In my mid-fifties, with advancing arthritis and a wife uninterested in cruising or boating in general, I faced a
dilemma: what kind of boat should I buy to continue cruising after selling my sailboat? I had cruised
extensively – from South Africa westwards to Australia – in a sailboat, but always had to hire someone to
assist me and I wanted to get away from that. My sailboat was an Atlantic 42 catamaran and I knew that I
wanted to stay with a multihull because of all their many advantages, such as stability, shallow draft,
interior space to water-length ratio, speed, efficiency, etc. And I knew that I preferred a design by Chris
White because he is a vastly experienced cruiser himself whose main concern is seaworthiness. I also had
business dealings with Chris and found him to be quite good to work with and highly ethical, which is
important in undertaking a project as large as selecting and buying, perhaps even building, a yacht.
I felt that the size of boat that would best fit my needs as a singlehander was in the under 35’ range due to
linehandling, etc., but still large enough to allow my 6’1” size some headroom. I don’t like boating with lots
of people aboard, so I didn’t want a condomaran anyway. I test-sailed Corsair and Dragonfly trimarans,
but found them all too small and crowded, and the Corsairs too cheaply constructed and outfitted, for me
to want to cruise in them. I even traveled to look at JBoat keelboats, but decided that their drafts were too
limiting for the kind of cruising I hope to do. In googling for information on the web, I somehow came
across Multihull Development and their Buzzards Bay 32 (now a 33), which immediately caught my
attention as it was a Chris White design. In considering a powerboat for the first time I thought how
marvelous to be able to cruise at speeds faster than 6-8 knots, with the ability to go under almost all
bridges, to travel more without the worry of too little or too much wind or whether the wind was from the
right direction, and without all those lines for my arthritic hands to manipulate. After several inquiries with
both Multihull Development and Chris White, such as making certain that there was good clearance under
the bridgedeck, I arranged a trial run on the prototype boat.
On first sight at the dock, the BB32-prototype was larger than I expected, probably because of the
freeboard that allows the excellent underwing clearance, but still seemed manageable and certainly
seaworthy. Aboard, the beam really became apparent, from the foredeck to the cabin to the cockpit and
the platforms over the outdrives. The powerboat aesthetic differs somewhat from that of sailboats, of
course, but I found the lines of the BB32 overall quite nice. I had assumed that I would not like the roar of
the engines, especially as the prototype has an open cabin aft, but was pleasantly surprised to find the
Volvo-Penta 140 hp engines not as loud as I feared, and the earplugs I was later issued I found of little
use. At the cruising speeds we traveled there is a lot of noise regardless. We had a pleasant ride out
from the dock through the Fort Lauderdale canals to the Port Everglades inlet, but Russell Hunt of Multihull
Development, and Allen Willis, the boatowner, warned me that the ride to the outside might be
uncomfortable as we faced classic wind-versus-tide conditions. Indeed the chop was quite bad and
virtually no one else was venturing out, but those few minutes of fighting the confused seas out the inlet
convinced me that this was one incredibly seaworthy boat. If we had been in a monohull we would have
rolled from gunnel to gunnel, but in the BB32 we only had to hang on while standing as we bounded out
the pass at 20 knots, going mostly up and down with little roll. The thrashing lasted just a short time, then,
due to our speed, it was over and we were outside the jetties and in the relatively gentle swell and so could
increase our speed to 25.
When I first read about the BB32 on the MD website, I thought to myself, who would want to go 25 knots on
anything but a lake or a flat sea? On the ocean those speeds are for Coast Guard cutters, not yacht-
cruisers. But my experience on the BB32 at the Port Everglades inlet convinced me otherwise. Even
though we went airborne a couple of times and crashed down in the mean seas, I never felt danger or any
fear. I saw that with those speeds we could clear the chop quickly and be free to continue in less
boisterous waters. After the inlet the rest of the trial run was anticlimactic, just turning in circles, adjusting
the trim level of the outdrives, speeding up to 30 knots, running on one engine, and that sort of thing.
Going back we faced the same tumultuous inlet, of course, and I found it exciting after the ho-hum test-run
around the outside.
One other thing I noticed: whereas on my sailboat we occasionally heard loud slamming, mostly when
going downwind, as waves banged on the underwing reverberating throughout the boat, on the BB32-
prototype I heard none even in very boisterous conditions. During my subsequent long trip on the same
boat I likewise never experienced the slamming so characteristic, I thought, of cruising cats.
