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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Camano 41

Being skipper has its perks. I did the driving during Neil Rabinowitz's recent photo shoot on the immensely comfortable, Canadian-built Camano 41 and at some point in the midst of our peregrinations of Lake Washington unilaterally decreed a midmorning coffee break. What the heck? The shoot was going smoother than a hound dog's nose; the morning was sunny, warm, and refreshingly redolent of evergreen; and our test boat was zooming along. Why not push the ambiance even further with a hot cup of Fidalgo Bay's finest?

So after calling break time on the VHF and making sure there was no traffic nearby, I eased the commercial-style Kobelt engine control into neutral, observed how quickly the vessel slowed to a stop thanks to the drag inherent in a big, 26"x 211/2" four-bladed manganese-bronze propeller, and then leisurely descended the beefy stainless steel ladder from the flying bridge into the cockpit. What happened next I'll not soon forget.

Upon entering the saloon through the AJR welded-aluminum door, I beheld a vision of such ethereal loveliness, it stunned me into immobility, at least for a moment. Thanks to four huge windshield panels and a profusion of equally huge, opening/screened AJR welded-aluminum windows everywhere else, the saloon was bathed in sunlight, with vistas of piney woods and blue waters sparkling like diamonds all around.

"Now this is spectacular," I exclaimed to Camano's Seattle dealer, Dave Formo, who proffered a steaming cup from the port-side galley opposite the lower helm station. "It's a veritable Pacific Northwest solarium!"

And the size of the place! Camano designer Brad Miller's decision to narrow the side decks of the 41 and go with one stateroom rather than two makes for an extra-wide sapele and mahogany saloon that offers more warmth and laid-back largesse than most residential living rooms. Two Ultraleather club chairs to port (with a movable dining/cocktail table in between) and a matching convertible sofa to starboard (with an electrically inflatable mattress inside to accommodate overnight guests) enhance the effect, as did the optional hardwood floors and built-in bookcases I could see peeping from the sapele and mahogany stateroom at the bow.

"The facilities ain't too shabby, either," I noted once I'd ducked below to examine the split-head arrangement that separates the saloon/galley/helm area from the stateroom. The port half with the shower stall is generously proportioned, and so is the starboard side with the VacuFlush MSD. In a way it was like having two heads onboard.

"Yes indeed," Formo concurred with a confident smile. "What we've got here is a great layout for a couple and maybe an occassional guest or two."

Formo and I eventually finished our coffee and the photo session and commenced the official sea trial of the 41, running reciprocal courses across slick-calm water alongside the I-90 bridge west of Mercer Island. The Camano's performance characteristics were darn near as impressive as the exquisite scene I'd witnessed earlier. For one thing, bow rise while achieving plane was exceptionally modest—in fact, thanks to the lift engendered by near-flat after sections coupled with the buoyancy inherent in a voluminous hollow keel, the boat's proprietary Keelform hull actually pitches slightly forward at displacement velocities and then settles steadily back to a mere two and a half degrees at top end. Moreover, I noted absolutely no rpm data points where the boat labored inefficiently in the transitional realm between displacement and planing speeds. There simply was no bow wave to get beyond. No stall spot. No hole to come out of.

Then there was the 41's manners. I noted virtually no heel in her turns, even tight ones, thanks to some seriously hard chines aft and an exceptionally low vertical center of gravity, the direct result of a low engine placement made possible by the giant, hollow keel. I also noted how arrow-straight the 41 tracked, often for lengthy periods and mostly due to an extra-large, airfoil-shape, barn-door-type rudder.

It was this rudder, in fact, that took center stage when I used the lower helm station to shoehorn the 41 into a tight little spot starboard-side-to after the trial. I began by spinning the wheel hard to port upon nearing the dock—standard operating procedure for a vessel that backs to starboard thanks to a right-hand-turning screw. But then I did something rather different, based on my experiences with undocking the boat earlier that day. Instead of goosing the throttle to initiate a starboard swing as you'd do with most single-engine vessels, I simply left the rudder where it was and bumped the engine into and out of gear a couple of times at dead-idle ahead. Within seconds the stern swung in, a development I reinforced with a quick shift astern that simultaneously settled us against the dock and stopped all forward way.

"Now that's a rudder!" I exclaimed to Formo as I shut down our Yanmar, "and visibility's as good from the lower helm as from the upper, all the way around."

Chortling to myself, I then checked out the enormous engine room (with 360-degree engine access) via a couple of hatches in the saloon sole, one that opens into the rear of the machinery spaces, the other that offers forward access. The engineering acumen and crisp execution of the installations here was top-notch. I was especially enamored with the fuel-manifold system mounted against the welded-aluminum fuel tank (with giant clean-out) on the starboard side. It was laid out schematically on a giant poly panel, with big duplex Racors; a profusion of rubber-cushioned, aircraft-style Wiggins Adel fasteners; double-clamped MPI fuel hoses; and two easy-to-figure-out Reverso selector valves for return and supply. Great stuff—all of it.

I was also pleased with the D.C. electrics against the port-side fuel tank. It was laid out schematically as well, with a Xantrex Link battery monitor, Blue Sea Systems emergency engine start switch, and 120-volt duplex outlet.

By the time I closed the hatches, it was getting dark outside. Formo and I concluded our time together with a chat in the Camano 41's saloon, him sitting on the sofa, me kicked back in one of the club chairs. The lights of Chandler's Crab House twinkled outside. A lamp glowed from the cocktail/dining table.

"Beats my hotel room all hollow," I remarked, looking around.

"That's the point, Bill," he replied. "And when you get tired of the view, you just move."

For more information on Camano Marine, including contact information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.