A Perfect Imbalance
If one were to make a talking Larry Graf pull-string action figure, it would definitely say, “This is going to be fun!”
Graf is the founder, owner and designer at Aspen Power Catamarans, a Burlington, Washington-based builder that specializes in its own original take on multihull production boats. Its newest offering is the full-displacement C108.
When the C108 was first made available for a spin, I hopped aboard Hull No. 1 in Anacortes for a bop around the eastern edge of the San Juan Islands. The historic weather conditions had a wildfire theme as smoke settled in, creating a marine fog layer laced with throat-itching toxic particulates. But that wouldn’t stop a guy like Graf.
“This is going to be fun!” Graf said through his home-sewn, snowmobile-themed face mask as he fired up the outboards. A generation learned to love the bomb with Dr. Strangelove. We were clearly about to learn to love 2020 aboard the latest Aspen.
It’s readily apparent that the C108 nixes the notion that all boat designs are a series of compromises. The C108 has a 37-foot-6-inch length overall with three berths (the dinette converts to a fourth berth). There’s an enclosed head with a shower, and a roomy salon similar to the one on the larger C120. The idea for the C108 came from a couple considering the smaller C107; the wife insisted upon a larger dinette for playing cards with the gals.
“What became the C108 was originally going to be a one-off,” Graf says, but more buyers expressed interest. He retooled to add several other design tweaks, including 8 inches more beam. At the time of this writing, he says, seven buyers were lined up.
A fundamental feature on the C108, and many Aspens, is the bulkhead between the salon and cockpit. Almost the whole section is glass that can be closed or opened to combine the indoor and outdoor space, which itself is partially covered. An exterior bar with two seats is near the dinette.
The C108 also accommodates a dinghy that is secured to a raised metal rack over the outboard engines. Hull No. 1 has a basic setup; the owner manually deploys and stows the dinghy. More sophisticated options are available for heavier tender users. While the overall feel is that of a cruising yacht, the C108 is also trailerable.
We took Hull No. 1 through her paces, and the dual outboards—a 115-hp Yamaha and a 200-hp Yamaha—helped us reach a top speed around 26 knots near 5500 rpm. We were able to run just the smaller outboard at around 1.7 knots. The setup should let anglers zip out to the fishing grounds and then troll at low speeds. And the lack of an inboard engine frees up easily accessible stowage beneath the cockpit sole.
Graf’s power proa hull is based on the premise that the two full-displacement keels are of slightly different sizes and are mindful of the ideal tunnel height-to-width ratio for performance. The inner chine of each keel is about three times the width of the outer chine that provides lift. A step at the top of the tunnel breaks through the water and creates a bubble zone that helps cushion the ride at different speeds. There’s also an asymmetrical wave breaker that runs down the center of the tunnel to stiffen the hull.
All of which is to say, Aspen’s power proa hull design is intended to enhance seakeeping and fuel efficiency. On Hull No. 1, a sweet-spot cruising speed of around 16 knots at 3500 rpm on both engines yielded a 2.4 mpg fuel burn. Throwing both engines wide open at around 5500 rpm and 26 knots gave us about 1 mpg fuel consumption. I don’t know of too many full-displacement boats doing 26 knots that sip fuel like a trawler doing 10 knots.
The C108’s wake is also worth a mention. Designed like a rooster tail, it essentially isn’t a wake at all. Even when we drove hard over upon our own tail at top speeds, hardly a roll was noticeable. As Graf explains, large wakes represent wasted energy that could instead be used for forward movement.
Even with the twin outboards producing catlike agility (no pun intended), the C108 throws in a stern thruster for good measure—because, hey, why not? Thanks to the two keels, draft is a mere 1 foot, 10 inches, allowing easier maneuverability in tight or shallow spaces.
With the C108, the grand takeaway is a multifunctional boat that just refuses to compromise. Trailerable, yet with the accommodations of a cruising yacht. Zippy, but with the fuel burn to make a slow-boat blush.
Could the head be a little larger? Yes. Could access to the aft starboard berth require a tad less effort? Absolutely. Does the throttle’s portside positioning for ergonomic reasons take some getting used to? Definitely. Am I nitpicking? You bet.
Back at the dock after a day on the water, I tossed the bow line to Nick Graf, one of Larry’s sons. As I disembarked, I realized that this boat, like all Aspen Power Catamarans, truly was the unique creation of Larry Graf—a good ol’ Washington boy with the playful ingenuity of Willy Wonka—his family and the company’s talented tradespeople.
“You were right,” I said. “That was fun!”
Photos: Take a closer look at the Aspen C108 in the gallery below
Video: Watch the first sea trial of Aspen Power Catamarans' new C108
LOA 37ft. 6in.
Beam 10ft. 8in.
Draft 1ft. 10in. (engines half-tilt)
Fuel 130 gal.
Water 50 gal.
Displacement 9,800 lbs.
Standard power 1 x 115-hp Yamaha, 1x 200-hp Yamaha
Top/cruise speed 25/17.5 knots