Subsequently I heard that Allen, the boatowner, was planning to move the boat to Cape Cod and so I
finagled my way into crewing with him so I could learn more about the impressive BB32. We left in mid-
April. With over 30 trips transversing the Florida-Massachusetts route, Allen was the perfect mentor for my
first powerboat cruising experience. It was really more of a delivery than a cruise, as we had no dinghy
and Allen was pushing the boat, trying to average 25 knots whenever possible, not trying to adjust speed
for comfort. We started the trip offshore in calm seas and – something new for this sailor – actually outran
rainclouds over the mid-Florida coast, but finally had to come inside at Georgetown, South Carolina, after
being hit by a front that churned up 6-8’ waves in 30’ of water. Even then we probably averaged about 22
knots, as the boat would slow to 20 on the backside of a passing wave then jump again to 25 or more on
the front. Occasionally we would fall into troughs with a bang, making the ride uncomfortable, and
although Allen and I both ate candied ginger, the boat didn’t seem affected, and for the violent conditions I
was very impressed with both the boat’s stability and her speed. Her performance reinforced my opinion
formed at the trial run that she is an excellent sea-boat. Even at those speeds in those waves we could
not bury the bows, nor did we ever during the whole trip even come close.
I got my first taste of the ICW there in South Carolina, and found much of the route lovely and attractively
undeveloped, and some disappointingly crowded with condos and massive construction sites on scalped
shoreline. I also found out just what an outstanding boat the BB32 is for easy coastal or river cruising.
For one thing she has shallow draft, opening up more area to explore and making it easier to avoid other
boats. For another, the BB32’s relatively low to the water aspect allowed us free access under more
bridges than most other vessels. Of course, we could maintain higher overall speed than just about
anyone else, too. And when demands for “No Wake” are posted, the BB32 can go much faster than
monohulls without throwing a wake, although she always spouts three impressive roostertails. One might
think that with two hulls a boat would leave a greater wake that a boat with only one hull. But it appears to
me (someone may know better) that the inside of the wake from each hull collides with one another, and
this collision of the inside wakes seems to cancel one another out, so that all you’re left with is the outside
wakes just as with a monohull. Moreover, it also seems to me that the roostertails dissipate much of the
force of the water upward rather than along the surface of the water in a wake. In trimming the outdrives
Allen noted that the higher the roostertails the higher the SOG.
Somewhere in South Carolina we noticed something wrong with one of the motors: the port one was
requiring about 6 more gallons at every major re-fueling stop. We checked all the vitals and couldn’t find
the cause of the discrepancy until finally, a couple of days later, Allen reached down in the water and felt
the propellers and found that the forward one (the outdrives have duo-props) had a 3” x 1” chunk missing
off the tip of one of its blades. When the damage occurred was unclear. We had been traveling with the
damaged prop for about 3 days, noticing a bit different RPM as well as the excessive fuel usage, yet never
experiencing vibration or major loss of speed. Volvo-Penta shipped a replacement overnight and after
losing only a half day we were underway in top condition again, although there is no doubt that we could
have made the entire trip without the replacement. The actual work involved to change the props hardly
took 10 minutes.
After battling tough conditions in shortcuts across both Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds (although battling
them quickly), we went back outside at Norfolk and stayed there all the way to Cape Cod, except for going
in and looking at Manhattan and going down Long Island Sound. Because of the propeller replacement we
were not able to leave Norfolk until a bit after noon, yet still managed to make Cape May, NJ that evening.
The next day we left about 7 a.m. and made it all the way to Cape Cod before dark, including some slow
sightseeing in the boat around the Statue of Liberty and along the East River in Manhattan. The distance
you can cover when cruising at 25 knots is amazing: one and a half days from Norfolk to Cape Cod! The
East Coast being as unattractive as it is from the sea – flat, often crowded – I was glad to be able to speed
on by, not having to endure 24 hours to make only 175 nm. When we finally encountered attractive
places, like Manhattan, parts of Long Island, Cuttyhunk, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs at Martha’s Vineyard,
and the like, we would slow and cadillac around as desired.
Before the trip I asked Allen what the total distance from Fort Lauderdale to his home port in Cape Cod
would be. As experienced as he is, he didn’t have to think and blurted out that the total distance would be
1400 nm. After seven days underway, when we finally tied up to his dock in Massachusetts, the trip meter
on his chartplotter showed 1404 nm! In those 1400 nm we ran the engines 73 hours and used 696 gallons
of diesel or around 2 nm per gallon, and 9.5 gallons per hour, at an average rate of speed of 19.2 knots
with the boat relatively fully loaded. The fuel consumption thus was miserly compared to most
powerboats. The tie to fuel docks, of course, is the biggest single transition one has to make when
changing from sail to power, the rest being relatively minor. For example, on the longest leg of my sailboat
cruising – 3100 nm from the Galapagos to the Marquesas – we used only 21 gallons of diesel. If it were
possible to carry such an amount, the BB33, based on the prototype’s performance on our delivery trip,
would require 1550 gallons for the same distance at the same average speed. But of course, that leg
would only take about one-third the 17 days it did on my sailboat.
