Flica and Banshee Production Cruisers

A Look At The Flica And Banshee

From-Multihulls Magazine, November/December 1987

By Fred Dennerline

We saw our first Palamos-built boat at the Brighton Boat Show (England) in 1985. It was a catamaran daysailer and too small to interest us, but we liked the quality and price. We talked with Richard Laight who was manning the boat and asked him to contact us if they decided to build a larger cat. He said that they had a 35’ Woods design in the works.

In December 1986 Laight sent us some literature and prices on Flica and Banshee, two 354oot catamarans just going into construction. The boats, particularly Flica, looked very good on paper. Wide (I 9’4" beam), 6’2" head room throughout, foam-core construction sounded like what we had been waiting for.

Palamos is located in Millbrook, Cornwall, in the south of England, about a five-hour ride from London. We found the factory the same way most visitors will find it: drive right by, park in Millbrook and go to the pub for directions. Everybody there knew where Palamos was, so we had a quick pint and tried again. Going back ft is on your right, just where the road gets wider, going from eight to nine feet.

Laight and Richard Woods showed us through the plant, which is small, but expanding. The main mold is in three pieces two hulls and one bridge-deck bottom. This means a little extra work in joining, but Laight thinks ft is more efficient, because of the width. The deck mold is one piece, the cabin top, another. The hull, up to the knuckle (or small step) is solid fiberglass; above the step foam core is used. This means the most weight and strength are where you want it. The foam sheets are small squares glued to a thin sheet of fiberglass. This conforms nicely to any shape, and the resin penetrates the cuts between the squares during the lay-up, so the area is really thousands of squares, each surrounded by resin and glass. The construction is similar to the use of endgrain balsa, but the foam is stronger, lighter, and impervious to water-rot. It is also more expensive.

Five different foam thicknesses are used to ensure the proper amount of strength and rigidity without unnecessary weight; the folks at Palamos are very weight-conscious. Stress areas are heavily reinforced. The glasswork all appeared to be very well done, the employees all seemed proud of their work.

The factory demo Flica and Banshee were at Queen Anne dock in Plymouth, about 45 minutes by road and ferry. The boats looked very large from a distance and very large up close. We looked Flica over first. The cockpit is quite large, with good storage under the seats. The mainsheet traveler runs along the aft bulwark and aft of that is a platform that will be nice for diving and dinghy loading. A boarding ladder is on one of the transoms. You go up a step to stand at the control console and see over the cabin top; a seat is optional. The view is very good, the controls are convenient and the necessary instruments are right in front of you.

The foredeck is nicely laid out with two bow rollers and a method of bringing the anchor lines to a single power windlass. There are large anchor and stowage lockers, and good bow and stern rails with lifelines.

Inside the boat the salon is enormous, as you might expect with an almost 20 foot beam. The high/low table will push clear up to the cabin top if you want to clear the place for dancing. Ventilation, so important to us in Florida, will be by opening hatches or ports on all four sides. There is a large navigation table with plenty of stowage, attractive carpeting and upholstery.

Very large double staterooms are forward, and forward of the large double berths are small single berths, suitable for the ‘stowage’ of small children, sails, or whatever. Stowage is ample, ventilation is via a large hatch.

The head is amidships to port, and is all fiberglass, so R turns into a shower stall with plenty of room and light. The galley is to starboard and is very large, with a nice double sink, three-burner stove and oven, and a usable size fridge, about 3-times the size of the one generally found on boats. If you want a large freezer, you can have it built into the aft stateroom on this side. The storage space and counter space would be exceptional on a large boat.

The after staterooms are full doubles with ventilation from a large hatch. Water tanks and engines are under the berths with plenty of room for engine work, but we would want a remote engine oil level gauge.

We couldn’t go inside Banshee, because the inside floors had just been painted, but we checked out the exterior. The cockpit and foredeck are very similar to Flica, but the cabin top is lower and is full of lines, since everything leads to the cockpit. Steering is by tiller, power is a 9.9 h.p. Yamaha outboard. We were back next morning, for the sailing test. The wind was about 15 knots and never went much above that, the chop in Plymouth Harbor was about three feet. Lee and I went out with Laight and Roger Holman on Flica, and Richard and Lilian Woods took out a family on Banshee.

The twin 18 h.p. Saildrives, mounted almost 16 feet apart, make handling Flica a dream and give a cruising speed of 7 knots, easily. The standard sloop rig has the genoa sheets led through blocks on the cabin top, so the high-cut genoa can be trimmed well in for beating, and the boat will tack nicely within 900. The main has standard slab reefing with a third reef that I certainly hope never to use. The main traveler is pulley-controlled, the sheet winches are large, self-tailing two speeds, located on the cabin top, and there are two halyard winches on the mast.

We sailed close to the wind, following a small monohull, at about six-and a-half knots. The expensive cable steering was effortless, underway; Laight doesn’t want to use hydraulic steering because he thinks it would reduce the ‘feel' of the boat too much. Flica really steered herself, once the sails were balanced. We didn’t try the autopilot, but it wouldn’t have to work very hard. After passing the monohull we went off on a close reach and got to about nine knots, still in not much more than 15 knots of wind.

Coming about we backed the jib slightly and the boat came right around. I’m not sure the backing of the jib was necessary, and h certainly would not be in more wind. The boat, incidentally, was not empty. It carried a full load of fuel, almost full water tank and a lot of extra gear. Laight thinks you would not lose much performance with a fully loaded boat; and the larger Banshee rig, which is optional, would add about a knot of speed.

We rafted briefly, the family came aboard Flica and I went on Banshee. The paint was dry, so I looked at the interior first.

Banshee is advertised as a fast cruiser with limited accommodations, and I don’t think this is really fair. Headroom in the salon is for sifting only, but when the big companionway hatch is open, it doesn’t much matter. The trunks for the daggerboards reduce the interior size, but it is still big, with a nice navigation station. The staterooms are the same as on Flica, with full headrooms in the forward ones. There is full headroom in the head and the galley. The galley loses some storage to the board trunk. A lot of boats advertised as cruisers don’t have this much comfort inside.

Banshee is first and foremost a sailing boat, and sail she does. With all lines leading to the cockpit, including lines to control the boards, there is no need to go forward. The tiller steering was controlled with one finger on the bar, and slightly at that. Richard Woods keeps the boards down, at least some, on all points of sailing.

In the same 15-knot wind we were going almost 11 knots and easily outpointing a small monohull in spite of the sailors’ efforts. Falling off the wind a little we jumped to 13 knots and held this as we ran back in. Any cat sailor who has a Stiletto or MacGregor and wants a cruising boat would be happy here.

To satisfy my curiosity, we dropped the sails and motored into the wind and chop. The little outboard pushed this big boat along at about five-and-a-half knots without any sign of cavitation. Woods said the propeller rarely comes out of the water. The motor’s location in a shallow well at the back of the cockpit helps, there is quite a bit of hull still aft. Banshee handles well under power. From a business point of view we had expected to be impressed with Flica, but we weren’t too interested in Banshee. We found Flica better than we had expected and were honestly amazed by the accommodations on Banshee. The boats were very nicely finished inside and out.

We were also impressed with Richard Laight and the Woodses. They are young, have grown up with the industry and are well respected. Palamos Boatbuild’s production is sold out through 1987 and they are expanding as long as the business keeps growing. The product is good and fairly priced, so they should grow.

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