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Now that NZ yard Formula Cruiser are building the Prowler, there’s more poise and polish, discovers clandestine catman JOHN ZAMMIT

Prowler NZ 10.4

I have a friend I haven't seen for a long time now, but back he owned a power catamaran and was a true believer. He would take every opportunity to pontificate endlessly about the advantages of a catamaran over a single hull - how they have far less hydrodynamic drag than a monohull, require less power, ride better, are more stable, efficient, roomy, and so on. He would go on and on and, in jest, refer to monohulls as "monosaurus".

While I never admitted it, I've always thought that catamarans made good sense. Of course, they're not for everyone for a number of reasons, not least being the fact the accommodation can be a bit tight below decks compared to a monosaurus. However, for those looking for ease of handling, stability, shallow draft, economical cruising and loads of deck space, they're an appealing proposition. This is why you find so many catamarans in charterboat fleets these days.




That brings me to the Prowler NZ 10.4 catamaran that I tested at Port Stephens on the Northern NSW coast recently - ideal catamaran country and beautiful cruising grounds. With the Prowler's shallow draft of just 0.5m you have access to some sensational destinations, often inaccessible to a lot of other boats. The Prowler is also ultra-efficient and well suited to economical long-range cruising anywhere from Sydney or Melbourne to the Gold Coast, Whitsundays and farther north.

Originally based on a Schionning 9000 (designed by acclaimed Australian cat man Jeff Schionning also from Port Stephens), Prowler has lengthened the hulls to 10.4m, redesigned the topsides, and added a whole new dimension to the accommodation. We'll get to that.

Meanwhile, with long, slender hulls the boat slices effortlessly <I>through</I> the water with very little drag rather than planing or skimming on top. Fitted with a pair of 60hp Yamaha FT60DETX four-stroke outboards, the test boat easily attained a top speed of 18kts. The ride is surprisingly smooth with very little roll, even when beam-on to the sea, and the boat produced very little wash, too.

As such, this is a real eco-friendly boat that operates on the proverbial smell of an oily rag and can be self-sufficient for long periods without plugging into shorepower. Four solar panels on the roof each generate 5amp of power giving a total of 20amp, which is plenty. There are three deep-cycle batteries, refrigeration that runs on gas and 12V power, and gas hot water and cooking, while all the lighting is low-demand LED. As long as you had a little bit of daily sunshine, you could cruise almost indefinitely.

In respect of living space, the saloon has comfortable L-shaped seating on the portside that will comfortably seat five around a table, with a galley to starboard. There's a four-burner cooktop with oven and griller below, an under-bench fridge, Corian bench top and large sink with flickmixer. Tucked into the corner at eye level is a handy cupboard for glass and crockery and more stowage exists under the bench.

A large windscreen and full-length side-windows let in plenty of light, adding to the airy feel of the saloon, and clever retractable blinds are on call for privacy.




The helm is situated centrally, forward of the galley, with a single swivelling skipper's chair. There's good vision through the large five-panel windscreen fitted with wipers, to which someone has finally added an intermittent setting on a boat. Hallelujah!

The dash is simple but nicely laid out and, on the test boat, it accommodated Yamaha engine monitoring gauges, a 10in Lowrance screen incorporating GPS/plotter/sounder, a Coursemaster Autopilots autopilot, C-Zone monitoring system, anchor controls, and an assortment of rocker switches.

The engine controls fell nicely to hand and I was comfortable easing her out of the berth inside the marina. With good all-round vision and the engines so wide apart she's easily manoeuvred in and out of tight spaces. We headed out of Port Stephens past the magnificent Tomaree and Yacaaba Heads, on what was a sensational day. Travelling at 8.5kts the engines were just ticking over at 2900rpm.

Running her through the rev range and easing up to 3600rpm recorded 10kts, 4500rpm saw 14kts, 5000rpm 16.4kts and at 5200rpm 18kts. At one stage, heading directly into the one-metre swell with a slight chop on top, we managed a bit of water over the bow - a slight adjustment to the trim solved the problem. But the Prowler seemed to take everything in her stride, though it was an unusual feeling travelling at that speed through the water in displacement mode rather than planing over the top - very stable and surefooted, indeed.

