As a marine surveyor of some years standing, I have seen my fair share of catamarans, both power driven and sailing craft, but I have to admit that a pleasant surprise was in store for me when I joined Murray Owen, CEO of MEC Yachts, Australia, to look over MarookAtta, a 15.5m luxury power catamaran, which had been recently been delivered to its new owner, at the marina at Versace, on the Gold Coast.
Mostly, my dealings with power catamarans had left me with the impression that power cats were rather basic, many designed as functional work boats and most private leisure craft were generally given a rather agricultural fitout which usually seemed out of place in such craft. Not so, however, with this sleek thoroughbred. It’s not surprising though that MEC have for years been forerunners of building every kind of power cat imaginable, of every shape and size may of which have been used extensively for commercial and leisure purposes.
From the moment I stepped on board, the impression of this craft was of understated luxury, not brash, not flashy, but a feeling of all surrounding comfort, underpinned by superb design, giving a feeling of homely, reassurance wherever you went.
Amongst the first impressions was of space, and lots of it, as I continued around the boat, this was confirmed by the intelligent use of colour, lighting and design with comfort in mind uppermost.
However, it is no surprise as MEC yachts (Marine Engineering Consultants) headed by Murray Owen have had plenty of practice of producing classy craft for their customers over many years and the company has definitely decided what does work and what doesn’t when it comes to appointments and design and customer needs.
With co-operation from his Naval Architects, McDonald-Smith Marine, MEC Yachts have produced many aluminium designs for both commercial and private customers who know and understand great design and robust quality when they see it. A requirement, one amongst many, was to ensure a 1m hull tunnel clearance above water.
One of the hallmarks of MEC is the fact that the craft they produce are all totally different, yet with the same concept in mind, engineering excellence combined with top quality, mostly for one off custom made boats.
Thus it was when MEC received a request to build the 15m luxury catamaran for the owner who wanted something smaller than the previous 20m Final Edition which was recently featured in this magazine, but with the same ‘superyacht’ qualities, it wasn’t long before the design was on the drawing board and work began.
The owner wanted specific requirements for his boat, it had to have all home comforts for extended and local cruising, east and west coasts of Australia and South Pacific at the minimum. Entertainment area and comfortable cruising was a priority and especially a user friendly galley and an efficient, comprehensive navigation and bridge design. During our conversations, it was apparent that he also was willing to try out some of the newest and latest technologies available, more of that later!
Walking on board via the boarding platform which handily doubles as a twin fishing platform, the rear deck is spacious and is nicely appointed with seats and a dining table that still leaves plenty of room on the starboard side, and it’s well sheltered from the elements. To the starboard, besides the cabin door entrance is a doorway that leads to another shower and toilet and a washing machine combination service area.
A clever touch is the window that opens out on hydraulic rams to allow fresh air into the galley and also allows whoever is preparing meals to easily stay in touch with the guests who may be outside.
On many craft the galley can be a lonesome place whilst everyone else is outside enjoying the social benefits! Very conveniently placed, the upwards opening large window is perfect for passing out meals and drinks without the inconvenience of have to leave the galley and walking through the main cabin to the rear deck which can be rather tiresome, time after time. Nice touch with a view also.
In fact, this brings me to one of the best attributes of this boat’s design features which is not immediately apparent, but as one continues through the boat it becomes more obvious. Ergonomics, the clever art of allowing things to work properly and conveniently, with the minimum of effort.
Two features spring to mind apart from the opening rear window, in the galley there is a sliding kitchen cupboard with layers of shelves for many culinary gadgets, condiments, jars and spices, to name but a few. It slides out effortlessly and within hand’s reach for anyone in the galley. So convenient! The other was twin sliding draws which contained a complete set of cutlery, the like of which I have never seen on any vessel, a classic little touch which once again underlines the care that has gone into this boat. Another nice feature is a dishwasher that uses only 9L of water per hour. The galley size is misleading, its layout allows three people to work in there but its probably a little more suited for two master chefs!
Leaving the galley, and moving into the main cabin the first impression is one of totally private seclusion and it’s been designed with comfort and relaxation in mind. You just know it’s been done right when you realise that. So many boats today that have been designed or fitted out by wealthy owners are completely over the top and it hits you immediately but this was certainly not the case.
The one thing that was apparent was that entering this main cabin is that it’s like entering a plush reception area or executive lounge. Cosy is not a word normally associated with aluminium catamarans but it plumps right into place when you are looking for a word to describe it! It just seems to swallow you up and surround you with well being! Sitting on the lounge gives you a feeling that it may well be difficult to get up again. After being inside it was rather a jolt to come back out into the glaring light and fresh breeze! It wasn’t until later I found out that the whole craft had been tinted throughout with special tinted films by Cooltint (see the specifications at end of article.
The craft is also fully airconditioned throughout by Marineair and a Fusion surround sound entertainments system tops up the package.
Features abound here in the main cabin, the very cool spiral staircase up to the bridge, beautifully made, you’d never pick it for aluminium, it appears moulded and the nice use of space on the port side for a comfy day bed up around chest height. It simply appears like part of the furniture. Spacious, comfy with an air of room to spare, the benefits of a catamaran design.