Although the BB32 was magnificent in its performance, this prototype requires a couple of improvements,
in my opinion. For one thing, the fuel fills are poorly placed and require you to balance precariously on
the sidedecks when using. Also the rubrail forward bends down under the curvature of the flared bow so
that it does not really protect much. I addressed these and a couple of other less substantial problems
with Russell Hunt of Multihull Development, who was well aware of them already, and he assures me that
the production model will correct them, and he pointed out other refinements, including another chine on
the hulls, an elongated stern, different interior trim, etc.
One other problem with the boat that this delivery trip brought out to me is that an outdrive configuration is
inherently vulnerable to damage by debris, and it is my understanding that no protection can be added.
The worst-case scenario involves damaging the outdrives themselves, requiring major expense, while the
bad-case scenario requires simple propeller replacement at a cost of about $700 (a set of duo-props
should be among the spares kept aboard). The BB33 has a hull draft of 18”, a 22”draft with the drives up,
and 32” with them down. With the drives up skegs on the drives offer some protection, but it would be
impossible to trim the drives all the way up quickly enough when traveling with any speed at all. The drives
themselves have pressure relief valves that are effective in absorbing blows and tilting the units up in
speeds up to about 15 knots, and using aluminum or composite props, rather than stainless, also serve to
absorb or deflect blows better without transferring the force of the blow to the outdrives themselves. But
there is no real solution other than avoidance.
On this delivery trip I was fortunate to be able to see a master helmsman at work in Allen Willis. His expert
handling of the boat made it all look so simple, but I realize that I will require a long time behind the helm to
approach anywhere near his proficiency. One thing I learned is that with adequate rubrails, pilings can be
used for leverage to swing an end of the boat out. As a sailboater I saw pilings only as something to avoid
or tie to.
I have decided to take the plunge and go ahead and buy the Buzzards Bay 33. I know my wife will prefer it
over a sailboat, for one thing, as she finds cruising in sailboats both tedious and too technical. In a
powerboat you just start the engines, untie and take off, avoiding all the sail and line preparation required
on a sailboat, and so the learning curve will not overwhelm her as it did on my sailboat. The BB33 will also
allow me to cruise for a couple of weeks at a time and cover substantial distances, where my sailboat
required a couple of months, and it is relatively fuel-efficient for a powerboat. With the 12’ beam and the
twin engines the BB33 is a dream to maneuver in marinas and around fuel docks, although I must say, on
the other hand, that because she is a catamaran the boat is not as responsive as monohulls in turning at
higher speeds, as was evident on this trip when trying to dodge the thousands of crabpots we
encountered, especially in Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. I didn’t find this to be a problem, however.
When I cruise on my BB33, I plan on doing things a bit differently than we did on this delivery trip, such as
adjust speed to the sea conditions more for comfort, anchor out, fish (won’t be trolling at speed, though),
and cook more often (although as the stove has no clips and the refrig is not toploading, it is only possible
to cook at anchor or in the lightest seas), and use a dinghy (although I haven’t yet exactly figured out how I
will carry one – I certainly can’t pull one at those speeds!). I may even run her often on one engine, as I
did on my sailboat, to increase range (at 3000 rpms the prototype made 18 knots on one engine, but we
could not calculate fuel consumption). I think the BB33 will make an exceptional boat for the Bahamas,
and I plan to go there soon after launch. As my boat will have a diesel heater (the lack of one on the
prototype forced us to stay in marinas so we could plug in an electric heater), and because the corecell
construction offers superb insulation and retards condensation, she should also be a good coldwater boat
in which I hope to explore both the Maritime Provinces and the Great Lakes. Her relatively small size
makes her shippable as freight, too, and I would like to take her to the Pacific Northwest and perhaps even
Europe someday and explore not only the coastal areas of Britain, and the Mediterranean and Baltic seas,
but also the rivers.
The Buzzards Bay 33 is exactly the nimble, fast, and efficient boat I hoped she would be, and I can’t wait to
get started cruising in one.
A Sailor Switches to Power
The adventures of m/y Anna