Versatility and adaptability became apparent as Gemini Catamarans pushes the limits of possibilities using the same mold as its proven Gemini Legacy 35 to create new line of open cockpit models for sail or power.
The pursuit of a product’s perfection is a characteristic that all the world’s most well-known innovative companies share. No, I am not an innovator or on a search for perfection. I am simply a critic who has the pleasure of working with those innovators and engineers that are revolutionizing our industry. There are not many people that have the privilege of taking out a brand new boat and trying to push it to every limit, seeing if it will bend but not break. That is what they do at Gemini Catamarans, and I get to spend my time with those people giving feedback from a different perspective, all while witnessing the evolution of a revolution in catamarans.
The first time I saw the Gemini Freestyle 37 I was sworn to secrecy on the R&D line at the Catalina Yachts factory where Gemini builds the world’s most efficient catamaran. Production Manager Jamie O'Steen was antsy to show off the new idea he and Vice President Laura Smith Hershfeld had been working on: the Gemini Freestyle 37. This creative design presented sailors with the first ever open-deck concept. Its design is incredibly simple yet revolutionary. It allowed for complete customization of a platform to adapt to any requirement.
When showcased to the public at the 2016 Miami Boat Show, people couldn't quite understand it at first, similar to the way that everyone looked at the original iPhone. A catamaran with no cabins was as alien as a phone with no buttons. With only a 14” beam and a shallow draft, it is capable of being tailored to its owner’s needs. Whether being used for a family’s weekend water getaway, an entrepreneur’s day charter platform, or a beach-able island hopper, this is the perfect boat. In a world of Blackberry’s, this is the iPhone.
As its versatility and adaptability became apparent throughout the community, Gemini Catamarans pushed the limits of possibilities using the same mold as its proven Legacy 35, which evolved from Hershfeld’s father’s Gemini 105Mc mold. Just as the late Steve Jobs refused to relinquish his pursuit for perfection, Gemini Catamarans has not either. Gemini Catamarans also wants to adapt the design for user-created options that are constantly changing. Similar to the way a user can put many different applications onto one single smartphone device, Gemini aims to achieve many different applications for the same model.
After release of the first few Gemini Freestyle 37 models, I met with the owner of Gemini Catamarans, Hugh Murray, where I learned he wanted a Gemini that was capable of achieving speeds of 25 knots and higher. Originally thinking the dramatic increase in speed would require another redesign, he redirected my attention to the strength of the hulls already built to withstand the stress of a sailing rig. He touted an ability to achieve greater speeds without changing the design that had made Gemini Catamarans famous for over 35 years. His simple and logical thought process was to create a third model using the same molds as before, this time as a full-blown power catamaran. The components were to be interchangeable with both the Gemini Freestyle 37 and Gemini Legacy 35.
Unlike past models that have been refit with outboards as a few private owners have done, he wanted to do it right. Utilizing the 24” transom extensions from the Gemini Freestyle 37 and Gemini Legacy 35x, Murray worked with Suzuki's mastery and selected two 90HP outboards to mount on the rear. Being the stylish man he is, they needed to be sleek and stunning, with the option to trim. The inline 4 cylinder DF90ATLW2 with a white paint option fit the bill for the first few off the line.
The expected increase in speed meant a potential to plane. Jamie Osteen spotted this as a challenge and redesigned the bottom of the transom extensions to have a slight concave angle which is almost invisible to the eye and counters the high-speed physics, keeping the bow down. Osteen’s professional resume consists of years of building both power and sail boats for some of the largest manufacturers in the industry. Along the bows, forward chines were designed and added on top of the current hull, doubling its strength, increasing its buoyancy, and displacing the water away from the cockpit as the pontoons push through it.
The bows were built with splashguards between the pontoons and anchor roller to protect the new forward seating option from spray. Enclosing the forward seating area with a hinged fiberglass lid allowed for a stylish, square-cushioned lounge area for guests, all the while creating another storage space below. The inside of the gunwales uses the same stylishly-embroidered cushions for leaning against and illustrates the attention to detail by the designers. They created stainless steel swing gates with some dark tinted Plexiglas doors to match the moon roof and minimized access to the outboards on the transoms. It connects to the well-known canvas hammock seat which allows an extremely comfortable seating for guests above the water between the pontoons, this one colored black to match the cleverly contrasted colors both inside and out of the catamaran.
