by George Day
Blue Water Sailing
The Seawind 1000 XL combines modern construction techniques with innovative design to create a cruising cat that is unlike all others in her class
The morning after the recent Newport International Boat show in Newport, R.I., broke clear and bright with the usual fall northerly breeze piping down Narragansett Bay. For the sail trial of the new Seawind 1000 XL we met at the docks of Newport Yachting Center and had our first boat handling challenge right away. With the wind blowing 18 to 20 knots directly on the beam and blowing onto the floating docks, the light 35-foot cat, which has a lot of windage, was well and truly pinned to the dock.
The 1000 XL has an innovative propulsion system with twin Yamaha 9.9 High Thrust outboards mounted in ingenious motor wells next to each hull. These can be locked down when motoring or kicked up and locked out of the water when sailing. With three-bladed props, these small workhorses generate plenty of thrust in forward and reverse.
We tried without success to get the cat to pivot on the starboard bow by driving forward on an aft spring. So, we reversed the plan and threw the motors into reverse with maximum thrust and maximum starboard rudder. Voilà. The 1000 XL began backing neatly away from the dock and within a minute was free and clear with her stern into the wind and her bows clear of the dock. Very neat and easy, but not what we expected.
Under power, the 1000 XL is surprisingly quick considering the small engines driving the hulls. No doubt that speaks to the lightness of the hulls, the easily driven hull shapes and the correct placement of the engines relative to the hulls. The big mainsail is a high roach, fully battened laminated sail from UK-Halsey that is both powerful and heavy. The builder has specified a two-part halyard to make raising the sail easier, so as we motored into Narragansett Bay, we hoisted the sail by hand. An electric winch would be nice for this halyard and is available from the builder as an option.
Once we were under way, we turned off the two outboards with the remote kill switches and then tilted them out of the water. The tilting process required the down-lock to be unlatched with a convenient lanyard and the shafts are raised with a second lanyard. It takes longer to type this than to do it. The motors are protected by small nacelles below the bridge deck that prevent spray from soaking the engine housing. The 9.9 High Thrust engines weigh about 100 pounds and can be hoisted out of their wells either with the main boom or with tackle rigged to the overhead cockpit arch. This is an imaginative and useful propulsion system.
Once we were sailing, we rolled out the jib and trimmed for upwind work. The big main in the 18 knots of true breeze probably should have been reefed but we were sailing fine and the boat was scooting really nicely. Upwind with that breeze we were doing 8 knots at about 50 degrees off the wind. The boat was very stable and charged through the short bay chop without fuss or bother.
The headsail arrangement on the XL was adapted from the sail plan designed for the successful 1160 that was launched two years ago. The jib trims to a doubled ended sheet that runs through a block on the sail and through a sliding car on the wide forward traveler. The sail can be trimmed from both sides of the cockpit, which is another very useful arrangement. And, being self-tacking, once set you can throw the boat through tacks without touching a sheet. Even in tight quarters and blustery conditions, the XL is as easy to sail as any boat of her size.
The XL tacks through about 100 degrees and like cats without daggerboards—it has small keels on both hulls—it tends to make a bit of leeward when pressed. In reality you have to figure the tacking angles at about 110 degrees in a good breeze.
One of the really useful and pleasant features of the boat is the twin steering stations. This is an unusual feature aboard a cruising cat and makes sailing upwind easier and more fun since you can shift to the windward helm whenever you tack. Visibility from the wheels is good although you have to crane around the raised saloon top to see to leeward. You can see forward through the large opening windows on the front of the saloon so there are no real blind spots from either wheel.
After sailing upwind through a series of tacks on the bay, we fell off and power reached south through the East Passage into Block Island Sound. The wind outside the bay had built to over 20 knots so the XL was slightly overpowered. But, we carried on and got her speeding up to 11.7 knots at one point. Speeds over 10 knots were easy to maintain.
Even at that speed, the XL was easy to handle and provided a stable and comfortable ride. Surprisingly, very little water found its way on deck even as we splashed through the rising chop on the sound. Sitting inside the saloon—which is open aft to the after deck—we had very little sensation that we were going so fast, and we were able to leave coffee mugs untended on the saloon table.
The sail trial ended with a mainsail-only harbor tour of Newport harbor, which was crammed with cruising boats and visitors who had sailed in for the Newport Boat Show. The XL handled well off the wind under mainsail alone and was responsive enough for us to weave and dodge our way through the large mooring field and anchorage without drama.
With the jib on roller furling and the mainsail designed to drop inside lazy jacks and into a permanent sail cover, dowsing sail and getting the boat ready to moor was simple and quick.
We came away from the sail trial with smiles on our faces. The 1000 XL is a fun boat to sail. It is nimble, responsive and fast. But it is also safe and stable. We should have reefed the main but even with too much canvas flying and the boat screeching along, we never felt the windward hull lift or saw the leeward bow come close to burying itself in a wave.
