Dan on Mother Ocean told me he was going to post my picture of the FP swamped in San Andres.
I still hang around over at Lats and Atts, but after Dan wrote me, I thought I'd pop in and see what's up here.
Since the thread has evolved into a cat and mono comparison (gentlemanly at that! -- Hi John!), I'll add some of my observations after living on a cat a cruising over four years now.
I have over 15,000 miles on my Lagoon 380
and have circumnavigated the Caribbean and done offshore
passages as long as 1150 miles. Not Joshua Slocum by a long shot, and I not claiming to be high and mighty at all, but I have plenty enough ocean experience now to be able to render an opinion based in fact, not hearsay of others.
I am a very happy and satisfied catamaran owner.
Can cats and tri's take it offshore? You bet! If you are a dummy and beat ANY boat to pieces, then that is what you will have in the end.
crews on schedules tear up lots of boats (of all kinds) by taking on really bad weather
and taking chances.
That said, mulithulls often sail in wild conditions and I'm sure you have seen photos of trimarans in the roaring forties down under doing 20 plus knots in 30 foot seas full of icebergs, etc.
Multihulls do, however, require additional skill and attention. You can't just sheet them in and wait for the angle of the boat to sound an alarm
to reduce sail, etc. You have to pay attention.
Anyway, cruising is not about any of that. It is about comfort, not survival storm seaworthiness.
Monohulls and catamarans are merely tools. Pick the right one for the right job, I say.
I love both designs and was seriously considering a Hans Christian, but our Lagoon 380
cat was a better choice, hands down, for the Caribbean.
Of course, most applications can be mixed and matched and either the cat or mono will certainly be OK in most waters. Maybe not the best choice, but OK. That lets folks choose what they like even though it might not be the perfect boat for any given application.
And that is important. Many people are madly in love with only cats, or only monos, and they need that design to be happy.
There are thousands of catamarans out here, many circling the globe, and the ones that have gotten into bad trouble have been in weather that could and should have been avoided and which would cause serious threats to any small vessel, cat or mono.
If you buy a boat with the sole parameter of expecting to be caught in the Perfect Storm and survive, it will probably be a very poor choice for comfortable living and you will be disappointed, because you won't ever get caught in the Perfect Storm . . . unless you ignore weather and seasons and wisdom on when to go and how.
Instead of focusing on survival storms, buy a quality cruising boat you fall in love with; one that calls out to you, and that you feel most comfortable about living on. You have to love looking back at your boat when you putt away in the dinghy
And we all have different tastes. Some people HATE the way my catamaran looks. Hey, that's cool. The only thing that matters is how I feel about it. I'm the one who lives on it and skins my knuckles caring for it.
Thus, much of the journey of "boat selection" is a lonely one where the advice of others can be great for them but terrible advice for you in the end.
I met a couple in Bonaire
who hated their monohull
(a very fine top-of the line blue water boat). They said that all the experts in their huge marina back in Texas
talked them into it and that they made a huge mistake and should have bought a catamaran. But nobody in that marina in Texas
knew anything about cats and certainly had no offshore experience on a cat.
That is an important point. Before accepting ANY opinions about the offshore capabilities of today's modern cruising cats, ask how many offshore miles that person had logged aboard a cat.
It's the old "Don't try do describe a KISS concert if you've never seen one" cliche.
Conversely, I have no stones to throw at the monohull
folks! I've also met plenty of folks who live on monohulls in the tropics and they LOVE it. They simply like monohulls and that's great.
I can say this with authority. When the fleet is headed downwind in big seas, all the monohull people are green with envy (and seasickness), while all the cats quickly pass them by with no wallowing and a fast, flat, fantastic ride.
But, when the fleet is headed upwind in big steep seas, all the cat people are jealous while they are jarred to into nausea by the slamming and quick action, all while the heavy, full keeled monohulls glide into it with a nice slow motion.
But to come full circle, 90% of the time you are at anchor
. So, even that has limited application.
It was Bruce Van Sant who wrote: "People who are getting ready to cruise
spend an inordinate amount of time buying equipment
and preparing for survival storms that they will never see. Instead, they should be focusing on bringing sheet gasket
material, fasteners, tools, epoxy
cloth, and spare parts."
That's a VERY ACCURATE statement if you ask me.
As for the BIG RED HERRING on capsizing cats, well how many skeletons of mohohulls on the bottom of the sea have looked up at floating, capsized cats and muttered: "Damn, that's pretty cool!"
Well, not many, because cruising cats rarely capsize
A cat in it's worst case is turtle and floating. The worst case for a monohull is GONE and you are treading water with nothing but what you can grab in less than five minutes if the boat gets holed. Read 66 Days Adrift
for a primer.
And rolling a monohull is not a risk-free happy endeavour
. A rolled monohull, with loose spars punching at the hulls, is not the effortless event that people make it out to be.
