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micetic 04-24-2006 06:02 AM

Need Advice

I am a beginner at sailing and will be returning to the Pacific Northwest soon and purchasing my first sailboat. I need some tips and advice about what would be best.

I would like a boat that is not shorter than 26' nor longer than 31'. I believe any larger would be unmanageable for a single person that is not an expert.

Here is my big question, as a beginner, is it better to learn to sail on a mono-hull or a catamaran? I know one is not better than the other, but would it be more beneficial to learn the intricacies of sailing on one or the other?

I will be doing mostly coastal cruising with aspirations (or delusions) of a blue water passage to the Med sometime so I would like something that is capable.

I would like recommendations on the mono vs. multi-hull and also specific recommendations for some of the criteria I outlined.

Thank you :)

sailingdog 04-24-2006 12:54 PM

Both monohulls and multihulls in that size range are capable of bluewater passages, as well as for use as a coastal cruiser. One good book to read regarding small sailboats, that are fairly capable, is "Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere," which you can find at

Some boats that I would recommend in that size range would be:

Monohulls: Contessa 26 (a very solid little boat, as made famous by Tania Aebi), Alberg 30, Pearson Triton 28, Albin Vega 27, Catalina 27, Bristol 27. I've sailed on all of these but the Contessa.

Multihulls: Corsair F28, Telstar 28 (both of these are trimarans) Heavenly Twins 27 Catamaran I've sailed on the two trimarans quite a bit, but not the cat.

You do not say what your budget is, and these boats will vary quite a bit in price. The monohulls I've mentioned are only availble used, and the two trimarans are available both new and used (although the Telstar is fairly new and not many will be available used), while the Heavenly Twins cat is only available used.

A good book to read about the differences between multihulls and monohulls is Chris White's "The Cruising Multihull", which you can find at

Although Chris's book is a bit on the older side, the discussions in it are still quite valid, and he makes his points without getting into the quasi-religious monohull vs. multihull fanatic mindset.

The two trimarans have the ability to fold and will have reasonable marina costs compared to the catamaran. They are also both easily trailerable, and can be stored out of the water, on their trailers in the off season, which may reduce your storage costs. All of the monohulls are boats that will pretty much stay in the water, and can not be trailered in any reasonable way.

Monohull or Multihull: One argument that many try to make is that multihulls do not sail well. This is no longer true, as most modern trimarans sail quite well and point at least as well as monohulls. The cruising catamarans can have some problems pointing as well or sailing as well as monohulls, as they do not have a center hull to pivot around and they tend to have a bit more windage than the trimarans or monohulls. Another argument that monohull sailors will try to make is that multihulls are not self-righting. Chris White's argument, and this is one I agree with, is that most multihulls are far more resistant to sinking, than are monohulls... would you rather be on a multihull that is capsized, or a monohull that is sitting upright on the bottom of the ocean. It is a personal choice. A properly sailed multihull is not very likely to capsize. Generally, the majority of non-sport multihulls that capsize, are due to the operator not sailing it properly...

A couple of major differences in the way the two types of boats sail is in heavy weather. On a monohull, you will reef for the lulls, and on a multihull, you will tend to reef for the gusts... Modern multihulls are also far more unlikely to broach in bad weather. This is not to say they will not broach if sailed badly, as any boat can be forced to broach, but if sailed properly, they're much less likely to do so.

Sailing on a multihull, and cruising on one, is often far more comfortable than on a monohull... as they heel significantly less than most monohulls. Most multihulls have far shallower drafts than similarily sized monohulls, and this allows you to explore more areas, and in bad weather, gives you more choices of refuge. Trimarans will generally have less living space than similarly length monohulls, as most only use the main hull for accommodations, and do not generally have a bridge deck of any size, and the main hull is usually far narrower than a monohull of the same length. Catamarans, will tend to have more space than a similar length monohull, but often at the cost of sailing performance. Monohulls are far less sensitive to weight and loading than most multihulls. Multihulls, especially the large catamarans, give you a lot of space, but do not perform well, should you choose to fill all that space up.

