Practical Sailor
The PDQ 32: A Comfortable Cruising Cat
Fast and full of unique features, the PDQ 32 continues to impress.

Published:September 16, 2015Updated:March 2, 20200

PDQ Yachts in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, launched the Alan Slater-designed PDQ 32 catamaran in 1994 and built 53 of the boats in the following eight years. Practical Sailor first reviewed the PDQ 32 catamaran in April 1997, which happened to be when the test boat for this review update rolled off the production line. Heres a look at what testers have learned from coastal cruising this boat for 18 years and from other owners who live aboard.

The PDQ 32 has proven to be a high-quality boat-bashing through rough seas without a groan-with bulletproof basics. It remains pretty darn quick (PDQ), outpacing much larger boats, and most PDQ 32s today sell for what they cost 15 to 20 years ago ($85,000 to $110,000).

The Design
The PDQ 32 was kept lightweight- 7,200-pound displacement-through efficient design and the smart use of triaxial cloth, acrylic modified epoxy resin (AME 5000), Klegecell core, and even carbon fiber (in the main beam). As a general rule, fast cats have displacement-to-length (D/L) ratios between 50 and 70, and slow cruisers about 100 to 120. With a D/L ratio of 108, the PDQ 32 could be on the slow side, but the D/L doesnt tell the entire story.

Its sail area-to-displacement (SA/D) ratio of 19 indicates ample power to drive the hulls; the SA/D increases to 23 with the addition of a genoa. The beam-to-length ratio is 0.52, meaning length overall is nearly twice the beam. While some catamarans, such as the Lagoon 37 (0.60 beam to length ratio) come in much higher, this is a compromise. Ratios greater than 0.5 can lead to bow-burying and increased dockage rates.

Cruising World
PDQ 32
This small cruising catamaran is bigger than you may think.

By Quentin Warren
November 2, 2001

In the world of cruising catamarans, aesthetics take a hit when you cut down on length overall. At issue are a host of conflicting themes — the practical demand for interior volume works against the visual imperative that freeboard be low; the need for bridge deck clearance and standing headroom pushes the cabin profile skyward. What’s graceful, extended and cunning at 45 feet often becomes ungainly in the context of 35.

Which is why Alan Slater’s PDQ 32 is such a remarkable boat. Fully outfitted for long-range cruising, she remains bright, airy and easy to look at. With a nicely proportioned rig and a subtle sloping cabin top, she carries herself like a longer cat and avoids the pitfalls of many of her peers that attempt to consolidate as much mass as possible into a length that won’t accept it. You can cruise or even live aboard this boat quite comfortably, but her scale is such that sail handling and overall maintenance remain uncomplicated.

The deck is safe underfoot with wide gangways, extra-high lifelines, six sets of stainless handholds and the calculated omission of abrupt jogs or steep transitions to throw you off balance. There are deck lockers for anchoring paraphernalia in the bows port and starboard, and a very secure trampoline strung forward of the cabin between the two hulls. Open-air lounging is relegated to this area, also to the cabin top around the mast step and to the stern sections where boarding steps are molded into the transoms.The cockpit is smallish and deep, well protected from the elements by a rigid Bimini. Given its depth it offers a secure haven for kids, and with the main companionway hatch that stretches clear across the cabin shoved forward it becomes a pleasant extension of the saloon. The Bimini is strong enough to stand on when tending the mainsail, and cut-outs allow you to look aloft from the helm under way to check on trim. Care should be taken to avoid bumping one’s head on it when entering or exiting the cockpit area.
Perry Design Review: PDQ 32
Headroom and volume combine to make this cat a comfortable cruiser

By Bob PerryAugust 25, 2000
The first thing you need to be aware of when checking out the design of a catamaran is that the profile and sail plan drawings are deceptive. The next thing you should focus on is that interior volumes come in odd components compared to monohulls.

