— By Richard Thiel
— November 2003
|The NauticBlue 464’s big, airy saloon and excellent seakeeping are the perfect complement to a Virgin Islands minicruise.|
It’s important to keep your focus when you’re testing a boat, but I must admit that I found doing that a challenge with the NauticBlue 464 power catamaran. Not because I’m particularly fond of catamarans. Rather the potential distraction I had to grapple with was the test venue: the Virgin Islands. NauticBlue runs a charter company based on St. Thomas which serves both the American and British Virgins, as well as a base in the Abacos, Bahamas. It also sells the four-cabin 464 and three-cabin version called the 463 to buyers who agree to lease them back to the company for charter. (See “Advantageous Ownership,” this story.)
Fortunately, I signed on for only three days instead of the full-week charter, so I was able to keep my mind on my business most of the time despite the tropical distractions. And that 72 hours gave me enough time to wring out this boat—none of the “the calm waters on test day didn’t allow me to test the boat’s seakeeping” stuff we’re so often saddled with.
The 464/463 is a displacement-style catamaran, which means it offers efficiency, a smooth ride, and a relatively shallow draft (3'8"). Yet our test boat was no slouch when it came to speed. NauticBlue claims a 464 powered by twin 370-hp Yanmar diesels has a top speed of 24 knots. The best I saw was 19.5 knots, but my boat was loaded down with four adults, about 800 pounds of gear, and enough provisions for a week. (We weren’t exactly careful shoppers.) Plus, I suspect there was something amiss with our boat’s powertrain. More of that in a moment.
The Yanmars are mounted almost all the way aft in each of the catamarans’ hulls, thanks to V-drives. The principal benefits of this setup are more interior volume and quiet. The maximum sound level I recorded on the bridge was just 77 dB-A (65 dB-A is the level of normal conversation), and most of that was water noise. Impressively, readings were virtually identical at the lower station. The V-drives also provide a nine-degree shaft angle, which in concert with relatively small props (22"x31") and propeller pockets help produce the moderate draft.
Add these features to the catamaran’s inherent smoothness, which comes courtesy of the air cushion formed between her hulls, and you have a fine cruising boat. The tradewinds that bathe the Virgins gave us plenty of chop to test the 464’s seakeeping, and she did well on every point; when the three- to four-footers were on her nose, they were virtually undetectable. She was not terribly dry, again courtesy of the catamaran design that can trap spray between the hulls and blow it back forward and up onto the windshield, a phenomenon know as “cat pant.” NauticBlue says it has since modified the angle of the windshield, which should significantly reduce spray.
This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.