I have some questions for you about the Leopard 48. I am in DuSable harbor in Chicago. Last weekend, a shiny new Leopard 48 pulled into the dock across from us. She has blue hulls and a white deck. I noticed that you are considering the Leopard 48. She is one sweet looking boat.
However, she is very tall. Her boom height is obnoxiously high. And all those windows fore and aft? What do you know about the ability to take some waves? She looks seriously vulnerable from both ends. I would almost choose a used Leopard 47 over that, and put $400,000 in my pocket. That is if I had $700k to spend.
What are your thoughts about her as a world voyager? Has Leopard given out any specs on the strength of the design?
As many of you know, we are seriously in the market for a new boat with a Cat at the top of our list. I have spent a lot of time chatting with owners and crawling through them and doing a lot of other research. I do take exception to many comments in this thread, which I will try and point out. So, I will give my perspectives here. Again, I have not owned a cat (yet) but have been trying to make a very informed decision as they are no small sum of money (at least for us). Truth be told, I think we will end up going with a cat... but some of their negatives have given us real pause and make a trawler or even a much larger mono more appealing. SO, here goes:
Pitch Polling. I don't buy the whole "cat is going to flip" business. I am not saying that is not possible, but come on! We are talking a very rare occurrence. I would love to compare that to the number of monos that hole themselves on a reef due to their draft or the number of broken ribs or serious sea sickness that a mono can give. I think I will take my chances.
Motion. While I do not mind the motion of a mono, as a full-time liveaboard with kids, the thought of a boat sitting flat while at sea and not having legos flying around down below is very appealing. In fact, I could see some real safety benefits from this too as I have seen ribs bruised (thought they were broken) on a violent roll in a storm. SO there is another big positive.
Draft. Don't underestimate the huge benefits of shallow draft. At least where we cruise, that opens up a whole other set of options for us. It opens up more anchorages and in my opinion, the ability to get more protection.
Speed. Sorry, I suspect that the typical cat will outrun the typical mono... even those which are loaded down for cruising. Our friend on her Leopard 47 just averaged 8-9 knots to the virgins and often did more than that. Can a performance mono do that? Yep... or more. But performance monos have some tradeoffs too.
Pounding. Most of the Cat owners get used to it, some do not. But you only pound to weather. Frankly, I think this one would take us a while.
Pointing. Common complaint. THey don't point well. There are performance cats that point a lot better than the fat cruisers, but in general, that is a good rule of thumb.
Slippage... ahh, now we come to a real issue with cats and one that has given us a lot of pause. Depending on the size of your cat, this may be a real issue. For example, my price at Marathon Marina for a Leopard 44 was out of sight. Due to the beam, they would charge me for a 60' slip AND add a $1/foot. My other favorite marina, Snook Bight, had only two cat slips (both taken) and would not put me on the wall due to my beam. In fact, they were not sure I would fit into their cat slips. In St Pete, I am sure we would have to take a double slip or T Head. I have no doubt they would charge us appropriately... but I have yet to call them. So before purchasing your cat, do your homework on where you are going to put her. As a friend of mine said, who owns a Leopard 47 (and she participates here... but I will let her chime in if she wants), be prepared for 1.5 times a mono of similar length. That comment pretty much agrees with my research... if you can get in at all.
Mast Height. THe larger cats have real mast height issues. We are considering two boats right now: Leopard 44 and 48. They were our favorite of all the cats we went on (except for the Antares... which was fantastic but way too expensive for us). THe 44 comes with a mast height around 68ish but you can have it cut down to 63ish. We would do that if we bought that boat to make it ICW compatible. The 48... aint even an option. I forget, but I think its mast height is 78 or so? No matter, it ain't going down the ICW and I don't care for that.
Power. Many cats are woefully underpowered. THat was another comment I heard from owners. I noticed on the Leopards and Antares especially, they put larger engines in than their predecessors.
Yards. I had not thought of this one, but it was brought up to me by a couple of Cat owners. Finding a travel lift to haul these cats can be difficult... but doable. However, you will nee to research your yards and may be forced into more expensive yards.