The PDQ 32, designed by Steve Killing, is a small cruising cat and an excellent example of the volumetric diversity in cats. Essentially what you have in a small cruising cat is two tubes or tunnels – the hulls – connected by a big flat box, the main cabin. I call this the bridgedeck. Laying out the bridgedeck is no problem. The problem is extending the headroom athwartships to give you comfortable access down into the hulls without stooping. The PDQ accomplishes this by layering the cabintrunk in two levels, one to provide bridgedeck headroom clearance, and the other to get headroom in the hulls. There is no monohull equivalent to this design challenge.

The bridgedeck area of the 32 gives you a big dinette. When you drop down into the hulls, you have a galley to starboard with a front-loading reefer forward and the navigation station and head to port. Narrow, slab-sided hulls with minimal cabin sole areas make the layout tricky but effective. The sleeping areas are two mirror-image staterooms aft with athwartships berths.

Just for fun compare this layout to that of the Feeling 326. The boats are about the same LOA and have comparable displacements. Which one has the most useable interior? I can’t provide that answer for you, it’s purely subjective. Based upon the objective area — area of cabin sole, size of berths and counter space — I think the PDQ would win. Although, if you check the galley counter area of the PDQ, it’s so narrow that all a cook could do is line up hot dogs end to end. The bottom line is, there is more useable volume in the cat.

We know now that most cruising cats have about as much boat speed potential as LOA-equivalent monohull competitors. I don’t think you would buy a cruising cat like the PDQ 32 for blinding boat speed. The D/L ratio of the PDQ is 107.9. This is on the heavy side for a cat but indicative of the cruising nature of this design. What you are buying in a modern cruising cat is accommodations, deck space and a minimal heel angle.

Canadian Yachting
PDQ 32
Nov2By Steve Killing

Boatbuilder Simon Slater and his designer-father, Alan, are making a significant impact on the multihull industry. In fact, the Canadian boatbuilding industry is noticing a substantial contribution from multihulls that wouldn’t even have Been considered possible 15 years ago. Last month I toured through the PDQ plant and was treated to a sight I haven’t seen in Canada for quite a while-a real production line firing boats out the door to waiting customers! Not only were all the PDQ 32s (and their big sisters, the 36s) sold, but the shop is booked solid for the next six months.

The boat you see here is not radically different from other cats–it’s not even particularly inexpensive. So why is it selling so well?

Like most success stories in the marine industry, it is simply a carefully thought out, well-marketed boat. This combination, linked to a devalued Canadian dollar, secured nine new owners at the Miami boats show–a rare event in anyoneís books.

The original design brief to Alan was simple: create a 32-footer that keeps the performance lineage of the PDQ 36, loses little in interior space, but a lot in expense. For a while the folks at PDQ were concerned that if the project was a success the demand for the larger cat might disappear. It did wane initially, but orders for the 36 are back up again.

The most significant change in layout from their first cat (the PDQ 36) is the switch to an aft-cabin version. The deck raises aft and provides room for two 6 ft. 6 in. by 4 ft. 6 in. berths. Although all boats involve compromises, the key is knowing what not to compromise. Slater has kept the berths large and has ensured that two couples will have private cabins. The starboard hull houses the chart table and electrical panel, with a head forward. On the port side, the galley monopolizes the forward space and includes a real refrigerator like you might find in a trailer home.

PDQ 32 Review
Review by Charles K. Chiodi, Multihulls Magazine March/April 1995.

With the sun slowly setting behind the skyline of Miami, the wind was dying, the telltales on the PDQ 32 we were about to test had a hard time staying in the horizontal in the orange glow reflecting from the clouds.

Nightfall came quickly as the sun dipped behind the Herald’s building and the lights of Miami Beach started to reflect on the waterfront. From the shadows of the tiny island, hardly big enough to hoist a memorial statue, came the outline of another catamaran, also on a test run, perhaps for potential buyers. This was Miami Boat Show time, and the skippers were hard put to prove all the claims the salesmen made during the day.

