Saturn 12 Foot Inflatable Mini Cat MC365 Review
When it came to purchasing a dinghy, we went well outside the box. After our friend, Fred Facker, asked if we had ever used an inflatable catamaran dinghy, we felt compelled to look into them. We don’t have space on deck for a RIB, so we wanted a fully inflatable dinghy we can stow in the V-berth for passages. At under $1,000 new, we decided to give the Saturn Inflatable Mini Catamaran dinghy a try.
We decided to purchase the 9 foot, 6 inch version for Hippokampos. When we contacted Boats To Go to make the purchase, they were out of stock on that model, but offered the 12 foot version for the same price. We looked at the 12 foot version and saw some advantages (like the 20 inch diameter tubes) and took the bait. See the boat here: http://www.boatstogo.com/inflatable-catamaran-MC365.asp. Note that the 9 foot 6 inch version we originally considered is not the same as the Nano Cat they now offer. The original version was wider than the current Nano Cat.
Now that we’ve had it for about a year, and used it extensively in a cruising setting, we felt it was time to review the dinghy.
Our initial observation; it is big! Jayne’s first comment was that we had room for a goat. The size probably helps get on a plane, and we can plane with both of us with a 6 HP, 4 stroke Tohatsu. GPS clocks us around 12 knots on a plane. It does not plane with 3 adults on board, but still makes way nicely. It is rated for a 9.9 HP engine and we might take that option if we had 3 regularly. We like the 6 HP though because it is relatively light and the single cylinder is easy on gas.
The seats shipped to us by Boats To Go were way too narrow and did not fit. They had me ship them back at my expense, but included seat cushions with storage bags with the new seats at no additional charge. The new seats are actually slightly too wide, but close enough that we have not yet modified them.
Early on we noticed the webbing straps for the handles were not UV resistant. A year later only one handle remains. The nylon ropes on either side have held up despite my expectations and we use those to hold on or to drag the boat up or down the beach. It is also possible to glue on replacement handles such as the one given to us by Bruce on La Vidorra.
Shortly after we used the manual pump to inflate the tubes and floor to the proper pressure, we decided to spring for the high pressure electric inflator with automatic cutoff. We can recharge the pump with 120 volt or 12 volt power. It not only made it easier to inflate, it is much quicker for us to inflate the dinghy and get it in the water to clear in to new countries. We also use the electric pump on the SUP. It was expensive, but worth it.
The boat has been great in its role as tender. With the rise on the bow and light weight, it is very easy to beach and deploy from the beach. The front of the boat becomes a “walk off” design when beaching. We have a light Danforth to make sure it does not wander off with an incoming tide. It is roomy enough that we have never had a problem taking stuff to or from shore. When snorkeling, boarding over the bow dips the boat to water level with no need to find a way over the tubes, which we’ve found much easier.
Other than the handle straps, the boat has been more robust than I expected for the price. While in Grenada, we found ourselves adding pressure to the floor much too often. We removed the floor, took it in the water, and found a small hole. I suspect it came from the anchor before we started carrying it in a plastic bin. Since we are waiting on a two day stint where we will not be using the boat to make the repair, we must consider it more of an inconvenience than something more serious.
While in the BVIs we towed the dinghy between islands, otherwise we deflate it and store it aboard. We decided to tow it the short distance from Grenada to Carriacou. We were hit by a squall with 35 knot winds on the way. The combination of high winds and light weight flipped the dinghy in tow. We found the catamaran design to be stable while inverted and it took great effort to right it. We had removed the fuel tank before departing Grenada; unfortunately we had not removed the engine. The engine was fully disassembled and cleaned in Carriacou and is now working fine. We towed the dinghy again from Carriacou to Bequia, a distance of 35 nautical miles. We removed both fuel and engine for the trip and did not experience any problems, even with winds touching 20 knots at times.
The 12 foot version is wide as well as long. It does not really fit on the davits, so we leave it in the water more than I would like. From a security stand point, I think this is balanced by the dinghy being so distinctive. Everyone recognizes it, which would not work well for thieves. Nonetheless, we do lock the dinghy. The wide bow does present a challenge to approaching a crowded dinghy dock.
We believe the utility for the price has been good. If we had the choice, we would do it again, but with the smaller version we originally chose. That said, it is worth the note that we have never used the smaller version, so it is possible that some of the features we like in the 12 foot version do not carry over to the little sister. Also, the 9 foot 6 inch Nano Cat they now carry is more narrow than the original boat we considered and I do not know if the boat we wanted is even manufactured anymore, but you can see it here: http://www.boatstogo.com/inflatable-catamaran-mc290.asp.