Bluewater Sailboat – Gunboat 48


The predecessor of the present trend for quick composite carbon catamarans is the gunboat. Even though there were only a few built, the Gunboat 48 is a very popular model. In reality, there aren’t many Gunboat models in large quantities. It is the vessel that surfing superstar John John Florence chose for his Gunboat 48 Vela-inspired travelogue-style video series, which was brilliantly documented.

When Peter Johnstone developed the first Gunboat 62 Tribe over 20 years ago, generated from the discomfort his family endured sailing a giant monohull, little did he anticipate he would start a cult for cool cruising cats that can outrun maxis on a racing track and have the legs to evade a storm.

This smaller type, more manageable for an owner-driver but still capable of up to 300-400 mile days, was created by seasoned multihull designers Morrelli & Melvin.

Gunboat 48
Gunboat 48
  • LOA: 48′ 4″ (14.74 m.)
  • LWL: 45′ 11″ (14.00 m.)
  • Beam: 24′ 3″ (7.39 m.)
  • Draft (boards up/down): 1′ 1″/7′ 5″ (0.33/2.26 m.)
  • Sail Area: 1,106 sq. ft. (102.7 sq. m.)
  • Displacement: 20,100 lb. (9,117 kg.)
  • Water: 120 gal. (454 l.)
  • Fuel: 120 gal. (454 l.)
  • Engines: Twin Westerbeke 35-hp. diesels
  • Designer: Morrelli & Melvin


The first and most important thing to know about boatbuilder Peter Johnstone is that he passionately adores sailing. Peter Johnstone has twice given the very talented design team of Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin his vision of the ultimate offshore cruising catamaran. Not just simple infatuation here. Mr. Johnstone  had a passionate obsession with the art and science of propulsion by fresh air, the purest of all fuels, for aquatic vessels. Johnstone started with a pretty straightforward inquiry when he made the decision to take his small family on a cruise a few years ago. Naturally, the solution would need to include inherent components for safety, dependability, and seaworthiness, but that fundamental concept was indisputable.

If you want to learn more about this bluewater sailboat builder, we suggest checking Sailing boat Builders. This page provides comprehensive information and is an excellent resource for anyone seeking more information.

When he was conceiving of the 48, Peter Johnstone, the original Gunboat founder, dialled Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin on the phone. All of these gentlemen enjoy sailing, and the brief called for a vessel that would boost the enjoyment factor while yet being secure, dependable, and seaworthy for a cruising couple. This catamaran had to be swift because it was a bluewater sailboat gunboat.

What they created was a strong, straightforward catamaran with plenty of room for sleeping and relaxing that was simple to sail with a small crew. It was constructed of the newest, lightest materials. After the 62, the 48 was the second design to go (including Tribe, the original Gunboat). Later, they converted the 62 into the 66.


The GUNBOAT 48 series, constructed between 2004 and 2009 and intended for uncrewed, family sabbatical sailing, captured the imaginations of an even wider range of sailors. The 48’s general design concept was inspired by the enormously popular Gunboat 62, and it asked designers Morrelli and Melvin to realise the same ambition in a package made for owner-operators with straightforward systems, Gunboat performance, and the customary ease of handling.

Since they were first built, the majority of Gunboat 48s still in existence have undergone extensive renovations, yet they still still feature only the best fixtures and materials. They had an impact-resistant composite construction made of Aramid Honey-comb Nomex with carbon fibre inner skins and Kevlar outer skins sandwiched between vacuum-bagged epoxy foam and foam.

With unidirectional Aramid Fiber shrouds, Aramid forestays (x 2), custom Facnor furlers, an Edson-designed carbon steering wheel, and carbon fibre retractable rudders and dagger boards, all original carbon spars were built by Marstrom. Brazilian mahogany floors and African sapele cabinetry were installed inside the 48s.

The deck plan as a whole is really ingenious; to the rear, the saloon opens up to a large cockpit space for dining or drinking, with quick access to the swim ladder, dinghy davits, and twin Westerbeke 35-horsepower Universal diesels. Just inside the door to the forward cockpit, the helm, engine controls, and navigational instruments are all conveniently located. When the sailboat is on autopilot, a stylish folding dining table is located in front of a forward-facing sofa and is frequently used.

