Going to the darkside: From monohull to multihull

We’re old school sailors. Well, correction, we were old school sailors. A little less than a year ago we wouldn’t have stepped foot on a catamaran, let alone consider buying one. My how things have changed. I’m not even sure whether I could pinpoint how, or when, this change of thinking happened. Was it that our friend bought a catamaran and took us for a fabulously relaxed day sail? Or that our favourite You Tubers moved from monohull to a multihull? Either way, when we decided we wanted to upgrade our yacht, the option of catamaran was thrown into the mix and months of research began. We went from zero to 100 in our knowledge of cats, researching different brands and their pros and cons.

There is a worldwide trend to catamarans
While monohulls remain the gold standard for extreme weather sailing (think Arctic weather and Roaring Forties), catamarans have become popular in the warm weather cruising market. In the past catamarans have mainly been confined to the tropical charter market but this has shifted in recent years towards owners wanting to sail them long distances.

The reason is simple: living space and comfort. Cruisers spend the majority of their time on an anchor, so ideally you want to be a comfortable as possible at your anchorage. The space and ease of movement around catamaran win hands down over a monohull. It’s also more stable with less of the exhausting heel while underway.

The downsides? A catamaran won’t point as high to windward, and you have to reef early to avoid trouble. There are some concerns about capsize but this has diminished over the years and reefing the sails remains a critical element in managing the boat.

In making a purchasing choice, it came down to a few key areas for us. Everyone has their preferences and there no perfect yacht, everything is a compromise. Here are our most important criteria:

Performance vs. cruising catamaran
Performance Catamarans, e.g., Outremer, Catana, Schoening, are lightweight and fast and have tremendous downwind performance. They have dagger boards in each hull to help their upwind sailing. However, these dagger boards take up space in each hull and are another piece of equipment to contend with when sailing. Another reason these cats are so fast is their narrower hulls and consequently smaller berth spaces.

Some performance cats have very exposed helm areas. On a wet, cold night, that ‘s not my preferred option.

Also, generally, the heavier the cat, the slower or more sluggish it may be. So the question is how far do you want to sail and how quickly do you want to get there?

Galley up or Galley Down
Some cats have a galley in the hull, e.g., Seawind, and other brands have a galley in the saloon, e.g., Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot. In a hull, you tend to have a larger galley but you’re way from your guests and food has to be passed up, much like a monohull. With the gallery up, space has to be shared with a dining or living area, limiting the galley space, but at least the cook is working and enjoying the company of the crew.

Helm location
You have three main options that I can tell in the production cat options.
1. Cockpit
2. Mid-level flybridge
3. Full flybridge

All of these have their pros and cons around visibility around the catamaran, the height of the boom and proximity to the crew.

Final choices
Once you’ve narrowed down those three categories, you’ve narrowed down your brand options. It then becomes a matter of the size of boat, budget and cosmetic preferences. The larger your family and the further you want to travel, the bigger the boat you’ll need within your budget. If you just wish to enjoy coastal cruising as a couple, then you may not need a catamaran as large as the one for large families with lots of friends.

So, what did we choose? I’ll share that in a future post.

Have you made the switch from a monohull yacht to a catamaran? What was your selection process?

Header photos: Kelly Jean Bruno Charters

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