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Owners of runabouts, sailboats, fishing boats and midsize motoryachts are flooding bareboat charter companies with inquiries for a particular kind of vacation booking: the power catamaran.

“The power catamaran is new for these owners, but it seems to be the consensus best yacht for charter vacations, and an easy step for most of these boaters to take,” says Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for The Moorings.

Virgin Gorda is a popular stop-off for people chartering powercats in the BVI. 

Virgin Gorda is a popular stop-off for people chartering powercats in the BVI. 

A similar pattern of inquiries is happening at MarineMax Vacations, where Vice President Raul Bermudez says boaters are booking powercats
either for the extra onboard space during vacations with families and friends or as a test drive because they’re thinking about buying one. The company caters to these experienced boaters with a program that helps them feel comfortable moving into the wider-beam powercats from traditional monohulls.

“We give them a half-day of training to show them how to handle the beam,” says Bermudez, whose fleet includes powercats as large as 54 feet long with a 25-foot beam. “With the bigger powercats, we do a full day of training and take them to the first anchorage to make sure they’re comfortable and we’re comfortable.”

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That kind of one-on-one, on-the-water instruction is invaluable. And the really good news for the powercat-curious is that it’s available in some of the world’s best cruising grounds.

Yes, powercats are available for bareboat charters worldwide—Dream Yacht Charter, for instance, advertises a handful of powercats in destinations such as Mexico, Greece and Australia—but without a doubt, the two most popular areas for this type of boat are the Bahamas and British Virgin Islands. These destinations are easy to access from the U.S., have some catamaran-friendly marinas, have an all-around great cruising environment, and give boaters a chance to try out a sizable selection of powercat sizes, brands and styles.

The Moorings has bareboat powercats in the BVI and Bahamas.

The Moorings has bareboat powercats in the BVI and Bahamas.

“The Virgin Islands and the Bahamas are by far the most popular destinations in the world for our power catamarans,” says Pedersen, who adds that The Moorings has two bareboat charter locations in each region—the Exumas and Abacos in the Bahamas, and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands archipelagos. “The popularity among the power catamaran crowd is notable. The relative ease of travel to get to these locations from the Southeast U.S. appeals to this audience, as do calm waters, excellent fishing and snorkeling, and the abundance of restaurants and bars to visit in these areas.”

Bermudez says the MarineMax fleet of power catamarans is now primarily based in the British Virgin Islands, where bareboaters gravitate toward a few spots in particular. The first is Saba Rock, which is in North Sound on Virgin Gorda. There’s a main restaurant that serves lunch and dinner (try the island conch salad and char-grilled lobster) as well as a main bar and sunset bar with a sizable menu of cocktails and wines. Saba Rock has side-tie dockage as well as 18 mooring balls that can take boats up to 80 feet, so a 40-foot powercat isn’t a tight fit.

Aerial view of the Exumas 

Aerial view of the Exumas 

Another spot that powercat charterers love in the British Virgin Islands is the Bitter End Yacht Club, Bermudez says. It’s newly rebuilt in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. There are mooring balls that powercats can access, and “the Bitter End has the new marina where they can tie up, so that’s great,” Bermudez adds. On the property, there are now dining options and bars, along with a new market where bareboaters can pick up provisions, including prepared meals from the resort’s chefs. The third big draw for powercats in the British Virgin Islands, Bermudez says, is Oil Nut Bay. It’s also on Virgin Gorda and has mooring balls as well as side-tie spots and slips at the marina where powercats can be accommodated.

“It’s a beautiful marina that’s set up for the restaurant and bar,” Bermudez says. “Nova, the restaurant, is great. The marina is located in a private community, but you can pay a daily rate to use the main pool area.”

A local 

A local 

In the Exumas section of the Bahamas, Pedersen says, powercat bareboaters typically include a stop at Staniel Cay. The marina has side-tie space where catamarans can fit, right alongside motoryachts as large as 120 feet length overall. Stepping onto the docks and then ashore to the yacht club is a nice change of pace for bareboaters who want a break from anchoring duties on the foredeck. “Most everywhere else along the way in the Exumas are more remote harbors where you need to anchor overnight, which is really the appeal of this area, the ability to truly get away from it all,” Pedersen says.

Carol Hansen, director of marketing for Dream Yacht Charter, says the powercats that her company offers in the Abacos and Exumas tend to be a favorite choice among bareboaters who want to go cruising for less than a week. “Power is a great option because of the longer cruising distances between islands,” she says. “A powercat allows charterers who might not have a week or longer to spend exploring still get to see and experience the cruising ground, even with their limited time.”

Generally speaking, finding dockage is usually the limiting factor for powercat charters. That’s why you don’t find these boats everywhere in the world. However, the benefits that powercats offer tend to offset that challenge for a lot of today’s bareboaters, Bermudez says. “The boats are very fuel-efficient at low speeds, but you have the option to be able to get up and go quicker,” he says. “They’ll do 22 or 23 knots, with a cruising speed around 15 or 16. But if you’re not in a hurry and you’re going at 9 knots, you’re only burning about 4 gallons of fuel an hour. They’re a lot more fuel-efficient than what people are cruising on at home.”

Powercat bareboaters are taking note of those numbers, along with all the onboard amenities. And as a result, more than a few are becoming powercat owners, he adds.

“From a sales point of view, we’re pre-sold for the next 12 to 18 months,” Bermudez says. “Powercats are growing in popularity. Our 44 is the best-selling powercat in the world, I think. It has a full-beam master. Back in the old days, the charter boats would be dumbed down. Not anymore. These have big engines, big generators, Raymarine electronics, watermakers—they’re fully loaded. It’s a floating resort.” 

This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue.

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