We were joined by a couple of whales, a mother and her calf, who idled up close before putting on a bit of a show. I figured they must've realised that we were eco-friendly, but even as we sat idle watching their antics the boat was terrifically stable.




Formula Cruisers is currently making some minor modifications to the Prowler hull, which will see the deck raised by around 300mm off the waterline. It won't make much difference internally but will improve the ride even more when heading into a sea. The change should minimise, if not eliminate, the common problem with cats where water pounds between the pontoons and slaps the underside of the tunnel.

So who is the Prowler targetting? I imagine this boat will suit a range of buyers: someone who's had a sailboat or even a sailing cat and doesn't want the hassle of setting sails but still wants economy; the family looking for a wide, stable platform with plenty of outdoor deck space; or maybe someone coming from a powerboat wanting a more economical way to get out on the water.

Fuel prices shouldn't bother you and the boat is well setup for enjoying life in the slow lane. On the stern, there's a davit that will take a 2.3m tender and an electric winch to make launching and retrieval hassle-free. An inbuilt workstation on the transom has a barbecue port plumbed for gas, a sink with hot and cold water, and plenty of storage underneath.

There is comfortable undercover seating in the cockpit with more internal storage and a fully insulated icebox. In the pontoons either side there's more storage space and the fuel tanks plus individual holding tanks for the two heads.

Getting to the foredeck means clambering over the cockpit seats and, while the sidedecks aren't overly wide, there are ample handholds to assist in getting you there safely. The siderails on the test boat didn't really go back far enough, but I'm told these will be extended right back beyond the cockpit on newer models.

One of the big advantages of a catamaran is the huge foredeck for kicking back, entertaining and, as we discovered, whale watching. The trampolines between the pontoons will take full body weight and all of the anchor gear and chain are fully enclosed beneath hatches leaving this whole area unencumbered.

The accommodation is accessed via four steps down from the saloon into each of the pontoons and they're fitted out almost identically. Forward of the steps, in each case, is a large double bed and beyond that another area that can be used as a single berth or for storing kit bags, luggage, and the like. Aft of the steps is the head fitted with electric toilet, shower, mirrored vanity and basin.

As with many cats, the accommodation is tight but the sense of light and space is enhanced by the large portlights, overhead and in the side of the hull, each with enough opening hatches for adequate ventilation.




(Facts & figures)




The test boat had been initially delivered to Sydney from the Gold Coast before turning back to Port Stephens. On that initial trip, fuel usage averaged 1.5lt/nm cruising at approx 14kts, with the boat fully loaded and pushing hard into a 25- to 30-knot southerly and seas between 1.5m to 3m. At 15kts in normal conditions the fuel burn dropped slightly to 1.4lt/nm, while at 12kts the average was 1.2lt/nm. Normal usage in enclosed waters will no doubt see an improvement on these figures.








Pelmet lighting in saloon and galley, saloon sidewindow blinds, cockpit floor lighting, CD/DVD player w/ four speakers, Fusion iPod docking station, two additional solar panels, LED floodlights,  additional 150amp/h house battery, Lowrance 10in HDS combo chartplotter-sounder inc. Navionics Gold SD chart cartridge, Coursemaster Autopilots CM80i autopilot, Uniden DSC VHF w/ antenna and heavy-duty mount, tender w/ folding cleats, tender winch and accessories, mirrors in cabins, washdown system (cockpit/deckwash), cherry-timber-floor upgrade, hard panels in accommodation, and saloon verticals forward








TYPE: Powercat 
BEAM: 4.8m
DRAFT: 0.5m
WEIGHT: 4000kg




FUEL: 500lt
WATER: 320lt
HOLDING TANK: 2 x 60lt




TYPE: EFI four-stroke petrol outboard
RATED HP: 60 (each)
DRY WEIGHT: 125kg (each)




Lee Marine,
Shop 1A, d'Albora Marina,
Teramby Road,
Nelson Bay, NSW, 2315
Phone: (02) 4984 2355




Formula Cruisers,
PO Box 84 - 022,
Westgate, Massey, Waitakere 0657
Auckland, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 416 4836




Eco-friendly, uncomplicated and well suited to day trips, family weekends or extended coastal cruising. You can loll about at a sedate 8kts or if you really want to get somewhere in a hurry, then ramp her right up to 18kts. Either way, she'll get you where you want to go comfortably and without burning a hole in your fuel card.


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