SI Vault
Hugh Whall
February 01, 1965
As wide and stable as a barge, as swift as a 12-meter, as luxurious as an ocean liner, this cruising catamaran is all things to all sailors
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February 01, 1965

A Fat Cat Is Three Boats In One

As wide and stable as a barge, as swift as a 12-meter, as luxurious as an ocean liner, this cruising catamaran is all things to all sailors

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There will always be traditionalists to argue the contrary, but an increasing number of yachtsmen today are slowly coming around to the view that if one hull is good then two hulls are even better. One such sailorman is Robert C. Graham, a New York art dealer who has spent much of his time in the past sailing other people's boats around the Caribbean Sea. "Most of the boats I chartered," says Graham, "were old, slow, cramped and uncomfortable. Moreover, because of their deep keels, they couldn't go into shallow bays and inlets."

To overcome this drawback to lazy cruising for himself and others in the future, Graham formed the Four Seasons Charter Corporation and sought the help of one of New York's smoothest yacht designing teams: practical, efficient, 44-year-old Frank MacLear and his partner, day-dreaming, tweedy Robert Harris, 42. Together, Harris and MacLear considered Graham's problem and produced Stranger, the cruising catamaran shown at left. Newly launched and under charter in the West Indies, Stranger is the largest sailing catamaran ever built of aluminum. She is 52 feet long, ketch-rigged, as high off the water as a powerboat, as wide (21 feet) and as stable as a river barge, and as shallow-drafted as a day sailer. To prospective charterers who want Park Avenue amenities even at sea. Stranger's interior offers the privacy of a duplex with such luxurious extras as hi-fi, TV. deepfreeze, a bar, showers and divans. For those with more competitive instincts, her broad stern is equipped with the latest in fish-fighting chairs.

Stranger's power plant—two outdrive units hooked up to a pair of 100-hp Mercedes-Benz diesels—can push her along at 12 knots. Because her twin centerboards, rudders and twin screws can all be raised, she is able to slide into shallows only four feet deep. When the wind is blowing and her 1,441 feet of working sail is spread, Stranger moves along easily at 15 knots. When her big genoa or still bigger 2,100-foot spinnaker is spread, she is capable of going even faster.

Unlike single-hulled, ballasted keelboats, a catamaran, once capsized, will not right itself. But where a keelboat would plummet to the bottom if filled with water Stranger will stay afloat much longer—an important safety factor. Stranger's luxury, comfort and efficiency have not come cheap. She has already cost Owner Graham something close to $150,000. And if that seems like a lot of money for just one boat, it is. But, as Robert Derecktor, the man who built Stranger, points out: "Graham is not getting just one boat. He's getting three: two motorboats joined together by a sailboat."

Fighting chairs on a sailboat are as rare as baseball gloves at a football game. But Graham's Stranger is fitted with two chairs, both of which can be mounted either on her broad afterdeck or in her cockpit. The spacious cockpit is even equipped with a specially designed coaming so that the angler can brace his feet securely. Within easy reach of both the fighting chairs are fish and live bait wells.

The pleasures of civilized living, in Graham's view, are grimly lacking in most cruising sailboats whose necessarily cramped interiors are notably short of adequate bathroom facilities. His Stranger, therefore, is equipped with four heads (toilets) and three separate shower baths. The separation between the vessel's port and starboard hulls is as absolute as that of master's and servants' quarters in a Long Island mansion. The port hull (below) houses two deckhands, the galley (with a freezer, gas stove, oven and subtly arranged lockers) and a cabin for the captain and his wife. Stranger's permanent skipper is a young New Zealander named Van der Sloot, whose wife serves as galley boss, housekeeper and chaperone. The charterer's own quarters and those of his guests are in the starboard hull where narrow but bright staterooms with wide bunks and private showers provide the comforts of a pretty fine home.

Stranger's 15-x-15-foot deckhouse is as pleasantly relaxing as a living room in a country house. Sunk three steps below deck level and built on the "wing" that connects the cat's two hulls, it is designed to appeal to fisherman, motorboatman, sailor or lounger. The living room (calling it a "saloon" somehow seems wrong) is carpeted wall to wall and boasts such nautical necessities as a cocktail table with bar underneath, dinette with forward exposure, a TV set and a table that converts to a double bed. A hi-fi and record player make music below—and even on deck—through a waterproof speaker. However, since Stranger is also designed to go places, in one corner, seeming a little out of place in these urban surroundings, are a chart table, oilskin locker and Stranger's elaborate electronic navigation gear.

A dense forest of winches, cranks, lines and gadgets makes Stranger one of the easiest of all boats to handle whether she is moving under sail or under power. Clustered around the cockpit are Barient winches as complex as those aboard a 12-meter or a crack ocean racer to smooth the handling of her running rigging. Because it is difficult for a helmsman to get a clear view diagonally across her high deckhouse, Stranger has a steering wheel on each hull for better vision, though only the starboard station has throttle, gear controls and instrument panel. Both steering stations have armchairlike stools and compasses. And only an armstretch away from the helmsman are jam cleats that allow him to ease the mainsheet with a quick snatch in case of a sudden squall. Even with her biggest spinnaker set, however, Stranger sits on the water as stiffly as a house on land. Those who have sailed on her so far have faced no problem more formidable than how to open the next can of beer or bait the next hook.