I also noticed the owner kept saying how quiet the craft was underway and at the dock without the noisy slapping that is the hallmark of many aluminium production cats.
Down the portside stairs into the port hull brings us to the master cabin and along the hall an en-suite shower and bathroom/toilets by Techma that would not look out of place in a five star hotel. On the opposite starboard side, another large cabin containing another double bed is situated opposite the other hull. Everything in there is very luxuriously appointed.
There is also a huge amount of storage space available to in this craft and the owner was absolutely delighted with that particular aspect.
Climbing the spiral staircase to the bridge deck the impression is distinctly conservative, comfortable and would give a confident air to any skipper that had to take command. Unlike almost any other craft I’ve been on except a few large tugs or pilothouse cruisers there is an almost unrestricted 360° view. From a vantage point almost point 3.75m above the sea, a view like that would be much appreciated by the skipper. It gives the impression of being in a much larger craft, in fact this bridge appears to belong to a ship rather than a private leisure craft! One actually has to walk totally from one side to the other to look out completely but the all round view enables the skipper to see everything in safety. The instrument console is huge but very conservatively appointed with everything a long range cruising captain would need.
I won’t go into a long and tedious list of every instrument on the console but suffice it to say the twin screens of 19 inch Garmin Plotter/GPS fully integrated navigation package coupled with the twin screens of the electronic fuel and engine and electronics management system just about covers everything any captain would need to anywhere, anytime. However, for the curious and techies amongst us there is a list of specs at the end of this article.
The Glendenning electronic throttle /power levers and Kobelt synchronised electronic steering system by Gateway Hydraulics allows pinpoint power and steering management and a bow thruster completes the package. Interestingly enough, the electronic power and steering management system allows each rudder to work totally independently of the other, therefore obviating the need of linked rudders. The obvious benefit of that is that if one fails the other can be used in conjunction with power from twin engines and the bow thruster.
Outside of the bridge is an open deck space where the Rib Force 4.2m with 50hp Mercury tender is kept on a raised dias above the deck and next to it is a large 500kg davit hoist by ADC which ships the dinghy on and off board.
THE DRIVING FORCE
This is the area of any large vessel that piques my interest and I can say I wasn’t disappointed here. It’s only obvious upon going down into the engine rooms on this craft that it actually made of aluminium at all ... Marine Grade 5083 to be precise. Whilst surveying many craft, I’m always apprehensive about going below never knowing what I’m to find, but I will say, this was a pure joy.
The welding is a work of art and the construction is clearly strong and built for a lifetime. I can truthfully say that it was spotless to a fault and the big Cummins 485hp engine with its ZF gearbox sat gleaming at the forward end of the engine room as did the other in the starboard hull. Quite a power pack! The plumbing very nicely planned and each engine water intake system a work of art in itself. Once again, specs are to be found at the end of article.
I mentioned above that the owner was willing to try out some new innovations and he certainly appears to have hit the jackpot with this one. It may well be one of the first vessels in Australian waters to include this rather special feature. The centrepiece of the engine room was something that I have never seen before and this I am certain is a preview of the future to come.
In a box scarcely bigger than a small bar fridge is the Solar Lithium Battery bank system.
The specifics of this are:
The bank is controlled by an MSA 2.5 Sunny Boy controller control box which looks for three types of power source when down to 10%. Generator, Shore Power and 1600w solar panels. The Lithium bank has a total power capacity of 9.486kw.3 x 52volt lithium batteries giving out 186 amp hrs.
The incredible thing is that the whole unit weighs 75 kilos and takes only three hours to charge fully.
The advantages are:
62 amp hours x 51.8 Volts x 3 Batteries = 9.486 kwh
6 x 10 more cycles discharge recharge
Lead batteries can only use 40% of Ah rating
Lithium can use 95% of rating
So lead acid has to have battery bank twice the amp hour rating to be same as Lithium.
It’s quite astonishing to see the batteries in such a small and compact space and there’s is absolutely no doubts once the costs issues have been overcome and serious world production takes place those mostly ineffective heavy dangerous lead acid batteries days are going to be numbered.
I like very much the battery management’s system to seek out three alternative methods of recharging when required. It automatically seeks out generator, shore power or solar charging when the batteries level gets down to 10% or less, now that’s a smart system!
Another unusual feature on this vessel is a separate 150L petrol tank specifically for the tender fuel, a nice idea.
Also down below sits an Onan generator 17.5 KVA and whilst running it is hardly audible at all, many aluminium craft are well known for the thumping and sound resonance of an internal generator, but certainly not this one.
This vessel is certainly, in my opinion, a groundbreaker, in many and several areas. Beautifully appointed, superbly engineered with a beautiful finish and appointments that put it head and shoulders above many in the same length and class, this a thoroughbred with a difference. Innovative ideas, ergonomic ease and full comfort with a powerful punch that will certainly earn a place amongst the new breed of ‘superyacht’ catamarans.