You might find my blog useful, as it describes the reasons for making the choice between various boats, including several monohulls and the two trimarans above: I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, you can PM me.

paulmcquillan 04-24-2006 07:52 PM

Try getting your first lessons on a dinghy (if your health/mobility will allow). Learning to trim the boat using your body weight is an invaluable place to start. You'll develop sensitivity to sail trim that can rapidly move you up into the intermediate stage.

Jeff_H 04-24-2006 11:17 PM

It is much harder to learn to sail well on a multihull. There simply is less feedback than on a monohull. As Paul has noted, you are physically able, then the absolute best place to start is in a dinghy. If you are not especially as physically fit then a used 26-28 foot, comparatively light, fin keel spade rudder, production sloop is the best place to start.

With all due respect to Sailingdog (and you will find that sailors rarely agree unanimously on anything) I would suggest that the only boat on his list that would really make sense for a beginner is the Catalina 27. I too have sailed or owned all of the boats on his list and feel that most are not as responsive as is ideal to learn to sail well. The others will have a steeper learning curve.


micetic 04-25-2006 05:45 AM

First off, thanks for all the advice!

I am a healthy and fully mobile 23 year old, so no worries there. As for learning, I will be taking a course utilizing dinghies upon my return to Oregon. All the articles I read have definitely been clear that sailing is something best to learn from someone with experience.

The reason I really brought up the multihull vs. monohull was because of the articles I read on the site by Kevin Jeffrey. I had never even considered a multihull till after reading through everything he wrote.

I do believe that a monohull will be my boat of choice, partly because that is the stereotype of what a sailboat is in my opinion.

As for a budget, at 23 I do not have unlimited funds, but would be comfortable spending up to 40K for a nice boat and some decent gear, is that a reasonable budget?


Jeff_H 04-25-2006 09:58 AM

That is a huge budget for a first boat. I would think that something around $10K would be more appropriate. What ever you buy for a first boat will get beat up a bit and so a boat with the 'bloom off the rose' will be less likely to suffer much in the way of financial indignation. Frankly, A starter course is a good idea, but you can learn alot about sailing from reading and just getting out and doing it.


sailingdog 04-25-2006 10:01 AM

I would agree that learning on a dinghy or small keelboat, like a Soling, is really the way to go to learn. Learning on a larger multihull can be somewhat more difficult, as there is less feedback, but in many cases, the trimarans handle much better than the monohulls.

As for budget, I would budget $10-15k for the boat, and then use the rest to pay your taxes, insurance, marina fees, repairs/upgrades to the boat, etc.

sailandoar 04-25-2006 11:09 AM

My suggestion is to get a boat that (1) has a track record of doing the kind of things you want to do, (2) is well documented , (3) has a history of being reliable, (4) is inexpensive, (5) has good resale value, (6) Sail it for a while and then you can (a) sell it and move to the mountains and buy a farm or (b) get another boat suits you better or (c) just relax, hunker down and go or (d) ? .

Look at the pearson triton 28' (Carl Alberg design)

(1) James Baldwin: two circumnavigations
(2) James Baldwin and a Mainer that has a 10 STAR web site on a stem to stern total refit.
(3) generally considered to be simple/bullet proof
(4) $15,000 with diesel, new paint and sails seems to the rule
(5) It's not a Cape Dory or Pacific Seacraft but they do have a good name and a devoted following.
(6) Your call a or b or c or ?

James Baldwin's Website:

See his LINKS page for all the Triton info anyone could want....

HRicardo 04-26-2006 12:05 AM

I'm in the same boat (pun may be intended) as the original poster. Anyone have any thoughts on a 1980 Cal 2 25? There's one in my area that's being offered up for a very modest price and from what I can tell it's in very good I say though, from what I (an admitted novice) can tell.

I'm thinking it's a good starter since I wouldn't "freak" if I ding it up a bit in my learning phase.



PS: I have a buncha questions but I guess I'll start another post with those so as not to hijack the thread ; )

micetic 04-26-2006 06:37 AM

Once more, thanks for the advice!

To reply to sailandoar, I hope “c” works out for me. I appreciate the info on the Pearson Triton 28.

I have another question though that I have not found much information about; in the boats that I have been looking at online, most seem to be inboard and a few outboard. What are the advantages of inboard vs. outboard in a boat?

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