Once thought not to be real sailboats by the conservative sailing establishment, multihulls have come to be accepted over the years. Just look at the Caribbean bareboat fleets. With two giant multihulls ready to duel it out for the America’s Cup, the nonbelievers are going to get quite a show.
Though not as big as the AC yachts Moxie Yachts’ M37 Island Hopper catamaran is also purpose built. Well considered and perfectly adapted to recreational use, it is what Uwe Jaspersen, the designer and the owner of Jaz Marine in South Africa, the Island Hopper’s builder, intended when he set out to create “the perfect coastal cruising cat.”
Moxie Yachts was inspired by a slow sail in nasty weather from Newfoundland to Cape Breton Island aboard a Swan 53. Upon returning home, the three experienced sailors– Milt Charbonneau, John Blin and Alexis de Boucaud – contacted the renowned French firm VPLP Designs whose boats have dominated multihull racing since the mid-1980s. The conversation Blin had with Marc Van Peteghem (the VP of VPLP) recalled the adventure of Phil Weld, a Boston publisher who won the Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race in 1980 aboard his trimaran Moxie. Van Peteghem told Blin that after Weld’s success, the French took the hint and turned ocean racing in multihulls into a national pastime. Invoking the determined spirit of Weld’s Moxie, Blin, Charbonneau and de Boucaud formed Moxie Yachts.
In vetting builders, they decided on Jaz Marine, based in Capetown, South Africa. “Technology knowledge is high, and the labor rate is excellent,” says Blin. Jaz Marine already had made a name for itself building 40-foot racing monohulls and as the builder of the Morelli and Melvin-designed 62-foot Gunboats
Although VPLP drew a 61-footer for Moxie Yachts (due to launch this September), Blin says, “We needed an entry-level Moxie.” Therefore, the team commissioned Jaspersen to build a 37-foot cat. It was based on a prototype he’d already built, an open-deck design, called the Island Hopper. “We needed a few more things to make it marketable.” Blin explains, a wider beam and hard Bimini top for the U.S. market. The M37 Island Hopper was born, making its debut at the Annapolis show in October 2008.
Jaspersen’s experience in high-tech manufacturing translates into a lightweight boat – a good attribute, especially for a catamaran, where weight is the enemy. Specifically, the M37 Island Hopper is constructed of E-glass cloth and epoxy resin over a CoreCell foam core. Carbon fiber reinforces areas where additional strength is needed, such as at chain plates. The full structure is built using the resin-infusion method to additionally control weight and strength.
Abrasion resistance on the cat’s bottom is dealt with by a layer of Kevlar in the outer skin that runs from about two feet above DWL at the bows to about five inches above DWL near the transom.
The 45-foot-long rotating wing mast is built of carbon fiber, keeping weight aloft to a minimum. That delivers a mast height above the water of 54 feet, 6 inches, leaving room to clear Florida’s fixed ICW bridges.
One measure of a well-considered cruising boat is how much it can stand to be loaded down with essentials as well as souvenirs of the voyage and still perform. “I worked on a payload of 600 pounds per passenger, but that depends on how many people are onboard and how far you will be going,” Jaspersen says. “For a weekend trip, I think most people will struggle to add 600 pounds per person.”
I found the boat ideal for a couple and two children or two couples for extended cruises. For weekends and day sails, there is plenty of room for more than four. In fact, with a queen-size berth in each hull, and the option of another double in the stern of the port hull, the M37 Island Hopper is capable of sleeping six comfortably. The optional bunk doubles as a chart table with storage beneath it. The two regular bunks are amidships forward of the companionway in each hull. They are situated fore and aft, so they will be comfortable in most conditions underway. In fact, I went below at sea, and the movement was easy and not magnified, even with a swell and a little chop. We tacked while I was below, and I wasn’t aware of it until I went topside.
Headroom is 6 feet, 9 inches immediately adjacent to the bunk. The hulls in that area are 4-feet, 5-inches wide. A bit of that width is lost to storage, but still, there is plenty of hip room. All accommodations are constructed in lightweight composite with painted finishes, and top-grade wood-grain laminates trim the edges, acting as fiddles.
Each bunk stateroom contains an en suite head and shower forward. The heads are essentially wet rooms. There is ample space to shower, and opening ports on each side of the head, as well as a deck hatch, provide efficient cross ventilation.
Jaspersen decided to cover the outside deck space with a hard bimini, which extends over the centerline of the hulls, providing all-weather protection. Thoughtfully a boltrope slot is molded into three sides on the bottom of the hardtop. An owner can have either a full mosquito net or an isinglass enclosure made to fit and enclose the lounging cockpit. Two seats that comfortably accommodate four people each face a centerline console with a top-loading, 42-gallon-capacity icebox with drop leafs. Each seatback folds down, converting the seat to a bed for those balmy island nights when it’s nice to sleep outdoors.
It’s the location of the sailing cockpit that makes the M37 Island Hopper a great ride. You stand low on the bottom of the wing deck in the center of motion, and there is no overriding feeling of movement or speed. The 19-square-foot cockpit is comfortable and roomy enough for three average-size, geared-up sailors; four if you’re friends. There are molded-in steps to access the foredeck. It wouldn’t hurt the comfort factor to have a fold-down seat or two in the cockpit, but that is a personal item better left to an owner’s wishes. The mast is mounted in front of the helm on the forward crossbeam. All of the sheets and halyards as well as the reefing, mast and dagger board control lines are convenient. Line stoppers let the winches do double duty when required.
How well a boat moves in light air is telling of the design. Using U.S. Sailing’s sail area displacement formula (http://www.sailingusa.info/cal__sad_ratio.htm), the M37 Island Hopper boasts a 31 SA/D ratio that is based on its published weight of 7165 pounds and the combined sail area of 720 square feet of main and Solent. That’s in the high-performance racer category. Considering four onboard at the allowed 600 pounds each in payload, the ratio lowers to 25.9, but it remains in the same category.
The Island Hopper is a great Bahamas boat and will live up to its name. It sails well, and it should be a terrific light-air performer. Additionally, it will provide a memorable sail riding a front down island from Nassau and still tack north in a blow. What a comfortable ride it will be in that center cockpit.
Price: $325,000 FOB Capetown, South Africa, without sails and instruments
LOA: 39 feet 6 inches
LWL: 36 feet 0 inches
Beam: 22 feet 0 inches
Draft: 2 feet 3 inches (board up); 6 feet 11 inches (board down)
Displacement: 7,165 lbs. (lightship)
Power: 2 15-hp Lombardini with saildrives
Fuel capacity: 32 gallons (2x16 gallons)
Fresh water: 57 gallons
Mainsail: 462 square feet
Solent: 258 square feet