Cat Concepts NZ38

The Cat Concepts NZ38 powercat is another example of a New Zealand-built production boat enjoying strong export markets, and using a group-contracting approach to design, mould, finish and market the boat. Geoff Green went aboard the latest Cat Concepts development.

Cat Concepts NZ38
Cat Concepts NZ38

The Cat Concepts NZ38 is an 11.5m GRP production powercat. It's designed by Roger Hill and built by Cat Concepts, who own the moulds and fund construction. Phil Gilbert, of Gilbert Marine Brokerage, markets the NZ38.

The NZ38 designation is derived from the boat's imperial length (it's nearly 38ft long) and Capital Venture is the eighth in the water, but the first to carry a purpose-designed and built hardtop with standing headroom. Three earlier examples remain in New Zealand and the remaining NZ38s have been exported to destinations like Florida, California and New Caledonia. The ninth boat hit the water soon after Capital Venture was launched and three more are under construction.

The NZ38 is a planing design, as opposed to the semi-displacement configuration of the W/L3800 featured in last month's Premier Collection or the displacement designs Malcolm Tennant specialises in. Roger Hill says to make an 11.5m semi-displacement or displacement catamaran work properly at fast speeds, the waterline beam of the hulls must be relatively narrow, making the cabin and engine-room facilities cramped.

"With a planing design such as the NZ38, the hulls have wider waterline beam to create sufficient planing area to efficiently support the weight of the vessel. This translates into wider internal beam, more internal volume, wider floor area and improved shoulder space inside each hull."

The NZ38 hulls are symmetrical, and each has an upper and lower chine. At rest, the lower chine is always immersed - apart from 300mm at the bow - and the upper chine is above water level, so chine slap is eliminated.

With twin 300hp Yanmar engines and Mercruiser Bravo II stern drives, Capital Ventures achieved 33.3 knots with full fuel and water, but otherwise lightly loaded with five people aboard. It cruises most efficiently between 21-28 knots, where it burns 2.79 litres per nautical mile and 3.05 litres per nautical mile respectively.

The NZ38 can be configured with diesels driving through vee drives and shafts. Twin 270hp Cummins driving through this configuration powers one of the nine boats already in the water. Phil prefers promoting the stern drive option, because it is more efficient in terms of cost and performance.

"Aft-mounted engines also maximise storage space," he says.

A NZ38 specified to the level of Capital Venture retails at $520,000, plus GST, and an entry-level package powered by twin 250hp Mercruiser diesels driving through Bravo II stern drives is available from about $460,000, plus GST.

The NZ38's laminate is specified by High Modulus, it's MSA compliant and several NZ38s operate as commercial vessels. Clear vinyl ester gelcoat and vinyl ester resin in the first laminate below the waterline is used to ward off osmosis.

The planing sections are cored with balsa, and the vertical panels and decks are cored with high-density foam. Roger says the laminates are very strong, with the opportunity to make them more high tech to reduce weight and offset some of the displacement generated by owners fitting more equipment to their boats.

"For example, the bulkheads are currently plywood, but they could be manufactured from a lighter foam-cored glass laminate," he says.

The standard layout offers three cabins and two toilets (one accessed off the cockpit), but Phil says this can be changed to suit individual requirements.

"Options include two double cabins and two toilet/showers in the hulls, a large toilet/shower complex in the cockpit and four cabins in the hulls, or other variations on these combinations."

Capital Venture tends towards the standard layout. The only departure is deleting the cockpit toilet and using the space for a utility/rod storage locker, accessed from the cockpit, and an expanded entertainment/storage module in the rear of the saloon.

The saloon has raised seating to port and starboard, with entry to the hulls provided at the front. The shaped table (not fitted in the pictures) is matched to the shape of the port settee. Phil says both settees are elevated about 150mm to give extra clearance in the bathroom and cabin underneath, and to optimise external vision when seated.

The saloon side windows slide fore and aft, and the galley window in the aft bulkhead also opens.

The galley is set aft and to starboard. It is equipped with a stainless-steel sink insert in the bench top (serviced with saltwater rinse, as well as hot and cold fresh water), Caprice four-burner gas stove with oven and a 130l Engel fridge with teak panelling, so it blends with the galley joinery. A roll-a-way door accesses the under-bench corner, with an option of fitting a Lazy Susan if required.

Two storage lockers, about 150mm deep, are provided under the saloon floor adjacent to the galley, utilising the space between the top of the tunnel and the saloon floor.

The BEP electrical switch panels, basic entertainment centre, additional drawer storage and a top-opening storage locker are grouped together opposite the galley, immediately to the left of the bi-fold saloon door (teak and glass). In the two-bathroom model, the second toilet takes up this space and is accessed off the cockpit.

The interior décor options are many and varied, and Phil says almost any timber can be selected for the joinery. Teak was used throughout Capital Venture because it's the New Zealand standard and it was matched to off-white vinyl trim with brushed alloy inserts in the saloon.

The timber can be matched to various wall linings in the cabins, and in this case grey front-runner-type material was glued to the hull and bulkheads.

The guest cabin (port hull, aft) has a generous double bunk topped with a custom-made innerspring mattress. It's 1.32m (52in) wide, 101mm (4in) wider than a standard domestic double bed. Storage space is provided under the front of the bunk, and it's accessed by lifting the mattress and bunk board.

A fuel tank and water tank takes up the remaining space.

Phil describes the forward port cabin as the children's cabin. It has two single bunks aligned fore and aft, one above the other. The top bunk can be reconfigured into a three-quarter double should three couples need to sleep aboard the boat.

