Boat Review Date: September 2009
Author: Mike Brown
40ft catamarans, power and sail, seem to have suddenly become fashionable. There are excellent reasons why it should be so, ranging from the ability to use shallow water moorings to a lot of useable space within the typical dimensions, but why it should be happening now is less clear.
The latest of them in WA is the Montebello 12.5, a Queensland-built, custom finished fibreglass-foam sandwich power cat. To illustrate the extent of the custom work on offer, Craig Quinn the owner of the review boat has a 2.05m-tall son and specified a 2.13m headroom, and beds of the same length. And like so many Sandgropers, he wanted a hardtop over the fly bridge instead of the fabric so much loved by Queenslanders. He was duly given a specially moulded structure that has since become a popular option with east coast buyers.
There is a limit to the changes you can ring to the interior of a catamaran of a given size, but the 12.5 seems to have squeezed out a little extra space – perhaps the extra headroom gave a bonus. The beds in all three cabins run fore and aft, they all have good overhead clearance, and there is a good area of deck alongside each of them.
Catamarans generally do bathrooms well, and the 12.5’s is no exception. More than a third of the starboard hull has been devoted to what is actually a pair of rooms rather than a divided compartment. Luxury indeed.
The really spacious parts of catamarans are the saloon and cockpit, and usually they are also integrated with each other better than on monohulls. The Montebello’s saloon features a long L-shaped lounge to port, and an extravagantly equipped galley to starboard that is capable of industrial quantities of production. A table makes the lounge into a dinette when wanted, or can be shifted to the cockpit. With the table removed, the saloon could house a cocktail party for a dozen or more.
But the cockpit is the more logical place for that, and would push the potential numbers up beyond 30. Space really is on offer here, and the timber deck can accommodate any number of folding chairs, dancing couples, divers or anglers, completely shaded by a hardtop with fabric extension. At the transom is a barbecue unit rivalling the galley in capability, and forward, convenient for both food centres, is a king size snap freezer.
Movement forward from the cockpit is better catered for than most other boats. Side rails are to charter boat quality (the whole boat is built to commercial standards), and high-level grab rails back them up. Access to the fly bridge is by open tread stairs and similarly secure.
The bridge, reaping the benefit of a 4.55m beam, is another spacious social area. It is also the sole driving position, freeing up space in the saloon, and all-weather control stations deserve their hardtops. This one is special. It is essentially a wheelhouse with full lining, the rear of it enclosed by clears, but with exceptional amounts of ventilation. The side windows slide, and small windows below the windscreen hinge open. This natural ventilation is a feature of the boat and Craig chose not to fit air-conditioning, but the builder installed all the necessary ducting and wiring in case he changed his mind later.
An ingenious space saving feature on the bridge is the table that uses the driver’s seat as its base. Extremely comfortable in its normal role, the seat can fold out to horizontal and accept a lightweight tabletop.
A welcoming spot for relaxing, the bridge is even better in its working role. The driver has a superb view through the three windscreen panels, each with its own wiper, and he faces a neatly laid out console. Here are the autopilot control, a mass of switchgear, and the twin Simrad displays that allow radar, sounder and plotter to share space in any ratio. There are no side thrusters fitted, but the wide spacing of a cat’s motors gives exceptional manoeuvring from differential power.
Catamarans are traditionally tamers of nasty seas, and the review day gave the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities: well over 20 knots of wind with seas to match, and a big swell rolling through them. At eight knots coming out of Fremantle heads the cat was moving uncomfortably, but as soon as the throttles went forward things changed. The pitching motion was reduced, the hulls partly cutting through the seas rather than just rising to them. Like some other good boats, increased speed meant increased comfort.
The standard engines are a pair of 315hp Volvos which would probably be fine for longer range cruising, but the review boat’s 435s felt like the real deal for typical WA use. Instant throttle response and plenty of speed – 34 knots flat out – but reasonable fuel economy. At 25 knots combined fuel use is 71L/hr, or 2.84L/mile.
Craig bought the review boat with mostly traditional WA uses in mind – Rottnest and other near-metro destinations. But with a range close on 500 miles, and with a first class sea going ability, it cries out for at least the occasional trip to the Abrolhos and beyond.
Fuel capacity 1,400L
Fresh water 600L
Motors 2 x 435hp Volvo diesels