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Portsmouth Marine Power Cat 52

The Portsmouth Marine Power Cat 52 is the latest of Ted Hood's innovative designs.

October 4, 2007
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In all earnestness, someone once explained to me that aluminum is very light for its weight. In that same vein, it is fair to say that the 52-foot Portsmouth Marine Power Cat is very big for her size.

She lay at the far end of the dock in Miami, opposite a Vicem 52 and a Selene 53, as I approached. The juxtaposition with these boats of similar length was fortuitous, as it emphasized just how much deck space and interior volume this twin-hull Ted Hood design carries. The Vicem, nicely styled in the classic lobsterboat tradition, with lots of tumblehome in her low sheer, is less than half the size of the Power Cat. The Selene, a modern long-range cruiser of more generous freeboard and beam, falls midway between the two.

It was this abundance of usable space, inside and out-and the potential it held for cruising-that led Hood to an exploration of power-catamaran design, culminating in three versions with overall lengths of 47, 52 and 62 feet. Hood chose to build the midsize model for his own use and further experimentation.

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Christened Twin Robin, the yacht reflects the best of what Hood has learned in a lifetime on the water and on the drawing board. He combined this with knowledge gleaned from others over the last three years as he traversed the globe to research the state of the art in catamarans.

“I feel that power cats have a big future in the powerboat market”, Hood wrote on his Web site following the journey, “but to date, I haven’t seen a design that meets the potential that I feel is possible.”

That conclusion led to additional research, including model testing of several displacement-hull forms and a departure from typical catamaran designs-and designs of other motoryachts-in some significant ways.

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What appears to be the main deck level, traditionally defined by the foredeck and the sheerline between the blue hull and the white superstructure, actually is halfway between the accommodation level and the saloon level. All of Twin Robin’s four en suite staterooms, two with queen berths and two with twins, have soles above the waterline, not down in the bilge. As a result, the walking areas are larger than those on many catamarans, and the berths, cleverly tucked into the cross bridge between the hulls, are a mere 24 inches above the sole, not up near the overhead. That makes it easier to get into bed and change the linens, and doesn’t trigger claustrophobia or result in cranial bruising when you sit up suddenly.

This arrangement also results in a higher saloon level. There are pros and cons to this. The downside is a lot of windage, which Hood keeps in check by building the house shorter than it could be. The upside is great visibility, with a true 360-degree view from the helm except for some blockage by the tender, carried aft. It also means the distance between the waterline and the hull cross bridge is generous. This is critical in catamarans, as it prevents wave impacts-and the discomfort and structural damage that can accompany them in heavy seas. This potential is further mitigated by a small V-shape section on centerline that rides above the water in calm seas.

The short house still has space for the helm on centerline, a navigation station to starboard, a large dinette to port and a small seating area aft. The house sides slope inward considerably, more like a sailboat than a typical motoryacht, resulting in wide, comfortable side decks. Protected by stout stainless-steel handrails and teak toerails, they offer easy access for docking and safe passage forward. This, however, brings me to my one big gripe with Twin Robin.

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If there were one area in which I would make major changes, it would be the foredeck. It is wide and spacious, and would make a great spot for sunpads, seating or even an alfresco dining area. Unfortunately, no fewer than 13 hatches punctuate it, which renders it virtually unusable. There is some sunlit space abaft the saloon, and a flying bridge is available for more topside space, but the foredeck would be ideal.

Abaft the saloon and down a few steps is an area that makes up for part of my concern with the foredeck. Here, a well-appointed split galley spans most of the yacht’s beam, with the food-prep area to port. This half includes an extra-deep double-bowl stainless-steel sink, a half-height dishwasher, a gas range with four burners and an oven, a microwave and a refrigerator. To starboard is the serving and clean-up area, plus a Grunert freezer chest. Countertops include molded-in fiddles.

A door centered on the galley’s after bulkhead provides ready access to the open afterdeck, with its boarding/swimming platforms to port and starboard, and starboard-side docking control station. Centered on the afterdeck beneath a molded-plank overhead is a semicircular settee. It wraps around a large dining table, which is split in the center for easy egress by guests seated on the inside.

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Above the afterdeck is an upper deck, which carries the tender, a smaller table and loose seating. Below are the enginerooms, which are relatively small but provide better access to the engines and auxiliaries than those on most catamarans. There’s plenty of room to swing a wrench, but leave the long-handle breaker bar home.

As we headed out of the inlet to put Twin Robin through her paces, I was disappointed to find the seas were almost dead calm. There were a few small swells, but nothing to test her motion in the rough. The lack of waves did have one benefit: As we transitioned through various water depths, I was easily able to trace changes in speed, since the throttles remained at a constant setting.

Moving from the shallow channel into 20 feet of water, we lost about three knots and experienced a noticeable bow-up trim. As the water deepened past 30 feet, however, the running angle flattened out, and we picked up about half the speed we lost earlier. Hood reports that appendage modifications completed after our sea trial mitigated the speed loss and trim change, resulting in a top speed of about 19 knots.

Contact: Ted Hood’s Portsmouth Marine, (401) 682-1712; www.portsmouthmarine.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877

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