Where Tradition Meets Cutting Edge
Like a butterfly about to emerge from its cocoon or a sprinter on the blocks at the start of a race, the first Pathfinder ‘M’ series Offshore 45 sits ready to go in the water and although she is still in the shed, the boats stance cuts a powerful figure.
It's always a special feeling as the anti-fouling goes on, the scaffolding comes down and the masking is stripped away to reveal the finished product. From the day I started boatbuilding 45 years ago I have loved the creative industry of a boat yard and whilst composites cannot match the romantic feel and evocative smells of traditional timber boatbuilding, I only have to walk through to the joinery shop to get that fix.
I fully understand the economic advantages of production boatbuilding with its computer cut mass produced parts, yet cannot help but feel that it has not only removed any sense of involvement and pride from the people who assemble rather than build boats, it has also disconnected the designers and clients from having any involvement in the process or with each other.
As the designer, I had the image in my head right from the first meeting with the clients on how I wanted the boat to meet their brief. They were looking for a power catamaran capable of cruising the Australian coast and beyond with confidence and in comfort and with an ease of operation and stability that would allow them to continue their cruising lifestyle as long as physically possible.
The working relationship grew between us during the project’s progress and the boat took on a life of its own as we tweaked details, our employees had input and Lorma and Chloe worked with the owners to weave their tastes and colour scheme in to the interior. As the boat moved from drawing to reality, you could feel everyone gradually buying into the vision as they realised that the layout and ‘feel’ of the boat was something special with its unique blend of masculine power and functionality and a feminine high quality, luxurious yet absolutely practical finish.
The comfortable settee can be converted to a day bed with the removal of the deep back cushion and into a double with the removal of the top section of the table supports. Image Lorma Brady
The boat has evoked nothing but positive comments from everyone who has come aboard and yet no one can pinpoint exactly what makes it so different. The one constant however is the total disbelief when you tell them that she is only 45ft long as the boat feels a lot larger both internally and on deck.
The Offshore 45 has so much packed into her in terms of accommodation and equipment for a 45 footer and yet her master stateroom would be considered generous in size on a 60ft monohull as would her open plan wheelhouse. By raising the topsides and saloon floor, the master stateroom is on wingdeck level and the mid hull cabins are under the wheelhouse floor, so we have been able to get maximum value from the power cats extra beam.
Designing a boat like the Offshore 45 to create this feeling of size and room is not about smoke and mirrors, it is about understanding ergonomics and interior design and how they can be used to create both a functioning environment and a relaxing ambience. There is no doubt that the greatest advantage of being a designer builder is the time spent on boats every day and the experience it gives you in using spaces to the maximum.
The time spent building full sized mock-ups of the interior and in particular areas like the stairways into the hulls to get them just right has really paid off as they take up very little space, yet work so comfortably which allowed us to be expansive in other areas that have generated the feeling of extra size.
The Offshore 45’s interior has a warm, comforting, solid boaty feel created by the use of waxed teak for the woodwork and this is is balanced by the use of stainless steel, floor tiles that have a sealed concrete look yet are soft underfoot and benchtops from solid stone-like acrylics so the interior doesn’t feel staid or old fashioned. This blending of old and new has created a very relaxed contemporary feel that is both modern in its textures yet traditionally marine in its details.
Like the interior, the Offshore 45’s exterior is a blend of old and new with styling that has more in common with a traditional Australian monohull displacement power boat than most of the current power catamarans on the market and there is a very good reason for this – it works in our climate and is very family friendly. She is a modern interpretation of the gentleman’s express cruiser with pure classic power boat looks and retains features like raked bows for dryness at speed rather than trying to look like a sailing catamaran with its rig removed.
The Offshore 45’s decks are wide and safe, protected by bulwarks all round and the aft deck is a large uncluttered entertainment area rather than a cockpit, so loose furniture can be arranged to suit a variety of different activities and weather conditions. The wheelhouse is shaded by its roof overhangs to keep the interior temperature down, plus has sliding windows on the sides and back as well as roof hatches for ventilation. Underneath this traditional powerboat styling and commonsense features however is a state of the art, fuel efficient displaning catamaran hull form and our Controlled Vapour Dampening (CVD) ride control which makes the Offshore 45 very much the epitome of a 21st century design.
The huge galley features a dishwasher, induction cooktop, in bench extraction unit, convection microwave oven, fridge, freezer drawer and plenty of bench space and storage. Image Lorma Brady
The Offshore 45 also has another attribute in common with the traditional Australian displacement cruiser: the feeling of good solid construction that provides confidence at sea.
