hatch under the steering wheel.

Unlike a typical ``rolled edge'' boat such as a Carolina Skiff, Twin Vee has a gel coated cap to cover the gunwales for a slightly more finished look and a place to mount rod holders.

SCUBA GEAR

Additional storage is provided in the aft bulkhead with three compartments. For divers, this is a great place to sit and put on scuba gear before stepping off the aft deck. An optional 45-gallon live baitwell is available.

The Twin Vee Xtreme 26 is not for everyone but rather for the person who values ride and a simple no-nonsense layout over a flashy, slick boat. Other cats to consider in this size range are the Glacier Bay 260, the Renaissance Prowler 24 and the World Class Cat 266 SF.

For more information, contact Twin Vee PowerCats at 561-337-0633, or online at www.twinvee.net

Marshall Brodie writes about boats for Wheels & Waves. He can be reached by e-mail at heraldboating@aol.com.

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