WORDS + PHOTOS: KEVAN WOLFE
Viking design skills and clever planning give this cat an edge over the competition.
It wasn’t that long ago that power catamarans were mainly the choice of commercial operators, some rescue organisations and enthusiastic fishing types. But in recent years the recreation market has discovered the advantages of power cats for cruising. The twin hulls provide good living space and they are economical to run.
One of the reasons why twin-hulled cruising boats have not been popular in the past is the tendency for them to slam under the wing deck when powering into a head sea. This has been the Achilles heel of cats, but a new breed of builder is striving to solve the problem with innovative hull designs.
One of the leaders in this field is Peter Brady, who heads the family business Brava Marine at Hemmant on the Brisbane River. He’s been designing and building boats for 32 years and believes he’s come up with a unique solution to the slamming problem.
Peter has developed a technique he calls Controlled Vapour Dampening (CVD). By using a combination of V-pods, strakes and reverse chines, he has been able to create lift in the hull and turn the water down into spray. This in turn produces a slippery mix of air and water that works in a similar fashion to a progressive shock absorber as the boat comes down on a wave and dramatically reduces drag.
The sound of the water and air compressing is just audible if you’re listening for it. There is nothing new in the theory hundreds of years ago the Vikings used a similar method with the ‘clinker’, or ‘lapstrake’, construction of their long boats. It’s just the way Peter has adapted the technology to a twin-hull power cat that’s the big step forward and it works.
Peter has produced a pair of hulls that are half displacement and half planing, which he describes as a ‘dis-planing’ hull. Peter reckons he could talk about it all day ? and he often does. In fact, there is no one more passionate about the technology, except perhaps Peter’s wife, Lorma, who shares Peter’s enthusiasm.
“If you want to build something unique, you have to be passionate about it,” Peter says.
The only way to really understand the technology of this craft is to take it to sea, and so we did, motoring out of the Brisbane River past Fisherman Island’s wharves and into Moreton Bay, the cat virtually gliding along with a noticeably small wake at 17 knots. There was very little sensation of speed and it was all the more deceptive with the very quiet Yanmar 4LHJA-HTP, 190hp diesels with four-bladed 21.5in x 23in swept-back propellers.
My noise metre recorded a comfortable 73dB up on the flybridge, but even that’s too loud for Peter. He wants to make the boat even quieter. He’s been looking at the truck industry and the methods used to keep the engine noise down in long distance truck cabins.
Performance & Handling
Out on Moreton Bay we hit a 20-knot southerly and the usual Bay chop. When Peter invited me up to the bow, I was a little hesitant. We were punching into the wind and chop at nearly 20 knots and that’s a good recipe for getting a thorough soaking.
We stood in the middle of the foredeck without having to hang onto anything as Peter explained how the technology worked. And not a drop of water came over the bow. This was unbelievable stuff. I could feel the chines working on the hulls as the boat rode smoothly over the chop. I can’t think of another boat, mono or multi-hull, where I would happily stand on the bow without any support at that speed.
All the more amazing was that while we were on the foredeck, Lorma was on the flybridge keeping an eye on things, but no one was actually steering. The boat was tracking perfectly without any assistance. When I returned to the helm station I glanced at the autopilot to make sure it wasn’t switched on. It wasn’t.
Turn the boat around and it tracks just as well in a following sea.
The servo-assisted controls are subtle and the Brava is happy to idle along at 2 knots with the Yanmars ticking over at 850rpm. The power comes on smoothly as it gathers speed with just the hint of a hump as the boat sits up on the plane. She’s so easy to drive that she won’t hold any fears for older first-time buyers, even when it comes to parking. The flybridge sits amidships and balances any side windage, so that the bow or stern doesn’t swing around. It drifts easily side-on to the wind and marches forward slowly parallel to the breeze.
This is not a boat that is going to get the adrenalin going when it belts into a sea and it doesn’t get airborne. She’s a very safe, stable boat and the rougher it gets, the more she likes it and the faster she goes. Peter wanted to show me just how good it is in the rough stuff and was disappointed that Moreton Bay was so calm on the day of this test.
The Brava 42 is a multi-generation cruising boat for people who don’t have to prove anything. There is a three-cabin layout and two open-plan saloon arrangements available. The options for the transom console include: live-bait tanks, iceboxes, a deep freeze and a four-burner barbecue.
As with most flybridge designs, much of the time cruising or entertaining will be spent up top. So, the layout is designed to accommodate 15 people and access is by a set of easy stairs rather than a ladder.
The main saloon is open with a kitchen stocked with appliances ? it’s bigger than a galley in a U-shape that provides a separate serving counter as well as working space. The dinette sits opposite with a wrap-around lounge.
So it’s a bit more comfortable than the average viking ship, but still a formidable boat. Bravo.