Speed, stability, and space—what's not to like on a multihull?
My father-in-law is a dyed-in-the-wool monohull sailor, having spent60-some years messing about in classic wooden sailboats with beautifullines and acres of brightwork. Consequently, if you asked him, "Why choose amultihull?," he probably couldn't think of one good reason. After all,for sailors of his ilk multihulls are just too radical a departure from whatthey have come to know as a sailboat. Our other relatives take the sameview. Nan's aunt once told us that if you weren't cold and wet on a boat,well, it just wasn't sailing. And whether they truly didn't know thedifference or were simply being perverse, it took years for the family tostop calling our lovely little catamaran a trimaran.
On the other hand, Nan had no problem making the transition tomultihulls, especially once we had children. Of course, she had spent alarge part of her childhood scraping, sanding, and varnishing thoseaforementioned acres of brightwork, and had endured many sailing"adventures" off the New England coast living out her aunt's sailingideal—heeled over and hanging on for dear life, bundled up in a full-bodyslicker coated with spray, trying to man-handle a colossal mainsail and loathing the idea of venturing down to the dark, unsteady world below decks.
My father-in-law and I manage to be civil to each other about ourchoices of sailing craft, although occasionally he lets it slip that hethinks multihulls are fine for coastal work, but inappropriate at sea.I counter by telling him he's actually sailing half a boat. My twin sonsvoiced their opinion of monohulls at age three during our one and onlytandem cruise with the Dauntless, the boat on which Nan grew up sailing. Soonafter we'd rafted up (a new experience for all of us)—with our modern,fiberglass catamaran rubrail to rubrail with his sleek, wooden Sparkmanand Stephens design—we were enjoying drinks in the cockpit when we heardthe sound of running water. Looking toward the bow we saw both boysleaning out against the cat's lifelines casting two perfectly jetted streamsonto the Dauntless's beautiful teak decks. Since then, the boys havecruised each year with their grandfather and have come to deeply admirehis lovely sailboat.
This all illustrates that there is no one type of boat for everyoneand that both monohull and multihull designs have their following.Multihulls, however, do have distinct characteristics that appeal to agrowing number of sailors. Some of these characteristics include levelsailing, increased boat speed, shallow draft, salon cabins with panoramicviews on the same level as the cockpit (predominately catamarans), andtrailerable designs that offer astonishing speeds and accommodations under sail, yet fold up neatly for road travel (predominately sport trimarans).
Level sailing is perhaps the most widely appreciated feature of amultihull. There is no need to brace yourself against the rail, strap downfood and drink, or switch positions in the cockpit to compensate forunnatural angles of heel. In general, you sail comfortably and arrive atyour destination more relaxed. The ability to prepare food underwayis greatly enhanced. In fact, galley stoves on multihulls are typicallynot gimbaled, a good indicator of how level the sailing really is.
Higher boat speeds are another appealing characteristic of a multihull,This can be exciting for skipper and crew and make for much quickerpassages. While some multihull designs are faster than others,overall these boats are typically faster than monohulls of the samelength.
Having two or three hulls under you usually means getting closer to the beach than your monohull friends.
A multihull's shallow draft and the ability to get closer to the beach or even on the beach is a great cruising asset. Catamarans have either fixed, low-aspect ratio keels, ordaggerboards that provide better windward performance and allow forgunkholing in the shallowest of waters. You'll often see multihullstucked up snugly in parts of the anchorage inaccessible to boats withdeeper draft.
The amount of storage and living space aboard a multihull isformidable. Our 26-foot, center-cockpit catamaran had two aft doublesleeping cabins, a salon cabin that converted to a queen-size berth, andenough lockers to store provisions for a three-month cruise to theBahamas.
On a catamaran, the salon cabin is typically level with the cockpit,making for easy access and good communication between the two. Also,there are usually panoramic views from the well-lit salon seating areas. This is amarked contrast to being down in the main cabin of a monohull.
Despite many advantages, multihulls aren't for everyone, and the newermodels can be too costly for many sailors who do want them. If you areconsidering purchasing a multihull, you should research the boatscurrently on the market (a good reference is the Sailor's Multihull Guide) and then charter a few different models to give yourself a basis for comparison.If a new boat is out of your price range, check out the wide selection of used multihulls.For stability, speed, and simplicity, it's hard to argue against the advantages of a well-designed, well-built multihull.