Thursday, November 29, 2007

TomCat 24 sea-trialed by Bob Austin

Before moving to power from sail, Bob Austin, a retired physician, shown at the helm of his TomCat, left tens of thousands of ocean miles in his wake, including cruising his own boat across the Atlantic and racing to Hawaii from California several times. After owning a trawler yacht, Bob and his wife Marie decided to downsize. Here is his account of sea-trialing the TomCat 24. The report was first posted on Power Catamaran List:

We looked at several other boats in our quest for a trailerable catamaran cruiser. We would like to have a cruising range of over 300 miles, enough storage for 10 days food and gear, an easy to get in bunk, a head with shower, and speed up to 30 mph. This needs to be trailerable behind a standard tow vehicle, and without permits. We currently own a 22-foot C-Dory Cruiser which is light, but hard to get into the bunk and no head (portipotty under the bunk).

This is my impression of the TomCat 24.

General fit and finish was typical of the C-Dory line. The interior was spray gel coated, but not polished. The hull to deck joint fasteners had epoxy or some other sealant over them like the classic C-Dory.

The side decks were extremely narrow (4 inches). The hand rail on the cabin top was way inboard, so walking along the side deck was difficult--and almost impossible to undo dock lines from the side. There was just a side cleat about 1/3 aft, no foredeck or anchor cleat--no forward cleats.

The windows were very large--the middle foreward window opened to allow a breeze, aft windows opened about half way, sliding windows opened slightly over a foot. The boat was cool enough under way--but at rest, a bit hot in the enclosed pilot house when it was 90 degrees outside.

The cockpit was good size about 7 feet x6 feet and self-bailing. There is a built-in seat/ice chest/fish box aft, and a nice diving platform/swim step.

Headroom was 6 feet 4 inches, with a two-burner diesel stove and sink as in the traditional C-Dory with helm seat on the starboard side. Both dinette seats faced foreward and could seat four inside the pilot house on the port side. The bunk is athwartships, about 7 feet x 48 inches, comfortable and very easy to get in and out of. The head was under the steering console and difficult to get in and out (for a person 6 feet 2 inches and 200 pounds). Head room in the head was about 5 feet--cramped at the best.

Sight lines were fair foreward--but the bottom of the opening window (middle of three windows) cut off sight about 100 feet out, so for me a natural position did not give good visibility--I would adjust the seat height (not easy to do).

The hulls are definitely "planing," with a sharp entry, but becoming V almost immediately. The boat had twin 115-horsepower Yahama 4-stroke counter-rotation outboards. Maneuvering was excellent. The boat came up to speed as a planing boat would--but definitely there was a difference at 17 mph, where power could be backed off--indicating this as the best planing speed. The top speed with full fuel and four adults was 35 mph. Best cruising speed was at 4,000 RPM which gave about 24 mph and a fuel consumption giving 2.9 miles a gallon. (This is about 0.7 mile per gallon better than Glacier Bay 2690--whose best speed seemed to be around 24 mph and 2.2 miles a gallon.) The sea was very flat and we ran back across the wake (which was minimal). Even on this I felt that there was some "slap" with the TomCat and we felt that the Glacier Bay rode better; however, the motion of the TomCat was not as "quick" as the Glacier Bay.

On the Glacier Bay 2690, the head was much easier to access. The galley was smaller and dinette was smaller, with less storage in the Glacier Bay. The visibility in the Glacier Bay was better, as was the access to the foreward deck--and deck hardware. There was no opening windshield in the Glacier Bay but I feel that top opening hatches facing forward would give adequate ventilation.

The Tom Cat 24 with 116 gallons of fuel would have a range of 290 miles with 10% reserve. The Glacier Bay 2690 with 180 gallons of gas has a range of 350 miles with a 10% reserve.

Running the TomCat 24 on one engine gave a max of 10 miles per hour. Anything more and the engine was lugging as the boat had to get over a "hump" to get more speed. The Glacier Bay was able to get to over 15 mph (but has 35 more hp/engine).

We also looked at the Twin Vee 27-foot weekender: work boat construction, not well finished, no headroom in the cabin and the demo boat leaked badly! World Cat had a very nice fit and finish. The bunk in the 28 footer was too small, the head was unusable when the bunk was made up. It was much more of a fishing boat. The Sea Cat, was not quite as nice as the World Cat--and had the same short-comings--none of these boats had an adequate galley for full-time trailer-cruising.

All of these boats require at least a 3/4-ton truck preferably a one ton--since the towing weight gets close to 10,000 pounds, including trailer. My friend with the TomCat 24 felt that his 1/2 ton was struggling, even in flat Florida.

--Bob Austin

As it turned out, the new TomCat 255, which replaces the 24 in the C-Dory line, addressed some of Bob’s concerns, and he and his wife Marie purchased one which they happily cruise from their home in Pensacola, Florida. As many of their boats have been named, the TomCat is called Thataway.

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