Aspen Cats

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Nov 10, 2023
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Does anyone have personal knowledge about the C120 Aspen? My wife and I just traveled to Bellingham for a charter, but also hit the Anacortes boat show prior to departing. We really liked the newish Nordhavn N41, but also came away particularly intrigued by the C120. It checks a lot of boxes for us and was hoping to get some feedback on the forum. I’ve already watched several YouTube videos, and they only reinforce our interest. The performance seems outstanding. Any thoughts from anyone with first or second hand knowledge of this boat? Anxious to hear.
There is a world of difference in quality between the two boats. I am not a fan of either boat so anything else I have to say is probably biased towards how I boat.
There is a world of difference in quality between the two boats. I am not a fan of either boat so anything else I have to say is probably biased towards how I boat.
Since no one else has chimed in, I’m curious. I get the Nordhavn build quality. It’s exceptional. The Aspen, I am unfamiliar with build reputation. Many boats are not under consideration for precisely that reason, a less than build. Do you know anything specifically or anecdotally about Aspen which reflects the that somewhat inferior build? I am not challenging your option at all, just seeking clarification. On our charter on an AT, we had a bit of mechanical issue and needed a diesel mechanic to come out to Friday Harbor. I picked his brain about engines a bit, and he saw our flyer on an Aspen 120. He has been involved in the NW for almost 20 years as a mechanic and spoke highly of Aspen. He knew the Grafs and spoke well of them and their company, so that carried a little weight. That said, I need a lot more info to consider the money outlay for a particular boat make than one guy and a boat we liked at the show. I am very close to deciding on a Helmsman. My wife really prefers cats based on the apparent stability and “feel and design”. I am looking for due diligence solid info as we pursue purchase. Would love to hear your opinions based on your boating bias related to your boating preferences, and anyone else’s. I will cull the options as it applies to our anticipated uses/needs.
I have a little familiarity with Nordhavn and been on some cats. IMO, they are decidedly very different and would say that where and what type of cruising you plan to do could have a significant impact on choice.

Don't know if you've ever cruised on a cat, but I would never advise buying one until you've cruised one for several days. That said, as with mono hulls, there a great difference in manufacturers, models, and how they handle seas.

Maybe you could explain what type and where you might be cruising that people could offer opinions on suitability of either boat.

First, I have limited experience with trawlers and cats. I chartered an Aquila for a week last summer and we just chartered an American Tug 435 the middle of May in San Juan Islands. Both were enjoyable experiences. We plan to mostly cruise the eastern seaboard and Bahamas, maybe the loop. I recognize the Nordhavn is probably overkill for that type cruising, but I like overkill for the mission. Rightly or wrongly I translate that as more comfort and a more likely positive outcome. When I say Nordhavn, I really am speaking of the N41. We had engine issues on the AT 435 just as we were about to leave the dock in the middle of Friday Harbor. That suddenly made me reconsider twin vs. single. Of course the Aspen is a single screw full displacement cat with a 14 foot beam. While at anchor on the AT we sailed and sailed. My guess would be the Aspen cat would improve upon that, but then the question becomes, how frequently would we be at anchor? With my wife on board, probably not a lot. I guess my biggest question is about the build quality of an Aspen. I don’t know that answer and I am hoping for some feedback. .As I said, for me, Helmsman is a great choice and a great value, but I did like the Aspen. The Nordhavn with mechanical twins, large engine room, stabilizer, and built in Nordhavn quality and cache also has an appeal. I’m not sure those features outweigh the smaller helm, cockpit, and lack of flybridge for us though. My guess is all 3 would serve us well along the east coast and ICW. Helmsman and N41, I think I have a feel for, it’s Aspen I am most unfamiliar with. I’m interested in what others know and/or think.
I have a friend who owns an Aspen Cat. They seem to be happy with it. I have another friend who does all the maintenance for the above mentioned Aspen Cat.

I am not impressed with the fit and finish of the Aspen Cat. These issues often don’t show up during the first 10 years of the boats life but can deteriorate rapidly during the second 10 years.