Each morning and evening the show boats were let out of the corral when part of the docks were opened for demo rides and media inspection. The press mingled with potential buyers and listened to the dreams which they had come with, and the realization of facts they had learned during the day. They weren’t too far apart, for most wanna-be skippers were surprisingly educated about multihulls. It was no longer a question of “should we switch to a catamaran” but rather “which one?”

Those on the PDQ 32 were already familiar with their design and the company that builds it through MM and other sources, it was just a matter of the “three-dimensional experience” – the final convincer. All of us aboard were aware of the lively nature of this newest breed from Alan Slater’s drawing board, we just wanted to experience it. Thus it was not surprising that those of us on the wheel and winches were eager to keep distance between the PDQ 32 and the shadow of that catamaran that seemed to get a bit larger as time went by. It was too dark by now to identify it from the distance; all we knew was that we had to keep this cat going so as not to loose face by being overtaken. No, we were not racing, just, just… well, you know how it is when two boats are sailing in the same direction. It is more prominent when the company president, all his salesmen, a few potential buyers and the press is aboard. Of course, the same could well be the case on that other catamaran… all right, so we were racing, mentally.

We lost.

After about half an hour or so, the other cat caught up with us. It was the Catalina 411, no match for a 32 footer. The relief was bittersweet.

Being at the helm, I kept asking for local knowledge, for not being familiar with the area, the last thing I wanted to do is run aground or hit a finger pier in somebody’s back yard in the dark. I was assured of plenty of water (she only needs little more than three feet), and it was quite daring (in my opinion) how close we came to those docks in the dark, before we tacked. It may have been a bit of bravado to show everyone the virtues of the PDQ 32, but just a small turn of the wheel accomplished a beautiful and very efficient “about face” – and we were shooting off in another direction. I am sure the self-tacking jib, with its curved track in front of the mast, had something to do with it. The tack of the jib is attached to an aluminum beam, as is the forestay, instead of the usual bridal seen on some other catamarans. This assures a better leading edge and a more efficient foresail which, too, accounts for easier tacking.

By the way, we never touched anyone’s dock (although I thought we could have if I had leaned out far enough). Naaaaw… it just seemed so in the dark.

The wind, if you could call it that, was never more than five knots, mostly less, but the cat moved nicely at about 3-4 knots with eight people aboard. This may not be the speed you get in the same wind when you have a full tank of water and fuel, your bilge is your wine cellar, and your provisions on board are ample for a months cruise. I don’t know how pretty damn quick this 32-footer would move then, but I sure would love to find out. (Shucks, I don’t have a spare month).

Going below deck is easy when the 10-foot wide sliding hatch is open, you better duck if it is not.

The saloon is richly appointed, light and airy with a panoramic view. The dining room table converts to a double berth. The hulls also have a double berth athwartship in the aft quarter, the starboard side being the owner’s cabin with more space and storage than the one in the port hull. Also in the starboard hull, amidships, is a spacious navigation station and more storage. Up forward are the head and shower with sump pump.

The port hull has the galley, large by 32-footer standards, with a double burner stove, oven, double sink with pressure water, and a 4-cubic-foot propane/110 volt refrigerator.

There are plenty of hatches and opening ports to provide adequate ventilation, even in southern climates – a very thoughtful feature from a builder who is frozen and snowed in a good portion of the year.

Power is provided by twin 4-stroke Yamaha 9.9 hp outboards, widely spaced under cockpit seats, assuring a turning radius within the boat’s length. They provide approximately 7 knots of speed, depending on sea conditions.

The cockpit is deeper than any of the catamarans I ever sailed on. In bad weather it will give you a very secure (and cozy) feeling. A high chair (not the children’s kind) provides the helmsman with the ability to see above the cabin top. Those on the benches are out of luck looking forward. A hard top over the sliding hatch and a good portion of the cockpit is a godsend in rain or under scorching sun alike. It has two skylights for checking the set of the mainsail. Steps incorporated into the transom and a swim ladder on the starboard side make getting in and out of the water easy.

Both hulls have fin keels for better lateral resistance, and are built with a sacrificial section to protect the hulls in case of accidental grounding or collision with stubborn flotsam.

