Signature 4000 Flybridge
What kind of craft does a big boat builder buy? John Haines found a boat that appealed to his instincts. It was a long-range cruiser that sipped fuel rather than gulped it - perfect for today's world - had loads of liveaboard space, was well built, seaworthy and ready for coastal voyages.
But for the average retiree looking for a part-time passagemaker and occasional liveaboard boat, the Signature 4000 Flybridge should be big enough. In these times of high fuel prices, a boat like this is particularly relevant.
This 4000 models has seen some sea miles. Haines delivered one to a Sydney Boat Show and made it back home in 23 hours, including a three-hour stop in Coffs Harbour for fuel. The delivery to Sydney was in punishing 4-5m headseas, conditions that don't usually suit cats.
But by angling the bows off the waves and buttoning the hull down to a low planing speed using the trim tabs, the boat has a go-anywhere attitude, maintains John Junior. During my ocean voyage, the cat definitely performed better with a touch of in-trim to button the bows down.
The hull is from Alan Wright and Angelo Lavranos, internationally recognised designers who have over 4000 vessels in the water from trailer yachts to superyachts. In recent times, power catamarans have been the boom area of their NZ-based business.
Wright and Lavranos have designed more than 60 powercats in the 10-20m range and expect to design almost that many again in bigger sizes. These two have spent a lot of time perfecting what John Junior calls a "displaning hull".
The Signature 4000 Flybridge cat has bulbous forward sections and loads of flotation in flat aft sections. The hull reduces in volume about one-third of the way back from the bow, where most monohulls are at their widest.
The idea is to create a fore and aft lift using minimal effort and power. The props are in semi-tunnels and have a flattish angle of attack for efficiency. The hull was perfected on some dozen or so aluminum and cold-molded cats before this 40-footer came along, said John Junior.
Even the construction method used by the Kiwi company is a little different to your run-of-the-mill production yard. Epoxy and microballoons are used instead of bog to fair the hull. High Modulus, a company well known for its involvement with America's Cup yachts, designed the laminate specifications.
Carbon-fibre and kevlar feature in critical areas of the composite construction, giving strength and making weight savings. The boat hasn't revealed any structural problems as a result of its interstate sea trials.
While the modern and relatively lightweight materials don't translate to the quietest of rides at sea - especially at low speed when water shunts through the tunnel despite the presence of a wave-breaker ? the relatively light hull has the efficiency to win buyers.
CUSTOM CAT FINISH
Another attraction is that the finish is to customer specifications. This 40-footer has a cork cockpit sole, custom stainless steel work, intricate moldings with molded doors on the hatches, and generally clever use of available space.
The interior has a contemporary feel derived from steamed European beech and NZ rimu joinery, a mocha-coloured leather lounge, camel-toned carpets and Granicoat counters. The head is a fully molded, easy-clean, white number.
Otherwise, there is plenty to cheer about thanks to abundant natural light filtering through big saloon windows and a cool summer breeze blowing in through the opening portholes.
Boats owned by serious cruising aficionados tend to have covered outdoor areas. The cockpit on the Signature 4000 Flybridge was a living area with protection from the elements and room to partake in watersports.
Offering direct access to the water, the boat's full-width boarding platform works like a balcony and makes the most of the wide 4.35m beam. There is a recessed swim ladder, room to tote a RIB on brackets and plenty of space to plonk a chair or towel.
Handrails and custom-made stainless steel protectors for the mooring lines look nice and solid. And the double transom doors to port and starboard prevent traffic jams.
With full screens and shade from the optional flybridge extension, you could cruise a tropical river without fear of mozzies, midgies or sunstroke. At anchor in that tropical setting, the cockpit will be a comfortable place to fire up a rail-mounted barbie or bait the crab pots.
There are also hatches about the cockpit, some with dedicated rope holders, for stowing lines, others for connecting the shore power, stowing paddles, gaffs and suchlike. Deck gear includes four-rod holders, teak covering boards and a lockable fuel filler locker with a drain.
Naturally, refrigeration is a strong point of this cruising boat. A molded 150lt icebox with 12V fridge unit was built in against the saloon bulkhead. A tackle locker is above it and alongside is a huge storage well running under the central molded staircase to the flybridge.
DOWN AND AROUND
Three molded steps lead from the cockpit to the sidedecks, which are backed by bow and hand rails and, as with most cats, lead to a flat and functional foredeck. In fact, there is enough room up front for carrying six adults on calm-water cruises.
Twin pulpit seats on the bowrail provide an additional spot for couples to enjoy sundowners or wait with a baited line. You could also take on passengers over the bow or partake in some dolphin spotting. The boat also had twin anchor lockers up front, a Maxwell windlass, room to stow fenders and a saltwater washdown.
Back in the cockpit, four lockable floor hatches lift up to reveal the twin Yanmar 6LYA-ST motors of 370 HP each The shafts are 1.5in numbers spinning four-blade props..
The fuel tanks run up the centreline above the tunnel. There are two tanks, one for day boating duties and the other as a backup for long-range cruising.
UP WE GO
The bridge is reached via an excellent centrally located molded staircase in the cockpit. Eight steps and you are there.
The bridge extension doubles as a great spot from which to muse and cruise. There are safety rails and two seats.
Tinted clear side curtains and headroom beneath a hardtop help add to the comfort. A lounge to port can accommodate up to four people.
Storage exists under the bases for lifejackets, and there is plenty of room out the back or on the foredeck for the liferaft.
The skipper gets a swivel bucket seat to starboard before a molded dash with carbon-fibre facia.
DEEP DOWN CABINS
As with all cats of this size, you step down either side of the saloon into the port and starboard hulls.
Both port and starboard cabins are private because a tunnel separates them. The layout of the cabins is similar: each has an elevated double bed with reading lights beside a big wall with room to swing a painting.
Some video links I took recently
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