BOAT TEST: MEC 12.5 POWERCAT
It’s refreshing to come across a plate-aluminium cruising cat as beautifully crafted as MEC’s new 12.5m powercat, writes ALLAN WHITING
I've long believed that if my better half and I moved north of the Tweed we'd sell our monohull and buy a cat. Cheaper berthing up there makes cat ownership achievable, while shallower waters, muddy estuaries, sandbank-infested bays and protected inside-reef waters are ideal playgrounds for boats that don't draw much and can take the ground without dramas. This belief was reinforced as the MEC 12.5 gently motored across the shallow sand bar at the north arm of the Coomera River and slid into deeper waters.
Who is MEC 12.5, you may well ask? MEC is short for Marine Engineering Consultants Pty Ltd, a Gold Coast-based company specialising in the refit and maintenance of luxury and commercial vessels, and the construction of aluminium luxury motoryachts, ferries and commercial and charter vessels.
MEC construction and participation projects include a 43m Don Shead-designed luxury motoryacht, two 27m Graham Parker-designed Sydney Harbour low-wash ferries, a 25m Incat-designed charter catamaran and a 28m Don Shead-designed motoryacht. Incidentally, Don Shead has long designed Sunseekers.
Established in 1992, with some staff members having a background in Lloyds Ships, MEC has since racked up a considerable list of satisfied clients. This background is the assurance a metal-boat buyer should always look for. And like all MEC products, the 12.5 is built to survey standards, whether survey compliance is required or not.
While visiting the MEC facility at the Gold Coast City Marina (GCCM) we inspected an 18m powercat in build for another client. The construction process was most impressive. Andrew McDonald-Smith, a mechanical engineer with a trade background, who began marine engineering and design 20 years ago with Lloyds Ships, designed the compact, luxury powercat. McDonald-Smith has since worked with South East Queensland's foremost luxury yachtbuilding yards and has been operating his own marine-design business for the past eight years.
The design was the request of MEC principal, Murray Owen, who arranged for us to have a short test run in the MEC 12.5 during its final engine trials, before the boat headed off for a successful debut at the Sydney International Boat Show. MEC 12.5 #1 is already sold and two of its 18m siblings are also on order for customers.
The freshly-launched evaluation MEC 12.5 glistened in the early morning light, thanks to its fully-faired two-pack coating. The brilliant white finish was balanced by well-fitted optional teak decking and polished stainless steel. The only giveaway to its metal, rather than FRP, construction was slight panel rippling on flat cabin sections.
The MEC 12.5 is customisable to a certain extent and the boat we appraised is an owner's version, featuring a generous double cabin with huge en suite shower and head in the port hull, and a large double for'ard cabin, plus a squeezy aft double berth. The starboard hull occupants have stairway access to the cockpit day shower/head compartment.
The for'ard beds sit at bridgedeck height, but access from the hull's cabin soles is made easy by a staircase each side of the owner's island bed and by means of a drop-down step in the starboard cabin. Both for'ard cabins have built-in wardrobes.
The saloon features a portside galley and a starboard side, six-place dinette, raised on a plinth so that seated people can see easily through the large, fixed saloon windows. On the test boat, the centre forward panes have been replaced by external sheeting, so that a centrally located cocktail cabinet, with integrated 23in plasma TV, could be accommodated. This screen is linked with the Raymarine chartplotter, converting it to a bright-screen repeater in the saloon when required.
The L-shaped galley features Corian bench tops, a two-plate electric ceramic cooktop, two-door fridge and convection microwave. The 2.5kW 12/240V inverter that has shorepower priority switching can power some of these galley appliances. The house battery supply is four 200amp/h gel batteries, topped up by a standard Lombardini 8kW generator or optional Onan as per the test boat.
The cockpit is designed for unfettered entertaining, with ample lounging space and broad, gated access to both swim platforms. The starboard platform mounts a lidded BBQ that is cantilevered over the water - out of the way of an accidental burn, yet easily operated by the host, who can still be involved in a cockpit party.
