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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Black Pearl 46

She didn't look like a cat, but I quickly concluded that her ability to jump, run, and land on her feet were signs of a nimble and acrobatic feline. No, I didn't come across a predatory panther on the African plains, but I did take a ride on Black Pearl Marine's 46 sportfish catamaran that made this monohull diehard reconsider his position on fishing platforms.

I spooled up the 46's standard 710-hp Caterpillar C12 diesel inboards and pushed the single-lever Cat controls forward 'cause it was time to fly. The smooth throttle movement was only rivaled by the easy rise of the 46's solid-fiberglass planing hull, whose lines come courtesy of New Zealand's Crowther Design. The vessel came up on plane before she reached 1500 rpm and quickly accelerated across Smokehouse Bay off Marco Island, Florida, to an average top speed of 40 mph while burning only 72.8 gph. (That averages out to about 12 gph less at WOT than several similar-size monohulls I've tested.) The speed and fuel efficiency were immediate clues of why Black Pearl's founder, Mark Brunsvold, opted for a twin-hull boat. "I had a 65 [sportfisherman], but I didn't like burning 130 gph to go fishing," he told me. That's understandable, as this fishing-fanatic-turned-boatbuilder, who originally intended to build a boat for just himself, added that he enjoys extended fishing expeditions that keep him and his crew a couple hundred miles from shore. With 680 gallons of fuel available on the 46 and a fuel burn of only 46 gph at her respectable 34.8 mph cruise speed, this boat is mostly about range and ability.

She's also about handling. The 46's standard power-assisted Teleflex SeaStar steering enabled me to weave her across the Gulf, carving S-turns between crab-pot markers and making double figure-eights at speed. Even better was being able to do a quick reverse at about 5.5 mph to simulate backing down on a fish. Her twin hulls didn't so much as sneeze spray up and over the 51-inch gunwales.

One may question the fishability of a boat that has a gunwale that high. I sure did. But from a tag-and-release standpoint, it's not a problem. Using a tag stick from the cockpit should be as simple as stick and cut. If you have a large table fish—say, a bigeye tuna—you can just work your quarry to the starboard-side transom door and drag him straight into one of the two in-deck, macerator-equipped fishboxes. These are large enough for triple-figure tuna.

Fishbox capacity aside, the allure of 180 square feet of uninterrupted fish-fighting space was almost too much to resist. This is the place to dance with pelagics, and her 18'2" beam makes it possible (similar-size monohulls average about two and a half to three feet less beam). Even with the optional Release fighting chair, there's room for a stand-up angler to work a fish. If you prefer to fish with stand-up gear, I'd add coaming padding to save your knees some bruising, as my test boat didn't have it. In addition, while I appreciate Black Pearl's use of cockpit lighting, the lights protrude from under the gunwale and could possibly cut your legs if you're working a fish. Brunsvold says that subsequent hulls will have flush-mount lights. Some other fishy highlights of my test boat included a 55-gallon transom livewell, four rod holders, six rocket launchers, and 33-foot Rupp outriggers.

The cockpit also provides access to engines in each of the 46's hulls. The rooms are mirror images of each other and feature 4'4" headroom. I suspected that the engines would be shoehorned into each space, but this was not the case. There's walkaround access to both powerplants. One issue I did have with both spaces was the placement of the Racors: under fixed steps at the entrance to the engine rooms. You have to put your hands between the steps to get the filters off, not an efficient setup for a regular maintenance item. A better location on this boat—and where I'm told the filters will be located in the future—is the forward bulkhead, where there's clean access. Inboard access for maintenance is uninterrupted.

The sponsons also house the two staterooms all the way forward. The master stateroom is in the port-side one and features a 6'3"x5'0" berth with four stowage areas beneath. Six-foot four-inch headroom is the rule here. While this room doesn't possess the same space as it would in a monohull, I found it adequate for a couple/crew to crash. The hardcore angler will likely not mind the lack of space, since not much time will be spent here, but if you do extended cruising, this room will feel small. The head with shower stall sits just abaft the master stateroom and features 6'5" headroom. The guest stateroom to starboard has two single berths and the same head setup as the master, with a few cabinets under the outboard berth. A stowage area aft and to port of the guest quarters could be used as another single guest room with the addition of a berth; however, I barely squeezed in there and would keep it as stowage.

One place where room is plentiful is the main deck. The U-shape galley, forward and to port upon entering from the cockpit, is fully equipped (see specifications below). There are also three drawers for cutlery and plates and one large one for pots and pans. Once you're done cooking, the dinette across from the galley seats four and offers great views to boot. When it's time to loosen the belt and kick back, you can put your feet up on one of the port and starboard L-shape saloon lounges. The starboard-side lounge offers the best view of the optional 20-inch Sharp flat-panel TV. Between the beam and the 6'7" headroom here, you feel like you're inside a house.

The Black Pearl 46's impressive turn of speed, agile handling, and efficiency have earned her two thumbs up from this boater. And while she has some stiff competition from the monohull market, especially with her relatively compact lower-deck accommodations, the 46's main-deck space is relatively larger. Add to her list of pros an uncatamaran-like profile, and she'll definitely turn heads of many traditional diehards and maybe even convert some to cat lovers.

Black Pearl Marine
(239) 389-1103

This article originally appeared in the March 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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