BOAT TEST: 3100 POWERCAT SPORTS CRUISER
Our cat fanatic KEVIN SMITH reckons the 3100 PowerCat Sports Cruiser is one of the best he’s driven
Operating big cats in excess of 35ft or 10m can be a costly and painful exercise in respect of maintenance, where and what you can do with them, and all the aftermarket gear that inevitably goes on. After all, the majority of these boats come with a hefty price tag, can't live on trailers under cover, and have to be permanently moored, which of course leads to more annual maintenance. Then there is the effort in preparing for the big trips away.
Long-serving Queensland cat builder Steve Shaw believes he has the answer to these concerns in his new twin-hulled 3100 Sports Cruiser. This is surely the boating enthusiast's dream cat, just perfect if you are looking to downsize to something a bit more user friendly and cost effective, or upgrade to a long-lasting, well-finished and affordable cruising cat.
LIFE IS A HIGHWAY
This 31ft cat with 2.82m beam is a sizeable platform, especially when it arrives on a trailer at the ramp rather than being permanently moored. Yes, it does fit into the "wide load" category and, with an overall weight nearing three tonnes, has to be towed by a hardcore Ford F250 or maxi 4WD. But it's quite achievable if you want to go down this route, as indeed do many North Queenslanders (cane farmers especially).
But to me, a rig like this smacks of the perfect retirement plan. Hitch it up and hit the road for a few months at a time with the wife, the whole family, as a weekend getaway boat. Or pack your best mates and head out to the reefs for some fish and fun.
If staying aboard is your bent, the 3100 has all the creature comforts to keep the boss lady happy and the decks are ergonomically designed. You step from the rear boarding platform in between the motors into an open-plan cockpit that can be transformed from a comfortable alfresco lounging area into a spacious fishing section. Just fold back the rear bimini top and remove the cockpit table and side seats for casting and work space.
The cockpit (self-draining and topped with Flexiteek non-slip deck) flows forward into a covered saloon, mini galley and helm station, all skilfully designed to pack in a number of homely features while maintaining space and sociability. To port is a four- to six-seater dinette/coffee table that folds down into a double bed for extra accommodation. Opposite, the galley consists of Granicoat galley top, stainless steel gas cooker and sink, plumbed hot water, cupboard space and small fridge. It's bordered by a neat grabrail so you can moved through in a seaway.
Ahead of the galley is the helm, fitted in this case with a spread of top-of-the-range Raymarine electronics and an assortment of engine gauges and switch panels in good view of the skipper. All the while, you are protected from the weather while enjoying clear views of the road ahead.
Although a fully lined hardtop with recessed lighting protects the saloon, there are full clears around the windscreen. Personally, I prefer this as it creates a nice outdoor feel. Grabrails are everywhere and perfectly positioned both internally and externally for safe point-and-shoot fast passage making.
In the bulkhead between the helm and cabin companionway are flush-mounted stowage hatches or cupboards, with more storage under the dinette lounge. You'll also find the microwave nearby. Just as importantly, the head with shower/toilet/hand basin combo caters for extended time aboard and the starboard helm module is really quite spacious once you stepped down into it.
Innovative and sensible design has gone into the cabin without eating away at the rest of the boat's space. The interior is beautifully lined and carpeted for extra comfort. Features include a plush double bed, wall-mounted flatscreen TV, full headroom, storage lockers and pockets, hanging space for clothes, bedside seat/change area, good ventilation and air-con, and cabin and reading lights.
The 3100 PowerCat Sports Cruiser is loaded with standard features, however, these cats are usually customised to suit owners who want to, say, wander about the Whitsundays. To this end, the demonstrator had all the bells and whistles for comfortable family cruising and extended tropical stays aboard. Then comes the ride…
With twin Suzuki 300hp four-stroke outboards there is absolutely no issue when it comes to power. In fact, mark my words, this cat is one of the best performing of its type, right throughout the rev range, that I have experienced. Not only are speed and economy impressive, but you can thrash this cat around and into some serious turns without it putting a foot wrong. With the 600hp setup correctly I could turn the 31-footer in its length - just brilliant!
