If the idea of a magic carpet appealed to you as a kid, then the Aquila 36 will be your adult fantasy. We were speeding along aboard the 36 when I was so overcome with the sensation of being aboard a magic carpet that I wanted to fold my arms across my chest as though I were a sheik of Araby.
Part of it stems from the rectangular catamaran shape of the Aquila, of course, but mostly it was the softly undulating ride. I half expected to see the fringed edges fluttering in the breeze.
MarineMax, the world’s largest powerboat dealership, created MarineMax Vacations, a bareboat charter operation based in the British Virgin Islands, and wanted power cats in its fleet. It cut a deal with the Sino Eagle Group, a high-tech Chinese builder, to produce the Aquila line that would not only fill the company’s charter fleet but also be available to private owners as well through MarineMax dealerships. Success was immediate with the Aquila 48, followed by the 44 and now the 36.
But the Aquila 36 breaks with her sisterships by being an outboard-powered express cruiser perfect for a family or two couples. The single-level main deck stretches unbroken from transom to bow, adding to the magic-carpet effect. Our test boat had the optional hardtop (a no-brainer) with a glass windshield and side windows, which can be soft-enclosed for all-weather use with air conditioning or heat.
The main living area is under that hardtop, with a dinette to port opposite the double-wide helm seat with flip-up bolsters for standing. The simple dash handles a pair of Raymarine HybridTouch screens plus a VesselView 4 systems monitor, with the throttle/shifters on an outboard elbow ledge.
Just behind the helm seat is a summer galley with a big sink, Isotherm fridge and one-burner Kenyon cooktop, supplemented by a large Kenyon smokeless grill in a console. Our test 36 had the fishing option, with a livewell and tackle station aft, while the standard arrangement places a wide settee to port and another seat to starboard.
The walk-through windshield is three pieces, so you can tailor the amount of breeze in the cockpit with various combinations. More choices are forward, with folding seat backs to create fore and aft bench settees or large sun pads. The anchor gear is hidden under a hatch, with a wired-remote windlass and easy access to the all-chain rode under a separate hatch.
The result is a stable platform that can carry 20 adults for afternoon outings and barbecues with seating for all. We don’t want to offend anyone, but the 36 has the user-friendly appeal of a big pontoon boat.
Yet the Aquila 36 is also a great weekender, since each hull houses a surprisingly spacious stateroom, complete with an en-suite head and shower. Each berth is just an inch under queen size and — surprise — the headroom is a healthy 6 feet 6 inches. Stowage is good with drawers plus a full-width hanging locker. The appeal of cabins in each hull is the level of privacy: no shared bulkheads or listening to anyone (except your partner) snore. Or whatever.
Power choices are twin Mercury Verado outboards of 250, 300 and 350 hp. I can’t imagine opting for anything but the 350s that powered our test boat. Who wants an underpowered sports car? Our test boat also had a Fischer Panda 5 kW genset to power the air conditioner (and margarita blender). This is a diesel unit in a sound box in the aft starboard hull, drawing from a separate 16-gallon diesel tank.
If you’re shopping for a similar-size express cruiser cat with outboards, good luck. You can sea-trial a Fountaine Pajot MY 37 (about $420,000 with twin 150 hp Volvo Penta diesel inboards) or check out the Carver 34 Coupe ($472,000) with inboards and a single cabin. Neither is outboard-powered.
We were impressed by the Aquila construction, with its resin-infused hull, PVC coring and impeccable mold work. No wood is used below the waterline or in structural components, and you could eat out of the bilges. The 12-volt DC and 120-volt AC electrical distribution panel is at eye level in the starboard cabin for easy access, and all wiring is neatly loomed and labeled. Clearly built for the charter market where low maintenance and easy repairs are crucial, the seamanlike Aquila will please private owners as well.
Underway, this magic carpet is not only quick (40-plus mph) but also fuel-efficient, eating up the miles at about 1 mpg at almost 21 mph. Since this isn’t a planing hull, the Aquila has a flat performance curve with no hump to get on plane, so if you need to get somewhere, doubling your speed to 40-plus mph still gets you better than a half-mile per gallon (0.6 mpg).
We were enchanted with the Aquila 36. It’s a great dayboat for the family, it’s equally comfortable for weekending with all the amenities, it can be fitted for fishing or diving, and it’s beautifully built. If you’ve never quite forgotten the magic carpet in One Thousand and One Nights, the Aquila 36 is for you.
- Boarding doors in the cockpit on each side are ideal for docks as well as diving and tenders.
- Deep gutters for water runoff surround all deck hatches.
- Great use of space for stowage.
- Fuel deck fillers don’t prevent spills from flowing into the cockpit.
- Wiper on the port windshield would be useful in spray or rain.
- Wet showers are just that: wet.
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engine: Twin Mercury Verado 350 hp outboards
Drive/Prop: Mercury 14.25″ x 17″
Gear Ratio: 1.75:1
Fuel Load: 300 gal.
Crew Weight: 400 lb.
Aquila Boats – St. Petersburg, Florida; 813-579-1720; aquilaboats.com