Aquila 36 Cruiser
Cats are ideal vessel for watery exploration thanks to the space and stability they offer, as this specced up Aquila shows
We were all but deprived of our 2020 boat show fixes, but 2019’s SCIBS was one of the best shows to date, in my opinion. Out of the multitudes of boats on display, I recall stopping in my tracks when I first spotted the latest import Aquila Cat Cruisers. These 36-foot catamarans boast a sexy and modern design, along with a stylish and spacious entertaining layout and even better — a high-powered twin outboard set up which is right up my alley.
A year later and a few missed opportunities, I finally managed to jump onto one of the latest Aquila 36 Cruisers on the Gold Coast. Now, not being a standard dealer demo model, we had it one better and tested a seriously optioned up version owned by locals Johannes and Arnelda Janse Van Rensburg. It took them two years of research to work out the Aquila was the perfect match to suit their broad-water cruising, a bit of fishing, and future vision of cruising and island hopping in the Whitsundays.
Upgrading from a Seafox centre console this was most certainly a giant leap in not only size, but also the ease of operating, future maintenance, and, of course, the cost difference of the overall package.
Upon a closer look, it’s clear that a plethora of options and upgrades were thrown at this 36 to create the ideal crossover dream boat to suit their future adventures. To start, the 36 comes with port and starboard boarding options on the back deck, leading to an undercover starboard hot-plate BBQ with fridge station on the starboard side, and port side prep-station with storage below on the port side. You then have a spacious lounge seat with screens to fully enclose the area, along with a step-down to the stern platform with additional seating and storage provided. The open transom houses the tender boat, provides easy access to the outboards, as well as suiting to diving and fishing activities.
Moving into the open-plan saloon/cockpit, the optioned sliding doors are appealing and suited to all seasons boating, as well as lock up and go. The insulated hard-top and nice high tinted glass and screens most certainly add to a cool and open feel. The helm layout is nicely organised, there’s a well-equipped kitchenette, and the lounge/dinging area is spacious, with ample seating that converts to an extra bed. I must say, I do like the standard gel-coat finishes over an expensive teak, though it would need to be meticulously pampered and maintained. The sea-grass flooring mats throughout are another nice option underfoot, along with being simple to remove and clean the non-slip decking beneath. Below decks the spacious port and starboard cabins with ensuite are well-ventilated with good natural light, there are numerous storage options and finished in easy to maintain laminates adds to a classy and clean look.
Unlike standard power catamarans, the Aquila 36 has an open bow with access through the centre of screens. It’s a bow-rider set-up, however, quite luxurious with the lounge styled seating converting to massive day beds and even serving as extra beds if you had a custom cover made.
To take the Aquila 36 Cruiser to the next level and to suit the owners future travels and adventures, they spared no expense by tricking this beast of a power catamaran up. The additional options included onboard water-maker, an economical Whisper 4.5kVA generator system, triple air-conditioning system which is great for the tropical summers up north, 3 cooler systems onboard, 720W of solar feeding 2 x 100Ah batteries, Wi-Fi system, Victron monitoring system, a saloon TV on swing arm that can be watched from in and outdoors, Kenyon electrical cook top, and probably too many other items to mention.
As for fishability, it's most certainly a stable platform to fish from, however, it’s not a dedicated sport fisher. In saying that, the stern platform is a fishable area and with a bit of tricking up to suit you could easily have a few rods out on the troll or sit on anchor catching bottoms while sipping on a cocktail. If it were mine, I would add bait-board or filleting table of sorts, a set of rocket launchers for rod storage, as well as fit racks against the back of side boxes.
ON THE MOVE
The husband and wife team will need to learn how to handle a far bigger weapon than their previous Seafox, and obviously had to set it all up to suit their experience and needs. They opted to spend however long it would take to learn about the boat, as well as gain the necessary on water experience to do the long distance trips with confidence in the future — and I commend them for that as there are a lot of people out there who think they can just climb onto boat and head for islands and sunset dreams.
Outboard powered cats are right up my alley, and I was automatically drawn to this one at 36 foot with the twin Mercury Verado 300 4-strokes. I like the simplicity of operating outboards, as well as being able to get to the motors with ease, particularly so for maintenance.
At the helm, the dash and seating layout is comfortable and well equipped to suit long days on the water. Coupled with electric assist steering, digital controls and optioned with Mercs joystick piloting, you also have the ability to manoeuvre seamlessly and easily when docking. Twin Ray Marine chart-plotter and sonar units with radar, plus a dedicated notebook with maps formed the navigational aids.
Underway, I was quietly impressed with the new Mercury 300hp Verados, in comparison to the original super-charged versions. The new V8 4.6L have some good low-down grunt and managed to knock the 7 tonne Aquila onto the plane effortlessly. Being so smooth on a boat of this size you don’t notice speed. At 15 knots and 3500RPM the motors settle down to quiet hum, whilst chewing a mere 57L/h combined. At a comfortable cruise speed of 22 knots, the revs sit at 4500RPM and fuel burn around 96L/h. Flat stick gets you to WOT pretty quick and achieves 36 knots at around 5800RPM, whilst naturally chewing on a combined 225L/h.
We managed to head offshore for a quick spin, crossing a nice flat seaway and quartering into a light 10 knot SE with 1-1.5m swell. At 15-20 knot cruise speeds you get a nice stable and comfortable ride. Changing direction, again the good ride is consistent and having a nice high bow, there were no signs of spray or back pressure coming out the front of the tunnel. As a precious new pride and joy and with the owners still learning how to handle the 36, I could see they were not ready for a journalist's flogging of their new baby, however, I wouldn’t mind getting on one again at some stage to really see what they can do offshore. Regardless, they maintain a pleasant cruising styled ride and if I were doing long trips, 15-20 knots would be the ideal quick cruise speeds, and even lower if need be to get the best out of economy.
Aside from putting two years into researching the perfect cruiser, I reckon the owners probably put just as long into naming their boat. Firstly, Aquila is a constellation of stars and they named their 36 cruiser Altair, which is the brightest of the 3 stars in the constellation — plus their Aquila 36 Cruiser is the 3rd of the brand on the Gold Coast.
Overall, the Aquila is a very sexy and nicely organised outboard power catamaran, and I can clearly see why they went with it. Not too bulky to stress about handling, comfortable and well set-out for long stays on the water, the ideal local cruiser and entertainer with ability to do the big trips, and an easier and more cost-effective boat to maintain.
Starting from around $677,000, it most certainly is 36 feet of pretty-good value, particularly when you consider some of the 28-30 foot trailerable cats costing up to $450,000. The Aquila range starts at 32 foot and for those chasing something a bit more substantial and executive, they also have the 44-70 foot range available.
FACTS & FIGURES
PRICE AS TESTED
$793,396 including numerous upgrade options
Type: Power Catamaran Cruiser
Length overall: 10.96m (36ft)
Hull length: 9.94m (32ft 7in)
Beam: 4.45m (14ft 7in)
Displacement dry: 6700kg
Fully loaded displacement: 8800kg
People: 26 (CE category D)
Berths: twin cabin plus convertible lounge/dining table
Rec. HP: 2 x 300hp
Max. HP: 2 x 350hp
Fuel tank: 2 x 675L
Water tank standard: 200L/485L optional
Holding tank: 2 x 80L
Make/model: Mercury Verado
Type: V8 [64 degree] with Dual Overhead Cam [DOHC] and 32-valves
Gear ratio: 1.75:1 / 1.85:1
P: 0412 551 177