LOA: 47 feet, 3 inches BEAM: 24 feet, 10 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 1 inch WEIGHT: 30,000 pounds HULL TYPE: catamaran PROPULSION: twin diesels, 150 to 265 hp TANKAGE: 300 gallons fuel, 250 gallons water DESIGNER: Morelli & Melvin Design and Engineering, Newport Beach, California BUILDER: Robertson and Caine, Cape Town, South Africa
In 2001, Ed and Vivian Steele sold their business and started looking for something to do for a few years. “My wife suggested we go sailing,” Ed says. So, after searching for the right ride, the couple bought a 53-foot Amel Super Maramu ketch and, with three weeks’ experience, set off on a six-year cruise around the world.
Returning in 2009, they left the sea, bought a “brace of motor homes,” as Ed puts it, and traveled on land.
Three years ago, it was back to blue water. “We are out of sequence here,” says Ed, now 70 and a retired geophysicist. “You are supposed to progress as follows: sail, powerboat, motor home, rest home. We just got confused and needed another boat.”
In 2015, the couple bought a Leopard 47 PC, a power cat that Robertson and Caine builds in South Africa for The Moorings charter company. The price for the 2009 model was $404,000 including engine and generator upgrades.
“We bought it out of the charter program,” Ed says. “They were both helpful and knowledgeable since they have complete access to all of the accumulated wisdom within The Moorings charter organization.”
The Leopard had benefitted from regular maintenance in the charter program, with only some light cosmetic work needed, inside and out. The Moorings’ phase-out crew jumped on all of it and made it good, Ed says: “The fact that the Leopard survives for five years as a charter boat before being sold to the used market speaks a great deal for the design.”
The switch from a monohull to a catamaran reflected a boating lifestyle change for the Steeles.
“We wanted to spend more time cruising the islands rather than passagemaking, and also looked forward to entertaining family and friends,” Ed says. “We felt that a catamaran would fit our space needs better and would be more comfortable at anchor.”
The Leopard 47 PC’s layout has four places to roost. “You can hang around and socialize on the solid ‘wing’ between the bows with ‘stadium seating’ on the front windscreen sunshades,” he says. “You can sit around the table in the main cabin, lounge around a second table on the rear deck (a favorite for the grandkids playing Mexican Train dominoes) or sprawl across the seating on the flybridge.”
The galley is up, in the main cabin. “This is better ventilation for the cook and allows the cook to participate in the social activity,” Ed says.
Doodlebug, as the Steeles named her, has a pair of 150-hp Cummins turbocharged diesels, “the same engine as those big, square UPS trucks,” Ed says. At half throttle, the 47-footer cruises at 8 to 8 1/2 knots and will hold that speed on one engine running at 2000 rpm, he says. Fuel burn is just less than 2 1/2 gallons an hour, giving the power cat an effective range of 1,000 nautical miles.
The Leopard’s electronics include digital radar, AIS and a remote control for the autopilot. Using an iPad, the Steeles can control the radar and chart plotter from inside the main cabin and steer the boat via the autopilot remote. “These upgrades mean that in bad weather, we can keep watch in relative comfort inside, instead of the more exposed position on the flybridge,” Ed says. “As long-distance cruisers, we use the autopilot extensively and rarely hand steer. The AIS is handy when in the shipping lanes, but we rely more on the radar in limited-visibility circumstances.”
Six solar panels are installed on Doodlebug’s flybridge roof, and a fourth house battery is aboard, along with a new battery charger and inverter. There’s also a watermaker. “She can sit at anchor without having to use the generator and at the same time run the desalinator to supply fresh water,” Ed says. “We also added a second fridge in the flybridge wet bar so that we wouldn’t have to go all that way down to the main cabin for cold beer.”
It all adds up to a package that’s perfect for the Steeles.
“We love cruising and have been to the ABC islands [Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao], down the island chain to Grenada and back, as well as making a trip to Cuba,” Ed says. “Our most memorable trip was probably Christmas 2016, as close to a Norman Rockwell Christmas as we are likely to ever get.” He describes the scene: It was dark when his kids and grandchildren (ages 7, 9 and 10) flew into Beef Island, Tortola. They were puzzled that there was no car or taxi at the airport, and instead they all walked from the terminal to the beach, where they boarded a dinghy for a ride to Doodlebug, at anchor. When the youngsters awoke the following morning, the family was at sea, on their way to Virgin Gorda for the celebrations.
“She has been a good, reliable boat,” Ed says. “We have had so much fun with Doodlebug, and she is amazing to entertain friends and family. Those are memories that stay with you forever.”
Also known as the Moorings 474 PC, the Leopard 47 PC is an island cruiser with a three- or four-stateroom design and an open deck layout. Staterooms are in the catamaran’s hulls, each with an ensuite head and shower. Queen berths are standard; the forward staterooms also include a single berth. The three-stateroom layout puts the master by itself in the starboard hull, replacing a fourth stateroom with a study/lounge. Out on deck, there’s a flybridge (reached by stairs) with helm seating, guest seating and a hardtop. Side decks and steps are wide for access around the boat and down to the swim platforms. Power comes from a pair of 150-hp Cummins diesel engines; 265-hp Volvo Penta engines are an option.
The Leopard 47 PC is the product of a collaboration between South African boatbuilder Robertson and Caine and California sail- and power-catamaran designers Morelli & Melvin. Making its debut in 2009, the 47-footer forms the basis for island charter fleets such as The Moorings.
This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue.