We're just back from a 5-day charter of a PDQ 34 out of Palmetto, Florida. As promised, here's the report.
Basically, my wife & I loved the boat! Many positives and few negatives. Inside, the boat feels open and
roomy. Even though the galley is down, it's connected visually to the large dinette area. There are also two
separate (but equal) cabins aft with full queen beds. They're crawl-in rather than island walk-arounds,
however. Each cabin has three opening ports and a surprising amount of storage. Some lockers are big
enough to swallow a complete soft luggage bag. One of the benefits of chartering was that it gave us a
chance to poke into all the spaces - something that's not easy to do at a boat show. We were quite amazed
at the number of storage spaces. In addition to hanging lockers and shelved lockers in the cabins, there were
another 5 lockers spread around the main cabin - and that doesn't include the ten cabinets in the galley!
Clearly, this boat is aimed at more than casual weekending. (This was in welcome contrast to the Mainship
39 we chartered last year.) Overall quality seemed high, we found no rough edges - literally! The electrical
panel wiring was a thing of beauty!
As for performance, the twin Yanmar 75-hp engines pushed us along at a comfortable 14 knots. (The
Sunsail charter boat is equipped with full-length steel grounding plates which, I'm told, robs at least a knot
from speed. Also, for reasons unknown, our max WOT engine speed was only 3550 rpm, Yanmar rated
speed is 3800 rpm). In four and a half days we cruised from the Manatee River (south of Tampa Bay) down
to Ft. Myers and back, a distance of 225 statute miles. Total fuel consumption was 74 gallons. This works
out to about 3 miles per gallon, and we were pushing hard. This certainly illustrates one of the prime
advantages of a good power cat, and it is definitely one of the big attractions this design holds for us.
On the flying bridge, the boat was very quiet. Up to 7 kts (1600 rpm) water sounds were louder than
engines. At fast cruise (3200 rpm) the sound was a bit reminiscent of a twin engine plane, but quite
subdued. Down at the inside helm it was a bit noisier - but much quieter than their early models, so I'm told.
Maneuverability was excellent. It's amazing what you can do with twin engines spaced 12 feet apart!
Arriving back at the crowded marina after four days, we couldn't resist showing off our new-found skills,
we made a 180-degree turn (in our own length) in front of the fuel dock just for the fun of it! No bow
thrusters needed on this boat!
With a 3-foot chop out on Tampa Bay we got to try out another good feature of the cat, the uncannily
smooth ride! The only discomfort we experienced was a snap roll when running abeam to the seas, this was
most noticeable at the upper helm station. A slight course alteration alleviated the problem, however.
Lest this sound like a paid testimonial for PDQ, I should mention some of the negatives. Clearly, the 16' -
10" beam will prove an occasional problem. (In Ft Myers, the marina informed us that their slips were only
16 feet wide, unless we wanted to pay for a 45-footer. We ended going elsewhere and paying $20 to tie up
on a face dock.) Other possible negatives might include: the crawl-in beds (not walk-around),
unconventional looks (compared to a conventional monohull), fairly high price (for a 34-ft boat), and the
question of ultimate seaworthiness in gale force winds and high seas. On this last point, PDQ is adamant in
assuring buyers that any conditions which might capsize their 34 Powercat would also capsize any monohull
of similar size. I suppose that's comforting?
This boat will not appeal to everyone. It's a bit on the small side for extended living and it's more suited to
coastal cruising than serious offshore voyaging. The smallish tanks will limit open water passages to perhaps
400 miles (although I suspect this might be improved upon if you weren't in too great a hurry (perhaps by
using a single engine, for example). But overall, the small size and maneuverability - not mention speed,
economy and shallow draft - make the PDQ 34 Powercat an excellent choice for the two of us at this stage
in our lives.
During our stay in Florida, we also visited the Manta Catamaran factory in Sarasota, home of their new 44
Powercat. Hull number 1 is expected to splash in April, and it appears to be a very impressive boat. If
you're looking for something bigger than the PDQ you might want to check it out. Of course, PDQ will also
be offering a larger powercat as well - stay tuned!
We took lots of photos and notes on our charter. Contact me if you'd like more info.
So now we're back in cold, frozen New Hampshire. If you haven't seen the silly picture of the PDQ
powercat in the snow in front of our house click here. If you'd like to see a real un-retouched photo of a
sailboat in downtown Hanover (built for the Dartmouth Winter Carnival) check this out!
Henry & Nancy's new boat - Page 4
No land in sight! Panoramic view from the bridge off Cayo Costa Island in the Gulf of Mexico.
The full Sunsail Charter Report...