The Prowler's 650mm draft is a real winner for those operating shallow areas like the Myall Lakes and the Gold Coast Broadwater and should keep prop replacement costs down for charter operators using these vessels.
Her 650mm draft makes this cat a shallow water specialist. Port Stephens, situated three hours north of Sydney, is something of a Mecca to fishermen, including me. It's a holy place where battles with giant marlin and yellowfin tuna are still fought, where big kingfish roam the offshore islands and where those in the know can still hook, but maybe not land, 30kg-plus cobia off the 'stones'.
It's a place of natural beauty where wildlife abounds and a tranquil lifestyle sets the mood for visitors and locals alike. But for boaties, its pristine waters can spell trouble because of the many sandbars and shoals waiting to trap unwary mariners who stray from the channels.
Of the many creeks and rivers that flow into the 'Port', one waterway of great importance to boaties is the Myall River, gateway to the beautiful cruising grounds of the Myall Lakes. But this shallow gateway is fraught with hazards and many bigger boats can only make the passage at high tide.
No problems here
Owners of a Prowler VT power catamaran have no such problems. Powered by twin Suzuki 225hp four-stroke outboards, the props on these motors don't extend below the keels of the sponsons, allowing the boat to operate in water only 650mm deep. And that's not bad for an almost 33ft boat!
The Prowler VT can make the Myall River passage at any stage of the tide and she gives a skipper plenty of leeway if they stray from the channels out in the Port.
Her shallow draft also propels this vessel into the realm of 'great family boats' because she can be nosed up to the beach, allowing the kids to jump down from the bow directly onto the sand. But be warned: there is no bow ladder and it's a fair drop. The builder should address this ASAP.
Another big plus in the family boat stakes for this cat is her inherent stability both underway and at rest. Anyone who has slept on a mono-hulled boat will know they roll quiet noticeably at anchor, even in seemingly calm conditions. A cat on the other hand sits flat and steady. That's sure to impress mum and the kids.
The Prowler's 6m beam allows for an open-plan saloon, which, like the rest of the boat, boasts a clean, easily maintained white finish. Copious amounts of gloss-wood paneling and joinery look fantastic, but on a boat that may be destined for charter work ? or one you and your big family intend to keep for 10 or more years ? this woodwork can get scratched and start to look dowdy. Clean and simple is the aim here.
The lower helm station is sited centrally within the saloon and has a padded bench seat on top of a refrigerator. A fully functional galley is to starboard and there's a shaped dining table on the portside. In fact, this boat has all the comforts of home and then some.
Watching a movie on the flat-screen TV, or setting the mood with some quiet music, keeping the crew entertained isn't a problem. Me, I'd be happy to sit and watch the scenery pass by through the 360-degree glass that surrounds the saloon. With all that glass you'd think it might get hot in here, but even without air-con, an opening hatch in front of the driving position, sliding-side windows and hatches in the cabin roof and aft bulkhead give excellent flow-through ventilation.
This boat sleeps seven in the three double berths and one single berth, all in the sponsons. These areas have ample storage lockers and hanging cupboards. There's a spacious bathroom with good head height in the starboard pontoon.
The flybridge is compact and Spartan. There's no helm seat, the skipper sits on a stool, which gives some indication to the stability of this vessel. Instrumentation and controls are limited to a steering wheel and the throttle/gear levers. Obviously, this has been left so the new owners can choose their own electronics' package. The ladder from the aft cockpit is steep and narrow, so it could be a bit difficult getting a drink up to the skipper in a bit of a sea.
Out back on the aft deck is also a bit narrow but there's room for a small table and four adults can sit comfortably on the transom lounge. Boarding over the stern is a simple affair thanks to the boarding platforms next to both outboards and easy-to-climb steps into the cockpit.
Performance & Handling
On the day of this test there was only a small swell running outside the Port, but it was enough to get a good feel for this vessel. Head-on into the sea and the air trapped between the sponsons stopped any banging and crashing through the waves, cushioning the ride dramatically. Hitting the swells at 45 degrees leveled out the ride, while the Prowler turned 'cat flat' when executing turns.
In a following sea the swells did show a tendency to try and push the hulls from side to side, but they recover quickly so it wasn't really a problem. With 600lt of fuel, fresh water and a family load of gear, this 3.9-tonne boat cruises effortlessly and economically between 15 and 18 knots, but the ideal cruise was 25 knots at 4000rpm. Push the hammers down and she tops out at 31 knots pulling 4900rpm.
This hull is a Schionning semi-displacement design, so there's no transition onto the plane. One minute you're down, the next you're up and running cleanly. Each sponson is quite sharp and has well-defined chines that continue right to the tip of each bow. This is another design feature that adds to the boat's 'dry ride' capabilities.
Because this is a demo-boat awaiting sale, most of the frills are yet to be fitted, but she definitely needs some form of ladder to get the most from her versatility. The Prowler's 650mm draft is a real winner for those operating shallow areas like the Myall Lakes and the Gold Coast Broadwater and should keep prop replacement costs down for charter operators using these vessels.
Her interior low-maintenance finish is practical as are her sleeping and saloon layout. The boat's economical running is another plus, but further savings can be made by fitting her with twin 140hp Suzuki four-stroke. You may lose 5 knots off top-end speed, but you can still cruise comfortably at 15 knots and she'll run on the smell of an oily rag.
So, how much will it cost to park one of these cats at your local marina? Fitted with 140hp Suzuki outboards, $350,000. With twin 225s and the extras that were fitted to the test boat, $490,000.
WORDS : IAN MACRAE