Motor catamarans are a strongly growing sector for some very good reasons such as space and economy, as can be seen by the Fountaine Pajot MY 37, writes KEVIN GREEN.
Powercats are often quoted as being 30-40% more fuel efficient than equivalent monohulls but money isn’t everything maybe. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so their boxy aesthetics compared with the raked lines of a Riviera may not get every buyer’s heart fluttering. But when the numbers are looked at - the MY 37 does nearly 20kts flatchat or 1,000 mile range at 7.5kts and has four large cabins in only 36ft of waterline – the allure becomes obvious.
The MY 37 replaces the successful Highland 35 as the entry model in a trio of powercats from French builder Fountaine Pajot that include the MY 44 and the MY 55. The colourful names, such as the Cumberland 46 I tested with Multihull Solutions boss Mark Elkington has been replaced by ‘MY’ for Motor Yacht in what is becoming regular industry jargon. However the sailing cats, such as the Lucia 40 I recently sailed, continues with the geographic names that reflect Fountaine Pajot’s global reach and status as the third largest builder – about 150 hulls annually – of recreational catamarans behind Lagoon and Robertson & Caine. These two competitors have taken different approaches to address this growing market, with Lagoon simply dismasting a sailing hull to create a simple yet effective trawler with the MY 40. R&C on the other hand has gone for a dedicated semi-displacement approach with their Leopard 43PC model, with competitors Catana taking the same approach with the Bali models and Nautitech doing a less powerful trawler, like Lagoon.
Having been on several Fountaine Pajot powercats in the past I knew that volume and layout were strong points, but stepping aboard the MY 37 brought this to a whole new level, mainly due to the clever use of space in a not overly wide boat (5.1m). Our review hull, number 11, that sat at the dock in Sydney is one of about 35 ordered so far, which is undoubtedly a vote of confidence in this compact cruiser designed by the very experienced Daniel Andrieu with interiors done by another dedicated team. The outcome is a somewhat utilitarian three or four cabin boat that should be hard-wearing, so ideal for both blue water and the rigours of the charter market.
First impressions as I stepped aboard, using the wide swim platform for entry into the aft cockpit, is incredible space. Plenty of open floor for entertaining here, sheltered by the canvas bimini on a stainless structure. Over to port the cockpit table seats six while still allowing easy circulation and access through the large sliding saloon doors; protected by deep scuppers. The cockpit also has space for an optional extra fridge, barbecue and hydraulic gangway. Our review boat’s hydraulic swim platform doubles as perch for the inflatable dinghy and creates a good amount of extra space on board. For offshore, I’d also order the davits (a standard fitting) to hoist the inflatable well clear and also allow easy launching. A design constraint to avoid the engine hatches means the ladder to the flybridge is steeply angled so I’d hesitate at ascending with a full G&T in my hand.
For gunkholing among the reefs, a flybridge is hard to beat as it gives the steerer good vision and of course increases the line of sight, so yet another plus for the MY 37. At rest the flybridge adds that third entertainment level to the boat and our MY 37 had the optional sunbed in addition to the standard L-shaped bench with teak table. Usefully, the optional sun lounger has storage beneath. The canvas covered bimini reduces weight aloft and was fabricated locally. Alternatively this can be fibreglass, which is best for creating a gantry to house radar and aerials.
The starboard mounted flybridge steering console is handily placed as the saloon one is portside, so our review boat could be steered from either side. The two bucket sets gives support when rolling about and the console layout is no frills with analogue engine gauges above the wheel and throttles nested portside with Garmin autopilot plus Garmin chart plotter to starboard; all you you really need. Given the boxy and high superstructure of the MY 37, an addition worth having would be the tunnel bow thruster.
In the saloon, upright bulkheads maximise the volume (2.1m headroom) while minimising sun incursion, aided the by use of quality Ocean Air blinds and the outside fibreglass lip. The layout has the galley near the aft cockpit on port, opposite the U-shaped dinette with optional steering console to port and stairs leading off on each side to the hulls. This linear layout creates a clear walkway forward and no impediments to the skipper seeing aft when at the saloon console. In party mode, the removable dinette table and single level aft deck layout creates an ideal space for socialising.
The overall look is modern with extensive use of composites, mixed with the light Alpi wood joinery, some of which has rather sharp edges which would bruise in a seaway.
The saloon helm station is an option worth having but perhaps not essential in Australia’s mild climate; however in a seaway would be a much more stable spot than the flybridge. An athwartships couch facing aft is here on the standard model. A spartan yet functional space, the helm is offset to port, with double bench with bolster; which suits standing at the small wheel. The uncluttered layout has the analogue engine gauges in prime position with chartplotter angled sufficiently for easy viewing, while off to port are the throttles. The recessed setting, back from the slanting windows nicely shades the area.
The linear galley allows several cooks who can use the two burner stove while others can access the separate oven that sits near the cockpit door. In between are double sinks and across the floor sit twin refrigeration drawers with an optional freezer slot in a starboard hull cabinet. Along the worktop is a perspex fronted cabinet for accoutrements with small sliding window above for cooker ventilation. The lack of under-bench storage is compensated for by space below the settee and the double steering seat. Yet more storage is in the three lazarettes in the nacelle which are about 18inches deep, so keep the weight low on the MY 37 while also housing the optional air conditioner. This three cabin version also has space for a washing machine in the owner’s hull.
