My first cruise on a catamaran was as the skipper of a bareboat sailing near Martinique and St. Lucia. I expected that the week’s sailing would be a fast-track learning experience in operating the big, 46-foot vessel, but I was wrong. Yes, the Bahia 46 we chartered from Sunsail had a few tricks to teach me, yet I soon developed confidence in handling the boat under power and sail. My crewmates were comfortable, too, even though half of them had little or no sailing background.
My friend Bruce, a big guy who’s sailed with me on smaller monohulls, appreciated the elbowroom throughout the boat and had fun figuring out the mechanics of the windlass, halyards, and sheets. “The only thing that surprised me,” he says, “is how easy the boat was to sail.”
Bruce’s wife, Suzi, a nonsailor, was apprehensive about six people living in close quarters, but she never felt crowded. “I would’ve thought our ability to create a fabulous meal would be somewhat limited,” she adds, “yet the galley was pleasant to cook in, close to the action so you weren’t missing anything but separate enough that preparation didn’t spill over to the eating and socializing area.”
My wife, Rachel, and her swimming buddy, Kelly, loved the chance to take long swims in pristine waters. Access to the water-a ladder off the port transom-was simple, and while snorkeling, Kelly’s week was made at our first anchorage, where she spied a hawksbill turtle. That was easily matched a couple of days later when we sighted several pilot whales. While I steered, my camera-wielding crew dashed back and forth on the trampoline between the bows.
The trampoline also drew raves for napping, reading, and supporting one evening’s impromptu cocktail party-and, says Rachel, “Don’t forget the night we all lay on the trampoline watching shooting stars.”
Kelly’s husband, Andy, an outdoorsman who’d been seasick every time he’d been in a powerboat, armed himself with Stugeron (only available overseas) and says, “I mentally prepared myself to be humble enough to get sick.” But without drugs Andy felt fine on our first day, and after popping a Stugeron before a four-hour reach to St. Lucia the next day, he took the helm and wore a big smile all the way.
We were fortunate to have fairly benign sailing winds-15 knots and less-and other than being careful to teach my crew about the loads on the winches, as skipper I had relatively few safety concerns. What occasionally frustrated me-a lack of feel and responsiveness on the helm plus tacking through 130 degrees in light winds-felt fine to my crew. As Andy accurately points out, “It seemed like a conservative type of sailing. It was reassuring that there was plenty of room for error.”
Would you consider a cat? This month, we offer several perspectives on the topic, starting on page 40. Lynne Walsh, owner of a PDQ 44-footer, describes the transition that she and her husband made from being landlubbers to fulfilling their dream of an ever-changing water view. Bluewater veteran Tom Linskey details his research-intensive boat quest, which led him to book a charter to fully test-drive a boat he was considering. And Cap’n Fatty Goodlander expresses a number of CW reader viewpoints when reporting on last winter’s Sail-a-Cat charter. For the technically inclined, we also dig into the emerging electric-propulsion trend; field editors Tim Murphy and Jeremy McGeary examine hybrid and diesel/electric technology, specifically designs by Lagoon and The Moorings.
Whether or not you’d ever buy a cruising cat, my friend Suzi’s testimony provides reason enough to charter one for your friends: “I remember lying on the trampoline forward,” she says, “with the hot sun beating down and cooled by the spray of the salt water, all the while lulled by the soft rock of the boat. If only I could bottle that feeling.”