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April 20, 2011

Freeman 33

Freeman's 33 is sure to change the minds of catamaran skeptics

FreemanTo say this cat is overbuilt is an understatement. Designed with the short Gulf chop in mind and lots of input from professional charter skippers, it can certainly handle a fight. Eight internal bulkheads strengthen the twin hulls' integrity. All tabs are glassed or fixed with chemical adhesive. Closed-cell coring and knitted biaxial fiberglass roving are used throughout. The top cap is through-bolted and puttied, but before the putty cures, the cap is also glassed on the inside. The result? A rock-solid feel with no annoying creaks or shudders.

"I don't hide the fact that it's a catamaran," Freeman told me as we idled downriver and into the sound. "I wanted it to look good, but there are only so many things you can do with a rectangular shape. We did reduce weight and increase speed considerably. Will it turn like a monohull? No. It's like a car instead of a motorcycle. But you will be able to scoot 50 miles per hour across a serious chop and enjoy a soft, dry ride."

To prove this point, we zipped through East Pass, separating Dog and St. George islands, into open water. The building swells proved no match as the dual planing hulls rode up and then through the cresting waves. On the first few I braced myself, expecting the typical shock of landing, but it never came. The 33's ride is as soft as a down pillow and extremely dry. That, combined with great fuel economy, is why it's quickly winning converts among professional and serious amateur offshore enthusiasts alike. Another welcome attribute? On a long drift in a beam-to sea with three of us crowded on one side, the deck was stable as a slab of concrete.

One of the biggest complaints about some catamarans is the unpredictable handling. That wasn't a factor with the Freeman. In turns the boat stayed flat with increased throttle. It didn't slice or cut unexpectedly in following seas. Instead, it rode true, with a flair for speed. By the time we ran the performance portion of the test, the wind had churned the water into a washbowl of confused chop. With a pair of Yamaha F350 four-strokes for power and a normal load of fuel, the boat topped the 60-mph mark without hesitation. At a comfortable cruising pace of 38 mph, it sipped a miserly 27 gallons per hour. Combine that with the standard fuel capacity of 350 gallons (more can be added as an option), and that equals a lot of water under the keel.

If you've never driven a planing catamaran, do yourself a favor and sea-trial the Freeman 33 in some serious slop. I'm betting you'll be pleasantly surprised by its performance.

Freeman 33

Weight......6,300 lbs.  
Fuel......350 gals.
Max hp......700  

With twin Yamaha F350 four-strokes, a soft T-top with outriggers and an aluminum triple-axle trailer

Freeman Boatworks: