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Prout 34, a Perfect Boat for Thin Water By Tom McAlear


aving returned to Florida from San Diego, CA, we were house hunting for a retirement home. We wanted warmer winter weather and less population than our hometown of Jacksonville, and we wanted to be on the water. Our search took us to the Charlotte Harbor area. The town of Punta Gorda was perfect. It had a small town feel with homes on canals with access to Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. We found a great location with a house on a canal near an exit to the harbor. It was time to get down to serious business


January 2009


and check out the local sailing. We chartered an Island Packet 31 from Yachting Vacations at nearby Burnt Store Marina and headed out the channel to Charlotte Harbor. Motoring past day beacon number 2 in the marina access channel, I glanced at the depth meter. Years of sailing in the deep waters off Southern California had not prepared me for the number displayed on the instrument. I immediately called the Burnt Store Marina dockmaster on the VHF. “Help! I am in extremely shallow water and need a heading to deeper water.” “How deep is the water?” asked the dockmaster. “I’m showing eight feet.” Slowly and clearly he responded, “You are in the deep water.” The next week back in San Diego, a “For Sale” sign appeared on our solid, six-foot draft Westsail 32. The search began for a strong bluewater boat—strong enough to go anywhere one would want to go and with a shallow enough draft for Charlotte Harbor, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. It must be big enough to be comfortable and efficient enough to be single-handed, plus a draft of less than four feet. A one-year search of sailing magazines, books and the Internet came up with the perfect type of boat, a catamaran. A “cat” would be spacious for its length, and lacking a heavy lead keel, it would be ideal for thin Florida water. Now I had to find a strong cat. Leery of buying a possibly beat-up charter boat with four heads and four staterooms designed to ship a small army, I concentrated on long-time catamaran builders and boats with proven reputations of worldwide cruising. Not that I thought I would make a circumnavigation, but I wanted a boat strong enough to compensate for any unsafe omissions or commissions that I was capable of making. While I myself could live on peanut butter sandwiches and warm beer, the galley and salon had to meet critical safety and convenience criteria to satisfy social and nutritional needs of polite society. This spousal requirement was non-negotiable. Once the criteria was determined, choosing a make and model of catamaran was relatively easy. The Prout Event 34, built in England, met or exceeded every requirement,