Combining a hydraulically-actuated swim platform with twin 300-hp Verados, see why Capt. Bill Pike refers to the Aquila 32 as a "sassy little cat."
Not long ago, the folks at MarineMax in St. Petersburg, Florida, loaned me an Aquila 32 Sport Power Catamaran for a couple of days. The 32 is currently the newest and smallest member of the Aquila line. She offers dayboating comforts galore, limited overnighting potential and a selection of three Mercury outboard packages: twin 225-hp FourStrokes, twin 250-hp Verados or twin 300-hp Verados. The vessel I used to explore St. Pete and its environs sported the last option.
My cruise was preceded by a cheery little chore: a sea trial on Boca Ciega Bay, a lovely stretch of salt water protected by a series of sandy, urbanized barrier islands. Conditions on the bay were mild at the time, with little more than a 1- to 2-foot chop to contend with. However, the 32’s test load was relatively hefty, with two of us on board, along with at least 100 pounds of equipment and supplies and full fuel and water tanks.
Certainly, the average WOT speed of 31.7 knots I recorded was brisk, but I’d say I could have squeaked out a few more knots had we dispensed with some of the extra weight. More to the point, although our Lenco electric tabs were only slightly deployed during our speed runs (to address an easy-going crosswind) and Mercury’s Active Trim system was active throughout, the most we could pull from our power-plant was 5500 rpm. Which is a tad on the low, heavily-burdened side, in my opinion, considering that Mercury rates the 250-hp Verado between 5200 and 6000 rpm when going full-tilt. At any rate, the 32 nevertheless managed to turn in an eminently respectable cruise speed of 27 knots, thereby generating a maximum on-plane fuel economy of .78 mpg and a respectable range of some 177 nautical miles.
Gallery: Aquila 32
After I had finished collecting performance data on the bay, we headed out to Egmont Key, a small island well offshore and due west of Tampa Bay, to gauge the 32’s open-water handling and performance. I was soon zooming along the island’s palm-shady shores at a rousing, exceptionally enjoyable clip. But it was the run back to St. Pete that really showcased the boat’s seagoing talents. With tabs and trim dialed in, the sassy little cat swept over the 3- to 4-foot side-sea swells at cruise speeds and higher with the lithe grace of a true, twin-hulled feline.
And hey, driving was a trip. Tracking felt solid, tight turns produced a faint outboard lean (which is typical of power catamarans) and sightlines, of course, were superb all the way around. I eased on over to Pass-A-Grille marina where I soon experienced the dockside-handling virtues that attend a twin-engine boat with a wide engine offset.
The evening I spent at Pass-A-Grille introduced me to the domestic side of the 32’s personality. Topside, there were so many lounges and seats available (many with backrests that could be easily switched from forward- to aft-facing) that, due to my perfectionistic tendencies, I had a hard time figuring out exactly where to sit while enjoying the Fusion -stereo. Combine such an embarrassment of ergonomic riches with a Kenyon electric grill, a sink with Corian countertop and an Isotherm fridge (all handily installed amidships) and the 32’s dayboating potential seems pretty obvious.
But the boat handles the overnighting scene rather nicely, too. Just beyond the steering console on the starboard side, a sliding acrylic door leads down into a wet head with 5 feet, 10 inches of headroom, an opening port, sink (with showerhead faucet) and an MSD. And opposite the helm, below a companionway hatch in the portside console, there’s a berth (quite comfortable, although not wide enough to be realistically billed as a double), a microwave oven, an opening hatch overhead (as well as an opening portlight), and an optional piece of ancillary equipment that won me over instantaneously—a battery-powered air-conditioning unit from Cruise N Comfort.
Cruise N Comfort’s been in existence for over a decade now. Based in Arizona, the company ships 12-volt and 24-volt AC units to folks all around the world who want to chill down small spaces bereft of alternating current. The 8000-BTU model on board the 32 was energized by a bank of four Mastervolt Li-On (Lithium-Ion) batteries located beneath the port-side helm seat. After I’d figured out how to use the control panel and a few other odds and sods, the darn thing kept me cool from the time I turned it on (at about midnight, thanks to a parade of old Buffett hits on the Fusion and a sea-strainer cleaning I quite enjoyed) until roughly six the next morning.
So, my overall take on this, the latest offering from Aquila and MarineMax? If you’re scouting around for a smooth-driving dayboat with a whopping, built-in fun factor (oops! Did I not already mention the wild, hydraulically-actuated swim platform at the rear and the drop-down, beachifying ladder up forward? Yikes!), as well as a modicum of space belowdecks that’s both air-conditioned and overnightable, even on the hook sans genset, you’ve simply gotta check out the new Aquila 32 Power Catamaran.
Aquila 32 Power Catamaran Specifications:
Draft (outboards up): 2'1"
Displ. (dry): 12,566 lbs.
Fuel: 252 gal.
Water: 45 gal.
Cruise Speed: 22 knots
Top Speed: 31.7 knots
Power: 2/250-hp Mercury Verado outboards