The solar-powered Silent 55 catamaran is successfully pioneering renewable power in a quality and seaworthy design.
- Swim platform and tender garage
- Upper deck lounge
- Larger than standard engine gives good performance under power
- Free-flowing living areas
- Well designed boat
All boats – says the old adage – are something of compromise. An inevitable trade-off between great, OK and indifferent features. So it’s pleasing when the pendulum swings to the ‘great’ side of the equation.
With its new Saona 47 catamaran (14m LOA), French builder Fountaine Pajot has crafted a luxurious cruiser that celebrates free-flowing space, style and comfort. There’s much to like about her, and for me the major attraction is her layout – specifically, her entertainment areas.
And it seems the international cat-cruiser market agrees: since the design was launched in April last year, Fountaine Pajot has secured orders for 200 vessels. If you want one you’d better place the order soonish.
Our review boat – Yumi Zouma – is the first Saona 47 in the Southern Hemisphere. She belongs to Christchurch couple John and Jo Ryder, and she’s named after their son’s rock band. As someone on the wrong side of 60, I must confess I’d never heard of the band, and it’s unclear if the name means anything.
But doing the ‘yumi zouma’ does sound like something a bunch of friends would enjoy immensely. It will surely involve plenty of wine and gyrating wildly on this cat’s spacious foredeck – or in her spacious cockpit, or in her spacious upper deck lounge. All three probably.
The Saona 47 is available in two versions – three-cabin (owner’s option) or five-cabin (geared to the charter market). This one’s the latter, and the major difference between them is the accommodation in the port hull.
In this boat it’s divided into two large double-berth cabins, each with an en suite bathroom. With the three-cabin option, the area’s rearranged into a large, single owner’s suite stretching the entire length of the hull. Very nice. But if you suddenly need to accommodate guests who’ve over-indulged in yumi zouma-ing, you’ll want the five-cabin version.
This cat offers a bright, welcoming ambience the moment you step aboard. Crisp, European styling, with great views from everywhere. At night, subtle LED strip-lighting transforms it all – a magical space for canapés and cocktails, with Sinatra crooning in the background. Even I felt debonair – my sodden clothing notwithstanding.
The best place to appreciate the cat’s living spaces is from the front of the saloon, looking aft. And it’s particularly good with the sliding glass door and window retracted. This creates an expansive, free-flowing area that integrates saloon and cockpit and, across the stern, an uncluttered view to the horizon.
First though – the food preparation – and fittingly for a boat that excels in hosting guests, the galley’s ideally located between saloon and cockpit. Serving snacks/meals to the starving masses at the saloon or cockpit table is quick and uncomplicated.
And to encourage you to unleash your culinary skills, the large, L-shaped benchtop is fitted with a four-burner gas hob, a massive two-tier drawer fridge underneath and a large gas oven above – all immediately accessible. A step away, to starboard, you’ll find a microwave oven and a multi-drawer freezer. The dishwasher under the sinks will see plenty of action.
I like the island in middle of the galley area. In addition to the storage it contains, it offers more benchtop space and a waste compacter to help clear away the detritus after the party. Chances are it will also become a bar leaner for guests offering the chef unsolicited advice.
The galley bristles with lockers, but its smartest storage feature is underfloor. There’s plenty. And rather than use the conventional, toe-catching pull-rings on the locker covers, these are latch-free and easily lifted with a suction cup. Simple, practical, efficient.
Six-to-eight guests can be accommodated around the saloon table. It’s an expandable model with two drop-in leaves, but I suspect most meals will be in the cockpit. Mounted on pedestals, the table can also be lowered to create an additional double-berth. The port end of the saloon settee also doubles as the seat for the nav station – a generous and spacious facility dominated by a large Raymarine chartplotter.
I like this nav station arrangement – the views through the massive windows means you can corroborate what you’re seeing on the screen. Ideal for navigating through narrow island passages in the tropics.
As suggested, the large cockpit table – surrounded by a L-shaped settee on the port side and bench seat to starboard – will probably become the focus of all sorts of activities – from meals to card games to erudite solutions to the world’s problems. There’s also a long settee across the back of the cockpit, between the two hulls, for additional seating. These settees and spaces around the cockpit are also ideal zones for banishing chronic snorers.
With the cockpit roof extending all the way to the stern, the area enjoys excellent protection from the elements. In the tropics the breeze will keep things cool, but in less cooperative weather the entire cockpit can be enclosed with clears (as was the case on our review day).
