Buying a Catamaran - SailNet Community
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Buying a Catamaran

The first sailing adventure in a cat becomes one to remember.
I'll never forget seeing Kjersti (pronounced Share-stee) for the first time, resting high and dry at the brokerage boatyard on the south side of Long Island. I had taken a train from Boston on a wet and miserable winter day to inspect a used Heavenly Twins catamaran. Even the cold rain couldn't dampen my spirits as I admired the lines and stately appearance of this 26 foot English-built sailboat. She was looking a little forlorn and neglected, but I could envision how our young family would bring her back to her former elegance, fill her with our possessions and the joy and enthusiasm of twin toddlers, and sail her to distant shores, assuming, of course, we could reach an agreement with her owner. I somehow sensed we were destined to own her, but there was no way of knowing that this diminutive, yet seaworthy, vessel would truly become our home and take us on countless nautical adventures for the next four years.

When our offer was accepted and we really did own her, I began making plans for getting her from the boatyard to a mooring on the south side of Cape Cod. Looking back, I'm appalled at how little I knew about sailing and boat ownership, but then knowing nothing about parenthood hadn't stopped us from jumping into that in a big way. One could say that some of life's greatest pleasures are only attained by a leap of faith, and Nan and I were natural leapers.

My father-in-law, a teacher and experienced sailor, offered to help with the delivery. He even supplied the crew, three of his female students. He had been sailing all his life, and for over 30 years had been taking teenagers on week-long sailing camps along the New England coast on his classic wooden monohull. I knew he was uncertain about my abilities, perhaps even my sanity, and the viability of a vessel with two hulls. I welcomed the delivery crew, not realizing what an asset his experience and the girls' exuberance would be.

Heading out for the first time requires a small leap of faith.

Early in June the five of us and a surprising amount of boat gear headed to the boatyard in a rental van. The boat was in the water when we arrived, but she was far from being fully "commissioned" as recommended by the surveyor and promised by the broker. Some items were missing and some pieces of equipment were not functioning properly. I was attempting to maintain composure and carry on with preparations for departure when the boom parted company with the gooseneck fitting and crashed into the cockpit. Even then I was able, after moment or two, to see the humor of the situation. But when I discovered that the portable loo hadn't been emptied from the previous season I couldn't help wanting to throttle the broker.

Later that day our gear was stowed, the boom repaired, the fuel tanks filled and a brief-review of the essential elements accomplished. We departed around supper time and headed out the channel to open water. On a broad reach the little boat thrilled us with her sterling performance; even my father-in-law was impressed. Once outside we set our course, set up watches, and settled into a cruising routine.

The cruise was a double initiation for me: learning about sailing and multihulls in one fell swoop. Fortunately, the first night was clear and the winds were fair. My watch was shared by one of the female students. The Heavenly Twins has a wonderful center cockpit with two double cabins aft. The wheel helm is located on the port side of the spacious cockpit, and with a 14-foot beam there's plenty of seating and locker space. Down below, the boat has a central main salon cabin forward on level with the cockpit, a full galley to port, and a head and navigation area to starboard.

The second day was sunny with a dying wind. We poked along the south shore of Long Island, enjoying ourselves but wishing the boat had come equipped with a good light wind headsail. The second night was filled with excitement. First we sailed into the middle of a large fishing fleet. Their many lights were confusing and it took absolute concentration to find our way through them successfully. We were still weaving a path through the fleet when thunderstorms and squalls descended upon us with a vengeance. I leaped to the center well in the cockpit to get the outboard engine on. First the engine was stuck in the "Up" position, and then when I managed to lower it into the water it wouldn't start. I tinkered, cursed, tinkered some more, threatened, and finally the ancient engine came to life. I promised myself a new engine was definitely in our future.

For gentle zeyphers, a light-air headsail is a welcome addition.

The third day was clear and breezy, and the boat seemed to perform well on all points of sail. Her ample foredeck proved to be a perfect place to pass the time when not at the helm. We sailed past Block Island and headed for the Elizabethan Islands west of Cape Cod, where we spent the night in a lovely anchorage. By noon the next day Kjersti was moored in her new home off the town of Cotuit.

For the next year and a half we would learn the finer points of sailing a multihull in the waters off Cape Cod, outfit Kjersti with new sails and improved rigging (including a light wind drifter and a permanently mounted whisker pole), and put our personal touch on her inside and out. Kjersti would prove to be the ideal sailing vessel and part-time home for our family. She was our first multihull and we would make the most of having her.

Suggested Reading List

  1. Affordable Multihulls by Kevin Jeffrey
  2. A Pocket-sized Adventure by Bruce Caldwell
  3. Nature Never Disappoints When Cruising by Sue & Larry
  4. First Sail of the Season by Bruce Caldwell

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