For those who need to know the ingredients: the hulls are built with triaxial glass and AME 5000 resin, solid below the waterline, Klegecell foam sandwich above. The main crossbeams are reinforced with carbon fiber, the forward beam is aluminum with a gull-striker. The jib is self-tending, the mainsail is fully battened, the mast is a simple extrusion with a single diamond stay.

I predict that the PDQ 32 will be a success, like her big sister, the 36, not only because it is a good, no-nonsense design, but also because it is built by people who are conscientious, honest, and good at what they are doing. If you want to check it out, ask Simon Slater – or anyone at PDQ Yachts – to show you around.

A PDQ 32 Passage
Mice Will Play: Passagemaker and Cruiser
by Brian Murphy, Ottawa, Canada

My first step outside the Ft. Myers airport left me wishing I’d brought more warm clothes along, a feeling that would stay with me over the next few days. I had just arrived from Ottawa to help deliver a new PDQ 32 from the boat show in St. Petersburg to a charter company in the Bahamas. It was November in Florida, but it felt like October in Canada.

The plane was delayed just enough that the departure of Mice Will Play, a brand new PDQ 32 from Cape Coral, had to be delayed until the morning. The boat had arrived in St. Petersberg a few days earlier for the boat show. We performed our provisioning and made a few last minute phone calls and adjustments.

I have sailed the PDQ 36 on several occasions but this was to be my first visit aboard the 32. My first impression of the cockpit was that it was a touch closed in when compared to the larger 36. However, I was soon to fall in love with the more protected feeling and comfort of the hardtop bimini and wrap-around dodger.

The first day we motored all day along the St. Mary’s river at a comfortable 6.7 knots (although speed over ground was less due to the small current flowing from Lake Okechobee to the Gulf of Mexico). The on-deck speakers were able to match the drone of the engines. At 50 degrees the dodger gave great protection from the wind and elements and almost made up for my lack of warm clothing. Little did I know at that time that the green grass I had left in Ottawa had been covered in three feet of snow!

The next morning we approached Lake Okechobee. The St. Mary’s River enters and exits the lake at the middle of the oval lake. A canal system provides a route along the southern shore due to the shallowness of the lake. We planned to go most of the way south and then follow the channel into the lake. This would be safe but also promised to be a tad uncomfortable as we would have to go straight up the lake into a strong norther. After motoring for about a couple of hours, we came around a corner and the canal emptied out into the lake — there was nothing in sight. No buoys, no buildings, no nothing. We quickly checked the GPS and found that we had missed a right hand turn and ended up in an old channel which had not been in use since the 1970s. The moment of truth was upon us. We could either motor back down the canal and return to course adding an hour or more to the passage, or grasp the serendipity of the moment and head straight across the lake. The chart indicated about three or four feet close in to the shore but the depth indicated closer to six feet.

After some careful considering of the charts and nosing around in the shallow water, we decided that the 3′ draft was up for it and I headed forward to raise the main. There was a strong norther (hence the cool weather) blowing raising about three foot seas. As I hung on for dear life I fondly recalled this procedure on the 36 where all halyards lead to the cockpit. It turns out that the chop was about the same length of the boat and so made the motion particularly severe until underway. We watched as the depth gradually increased to about 16 feet, about the deepest you will find this shallow lake.

We flew, as the proverbial crow would, directly across the lake approaching close hauled. Rather than the tiring beating at a 20 degrees of heel we were warm in the protected cockpit and no heel at all. We managed to shave several hours off the trip and got an exciting sail in as well. We arrived at Stuart at 3:30 in the afternoon after getting a tail current on the way back down to the Atlantic Ocean. We had thought it might be after dark when we would arrive – and on a slower boat with deep draft we would have been.

We spent a day in Stuart installing a few new-boat amenities such as garbage cans, hook holders, extra glasses, and so forth. We picked up an extra crew member for the crossing of the Gulf stream and got the laundry done, a boat full of provisions and a restaurant meal on board. We only half filled the storage lockers under the settee with gallons of cheap beverages which were extremely expensive in the Bahamas. In fact we never came close to using up the vast locker space available.

