I grew up on boats here in Newport Beach. Me and my two brothers even owned a Hobie-Cat for a few years when we were kids. So happens it was the same color as a striking new boat making a splash at this weekends Newport Boat Show. The new boat is called the Helicat. The only thing the two boats have in common -- they are both twin-hull catamarans.
Me and my brothers moved up to bigger and faster boats as we grew up. I wasn't exactly the most seaworthy of the group, but I still loved a day on the water, in the harbor, or off the Newport coastline. One brother made his love of the sea a lifestyle. He is now an avid deep-sea fisherman and boat captain.
Since those Newport days of youth I've sailed and motored on many different boats over the years. Here in Newport and elsewhere around the U.S and the world. Even logging a few nautical sailing miles in the Greek Islands long ago. Over the years I've seen a lot of different boats. Safe to say though, I've never seen one like this.
This weekend marks the 40th annual Newport Boat Show. It runs April 18th through the 21st down at Lido Marina Village. The show is one of
the largest in-water boat shows in the country. The dizzying array of sailboats,
yachts and other types of watercraft is endless.
The temporary docks installed just for the show spill out into Newport Harbor's turning basin just off Pacific Coast Hwy and Balboa Blvd. For as far as the eye can see it's a boating nirvana. It always grabs my attention every year.
Although the boats come in a lot of different shapes, sizes and prices, one boat in particular this year will probably catch your eye. It did mine. That boat is the Helicat. The first time you see it you won’t have any doubt about how it got its name.
The Helicat is a nautical 'hybrid' of sorts, a cross between a catamaran and a helicopter. Yes, you heard that right -- a helicopter! Now the boat doesn’t fly or leave the water (for more than an instance jumping swells) but at first glance you might think it could or should take-off.
Sandy Williamson of Tacoma. Washington hears that a lot. He is the owner of the Helicat now floating in Newport Harbor. He made the trip down from his home in Washington to try and find potential buyers for his very unique boat. Williamson stopped at a Bay Area boat show in Oakland, CA before arriving in Newport this week.
I spoke with Williamson about his 22' foot Helicat at the Newport Dunes where he and his brother were putting the boat in the water before making the short trip over to Lido Village for the show. I caught up with him later at the boat show site as well.
Williamson told me the Helicat in Newport this week is one of only two now in North America. The boat was originally designed and built in Argentina he says. Since then the boat has been undergoing testing and Williamson has begun the process of trying to market and sell the boats. He says he's had a couple of pretty good offers so far.
If you're looking to stand out on the water here in Newport this might be the boat for you. That isn't an easy thing to do with mega-yachts, million-dollar sailboats and even water borne jetpacks flying around the harbor on any given day. Even so, this boat seems like the perfect match for anyone who wants to catch people's eye as they head out to sea passing the Balboa Pavilion or flying along at full speed off the Balboa or Newport Piers. Even the 26-mile crossing to Catalina Island might draws a few curious onlookers at sea.
The current prototype model has a top-speed of 40mph. A newer version will be even lighter and faster Williamson says.
According to promotional materials “The HeliCat 22 is a high-performance two-person catamaran -- great for stable & safe, fun, fast, economical and practical water travel, island transport, fishing far away, or day charter/rental."
From what I’ve seen of the Helicat so far it sure looks like it to me. If you need to ask that one nagging little question -- how much?, well according to Williamson it will set your wallet back just under $65,000. That's the boat show price. A trailer is included.