“Hey, I can read my notes! I must be on a multihull” was my cheerful thought during our Boat of the Year test sail as the St. Francis 50, a South African-built catamaran, bounded upwind into a short chop at 10.5 knots in 26 to 30 knots of apparent wind.
The St. Francis, close-reaching with full-battened main and rolled-out genny, simply flew, topping out at 12.2 knots. With the wind a steady 30, I walked forward without using the handrails and had a nice ride in the pulpit seat. Sailhandling on this 50-footer is trouble-free; the main is raised with the windlass and furls into lazy jacks and a boom-mounted sail pouch.
This particular boat, Aphrodite, had been sold to a couple bound for Europe in 2007. A passerelle for Med mooring was stored in a portside locker beneath the aft deck; a smaller starboard locker has room for windsurfers and fishing rods. The owners had sailed a 45-foot monohull from California to the Bahamas and wanted a larger boat for the gear and toys of family and guests. A big cruising cat with lots of stowage, very private cabins, and spacious common areas seemed the answer, and the St. Francis 50 fit the bill.
The boat’s cockpit-covered by a Targa wing arch and hard overhead with three solar panels-is simple: U-shaped settee and drop-leaf table to port, settee and two-person helm seat with adjustable back to starboard. The companionway sliding door is wide but surprisingly low-even I, at 5 feet 7 inches, hit my head going through it.
When you enter the saloon of the galley-down version we sailed, you step onto a wood-grain Formica sole. The motion, or lack of it, is surreal. To starboard is a dinette with drop-leaf table that could easily seat eight and, to port, a large “nav center” with an unanchored stool. While multihulls are stable, I’d fasten this seat down.
The U-shaped nav station has a desk large enough to handle full-size, unfolded, paper charts. On either side is a fiddled countertop with storage below. The owners installed a chart plotter, radar, SSB and VHF radios, a DC battery-management panel, 12/220-volt control panels, and a fuel-tank sender on the console. A freezer and icemaker are just to port of the companionway.
Aphrodite’s galley-counter, sinks, and four-burner stove outboard; counter, fridge, and microwave inboard-is four steps down in the port hull. Aft of the galley is a head with sink, shower, and vanity, then a cabin with full queen, a settee at its foot (access to the engine is under it), a vanity, and a small pilot berth inboard. Forward of the galley is both an athwartships forward cabin with settee and vanity and another head with shower.
The starboard living quarters have a head/shower with private access from the cabin aft, with its full queen, hanging locker, and vanity. Moving forward, there’s office space, with a desk and a bookshelf above; a mini-library opposite, with louvered doors and filing areas; then a large vanity with 10 shelves, a drawer, and a deep bin. An athwartships queen is forward of this, and there’s a head, with a tub and shower, in the bow.
At trial’s end, we dropped the sails and powered easily on one engine toward the harbor at an economical 8.7 knots. When motoring, the owners run the engine opposite the cabin they’re using. While the laminated joiner work and finish are good, the welds polished, and the fiberglass well faired, the St. Francis 50 isn’t a fancy boat. From its sparse cabins to its workmanlike cockpit, it’s designed and built for easy, low-maintenance living in port and under way-a fine philosophy for any cruising boat.
St. Francis 50 Specs
LOA: 50′ 0″ (15.25 m.)
LWL: 47′ 0″ (14.35 m.)
Beam: 26′ 3″ (8.00 m.)
Draft: 4′ 2″ (1.25 m.)
Sail Area: 1,100 sq. ft. (102 sq. m.)
Displacement: 32,500 lb. (14,742 kg.)
Water: 360 gal. (1,363 l.)
Fuel: 222 gal. (840 l.)
Engines: 54-hp. Yanmar saildrives
Designer: Angelo Lavranos
Sailaway Price: $793,000
St. Francis, +27 42 2940181, www.stfranciscatamaran.co.za