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While the tried-and-true monohull remains the vessel of choice for many a cruiser, there are plenty of multihulls crossing oceans-and island-hopping, too-and their crews are doing it just as comfortably and safely, without as much heel and with a lot more room to move about below. (See “Join the Cat Crowd,” July 2006.)
So what’s to like about a modern cruising cat? Lots. For a family or couple, a cat is downright spacious when compared, foot for foot, with a similarly sized monohull. Because of its draft, it can go where no fin-keel sailboat dare tread, and if a cat hasn’t been weighed down with all the gear you’ve brought aboard to fill all that extra room, it often delivers a few knots more of speed, which, over the course of a passage, can shave hours or days from the length of a voyage.
On the other hand, a cat tends to cost more than a comparable monohull. And once you own one, you have two hulls, two engines, and beefier rigging to maintain and replace. And then there’s the question of where you’ll find slip space for your multihull and, when you’re nowhere near a major boating center, where you’ll have it hauled.
These are all questions to be weighed, and weighed they have been by the authors of the first two stories in our detailed look at cruising catamarans.
Veteran cruiser Tom Linskey, who crossed the Pacific once in his homebuilt monohull, may be setting off again, but this time with two hulls under his feet. He and his wife, Harriet, did their research, found catamarans appealing, and then put their emerging theory of the Perfect Boat through a grueling final exam by chartering a Dolphin 460. They stepped aboard with a list of questions and concerns, and they stepped ashore certain that if they were ready to set sail, the boat was right for them.
A much different path brought Lynne Walsh and her husband, Bob, to their new PDQ catamaran, whose dock lines they cast off this year. In the midst of a South Pacific real-estate hunt several years back, these nonsailors decided to try a daysail on a catamaran. The hook was set. They returned to their Idaho home, where they learned to sail, race, and handle first a J/24, then a J/30. But during a bareboat charter on a cat, the decision was made: Two hulls are more fun than one.
Already a cat devotee? Well, your next question might address how you want to power it. Editor at large Tim Murphy and contributing editor Jeremy Mc-Geary take a look at the new hybrid and diesel/electric systems that are appearing these days on more multihulls to replace the pair of diesel engines that usually grace a cat’s tails.
And rounding out our annual catamaran issue, Cap’n Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, join 50 or so new friends for Cruising World’s Sail-a-Cat Adventure Charter in the B.V.I. Think cats are as great for partying as they are for sailing? Oh, you have no idea!
Mark Pillsbury is CW’s senior editor.