Just about any boatbuilder will claim its vessel has the "latest(!), innovative(!) technologies" and "represents an entirely new direction." Yet, once you get onboard, you often discover that while the boat may be nice, she's not necessarily the "next big thing" in boating.
But the Buzzards Bay 33, which I recently tested out of Plymouth, Massachusetts, is different. She's a no-frills powercat that's fuel-efficient, low-maintenance, and a total blast to pilot. She's got the stability and seakeeping you need for long-range cruising, yet a shallow enough draft (2'5" with the engines down) to accommodate days on the beach, too. In short, she's a versatile vessel designed to be operated single-handedly that could open the door for a new kind of fun on the water.
The 33 is the brainchild of Russell Hunt, founder of Multihull Development (MD). Hunt grew up as a self-described "boatyard rat" at his father's yard near Cape Cod. After graduating with a degree in naval engineering from Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1999, he worked as an engineer on a commercial shipping vessel on and off for four years.
But his heart wasn't in it. "It's a hard thing to do when you have a passion for something else," Hunt told me on test day. For him, that passion was being out on the water and having fun on boats. "I like boats, but commercial ships are different—even megayachts. They're just not as much fun—so much maintenance, so many complicated systems. I favor simplicity and not filling a boat up with too much complicated junk. And I'd done a lot of research on composite construction and yacht design while still in school and knew that a well-built and well-designed, modern-constructed powercat, known for [its] fuel economy and seakeeping, didn't exist." So it was no surprise in 2002 when Hunt decided to follow his dream and build a boat intended to be strong, fuel-efficient, and fun.
The result was the Buzzards Bay 32 CWD powercat prototype, which Hunt and designer Chris White built in a small workshop in Bourne, tested extensively on the waters off Cape Cod, and debuted at the 2004 Newport International Boat Show in Rhode Island. Hunt says the 32 garnered interest from cruisers looking for an easier-to-own (i.e. lower-maintenance) boat they could run themselves and onboard which they could comfortably spend a week or two. After selling the first 32 to a gentleman who had owned a 42 Krogen and ran her up and down the East Coast, Hunt and White began work on a second boat, which was built by North Atlantic Yachts in Canada, launched in July, and is the 33 I tested.
Hunt achieved his goal: Driving her is not only effortless, it's a blast! She handled 180- and 360-degree turns at WOT with only a slight drop in rpm (less than 200), and her standard 225-hp Mercury Verado four-strokes burned just 14 gph at 24 mph for a nearly 300-nautical-mile range. Moreover, this displacement cat weighs just 11,000 pounds, thanks to unidirectional fiberglass, which absorbs less resin, and CoreCell in her hull and deck. That also makes her quick: Within just 15 seconds, she was already at top speed (41.5 mph). The faster I ran her, the more comfortable she rode, slicing through three-footers with ease. And though I'm 5'1", sightlines from the adjustable standard Stidd helm seat at the centerline helm station were excellent thanks to low trim angles and seven big windows, two measuring 9'Lx2'H, all around the pilothouse.
Also noteworthy is her 111-square-foot cockpit, big enough for fishing or entertaining and featuring a two-foot-wide transom boarding gates on each side. Hunt says her 20-inch-high aft tunnel clearance is about twice as much as any other powercat on the market and further enhances her comfortable ride.
But because of that tunnel, the 33's accommodations are sparse. The only stateroom is down three teak steps from the pilothouse and inside the starboard hull. It spans the tunnel and features a queen berth with comfortable memory foam mattress, but it has only one hanging locker and a small cubby-hole at the foot of the bed for stowage—not ideal for long-range cruising. (The L-shape settee aft and to starboard of the helm station also converts to a double berth.) Hunt called me a few days after the test to report that he'd come up with a design that added a chest and drawers, which he plans to incorporate on future models.
The stateroom adjoins the 33's only head. Located forward in the port-side hull, it's accessible directly from the pilothouse, but accessing it from the master requires walking up into and across the saloon/pilothouse, then down four steps. My test boat featured an optional sliding hatch that connects the port side of the berth directly to the head, designed in response to a request Hunt received from "senior" owners who get up in the middle of the night to use the facilities. It wouldn't be exactly ideal in the middle of the night, however.
Despite lacking certain long-range cruising amenities, the Buzzards Bay 33 has a lot to offer anyone looking to have fun on the water, and she'd be great for a cruising couple, but is equally suitable for single-handed operation. She gets good fuel economy, has a nice turn of speed, and is relatively roomy without carrying around a lot of "excess baggage." She's one cool cat that just might make a splash.
Furuno NavNet w/ 10" display; Icom 601 VHF; 15" Edson PowerWheel; Stidd 500N Slim-Line helm seat; Sunbrella chenille fabric on settee; hi-lo drop-leaf dinette table; 2-burner Princess propane cooktop, 4.6-cu.-ft. Isotherm 'fridge, s/s sink w/Moen hand-shower fixture, and Dometic flush-mount microwave in galley; MarineDeck 2000 high-pressure cork sole in pilothouse; 2/1,200-gph bilge pumps w/ high-water alarms; 4-step s/s swim ladder; 2/Lewmar hatches
sliding master stateroom-head door; 12,000-Btu Westerbeke RotaryAire A/C; 3-kW Westerbeke genset; Sea-Land VacuFlush MSD
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/225-hp Mercury Verado four-stroke outboards
- Transmission/Ratio: Mercury/1.85:1
- Props: 15x15 3-blade stainless steel
- Price as Tested: $304,000
This article originally appeared in the November 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.