It's rare for a cruising cat to flip, but even rarer for one to be flipped twice. Nonetheless, that's apparently what happened to Paradox, a cat that started life in '96 as an F/P Tobago 35, and was most recently owned by Tom and Stanna Galbraith of Durango, Colorado. We're not sure how the cat came to be upside down in Belize's Rio Hondo in '01, but it's our understanding from some fascinating video on the couple's website that, using a small tug, they managed to have the cat righted. As the boat had been upside down long enough for there to be growth several inches long throughout the interior and on the deck of the boat, it was a disgusting-looking mess, and you can imagine the condition of the wiring and electronics. But the Galbraiths obviously saw possibilities and, after what had to be endless months of dreadful work, ended up with a cat, stretched to 38 feet, that looked smashing. And based on other photos on their website, they had a ball cruising the western Caribbean.
However, according to reports on the web and from the Coast Guard, things went south on April 11 when the couple were sailing from Key West to Tampa. They were hit by a squall which increased the windspeed from 11 to 48 knots, immediately flipping the cat. The 60-year-old Tom grabbed his wife and pulled her into the hull where they kept the tools and wetsuits. While it had to be creepy inside the overturned hull, they knew the cat wasn't going to sink, and there was plenty of air. Having heard only one ping from the EPIRB, Tom realized that the EPIRB signal wasn't getting out. So the next day he drilled a hole in the bottom of the hull - which was now above their heads - and stuck the EPIRB antenna out. The EPIRB immediately started pinging away. Coast Guard Miami got the signal and launched a search plane at 5 p.m., finding the overturned cat an hour later some 171 miles southwest of Tampa. A rescue helicopter arrived on the scene at 8:30 p.m. and hoisted the couple aboard. Neither Tom nor Stanna were in need of medical treatment, but had only managed to come away with $1,500 and some papers. Family members report they have no interest in restoring the cat a second time.
The last six months have been hard on the reputation of catamarans. Last December, the Voyager 440 Catshot was flipped and beached during a furious storm - that was forecast well in advance - during a delivery from San Francisco to Seattle. None of the three crew were found. A short time later, a 45-ft catamaran being delivered from France to Annapolis was flipped in another very bad storm, this time near Bermuda. The delivery skipper died of hypothermia as a rescue helicopter arrived, but the two crew survived. And now Paradox is flipped and likely lost. If you're thinking of buying a catamaran, we, who have owned a catamaran for more than a decade, want to leave you with two thoughts. First, the size of a cat really does contribute to stability. According to multihull designer Chris White's book on multihulls, if you double the size of a cat, the stability increases 16 fold, all else being equal. Second, if you're on a cat and the wind is very strong or a squall is approaching, somebody must have their hand on the mainsheet and/or traveller, ready to ease at a second's notice. Being badly overpowered on a monohull can result in a knockdown that might bruise you and make a mess of the interior of your boat, but being badly overpowered on a cat can turn your whole world upside down.