messing about in boats

Thoughts About Thinking About Small Multihulls

Posted in General Boating Stuff, Sailing by Joseph Moore on October 25, 2009

Or in other words – stuff to consider when doing things differently.

I’ve become a bit of a multihull convert this year. They’d always seemed a bit superfluous before now – after all, a boat will float just as well with one hull as it will with two or three. Yet after one ride on a catamaran I was utterly hooked. It was fast, stable, easy to handle and very comfortable.

It’s not always easy to get a sensible answer about boats though. Everybody has their own ideas about what constitutes a good boat and the internet forum battles will probably rage on until the end of the universe debating whether keelboats sink more often than multihulls capsize.

As a dinghy sailor with somewhat nonexistent cashflow and a desire to get afloat in something with a little more space, primarily to cruise with friends and have a few adventures, I’ve been doing an awful lot of “umming and arring” about the right path to take.

Multihulls vs. monohulls

I think this debate actually predates boats themselves, or at least it might as well do – it’s that boring. Both have their merits and it really depends what you want to get from your sailing. I’ve been fortunate enough to sail a fair few dinghies and yachts over the years from a Topper to a Rebel 41 and every single one has their place.

Monohulls sink? Sure, if you buy a badly built boat and don’t maintain it.

Multihulls capsize? Sure, if you push too hard and don’t put a reef in when the wind picks up.

My decision will largely be governed by my wallet and the empty cavern that lies within, but where there’s a will to go boating, there’s a way.

Start with the obvious

It’s usually advisable to start with the easy option before diving into the unknown, so I’ve been looking at small monohull keelboats. There are literally countless different models to consider here, but you can split them into roughly two categories easily enough:

Trailer Sailers are typically under 23 feet, often with bilge keels to allow drying out on the mud and berthing at cheaper marinas which is definitely a plus point. The trailerable aspect is great if you’ve got a suitable vehicle – you can bring it home for the winter or take it somewhere different for a change of scenery. The engine is usually an outboard as well, which can be a real plus point. New engines can be expensive if they go wrong, but small outboards are readily available and can be bolted on nice and quickly.

Popular choices include the Corribee and Pandora, both of which are very pretty boats, although something like a Hurley Silhouette is probably one of the cheapest ways to get afloat.

Small ‘Proper’ Yachts are exactly what the name implies. Usually too large or heavy to be easily trailerable, with a fin keel restricting them to deeper water and marina berthing. You start getting a lot more crammed into a boat as soon as you reach 24′ – separate heads, a proper dining table – real luxury.

There’s a huge choice in this section of the market, but you’re looking at about twice the price of a trailer sailer to buy, plus the inevitable increase in mooring fees. I quite like the look of the Eygthene 24 and Ecume De Mer but the list really could go on and on.

So, the verdict on that lot? Realistically I’d go for a Corribee. They’re pretty little boats with their long overhangs and underhung rudder. A proven, seaworthy boat which can be picked up easily for under £2000 in need of a tidy up. But is it the ideal solution?

The multihull alternative

For the price range I’ve got in mind, buying a multihull is never going to happen. They’re simply too rare, relatively speaking, to lose that much value. Building a boat is an option though. I’d never bother with a monohull – there are plenty available for little money second hand – but it could be the only way to make a multi a viable alternative.

For the length we’re talking about, trimarans are really the only viable option. Small catamarans are usually no more than a shed plonked on the bridgedeck which looks awful and gives a lot of unwanted windage. A tri’s cabin may be small, but at least it’s fairly aerodynamic which is important in a boat that should be doing 15kts routinely. Couple that with the ability to dissemble or fold the akas to trailer the boat it all seems a bit of a winner.

I think despite being an old design, the Buccaneer 24 is a superb boat offering a good mix of simple cheap construction, space and boat speed.

Pros and cons

So it really comes down to a small bilge keel monohull or a small trimaran suitable for shed building on a budget.

In favour of the monohull: Cheap to buy, no lengthy build process, more cabin space, narrow beam means easy to berth.

In favour of the multihull: Much faster boat speed increases cruising grounds, more space for sunbathing (I’ve been assured this is very important), shallow draft.

Both obviously have their merits, but personally I’m leaning towards the multihull – it all depends on the cost and practicality for berthing a 20′ wide boat in the average harbour. I guess at least she’d be happy on the mud and need very little water to go sailing. Given the fact that most of my boating will be weekend jaunts and inshore racing, if there’s serious offshore sailing to be done I’ll be enjoying the comfort of a much larger yacht.

I’m sure there will be more things that cross my mind over the coming weeks, but I’ll publish this now, else it’ll never get finished…

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Catamaran Sailing

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on September 23, 2009

Why Two Hulls?

I’d always enjoyed sailing monohulls (and of course still do!) but had a ride on a friend’s Hurricane 500 earlier this year and was hooked. Cats seemed to have everything: speed over the water, plenty of space for lazy days and what seemed like years of ‘thinking time’ to react compared to the Cherub. There always seemed to be quite a bit of banter between the monohull and multihull fleets, with sailors firmly in one or the other. I guess it’s because the boats are so different and people are naturally sceptical of anything unfamiliar.

All I can say really is find someone who has a cat and try it!

Getting Stuck In

Being Cherub sailors we’re used to boating on a budget. We’re also big fans of development and restricted classes, allowing for flexibility and some DIY should there be any breakages. If you’re able to fix it yourself, it’s not always time to groan and open your cheque book.

The boat park at Grafham had quite a few old cats knocking around. A few Darts, Prindles and some rather home made looking Tornados. None of these really fitted the bill of fast, robust and not needing much work to get on the water. In the end we came across a Nacra Inter 18 on the F18 class association website.

So we parted with just shy of £1900 in exchange for a hell of a lot of plastic and metal. ‘Deja Vu‘ had a new mast and good sails, a trailer, trolley, but needed some attention to tidy the hulls up after years of abuse and some fairing on all four foils. Plenty of plans for the winter, but at least we could get sailing in the mean time!

Things To Think About

  • Don’t underestimate just how fast a catamaran will go in a breeze. We were out comfortably buzzing around in a force 5 one afternoon with huge grins from ear to ear, but it’s shocking how fast you can close in on other boats especially in a gust so don’t let your guard drop.
  • If you think you’ve pulled on enough cunningham, you probably haven’t. Pull on some more!
  • Getting off the side onto a properly set trapeze hook can feel like a leap of faith. Don’t be tempted to set them too high.
  • Flying a hull way up in the air looks cool, but isn’t all that fast. Keep it just skimming the water to present the biggest sail area to the wind.
  • If you’re not sure of the best way to do something, ask someone! In our experience cat sailors are a friendly bunch, only too happy to welcome newcomers and offer advice.

There’s going to be a lot more here about Deja Vu as we tune her up and learn plenty more about sailing multihulls. It’s gonna be awesome.