It is not as if you just pop-up and keep sipping tea and sailing. People get killed rolling monohulls and risk never being found on the disabled vessel even after a self-righting. Read Red Sky In Mourning
for a primer on that.
Many monohull stories are short: "They disappeared somewhere in the Pacific, etc."
Catamarans are usually found, but even then not necessarily with survivors as was the case with the 440 Voyage that washed up "turtle" on the west coast
two years ago.
So, cats are not a sure bet either. After reading about a boat like mine that flipped in 45 FOOT breaking waves during a storm in the North Atlantic, it became apparent that the survivors
had an extremely difficult time hanging on to the boat. They were on a transatlantic delivery and intentionally sailed in waters known to be extremely dangerous weathewise that time of year.
Can Neptune eat anything he wants? Yep, even the most infamous monohull of all: TITANIC!
I have long since abandoned arguments that either cats or mono's are safer. The fact is that ALL of them will take more than you can, and ALL of them can be totally demolished by a survival storm or collision
at sea that holes the hull(s).
So, my view these days is simple. Buy whichever boat you like and don't take chances and sail in survival storms. Use accepted routes and seasons and weather windows to insure you'll never see a survival storm.
The only story above that is NOT bad weather related is 66 Days Adrift
. That monohull was holed by whales. That was a risk in good weather, just like hitting a shipping
container. As far as collisons with whales or flotsam and jetsam and getting holed, that is the one risk where the catamaran has a solid edge.
With a hole only the size of a 6X9 speaker, a monohull can be GONE in less than five minutes. Catamarans, like mine, that are certified to standards of unsinkability, not only do not sink after a collision
, they can most likely keep right on and limp to their next port of call. That beats treading water 100%.
Anyway, I would never let alleged seaworthiness differences determine cat versus mono for me. I just don't see it as an issue because today's quality cruising catamarans are extremely capabale blue water cruisers that can handle anything that normal, sensible
blue water cruising requires.
We have seen our share of squalls and storms and 25 to 35 knot
sustained winds and much higher gusts in the 50's and the accompanying seas. Our "little" 38 foot "A" Ocean Rated cat has handled it all flawlessly. Absolutely flawlessly.
Our Lagoon 380 was delivered across the Pond on her own bottom and we have put on another 15,000 miles ( a good 10,000 of it offshore) and she's not got one hair out of place.
Here is what I want in a perfect world:
1) Whenever going down wind
in the open sea, I want a Lagoon 500, or a St. Francis 50 catamaran, or a big FP;
2) When going upwind in the open sea, I want an 80-plus foot SWAN.
3) At anchor
, I want my Lagoon 380 owner's version. It's VERY comfy as a home on the hook; it has a fabulous layout; it has the interior
space of a forty-five to fifty-foot monohull, and it is not too big and not too small. . . perfect for the two of us.
The good news: considering we spend 90% of the time at anchor, I bought the right boat for me!
But, that does not mean it's the right boat for you! And that's the trick. Forget what I and everybody else has to say. It's all about YOU!
There are no wrong answers. The only thing you can really screw up on is not following your gut and giving in to those who try to push you toward their thinking about what boat is right for them.
Walk on at least 100 different boats in your price
range, cats and monos, and get a feel for where your "home" is.
Or you can just do what I did. I bought the boat my wife told me we had to buy in order for her to agree to go cruising!
That is the BEST strategy of all!
The "budget thing" is often a HUGE factor in determining a mono versus cat mindset.
For many folks there is just no way to buy a cat. CATS ARE EXPENSIVE! And buying it is just the beginning.
So, "love the one your with" is never a truer statement than for sailboat owners and if it is a monohull you buy, it's human nature to immediately start listing why it was smart to do so, etc.
Same thing for a cat.
Buy a cat primarily for cold weather, rough sailing into steep seas and you'll be doing a lot of mental gymnastics to justify why you bought a boat not best-suited for the application, regardless of any budget
constraints, etc. Buy a monohull for lounging on the hook in the tropics and you will be wishing you could see more of paradise from down in that cave you live in. It's all tradeoffs.
I almost bought a monohull because of budget
Most folks on other BB's have already heard all this from me about a hundred times.
But, I'll repeat it here.
I started boat shopping
about seven to eight years ago. I was dead set on a full keel
, prop in an aperture, highly touted "blue water" boat like a Valiant or a Hans Christian. Melissa and I liked the styling of the Hans, and for a while I was convinced that a Hans 41 was the boat.
In fact, John Drake was a great friend to me during that process . . . he's a smart guy and had lots of good advice and perspective.
Then, I was visiting Tortola BVI on a Moorings trip and saw a Hans in the marina and went over excitedly to check it out. I was shocked. The teak
decks were taking a severe beating and the caulking in the deck
was raised and bleeding out all over, and the teak
itself was getting warped, etc.
