Fountaine Pajot’s new Mahé 36 replaces the popular Athena 38 as the company’s entry-level boat. Since many cat builders have shied away from smaller cruising models, I was eager to see how the Mahé could provide interior headroom and volume without looking top-heavy or sacrificing bridgedeck clearance. I was also interested in learning how or if the shorter waterline would affect performance under sail. Here’s what I found.
The Mahé is built, just as the bigger boats are, in Fountain Pajot’s state-of-the-art, high-volume factory. The hulls are solid fiberglass below the waterline and cored above as well as in the deck. The transverse beams are reinforced to resist flex and twist. The rig is aluminum.
I was immediately impressed with the Mahé 36’s proportions. The cabintop is not too high or big, and bridgedeck clearance is not too low. The hulls are tall enough to provide excellent interior volume without looking overblown. The two-person helm seat provides good visibility over the coachroof, and several comfortable seats in the cockpit provide excellent views forward through the saloon’s large companionway doors and wrap-around windows. Storage on deck is good. A single locker in the cockpit can accommodate lines and fenders, and a larger foredeck locker will swallow extra deck gear. The traveler, which runs the full width of the stern on the aft crossbeam, provides good mainsheet control, and both jibsheets can be trimmed from the helm station.
I sailed the three-cabin owner’s version. The owner’s cabin to starboard has a large queen bunk aft and plenty of stowage space in cabinets, drawers, and a hanging locker, plus access to another large storage locker farther forward in the hull. An opening hatch and opening ports provide plenty of ventilation. The entire starboard bow is dedicated to a head that’s bigger than heads I’ve seen on some 60-foot monohulls. The entire accommodation area is accented with stylish light varnished-wood furniture and a parquet cabin sole. The saloon has all the light, space, and seating you’d expect to find on an offshore cruising cat, though it’s a little narrower (fore and aft) than a bigger cat’s saloon would be. The galley and the nav station in the saloon are more than adequate. The chart table has a seat, and the galley has decent counter space plus a handy window for passing drinks up to the helm. All and all, it’s a comfortable interior.
Twelve to 15 knots of wind was perfect for our test sail off Miami Beach. Speeds were consistently in the 7-knot range, and we tacked through about 95 degrees. The feedback from the helm was workable, and the boat did not require lots of subtle helm adjustments to keep the telltales flying straight back. The helm station was comfortable, and the ability to trim both jibsheets from the helm station was a plus. Under sail, this is a good little performer that doesn’t feel little when you’re under way.
As with any twin-prop boat, performance under power didn’t provide any surprises. Even in a pretty stiff crosswind, we were able to back into our slip without much difficulty, and the engines didn’t have to work hard to push us along at an easy 7 knots. With the engines mounted aft in well-insulated boxes, noise levels in both the saloon and the aft cabins were noticeable, but not loud or intrusive.
Under sail, the boat performed well and did not suffer excess bridgedeck slap or a jerky motion. Under power, it was both quick and quiet. Fountaine-Pajot’s designers achieved excellent headroom and plenty of elbowroom in both the saloon and the cabins without sacrificing proportion or performance. Fountaine-Pajot may well end up building 36-foot catamarans for the foreseeable future.