Look at the boom height. I think it was the Fountain or the Lagoon, I cannot remember now, but I am convinced you would need a step ladder to get to that boom. Even the other cats (except the Leopard and Antares) had somewhat similar issues... though not as bad as the Lagoon I think it was. THis is not an issue unique to Cats (many Hunters come to mind), but it is something worth considering as you begin narrowing down between cats.
Lines and sheets. The Leopard did a great job of running their lines centrally to make for easier single handling. The Leopard and Antares also did a good job of visibility (think parking that monster). The others, like the Lagoon, not so much. THe Antares actually ran their lines through conduits which is something you will either love or hate. My wife's first comment was, "I don't care for that because I want to see my lines and if there is a chaffing issue." Cant disagree with her on that point, but keeping the lines out of the sun has a huge benefit too.
Space is incredible... Wow. Lots and lots of space. But except for the Antares, take a look at the cabinets. First off, many are open without fiddleboards. THere are also open cabinets where they could have (and should have) put doors. WHile the Lagoon felt the most open and airy of all the cats, it was also the biggest offender for not having doors over the cabinets. These are the types of things that make a boat more open for the boat show or maybe the charter business, but aren't practical for fulltime living aboard. And here is another HUGE gripe: except for the Antares (and in all fairness, the Leopard), all the cabinets are that press board Ikea looking stuff with stickers for wood grain. Given the incredible costs of these boats, it shocks me they would not put a little more money into higher end cabinetry. They could use to learn something from Catalina... though given the price, Hinkley, Hylas or Oyster may be more appropro. The Antares really did a good job here with honeycombed cabinet doors and cabinets, tabbed into bulkheads, that were both light, good looking, and robust.
Costs. The costs of these boats are high compared to a Mono... much higher. THese prices are all available over the internet or published, so I will list them here to give others an idea as they consider cats compared to monos. The Leopard 44 is about a half million. In reality, you would end up putting some more money past that to get her up to cruising ready. The 48' is about 100k more, which given the small increase, may be worth it... but look at the mast height! THe Lagoon and Fountain (and the other one... I forget the make but got Boat of the Year with CW) were all about the same price. THe Antares: A cool million, takes about two years to get it, requires you to come pick it up in S AMerica, and you have about zero options to choose from... they choose everything for you like it or not (even your electronics). In all fairness to the Antares, she comes out of the factory cruise ready from screechers, trysail, spin, water maker, electronics, etc. But still!!!! Ask yourself what kind of a mono you could buy for those prices??? Or a trawler. Or a really nice waterfront house to park your mono behind...
Delivery costs. These boats can come across on their own hulls, but often do not. Too much wear and tear on the boat. Fountain, as I recall though it may have been Lagoon, were offering free freighter delivery as a boat show incentive. Regardless, make sure you plan ahead how you are going to get the boat to the US (assuming you are not a European) and factor those costs in too.
Lifeline heights. I have been critical of many manufacturers (BeneHuntalina) for years over their lifeline heights. Does it really cost that much more not to have knee trippers? The Antares was great about this, The Leopard was ok, and the Lagoon and Fountain took their designs from Beneteau.
Visibility from helm. Stand there and make sure you can see all the way around the boat. Think about parking that monster and seeing all four corners. One manufacturer, (the boat of the year which I cannot remember the name), actually had twin helms at the stern. I did not care for that at all. IN a large following sea, a poop could be really bad.
So there you have it. That is my rundown on cats with what we have learned and researched. The bottom line is that they can be fantastic options, but there are some real tradeoffs that will require research and consideration. The smaller cats may not have some of the same tradeoffs but quite frankly, I did not find many of their positives overwhelmingly better than that of a mono of similar cost. For us personally, if it were just the two of us, I would probably stay with a mono due to the cost, ease of handling/docking, and our familiarity with them. For families... man, it is hard to beat a Cat if you can deal with the tradeoffs (cost maybe the biggest one).