How to Buy a Boat: Your Own Elegant Compromise
If you’re shopping for a boat, start by thoroughly disrupting your own assumptions about what constitutes the best one for you.
Two (or Three) Hulls?
Multihulls are particularly defined by their place on this “payload or performance” continuum. The promise of displacement-busting speed depends on fine hull sections and minimum weight, while all that sprawling space between the hulls invites every comfort of a luxury condominium. One starting point for distinguishing multihulls on this sliding scale is to look at the displacement-to-length ratios of models built in the last decade. In the lightest third would be boats whose D/L falls between about 50 and 100: there you’ll find models from Gunboat, Outremer, Gold Coast, Soubise, Switch, Atlantic, Aeroyacht, Shuttlecat, and Fountaine Pajot.
|Lagoon 500. Image Courtesy of Lagoon.|
In the middle group, with D/Ls ranging between 100 and 120, are boats from PDQ and Antares, Voyage, Dolphin, Maine Cat, Catana, Privilège, Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot, St. Francis, Nautitech, Discovery, and Seawind. In the final third, whose D/Ls range from about 120 to 200, are boats from Privilège, Leopard, Maxim, Dean, Seawind, Perry, Catana, Voyage, Lagoon, St. Francis, Voyage, Broadblue, and Admiral. Treat groupings like this with the caution that multihulls are particularly sensitive to the weight we put aboard them; the difference between light-ship and half-load displacement figures may be enough to bump a particular model into a different category, and you’ll see that some models appear in two categories. That said, you could make your own categories: sail area-to-displacement, tankage, displacement, or whatever detail is most important to you.
Also, keep in mind that lightness alone doesn’t equate with performance, and it certainly doesn’t confer seakindliness. To understand seagoing performance, try comparing real-world passage times. For the last 20 years, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers has hosted transits of some 200 boats per year for the 2,700-mile Atlantic Ocean crossing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to make those passages ourselves, the ARC results provide a gold mine of data. Look, for example, at the results from five years ago. Multihulls that posted between 180 and 200 miles per day in the 2007 ARC included a Fountaine Pajot 38, 44, and two 46s and a Lagoon 380 S2, 420, and 500. Multihulls that averaged between 200 and 230 miles per day included a Lagoon 410 S2, 440, 470, 500, and 55; a Catana 471; a Broadblue 385; and a Fountaine Pajot 43. Boats that averaged between 230 and 260 miles per day included a Fountaine Pajot 60, a Catana 471 and 582, and a Lagoon 570 and two 440s.
Note that one of the standout miles-per-day performers, the Lagoon 440, was also one of the most innovative boats on the payload side of the equation. As with the Lagoon 500, the flybridge-style helm station breaks through the typical space constraints of the boat’s size peers. In so doing, these models exhibit some of the most elegant compromises in the fleet.