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Mass. builder puts his faith in a cat

The owner of Multihull Development says his power cat will run in any weather

Three days after graduating from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1999, Russell Hunt found himself sailing aboard a commercial ship as an engineering officer. Although he dreamed of building boats, he would spend the next four months on the ship.

“It’s a hard thing to do when you have a passion for something else,” says Hunt. “For me it was this.”

Hunt is talking about his Bourne, Mass.-based company, Multihull Development, and its new Buzzards Bay 32 CWD. The 32, designed by Chris White, is a versatile power catamaran built to run in any weather.

Hunt, 27, says he looked at a lot of deep-vee boats and knew they were doing well in the marketplace, but was at a loss for where he would compete in that market.

“It didn’t really make sense to do what everybody else was doing,” he says. Besides, he adds, he found problems such as low fuel efficiency or pounding with many designs.

By 2000, having done research while still in school, Hunt says he had decided on a power cat. He says he also had read up on building materials, including various types of fiberglass and coring.

“I just thought we could really stand out,” says Hunt. “I could make my mark.”

Designer Chris White has done some preliminary work for powerboats in the past, Hunt says, including an 18-foot prototype cat with a single outboard. Although that project was not completed, the experience contributed to the Buzzards Bay 32 CWD project.

“As far as the hull design he came up with, I think it’s the best,” Hunt says.

Hunt points out that one of the major differences between a multihull and a monohull is the length-to-beam ratio. The 32 measures 32 feet LOA by slightly over 12 feet, 2-1/2 inches beam. It has a draft of 2 feet with the outdrives up.

Hunt also says the hull speed of a catamaran is much higher than that of a monohull.

“I wanted to get 30 knots out of as little horsepower as possible,” says Hunt.

Hunt says he started building the prototype in February 2002; he held its first sea trial in July 2003.

Hunt says that it is easier to force a pure displacement catamaran to go faster than a monohull. He describes the 32 as a displacement hull with chines. The fine-entry, full-displacement hulls have a rocker in them, which results in the aft portion of the chines riding an inch or two deep in the water.

The boat climbs over its bow wave around 14 to 16 mph (about 2,000 rpm), Hunt says, and as the rising bow pushes the tail down, the chines push the tail up. This dynamic relationship means the whole boat rises rather than the bow simply pointing toward the sky.

Speed and horsepower have a more linear relationship, Hunt says, and the 32 planes at low speeds.

“It’s a real big benefit for the way most people boat,” Hunt says.

Hunt says the 32 hits a top speed of around 35 mph with the twin 140-hp diesels he has installed in the prototype. He says he expects the standard power — a pair of 150-hp Honda

4-stroke outboards — will push the 32 to about the same speeds.

“Some other guys might require a pair of 200s,” says Hunt, pointing to the 32’s hull design and 8,000-pound displacement as advantages over his possible competitors.

The 32 has two 60-gallon fuel tanks. Hunt says he disagrees with those who tell him that is not enough fuel capacity.

“You don’t even want fuel,” he says. “You want distance.”

The 32 has about a 300-mile range and will cruise at 23 mph for 14 hours, says Hunt. He says he shot for a competitive range and backed down the fuel tank size from there. This is part of the design spiral, he says, where less weight from fuel tanks requires less horsepower, which in turn means the engine is lighter and requires less fuel, and so on.

“I favor simplicity and not keeping too much junk in a boat,” says Hunt, adding that a straightforward design makes a boat easier to build and maintain.

There is a full queen-sized berth, with sit-up headroom, over the catamaran’s tunnel. Hunt says the Buzzards Bay 32CWD has more tunnel clearance than any of the competition he has seen.

Hunt says he has hit the top of the tunnel three or four times while putting the boat through rigorous sea trials, including once while running 31 mph in a following sea in Buzzards Bay. Since then, he says, he added chines partway up the tunnel, and more lift.

The berth is accessed through the starboard hull, forward of the pilothouse.

There is a head in the port hull. The prototype is outfitted with a pump-out toilet. These rugged, simple “blue water” systems, Hunt says, are more dependable and easier for the customer to work on in a pinch.

The helm seat is on the centerline at the front of the pilothouse, and features a Todd chair, a Vetus mahogany steering wheel, vertically aligned analog engine instrumentation, and a panel above the wheel designed to accommodate an all-in-one display.

Also in the pilothouse — the aft end of which is open — are an L-shaped bench to starboard and a galley to port. In addition, there are numerous grabrails throughout the 32.

The 32 has a spacious cockpit big enough to fish, entertain or fit a couple kayaks.

Hunt grants that some builders would try to do more with the space in a power cat of this size.

“I’d rather just have these nice open spaces that are generous,” says Hunt. “It’s kind of elegant in its simplicity.”

Hunt says the Multihull Development crew did a lot of work with rub rails and lines to eliminate some of the “chunkiness” of the boat’s appearance.

“It doesn’t have any curves for curves’ sake or lines for lines’ sake,” says Hunt. “Everything is there because it needs to be there.” Still, he reasons that if you have to connect two dots you might as well make it look nice.

The Buzzards Bay 32 CWD project has involved around 3,900 man-hours of work, says Hunt, including a lot of sanding, studying and problem-solving.

The 32 has Core-Cell coring in the hulls, decks and pilothouse, and Hunt says he tried to keep the use of fiberglass mat to a minimum while retaining structural fiberglass.

“We try to cut out a lot of the fiberglass that’s just sitting there,” he says. “[That] makes it pretty time-consuming to build, but it makes it pretty fun to own.”

The prototype sold for $212,000, Hunt says, and he estimates the outboard production versions will sell for about $200,000.

Hunt says buyers will find value in the quality of the boat and the service.

Hunt grew up in Onset, Mass., near his father’s boatyard, Dick’s Marine Brokerage. Donald Hunt impressed his son with his integrity and attention to customers.

“We’ve had some pretty hard times, the recessions and whatnot, and it’s always the long-term customers that bring you through that,” Hunt says of the experience at the boatyard, which his father has since sold. (Donald Hunt, who is retired, now lends his expertise at Multihull Development.) Russell Hunt says customers deserve the kind of service he plans to provide.

Hunt says he will do the commissioning himself and provide service on a personal level.

“The owner should get a lot out of this boat,” he says.

Hunt takes a practical approach to his work. He points to trends in the fast-ferry industry as an indicator that he is working in the right direction. Catamarans are dominant in the fast-ferry industry, he says, because the decision is unemotional: Decision-makers look for fuel efficiency, passenger comfort and good seakeeping.

Hunt also looks for value in his personal choice of automobile. He has put 10,000 miles — and counting — on a yellow Geo Tracker he bought for $200.

On the other hand, Hunt says, recreational boating dollars are spent with more emotion.

“People want the seakeeping and they want the fuel efficiency, but they also want a boat,” he says.

Hunt does not see the 32 as a niche boat.

“It’s a boat first, a catamaran second,” he says. “She has a cat hull because it’s a better way to boat.”

Hunt says that from the beginning of the project he was worried about getting the fit and finish right. He says he wanted a “Yacht-style” finish.

Hunt says he is hiring out to have the molds built and will use a builder to build the boats. He plans to continue doing his work out of his small shop in Bourne.

He says he would like to have production hulls No. 1 and No. 2 ready for the next season, in late spring 2005.

Hunt says he and White are already working on new designs, and would like to come up with something in the 40-foot range for more adventurous cruising.