All the brightwork was trashed by the tropical sun. Basically, it was bar-none the ugliest boat in the marina. It could not be made "nice" again without a tremendous investment in time and money
and sweat equity.
So, I got a real wake up call! Lots of wood and teak decks DON'T LIKE the tropics.
And where were we headed???? THE TROPICS.
So, as much as I love Hans Christains, etc. it was off the list.
In the meantime, we decided to look at cats. A weekend trip to Ft. Lauderadale allowed us to walk on many different cats. I THOUGHT a PDQ
36 might do. Great cats for the price
, BUT we are too tall. At 5'11" we would have HATED that boat.
Plus, it was just not quite big enough for me to be happy about for true offshore work.
We saw many other cats, but nothing was standing out.
We walked on a Lagoon 380 on Day Two and Melissa was smitten. We (the broker and I) could not get her off the boat! She hung aroung for two hours. And I had to admit that the list of things we liked was long (great headroom
, fabulous smart layout, just right size -- big enough to take to sea, but no more than we needed).
One problem. It was 50K over budget! I even made an offer in my range, but the owner would not budge.
So, I informed a "not so happy" Melissa that we were back in the monohull zone.
After looking around and a trip to Turner Marine
in Mobile, we decided to buy a brand new Catalina
391 (that's a whole story in itself). Loaded out with all the fanciest equipment money
can buy, the Catalina
was still 60K less than the used catamaran.
I almost bought the Catalina. In fact, I had it all spec'ed out and a final agreement and was getting ready to send an email
confirming the sale
one morning and Melissa walked into the computer room, with tears in her eyes, and said "I want the cat!"
So, we made another run at Lagoon 380's. Turns out there was a much newer, nicer, better in everyway, 380 that we thought was WAY out of reach, but I bargained hard and bought it for only 5K more than the first, older and less equipped 380 that first caught our eye.
We have not missed the extra money we spent to get the boat we wanted. And we were lucky we had the extra money.
I can say that had we settled for some other boat, it would have GREATLY diminshed our cruising happiness. Considering our personal tastes and lifestyle, we often think of how uncomfortable we would have been in the tropics on that Catalina. The view from the salon
of a Lagoon at anchor in a fabulous tropical anchorage is . . . well, priceless.
But so what? Many people would be miserable on the cat and a monohull is the boat for them, and that is fine. Everybody needs to get what they want and like.
BUT, for us, we had a "near miss" with disaster.
Again, in all fairness, money plays a big role. Many folks I have met say they would have loved to get a catamaran, but it was just too much money.
Money totally aside, however, as far as "catamaran thinking" goes, much has changed just in the last five years.
Five years ago, the catamaran detractors mantra was "catamarans are dangerous and they flip" (usually advanced by persons who have never stood on, much less sailed a cruising cat offshore and they have not experienced the impressive stabilty of today's well-designed ocean-rated cats).
The "cats flip" mantra died down greatly due to the fact that there are thousands of cruising cats out here now, handling with ease the same squalls and seas that monohulls do.
Four years ago, after the capsizing complaints lost
steam (due to an utter lack of any statistically relevent number of capsizes), the next mantra used to "dog" cats was "there's no dock
space, you can't get a slip anywhere."
This may still be true in a few areas where "traditionlist" monohull crowds rule
the roost and who would rather die than sail a catamaran.
All I can tell you is that I've been all the way up the east coast
and back, and covered the entire Caribbean and I have never had trouble getting a slip, ever.
And in Florida
, the Bahamas, and the entire Caribbean, catmarans are in marinas
in BIG numbers. Marinas
have been pulling pilings in double slips and building for cats, etc., and the "can't get a slip" objection has fallen into the Red Herring category and died.
Then there is the "you can't load a cat down" argument that also went by the wayside when manufacturers like FP and Lagoon started making hulls wider.
Three years ago, many monohull folks started telling me that they were sorry now, but they simply didn't look at cats when they bought a boat. They were told cats were bad (for all those reasons that have now been dispelled), and they didn't even consider a cat.
Two years ago, fellow cruisers in the Carribean started saying "We just plain screwed up and should have bought a cat."
In the present, many people are telling me either "We are planning on buying a cat now, or we would really like a cat but we just can't afford the extra expense."
Of course, this in in the Carribean tropics, where a cat absolutely cannot be beat for island hopping.
If I lived in New England
in cold weather, or sailed on long voyages in rougher parts of the world's seas and planned on nasty month-long passages where self-tending and displacement
were paramount, I would never buy a cat for that.
So, Melissa and I, in the end, got lucky and bought the perfect tool for the job, and for where we sail. We were also lucky we could "shut our eyes" and spend more than we wanted to.
In all honesty it was the best money we ever spent.
And that is what is has been like for us.
Be happy, sail happy!
All the best,