Tested by Erwin Bursik (January/February 2007)
By Watermark Marine — Knysna
An upmarket craft to suit all applications
AS I scanned the stands at the International Conference Centre during the recent Cape Town Boat Show, I was captivated by two craft on display. These boats, of which I could only see the prow section, had almost razor-sharp bows, definitely the thinnest I have ever seen on a catamaran-style ski-boat. A closer inspection had me riveted by the hull design and the craft it supported.
It was there that I met the two Marks — Williams and Hinks — both directors of Watermark Marine of Knysna, the importers of these magnificently presented craft.
Larry Graf, President and founder of Glacier Bay Catamarans, soon joined us and proceeded to sell me the concept of the high-speed displacement hull he had designed and which has proven itself throughout the wide range of craft Glacier Bay Catamarans produces.
He was so convincing and knowledgeable that he had me vacating the SKI-BOAT stand at the show and boarding a Glacier Bay 2640 at the Cape Town waterfront for a cruise into a south-easterly ravaged Table Bay. Not only did Larry know his boat, but he was also able to demonstrate it to full effect, even in a very bad sea. I was impressed with both the boss man as well as the craft.
It was, therefore, not surprising that a few weeks later I was at the helm of the same craft, putting her through a full review in the waters off Knysna.
Starting in the autumn of 1988, Larry began producing a scale model of a high speed displacement hull which would fulfil his dream and ambition of producing a craft that was family friendly. In other words, to take the pain out of offshore boating, a pain that was inherent in the craft of that period which thumped, bumped and pounded their way over the top of rough water. A displacement, fine-lined catamaran would, in theory, reduce all or most of the associated knocks and bangs of planing style hulls.
The first Glacier Bay Cat was introduced in January 1991 and was immediately accepted. Today that is all history. Glacier Bay now build 15 models ranging from 22- to 35 foot in their 82 000ft 2 factory, employ 190 skilled boat builders and market their catamarans throughout the world.
Stepping onto the Glacier Bay 2640 at Knysna’s waterfront marina, together with Mark Williams, Mark Hinks and Knysna NSRI’s Mike Jacobs, renewed my interest not only in the craft I was about to review, but also the Glacier Bay 2240 Renegade we were to use as a photo boat.
Those who know Knysna will know that the magnificent, picture-perfect scene of the east and west heads towering over a calm water highway between lagoon and ocean is not always a true picture of the conditions. In fact, on many oceans I have seen it so rough that even the most knowledgeable local skippers refuse to take on the “head to head” rolling undercut waves that have left many craft wrecked in the lagoon’s entrance. Then there are flat days and normal days. The norm for this area is a reasonably tricky launch that is negotiated in two stages — the first a run to the protection of a cave on the western heads, and then a quick nip around some blinders and out to sea on a westerly course.
Mike was skippering the 2640 and I had the smaller 2240 for the first run out. Even though I have done this run to sea many times, I am a great believer in following local knowledge, and that is what I did. On the day of the review the launch through the heads at Knysna was reasonably flat, but with a strong south-westerly wind blowing out at sea and an outgoing spring tide, the swell and breakers got progressively bigger.
It was into these conditions — a 15/20 knot south-westerly — that the two Glacier Bay catamarans ventured, to enable me to photograph and then review the Glacier Bay 2640 Renegade.
Initially, watching Mike really putting the 2640 through her paces while I took the photographs, her ride totally captivated my attention because her hull-over-water performance was so different. I kept thinking back to the words of Glacier Bay’s president, founder and designer Larry Graf: “Remember, it’s a displacement hull, not a planing hull.” In other words, it doesn’t perform in the same way as the craft I and most of SKI-BOAT’s readers are used to.
This craft rides very prone and is only marginally trimmed — bow-up or down — in varying sea conditions. In simple terms, it is the sponson design that supplies the continued buoyancy and slicing effort through, and again I emphasise, through the water. Another factor that is important to note is that, unlike a planing hull that accelerates and decelerates in unison with the sea’s swell action, a displacement hull is not affected by this almost pendulum effect and maintains a constant SOW (speed over water or, in the case of the Glacier Bay, speed through water).
Once I was accustomed to this attribute, I began to appreciate it more and more as I played extensively with the two craft in a sea that was getting rougher and rougher as the day progressed. Another major advantage of this concept is lateral stability at most speeds, but markedly so at the full range of trolling speeds.
While talking about comparatives, it is worth noting that due to the slimness of the hulls, these displacement craft are able to achieve higher speeds with less horsepower. I recorded 35 knots on the lagoon with this big 26ft craft powered by twin 150hp Yamahas.