With the Aspen Cat My maintenance friend finds himself all to often dealing with factory issues that were not thought out well. With the Norhavn he never has to deal with factory issues, only with accessories added after the fact.

To be fair to Aspen Cat, they need to make the boat light to make it work. This reduces their options when it comes to fit, finish and design.

Consequently, you are comparing a light weight, higher speed vessel to a sturdy, rugged, slow vessel.
Several things that I would look at that may require you to contact Aspen owners are as follows:

Cats can be more critical to balancing load and more sensitive to overload. Typically when you charter for a week, you show up with 2 suitcases and go grocery shopping. When you cruise for extended periods of time, "stuff expands to fill available space". Mono hulls tend to favor those of us with way too much stuff.

Make sure capacities match your planned cruising. How much water does it carry? Do you need a water maker as a result? While holding tank size isn't an issue offshore, traveling the Loop can force you to be more dependent on pumpout stations. Do you have comparable refrigeration? How much fuel capacity, traveling range? This could be very different chartering locally for a week versus cruising the Bahamas.

Finally, how's the cat in seas? If you're cruising the Bahamas, you will encounter significant seas. Taking them on the bow can be very different from quartering or beams seas.

Thank you tiltrider1. That is the type of information I am interested in. It is beneficial for my thought processes.
Thanks Ted, my biggest concerns with the Aspen, besides potential build quality (and prices) is their relatively small tankage. Water is only 100 gallons, fuel either 180 or 220 gallons. Each are smaller than I would prefer.
Your comments also make me really try to fine tune what our typical cruising will be and the necessary equipment associated with that. Unfortunately, I really don't know until we have a boat. Currently I don't think my wife will want to spend more than 2 or 3 weeks at most on board at a time. This could change as she becomes more and more comfortable but still, it is obvious this is my dream, not hers. I am attempting to not limit my cruising by picking the wrong boat, but reality is that it will most likely be limited by lack of a cruising partner. I should probably be picking the boat which will be most easily single handed by my one-eyed shar pei, Myrtle, and myself. Thanks for your thoughts. Focusing on the likely missions details really does help.
Know nothing about Aspen but have done passages on tris and cats.
Until you get quite large multis are more prone to hobbyhorse. When going into the wave train they may burp and drop speed briefly but quickly. They ride on the water not in it so movements are usually smaller but a lot quicker.
There’s a wide difference between good multi hull sea boats and not so much. Those who are excellent tend to have the following characteristics.
The hulls are extremely fine with little volume.
The bridge deck doesn’t extend to the front of the boat.
They are quite beamy.
Weight is centralized to produce a good gyradius.
Clearance to the underside of the bridgdeck is maximized.
They are kept light.
Measures are taken to decrease lateral plan so they are less sensitive to cross winds. Otherwise can be hard to dock.
Each of the above is a generalization and exceptions abound. Would note both USN and NASA studies suggest everyone can get motion sick. Sensitivity varies greatly by degree of stimulus but also frequency. Monos tend to be low frequency motions and multis faster and at times less rhthymic . Some folks can have no issues in terrible weather on a mono but praying to Neptune on a multi or the reverse. Suggestion to spend a week on the type of boat you’re looking at is an excellent idea. I was looking at Outremer and Rapido but ended up with Outbound. Friend owns a multihull dealership so gave us loaners. Wife hated the multis( I was in love). She didn’t like the motion nor going that fast.
For anyone interested here is a link to you tube video (I hope it works....feeling my way along here) titled
Aspen C120 power catamaran in heavy seas (if the link doesn't work). It obviously is a promotional video for the boat, but that said I am curious what impressions the more experienced crowd may have. The C120 part of video starts about 9:15 in. Also this is a full displacement cat so she's more thru the water than on top.
Kept waiting to see the 3 to 5'. Apparently that didn't make the video. They may have had 3' swell long period waves. IMO, there wasn't anything in the video that was hugely impressive as far as seas. I'm looking for short period steep waves. Most of the video seemed to have the boat heading toward islands and breakwaters. Show me what it does in open water, not a fetch of a mile or two. Generally, I expect to see lots of white caps in 15 knots. At 25 knots, I expect to see pretty solid white caps. Don't remember seeing their solid white caps. That's my opinion anyway.

