July 2003 Issue

 
   

26 Weekender
Twin Vee Power Cat
By Marc Patricks

I like multihulls; cats, tris, proas, I love the concept and I love the boats, so let's get that out of the way first. I own a Hobie 18, have sailed the 14, 16 and 20, have crewed on a 105-foot tri, but have never had an opportunity to get on a powered multi-hull; multihull, in the power category anyway, meaning a catamaran. There are several makes out there, but my first shot at driving one was a Twin Vee. The company, based out of Port St. Lucie, Florida, is named Twin Vee - a subtle ploy to fool all you hard-bitten salts who think boats should come any way you want them as long as they have V-hulls. The model name is Weekender, and in this instance, the Twin Vee Power Cat 26 Weekender was the model we got to run. And, man, did we run it.

The day set up sunny early with a stiff breeze (a fairly steady 17-knotter blowing out of the west) turning the normally truculent Great South Bay into . . .well, a typical Great South Bay almost-summer day. There was a two to three-foot chop running with occasional bigger bangers and the air temps were barely over 60. "A perfect day for this boat," according to both George Staudt and Ken Becker, the latter, owner of Leeward Cove Marina in Patchogue, and the former, Leeward's sales manager.

First a little lesson in cats versus vees. Essentially the differences are minimal, but then again they're huge. On the plus side, cats are much more stable than vees, handle choppy water smoother, have less wetted surface and thus require less fuel/effort to move through the water. They also have more usable room above decks. That said, vees have more room below decks (the object of boating being getting outdoors makes this somewhat moot), more storage and generally tend to be less expensive on an apples-to-apples basis. They may also have a leg up in the maneuver department to a certain extent.

Since the entire object of boating is sun and water-based, the cat seems like a no-brainer when it comes to choosing a craft, But there's that damn thing about the two hulls that freaks traditionalists out. Those of us (you) who are familiar with cats don't understand this reluctance. Remember: before Dick Bertram's Raymond Hunt-designed Moppie, few thought a deep-vee was a viable design; and that was but 43 years ago. The cat concept, courtesy of the Polynesians, has been conquering oceans since about when our forefathers were trying to figure out why the wooly mammoth take was down the previous year.

I've been out on the Great South Bay in the conditions we experienced during this test in flat bottom skiffs and go-fast vees, and I guarantee you'll not run at any speed in these conditions without knocking your fillings loose unless you're in a cat. Period. If you wish to take issue with this, feel free, but I'll stand by this statement regardless. So, okay, enough proselytizing; let's just get to how this boat runs.

We ran the Power Cat into the swells, across it, quartered it and with it, and the behavior is incredibly soft. This is not to say that we weren't pounding, but it's not the type of pounding you'd normally get in a vee. No white knuckle holding on, no stomach drops, no spine shattering shivers through the soles of your feet. The obvious sane speed in these typical GSB conditions in this boat was anywhere from six to 20 knots, but the twin 140 four-cycle Suzukis (all the Twin Vee models except the 19s are twin outboard powered) also pushed the boat to a GPS-observed 42.9 mph at 5,800 rpm. That was with full canvas, about 60 gallons of fuel (half the boat's capacity) and three not-so-lightweights on board. Cross seas made it walk hull to hull, but that was about as close to a yaw you'd get, and regardless of the swell direction the boat wants to track straight.

As I've stated, this was my first ride on a powered catamaran, but it was still mighty impressive. The only handling discrepancy I noted was at low speed when turning: it seemed that the boat took a bit to respond to the wheel, though when it did, it was definite about it. Summing it up: the Power Cat rides flat, handles rough water better, and rides softer than any monohull I've been in.

The concept behind these particular catamarans was to produce a boat that was as cat, sans the aforementioned higher price bugaboo. These boats are utilitarian in design, though the list of extras you could add ensure you'll get what you want for what you want to spend. The interiors have a rolled finish; i.e., there's no hull liner, just a grey-speckled non-skid finish. A liner doesn't do much performance wise, so there's a massive weight savings. Another nice touch to this boat is the way the hull and deck are joined. Rather than a traditional overlap that is glued and fastened, the hull comes out of the mold with an eight-inch or so flange, as does the deck. These, in turn, are cemented together for a massively solid connection. The twin hulls - anywhere that isn't used for storage or fuel tanks - are foam filled and the hull comes with a lifetime warranty.

Surprisingly there's an exceptionally large cabin. No, you won't be standing up in it, but you've got a space that is a solid eight feet, six inches wide by at least that long. There's a true queen-size mattress, a portable head, a small sink, four portholes (the front of the cuddy could have used a few more port-holes) and a decent Bomar hatch. Underneath the stepdown into the cabin is a drawer containing a neat little three-shelf tackle box. There are also three storage areas forward and a large one in the starboard hull under the mattress.

The helm is businesslike and visibility, even with a full complement of canvas, is exceptional. There's hydraulic steering, full instrumentation and so much "dashboard" (actually the cuddy top) room you could sleep up there. The visibility factor isn't a big deal on this boat, since there is virtually zero nose-up when accelerating; the boat is simply flat at rest or idle, then flat and fast. 

The seat was a wide bench and there's a bait station option available. The T-top, which is an exceptionally beefy-looking design, has a truly unique feature: the back of the frame can be extended about three feet further by removing two pins. The object is to provide additional shade for all-day-on-the-water adventures. I think it's more appropriate for boats in the southern tier, but it's a neat enough setup just for the "check-this-out" factor.

Options and what you intend on using the boat for go hand in hand with the Power Cat. The freeboard on the boat is very low, about top-of-calf high, a factor of the lack of gunwale-to-gunwale movement. If I had youngsters, I'd go for the optional railing for the incredibly spacious deck (with an eight-foot, six-inch beam, you get about eight feet, four inches of floor space). I'd also opt for the seat pads for the transom, a boarding ladder and the full canvas (including a back). The latter is essential for 10-month boating, and without the back, the "hole" in the air created by the top will suck water. This can be addressed by opening the half moon vent in the front window, but then you'll be limited to fair weather use. Spring for the full canvas if you're in the water April 1 and not out until around Christmas.

The forward deck has an anchor roller and a locker for anchor line as well as nonskid. This is a big area if you're into fly-fishing or fishing of any kind; there's enough room to walk Moby Dick around the boat. The boat is also perfect for diveboat duties and is an ideal boat for anyone handicapped: it's all open space and boarding, regardless of dock height, is mucho easy.

I'd also add a navigator's chair, and I think you'd want to come up with some kind of mosquito netting for the hatch, something they, surprisingly, don't offer currently. Demand for these boats has been inordinately high, and the company is busy moving to larger facilities, so the wait on a Twin Vees means you probably couldn't order one for this season. They expect to have the new facility up and running by the time you read this, and plan on bringing the production time down to around eight weeks. You've got to realize that the boat, rigged pretty much as described in this test, will cost you under $50,000.

If you've never considered a cat, now is the time, and the Twin Vee is the boat. The guys at Leeward Cove realize they have to change a boater's mind about cats and their performance parameters and will be more than happy to set up a test ride; and the snottier the day, the better.

Don't be put off by the design. Sure, it's something different, but it's not different merely for difference's sake. It's a legitimate improvement on seakeeping capabilities, and that makes for a faster, more stable, more economical, more utile craft.

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