Another fridge in the cockpit means quick, easy access to replenishments, and the built-in BBQ (starboard aft side of the cockpit) is perfectly positioned: close enough to be part of the festivities, but far enough to prevent the smoke from the burnt offerings stifling everyone.
All of which means Yumi Zouma will probably become the go-to party boat in the anchorage – and there’s not a damn thing John and Jo will be able to do about it!
Two double-berth cabins – forward and aft – are in the starboard hull. Up front the bed is thwartships, aft it’s lengthways. Both have spacious en suites with separate showers/toilets. Right at the forward end of the hull is a smaller space. Most owners would use it for storage – on this boat it’s configured as a cosy berth for a grandchild.
As is the case everywhere on the Saona, storage is abundant. At the foot of each of the beds, for example, are large, two-tier drawers.
The forward part of the port hull is a mirror image of the starboard configuration – another athwartships double-berth layout with en suite. Further aft though, is a cabin with two single bunks (more grandchildren) and alongside, a day head.
The fifth cabin – in the aft section of the port hull – is a guest cabin with a separate, dedicated entry from the cockpit. It has its own en suite bathroom. In charter applications this will become the skipper’s cabin.
Back up on deck, the space theme continues. Access to the foredeck is easy across the wide side decks. Up front, there’s the traditional trampoline. And just aft is a large area which has been configured for day-lounger beds. Very decadent.
When the beds are removed, it becomes a ready-made area for the entire crew to attend the compulsory tai chi exercises at dawn.
But the best part of the Saona 47 is the upper deck lounge. It’s a massive (9.2m2) area equipped with settees and sun beds. There’s plenty of head room, so you won’t get hit by the boom when the absentminded helmsman accidentally gybes the boat. But the views from here are glorious. It’s also a clever design in the sense that it allows easy conversation with the helmsman alongside.
Another smart piece of design is the electro-hydraulic swim platform at the stern. It disappears under the water with the touch of a button – facilitating water entry/exit for swimmers. But more impressively, it’s equipped with foldaway chocks for the 3.1m Zodiac tender. This is a far more attractive – and waaaaaaay easier – solution compared to the traditional davits you find on most cats.
Yumi Zouma carries a square-topped main, genoa and code 0. She’s been fitted with a prod for the latter, and it’s extends a decent way forward. So in light airs you could – with the help of a crew member – gybe the vessel by walking the code 0 around the forestay. In heavier winds, probably best to furl and unfurl it.
Compared to most cats I’ve sailed, the Saona’s sail controls are a little unusual. The helm station (single wheel with double seat) is to starboard, above the cockpit. Where most cats have sheets terminating at winches right at the helm for easy short-handed sailing, on this boat the helm is separated from an array of three winches mounted on a bulkhead further forward.
So you can’t trim sails without leaving the helm. On the plus side, it does keep the helm mercifully free of tails, and to be fair, you’d probably flick the boat on to auto-pilot, allowing you to trim at leisure.
One of the three winches is electric (for halyards). There’s another electric winch at the port, aft end of the cockpit for the code 0. Similarly, you’d have to shout at a sleepy crew member to get up and trim, or put the boat on auto-pilot and do it yourself. Sight lines from the helm station are exceptional – and as mentioned, you can engage with those catching the rays on the upper deck lounge.
Well – we didn’t really – though we did manage to crack five knots with the code 0 in the lightest of zephyrs. But the boat has already flirted with 10 knots on previous outings – and I’ve no reason to doubt her sailing potential. Her genoa tracks are mounted well inboard, on the roof – a configuration which should contribute to decent pointing.
Under diesel power, she shifts along fairly smartly. This boat’s owners elected to upgrade the engines (from the 50hp factory standard to 55hp) – and ticking over at 2,500rpm they pushed her to 8.1 knots.
I’d have preferred to sail the Saona 47 in better conditions (maybe I can persuade the owners to invite me back), but I’ve sailed enough cats to appreciate her virtues and charms. She’ll be a glorious platform in the tropics.
Elegant flowing spaces and integrated living areas – she’s a well-designed boat. And around the Hauraki Gulf I’m sure she’ll come to be known as the ‘fun boat’.
Finding her won’t be difficult – just follow the beat to the crowd doing the yumi zouma./>