At 4:00 that afternoon we set out for the Ocean. It quickly got very dark and we picked our way out to the intersection of the St. Lucie River and the intercostal waterway. From there we made for the Port St. Lucie outlet. The outlet is one of the more spectacularly unmarked channels out of the intercostal. The shifting sands at outlets lead the buoy placers and chartmakers to virtually abandon the area. With no depths on the chart, no buoys, and traffic with bright headlights bearing down on us we picked our way to the sea. We missed the sea walls and breakwaters as well as a few large tankers in the shipping lanes. Again I was happy of the three foot draft as there were more than a couple of spots where even a four foot keel would have given us trouble.

A beautiful night to cross the Ocean. The water temperature was about 72 degrees, the wind moderate, about a three foot sea and nothing but stars above. As we got several hours off shore the water temperature surged to 82 degrees and the seas heightened to about five feet — we were in the gulf stream. I stood a four hour watch steering due east and heading for Orion’s belt. The lights of the gold coast seemed like a permanent twilight which did not fade until we had reached the Bahamas.

At 12:00, my shift over, I headed below for a nap and what a nap it was. The aft location gives a gentle rolling motion and not the hard slapping which can occur with bunks foreword. Three hours later it was up again. Just as first light appeared in the east, the Bahama Banks were coming into view on the horizon. We sailed all day in about 12 feet of water and finally reached Sale Key by 4:00pm. We had covered about 170 miles in 24 hours.

The following day we made for Green Turtle Cay to clear Customs and register the vessel in the Bahamas where it would be staying in charter. We arrived just after the Customs officer had taken the last ferry for Nassau and would not be back for the rest of the day. So we headed in to get some gas while flying our quarantine flag. The water in the Bahamas can be very thin. The most difficult thing is to be able to recognize when it really IS thin and when it just looks thin to the eye – an eye which is used to brown water lakes. This distinction eluded the watchperson we had placed on the nets and Mice Will Play proceeded to run onto a coral head whilst heading for the gas docks. However a quick shot of reverse pulled us off the reef and a later inspection showed no damage at all (except for the slight scratch to the antifouling paint).

Off to Marsh Harbor where we finally contacted a Customs agent and were now able to step ashore. All in all a good crossing. We had been working 11 hour days or more for a week and it was time for some relaxation. We dropped off our friend at the airport and were joined by our wives to enjoy the cruising portion of the sailing trip. From passagemaking to relaxation, the PDQ 32 made the transition.

As we leisurely sailed to Little Harbor, Great Guana Cay, Harbour Town, Man-o-War Cay we spent less time in the cockpit, (it had finally warmed up) and more time out on the trampoline and the excellent bench seat right behind it. There was so much room that four people never felt close.

I have fallen in love with the PDQ 32. It felt solid, safe and seaworthy with good speed for passagemaking. It lacks some of the speed of the 36-footer but tends to make up for it in the comfort of the cockpit (a more aggressive sail plan might help). The yacht was comfortable, spacious, fun and good looking — just great for cruising. It is really all the little things that add up the total quality impression of the PDQ.

These boatmakers obviously think about cruising all the time — both in cold and warm weather. For example, the floor was incredibly easy to clean-up and the no-slip rubberized surface made great sense and looked good (if you have ever stepped on a teak and holly floor with slippery wet seawater feet you’ll know what I mean). Also, think how much damage sand can cause to a wooden floor. We also had occasion to suspect the water pump had failed and proceeded to try to find it, wrestle it out of its hiding place and attempt an inspection if not repair. Armed to the teeth with tools we were quickly delighted by the cleverness of the device and its neat installation. It was easily accessible from two angles, the wires were connected using easily unpluggable sockets, and the actual pump lifted out of a mounting bracket without the use of screwdrivers. The leak turned out to have been crew error and not the pump at all. All these little things add up after you have been cruising for a few weeks.

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