I well remember taking Dennis Shultz’s 38ft Super Cat, designed on the same displacement principle, to sea through the mouth of the Kowie River at Port Alfred and experiencing the same extraordinary ride. It’s a ride where SOW perception is deceptive — so deceptive, in fact, that I called for a second GPS to verify the speed which felt slower than the actual speed shown. Indeed, we seemed to be going much slower. I experienced the same thing with the Glacier Bay craft.
Enough of the theory. How did this new style cat take on the waters of the southern Cape? In one word, fantastically!
At the outset, taking an unfamiliar craft through the Knysna heads was a little daunting, but it did force me to get the feel of the craft quickly during real live action. The initial low-profile attack of the craft on an oncoming sea, and her limited response to motor trim, had me a little perplexed until I remembered Dennis Shultz’s advice on the Kowie. Thereafter, instead of rushing the cresting swell, I took it easy on the throttles and the Glacier Bay 2640 slipped through the crests with ease. No jump, no hard landing, no splashing, just constant forward momentum.
From then onward in the west wind-driven sea I used the same tactics throughout the full spectrum of the review, allowing the craft’s hulls to do the work they’re designed to do, with very little over exuberance on the throttles. As Larry Graf had demonstrated in a very rough Table Bay, the less one tries to “drive” this craft, the more one gets out of her performance.
After exiting the Heads, in an endeavour to get to know the craft a little better, I put her through a series of trolling trials from one motor on idle (’cuda troll speed), to rapala speed, sailfishing speed and trolling big lures for marlin. She handled the head sea well, with limited wind-swept spray coming over the bow — not even sufficient to put up the clears. In a beam sea she rode beautifully, showing her incredible lateral stability to maximum effect. Even with a following sea she pulled forward evenly, not surging to any great degree when being pushed by a cresting wave. Above all, she attained the top-end troll speed with minimum motor thrust, and she throws a very clean, tight wake up until about nine knots.
While trolling in Table Bay, Larry proved to me that after setting a course — I had taken a mark on Robben Island — she held it without the skipper touching the helm. Interesting, and valid as well, as I found when revisiting this aspect of her performance off Knysna.
By this time I believed I knew a lot more about the Glacier Bay 2640 and set course into the west with the wind just off the starboard bow. I gradually increased motor revs until the 150 Yamaha four-stroke motors were showing an rpm of 3 400 and the GPS an SOG of 20 knots into a current that was pushing two knots to the east. She sliced through the sea very comfortably with very little hydraulic action within the tunnel. I tried varying motor trim both up and down, and neither seemed to make much difference to her ride. The trimming didn’t vary the set rpm either, until the motors were trimmed up far higher than was operationally practical and the SOG slowed right down.
I also tried to upset the ride of the craft with lateral trim, and this again, with the counter-rotating props, had limited effect. This hull really rides to her design — a ride that can only be very marginally modified by motor trimming.
After cruising on various beam sea courses, I turned back to run with the peaking sea directly on the transom. The sea was cresting high enough to have had an effect on any craft running with it, yet she ran straight and true with no tendency to yaw.
She is certainly a very different craft.
The Glacier Bay 2640 Renegade is designed for a multitask application, of which fishing is but one option. As much of the deck layout, helm station and fore deck is designed for comfort and spaciousness for a cruising application, a lot of thought has gone into these areas and their finishes. The craft has a reasonably sized fishing cockpit which is well set up for sportfishing with a livewell, as well as a big underdeck fish hatch and sufficient drawer space for tackle, etc. She is indeed a boat for all seasons.
Instead of showcasing all the visible features in the accompanying photographs, I would rather utilise the space allocated to bring to readers’ attention the unseen aspects which make this craft so exceptional. So if you want to see the heads, helm station, cushions and carpets, padding and upholstery, you need to visit the two Marks at Landmark Marine in Knysna and see them for yourself.
It was the overall finish of this craft in every aspect of its construction, hardware and layout that I found exceptional. According to Larry, they have gone over the top with the moulding for the craft by using the most expensive materials available. One example is the gelcoat which will ensure that the craft not only looks good when new, but will also retain its high gloss. This gelcoat is also extremely hard and will thus be chip and scratch resistant.
Because of the seas these craft were born into — the north-west coast of the USA and the west coast of Canada/Alaska — and the large number of logs and debris that float in these northern waterways, the craft have special collision bulkheads extending the length of the sponsons. The sponsons are also reinforced over the full length with Kevlar and a foam-filled double bottom.
Apparently, long distance cruising in these waterways is a way of life within their boating communities — a major reason why safety, comfort and an economical ride are crucial. The Glacier Bay craft have been designed to provide these requirements, and over the years have proved themselves through experience and superior performance.
In my opinion, this upmarket craft will suit discerning South African boaters who want a craft that will allow them to get as much use out of their boat for leisure outings as for offshore fishing. In addition, they can rest assured that they not only have an extremely seaworthy craft, but also a craft that will retain its value despite the harsh conditions of the African climate.