At a time when the market is dominated by sleek and stylish sports boats and some exceptionally spectacular convertible flybridge cruisers, there is a simmering resurgence in interest for what was once the ‘ugly duckling’ of the industry – the cruising power catamaran.
Clever styling and creative thinking have resulted in these new age cats taking on a stylish new look. Adding this to the principle characteristics of the cat – stability, space and accommodation – coupled with the developments made in semi-displacement hull design and it’s not hard to understand the basis for this renewed interest.
Recent boat shows have exhibited more cruising cats than ever before and most of the charter fleets now boast more cats than the traditional monohull.
While the performance cat has made advances, it’s the semi-displacement hull that has been the basis of many of the new models and new brands that have slipped onto the market.
King Catamarans, established on the Gold Coast in 2005, is the latest company to add its name to that semi-displacement catamaran market with its luxurious 38.
Company founder and head designer, Rex McGrath, with the support of business financiers, took time and care in the development of this first model, building and revamping two boats before deciding they finally had the product ready for public release.
McGrath is no new boy when it comes to fibreglass boat building, having served almost four decades in the industry, in that time working with some boat building heavyweights, including John Haines’ Signature, Mustang, and the various companies run by Graham “Noddy” Williams. His considerable experience led him to wait until his new boat was completely sorted out before releasing it for comment and public sale.
Apart from the many minor refinements learned from the first two boats, this third hull added a 1.2-metre boarding platform (or a marlin board if fishing is more your game).
This is not just a boarding platform, though – rather a cockpit extension. It is a user-friendly platform that adds enormously to the area of the boat. In being flush with the cockpit floor and having access around either side of the transom, creating an island of the transom and its many built-in seating and storage facilities, the back of the King Cat is an entertainer’s delight – or just a fabulous place to sit back, rest and take it all in.
Built into the transom are both forward- and aft-facing lounges – the 3-metre-long, aft-facing lounge being just the place to sit and enjoy lazy afternoons, with the extended canopy over the top offering shade. There is also a 300-litre ice box nearby, plus the barbecue, sink and shower, all built-in.
The stainless steel railings around the platform provide a secure space, giving so much more area for guests to move about the boat, and to mingle around the barbecue and chat.
Against the saloon bulkhead there is further 155-litre refrigeration/freezer storage and the moulded fibreglass stairs leading up to the flybridge hinge up to expose storage space for more bulky items.
Fender, rope and life jacket storage space is also built into the transom and, by lifting out the railings around the platform, there is room to strap an inflatable dingy on its side or cradle a PWC.
Step from the cockpit into the saloon and the open layout that incorporates the galley and dinette in one free-flowing, single-level area maintains that generous space and open layout that is the hallmark of the aft deck. Actually, ‘single-level’ may be slightly inaccurate, as the dinette and U-lounge that wraps round the table is raised one step above the main saloon floor. This is to give headroom over the double berth in the cabin below and also gives a great view through the saloon windows when sitting around the table.
The galley runs along the port side of the saloon, and is well-equipped with a four-burner gas cook top, microwave, sink with a mixer tap, chopping board, wine rack and glass locker and more than adequate storage cupboards and drawers topped off with Corian bench tops with fiddle lips around the edges. A 150-litre fridge/freezer is located opposite the main galley in front of the dinette on the starboard side of the saloon.
A lower helm station is an option and consequently wasn’t installed on this boat, though remote docking controls were housed in a little box on top of the bulkhead. Without a lower helm station, the saloon does open up a bit more, though I doubt if the addition of a helm on the face of the bulkhead and electronics on the top will make much difference to the space. The only encroachment would be a helm chair, if that were to be included.
Forward of the galley and dinette each side, steps lead down to the bathroom and cabin accommodation contained within each of the main hulls. Generally, it’s always been in the finish, fit-out and quality of the accommodation and bathroom facilities that cats have suffered when compared to the monohulls.
