Many power catamarans, particularly those from the Leopard brand, are designed with bareboat charter fleets in mind. This is good news for two reasons: First, the boats have what bareboat charterers want (which is no different from what most boat owners want), and second, the boats are designed for easy maintenance.
Full disclosure: I am a Leopardholic. I’ve chartered many Leopards, usually from five to 10 days at a time, in Thailand and Greece, the British Virgins and the Abacos. The builder’s vessels have been uniformly wonderful to use. They handled impeccably in ferocious line squalls, and maneuvered well.
Many earlier Leopard powercats looked like sailboats with the mast replaced by a flybridge. The new 46 Powercat breaks new ground, with builders Robertson and Caine of South Africa drawing on the DNA of their award-winning 53 Powercat, which launched in 2020. The 46 is a pure power puma, from the vertical windows and forward door to the sharp lines. The long, rectangular, black window in the topsides allows for a variety of opening portlights, which means staterooms in the hulls are bright and cheerful.
Stepping aboard one recent afternoon in South Florida, I first noted the wide transom deck and optional hydraulic platform with chocks to carry a tender. The spacious cockpit was no surprise, considering the 24-foot, 1-inch beam. The space had a dinette centered to leave room for dual engine room hatches, with the table positioned just steps from the aft galley.
That galley had a convection cooktop and oven, along with a full-height fridge backed up by a drawer freezer. This particular boat also had the optional dishwasher, which I see as a must. Just forward were a pair of couches on each side, with a table for cocktails or dining.
All of which brings me to the point that Leopard builds what boaters want. One thing we all want is to have several areas for dining and, yes, adult beverages. The cockpit settee is a delight for morning coffee and croissants, while the foredeck sitting area—reached through the forward salon door—begs for sundowners at anchor. Then, there is the hardtop-shaded bridge with an L-shape settee and table; a fridge, sink and grill for broiling hot dogs; and a sunpad for broiling yourself. I always look for comfy nooks where I can curl up with a trashy spy novel, and the 46 has them in spades.
An important aside about the cockpit: One reason the dinette is centered is that two 4-foot, 2-inch by 5-foot, 4-inch hatches lead into separate engine rooms. I found this setup delightful, because many powercats tuck the mains under the berths in the after staterooms. Besides making the engines awkward to access, this setup means no amount of insulation can eliminate the aroma—and sound—of a hot diesel at bedtime. The engine rooms and mechanicals on the 46 are completely sealed from the accommodations. Easy access to the 9-kW Northern Lights generator and the Spectra watermaker is there as well.
Standard power on the 46 is a pair of 250-hp Yanmar diesels, which you can (read: should) upgrade to 320-hp or 370-hp Yanmars. You don’t lose much engine-room space, and the extra horsepower will give you more oomph to outrun a squall.
The lower helm is another no-brainer option. On our boat, it allowed for either air conditioning or heat, and a place to get out of the breeze. That lower helm has outstanding visibility in all directions through vertical panes of toughened glass, and a dash that neatly handles twin Raymarine 16-inch multifunction displays.
In fact, the entire salon exudes space. Seated guests have a clear view of their surrounds. Our 46 had Sunbrella “pebble” upholstery, which is a serene silvery-gray, along with an easily maintained hardwood sole.
Our boat also had the owner’s layout, which turns the starboard hull into a suite with a nearly king-size berth aft. This is special, because you can walk on each side of the berth, so you retain a semblance of dignity while getting in and out of bed. The suite goes forward past hanging lockers, built-in bureau drawers and a vanity/desk, and then segues into a head. Twin sinks are under a backlit mirror that would be appopriate in a boutique hotel, and the shower is forward and nearly 4 feet square, allowing you to save water by showering with a friend.
The two guest staterooms to port each have queen berths, with one fore-and-aft and the other transverse. Both have en suite heads with showers (for one, sorry). An optional washer/dryer combo was tucked into the passageway.
Owners can also order the 46 with a four-stateroom, four-head layout. That model is expected to be dubbed the 464 Powercat and put into service with The Moorings this fall.
In terms of easy maintenance, I liked the wide (over 2 feet) stairs to the flybridge that even Aunt Edna can handle, and the double rail around the wide side decks from the cockpit to the bow, along with the toe-kick coaming. All the deck hatches have gutters at least 4 inches deep, so even a tropical deluge won’t make it into the locker, and the 12-inch cleats are sized to handle big lines. Handrails are everywhere.
Our test boat had the optional digital switching for the electrics, and the electrical panel was in the stairwell to the owner’s stateroom, making it easy to sit and consider the various choices. Forward, the Lewmar anchor windlass had a direct pull from a hidden roller under the hull, and two rode lockers could handle plenty of line and chain, not to mention fenders and docklines.
Our test steed was equipped with the 370-hp Yanmars, giving us a 24-plus knot top speed, which isn’t loafing when you’re pushing an 18-ton yacht. The Gulf Stream was ugly on test day, but the Leopard design team managed to eliminate the “sneezing” effect that some powercats suffer when crossing wakes or waves. (They sneeze compressed spray forward between the hulls, and then it flies aft to wet the bridge.)
I would consider the smaller power plants for efficiency, but according to the builder, all of the engine options offer a fast cruise in the mid to high teens and a range of more than 1,000 nautical miles—and up to 1,400 nm—at about 7 knots.
Our test boat also had the optional bow thruster in the port hull, and I was looking forward to seeing how a one-hull thruster works. It was great, getting us from and to a narrow slip in a stiff crosswind with a touch of the lever.
You may call this a charter yacht or a private yacht, but whatever you call it, call the Leopard 46 “mine.”
This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue.