Sunsail Yacht Charters just took delivery of three new PDQ power catamarans at their Chesapeake location based in Annapolis, Maryland, the first powerboats of an otherwise all sail boat fleet. Peter Cook, Sunsail's general manager at this location, was sold on the twin-hulled "trawlers" because they're stable, easy to operate, and provide an enormous amount of living space for a 34-foot-long boat.
"They're powered by twin Yanmar 75 hp diesels," he explained on an early summer day, sitting at the expansive dining table in the saloon of one of the PDQ's tied up to the Sunsail docks at Annapolis Landing Marina, just inside Back Creek. "But they cruise at 15 knots. I just took my family and a group of friends across the Bay to St. Michaels for lunch, and it took only about an hour and a half." A sailboat can take a good six to eight hours to cover the same 24-mile cruise. "It's nice to get to places you want to explore at a good speed without spending the whole weekend just getting there and back."
He's also impressed with simplicity of the boat's design and the ease of operation, he added. "With the twin props, you can turn it in its own boat length. The only challenge is fitting it in slips in Annapolis, because the beam is sixteen and a half feet wide, so most of the time, they've got to go alongside the end of a T-dock. But anchoring is so easy, that's a good alternative. The great thing is that it's fully air-conditioned, powered by the generator, so you can have air while you're anchored out. And they only draw two and a half feet, so you can get just about anywhere in the Bay." The boats will operate down along the Gulf Coast of Florida over the winter, where the skinny water also calls for a shoal draft vessel.
PDQ Yachts, based in Whitby, Ontario, launched the first sailing catamaran in 1988, and introduced their first catamaran powerboat, the MV/32 in 1999. They brought out the MV/34's early this year, and Cook is sure they will appeal to his Sunsail charter clients.
"We noticed that our sailing market was getting older," he explained, "and our market research indicated time was getting more and more valuable, so they want to do in one weekend what they formerly had a week for."
Sunsail is a British company started 31 years ago with a fleet of a dozen 28-foot sailboats in Greece. Now they operate 1,200 sailboats, with 39 cruising destinations in 23 countries around the world. These three PDQ's are the company's first power yachts.
Peter Cook also hails from England. "I've been with the company for fourteen years," he said. "I started as a sailing instructor and worked my way through the company. I transferred here to Annapolis in 1999, and I plan to stay here."
After our chat, I got the grand tour of the boat. As you enter the main saloon, there's a lounge area to port and the inside helm station to starboard. Sitting in the wide, double bench seat, there's plenty of good visibility all around, thanks to the big, square windshields with the opening center pane, and the large windows on the sides and aft. All this expanse of glass also makes the L-shaped lounge good for watching the world go by. From there, it's two steps down to the large dining table. You can easily sit six in the settee that wraps around. The settee converts to form a huge berth, and the back rests form a cushioned barricade on three sides, providing a plethora of sleepover potential for a passel of kids.
The port pontoon houses the galley, where there's a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer forward, at counter-top height, so there's no stooping to see what's for lunch. A two-burner propane stove and a microwave on a shelf above round out the necessities.
Aft of the galley there's one of two staterooms, the spacious queen-sized berth tucked under the aft deck in such a way as to provide plenty of sitting-up headroom and a small space just inside the door for changing clothes. The starboard pontoon is a mirror image of the port stateroom. The single head aft of this has plenty of room, with a molded vanity and sink, and separate shower stall with good headroom as well as elbowroom.
The 75 hp Yanmar diesels are underneath the berths. The steps leading up to the berths flip open to provide a "day hatch" access to the strainers and fluid checks. The mattresses flip in half to provide even greater access to the engines.
On deck, molded staircases lead up from the aft end of each pontoon, and a wide bench seat spans the transom. Stainless davits hold an inflatable dingy for easy launching. Two-foot-wide side decks lead around the cabin to the flat expanse of foredeck. The single anchor is centered and there's a windlass for easy anchoring.
The flybridge is protected by a canvas Bimini, and although it's rather Spartan up there, there's everything you need, from an L-shaped lounge in one corner with a table and two pilot's chairs. I can't say I like the starboard steering station. It would seem more logical to place it on the centerline, which would fix the slight blind spot off the aft port quarter. Otherwise, the view is pretty spectacular from up there.
We dropped the lines and spun out the narrow slip to the creek. The screws being about sixteen feet apart provide a lot of maneuverability. Heading out into the mouth of the Severn River, the handling at speed was quite spry. Tracking is sure, just as you'd expect with those twin hulls, and stability when at rest on cross wakes, was acceptable. Certainly, cutting straight into two-foot wakes was easy and the rocking negligible.
We got just under 18 knots heading into the 12-knot breeze at wide-open throttle, about 4900 rpm, and about 18.6 going downwind in the same conditions. Cruising speed was a solid 15 knots at about 3400 rpm, which would allow you to cover a lot of ground no matter how much time you can spare. In other words, it's PDQ.
If you'd like to check it out for yourself, try chartering one from Sunsail for as little as $3,200 per week. For details, contact Sunsail at 888-294-3505 or log onto their web site at www.sunsail.com.