Running the 3100 PowerCat from Bribie Island to the Tangalooma wrecks off Moreton Island in a reverse tide with a 15-knot southeaster cranking against it - normally quite horrendous, to say the least - provided the perfect sea trial, too. To prove just how well these boats handle adverse conditions, Steve Shaw took us through the guts of the shallow banks rather than going around and, get this, without sparing the throttles.
Normally, I would expect to get pummelled about under these circumstances, but the 3100 Sports Cruiser had an exceptional stable and soft entry coming down off the swell and chop. While the 16nm run between the banks and Tangalooma can take in excess of an hour on a smaller boat, we revelled in the rough conditions, cruising sat at 28kts, without having to hang on for dear life, and within 35 minutes we were relaxing around the famous wrecks.
The 3100 achieved an impressive top end of close to 50kts. That's flying in boat this size and, while the fuel consumption would be brisk as well, it is nice to know that the boat can handle full-taps if needs be.
At the end of the day the ideal cruise speed was around 3500rpm, producing 30kts and economical running of 30lt/h per engine, which is good considering the twin 300hp Suzukis out the back. Total fuel used for the day was under 100lt - affordable for a full day's outing.
FILLING THE HATCHES
While this 3100 was not designed for the avid offshore angler, fishing is no problem at all. The space available at the stern is ample for drift or at-anchor fishing and, when it comes to trolling, the boat has great stability and low-speed performance - sip cocktails between islands and mackerel strikes. But release the billfish unless you want to make a mess of the plush seating!
Following our appraisal, the 3100 PowerCat Sports Cruiser test boat was delivered to Hamilton Island. Steve Shaw and his wife departed Brisbane at 3am towing the 3100 with the F250 and arrived at Mackay at 4pm for the night. The following day was a leisurely drive to Shute Harbour, the boat launched by 12.30pm and arriving at Hamilton Island 30 minutes later. The Shaws spent the following few days snorkelling and exploring the reefs around the Whitsunday Islands before handing the boat over to the new owner. Which really underscores the great on and off-road appeal of this big cat.
FACTS & FIGURES 3100 POWERCAT SPORTS CRUISER
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The PowerCat's narrow twin-hull design, large air tunnel and 28-degree deadrise is the recipe for a soft, dry and super comfortable ride. The twin 300hp Suzuki 300hp four-strokes, electronically assisted steering and controls, and superb electronics package made this cat an absolute dream to drive. Full marks.
PRICE AS TESTED
Upgraded Suzuki outboards to twin 300hp, Raymarine electronics with radar and lifetags, onboard entertainment, Flexiteek flooring, generator and cabin air-con, 300lt fuel tanks, and more
$239,826 w/ twin 175hp Suzuki four-stroke outboards
TYPE: Power catamaran
LENGTH OVERALL: 9.4m
DRAFT: 0.51m (outboards up)
WEIGHT: 2700kg (hull only w/ 2 x 150hp motors)
FUEL: 570lt; 600lt (optional)
WATER: 120lt; 240lt (optional)
MAKE/MODEL: Suzuki 300
Type: Petrol four-stroke outboards
RATED HP: 300
GEARBOX RATIO: 2.08:1
It's always great to have a boat that is practical and designed to work and serve its purpose. The Powercat 3100 Sports Cruiser is a definite mid-range cat that not only has the modern lines and looks of the new age, but also serves as a fantastic multi-purpose boat suited to cruising, fishing, diving and general outdoor entertainment. It has a fair price tag but you get what you pay for, like an impeccable finish, ergonomic design and build quality. I can easily picture myself and the family dropping the 3100 in at Seventeen Seventy, Qld, and cruising the islands and atolls - with dual 300lt tanks this will be no problem at all. In fact, come to think of it, one of these would make the perfect mother's day gift!
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