Boat Review Date: August 2012
Author: Mike Brown
Not a lot of 35-footers are powered by outboards, but the review LeisureCat 350 Sports Cruiser makes a convincing case on catamarans at least, cost being one of the more striking reasons. Fitting a pair of Volvo diesels – the more usual option – lifts the $400,000 price tag by around $90,000.
There are some practical reasons too. Outboards tilt right out of the water, avoiding fouling and corrosion problems in the pen – and making parking nose to the beach a painless operation. The vacant engine rooms become available as monstrous volumes of storage space and, being outside those tight engine rooms, the outboards are easier to service.
Like all catamarans, power or sail, the saloon flows into a cockpit of great size. This is a space for active people; three could fish comfortably from each side and a couple more from the platform between the motors, which also has the most luxurious of ladders for divers. For social occasions the open space could swallow as many friends as most people possess.
The accommodation is comfortable, sensibly appointed and easily maintained rather than luxurious; very much in line with the whole theme – this boat cries out to be used. If some of the social crowd stays on the saloon provides beds for a couple of them. The table lowers and links to one of the settees to make one bed, and the settee back lifts to provide an upper bunk.
The galley too is practical and designed to be used. The two-burner induction cook top and microwave are fed by a 140L fridge buried in the forward bulkhead, and are surrounded by enough bench space to prepare food and load plates. Drawers and lockers are abundant and, naturally, there is a wine rack.
The two sleeping cabins forward use a combination of hull and bridge deck space and achieve considerable roominess. With the double beds using the volume between the foredeck and the tunnel top, the hulls deliver walking around space and plenty of storage. Each hull also houses a toilet compartment, one with a shower recess.
The combination of deep cycle batteries and solar panels takes care of domestic electricity demands for the typical weekend. For lengthier or busier occasions the review boat had been fitted with a 7.5kVA diesel genset. Combined with the 1200L fuel capacity and 300L of fresh water these arrangements make for real cruising ability.
The flybridge continues the spacious motif, with a pair of seats at the console and three more ahead of it. An open hardtop shades them. Our dash carried autopilot controls – another worthwhile cruising feature – a switch for the invaluable reversing camera, and a pair of 12-inch Simrad touch screens. A nice feature allows the Simrad information to be displayed on the saloon’s television. For shorthanded parking, engine controls are also located downstairs. The cat’s beam allows good manoeuvring results from operating them differentially.
Apart from space, the main attractions of a catamaran are steadiness at rest and the soft ride provided in poor conditions. The 350 delivers both of those in spades. A long time ago the LeisureCat designers worked out a winning hull form. A spine forming a wave breaker divides the tunnel top into two round-topped sub tunnels. Hit big lumps of water and that arrangement puts air cushions above the intruding waves. As for stability, we could not round up enough people to do anything detectable to our angle of heel. Mostly, our stability resembled that of a jetty.
I remembered another endearing feature as I stood at the transom under way. Where some catamarans have a freak of pneumatics that sucks spray out of the tunnel’s rear and drives it forward over the cockpit (and its occupants), our 350 fired it straight aft. Exactly where it should be instead of hanging around the outboards’ air intakes.
With a total of 600hp driving a 5.5T boat, the speeds we achieved suggested a slippery hull. Top speed was a whisker over 35 knots, and this in a boat that allows you to use flat strap a good share of the time. Dropping down to something conducive to longer engine and pocket life, we found 25 knots gave quiet and effortless cruising.
What more to say? A boat for the young at heart.
Price From AUD $400,000
Length overall 11.25m
Fuel capacity 1200L in two tanks
Fresh water 300L
Motors fitted 2 x 300hp Suzuki four-strokes