- Great load carrying ability
- Room for up to twenty day-guests
- Lends itself to entertaining
- Bulbs equal no slamming, improved speed and economy
- Built in China
- Perfect for charter work
- Underwater bulbs an unusual feature
- Available in multiple layouts
The new Aquila 44 power catamaran is a vessel tailor-made for partying in style.
There are many attractive, interesting and innovative features on the Aquila 44 – and while they all add up to an impressive vessel, for me her overwhelming appeal is the way her clever design lends itself to stylish entertaining. She will accommodate a sizeable crowd across her spacious foredeck, large cockpit and saloon – and an expansive flybridge. And there’s an excellent “flow” between all these areas.
I caught up with the cat at the recent Sydney International Boat Show, where she drew plenty of admiring visitors. A sister ship is headed to our Auckland show later this monh. Be sure to visit both the Show and the Aquila.
First, some background. Aquila cats are built in China in a collaborative initiative between three parties: Sino Eagle (the builder), Slovenia’s J&J Design and US company MarineMax. The 44 follows in the paw prints of a bigger sister, the 48, and a new 38 is about to make its debut. The vast majority of production is destined for the Caribbean and Mediterranean charter markets.
The 44 coming to New Zealand will be the third in the Southern Hemisphere – the first two are in Australia. Construction is resininfused fibreglass. Components are built in a humidity-controlled facility and cured in a kiln. Our review cat is in survey (1E, 4C, 4D and 2C) and certified to carry 20 charter guests – which she will do
But the most interesting part in this backgrounder concerns her hulls – which generated more than a few double takes in Sydney. The bows are fitted with underwater bulbs – common on largeships. The cat is unquestionably the first medium-size recreational vessel I’ve seen equipped with them. So what’s with the bulbs?
Turns out the first few 44s off the production line didn’t perform as hoped – both in terms of speed and fuel efficiency. So began a rigorous trial-and-error programme which ended with bulbs being added in front. This was an inspired tweak, with more than a few benefits.
For a start, the extended waterline improved performance dramatically. Comparisons between a bulbless and bulbed 44 (both equipped with twin 225hp Volvo D4s) showed marginal improvements at low, displacement speeds (less than 10 knots).
At 2,500rpm, for example, the bulbed cat registered 8.3 knots, only 0.3 knots more than the unbulbed sistership.
But the difference became much more significant as they approached planing speed. The bulbed cat delivered 12.4 knots at 3,200 rpm, 3.5 knots faster than her unmodified sister. And at WOT the difference was even more pronounced: some 16.1 knots for the bulbed 44, versus 9.4 knots for her sister.
Our review cat (20 tonnes, 16 tonnes lightship) is equipped with gruntier engines: twin 300hp Volvos mated to V-drives. The Raymarine HybridTouch chartplotter presented the engine data in clear, easily-digestible bites. At six knots – around a very lumpy Sydney harbour – the Volvos were ticking over at 1,150rpm and between them consuming 5.9 litres/hour.
At cruise speed (17-18 knots and 2,800 rpm) consumption increased to 76 litres/hour and at WOT (23 knots/3,200 rpm) that climbed to 79 litres/hour. She carries 1,150 litres of diesel in two tanks, with an additional 350-litre reserve tank. So depending on the urgency of your next appointment, you could eke quite a distance from those engines. And using the Volvo data on the chartplotter, you should be able to “plan” the speed of your journey and its necessary pit stops fairly easily.
The 44’s also available with 375hp Yanmars which, I’m told, deliver a top speed of 25 knots. Though Yanmar is one of my favourite engine brands, I’d struggle to argue persuasively for the upgrade.
NO MORE SLAMMING
But perhaps the most impressive benefit of the bulbs concerns the 44’s seakeeping. The bulbs are hollow and the added buoyancy up front seems to counteract any
pitching tendency. While this makes for a more stable, comfortable motion, it’s the lack of “slamming” that I found more intriguing. Water slamming into a cat’s wing-deck is both fairly common and uncomfortable.
