When Yacht designer Alan Slater introduced the PDQ 34 cruising catamaran six years ago his timing was spot on. Production multihulls -- in fact multihulls in general -- were amid the early stages of a popularity boom that assured their fundamental long term acceptance well into this decade, a trend that would bolster their ranks at boat shows and satisfy the cruising demands of an increasing number of people on a basis far more signigicant than mere fad. The evolution of the 34 has kept pace with the multihull movement. The vessel was expanded into a 36-footer in 1990 and then a year or two ago it resulted in a brand new version, The PDQ Mark II series, designed to address a whole new realm of user criteria.
We had the chance to evaluate the PDQ Mark II LRC last fall during Cruising World's 1994 Boat of The Year competition. The development of this model reflects not only the burgeoning popularity of the genre but also the sensitivity of the designer and builder to what people these days intend to do with and expect of their boats. PDQ, a familiar acronym to say the least, is qualified further by the acronym LRC -- in this case, Long Range Cruiser. Alan Slater's program here has been to take a catamaran with a good midrange cruising pedigree and amplify it into a vessel that tends to the needs of cruisers who spend more and more time on their boats and travel further and further afield.
PDQ's objective with the LRC is reminiscent of what the erstwhile monohull builder Cape Dory did a few years ago with their own 36-footer when they introduced the Cape Dory 36 Navigator series. In both cases, structural improvements, gear enhancement, increased tankage and heftier auxilliary capability were introduced to an existing proven design to address issues of livability, safety and voyaging in a more user-intensive context. The PDQ's, notably the Mark II Classic and the Mark II Sports/Cruiser, provide coastal incentives such as larger panoramalike windows, lighter displacement and a performance oriented rig. The LRC focuses on heavier usage.
Among its more significant features are skegged rudders for their obvious structural advantages, a heavy duty rig, stainless safety bars at the mast for safer sail handling in a seaway, and added lifeline stanchions. Stainless steel collision plates are fitted to the bows. Dinghy davits are provided as are increased locker storage and layout options for the aft cabins that include office space, a workshop, sleeping quarters or additional stowage. In lieu of outboards, twin 18-horsepower diesel inboard engines with sail drives are installed along with alternator output capable of sustaining items such as a water maker, 12-volt DC refrigeration and a full compliment of navigation equipment and electronics.
Construction, Execution and Systems
The hulls are hand laid in a single mold, as is the deck. Sandwich construction features Klegecell closed cell foam, triaxial knitted fabric and 100-percent vinylester resin, all optimized by vacuum bagging and by bonded-in reinforcement in areas of high stress. Solid glass is used below the bootstripe. Hull-to-deck is accomplished by means of an outward flange, thru-bolts on four-inch centres, 3M 5200 polyurethane adhesive/sealant and an aluminum toe rail. Long, low-aspect keels on the two hulls are designed to support the weight of the vessel in beaching scenarios, but they are secondary bonded to the hulls following lay-up which allows them to sustain damage in the water without having any effect on the watertight or structural integrity of the boat. Watertight compartments fore and aft offer flotation when intact and a collision buffer when impacted. The rudders are mounted on skegs and molded around rugged stainless posts that pass through state-of-the-art UHMV-PE plastic self-aligning bearings.
The twin inboard diesels with sail drives make a lot of sense in a 36-foot catamaran for a number of reasons. To begin with, unlike outboards, they are away from the elements and secured to dedicated mounts, a big plus when it comes to installing supplementary mechanical and electrical equipment. Secondly, they simply provide more charging capability -- an obvious benefit to any cruising sailor given the variety of electric and electronic gear available today.
In the case of the LRC, redundant 55-amp alternators port and starboard charge a 400-amp-hour house battery bank and a separate group-27 engine starting battery. The charging systems are isolated. A nicely organized electrical distribution panel directs all loads and monitoring, with neatly labeled wiring and plenty of room for additional circuitry. Items such as pressure water, additional galley appliances and enhanced entertainment amenities are simple to install.
Engine access is available on the port side through the aft cabin underneath the berth, and on the starboard side through a cockpit hatch and/or by means of a removable panel located in the head.
The interior layout is simple and straightforward. A large U-shaped settee facing aft with seating for six comprises the bridge deck area immediately inside. Down in the port hull live the galley with 12-feet of sensible counter space, a forward stateroom with its own queen-size berth, and an aft area that can be customized to include anything from a supplemental berth to a workshop or office. In the starboard hull are the head all the way aft with a roomy shower and even a wet locker, the navigation station amidship and then another stateroom forward mirroring what occurs on the port side. The nav area is particularly impressive, with a large 3' X 4'chart table that folds down and a well organized bulkhead console for the electrical panel, instrument repeaters and electronics. Finish work is adequate although not stunning. The look is that of smooth textured fiberglass accented with occasional ash veneer, teak trim, a teak and holly sole and a large teak dinette.
While not plush, the interior of the boat is certainly quite livable and an owner is not apt to find himself making a lot of sacrifices to enjoy it. Storage is well attended to in the form of hanging lockers, cabinets and cubbies. There is plenty of open space, but not at the expense of working elements such as the chart table, which is out of the way when shipped and positively generous when deployed. The head is spacious and capable of being virtually hosed down for simple maintenance. And ventilation is good, with opening side ports throughout the main living areas and opening deck hatches in every cabin.
Sail Plan and Performance
A deck-stepped Isomat spar is supported by a conventional headstay forward, a baby stay rigged at mid-deck, redundant permanent backstays to the hips, and a spreaderless sidestay arrangement that includes cap shrouds brought well outboard and aft, port and starboard, and aft lowers secured to chain plates on the cabin top that are held in place by stainless tension rods through the cabin itself and into the hull structure. A fully-battened mainsail and roller-furling overlapping genoa are complimented by an asymmetrical kite for spirited downwind work; a small working jib is provided for breezy conditions.
We sailed a loaded 36 LRC in light, drizzly conditions on Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, last fall. The breeze faltered between three and eight knots and seas were calm. The test boat was outfitted with twin 27-horsepower Volvo diesels, Sea Frost air conditioning, Glacier Bay cold plate refrigeration, a Sea Survivor water maker, a Raritan ice maker, a Seapower genset and various other specialty items. Certainly the vessel was impressive from a systems point of view, but as is the case with any multihull, increased displacement and performance are an unlikely pair. Suffice it to say, sail handling was simple, the organization of lines, winches, and stoppers convenient and user friendly. Although we moved nicely enough under sail to maintain good steerage and actually to produce our own apparant wind, nonetheless another ten knots of breeze would have provided more exiting grist for a sea story. In those conditions, the 27-horsepower Volvos made total sense.
However, testimony from owners who have sailed their 36s in heavier air points to more exhilarating behaviour and it is likely that this boat in a breeze should be both stable and quick. Speeds of 16 and 17 knots in 25 knots of wind are common, and shothanded crews of two and three report no hang-ups in the area of control and sail handling.
It is satisfying to see a builder address his product so specifically to the nuances of long range voyaging. The PDQ Mark II LRC is not a charter boat, nor a gunk-holer, nor an inshore day sailer; it is designed to be owner-optimized for serious cruising, and for a straight production boat it accomplishes the task well. It does not attempt to outdo the thoroughness of a custom project and as such it is not a complicated vessel. With substantial beam and a relatively low rig it is apt to keep you out of trouble in moderate conditions, and with a good eye to the mores of living aboard it is an attractive prospect for anyone with a yen for the distant horizon.