Design & details
The 1000 XL is the second generation of the 1000 series from Seawind. More than 150 of the original have been built and the class has proven to be the most popular cruising catamaran in Australia. The boats have been sailed far and wide, including a circumnavigation of Australia, which is no small feat in any cruising boat.
In the XL edition, Seawind has made many upgrades and improvements to the original while maintaining all of the best qualities of the boat. What Seawind has kept in the new design is the integrity of the hull and deck and the high quality of the gear fitted to the boat. The hulls are foam-cored laminate structures that use vinyl ester resins to inhibit osmosis. The gelcoat is Isothalic NPG, which has proven to be the most durable, impervious and colorfast resin.
The hull design has been altered slightly in the XL version with the sterns extended aft by about two feet. The extra waterline length adds to the boat’s speed while the volume reduces pitching motion. The long step makes it easier to board the boat from a dinghy and provides a neat locker in which the swim ladder can be stowed.
The rig on the XL is taller than the original and has been fitted with the self-tacking jib. On the taller mast you can have a high roach, high performance mainsail, which will really add horsepower, as was noted during our sail trials. Because of the large mainsail, Seawind has added the two-part halyard. Also, they have added a neat boom cradle on the cabin top where the boom can rest while not in use.
The stern arch on the XL is large and used both as a fixed davit for a dinghy—up to 10 feet—and as a great mount for solar panels, radar and even a wind generator. The main traveler runs the width of the cockpit at the base of the stern arch, where the sheet and the traveler control lines are readily at hand. Because you use the traveler to power up and depower the mainsail and control sail twist, this proximity is useful. Under the stern arch two wide seats have been built in. Another upgrade in the XL are the two wood slat seats built into the bow pulpits on both hulls—great places to relax in the sun.
The XL carries 27 gallons of fuel for the two 9.9-horsepower motors, which will give the boat an approximately 300-mile range. Water capacity is 89 gallons, which is adequate for coastal cruising. For longer coastal runs or extended sailing off the beaten track either supplementary tanks or a watermaker will be a necessary upgrade.
The boat has an unusual cockpit-saloon arrangement that makes it seem much larger than it is. The saloon is tucked under the raised cabin and flows aft to the open cockpit. The space is protected from the weather by the cabin forward and by a bimini and side curtain aft.
In the saloon, the U-shaped dinette has a huge table—nicely lacquered—and can seat six comfortably for meals. We had six out sailing during the sail trials and everyone always had a good place to sit, whether we were sailing or relaxing. You could, in fact, fit 20 people on the boat quite comfortably—something you could never do aboard a 35-foot monohull.
The living accommodations aboard the XL are tight but comfortable. The port hull has the lone head and shower aft, the master double berth amidships and a single berth forward. The starboard cabin has the galley amidships with small double berths forward and aft. The forward cabin has a small desk and settee for a home office.
Ventilation through the boat is excellent with large opening windows on the forward side of the saloon and opening deck hatches for both hulls.
The interior of the XL is nicely finished in varnished hardwood and the detail work is impressive. Cats have to be kept light if they are going to perform well, so Seawind has not loaded the boat up with a lot of furniture nor has it built interior spaces with solid woods. Cored panels and lightweight doors and cabinets function well but don’t sink the boat on its lines.
Throughout the XL, the you can see the company’s dedication to sensible, functional design, to comfortable and safe living aboard, and to better-than-average sailing qualities. And, the upgrades that have gone into the new XL make a great boat even better.
Cruising cats have become more and more popular in the last decade for good reason. These modern boats are faster, roomier and safer than ever and offer unbelievable living space when compared to comparably sized monohulls.
What the Seawind line of cats, and the new XL in particular, do better than many others is to keep the performance characteristics of cat designs intact. The XL did indeed sail at nearly 12 knots in 18 to 20 knots of breeze and judging from her motion and the strains on the hulls and rig she could have carried on doing that all afternoon. We would have been in Block Island in under three hours had we not turned back—a trip that usually takes five or six in a monohull.
The open saloon design, similar to the Maine Cat concept, works really well in warm weather and dry conditions. In cold weather and long rainy spells, one wonders how damp the interior might become—but no one ever bought a boat like the XL for winter cruising in the north. As a boat for summer cruising anywhere, the XL excels. And for cruising in regions with thin water the three foot draft will be attractive.
The Seawind 1000 XL is a truly innovative design that sails extremely well and will make a pleasant floating home for a couple or a family. It will shine as a coastal cruiser but is well enough designed and built to make safe offshore pages. Most of all the XL is easy to handle and a lot of fun to sail.
Seawind 1000 X
Displacement 12,100 lbs.
Water 89 gallons
Fuel 27 gallons
San Diego, CA