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  #1  
Old 09-30-2008
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Bareboat Charters - Cat or Mono Hull?

Hi all, I am looking into doing a Caribbean charter next summer for my family of 4. In the latest Sail magazine, they cover different cruising areas in the Caribbean, with a lot of referring to Catamarans. For a Week or so trip, it seems that the Cats would offer quite a bit more room along with a shallower draft. So far we have only over-nighted on our Catalina 30, where it was a little tight (for my wife). Any thoughts?
Another question is the handling characteristics. Is it tough for a mono-huller to make the switch, or is it pretty easy?

Thanks in advance, montenido
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Old 10-01-2008
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Multihull in the Caribbean

All I can say is "Do it!," and then add the traditional California legalize that says you will become hooked and anything you do can and will be used against you by wife and crew.

We sailed Mono's in the Carib for years. The admiral insisted on trying a Cat, and now I own one. The best place to start is in the BVI's. With under 4 feet of draft and incredible speed you will be impressed.

If you want to get a check out Captain for a day, they are readily available. Read the ASA 104 materials Multihull fundamentals (Rick White) or Chris White's book (excellent but getting dated). Sailing a cat is different. If I expressed it in two sentences: It's hard to go greater than 35deg to weather and your boat will not tell you when you are overdriving it. Always reef and remember you are FAST.

A 40 foot multi has more cabin space that a 55 mono and much more comfort. In the Carib, Lagoons and Leopards are common. A Lagoon 380 is a good "starter," though slower than some. Leopards are fast. Moorings, Sunsail and a host of others have them.

Last edited by SelkirkGrace; 10-01-2008 at 09:08 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 10-01-2008
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I'd recommend reading:

Chris White's book, The Cruising Multihull, mentioned by Grace above.

and

Multihull Seamaship, by Michael McMullen.

Some points I'd mention:

1) Multihulls reef for the gusts, where monohulls reef for the average wind speed. Reef early since multihulls stay flipped, and you don't want to be doing that... Having said that, cruising size multihulls are very, very difficult to capsize as a general rule.

2) Multihulls, especially catamarans, need to get their speed up to tack, due to the extra windage they often have, and may need to backwind the jib a bit to help drive the boat through the eye of the wind.

3) Keep the boat light, so you can take advantage of the speed.

4) Finally, you have to stay on your toes...since a multihull can often move far faster than you're used to...
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Old 10-01-2008
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Go rent a Hobie 16 for a day and you will experience some of what SD says above. While I have no experience on large cats, I do on smaller ones and point 2 is really true. You not only have to get up more speed but you also have to steer the boat through the tack rather than pivot it since with two hulls it has two pivot points, not one. That is to say putting the rudders hard over is likely to stall the boat and put you in irons.

What SD says about keeping the boat light is very true. I would add that weight distribution is also important and easier to get wrong than on a monohull. With so little displacement (relatively) it is easy to get too much weight in one "corner" of the boat.

A smaller cat is good practice - Much like monohull dinghys if you mess up you will be rewarded with a swim. Where I live that usually means REALLY cold water which tends to focus the mind.

But with the right wind they go like a bat out of hell. Actually, it is hard to get more of a sensation of speed than you get on the tramp of a small cat. You can go twice as fast as any monohull you are likely to sail and are right there on the surface of the water. Gets your blood moving.

Last edited by sck5; 10-01-2008 at 10:58 PM.
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Old 10-02-2008
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Big Cats and Little Cats

The differences between big and little cats are extreme. While the sailing techniques are the same, the response is totally different. Even in a mono, power to weight ratio is significant. The issue in a mono, as it is NOT a planning hull, is that you have a theoretical maximum hull speed, (surfing ignored). Cats have almost no such limitation. A small cat has a huge power ratio (large sail area and NO weight) and you can FLY them, flip them, they are huge fun, but not a cruising boat. Big Cats have WEIGHT. They still have a higher power to weight ratio than a Mono, but they are still heavy. They respond quickly, you are sailing faster, but you can only envy the speed and maneuverability of a small cat. Personally, the comfort and blue water capability more than make up for it. While the guests are happy on the main deck. all of my sailing is out of their way (read this as they are out of my way!).

SD said correctly that you PURPOSEFULLY backwind the jib to tack. Darn Right! In a cat you never tack slow. If you end up in irons, you back wind the jib and fall off, or fall off and come up on it more quickly. It is easier than it sounds.

I forgot manuverability in the harbor or dock. With two engines on opposite ammas, you can back one while forwarding the other and the boat rotates in it's own length. Try doing that in a mono.

As to weight on a cruising Cat, forget it. You, your four family members will make no difference that you a new Multi Captain will notice. Weight distribution is a good thing to learn, and I personally like to keep weight back towards the stern, but face it, with airline weight restrictions, you are not going to bring enough gear and provisions to make any difference in a 15,000 to 25,000 pound boat (unless you are a pirate and are packing torpedoes).

So, read up and Go For It! Enjoy your vacation and let us know what you thought of it.
Chip

Last edited by SelkirkGrace; 10-02-2008 at 12:57 AM. Reason: Weight
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Old 10-02-2008
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Weight aft in a multihull is better than weight forward... SO IF YOU HAVE TO LOAD ONE UP... try and keep the weight in the center or just a bit aft of center. The bows need to have the extra buoyancy to help prevent them from stuffing in a wave and causing the boat to pitchpole, which is probably the most common of causes for capsize on a cruising size multihull.