The removal of a sailing rig in the design meant there was no need for the sharp keels to point; thus they removed the sharp skegs on the bottom and created a nice round keel, only drawing about eighteen inches. The removal of the sailing rig also meant line management was no longer a concern and the helm station was free to be placed anywhere. On the first models, the helm station sat directly below the hardtop Bimini on what would have been the sailing version’s cockpit sink. Designed with a stainless platform that supported the fiberglass top, it was built to hold the weight of guests both on the fiberglass top and on the tinted Plexiglas moon roof in the center of the fixture. The helm station and hardtop bring yet another sleek and modern touch to Gemini Catamarans with digital fuel burn and data gauges for each engine, fuel level monitors, a Raymarine VHF, a chrome steering, and a dual engine remote with a red emergency stop switch, adding contrast to the black and white cockpit.
Once the first model came off the line, it was time for trial runs. Gemini Catamarans spent months testing the first designs in as many conditions as the Florida coast would provide. The boat was taken for multiple trips up and down the river, through large cargo ship wakes entering and exiting the Inlet, and in and out of both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico during calm and rough seas. At one point, while pushing around 20 knots through rough ocean waters in transit from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, President Hugh Murray was seen climbing to the top of the hard top to feel the ride from different points on the boat at different speeds. When the weather was poor and conditions were rough, he took on the role of Captain during the experimental runs, confirming the trust and faith he has in his production team.
The initial tests were carried out with seven adults onboard, as well as full 56-gallon fuel tanks and half-full 60-gallon water tanks. With the 90HP Suzuki’s, the maximum speed achieved to date is 23 knots. The outboard Suzukis were most efficient cruising around 16 MPH with a fuel burn of 2.88 miles per gallon and literally sips only five miles per gallon at eight miles per hour. The trial runs were a huge success and any potential problem that was discovered was discussed and resolved with small changes in the design. Representatives from many charter operations, resorts, and other powerboat manufacturers came to enjoy the experiments and provided their appreciated feedback for usage.
Still not content with 23 knots, Gemini Catamarans will make the next model to be powered with twin black 140HP Suzuki outboards to surpass the 25-knot milestone. The next model has also been confirmed to be designed without a hardtop but with a windshield. The modern and angular protective Plexiglas windshield will be large in the pilot’s center of view and peripherals, then bevel down on the sides to accent the lines along the length of the boat. The helm station will be laid out similarly to the first; however, the throttles will be moved to the port side of the helm station rather than the starboard to not interfere with the windshield. Lastly, specially designed skegs are being installed in concaved section the aft keels and will taper towards the bow for a flush fit with the bottom of the boat. Ironically, this new model will go to Annapolis where its predecessors were first created.
A prototype for a hard-top fly bridge helm station is also being designed by Jamie O’Steen. While sitting with him to learn about the intricacies of the aesthetic design, his passion for the project is prevalent in the way he meticulously makes every design decision. Similar to Da Vinci with a laptop, every one of his lines are carefully crafted, every angle meticulously calculated, and every corner carefully considered. His goal is to create a fundamentally ergonomic design that can be creatively customized by the consumer with optional cabin configurations, dual head capabilities, sailing or power versions, inboards or outboards, hardtops, windshields, or fly bridges. The possibilities and improvements are endless. The myriad of options was highlighted at the 2017 Miami Boat Show between all three different models: the Gemini Legacy 35, Gemini Freestyle 37, and Gemini Freestyle 399 Power. With an ability to interchange different components from the different models, Gemini Catamarans has set a new standard of customization in an industry of production line catamarans.
With the show over, we had the opportunity to take the open-deck designed catamaran out for an enjoyable afternoon on the river in Fort Lauderdale and ended up stopping at a local sandbar. In a small location at the base of the river’s access to the Intercostal, hundreds of boating enthusiasts raft off and anchor together to spend their weekends relaxing and wading in the water. When we pulled up, we couldn’t help but notice the looks of interest and curiosity by our fellow boaters. While they were carefully climbing around their boats to jump off the bow, we were simply walking through ours. While they were trying to find places to arrange makeshift seating in available areas, we were shifting ours to wherever fit our needs. We could jump off the hardtop, sunbathe on the bow, eat sandwiches at a full-size patio table in the cockpit, and sip sangrias on one of the outdoor couches while music played through the hardtop Bimini speakers.
The Gemini Freestyle 37 model has now proven effective on the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Chesapeake Bay. Availability of these boats has already begun to be pushed back as more and more entrepreneurs are buying them for moving people through their waterside developments in Central America, island hopping excursions in the Caribbean, and sunset cruises off the California coast. From their perspective, the design is a perfect platform as the furniture can be changed as needed, from a snorkel adventure setup in the morning to a luxury dinner cruise platform in the evening, thus doubling their revenues with one low price-point catamaran.
Gemini Catamarans has once again created a revolutionary product with its consumers in mind. While the options of most cats now allow for a bit of creativity in the colors and equipment options, Gemini Catamarans allows for a full range of custom options in the equipment, power, and design to optimize the owner’s utility.