SIMPLE SYSTEMS, OUTSIDE LIVABILITY
Our Thailand charter marked my third time piloting a Moorings 474 PC, and I have become fond of these catamarans for reasons obvious and not so obvious. Who wouldn't like a boat that comfortably carries them around a lovely tropical destination? Not so obvious, however, is the 47-footer's utter simplicity of operation.
This, of course, makes sense in a vessel designed for charter by people widely ranging in skills and sensibilities. The last thing a charter company wants is to have to continually respond to questions over the radio about power management or how to use the electronics. A customer who must focus too much attention on operating the vessel is less likely to have a good time.
There is a growing feeling that new boats today are too complicated. And while it is tempting to blame boatbuilders who profit from the installation of complex systems, the real culprits often are the customers who demand them. That's why any gathering of cruisers finds many owners discussing the travails of repairs and maintenance, rather than sharing their experiences at great new destinations. Both builders and buyers would do well to look to the Moorings boats manufactured by Robertson and Caine of South Africa.
In many cases, the demand for electricity is the culprit behind complicated systems. Nothing on the 474 PC uses 115VAC current except its three air conditioning units, battery chargers, a small microwave, and a modest flat-screen television, the latter two supplied by wall outlets. The 60-gallon refrigerator-freezer runs on 12 volts and appears to be two units of about the same size that are side by side, but the units are actually a single assembly open to one another at the bottom to allow the sharing of chilled air. Supplied by a pair of 25-lb. tanks, the stove and outdoor grill operate on propane, which really is the simplest and quietest cooking system, unless your cruising style has you docked at a marina at the end of each day.
Phuket was hot when we visited in April, and we had close to a full boatload of people. The vessel was well ventilated, but using wind scoops effectively calls for having all stateroom doors open to achieve maximum ventilation at the expense of privacy. We chose privacy, cranked up the genset, and set the a/c to 75°. Had there been only two couples aboard-each in their own hull-we could have just opened deck hatches and ports and let the night air do the job.
In fact, the other outstanding virtue of the 474 PC and its smaller sibling, the Moorings 372 PC, is outside livability. This is a boat for people who like fresh air. To integrate the saloon and galley with the spacious cockpit, the boat's designers specified a wide sliding-glass door. The cockpit itself, featuring a wrap-around dinette that easily sat seven of us in the shade, is designed for tropical waters or summer cruising in northern latitudes. The boat's big and comfortable flybridge encourages the entire crew to enjoy a commanding view together.
Our 474 PC was equipped with an 8-inch Raymarine chart plotter and integrated autopilot, using Navionics cartography. Push the "on" button and the screen comes up showing the boat's position; press another button and the boat holds its current course. Dead simple.
While some twin-engine setups persist in having separate shift and throttle levers-that is, four levers-The Moorings wisely specified combination shifter-throttles, which are intuitive to use and optimize a helmsperson's ability to maneuver in close quarters using motors alone. From the helm, a driver can see all four corners of the boat. No need for those aft-facing cameras or a separate docking control station.
The RIB inflatable lowers quickly into the water from integral davits, easier than any design that accommodates a tender on deck. Ground tackle is deployed not from the forward edge of the foredeck but farther aft. Anchor, windlass, and bridle are accessed by lifting a hatch, which hides this industrial and potentially dangerous part of the boat from playing children. Simple and safe.
It's also worth mentioning that these power cats have bluewater ability, as demonstrated by their method of delivery. They are piloted from South Africa to various Moorings bases on their own bottoms; for example, from Cape Town to the British Virgin Islands.
Spend time on a boat such as this, and you can't resist imagining what changes you might make as its owner. Despite my calls for simplicity, even I would make the systems a little more complicated. I would install an inverter to light up those AC outlets without having to crank up the genset. I'd integrate a second plotter and autopilot control head at the forward-facing nav station to create an inside helm. I also would turn one of the forward staterooms into a workshop and reserve the other for stowage, although that would actually make life simpler by reducing the vessel's capacity to carry guests.-Peter Swanson
TALKING THAI IS TRICKY
Don't worry about not being able to speak Thai. Content yourself with "hello" and "thank you," because unless you intend to spend longer than a couple weeks in country, you are not going to absorb much of this nuanced and musical language.
The problem for westerners is that the same word can have several meanings based on a speaker's use of five tones. The classic example is a question that sounds like "My my my my my," with each "my" pronounced slightly differently (shown here spelled with markings: MÃ¡i maÃ i máºi maáºi mÇŽi). Translated into English, the sentence reads: "New wood doesn't burn, does it?"
Khao is another example. Depending on tone, it can mean he or she, enter, knee, an animal's horn, mountain, news, white, rice, or a fishy smell. Imagine the possibilities for miscommunication!
Compounding a visitor's difficulties is the fact that Thailand has four basic dialects, and even Thais from out of town might find local speakers difficult to understand.
Worry not. In tourist areas such as Bangkok, Phuket, or Chiang Mai, you will find many Thais who speak English, particularly if they work in the hospitality industry. And many menus feature an English translation of each item, though the descriptions are often...well...quaint.