Built in 2C Survey to the NSCV Rules, the structure is conservative and strong as the rules dictate, however it also features some of the most cutting edge composite boatbuilding technology seen for some time from the way its structural elements are bonded together, through to the DECKIT modular moulded construction system used to build the decks and cabin. Because the displaning hull form is not dependent on meeting an absolute power to weight ratio like a planing monohull or sailing multihull (power being sail area to weight ratio) we have been able to accommodate the weight and complexity of survey requirements without compromising the unique ability that really makes it different from both monohulls and most power cats of comparative length: its combination of high cruising speed and range.
Most traditional style displacement monohulls have a range of 1,000nm @ 7-8kts as do many power cats and even some planing monohulls of comparable size when operating in displacement mode. It is however the displaning power cat’s unique ability to retain this range at cruising speeds in the teens combined with a sprint speed of 20kts plus that sets it apart from all other power boats of its size.
With 3,000lt of fuel capacity, the Offshore 45 is versatile enough to meet Robert P Beebe’s definition of a true trans-ocean cruising powerboat of 2,400nm @ 7.5kt, but the Offshore 45 is still able to cruise economically in the high teens on day drips and overnight passages. (Robert. P. Beebe’s book Voyaging Under Power was first published in 1975 and is still considered by many to be the bible on the subject today) It is the ability to cruise long distances at speeds in the mid-teens that allows the displaning power cat to avoid more dangerous situations like crossing a bar in bad weather and even speed around unfavourable weather patterns if required.
The last details of the helm station with its comprehensive dash and twin helm chairs are being finished. Image Lorma Brady
As per the owners brief the Offshore 45 is set up to be easily operated by a couple even if they are less physically able than they used to be, as the trawler style side doors provide fast access to the side decks and the remote engine controls on the fore and aft decks make the Offshore 45 very easy to anchor or dock. The enginerooms are spacious and logically laid out and the boat is fitted with every convenience to make live-aboard cruising comfortable including air-conditioning throughout, a washing machine-dryer, 210ltph watermaker, large deck fridge-freezer, dive compressor and a roll out barbecue.
The Offshore 45 is powered by uncomplicated and ‘old school’ mechanically injected diesels through conventional shaft drives housed in full length protective keels. The hulls are extremely fuel efficient when compared to any monohull and the boat manoeuvres so well with widely spaced counter rotating props and a bow thruster that we do not have to resort to complex drive trains to make the boat easy to handle or perform.
The electrical system whilst cutting edge in its combination of solar, high efficiency alternators and Lithium Iron batteries to achieve a “no genset” outcome, still uses analogue switching rather than digital for reliability. The switchboards are conveniently placed by the helm for ease of use with the battery banks just below them to keep the wiring runs as short as possible. With thought and planing it is possible to achieve the same outcomes as claimed by advocates of digital systems, yet keep the system understandable by everyone including the owners.
There have been so many claims of ground breaking and game changing boats in the last few years that were in reality just a slightly different look to an existing concept, that the buying public have become very cynical and who can blame them, but in the case of the Offshore 45 it is important to forget any preconceptions of what you think a 45ft boat could be and look at what is.
Everyone who has been involved with the boats development or has had a chance to look over it during construction believes it will be both a watershed design and a great example of what the Australian boatbuilding industry can produce, combining innovation, quality and just sheer usable practicality. Politicians love to talk up the potential of industries like IT that create catchy sound bites, but in reality it has been Australia’s “can do” ability to invent and improve mechanical solutions that has been historically its strength. In fact while researching Australian inventions, I was staggered by the breadth and diversity of our achievements including many marine applications like the first wave piercing catamaran, the first aluminium power trimaran and of course the winged keel.
So there we have it, nearly ready for launching and sea trials which luckily is a relatively simple procedure for us with the travel lift only 100m away and able to drive inside our shed and pick the boat up. Unfortunately once it hits the water I will have to hand it over to the owners for the next chapter in its story and all going well they will let me share it with them from time to time. We have all fallen in love with this boat as its design started out as the boat that Lorma and I would have if we could, so the weaning process is going to be tough. Still it gives us hope that if we can find a well-paid job and save hard we might be able to get one in the future. By the time this issue is on the bookstands, the Offshore 45 will be in the water with a full boat test and photos in the next issue.