offers the best
of both worlds
By Bob Marshall
Twin Vee 19 has flat-boat convenience, catamaran handling
Kevin Hunter had a suggestion: "Turn hard
The request sounded simple enough, especially since the boat wasn't traveling
more than 20 mph. But the result was definitely not simple.
As the pilot turned the steering wheel a gradual 15 degrees starboard, the
passengers had to quickly latch on to the grab rail -- or be thrown over the gunnels.
The Twin Vee 19 didn't turn like a boat. It turned like a Ferrari. It didn't lean and slide across the water in a gradual banking movement like a monohull. Instead, the twin hulls of the catamaran acted like four-wheel drive, biting into the choppy water of Lake Borgne and going where the bow pointed. In a hurry.
"Pretty amazing, huh?" said Hunter.
About as amazing as the way the 19-footer flattened the light chop at 40 mph, turning a rough ride into a smooth, dry stroll. Or the way it could float in 10 inches of water and hop up on a plane from the same spot, even with the 140-horsepower four-stroke on the back. Or the fact that it had only one motor, instead of two.
"This is a great design," said Hunter, who sells the boats when he isn't running offshore to catch tuna for his Southbound Charter. "It's the only catamaran bay boat I know about. It's definitely different and new."
"New" boat designs are announced almost as often as new foolproof weight-loss plans -- and with about as much credibility. Most so-called new designs in fishing boats amount to little more than small adjustments to tried-and-true models already on the market.
But every once in a while, something different and effective comes along.
About 10 years ago, the bay boat hit the coastal scene. It was a simple idea but a true change that would have significant impacts on anglers: Take the utilitarian layout of a traditional aluminum flatboat, give it a bit of a V in the front to smooth out some waves, but leave the rest of the hull almost flat to save the interior space.
And make it out of fiberglass. This would provide marsh and bay anglers a smoother, drier ride than possible in a flat, but would still allow them to get into shallow water -- and do it faster and quieter.
About the same time, an even more radical change came along: recreational
catamarans. These twin-hulled boats provided a much smoother ride than monohulls in rough water. They typically were more than 23 feet long and expensive, partly because they must be powered by an outboard at each hull. Still they were quickly adopted by big-water anglers.
Since then bay boats have evolved into the dominant craft for inshore anglers. They have become longer, wider and much faster. But along the way they have lost some of the characteristics that originally made them attractive. Most have deeper
V's today, draw much more water and are much more expensive.
At the recent New Orleans Boat Show, the most numerous bay boat models on the floor were 21 feet long and cost between $23,000 and $35,000.
But one boat was dramatically different, a completely new idea: the Twin Vee 19. It is powered by a single motor. It sits relatively low to the water. And it is a bay boat --
"This is the first catamaran designed from the hull up as a bay boat," said Roger Dunshee, who founded the
[Florida-based] company 10 years ago and designs its boats. Most of his models are like those of his competitors: big-water fishing boats between 22 and 32 feet. Not the 19-footer.
"This was designed for your type of water from the very beginning. It's engineered to run in a chop and to be able to run offshore to the close-in rigs if you want to but also to work in shallow water.
"And maybe most importantly, it's designed to run on one motor."
To understand that last boast, Dunshee gives a quick course on catamaran design:
-- Catamarans offer a smoother ride than monohulls because they have more lateral stability and because of a principle called kinetic fluid induction. The inside of the hulls are designed to push water into the open space between them called the tunnel. As the wakes speed into the tunnel, the water is filled with air bubbles. This aerated water creates a cushion under the deck that acts as a shock absorber when the hull smacks into the crest of the next wave.
-- That cushion, however, creates a stream of air and water flowing out of the back of the tunnel, which would cause cavitation for a prop trying to grab water for propulsion. That's why catamarans typically are powered by two smaller outboards at the end of hulls, rather than by a single large motor in the center of the transom, as is the custom with monohulls.
"The biggest challenge for creating this bay boat was coming up with a hull design to deal efficiently with kinetic fluid induction, so that it could be run with a single motor," said Dunshee.
Dunshee accomplished this, he said, by creating some unique design features in the hulls and by adding a specially designed skeg at the back of the hull. The skeg looks like little more than a solid rectangle of fiberglass in the tunnel near the transom. But it isn't that simple, said Dunshee.
"It's the size, shape and position of the skeg in relation to the design of the hulls," he said. "Plenty of catamarans have skegs, but they don't all work the same, or as well. We wanted a bay boat -- something that could work well with one motor."
They got it, with a design that should appeal to the no-nonsense anglers in coastal Louisiana. This is a boat with the emphasis on fishing room.
The twin hulls allow the deck to have the same type of fishing space as a flat. In fact, the deck of the Twin Vee 19 looks more like a Carolina Skiff than a Bay Stealth. The deck measures 18 feet, 6 inches from the transom to the rub rail on the bow and has a yawning 7-foot-8 beam.
The basic model doesn't offer anything to interfere with casting. The center console is tiny; there is a spacious bow deck but no stern deck; and there are no side storage boxes.
In fact, storage is a problem. The 36-gallon gas tank takes up the interior of the small console, and the cockpit seat doubles as an ice chest. Dunshee, however, said the boats can be ordered with any number of added amenities, including extra casting decks and storage spots.
"We built a fishing boat that people can customize," he said. "We wanted this to be rugged. That's why the hulls are completely foam-filled. And that's why we don't have an inner liner.
"Those liners are pretty, but they serve no practical purpose and account for about 40 percent of a hull's weight. We put that weight savings into extra glass in the hulls and deck, where strength is important.
"We think we've built something new, different and very good. This is a catamaran designed as a bay boat. We think it works."
So do anglers. To keep up with demand, Twin Vee has just purchased an additional 70,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
"We're struggling to keep up with demand," said Dunshee. "When fishermen ride in this boat, they want it."
That was the case last week on Lake Borgne. Hunter didn't have much of selling job for the two anglers on his demo rider. He let the boat do the talking.
"It's the first bay boat of its kind, as far as I know," he said. "It's new."
Bob Marshall can be reached at
or (504) 826-3787.