The notion of sitting back on soft cushions in the cockpit, sipping a chilled pinot gris as the coastline slowly unfolds in the distance is part of the seduction of cruising.
The reality, though, can be slopping said drink all over clothing and cushions as the skipper turns the wheel and the boat heels … which is probably why catamaran cruising was invented. And, perhaps, why the French do it so well.
Enter the new Fountaine Pajot MY37, a power catamaran that offers all the space you’d expect from a 5m beam, with the stability to ensure we don’t spill our drinks, along with elegant French styling.
Fountaine Pajot was founded in 1976 near La Rochelle on the French Atlantic coast. Its first cruising catamaran was launched in 1983, with power cats added in 1998. The company is represented in Australia by Multihull Solutions.
Our test boat was optioned-up close to top-of-the-range, including powerful 220hp Volvo Penta D3 engines (150hp versions are standard).
The first impressions of the MY37 are its distinctive, squared-off lines and the bold bar of darkened Perspex that runs about two-thirds of the hull length, disguising the individual windows of the cabins and heads.
The catamaran also boasts a large entertainer cockpit measuring about 13.5sq m that’s shaded by a canvas bimini (optional). A forward-facing lounge runs across much of the transom, with a small table in front and space on a railing to one side for an optional barbecue.
On the test boat, the narrow boarding platform was extended by a wide swimplatform fitted with an electro-hydraulic actuator that sinks it to about half a metre under water.
Metal-framed sliding glass doors provide entry to the saloon and galley. The space is light and airy, with large windows wrapping right around. The galley is to port and a dinette with L-shape seating to starboard, serviced by a moveable table.
A striking feature of the saloon is the lighting. Seven downlights are set into three long panels that also hide LED strip lighting, with window pelmets hiding more strip lighting.
The galley benchtop includes a rubbish disposal hatch, twin-bowl stainless-steel sink and mixer tap, and a three-burner gas hob. Gas cooking may be unusual in a power boat, but the Fountaine Pajot MY37 does not come with a genset as standard – a hangover, perhaps, from the company’s sail heritage.
Storage space in the galley is limited, partly because the area immediately below the benchtop is taken as headroom for the owner’s cabin. On the test boat, above-bench shelves in the aft quarter occupy a space where one could install an optional microwave, while further forward are a benchtop and optional overhead lockers.
Two deep-drawer fridges are set into cabinetry forward of the dinette and there is an option for a third drawer fridge/freezer in the companionway of the starboard accommodation. Stowage for pots and pans is under the helm seat and dry goods can be stored in a 50lt locker under the galley floor.
The saloon helm has a similar layout to the flybridge helm – albeit with a rather low seat, which is better suited to tall people.
Fountaine Pajot calls the three-cabin layout a Maestro fitout – and it really is masterful.
The accommodation is down a few steps into either hull. The port side houses the owner’s suite, but can be fitted out with two cabins for charter operations. A queen bed takes up the full width, while a window runs the length of the cabin with an opening panel inset. Amidships, below the companionway, is an elegant dressing and storage area. The head is forward and includes an electric toilet, vanity and separate shower stall. A washing machine can be fitted forward of the shower stall.
Headroom is more than adequate throughout the owner’s suite and storage is everywhere: under the bed, in cupboards and shelving in the dressing area, and floor-to-ceiling shelves aft of the head.
Guest or family accommodation is in the starboard hull, with a queen cabin that’s identical to the owner’s cabin, bathroom amidships and a V-berth forward.
A ladder in the cockpit leads up to the flybridge to reveal another wide, comfortable entertaining area complete with dining table, U-shaped seating for six, and a forward sunpad with plenty of storage underneath. The skipper’s seat is to starboard, facing a somewhat sparse dashboard that includes a sports wheel, Garmin touchscreen chartplotter, engine tachometers and throttle controls. The switches for navigation lights, bilge pumps and the like are in the saloon.
Multihull Solutions suggests adding roll-up clears right around to make the flybridge weather-proof. This space is where everyone will gather during a cruise – just add a bar fridge, move the barbecue up and party all day long.
BUILT FOR POWER
The MY37 is a purpose-built power catamaran. It has semi-planing hulls and its beam is about a metre narrower than an equivalent sailing cat, providing more speed and turning performance than you might find on a boat that is simply a sailing catamaran with the rig removed, flybridge tacked on and aft section bolstered to take bigger engines.
Its smooth, unruffled long-distance cruising speed is about 16 knots (30km/h), while wide-open throttle took our test boat to 20.3 knots (37.6km/h). An economical slow cruise is around seven knots (13km/h).
Fuel consumption is positively stingy. The engines burn a combined 9.5lt/h at seven knots while turning over at 1500rpm, 50lt/h at 16 knots (3250rpm), and 96lt/h at WOT (4000rpm). Multihull Solutions’ team says an owner could fill the twin 600lt fuel tanks, head out of the Gold Coast seaway, point east-north-east and reach Noumea without needing to carry extra fuel. Sadly, we didn’t test the theory on the day.
Given the flat seas during our test, I can’t say how the MY37 handles chop or larger swells, but it ran effortlessly at all angles in the day’s flat swell. The wheel is a little heavy as it’s not power-assisted, but is certainly not awkward and power steering can be added.
The Fountaine Pajot MY37 is a beautifully designed and crafted cruising power catamaran that will take a family or group of friends around a harbour for the day and barely nudge the fuel gauge. It will equally take the group on an extended cruise in all the comfort one could wish.
FOUNTAINE PAJOT MY37
Fuel capacity: 1200lt
Water capacity: 350lt
Capacity: 6 persons (8 in the charter version)
Power (as tested): 220hp Volvo Penta D3
Price as tested: $850,000
Price from: $645,000
More information: Multihull Solutions, tel: 1300 855 338. Web: MultihullSolutions.com.au.