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Gemini 105 M

1999 August 7

Spirited cruising cat

As you stroll the docks of autumn boat shows and listen to one fevered multihull sales pitch after another, it is easy to start thinking of cruising catamarans as the next, or maybe even the ultimate wave in sailboat design. Multihulls are very new millennium. Why settle for one hull when you can have two? But cruising cats have been around a long time. One of the most innovative and successful cruising catamaran designers has been quietly building quality multihulls right under our noses for more than 20 years.

Tony Smith, an English-born engineer, has been a true believer in a field of Johnny-come-latelys. While still in England, Smith designed and built the 26-foot Telestar, a unique folding trimaran that developed a cult following and became one of the most successful production trimarans of all time. In 1980 Smith and his wife, Sue, moved production of the Telestar to the United States, and formed Performance Cruising Inc. near Annapolis, Maryland. Unfortunately, a tragic fire the following year destroyed the Telestar molds. But Smith, undaunted, went on to develop his first cruising cat, the Gemini Phoenix 31, which served as the basis for the Gemini 3000, 3200 and 3400. All together the company sold more than 400 boats. In 1993 Smith introduced the Gemini 105 M, which is the only boat the company produces today. Smith claims that efficiency is maximized by producing a single model and is reflected in both the quality and the price. You can't argue with the results. This year Performance Cruising will christen hull No. 150 of the new boat. I had an opportunity to sail the latest version of the Gemini 105 on a perfect, summerlike afternoon on Chesapeake Bay. A warm southeast breeze held steady near 15 knots, and the chop was negligible. Tony Smith was determined to demonstrate the 105's improved performance. Two design features stand out immediately on the 33-foot, 6-inch Gemini 105 M: First, it has a solid bridgedeck forward instead of a trampoline, and second, it has a rather narrow beam for a multihullÑjust 14 feetÑalthough this still allows for plenty of interior volume, especially when compared to a monohull of the same length. This narrow beam results in a boat that is easier to maneuver in tight situations. Most importantly, the Gemini 105 M can squeeze into many conventional marina slips while other chunkier cruising cats vie for limited and expensive space along the T-heads. Before the boat test, I toured Performance Cruising's brand-new plant on Back Creek in Annapolis, where seven Gemini 105 Ms were in various stages of completion. The solid bridgedeck reflects the conservative nature of the hull and deck construction. Most catamaran builders mold their hulls separately and then join them with husky cross-members that require a critical secondary bond. Like a monohull, the Gemini hull and deck are both formed in one-part molds, creating the rigid bridgedeck. The hull includes a barrier coat and vinylester resin for blister protection and is of hand-laid fiberglass as Smith rejects the notion that weight saved in a cored hull is better than the strength and simplicity of a solid hull. The deck is cored with 1/2-inch end-grain balsa on all of the horizontal surfaces. Smith uses liners extensively, both to save weight and for streamlined production. The liners for the shower, dinette and refrigerator are bonded while the hull is still in the mold, offering added stiffness for the release. Unlike other cats that rely on stubby, fixed keels for directional stability, the Gemini 105 M uses more efficient centerboards and the trunks are an integral part of the mold. The centerboards are epoxy-treated mahogany and need to be locked into position because of their buoyancy. They are designed to retract if the boat is grounded. The hull and deck are joined on a flange, through-bolted on 4-inch centers and covered with a PVC rubbing strake. Smith is unabashedly proud of the Gemini 105 M hull design. We've come full circle in 20 years, he said. The Gemini's hulls are quite similar to today's high-performance monohulls. The Gemini 105 M has a length-to-beam ratio of approximately 9 to 1, which allows the boat to carry a sufficient load, without sacrificing too much in performance. The hulls have a fine entry and flat bottom. They are fairly wide and draw just 18 inches with the centerboards up. Smith said the Gemini 3400 would start to produce a bow wave at 7 knots and the waves would come together under the bridgedeck, requiring a fair amount of energy to push the boat beyond that point. He claims th at the 105 M hull shape virtually eliminates any bow wave, which makes the boat more efficient and, of course, faster. Interestingly, the redesigned hulls allow the keels and centerboards to be pushed farther apart, increasing stability by 15 percent without increasing the 14-foot beam. The spacious cockpit includes a hard dodger that stretches more than four feet aft, and has the effect of increasing the size of the saloon. There is good access to handy molded swim steps on each hull along with three decent-size storage lockers and a couple of aft lazarettes. The wheel is mounted on the starboard bulkhead and the helmsman must stand and peer through a large saloon window for forward visibility. Two ingenious and rugged kick-up rudders are controlled by Teleflex push-pull steering cables. Having delivered several multihulls offshore, one complaint I have with almost all cruising cats is the uncomfortable nature of the cockpit seats. The low, straight-back seats get old after a few days. The wide shallow area aft could be used to improve the ergonomics of the cockpit. The long mainsheet traveler is aft, which allows for end-boom sheeting on the main. The genoa tracks run along the cabintrunk, and two self-tailing winches are perched at the aft end of the trunkhouse. Overall, the sail controls are minimal but efficient, creating a very uncluttered deck and an easy boat to sail. The double-spreader masthead rig has an air draft of 45 feet. Halyards are led aft. The standard main, which is not full-battened, features slab reefing. The side decks are quite narrow, a result of expanding the cabin space as much as possible. Making your way forward is a bit tricky at first. But there are long handrails on the coachroof and once you arrive you really appreciate the solid bridgedeck. It gives the Gemini 105 M the feeling of being bigger than its 33 feet, 6 inches. The bridgedeck has 39 inches of clearance at the bow, tapers to 24 inches at the maststep, then down to 15 inches under the helm before rising to 20 inches under the engine. Smith explains that it was designed like this for two reasons: first, to offer maximum interior space with a low center of gravity and second, to reduce structural pounding forward where it is most likely to happen. There is an anchor locker to starboard and sail locker to port. Overall, the deck hardwareÑincluding stanchions, an anchor roller and mooring cleatsÑis adequate.