Chip-

One note... Catamarans have two hulls, trimarans have a single hull and two amas... BTW, the two engines thing on the bigger cats makes them incredibly maneuverable under power..... once you get the hang of two throttles and two transmissions.... Some of the smaller ones use either a saildrive leg or a single outboard, and aren't as manueverable.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 10-02-2008 at 12:28 AM.
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Old 10-02-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
Weight aft in a multihull is better than weight forward... SO IF YOU HAVE TO LOAD ONE UP... try and keep the weight in the center or just a bit aft of center. The bows need to have the extra buoyancy to help prevent them from stuffing in a wave and causing the boat to pitchpole, which is probably the most common of causes for capsize on a cruising size multihull.

Chip-

One note... Catamarans have two hulls, trimarans have a single hull and two amas... BTW, the two engines thing on the bigger cats makes them incredibly maneuverable under power..... once you get the hang of two throttles and two transmissions.... Some of the smaller ones use either a saildrive leg or a single outboard, and aren't as manueverable.
SD:
Absolutely correct! In my youth I spent time on a tri between Marina Del Rey and Catalina. The Captain drilled me with AMMA and the penalty for calling it a hull or pontoon was akin to walking the plank, so therefore to this day, if it has more than one hull......

I must admit I have never sailed a trailerable or outboard driven cat (but I would like too!) or any design without two engines, Tri's, Hobbies, and large cruising cats from 38 to 47 feet have been my speed. Now that diesel engines can weigh as little as 170lbs, most cruising designs seem to have gone to the more manuverable two engine layout.

My Leopard has a beam of 25 feet to her 46 foot length. Experience has shown that keeping the weight aft gives me better performance, but not by much. A 25,000 pound boat is just not too disturbed by 800 ponds of stuff. The heaviest things you can control are really the water supply and the fuel. Both are at the mast or to the stern. For trips into the Blue though, where stores would be heavy, I would definitly worry about weight, but for vacation sailing in the Carib, forget it.
Chip

Last edited by SelkirkGrace; 10-02-2008 at 01:20 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 10-04-2008
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Thanks for the input

Hi all. Thanks for the great info, I will get those books and start reading. It sounds like a great trip, either in the Caribbean or Belize.

Thanks again, montenido
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Old 10-04-2008
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Go with the cat; it's a vacation!

I own a 32' monohull, so maybe my comments will be helpful.

We've charted many times in the Caribbean and the BVIs. Early on, only monohulls, usually Bene 44 or 50 or 51.

Lately, we've only done cats, including 45, 49 and 50. Normally the crew consists of 4 couples, all adults. On the monos, usually 3 couples, but sometimes 2 families with kids. Commonly some of the couples have little or no sailing experience.

It's a kick to try the cats for a change, and their accomodations are gigantic compared to monos. In the charter trade they have been killing the monos as charter boats the last few years. There's just all kinds of spread out and have fun room.

In the BVI and most of the Caribbean you will spend little or no time at docks; instead you will either be on a mooring or at anchor. The additional beam of a cat is inconsequential in those settings. If you aren't comfortable docking at the end of the trip the charter companies invariably will do the docking for you. Some of them insist on taking the helm during docking (we had that experience recently in Martinique, which was OK with us as all the boats were med moored (bow secured to an anchor, and then backed in with the stern tied to the dock; no finger slips, so everything is congested and there's no room for errror).

The biggest challenge I've had on cats wasn't mentioned above: raising the mainsail can be a very daunting task if there isn't an electric halyard, or a means of using the anchor windlass to power the mainsail halyard (several cats use that method), or a couple of strong guys. Mainsails on the bigger cats can br enormous.

The mainsail on my 32' mono is about 250 square feet; on the bigger cats the mainsails are well over 1100 square feet, and built of heavier fabric. I've never seen one that didn't use full battens. They are heavy sails.

I can raise the main on my boat without a winch for all but the last foot or so of tightening. On the 50' cat we chartered a few months ago the main was raised by something like a 2 speed Lewmar 58 mounted at the base of the mast. We needed the highest gear ratio for the last 10-15 feet of hoist, and the lower gear for all the rest of the lift.

It can also be troublesome to keep the full battens out of the lazyjacks because the mast is so tall that raising the main takes some time. Two crew to raise the main is useful on some of the bigger cats.

If you are sailing just with your family, I wouldn't go any larger than a cat in the 37-38' range. It will have probably triple the space of your 30' mono. It won't heel much, if at all (most of the cats don't even have fiddles on the counters). The area on the trampoline up front is a great place while sailing or while anchored. The cockpits usually have large dining tables, which is were everyone wants to eat in the evenings.

You should have a great time.

On the cruising cats, the experience really isn't anything at all like the beach cats/Hobies. They are a bit quicker than monos, but not shockingly so (because they aren't as weatherly the extra speed while beating doesn't translate to a whole lot better VMG; on a reach they will sail quite a bit faster than a mono). They don't fly a hull, at least not with me driving.

As someone else said, the first few tacks can be a learning experience. You ease through the tack in a big wide arc; don't throw the helm over quickly.

Reef early because you don't have an increasing heeling angle to tell you the boat is overpowered. If the boat has wind instruments you will be advised by the charter company about the maximum wind speeds they want you to sail in before reefing.

In general, your sailing skills will transfer pretty easily.

My wife won't even consider any charter besides a cat anymore.
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Old 10-04-2008
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As to learning to handle a cat when you only have mono experience one big diference is they turn/tack much slower.
On a tack what was a 5 second turn for 90 degrees is now a 10 second turn on my Gemini. While it makes single handing them easier (plenty of time to do things) it does take practice.
Slower also means wider, the turn tracks different as the pivot point is more forward than you'll be used to - they drive more like a car than a boat (in comparision).
Ar first I back winded my jib all the time, now I've got it done and even jibe without a problem single handing.
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