The huge flybridge is fitted with a targa bar and roof, as well as 3/4 clears, with zip-opening panels that roll up for fresh-air supply. The bright two-pack finish was almost too much in the bright Gold Coast sunlight and, as we squinted in response, Murray Owen pointed out that a satin finish flybridge interior is optional!
Two chairs front the broad dashboard, with ample space for the large chartplotter and radar screens, plus the expected instruments and engine controls. The large lounge easily accommodates four sprawling people. The aft section of the flybridge serves as the tender deck, complete with loading crane. A nice touch is the fiddled edge around the staircase opening, preventing deckwash water pouring down the steps.
Big-ship people know about accessibility for ease of maintenance and the MEC 12.5 looked easy to live with. Although the enginerooms are squeezed into the aft-tapering hull sections, we found room to sit inside and checked that all regular maintenance items were within easy reach.
Fit and finish of the entire boat - even the hard to see places - is excellent.
ON THE WATER
Manoeuvring the 12.5-metre MEC 12.5 out of its pen at GCCM was child's play, with great vision from the flybridge and widely separated props. Push-pull engine operation had the boat turning within its own length, with ease. A bowthruster is standard on the company's 18m cat and optional on the 12.5, but most buyers won't need one.
The helm proved just as responsive during the six-knot run down the Coomera River, with its tricky channel navigation, while the twin screens displayed reassuring chart, radar and depth information.
The MEC 12.5's shallow, sub-metre draft saw us clear the shifting sand bar at the north arm river mouth and then the twin 230hp Yanmars showed what they could do. The boat leapt to 20kts very quickly, where the engines were turning over at 3300rpm at wide-open throttle, but there was still some fiddling with prop pitch to do after our short test. Theoretical top speed is 22kts.
Murray Owen said that the boat felt right for short-distance cruising at around 18kts, with 3000rpm or so on the tachos, and would be ideal for long-distance cruising at 16kts with the donks running around 2800rpm, where projected fuel consumption for the combined engines is 45lt/h!
The hulls coped easily with cross-course chop and boat wakes, and no spray came on board. The motion was easy and moving around the boat safely wasn't a problem, thanks to ample hand-holds.
Even with a strong following breeze, no engine smoke and smell wafted into the cockpit, and engine noise was pleasantly subdued. Metal boats often have vibration and drumming issues, but the MEC 12.5 had none.
Our test trip was a short one because the boat had to undergo final engine trials before heading south to the Sydney boat show, but we experienced enough to see that this vessel should appeal to a great number of buyers.
Incidentally, we later checked the boat out in Sydney, after its non-stop trip down the coast and it looked as fresh as it had done in Queensland. The for'ard hull sections showed no signs of the battering they'd had pushing into a southerly chop for nearly the full distance.
This little ship ain't cheap, but is beautifully crafted and finished. You could sell your house and live aboard this one.
Specifications- MEC 12.5
PRICE AS TESTED
Teak decks, DAB surround-sound system, master cabin TV, computer nav system interposed with saloon and master TV, Raymarine radar, Onan 11kW generator, Sea Recovery watermaker, fire suppression and monitoring system, 350kg davit upgrade, cockpit fridge and icemaker, flybridge fridge, leather upholstery, extended fuel capacity, and oil change pumps for main engines and generator
Material: Marine grade aluminium hulls, decks and superstructure
Length overall: 12.5m
Berths: 2 x double cabins, 1 large single (squeezy double)
Fuel: 1600lt (extended range option)
Water: 400lt (plus optional watermaker)
Holding tank: 400lt
Make/model: 2 x Yanmar 4LHAM-STP
Type: four-stroke direct injection diesel, with turbocharging and intercooling
Rated HP: 230 (each) @ 3300rpm
C17, Gold Coast City Marina,
76-84 Waterway Drive,
Coomera, Qld, 4209
Phone: (07) 5502 8811
Fax: (07) 5502 8822
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