I’ve seen the above video as well and similarly was unimpressed with the alleged ‘rough’ sea state. That being said, I was enamored with the smaller Aspen Cats, 107 and 108 I believe, especially given the outboard power since these are the engines which powered our boats over the last few decades. Found it interesting to see a 30’ plus cat powered by a 200 and 115hp outboard.

However, now preparing ourselves for familiarity with diesel engines which lead me to this site and its wealth of helpful folks and information
Also, and more relevant here, in the videos I watched regarding the Aspen 108, the fit and finish and vessel systems seemed well thought out and of quite decent quality— least far as you could tell from a video
Mr. D. NO knowledge what-so-ever about the Aspen C120 BUT we did move from a 46' Cheoy Lee trawler to a World Cat 2770 last year so not really apples to apples. More like apples to crabapples (size-wise). The 2770 IS a displacement boat but will plane quite readily (still haven't figured that one out).


The "Yahoo" captain needs a good dose of Valium IMO. VERY annoying.

I too would have liked to have seen "heavy seas". What was shown in the video is moderate at best and we have experienced same several times.

What I CAN comment on is handling in quartering and 3' to 4' beam seas. OUR boat does not like those conditions at all. Lesser wave/swell heights are acceptable. Adjusting trim and tilt (outboards) does ease the sportiness somewhat but....
Given she is only 26' I suspect the 43' Cat in the video may handle better due to size alone.
This past winter on our shakedown cruise we crossed Biscayne Bay @ 35 knots heading into 2' to 3' seas with only one or two sneezes.

Little to no pounding in 3' to 4' head seas. Bow goes up and comes down very softly. Following seas=pretty much the same. She corners very flat which is a bit disconcerting initially when one is used to the heel of a mono hull. Flat from 5 to 35 knots. Quite a sharp snap roll when drifting.
I think if I had been on that sea trial I would have requested an immediate return to the doc after the first "Yahoo"...
Agreed. I was going to use the word annoying myself but at that moment chose not to. It comes across as acting to try and sell something that isn’t really there. It’s funny how something like that can potentially dissuade you from the boat.
We rented a worldcat to fish when down in the keys. Had twin Hondas and was a dream to fish. Much nicer motion than a deep V when drifting and good stable platform when trolling. Think small cats have much to offer as recreational fish boats. As seaboats when done right can be great as well. But do dislike the cats mostly designed and aimed at the charter boat crowd.
I've been on many American Tugs and Aspens (and we have an AT being built, as noted in the Tug Designs discussion area). The three things I'd add to the discussion are:

1. Engines are neither made nor maintained by the factory. So I wouldn't attribute one engine problem, esp.on a charter boat, to the AT line as a whole. ATs do not have any unusual history of engine problems, relative to other boats.

2. AFAIK, Aspens have twin screws. They often use different sized engines to match the different hull sizes on the two sides (part of their unique design). That supposedly sometimes complicates the picture for spare parts, depending.

3. The experience inside is quite different between monohulls and cats. In our case, the Admiral vetoed consideration of a cat due to the interior implications (low headroom below, accessing one side of stateroom through the head, etc ) Others have different preferences.

Without casting shade on any other make, I do think the build quality on AT is as good as anything I've seen. (Well, now I'm thinking about Fleming but ... LOL)

So my main advice is to actually get on board the Aspens and see what you think! They will be happy to give you a tour in Anacortes.
The Aspen C120 is a single screw in the starboard hull. Typically a Volvo.
Thanks for the correction! I was confusing the inboards with their twin outboards.
FWIW, here is the post I mentioned with our thoughts about the choice among Aspen, American Tug, Nordic Tug, and Helmsman. The bottom line is that IMHO it mostly depends on which one you like :)

We ended up with AT but that's just us; I hope the reflections will help others when considering the factors at play.
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