MORE BERTHS, LESS SPACE
While cats have the potential to offer more in the number of cabins, sleeping berths and bathrooms provided, space limitations imposed by the hull and tunnel usually result in the cabins being not nearly as spacious, nor as elaborately fitted out, detailed and finished as those to be found on conventional monohulls. These limitation sactually restrict floor area, but not so usable vertical space, so cat designers are able to put in more berths in their cabins.
Though there are other options available, the King Cat 38 reviewed provided a queen berth owner’s suite with ensuite bathroom, a double-berth cabin, a third cabin with king-size and a full-size single berth and a shared bathroom. Though there isn’t a lot of floor space in any of these cabins, each is fairly light and bright, with just enough hanging and storage lockers and drawer space.
Access in and out of some berths is not easy, as the mattresses are raised quite high in relationship to the cabin floor (to achieve clearance over the hull tunnel), but headroom is very good and each of the bunks provides full-length mattresses that don’t cramp occupants into corners.
All of the joinery throughout the main saloon and each of the cabins and bathrooms is finished with high-gloss lacquered timber veneer. The timber is quite dominant on the main saloon area, but due to hull shapes etc, is limited in its use below decks. Here, fabrics and soft linings are the norm.
Since the flybridge is the sole helm station on this boat, the hardtop and full set of clears are essential. The hardtop extends over the full area of the flybridge deck and is well-supported and braced on a high-quality stainless steel frame. The moulded helm console and helm lounge that will seat up to three people is located aft, with a U-lounge (actually its more oval-shaped) wrapping around a moulded dining table installed forward of the helm console.
While the moulded stairs provide fairly easy and comfortable access to provide food and beverage service from the main galley up to the flybridge, a compact little wet bar with sink, fridge, glass and bottle holders and some storage is set off to the port side of the lounge and helm console.
The helm station itself has all the space needed for full electronics, controls etc, with a good-size chart table and storage. Forward and side visibility is as good as you get, though the view to the rear quarters is restricted by the flybridge deck extension over the cockpit and the soft top over the boarding platform.
The semi-displacement cat hull does not require the horsepower needed to drive a similar-sized monohull and, as a result, there is potential for better fuel economy and increased cruising range. On the negative side, top and cruising speeds are lower, but as the reviewed boat showed, 20-knot cruising is well within its capabilities and well within the economical rpm range of the engines.
With twin 250hp four-cylinder Steyr diesels, the King Cat 38 has a top speed of 23 knots and a cruising pace of 20 knots at 3800rpm.
Little power is needed to glide the hull from an idle to cruise speed and there is not an appreciable change in trim attitude. The boat certainly doesn’t give any sensation of lift or transition from displacement to planing trim (yes, the hull actually does plane, despite the semi-displacement tag) and the hulls don’t appear to displace or push out volumes of water as they slice through the seas. With this slicing action, the chance of heaps of wind-born spray being pushed back over the boat in more aggressive conditions is reduced.
Though the boat reviewed was built for Mackay-based owner, Lyle Gilmore primarily as a fishing boat, every aspect of the layout makes for an ideal cruiser. The outriggers, the rod racks installed on the underside of the cockpit hardtop, the rod holders fitted to the aft rails, plus the volumes of cold and wet storage bays are all subtle reminders of the owner’s desire for a fishing boat. But the spaciousness and versatility of the cockpit facilities, combined with the roomy interior and three-cabin accommodation, make this a very special and unique 38-foot cruising boat.
With a price tag starting around the $680,000 mark, and extending to over $850,000 as reviewed, and when considering all the entertaining and living space provided in the saloon, the aft cockpit and up on the flybridge, the King Cat 38 is certainly a competitively-priced boat.
SPECIFICATIONS: KING CAT 38
Fuel: from 1200 to 2000 litres max
Water: from 700 to 1500 litres max
Power Range: 2 x 150 to 2 x 300hp diesels
Test Engines: 2 x 250hp Steyr turbo intercooled 6-cylinder diesels
Base Price: $680,000
Price as tested: Approx $850,000
RPM SPEED (knots) COMMENTS
1700 7.7 (just before turbos kick in)