As suggested, Sydney Harbour was pretty miserable, running a heavy swell generated by a stiff southerly. The 44’s wing-deck only sits about 700mm off the water, but it’s fitted with a pronounced “V-shaped wavebreaker” that deflects head seas sideways rather than taking them on the chin. This deflection phenomenon also adds a bit of “lift” to the ride.
Whatever the physics, the bulbs’ buoyancy and wavebreaker work well together – and definitely minimise the slamming. Very cool.
The 44’s available in a variety of layouts. This one’s set up for six people in three cabins: a vast master cabin up front and two identical cabins aft, one in each hull. Unusually, the master bedroom – with its king-size double bed – lies between the hulls, where most cats would have a trampoline or the anchor locker. Its en suite is in the port hull, with a writing desk/dressing table to starboard. Each aft cabin has a large double bed and an en suite further forward.
They are all well-planned, spacious cabins, and offer a subtle advantage: located as they are at opposite sides/ends of the cat, you’ll enjoy a heightened sense of privacy and quiet.
I like the design of the saloon and galley. Again, it’s undeniably spacious but perhaps more importantly, it’s easy-to-use space. Consider the large opening window at the rear end of the galley. Apart from the sense of free-flowing, continuous airiness it creates when it’s open, it facilitates the passage of food and drink to the raucous guests occupying the cockpit’s big U-shaped settee. It’s easy to see why the44 is so well-suited to chartering and entertaining.
For me, though, Central Station on the Aquila 44 is its flybridge – I just know this will be the chief congregation point for all guests.
Numerous features qualify the flybridge as the party zone. The view, for a start. It’s a glorious, 360o panorama – and the area will accommodate a decent-sized crowd to enjoy that view. If the weather’s churlish – as it was for us in Sydney – there are full, wraparound clears to keep your hair unruffled and dry.
The cat has a single, island helm station – and it’s up here, on the centre line, near the front of the flybridge. It affords the helmsman uninterrupted views – especially useful for docking – and Volvo’s fingertip electronic throttles make it a genteel affair. As an island helm station, it’s best to stand in front of it, facing aft, when maneuvering the cat into her berth. With those engines taking full advantage of the 6.56m beam, she spins in her own length. There is, incidentally, an infrared camera mounted on the aft end of the flybridge roof, pointed aft, to help with night docking.
I hate to say this, but perfectly-located though the helm station is, it’s almost irrelevant in the context of the flybridge’s party potential.
The hotspot is the BBQ and wet bar just behind the helm station, complete with ice-box. And then there are the well-padded settees – port, starboard, either side of the helm, with a large U-shaped settee and table further aft. The area will accommodate – and seat – 20 guests with ease.
With Abba blaring from the high-end Fusion stereo system (I lost count of the speakers mounted around the vessel), I predict the cat will field regular visits from Noise Control.
The flybridge’s smartest piece of design, though, is its dualaccess. Flybridges are often a sticking point with crowds because usually there is only one access point – an internal staircase. This cat has its internal staircase from the saloon, but there is also a second, forward access, leading down from the front of the flybridge to the foredeck. This creates an excellent “flow” through the flybridge, and avoids the typical bottleneck that plagues single access designs.
Note that the flybridge BBQ is electric. In fact, the entire vessel runs a combination of 12-volt DC and 240-volt AC. The owner doesn’t like gas. So this cat has a 10.4kVa generator, a 5,000kW inverter and 800 amp-hours of batteries. The galley below has an induction hob, surrounded by Corian work surfaces, fridge/ freezer, cooker and a stainless steel microwave oven.
Aesthetically, the cat presents well. I like the recessed LED strip lighting in the ceiling, the large TV that disappears into its locker on the starboard side of the saloon at the push of a button, and the comfortable living around the saloon table and settee. The cat’s fully equipped with heating and A/C.
I enjoyed the Aquila 44. She’s different, unusual and above all, a fun boat. For those who prefer to march to their own drums, her attributes offer a definite element of the non-conformist. With her height she’s difficult to miss, but if you’re looking for her in a crowded marina I’d suggest you just follow the music. They might even invite you to join the party.