Once in awhile a small yacht is introduced that changes the way similar yacht designers and builders look at their vessels. Larry Graf – the guy who helped Glacier Bay Catamarans become the powerhouse designer/builder they have – founded Aspen Power Catamarans in 2007. He designed the Aspen Cat C90, a 28’ cruiser, to be what no other catamaran could be, and to be what owners really wanted. Graf put his 20 years experience (as President and CEO) with Glacier Bay Cats, along with his desire to build a new line of “smart adventure yachts” (28’-48’), to work on the 28-footer, and the result has been a spectacular new boat that is worth consideration by catamaran-lovers and mono-hull enthusiasts alike.
Now all you twin-engine fans are going screw up your faces and say, “what?”, when I tell you that the Aspen Cat C90, a catamaran, is a single-engine boat. Though Graf incorporated many innovations into the boat, his “single diesel power proa” drive design, a patent-pending hull and engine arrangement, is perhaps the most revolutionary. In short, the single Yanmar 110 or Cummins 380 diesel is positioned in the starboard hull, and to port is a hull that, while looking similar in profile to the other, is 35% thinner and 50% more efficient than the other hull … and displaces 35% less water than does the powered hull. Also, the engine-less hull doesn’t have the drive gear (prop, shaft, skeg, etc.) to add to its drag, and therefore has a ‘smoother’ hydro-effect on the water. The net results of this asymmetrical hull design, what Aspen Power Catamarans calls the SeaGlider System, are that the boat runs straight, gets truly extraordinary fuel burn stats (3gph at 16nmh!), is lightweight relative to the competition (due, largely, to severe reduction in machinery weight) and is a decidedly earth-friendlier boat.
The Aspen Cat C90 is trailerable, but has a beam of 10’, which means that every tow requires a permit in most states. That same 10’ beam, however, gave the designers lots to work with in fashioning the vessel’s interior which proved important to a design team who wanted to “take the pocket out of pocket cruiser”. Entering off the cockpit, which has room for two folding chairs (and two lazarettes), the galley is to port and the dinette to starboard, with helm to port and the navigator’s seat alongside the sunken, enclosed head to starboard. Forward you find one of the more prominent reminders that you’re aboard a catamaran, a king bed in the forward sleeping accommodations, complimented by a good deal of storage space. There is also a ¼ berth to port, under the galley, which serves one child (grandchild?) or provides extra storage. The dinette, which seats four, can also be converted into a double bed. The boat is warmed by Burmese Teak throughout.
The C90’s helm and navigation seats are well-thought-through. Seating is per comfortable Bentley seats (and an extra large model is available as an option). The helm is laid out practically and efficiently by people who obviously have experience piloting this type of boat. Larry Graf has some pretty incredible catamaran trips in his Glacier Bay history, including a run to Bermuda (728 miles), Siberia (256 miles), Midway Island (1364 miles) and Alaska (2700 miles) so he knew what he wanted at the helm and how to arrange it.
There is no compromise in the equipment chosen by Aspen Power Catamarans, and it can include a Garmin plot charter and radar, Side Thruster bow and stern thrusters, ICOM VHF radio, SmartCraft vessel monitoring, Sensatank tankage level monitors, BlueSea battery switches, fuse panels, in-line fuses, electrical panels and circuit breakers, and Lenco trim tabs. The ship’s tilt wheel is metal and is positioned like a car wheel for comfort underway, and includes a turning knob for close quarters maneuvering. Many of these items are options, and so aren’t included with the boat at the basic price.
Other name brands that are/can be used in the C90 include a Twin Disc transmission, Wallace 30D diesel heater, Simpson-Lawrence windless, Promariner Chargers, Mase generators and Bentley seats. A 10k pound capacity trailer is available from Float-On Trailers, and a dinghy package from Zodiac Boats is recommended. A dinghy launch and storage system which utilizes the boat’s swim platform is offered from Weaver Davits. Aspen Cats has chosen top-cabin brands for a quality yacht.
One of the ways the C90 is “earth friendly” is that it comes with two solar panels and a solar charger monitor that assists in keeping the batteries charged. The operator-independent system, using the Blue Sky Solar Boost 2000E charge controller, inputs up to 11 amps of charge amperage to the batteries. As the vessel’s batteries become charged, the automatic controller ramps down to avoid overcharging, and it shuts down completely if it senses one of the other charge generators (engine, A/C battery chargers, generator, shore power, etc.). The solar controller features a convenient slide switch and LCD display that enables the boat owner to monitor the charge level in each battery or bank.
There is designed-in storage throughout the boat, including port and starboard lazarettes, a propane tank compartment with shore cable storage in the cockpit, a big transom storage compartment, and several storage lockers found in the interior of the vessel. The builder encourages carrying sea kayaks on the top of the boat and there is a rack system available to those who share that interest.
The only door to the boat is the cockpit door, which features a glass upper half that gives the C90’s skipper a good aft view. The lack of other doors does a lot for the designer’s goal of making the interior comfortable and “home like”. Quality windows and four overhead hatches provide light and ventilation. An emergency escape hatch affords ventilation and a “sunroof” over the spacious bed forward. The feel on board is one of spaciousness and convenience vs. confinement.
If I were looking for a boat right now, whether a single or twin hull, I think I’d take a long, hard look at the Aspen Cat C90. Her unique asymmetrical hull design, remarkable fuel burn stats, time-proven diesel power plant, comfortable interior, attractive price point (currently $186,500 or approximately $225,000 nicely commissioned) and “adventure craft” stance, would be interesting to consider. And Larry Graf is not a force to be taken lightly … he’s as serious about building quality adventure vessels as I am about sensible yachting.* Photos & graphics courtesy of mftr. website: