Even if you’ve never considered a power cat, you owe it to yourself to look at this one.
I conducted an informal, unscientific, man-on-the-dock interview at the recent Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show in which I asked, “Would you consider a power cat for your next boat?” after which I asked the reason for the answer. Eight of 10 respondents said they would not, with the main reasons being inferior sleeping accommodations, quirky handling in a seaway, lack of speed, and of course the fact that cats are too wide to fit into a regular slip. But the kicker was that when I asked the negative responders how many power cats they’d actually been aboard, the two most frequent responses were never (60 percent) and once (30 percent). And no one was planning on looking at a cat at the show.
Too bad, because one dock over from the site of my feeble stab at public-opinion research sat a boat that just might have changed some minds. For the Horizon PC52 is not only the best power cat I’ve tested, it’s one of the best cruising boats of any type. The justification for such praise is self-evident as soon as you step aboard. Yes, there’s that giant main-deck saloon-cum-galley, but most cats have that. It’s when you step below and look at the sleeping accommodations that you see what sets this boat apart. Two of the three cabins not only have queen-size berths but enough headroom that you can actually sit up in them. That’s because both lie athwartships and sit right on the tunnel, so not an inch of space is wasted. (The third cabin comes with either a full-size queen or side-by-side singles.)
Indeed, a major structural crossmember doubles as each berth’s base. Horizon can do this because the PC52 is fully resin-infused (at the same Taiwanese yard where Horizon does all its boats, right up to a 147-foot superyacht), and that allows the dimensions of this and all structural components to be smaller without compromising strength. And the strength comes not only from infusion. Climb into either bilge and you’ll see ring-frame reinforcement, just as you would on a racing boat. Building this way is more costly than fore-and-aft stringers, but the payoff in solidity is big. Although we had flat seas on test day, I could feel no torquing or working of the hull and there was never a creak or groan.
The PC52 has other admirable qualities as well, such as shallow draft. The best part of cruising is sneaking into places where other boats can’t go, and this boat’s 4-foot 3-inch draft makes that possible, but it’s only half of the story. The other is the boat’s semi-displacement hull form, which features a half-length keel that protects both props and rudders. So not only can you sneak up into that secluded cove, you could actually beach the PC52 if the bottom is soft. How many cruising boats can do that?
Flats forward of the props called planing wedges create the lift that allows the PC52 to exceed displacement speed. Our test boat topped out at better than 22 knots while burning 52 gph for an efficiency of just under a half-mile per gallon. (With a WOT at 3375 rpm, our boat was a tad underpropped.) That number improves steadily as you throttle back, but if you want to really squeeze the most out of the 800-gallon fuel capacity, take the PC52 down to 1500 rpm and below, where she’ll match any displacement-type cruiser.
But will she match such vessels’ seakindliness? Due to placid conditions on test day that’s not something I was able to judge, nor her behavior in an aft-quartering sea, a notorious multihull Achilles Heel. That’s certainly something any prospective buyer will want to weigh before finalizing a deal, but the 52’s clean hulls (i.e., no strakes or chines) augur well for her performance in such conditions.
The test results also reveal that the 52 is quiet, partly because the engines are all the way aft—each 550-horsepower Cummins QSB 6.7 is mated to a V-drive—but also because of resin infusion, which eliminates rattles and groans, and strategic use of acoustical insulation. The combination of V-drives and this hullform does produce one performance-related quirk: The 52 shows her best performance with about half-tab, which adds lift but also drag—at least theoretically. I wasn’t able to note any decrease in fuel efficiency when tab was applied although I definitely noticed an increase in speed.
Despite all of these positive attributes, those focused on the two traditional multihull liabilities—beam and appearance—may remain unconvinced. And yes, at 22 feet wide the 52 is beamy, and no, she doesn’t look like a traditional monohull, at least from the bow or stern. As for her profile, Horizon apparently added a bit to her vertical dimensions to produce the generous headroom in the staterooms, but I don’t find the result in any way displeasing. Indeed, given all of the 52’s admirable characteristics, anyone serious about cruising ought to do themselves a favor and set aside their ailurophobia (an irrational aversion to cats) and take a closer look. This is the one power cat that just might change your mind.
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Under The Hood: The Cat’s Meow
One dividend that accrues when you buy a power cat is that the engines are farther apart, which gives the propellers and rudders additional leverage, especially during slow-speed maneuvering. Another is that the engines are well aft in each hull so much of the engine noise and vibration is isolated, providing a quieter ride. To these advantages Horizon adds a third by placing the engines even farther aft, thanks to the use of V-drives. This not only makes the 52 even quieter and her engine room roomier, it also shifts the center of balance aft, giving the boat a modest bow-up attitude. Most of the time the helmsman applies about half tab to achieve a normal running angle, but in big seas when he wants to keep the windshield dry or prevent the bows from “stuffing” into a wave, he can reduce tab and raise the bows. It’s just one way Horizon is keeping everything on the up and up.
Noteworthy options: teak decks; additional swim ladder and stern hot/cold shower; aft-deck barbecue; upgrade to Sub-Zero fridge; Fisher & Paykel dishwasher; upgrade to 2/Garmin MFDs; Garmin fishfinder w/ dual transducers; Garmin wind indicator; XM weather; night vision camera; ACR spotlight; Wave Wi-Fi; GOST security system; 1,200-gpd watermaker; satellite TV w/ dummy dome. Prices upon request.
Generator: 17.5-kW Onan, Warranty: 2 years on entire boat, 5 years on hull and deck
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 71°F; humidity: 65%; seas: flat
Load During Boat Test
400 gal. fuel, 250 gal. water, 4 persons, 1,000 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/550-hp Cummins QSB 6.7 diesels
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF with 2.539:1 gear ratio
- Props: 23.5 x 30 4-blade Nibral
- Price as Tested: $1,790,000
This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.