FAQ


  • 1 Will catamarans capsize?

    The short answer is that any vessel – monohull or catamaran – is prone to knockdown or capsize if conditions are poor enough. Some early catamaran designs - going back 40 years or so - had a poor reputation for stability, but naval architecture, construction materials and build techniques have massively improved over the years.

    As with all things in life you can’t have it all: the lighter and faster the boat, the less forgiving it will be when pressed hard.  Modern cruising cats are very wide in the beam, which increases their inherent stability. They also have high volume and buoyancy, which further combat the pressure to capsize as well as providing more comfort and load carrying capacity. The wind and wave conditions needed to capsize a modern cruising catamaran of, say, 38’ and above would need to be extreme indeed and crew error will also play a large part.

    The leading catamaran builders are big companies, some publicly quoted, with an equally big reputation to maintain. They build family cruising boats - hundreds per annum - and they would not exist if they built boats that are easily prone to capsize.

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  • 2 What is the motion like?

    The lack of heeling on a catamaran is a real joy to those of us used to sailing around on our ear, and it’s one of the primary reasons that people convert to multihull sailing. The stories you hear about ovens without gimbals and drinks staying put on the table are all are all true! Best of all, it is far easier to move around the boat in a blow, without the need to cling on for dear life. Undignified scrambles over the crew to access the companionway or attend to a winch by a dipping lee rail are for the enjoyment of monohull sailors alone. Even within the catamaran world, the motion has improved over the years: the latest wide-transom designs are less prone to “hobbyhorsing” (the effect of fine bows and sterns pivoting around a fatter mid-section) than their predecessors. With the lack of a keel and buoyant forward sections, the bow sections of a catamaran can be comparatively lively in upwind conditions, so the aft cabins tend to be prime real estate on overnight passages.

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  • 3 Will I suffer less seasickness on a cat?

    It is reasonable to say that most people suffer less on a catamaran than they would on a mono, although there are a few who claim to find the motion less comfortable. Those prone to seasickness will be sensitive to any motion to the one they are used to, but this feeling usually dissipates over time. For the majority, the lack of a keelboat rolling motion and clear views of the horizon from inside the yacht and out, together make a huge contribution to on-board comfort. It is incredibly liberating to be able to check the charts and make a cup of tea without the horror of the companionway steps and “going below” under way.

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  • 4 Will I be charged double for berthing?

    Some marinas will try, if their docks are full and you wish to occupy a space that would normally take two boats. But this is happening less as marinas improve and expand, and the increase in catamaran ownership in general has encouraged marina operators to be accommodating. We know of many catamaran owners who are fortunate to be paying the monohull rate in marinas with extra capacity, or in corners where the draught is unsuitable for boats with deep keels. As a general rule, between 1.2 and 1.5 times the monohull rate can be expected and as this equates to the volume difference between a cat and a mono, we think this is fair.

    The shallow draught of a catamaran, the lack of a rolling motion and the ability to carry a good sized tender mean that when you are cruising you would expect to spend a good deal of time anchored away from marinas altogether.

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  • 5 Are catamarans better suited to the Med and the tropics?

    You will certainly see the majority of catamarans in warm waters but a catamaran can work very well in less sunny climes. On a rainy day in the UK, what can be more pleasant than watching the world go by from a raised and airy saloon, rather than being stuck “down below”? Look at it as a modern take on a traditional pilot house cruiser.

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  • 6 Are they popular to charter?

    Charter is all about occupancy rates and return on investment. The cabin layout of a typical charter cat allows four couples to share the cost of a holiday equally, all enjoying equally sized private cabins and ensuite facilities, which is only possible on very large and expensive monohulls. Furthermore, a charter party is likely to be made up of only one or two people who are really keen sailors, the rest perhaps being too young or old to be actively involved or not of a nautical persuasion. The space, comfort and the chance of a little privacy from time to time are all inside and out all work heavily in a catamaran’s favour.

    The biggest charter operators are replacing many of their monohull fleets with cats and the small operators are always very hungry for new owners with good quality catamarans to charter. Depending on planned personal usage, a managed yacht in one of the smaller, flexible charter fleets can be an excellent way to defray your ownership costs. We have some good companies we can recommend.

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  • 7 How easy are they to manoeuver?

    If you’re only used to parking a monohull, approaching a marina at the helm of a cat for the first time can be intimidating. Where before you only had one throttle and one bow and stern to worry about, you now have two throttles, four corners and a lot of boat in between! After a little experience of handling a twin engine boat, you can expect these concerns to fade away. Because the engines are so far apart, you can put one engine in forward and the other in reverse, enabling you to spin the boat in its own length. You do have a lot of windage in a cat, but this is overcome by your turning power: getting pinned side-on by the wind is rarely an issue unless the breeze is particularly strong.

    Those used to managing a twin-engined power boat will already know the drill and a cat is very similar. For example, when berthing alongside you don’t typically step off amidships but you approach stern-first, so it’s easier for the crew to step ashore from the transom off or drop a loop over a cleat.  Once the stern is secure, use turning force of the engines It’s not difficult, just different.