The master cabin is in the starboard bow, featuring a fore and aft queen-sized bunk, also topped by a custom-made innerspring mattress. Two steps built into the bow provide easy access up to the bunk built over the tunnel in standard cat fashion. Storage is provided in a locker in the companionway leading to the cabin, plus side shelves and a large locker in the forward bulkhead.

All three cabins have doors isolating them from the rest of the boat. Phil says the starboard cabin tends to be used as the owner's cabin because the toilet facilities are adjacent in the same hull, while the port cabin is often utilised as a guest cabin serviced by the facilities in the cockpit (when this option is selected).

The master cabin has one opening hull port and a low profile Weaver deck hatch. Two quartz halogen lights are positioned over the bed for reading and two cabin lights are fitted to the deckhead. The deckhead lights are not controlled from a switch at the door, and Phil says they have purposely tried to keep the boat practical and simple.

"Anyone should be able to step aboard the boat, use it and maintain it. All systems are efficient and cost effective but not overly complex."

The toilet and shower adjacent to the master cabin has good headroom, and the shower is separated from the toilet area by a bi-fold Perspex door. Lateral movement in the shower is limited by the starboard settee in the saloon eating into the shower space. However, despite the spatial overlap, it's still a useable shower space. Two opening hatches - one in the deck and another in the hull - provide light and ventilation.

A large inspection hatch in the aft shower bulkhead provides access to the ship's water pump, macerator pump and holding tank.

"We grouped the electrical pumps in this area so they were protected, yet readily serviced," says Phil.

Other support systems, such as the batteries and 1.5kw inverter (to run a TV etc), are grouped in the engine bays.

The stern drive configuration keeps the engines well aft, and two primary engine hatches provide access to the engines and the clear space in front of them. A secondary hatch provides access into the substantial free space in front of the port engine, and Phil says it's an ideal area to fit a genset or watermaker if needed.

"On the other hand, many owners welcome the generous storage space," he says. The batteries are mounted high on the edge of the tunnel in the engine spaces. The engines are controlled via Morse electronic controls, which allows a roving remote option so forward, neutral, reverse and throttle can be controlled from a hand piece anywhere in the boat.

This provides a cockpit station when short-handed gamefishing, although visibility into the cockpit from the aft mounted helm on the bridge is quite reasonable, provided the cockpit sunshade is retracted. A central cockpit mount is provided to carry a removable gamechair and a live bait tank is optional.

The platform is large. It provides comfortable access from the dock or dinghy, good space to store a dinghy during transit, and plenty of room for fishermen and divers to work close to the stern.

The ladder to the flybridge is inclined, so it's more like a set of stairs than a ladder, and the eutectic freezer is under it, between the ladder and galley window. The freezer has a removable internal division, so foodstuffs can be kept separate from bait and fish, and a drain to eliminate puddles and aid cleaning when defrosted.

Capital Ventures is the first NZ38 fitted with an all-new hardtop enclosed by glass at the front and sides. Eagle Yachts tooled it especially for the NZ38 and Roger Hill says it brings flybridge consistency to the design.

One window can be opened on each side and the rear can be closed off with clears. A protective handrail defines the relatively large aperture giving access to the bridge, and Phil says they worked hard to provide a minimum of 1.87m (6ft 2in) headroom and make all the companionways, doors and apertures comfortable for a big man.

The flybridge has U-shaped seating area across the front, and the helm is set to port and kept aft so the helmsman can see each aft quarter. Visibility extends to the whole platform and the rear half of the barbeque station when the cockpit sunshade is in place, and the rear half of the cockpit when the sunshade is removed.

The helm console is a new modular unit that doesn't overpower the bridge. It is supported on a stainless-steel framework that incorporates a handrail and a footrest. There is space for all the normal engine gauges and controls, and two 10in electronic screens - in this instance a Raymarine depth sounder and Raymarine GPS chartplotter. It also carried the ship's second CD player, Raytheon autohelm and tridata, Icom VHF, engine synchroniser, and Mercury trim controls and gauges for the sterndrives. The console was finished in white vinyl trim.

A recessed step in the cockpit helps access to the side decks, and plenty of handrails and safety rails make moving forward a safe exercise. The side decks are wide, with a teak toe-rail backing up the moulded non-skid. When returning to the cockpit, the recessed step is no help unless you turn around and descend as if using a ladder.

There are three lockers in the bow, one for the anchor chain (plenty of height for the chain to fall away from the winch) and two for general storage. The general storage lockers are voluminous, and will take big ball fenders and any amount of other gear. The starboard locker has a floor in it and the port locker descends into the depths of the bow so it can take long items like an outboard for the tender.

The NZ3800 is well worth looking at in its own right, but if you are to make a comparison, I suggest you do so against the WL3800 powercat featured elsewhere in this review section.

LOA: 11.5m
LWL: 9.5m
Beam: 4.37m
BWL: 3.97m
Hull beam: 1.19m
Fuel capacity: 1100 (2 x 550l tanks)
Water capacity: 500l (2 x 250l tanks)
Displacement: 7.8 tonnes (half load)
Recommended power:
2 x 250hp Mercruiser D'Tronics / Bravo II drives
2 x 300hp Yanmar / Bravo II drives
2 x 260hp Volvo Penta Duoprops
Speed: 33.3 knots (2 x 300hp Yanmar / Bravo II drives)
Price: Packages from: $460,000 plus GST
As shown: $560,000 plus GST

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