The truth is this depends mostly upon budget. Once you have your budget, you then look at your needs, then your wants.
I’m a strong believer that you can circumnavigate in a huge range of vessels. And that’s not based on my opinion, it’s based on sailors actually circumnavigating on a wide range of vessels. From this guy who sailed around on a 12 footer to people who have circumnavigated on massive trimarans with full crews (they did it in 48 days, see here). So what is the minimum size one should consider? I don’t know.
A friend of mine (pictured above in a local paper) has made a circumnavigation and he sailed on a 46 footer (I think). I remember him saying that he thought 33ft is a minimum – but not any 33ft: construction matters. Some sailboats are made for coastal cruising and some are proven bluewater performers. Personally, I’m most comfortable on something in the 40ft range (for monohulls).
But I’m actually looking to spend a bunch of time on the boat and I’ve been strongly persuaded by more than one cruiser that a catamaran is the way to go. I’m pretty sold on it – except that that cost is about 1.75-2X the cost of a regular monohull. So what makes it worth the money to me?
Well, here’s my list:
1. Catamaran’s are more stable
You spend a bunch of time at anchor (the majority of it) and it really, really makes a difference to be stable at anchor. Sleeping, eating, entertaining, making coffee, cooking – are all much easier to do when you’re not rolling. Any good sailor knows this and monohull advocates will tell you that you’re a crappy captain if you anchoring in spot where your rolling. That may be true, but what’s also true is that there are sometimes limited mooring spots and that waves and weather change.
Equally importantly, while under way catamarans stay upright so walking, making food, keeping beverages upright, and fighting fish (if you’re lucky) are all made significantly easier.
2. Catamaran’s have a larger salon
I want space to hang out, not in a hull.
Ideally I’d like the galley in that area, as well as some seating, and a bunch of windows. Something like this (but with more windows – for ventilation in the tropics):
3. Catamarans are (often) faster
You’ll certainly hear a spirited debate about this subject if you bring it up among sailors. Monohull advocates will also remind you about how a catamaran really isn’t a sailor’s vessel. Cool, I have no problem with that. I’m choosing sailing because it’s cheap, it’s natural, it’s quiet, and it’s not reliant on fuel. I couldn’t give a shit what is considered “real sailing” and what isn’t. From what I’ve read and heard – cats are generally faster, and that’s really important on those long passages.
4. Catamarans have shallow drafts
This one can be hard to grasp, but it’s really important. If you have a boat with a 7-8′ draft, you’re in a very different mooring situation than one that has, say – a 4′ draft. The draft is the distance between the waterline and the bottom of the keel (the lowest spot beneath the waterline) and reflects the shallowest water that a boat can safely navigate in.
A catamaran typically has a very small keel because it doesn’t need the stabilization of a deeper keel necessary in a monohull. Instead, for stabilization under sail it has two hulls. The types of cats that I’m interested in (38-40ft cruising cats), typically have a 4′ draft – while a comparable monohull would typically have a 6-8′ draft.
Why does this matter? Because a shallow draft allows catamarans to get to anchoring spots that a comparable monohull wouldn’t be able to – say a really protected, but shallow cove. And if you’re not interested in protected spots to anchor, a shallow draft still allows you to cruise into much shallower waters (like a really beautiful patch of reef). Or provide you with a bit of wiggle room if you’re cruising through patchy reef.
5. Catamarans have more deck space
This gives you many, many advantages including: more room for solar panels, more room for relaxing, more room for moving around your boat, etc. Think of it this way: if you’re going to live in an apartment for the next 3-4 years, would you prefer a 400 sq ft apartment or a 600 sq ft apartment? Easy choice, but it costs.
6. Catamarans have more room for a dingy
Correctly outfitted, you’ll be able to store a larger dingy, and (maybe) more importantly you don’t have to stow the dingy everytime you pick up and move. Instead, you simply pull it up on a couple of pulleys and you’re off. This makes a big difference – our last trip on a monohull we spent an inordinate amount of time stowing the outboard and the dingy.
7. Catamarans have more privacy
Catamarans have a ton more privacy. Instead of all bunking in the same hull, you can have cabins in entirely seperate hulls. Obviously for short-term trips this isn’t a big deal, but for longer trips small things can really start to grind on you when you’re sleeping just feet (or inches) from everybody else aboard.
8. Catamarans have two engines
Last, but certainly not least -If shit breaks, and it will – you really want to have two. Engines are pretty important, even when sailing, and being stuck without an engine is way worse than ending up with a single engine (because you have two on a cat). Pretty straightforward but really important.
With all that considered, here’s what I’m considering – a 38-40ft Lagoon, Leopard, Jaguar, Catana, or Fountaine Pajot. I’m sure there are more, and if anyone has any suggestions I’m open. Here’s an example of what I’m looking for:
Disclaimer: these are my opinions, not based upon personal experience. My opinions are based instead on advice from others and a ton of reading. I’m probably wrong in part of this, please feel free to correct me.
I’d like to connect with you – and the easiest way to stay tuned is to subscribe by clicking here.