There is no such thing as a “perfect boat”, everyone will tell you. No matter the performance, layout, space, there are always a couple of things that bug you and you wish they were done differently. But there is no such thing as a “bad boat” either. Monohull or a catamaran, Beneteau or Island Packet, they can all sail and take you places if you know what you are doing. It’s a question of preference and budget. Compromises are made every time.
As we were shopping for a boat in the past five months, we learned that the boat has to suit your individual needs. What are you planning to do? Where are you planning to go? How many people will be on board? You may want a boat to have some fun day sailing around the shore twice a year with a girlfriend, or you may live aboard permanently docked at a marina most of the time, or you may go racing, or go around the world, alone or with your family. In order to get a prescription, you got to be diagnosed first. A family of four, two kids: a boy and a girl, one 15 the other 9, planning to live aboard and cruise extensively, eventually crossing oceans, anchoring most of the time as opposed to docking at marinas; these were our symptoms. We were thus diagnosed with a catamaran and even second and third opinions confirmed it. A catamaran it is.
Fata Morgana is a catamaran, or a multihull sailboat made in South Africa in 2001 by Robertson&Caine Leopard. She is 38 feet in length and 21.3 feet wide.
The draft is 3.7 feet. The draft basically indicates at what depth she will touch the bottom. Catamarans are notorious with their shallow draft. A monohull with the same amount of space inside will have at least two times bigger draft of 7-8 feet. This is a big advantage for the catamaran, as often there are shallow waters around reefs and islands which can be accessed only by boats with such shallow drafts. A monohull cannot go everywhere a cat can.
The space. Our boat of 38 feet has two cabins in one hull and one cabin and a big shower in the other, three cabins total. The beds (berths) are enormous. Guests can be easily accommodated. A monohull with the same space inside will be about 50 feet long or more, instead of 38, and thus haul out, dockage, and marina fees will be higher as they are usually calculated by the foot (a catamaran 38 feet, even though it has two hulls, is not charged double in most places.) And of course, in the bridge between the two hulls there is a large salon and a big galley (here ‘big’ is a relative and subjective term), but most exciting is the cockpit, or ‘the porch’, as I call it, covered with a blue bimini. There is a big (‘big’) triangular table surrounded by benches with space for 8 people. This, I predict, shall be my favorite spot on the boat.
Stability, safety. Two hulls mean not only lots of room, but also stability and virtually no heeling, we’ve been told. Where a monohull needs its heavy keel for balance, the cat has its two legs spread. Try standing on a skate on one foot and have someone (maybe the wind?) push you from a side. Oh my god, you might fall! At least, you will lose balance and shake a bit. But what are the chances of losing balance or falling if you are standing on both your feet spread wide apart? Not huge. Of course, if the wind is strong enough and you are stupid enough to have your sails out in such a wind, you will defiantly flip the boat. But it won’t sink! Even if it ‘turtles’ upside-down, God forbids, the catamaran will stay afloat. Its hulls are divided in watertight compartments making the catamaran unsinkable. Not so are the mono hulls, unfortunately…They sink in minutes after impact, sometimes even seconds.
Heeling. I already mentioned that the cat does not heel like the mono. As the wind blows nicely, the sails fill tightly, and the boat silently gallops over the waves, but not quite in a straight up position if it has only one hull. As the wind pushes from one side, the boat inclines to the other. Imagine having to cook, eat, walk, sleep, or anything else with the boat leaning to one side. You will be annoyed and maybe even injured pretty soon. Not so with the cat. The cat has two feet, remember? And its mast stays vertical most of the time. You can now cook, eat, walk, sleep, and even drink leaving your beer bottle on the table and finding it pretty much on the same spot while on a beam reach. Some will place this advantage on the top of their list.
The sole disadvantage of the cat is its higher price. (Usually, when something costs more it is better, isn’t it?) Well, in our case, we found a good catamaran for cruising, made in 2001, at a surprisingly low price. Almost half of the market price and less than all mono hulls we have been considering. Maybe there is something wrong with the boat? we asked ourselves. It’s too good to be true… But it is true. The survey showed: there is nothing wrong with the boat except a few small things we are working on already. Like any boat, used or new, there are things to do before setting off into the sunset.
You can find many articles about the catamaran’s advantages vs. monohull. Here is one, not too long: