Powercat 3800 Flybridge Cruiser Review

Issue: July 2004
Maufacturer: Powercat

Powercat’s latest 3800 Flybridge Cruiser is an excellent example of everything good about power catamarans as cruising boats. It’s also a perfect example of why cats and mono hulls of the same length cannot be compared with each other in terms of their length. As far as terminology goes, comparisons by length alone simply don’t translate. The prime factor is that the squared bow of a catamaran hull provide significantly more interior space and, in terms of living area, cats can only be compared with a mono hull a few metres longer than themselves. 

Ride quality and stability at rest are other significant benefits of the catamaran configuration. All of these things were going through the Modern Boating team’s collective minds during a late afternoon spent onboard a Powercat 3800 Flybridge Cruiser. We all really liked the boat, but thinking about it on our way back from Bribie Island, we realised that it wasn’t any of the traditional pro-catamaran points of discussion that had won our hearts. It was the practicality of this boat’s layout. There are always quirks when living onboard a boat like minimal privacy with more than one couple onboard. Or for couples with two kids, putting them to bed and closing the door, so they can sleep while adults entertain, or watch TV. 

But being a cat the Powercat 3800 has a pair of completely separated staterooms in its sponsons. The test boat was set up with two double beds, but either stateroom could as easily contain single bunks and once the doors are closed they are as private as the bedrooms in any house. Each stateroom is “downstairs” at the forward end of the sponsons. Entry is gained by stepping down into the sponson and then moving forward into the stateroom. The bunks in this boat were a double bed-plus size and filled the entire available space. A big (insect screened) hatch ventilated both staterooms. Even in very hot weather, if it became necessary to leave doors open for extra ventilation, both staterooms still retain much of their privacy. 

As a boat, the Powercat 3800 is no houseboat and yet she is much more a residence than most things afloat; short of actual houseboats anyway. In the port sponson, what Powercat quite accurately call the “step down area” there’s a vanity area open to the living area above, with a reasonably spacious bathroom aft of that. In the starboard sponson’s “step down area” is a spacious clothes storage/dressing area and it includes a big hanging space. This step down area is possible because a catamaran hull’s sponsons and the hull don’t come to a point at the bow. We should point out that the way the step down area is sited, relative to the living space in the saloon above, means that in hot weather you can shower with the door open for ventilation without compromising privacy. 

An exhaust fan is an option, but although the bathroom is of reasonable size for a boat, as anyone who has lived onboard boats in summer will know, ablutions can tend to be as much a steam bath as a shower. Just on the point about showers, the twin 150lt freshwater tanks give an adequate supply for both the bathroom and kitchen use. Upstairs at deck level, the saloon has the galley along the portside and a convertible dinette along the starboard side. Included as standard equipment in the Powercat 3800 Flybridge’s galley are a Granicote bench top; stainless steel sink with hot and cold running water; a two-burner LP gas cooktop with a stainless steel griller underneath; a 12/240V 140lt refrigerator and a fume detector. 

The test boat’s owners had added a microwave. The dinette is big enough to seat eight, so for four it would be fantastic. The central walkway through the cabin area also creates even more room to move around in the galley. Again, the squared lines of a catamaran allow for a spacious saloon area. Although we can’t help feeling that while the convertible dinette does allow an extra two heads onboard for a night, we’d rather see only two couples, or a couple plus kids. Our test boat Time Out’s proud owners George and Trish, live on Bribie Island, so with Moreton Bay and the Pumicestone Passage at their doorstep, they have set their boat up well to take full advantage of this lovely part of the world. 

Despite what the Queensland’s Tourist and Travel Corporation’s slogans would have you believe, Queensland’s boating weather does at times fall somewhere short of “beautiful one day, perfect the next”. With this in mind, George and Trish optioned a full set of removable storm covers around the flybridge. For which we were thankful, because some of Bribie’s “beautiful” weather passing through with occasional heavy showers, which made the clears welcome during our time onboard. Here we go again with that residence theme. 

But for a mono hull to have a flybridge area the size of Time Outs, it would have to be a much larger boat, so it didn’t affect the boat’s stability. The 3800’s bridge area includes the helm station and a second upstairs living area. The dinette/lounge on the flybridge isn’t quite as spacious as the one in the saloon, but is still amply sized for four or more people to enjoy the view and breezes from this elevated area. George had specified a full complement of navigational electronics, which filled the available dash space neatly. At the helm station that big and comfortable, elevated Relax chair offered perfect views to all quarters. 

After anchoring the boat, you can turn the helm seat around 180 degrees to face the portside dinette and the flybridge becomes more like an upstairs lounge. There’s a sink, icebox and a long bench with cupboard storage underneath along the starboard side. We should note that the ladder down to the lower deck level had been neatly enclosed by the clears making bridge access also 100 per cent weatherproof. Insects are another “reality check” of boating in most places and here again the residence aspect of this boat comes into play. 

The aft deck is enclosed with insect screens, which, while not weatherproof, certainly made sure Pumicestone’s notorious biting midges, had no part of our time aboard. Modern Boating is a boating mag, but still we’re tempted to refer to the aft cockpit as a patio or, being true blue Aussies, the verandah. It has a hardtop for a roof, so it’s a convenient place to stow an inflatable tender dinghy on Time Out. There is also a transom gate opening on to a swim platform complete with a folding stainless steel ladder. There’s a hot and cold shower, storage compartments around the cockpit sides, a stainless steel sink, an icebox, a window opening into a servery from the galley and a self-draining deck, which are all standard in this cockpit. 

Time Out also had an optional side entry door fitted so George and Trish can simply step onboard from the pontoon behind their canal-side home. Powercat deliver their boats with a very comprehensive inventory, literally too complete to detail here. Suface to stay that everything from an anchor to a first aid kit are supplied under the company policy of supplying boats ready for full duty. Catamaran does not compare with other 38-footers on the market, especially with mono hulls of the same nominal length. The only comparison potential buyers need to know is that to put one on the water is going to cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000, depending of course on the options and equipment specifications. 

When compared to other boats with similar price tags, this boat compares very well indeed. That’s as a boat; but as a residence with a continually changing vista, she has few peers. These days, the attitude that a boat like the Powercat 3800 Flybridge Cruiser should be powered by a pair of diesel inboards is under assault, lead by new generation outboard motors. Especially, new generation four-strokes like the twin 225hp Yamaha four-strokes powering Time Out. The outboards on this boat deserve added comment. They were remarkably quiet and vibration free. At speed the twin 225hp 

Yamaha’s were so quiet and fuss free they added another dimension of livability to a very livable package. 

Words by Warren Steptoe