Down Below The interior plan of the Gemini 105 M is well thought out. Smith designed the boat for long-term living for a couple, with the option of sleeping six comfortably when necessary. The saloon is bright and airy and centered around a large U-shaped dinette. The saloon ports are made from gray-tinted Lexan and by all accounts are resistant to leaking and crazing. The large aft windows slide open like a house window, offering great ventilation, but I would be worried in severe conditions. The stand-alone refrigerator is also in the saloon and, because the Gemini never heels more than 5 degrees, can be operated on propane when under way, eliminating the possibility of running down the batteries. You step down into each hull, and the molded head-and-shower unit is all the way forward to port. A large nav station with lots of storage is amidships, and a double cabin and hanging locker are aft. To starboard there is another double cabin aft. The galley is located amidships. A two-burner propane stove, double sinks and excellent storage make this in-line galley functional at sea and in port. There are two 30-gallon water tanks under each aft berth. I like the fact that, despite the flat sailing nature of the boat, there are fiddle edges throughout. Forward is the dressing and storage area for the master cabin. The master cabin in the Gemini 105 M is unrivaled in any cat under 40 feet, claims John Sykes of Two-Hulls Inc., one of the largest Gemini dealers in the country. It is a major reason why people buy the boat. The bright, spacious master stateroom is on the centerline, looking forward, and unlike most cabins on cruising cats, you don't feel like you are down in the bilges. The headliner is a combination of molded fiberglass and foam-backed fabric. The hulls are lined with foam-backed vinyl. The molded cabin soles are nicely offset with teak-and-holly inserts. Overall, the level of workmanship is good, and the choice of materials highly practical. There are three engine options for the 105 M. Smith recommends the 27-horsepower Westerbeke diesel with a steerable Sonic Drive propeller, which allows the boat to be handled almost as well as twin screw cats. Another option is a 40-horsepower Tohatsu two-stroke outboard mounted on a bracket. Many Gemini owners prefer the simplicity of outboards. A third option would be twin Yamaha 9.9-horsepower outboards. I would choose the diesel, which is now standard, both for reliability and the ability to run a large alternator. Part of the appeal of the Gemini cats over the years has been the simplicity of systems, and although the 105 M is a bit more complex than her predecessors, the systems are still refreshingly minimal.

Under sail It was a terrific sail on the bay in perfect conditions. With a full main and a small genoa, we zipped along consistently at more than 8 knots. I wondered how close the boat could sail before stalling. The Gemini maintained 7.5 knots at 50 degrees apparent and 7 knots at 45 degrees, which is good going for a cat. Under 40 degrees boat speed tailed off drastically, but it would on most cruising monohulls too. Cracking off onto a beam reach the Gemini 105 M really showed her stuff. At first I thought Smith's rhetoric about improved performance was typical builder banter, but it wasn't. The GPS told us we were making 10 to 11 knots through the water, and yet there was very little motion. Then the boat hit 12 knots in a gust, I was impressed. Having sailed many larger production cats, both offshore and in the Caribbean, I was surprised to discover that in these ideal conditions, the Gemini 105 M was as fast or faster than other 40-foot-plus boats. The Gemini 105 M tacked easily and accelerated rapidly. There was no evidence of pounding, although the seas were minimal during the test. An autopilot would be vital to a cruising couple because the helmsman cannot reach either the mainsheet or genoa sheet winches. Whether you are considering extended coastal cruising and living aboard, or just want a spirited but simple boat to sail, the Gemini 105 M delivers. And with a well-equipped base price of $116,000, the Gemini is clearly one of the best values in a new cruising catamaran.