PDQ 32 Review

Review by Charles K. Chiodi, Multihulls Magazine March/April 1995.

With the sun slowly setting behind the skyline of Miami, the wind was dying, the telltales on the PDQ 32 we were about to test had a hard time staying in the horizontal in the orange glow reflecting from the clouds.

Nightfall came quickly as the sun dipped behind the Herald's building and the lights of Miami Beach started to reflect on the waterfront. From the shadows of the tiny island, hardly big enough to hoist a memorial statue, came the outline of another catamaran, also on a test run, perhaps for potential buyers. This was Miami Boat Show time, and the skippers were hard put to prove all the claims the salesmen made during the day.

Each morning and evening the show boats were let out of the corral when part of the docks were opened for demo rides and media inspection. The press mingled with potential buyers and listened to the dreams which they had come with, and the realization of facts they had learned during the day. They weren't too far apart, for most wanna-be skippers were surprisingly educated about multihulls. It was no longer a question of "should we switch to a catamaran" but rather "which one?"

Those on the PDQ 32 were already familiar with their design and the company that builds it through MM and other sources, it was just a matter of the "three-dimensional experience" - the final convincer. All of us aboard were aware of the lively nature of this newest breed from Alan Slater's drawing board, we just wanted to experience it. Thus it was not surprising that those of us on the wheel and winches were eager to keep distance between the PDQ 32 and the shadow of that catamaran that seemed to get a bit larger as time went by. It was too dark by now to identify it from the distance; all we knew was that we had to keep this cat going so as not to loose face by being overtaken. No, we were not racing, just, just... well, you know how it is when two boats are sailing in the same direction. It is more prominent when the company president, all his salesmen, a few potential buyers and the press is aboard. Of course, the same could well be the case on that other catamaran... all right, so we were racing, mentally.

We lost.

After about half an hour or so, the other cat caught up with us. It was the Catalina 411, no match for a 32 footer. The relief was bittersweet.

Being at the helm, I kept asking for local knowledge, for not being familiar with the area, the last thing I wanted to do is run aground or hit a finger pier in somebody's back yard in the dark. I was assured of plenty of water (she only needs little more than three feet), and it was quite daring (in my opinion) how close we came to those docks in the dark, before we tacked. It may have been a bit of bravado to show everyone the virtues of the PDQ 32, but just a small turn of the wheel accomplished a beautiful and very efficient "about face" - and we were shooting off in another direction. I am sure the self-tacking jib, with its curved track in front of the mast, had something to do with it. The tack of the jib is attached to an aluminum beam, as is the forestay, instead of the usual bridal seen on some other catamarans. This assures a better leading edge and a more efficient foresail which, too, accounts for easier tacking.

By the way, we never touched anyone's dock (although I thought we could have if I had leaned out far enough). Naaaaw... it just seemed so in the dark.

The wind, if you could call it that, was never more than five knots, mostly less, but the cat moved nicely at about 3-4 knots with eight people aboard. This may not be the speed you get in the same wind when you have a full tank of water and fuel, your bilge is your wine cellar, and your provisions on board are ample for a months cruise. I don't know how pretty damn quick this 32-footer would move then, but I sure would love to find out. (Shucks, I don't have a spare month).

Going below deck is easy when the 10-foot wide sliding hatch is open, you better duck if it is not.

The saloon is richly appointed, light and airy with a panoramic view. The dining room table converts to a double berth. The hulls also have a double berth athwartship in the aft quarter, the starboard side being the owner's cabin with more space and storage than the one in the port hull. Also in the starboard hull, amidships, is a spacious navigation station and more storage. Up forward are the head and shower with sump pump.

The port hull has the galley, large by 32-footer standards, with a double burner stove, oven, double sink with pressure water, and a 4-cubic-foot propane/110 volt refrigerator.

There are plenty of hatches and opening ports to provide adequate ventilation, even in southern climates - a very thoughtful feature from a builder who is frozen and snowed in a good portion of the year.

Power is provided by twin 4-stroke Yamaha 9.9 hp outboards, widely spaced under cockpit seats, assuring a turning radius within the boat's length. They provide approximately 7 knots of speed, depending on sea conditions.

The cockpit is deeper than any of the catamarans I ever sailed on. In bad weather it will give you a very secure (and cozy) feeling. A high chair (not the children's kind) provides the helmsman with the ability to see above the cabin top. Those on the benches are out of luck looking forward. A hard top over the sliding hatch and a good portion of the cockpit is a godsend in rain or under scorching sun alike. It has two skylights for checking the set of the mainsail. Steps incorporated into the transom and a swim ladder on the starboard side make getting in and out of the water easy.

Both hulls have fin keels for better lateral resistance, and are built with a sacrificial section to protect the hulls in case of accidental grounding or collision with stubborn flotsam.

For those who need to know the ingredients: the hulls are built with triaxial glass and AME 5000 resin, solid below the waterline, Klegecell foam sandwich above. The main crossbeams are reinforced with carbon fiber, the forward beam is aluminum with a gull-striker. The jib is self-tending, the mainsail is fully battened, the mast is a simple extrusion with a single diamond stay.

I predict that the PDQ 32 will be a success, like her big sister, the 36, not only because it is a good, no-nonsense design, but also because it is built by people who are conscientious, honest, and good at what they are doing. If you want to check it out, ask Simon Slater - or anyone at PDQ Yachts - to show you around.