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  • 8 Are the rudders behind the props?

    Many modern cats have saildrive engines, mounted a long way aft. This has the advantage of keeping the engine way from the accommodation while allowing the designer to maximise cabin space within a given hull length. However this often means that the rudders are in front of the propellors, so there is no prop-wash effect on the rudders when stationary. In this situation, forget about the wheel and imagine you’re driving a tank! The engines will kick the boat around for you without the assistance of prop-wash.

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  • 9 Can they be sailed short or single handed?

    Sail handling systems on a cruising catamaran are much the same as any cruising monohull. In fact many are simpler as they don’t have outhaul lines, spinnaker poles or kickers. Add to this the ease of movement around a broad and working platform and there is no reason why a competent couple can’t comfortably cruise on a catamaran up to around 55’ in length, which is a very big boat by any standard.

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  • 10 How do they sail upwind?

    This depends on the design of the cat, as they are by no means all alike. The deeper the keel and the lower the topsides, the less leeway she will make. Even within the broad categories of fixed keel or daggerboard designs there are nuances of design (sail shape, sheeting angles etc) that will also influence the upwind capability. As a VERY general rule, you should expect to point a high-volume, fixed keel cat up to around 50 degrees to the wind and a performance cruiser with daggerboards to around 40 to 45 degrees.

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  • 11 Will they fly a hull when sailing?

    For the vast majority of boats on the market, the simple answer is no. Only out-and out race boats and super-high performance cruisers are designed to lift a hull out of the water to reduce surface area and drag, and only then in ideal conditions. This type of boat will require an experienced crew and some sophisticated rigging technology to safely manage the boat, especially when driving hard. With the vast majority of cruising cats, the weight and the stability provided by buoyancy and beam will prevent this from happening.

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  • 12 What are the differences between daggerboards and fixed keels?

    Daggerboards are typically fitted on racing or high performance cruising multihulls. Their efficient high aspect ratio (deep and narrow) will improve performance and pointing ability upwind and minimise drag on all points of sailing. In the right downwind conditions they can be fully raised, decreasing drag further when sailing and allowing access to the shallowest of anchorages. From a safety point of view, it can be reasonably argued that this ability to fully rais the keels will allow a boat to slide sideways down a big wave without “tripping” over itself.

    Fixed keels provide the foil shape necessary to allow a boat to point reasonably well, although not as high as a daggerboard boat, and are not so deep as to encourage the boat to trip in huge seas. They greatly simplify the work of shorthanded sailing and they will allow a boat to take the ground (it is fair to say that most daggerboard boats will take the ground too, but their hull bottoms will be at greater risk of damage.) The production cost of fixed keel boats is lower, as daggerboards need to be built from exotic high-strength materials and require a lifting/lowering mechanism. Putting the keel outside the boat will increase internal space, as you won’t need a daggerboard trunk from the floor to the ceiling of each hull.

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  • 13 Is anchoring a cat different to anchoring a monohull?

    A little. Cats generally present a bigger surface area to the wind than monos, which means you should not be too conservative with your anchor size and you should pay out a chain of at least 5 times the water depth. Because of this windage and their shape in the water, cats will to a varying degree try to sheer around at anchor rather than lying quietly to the wind. This is very easily countered with a bridle: this consists of two lengths of rope, one from each bow, which are attached to the chain just before it is fully paid out. As the cat tries to sheer away, the bridle rope takes the strain automatically centres the bows.

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  • 14 In smallish catamarans (30 to 36 feet), what is the recomended minimum bridgedeck height to reduce the risk of slamming to an acceptable level?

    You will need to accept that bridgedeck clearance will never be that great on a cruising cat of this length, unless you are prepared to sacrifice a significant amount of headroom in the saloon. What is acceptable varies from one person to another. Some dislike the noise and reduction in performance of a constantly slamming bridgedeck, others can’t abide the thought of their heads so much as brushing the saloon ceiling.

     

    We would say 50cm would be a good result and 35cm is about the minimum you should reasonably expect at the smaller end of your range. Be cautious with manufacturer’s specs as they may only give you the highest point with the vessel unloaded. Pay attention to protruberances that drop below the natural bridgedeck line, such as retro-moulded platforms for double beds aft (a certain builder many years ago once had the nerve to call these (“planing wedges!”) or nacelles intended to provide extra saloon headroom. Look at the forward-facing shape of any such protruberances to help you work what will happen in normal or choppy conditions. Is the turn of the bridgedeck steep or does it slope gently backwards? The former will create greater wave resistance, but the latter will result in less volume inside the boat. Again, it’s a trade-off and we are sure you will have an idea of how you intend to use the boat to help you come to the best compromise.

     

    The Fountaine Pajot Mahe 36 is a good example of a modern cruiser with headroom in the saloon, a claimed clearance of 65cm, a smooth bridgedeck shape and reasonably full hull shapes that shouldn’t sink too far under load.

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