The TomCat 9.7 was a splendid surprise at the Annapolis boat show. Walking through, I checked off my key points for a 32-foot cruising cat. Marina-friendly beam—check; twin four-stroke outboards—check; open interior space—check; shoal draft—check; neat construction—check.
During my test sail, I found that the solutions Ted Strain has implemented to maximize interior space and sailing performance on a 32-foot cruising cat work, and work well. Its dual retractable 9.9-horsepower four-stroke Yamaha outboards are just right—quiet, efficient, and quick. Once we killed and retracted the engines, the TomCat 9.7 sailed beautifully. In 12 to 16 knots of wind and a 2-to-3-foot Chesapeake chop under spitting rain, we touched 9 knots on reaches and tacked through 90 degrees effortlessly. Good hardware, intelligent planning, and low line loads make this an easy boat to handle, while the level ride and cockpit hardtop afford great comfort.
The interior is a delight, with none of the down-in-the-hull claustrophobia some boats have. The main structural member is an incredibly strong 4-inch-wide solid-fiberglass beam running along the cabintop (supported by several posts) rather than a bulkhead. This opens up the interior to provide wide-open living spaces and excellent sight lines throughout. The boat has two double cabins in the hulls and one athwartships bunk forward of the saloon. The galley is only two steps down in the starboard hull. Thanks to Strain's clever cockpit-roof design, center-mounted steering pod, and dual companionways on either side of the helm station, the transition between cockpit and saloon is virtually seamless. The cockpit roof blends into the overall hull profile beautifully without appearing overly tall or boxy.
The builder is amenable to some customization, so one of the sleeping cabins could become an office, for example. The boat I sailed was a very early model and had a few small bugs left to squash, but it's already at a high level of development and will refine well. The single centerboard and twin rudders kick up easily for wandering through gunkholes or tucking into a sheltered spot to wait out bad weather. Much of the boat is vacuum-bagged laminate, neatly done, and poking into compartments revealed excellent craftsmanship.
Building a cruising cat in the 32-foot range that has sufficient accommodations and good sailing performance without appearing boxy is no easy task, but TomCat appears to have done it. This boat should strike a chord with cruisers looking for the benefits of a 40-foot cruising cat in a much more manageable and affordable 32-foot package.
Builder: TomCat Boats, 905-584-1236, www.tomcatboats.com
$129,500 (base, FOB Ontario, Canada)
470 sq ft
2 retractable 9.9-hp Yamaha four-stroke outboards diesel