Horizon Power Catamarans would like all of you hardcore cruisers to set aside your preconceptions about multihull cruising boats for just a moment and consider a power cat for your next boat.
Not just any power cat, but its new 52-footer, introduced at the most recent Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Horizon believes that this boat will change your mind because it maximizes the multihull’s accepted virtues while minimizing its drawbacks. And after having spent a day aboard the PC52, I can tell you that this is an argument worth listening to.
We all know about the cat’s two principal virtues, namely an enormous saloon where, let’s face it, we spend most of our time, and superior fuel efficiency and therefore range. We also know about the design’s major liabilities, namely tunnel-like sleeping accommodations, quirky down-sea handling, an unconventional appearance, and a beam that won’t fit into a standard slip. So, where does the 52 come down in all these areas?
It has an enormous saloon that’s bathed in light from 360-degree glass. It’s the kind of space that you could feel comfortable in even if you were fogged in for days. A large galley to starboard and aft allows for easy meal preparation whether you choose to dine inside or out.
Fuel-efficiency and range are also exemplary. The 52 employs semi-displacement hull forms that feature something the builder calls planing wedges, flats above each prop that create enough lift to allow the 52 to handily exceed displacement speed. My test boat topped out at better than 25 knots and did so while burning a relatively modest (for a 52-footer) 52 gph. That works out to just under a half-mile per gallon, a number that improves steadily as you throttle back.
But if you want to squeeze the most out of the 52’s 800-gallon fuel capacity, take her down to 1500 rpm and below, where she’ll match the efficiency of nearly any displacement-type cruiser. Her range tops 1,000 nm from idle all the way up to 1500 rpm where she’s doing 8.4 knots at a fuel burn of just six gallons per hour.
All this efficiency is not due entirely to hull design. At a dry displacement of 60,451 lb., the 52 is relatively svelte as multihulls go. Credit for that goes to her fully resin-infused construction. Infusion not only saves weight but also increases strength while reducing the dimensions of many structural components. Ring-frame reinforcement—the kind you’ll find on a racing boat—adds strength and solidity to each of the hulls. We had flat seas on test day, so I couldn’t get a real feel for the 52’s structural integrity in a seaway, but her impressive construction certainly bodes well.
Resin infusion also helps the 52 dodge the tunnel-like accommodations brickbat by creating smaller components, such as the cross-members that support the two athwartships queen-size berths. Each berth sits right on the tunnel, so not an inch of vertical space is wasted. That means you can actually sit up in either bed with headroom to spare.
And when you do, you’ll be looking to the outside through an expanse of fixed glass. In short, each of these staterooms—they’re so close in size that it’s hard to designate one a master or the other a VIP—is open, airy, and pretty much the farthest thing you can imagine from a tunnel. The third stateroom is available with a large single berth or twins.
The 52 has other admirable cruising qualities, such as a shallow draft. As any hardcore cruiser knows, the best part of any anchorage is in the skinny water where most boats can’t go. With a 4-foot-3-inch draft the 52 can, and safely too. Each of those semi-displacement hull forms features a half-length keel that enhances tracking, especially down sea, and also fully protects both propellers and rudders. According to Horizon that means you could actually beach the 52, as long as the bottom is soft, without damaging your running gear.
Another quality likely to be valued by cruisers is the fact that the 52 is so quiet, both at anchor and under way. One reason is obvious: each 550 hp Cummins QSB6.7 diesel (the only engine available) is all the way aft in each hull, as is the standard 17 kW Onan generator; another is resin infusion, which eliminates rattles, groans, and the vibrations that transmit sound throughout a boat. A third is strategic use of acoustical insulation.
The upshot of all this is that when you’re under way and up on the flying bridge you really have to strain to hear any engine noise; pretty much all that is audible is the sound of water against hulls. And since the staterooms are well forward of the engines, they’re also quiet, a boon to off-watch crew on the long passages.
To maximize interior space the engines are mated to V-drives, which puts them as far back as practicable. This configuration also pushes the 52’s center of balance aft, which causes her to run a bit bow-high. This is a favorable thing as it gives the helmsman the flexibility to choose a wider variety of running angles to suit sea conditions.
The 52 shows her best performance with about half-tab deployed, which adds lift. I wasn’t able to note any decrease in fuel efficiency when tab was applied, although I definitely noticed an increase in speed.
So what of the 52’s down-sea performance and her handling in general? Placid conditions on test day prevented me from judging that, especially in an aft-quartering sea, which is a notorious problem area with multihulls. In the mild conditions her handling was flawless. Tracking at displacement speeds was good—no evidence of wandering. The transition from displacement to higher speeds was so gradual as to be essentially imperceptible, and her response to helm input was good, although there wasn’t much in the way of rudder feedback.
The big question of course is how this boat will do when the seas start to build, and especially when they are coming from an after quarter. I wouldn’t presume to predict except to say that the 52’s lack of strakes and chines presents less purchase area to seas and the benefit in tracking from long keels auger well for her performance in such conditions.
Which leaves us with beam and appearance. Yes, the 52 will probably not fit into a standard 60-foot slip. At 22 feet, her beam is about six feet greater than that of a comparable monohull, which probably means you’ll need to purchase a bigger slip or be content with tying up to a face dock. And no, she doesn’t look like a traditional monohull, at least from the bow or stern.
As for her profile, Horizon apparently added a bit to her vertical dimensions to produce the generous headroom in the staterooms, but I don’t find the result in any way displeasing. Still, these two characteristics are very personal, so you’ll have to weigh them against the 52’s many positive attributes.
Which are very hard to deny. Ask serious cruisers how important range, fuel efficiency, and livability are and they will undoubtedly place them at or near the top of their wish list.
Remember, Horizon Power Cats is not asking you to buy a 52, just to consider one, and to do that you’ll need to actually get on one. When you do, don’t be surprised if all of your objections and prejudices evaporate. The 52 has that kind of effect on people. Especially hardcore cruising people.