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Affordable Multihulls

Getting the family out cruising on an affordable cat means looking at the used market.
If you are attracted by the features of a multihull but feel a new boat is beyond your budget, investigate the used multihull market. There you'll find many affordable "classic" catamarans and trimarans from years past that still serve as great cruising boats. The designs and construction techniques may be dated, but many of these boats have stood the test of time in terms of performance and safety.

As you search for the perfect multihull for your needs, keep in mind that many of the original production builders are no longer in business and the boats themselves may vary widely in condition and how well they are outfitted. If you find a boat that has been completed or built by an owner, realize that owner-built boats vary widely in construction and sophistication of finish. Selling price doesn't always reflect real value. When looking at the cost of a used classic you must take into account the equipment she has (most long-time cruising boats have gear on board worth thousands of dollars) and how recently she has been overhauled and refitted. No matter what boat you set your sights on, be sure to have the boat reviewed by a competent marine surveyor.

In the year 2000 it's less of a seller's market than in previous years. As more multihulls are built, and large numbers of boats are coming out of the charter trade each year, there are more and more good deals to be had. Success lies in being patient in your search and making sure you accurately assess each boat's condition and the potential cost of repairs. Let's review some of the most popular and widely available multihulls on the used boat market.

Classic Catamarans:

The Heavenly Twins 26/27 remains one of the best cruising boats in this size range. Designed by Pat Patterson and built primarily in England (for a short time boats were also built in Puerto Rico), the Heavenly Twins is one of the most sought after production cruisers for couples or small families on a budget. Seaworthy and strong, this boat has a center cockpit layout with twin double aft cabins. The salon cabin is modest and the only standing headroom is in the hulls, but there is plenty of storage space and the galley and head are large for this size boat.

Other multihulls from the UK include the Catalacs, the Iroquois and Cherokee, and a wide range of Prouts. The Catalac Eight Meter has one double cabin forward on the bridgedeck and a single berth to port, with galley down to starboard. The Catalac Nine Meter has a double and single cabin forward plus two additional single berths. These stable cruisers don't have a great turn of speed, but they are roomy, comfortable, and sail moderately well for their vintage.

The Prout Sirocco 26 is a sweet pocket cruiser that is perfect for coastal work or going through the canals. She has galley down in the starboard hull and a double berth forward on the bridgedeck, plus three other single berths. The Prout Quest 31 was replaced by the Quest 33, which was in turn replaced by the Event 34. Another popular used Prout is the Snowgoose, a solid cruiser that started out as the 34/35 and grew to the 37, which is still built today as the Prout 37. You'll always find a fair number of used James Wharram designed open-bridgedeck cats on the market, mostly owner built and in varying size and condition. Models to look for include the Tiki, Pahi, Tanenui, and Tangaroa.

The fact that the boat is smaller or older doesn't dimish the cruising experience.
Moving on to France, Fountaine Pajot is a well-known catamaran builder and its production over the years has been prolific. It is disappointing that the Maldives 32 is no longer produced, although they appear on the used market from time to time. The design of the Maldives 32 is similar to the Tobago 35, with a small galley aft on the bridge deck, two double berths aft in the hulls, and two singles forward in the hulls. The Louisiane 37, Fiji 39, Casamance 44, and more recent Antigua 37 are other Fountaine Pajot cats worth looking for. The Edel 35 (and older 33) cats are fast and, though produced fairly recently, still offer good value for the money. Some Edels have an open bridgedeck in the Cabrio style and others have bridgedeck accommodations that are accessed separately from the hulls, with a layout similar to the present day Edel Aventure 11 meter.

Classic Trimarans:

Hundreds of Telstar eight-meter trimarans were produced in the UK in 70s and early 80s. This trailerable pocket cruiser had rigid decks between the main hull and amas, and one single and two double berths.

Used Dragonfly folding trimarans are available worldwide. Look for the older 600, the 25 made in North America and the 800 made in Denmark. Tri-Star trimarans designed by Ed Horstman, Searunner tris designed by John Marples and Jim Brown, Lodestar 35 tris designed by Arthur Piver, and Cross tris designed by Norm Cross are rugged and roomy classic cruisers, available in lengths from 24 to over 40 feet.

Boats recently out of charter service can represent terrific buys.
If fast passages and beautiful lines are your main concerns, look for anything designed by Dick Newick. Other good designers include Derek Kelsall and the late Lock Crowther. The boats described above are usually owner built, and some may be well over 20 years old, so you should check the construction and finish before spending your money.

Ian Farrier's classic folding trimaran designs include the TrailerTri 680 and 720, trailerable sport cruisers with four berths, and the Command 10, a 33-foot high-performance, long-distance cruiser. Farrier's more recent folding designs are also available both as owner-built boats and production tris built by Corsair Marine.

It may take some time to find the right boat for your needs, and when you do the boat may need some TLC to bring it back to mint condition. But older multihulls still represent good value and performance, and can leave enough in the kitty so you can actually go cruising.



Kevin Jeffrey is offline  
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