Our September Sea Trial found us in Anacortes, Washington. Norbert and Sandy Tasler of Anchor Land & Sea invited us to test a new 32-foot Zeta Powercat. We expected the catamaran experience to be "different," and we were not disappointed.
The Zetas are built in Richmond B.C. Fit and finish is extremely good. The gelcoat is flawless and bright, the joinery precisely fit with and elegant burnish, and the metal exactly formed, connected and fastened. A critical eye fails to discover evidence of sloppy shortcuts in any obscure compartments of the craft.
A pair of Volvo diesels powers the Zeta 32, one in each "ama" or hull. The engines are located well aft, under hatches in the cockpit. Service access is certainly more than adequate, but perhaps less than ideal.
Catamarans provide enormous interior space (at least above decks) well out of proportion with single hulled boats with identical length overall. The beamy layout (14 feet!) almost creates an impression of room to square dance in the salon.
The master stateroom on the latest model Zeta 32 is most forward, with access to the chain locker and miscellaneous stowage beyond the forward bulkhead. The rode is hauled into a designated box on the vessel's centerline, but the access door is over the port hull.
An awkward approach to the chain locker was one of the few compromises imposed by the catamaran design. The master berth is an island queen and surrounded by a well engineered system of lockers and drawers. Large and more elaborate master staterooms are commonly encountered, but almost never on 32 foot boats.
The head is convenient to both the salon and the master stateroom, located just aft of the stateroom in the port hull. In addition to the expected marine toilet and hand basin, the head features a separate shower stall, another amenity reasonably uncommon on a 32 footer.
The lower helm is on centerline, and the short foredeck places the skipper far enough forward that there should be little concern about beam compromising visibility. We ran the Zeta from the lower station for the entire trial, with a clear view of the surface at all times. Any drift is likely to be seen and avoided, rather than discovered by the potentially disastrous "Braille boat" method.
A standard under counter refridgerator/freezer is installed under the pilot's seat, facing aft into the salon. The galley console is to starboard, with a generous food-prep surface, a stainless steel sink, and a LPG cook top and oven.
Even at 32 feet, the Zeta can comfortably accommodate a second couple or some kids. The settee, aft of the galley, extends to create a queen sized berth. When converting between settee and berth, the cushions slide almost effortlessly on a nifty frame and rail system designed by Zeta.
The amazing beam of the Zeta allows enough space for an enormous cabin and a big cockpit. Fishermen will find room to troll or mooch in comfort, or there is plenty of space for a folding table and chairs to allow socializing on deck. Access to the flybridge is up a flight of curved steps molded against the starboard side of the aft cabin bulkhead: no scrambling up potentially slippery vertical ladders as on many smaller flybridge boats. Many flybridge cruisers in smaller sizes can be slightly rocky in beam seas, as a higher center of gravity levers against a 10 or 11 foot beam. Rather obviously, the Zeta 32 has a far more than adequate beam to provide stable support for the flybridge.
After a thorough tour, we got underway. Once away from the dock, Norbert invited us to take the controls. The wide distance between the props moves the effective pivot point farther aft on a Zeta than on a typical twin screw boat. After an immediate adjustment to a vessel that seemed to turn on its own true center, we easily executed a series of tight 90 degree turns and exited the Cap Sante breakwater. We motored down the channel and rounded the buoy toward Guemes Channel. At a channel speed of five knots, the Volvos loafed at quiet idle and the wake was little more than a ripple.
"Let me show you something that's just a little bit different on a catamaran," suggested Norbert. "Go ahead and throttle right up to almost full." During the first split second, the Zeta responded by settling stern first into the freshly created holes under the props. As the wheels began to bite, we experienced a unique acceleration that would probably plot on a graph as a compound curve. The faster we went, the faster the boat wanted to go. We reached a point where the hulls achieved an efficient plane, and we shot forward as if completely unrestrained. In a matter of only seconds we had progressed from slow idle to skimming through a light chop at about 30 knots. The experience was not unlike accelerating a turbo-charged automobile.
Norbert called out attention to the wake. For a powerboat traveling at a good turn of speed, the Zeta's wake was minimal. One of the oddest phenomena of summer cruising has to be the clueless boater who jams up the VHF hailing channel to question the pedigree, disparage the boating skills and defame the brand selection of some other party who has left an inappropriate wake. With boats that produce such moderate wakes, Zeta owners are not likely to be the subject of such "friendly" chatter.
We flew down Guemes Channel. The wind speed was only about 10 knots, and conditions were unfortunately calm. A fleet of larger cruisers motored out of Cap Sante, perhaps a club or squadron headed for a weekend in the San Juans. "Hot dog! We've got some wakes!"
As we crossed the first wake, the Zeta 32 barely flinched at the impact. Bow lift was almost nonexistent, and the experience wa reasonably impressive. The next wake was notably larger, and we quartered into it at a good speed. The Zeta stepped lightly across the water, one hull at a time. One could compare the catamaran characteristic to a mono hull by imagining two men climbing stairs. The "mono hull" climber would be a man with both feet bound together and who had no choice but to jump from step to step. The "catamaran" climber would be a man taking one step at a time, transferring his weight to one foot while reaching up to the next level with the other.
We ran the wakes several times, never once encountering a situation that would have slopped coffee from a very full cup.
A few catamaran characteristics would require a bit of adjustment. The is an odd sensation created by centrifugal force in a high speed turn, and the smooth ride reduces the sensation of speed to the point where a boater could be traveling much faster than realized.
Running the Zeta 32 was a blast: a wonderful reminder of why our pastime is called "pleasure" boating. When we returned (somewhat reluctantly) to Cap Sante, Norbert demonstrated the Zeta's agility in a rather dramatic manner. In the middle of a 70 foot fairway, with only about 40 feet of open water between vessels moored on either side, he set the throttles fore and aft and we rotated several times with very little margin for error. It was easy to accept that a competent skipper with a bit of experience should be able to waltz a Zeta 32 through almost any dockside maneuvers a situation might require.
A speedy cruising boat with a lot of room, good sea keeping ability, diesel economy and reliability, and attractive style offered at a relatively affordable price. Boat shoppers with some of all of those characteristics on the "want list" would be well served by visiting Anchor Land & Sea in Anacortes and becoming acquainted with the Zeta 32. It wouldn't be fair to conclude that the Zeta 32 is "a lot of boat for a 32 footer." The Zeta 32 is a lot of boat, period.
(Source: Nor'westing Boating Magazine or norwesting.com)
Details are thought to be reliable but are not guaranteed.
Offer subject to change, prior sale and tax when applicable.
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