The Prout 39’ Escale was built in Essex, United Kingdom in 1991. Finding one of these cats is a rarity, since it’s to be believed that only a mere 200 some are left sailing the seas; a cruising class gem, designed by two brothers, Francis and Roland Prout. The two brothers spent their youth learning the ropes of design and boat-building within the families’ business, building folding canoes and dinghies. The brothers even raced canoes in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics! Before the Prout Cruising Classes were built, the brothers designed smaller day sailing boats and also the infamous Shearwater class, under the families business. The Brothers domination of the catamaran cruising world began in 1975, when their company, “Prout Catamarans” was founded. From 1975 to when they shut their doors in 2002, Prout Catamarans manufactured close to 4,300 boats; 658 of which were the Escale 39 Series.
From looking at the Escale 39, comparing layout prints to previous builds, the Escale has a considerably larger beam, almost 2:1, resulting in a much more spacious interior. If comfort is more of a priority than being first to the destination, the Escale is a great boat. However, some interiors can be quite dated, thus the second hand prices reflect this. After many years of improving the notorious looking nacelle, Prout has engineered the ideal accommodations below deck, spaces un-seen in the mono-haul world. There are 8 different layouts to choose from, offering a wide range of accommodations. The hull design, being ruggedly built, Kevlar reinforced, makes them almost unsinkable.
Captain Jeff, owner and operator the beautiful 39 foot Escale, Summer Rain has been kind enough to do a full tour and interview. The boat has been in Jeff’s family since its conception in 1991. Circum-navigation of the globe was in its future. Summer Rain took its maiden voyage in the fall of 1992 after a lot of preparation. Since then, the boat has almost never sat still. Captain Jeff tells me story after story, so proud of his vessel. He has done so much work and refitting, that I’m boggled by the creature comforts and upgrades. Like many catamarans, the builder needed to find a happy place in the construction of the hull, keeping the boat lightweight enough, solid and able to create more windage, lessening the slow speed maneuverability that some multi-hulls suffer. The laminate that is used to build the hull is “one tough sun-of-a-gun.” Jeff tells me while smiling and sharing an adventure: “sailing in the South Sea, having an issue with the GPS and running aground on a reef, I was certain we were doomed” says Jeff. “After we inspected the boat for any critical damage, seeing none, we waited for the high tide”. With the incoming tide, Summer Rain, ungrounded herself, and the damage was very minor. “I couldn’t believe it”, Jeff says, “when I inspected the boat once we were off the reef, there were a few scratches, a couple deep, but I’ve seen much worse damage.” Other well thought-of- designs for the hull consist of the integral water tanks in the keels, which this provides a double skin; buoyancy compartments forward and aft Along with all the wood furniture and construction adds to its unsinkable reputation. Jeff strongly insists to me that “his experience, having met other Prout owners as well, is the quality of the manufacturing of Prout boats is quite superb.”
One fault, (pre 1996) that many Prout boat owners experienced was the cabin structure being compromised due to an ill thought rigging design. Looking at this Prout, I can see the main shrouds/backstays are attached to the cabin side rather than the hull, it’s apparent that it has been repaired several times with not much long term success and is now being refitted. This is definitely a weakness that in older Proust can lead to failure of the cabin roof. In 1996 this issue was fixed in the newer boats by using a diamond stay system with a taller mast and rigging off the sides. This provides more sail area, a stiffer mast and less chance of wear between the spreaders and the Genoa. The entryway is better designed and covered with a bubble on 1996 and newer builds.
Getting into the performance of the boat with Jeff, my first thhought and doubt is in the ability of the Prout Escale sailing into the wind. A typical misconception and one many mono haul sailors argue is catamarans don’t sail well into the wind, period. The Prout brothers, following their strict design rules, have resulted in the Escale being able to sail almost as good into the wind as any other mono haul vessel. Captain Jeff goes on to tell me about how often monohaul sailors that start sailing multihulls, tend to pinch up into the wind too much. “The secret” Jeff Says, “you must fall off a little, build up speed, then gradually sheet in and come up. Any type of sailing, even sailing against trade winds and tides, can be overcome by a little finesse and learning. “For getting to ones destination downwind”, Jeff says, “handing the main and poling out twin genoas, we have been able to cruise 160-190 miles and more a day”. This is unheard of in a lot of monohauls. In strong seas, storms and heavy winds; double or triple reefed main, combined with a small furled staysail, provides effective drive, great stability and a level of comfort, even in unpleasant conditions. The hydraulic steering is a plus, the rudder sticking where you put it, making shorthanded sailing a breeze.
Summer Rain has two heads, one in each hull, and three double berths, each about 17 feet away from each other, providing wonderful privacy that is sometimes ill gotten on sailing vessels. The athwartships double berths aft are great sea berths on either tack. Typically, one hull is for the owner and the other for crew and friends. The galley is quite spacious, with deep double sinks, full size navigation station, with all the bells and whistles to keep everyone perplexed. The Saloon comfortably seats 10, with 360 degree panoramic view and quick access to the cockpit. There are 16 hatches and four opening ports which provide excellent ventilation in the warmer climates. Aft of the cockpit there is a 12ft wide aft deck, that can stow anything from you dinghy to trash, to whatever else one may think of.
The deck design, an aftermarket refit, includes a water catching system that can fill the 170 gallon tank in a half hour in a tropical rainstorm. Jeff simply opens the deck side fillers, places a piece of plastic or towel behind the fillers and all the rain from the coach roof, foredeck and side decks, flows into the tanks, all Thanks to the integral molded toe-rails of Prout. The collection surfaces are so big on the Escale, that with the rain and a water purifier, Jeff can go quite a while before a shore water visit.
All these designs share some common features: such as beam-to-length ratios under 50%, small mainsail with large Genoa, cutter rigs stepped well aft, allowing handling in safety from the cockpit. These catamarans also share low aspect ratio keels for shallow draft and beach-ability. Jeff even told me one story of anti-fouling his vessel beached instead of hauling out. Once fault amongst all the Prout designs especially the Escale is the bridge-deck clearance, which some people say should have been increased.
The Prout 39 is one of the nicest looking catamarans you will ever see. She will look after her crew in just about any weather. But like any multihull, is vulnerable to overloading. Some things should just be left on-shore. All though, on average, what I have found is that the price per foot of a cat is usually more than that for than a monohaul, Escale Series vessels can be found at decent price. The “P” catamaran design is from a long line of top notch sailing vessels, such as the Quest, Event, Ocean Ranger and Snowgoose models.