THREE OR FOUR CABINS
Unlike most power catamarans of its size, the MY 37 is available in a three and a four-cabin layout making it ideal for both personal cruising use and commercial charter companies. The three cabin owner’s layout has two double cabins on starboard and suite for the owner to port. Opening the large sliding door reveals the owner’s hull. It has the bed aft with an open corridor forward to the ensuite, with large recessed window in between which is also a bulkhead for cupboards below and can house a 3kg loading washing machine. Volume is enormous in the owner’s cabin – especially when you remember this is only a 36 footer – so ideal for avoiding stuffiness in the tropics. The owner’s island bed looked a tad low for my taste but probably could be raised. It contained a spacious mattress (1.6m by 2.0m) to accommodate a couple, with a deep drawer below. Ventilation and light from the smallish portlights is a wee bit limited in the cabin so the corridor window is welcome. Moving down the corridor, yet more storage is found adjoining the bathroom where there is a tall wardrobe. The moulded bathroom has the toilet outboard and separate shower cubicle and yet more storage lockers.
The starboard hull has two guest cabins with a fairly large shared bathroom and laundry cupboard. The four-cabin version of the MY 37 has a central bathroom in each hull to maximise the space for each of the cabins. In both versions, the aft cabins have island beds while the beds in the forward cabins (1.4m by 2.0m) benefit from the deep and rounded hulls to have impressive volume for a 36 footer.
SUNBATHING ON THE FOREDECK
Wide sidedecks with a deep moulded toerail and tall guardrails guide you safely forward. The rectangular foredeck has a flat, elevated space for sunbathing while 2m deep lazarettes on each side can hide the sun umbrellas and water toys. Don’t be tempted to fill these with heavy gear which would reduce performance and trim. In addition a huge central locker contains the water tank which leaves lot of room for items such as rubber dinghies and fenders. This storage also houses a deep chain locker – so plenty of drop to keep the rode clear. At the bow, there’s a vertical 1,000W windlass/capstan with large cleat nearby and cleating on all four quarters and midships. For cruising, I’d add a second roller.
GENERATOR AND OTHER SYSTEMS
A delivery trip to Darwin in the build-up season one time confirmed for me the need of a air conditioner so the 6 KW Cummins Onan generator will be useful and of course on wash-days it will run the washing machine. Hopefully the generator shouldn’t deafen you as its placed in the starboard engine bay. Controls for it are in the owner’s hull while the main switchboard is beside the aft sliding doors, so easily adjusted when in the cockpit. The isolators for the 12volt system are prominent and all circuits have breaker switches. Stored power is from a bank of AGM house and engine batteries in the starboard hull, elevated sensibly above bilge level. Also here is the hot water system and access to the rudders.
HULL AND ENGINES
Economic cruising was a key feature the designer Daniel Andrieu was tasked with. A very practical designer and cruising yachtsman who I have the good fortune to know and race against. For this experienced French designer practicalities are important. This is reflected in good tankage – two 600L fuel tanks, a 350L water tank and space for a watermaker. Our boat benefited from the upgraded 220hp Volvo shaft drives, with four bladed propellers. Hull shape is rounded with fine ends and pronounced chine that allows more volume above the waterline. Construction is infused vinylester balsa cored topsides with solid fibreglass around the keel. I was unable to measure bridgedeck clearance but it went from fairly high at the smooth nacelle front to lowish at the stern.
MOTORING ON A BUMPY SYDNEY HARBOUR
A windy and rainy Sydney day was ideal for experiencing all that the MY 37 can offer such as braving the buffeting on the flybridge before retiring as the rain fell to the comfort of the saloon console. But getting off the dock in the inner harbour was probably our biggest challenge as the windage kept us pinned against it, so we ran a line as leverage to turn the boat out before setting off towards Cockatoo Island. This is where you’d welcome the optional bow thruster, to reduce any marital dramas.
Clear of the dock my perch on the flybridge proved comfortable. Smooth power delivery came from the 220 Volvos with no shuddering and despite the smallness of the hydraulic wheel on the flybridge it took little effort to turn at speed. The blustery 20kt conditions were mostly deflected by the plastic windshield; which didn’t preclude 360° views to give the skipper confidence.
Maximum speed was 18.6kts with engines running at 3,400rpm and a full fuel load. Cruising speed was around 15kts, with a fuel burn rate of 60L per hour calculated by my host Nod Crook during the delivery. At cruising speed the bow lifted about 10%, something that fitting the recommended Volvo trim tabs would lessen – and possibly improve fuel consumption. Moving down to the saloon console was an equally enjoyable experience because my views weren’t restricted, including clear sight aft thanks to all furniture being along the sides. When turning, a rudder indicator would have been welcome (but you could just put a mark on the wheel). Slow handling, even in the blustery cross winds proved predictable, as I ran parallel to the dock then held station while we prepared the lines, to complete an enjoyable outing on a very practical motor catamaran.