Above Deck

Conceptually, the 48 hasn’t moved far from the precedents established on its larger sibling. A door that divides the forward cockpit from the central saloon/wheelhouse/galley on the bridgedeck allows access to the forward cockpit. Johnstone admits that the forward cockpit was not a unique Gunboat concept; renowned multihull designer Chris White successfully used it on his Atlantic series of travelling cats. But it works well on the bluewater sailboat Gunboat since practically all of the necessary running rigging and sail handling equipment is stationed at chest level close to the base of the enormous carbon fibre spar, including a collection of Harken blocks and winches and a variety of Spinlock clutches and jammers.

Just inside the aforementioned front door, a few steps away, are the steering wheel, engine controls, chart plotter, and instrumentation. Likewise, a stylish folding dining table with Brazilian mahogany veneers in front of an attractive sofa facing forward is there when the yacht is being guided by the Raymarine autopilot. It’s almost like watching a sailing movie on a big screen when you’re looking out the front and side windows, and it’s a very pleasant view.

In reality, the layout of the free-flowing deck as a whole makes excellent use of available space. With easy access to the dinghy davits and the moulded, transom-mounted steps leading to the swim ladder and the twin Westerbeke 35-horsepower Universal diesels, the bridgedeck leads to a spacious “back porch” for eating or drinking.

Below Deck

With the salon, helm, and Sailboats Galley situated on the main deck within the pilothouse and a roomy, well-protected rear cockpit for dining and unwinding on the shaded double daybed, the interior and accommodations have to be light and airy. She had two heads in the hulls, a convertible office into a third berth, and three queen berths.

Three of the cozy quarters below have queen-size sleepers, and a fourth has a single bed (this can also double up as an office). Then there are 2 shower-equipped bathrooms, each located forward in a separate hull. The 48 continues to be one of the most well-known models in the Gunboat line, which is a classic in the catamaran industry. An icon! 

A third cabin has a single bed in addition to the two queen-size sleepers in the staterooms below. Additionally, there are two showers and heads that are both located forward in their respective hulls.

The vacuum-bagged, oven-cured monocoque hull and deck—a foam sandwich made of epoxy, biaxial and unidirectional glass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber—have an incredibly high level of construction quality, befitting a bluewater sailboat with a seven-figure price tag. The stringers, ring frames, and crossbeams are all made of carbon fibre, as well as the daggerboards and lifting rudders.

There is nothing else like a bluewater sailboat Gunboat in existence. Peter Johnstone succeeded in his goal of creating a “hot-rod cruiser,” as described by designer Bill Lee.


Gunboat is a performance bluewater multihull that frequently comes to mind. The Gunboat 48 was chosen as their favorite out of all of them by Toby Hodges and Francois Tregouet.

The 48 is the Owner Operator Gunboat set up for short-handed sailing. She is the most attractive gunboat, and her long bow makes her appear to be an E-Type Jaguar on the sea. A myth that is as popular as the wind. When the sails are up, the Gunboat 48 really shines, and it stands out from other multihulls because you can make decent progress upwind as well. Shorthanded sailing is made easy by the self-tacking jib and high roach main. In fair weather, boat speeds on a close approach should range from 7.5 to 9 knots with a tacking angle of about 100 degrees into the wind.

With the appropriate sails up (gennaker, code 0 or jib), head off the wind and tacking downwind again at 130–150 degrees for the best VMG, you will sail close to wind speed (velocity to waypoint). The 48 really starts to take off when she reaches 12 knots. This is a fast catamaran, so if the conditions are ideal and it’s being sailed correctly, you should be seeing speeds in the 20s. Okay, so maybe the waves are helping, but you get my point. You should observe speeds that are close to True Wind Speed even in mild breezes.

The Gunboat 48, like the 62 before it, was built from the keel up to be a screaming high-tech performance boat that still has a nice and comfortable cabin. Most cruising cats are designed to maintain a fairly equitable balance between performance and comfort. The Melvin & Morrelli-designed 48 resembles a Lamborghini more than a minivan.

Quick Notes

The 48 series was constructed between 2004 and 2009. The sail plan, the hull form, and a strict focus on weight reduction account for the majority of it. The 48 is slightly more than 8 tonnes light (17,700 lbs)

Only six Gunboat 48s were made, thus they are extremely rare and in high demand. The 48 has won the hearts of many sailors over the years who have yearned for quality globe voyaging on their own terms, from the covert affection of discreet owners who may never part with them to the well-known explorers who leave their ownership to friends. You might spot one of these fabled two-hulled monsters if you look closely in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, or the Norwegian fjords.

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