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Old 02-02-2010, 20:51   #1
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Which Is More Forgiving - Cruising Monohull or Cruising Multihull

I have owned two cruising yachts which I have sailed in winds up to fifty knots. One yacht was a monohull, and one was a multihull.

I have made plenty of mistakes as captain of those yachts. I've had too much sail up, pushed the yachts too hard, and been anchored in the wrong places. Both yachts behave differently when I make a mistake.

One night I was anchored at Jost Van Dyke in eight feet of water in my Westsail 32. During the night a storm came through with large waves, and in the trough of each wave, my Westsail 32 bottomed out with a massive thump. The boat shuddered and shook each time our keel struck the seabed. This continued for several hours and kept us awake for half the night. I was lucky that my Westsail was so robust, because hitting the seabed did no damage to our hull or rudder. We must have smashed a lot of sea urchins into oblivion on the seabed. If the same thing happened to my catamaran, I would have had rudder damage for sure.

When we sailed our Westsail to windward in the tradewinds, the yacht routinely heeled thirty degrees. When we took a knockdown, it heeled substantially more than thirty degrees. When I made a mistake and took a knockdown, I ended up with bruises on my legs and hips as evidence. It was definitely bruising cruising. I have never taken a knockdown on my multihull, and I have no bruises to hide from my trade wind sailing on board Exit Only.

I have the general impression, that in winds less than fifty knots, my catamaran is more forgiving when I make an error in judgment. That has been my experience. That's one reason my wife was willing to do a circumnavigation in a catamaran.

What do you think? In winds less than fifty knots, do you think that a monohull or a multihull is more forgiving when the captain makes an error in judgment?
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Old 02-02-2010, 21:07   #2
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I guess that would depend on the sea state. In big waves (20' +) I'd rather be on a Mono. But in high winds and lots of chop I'd take a cat. It's relative.....
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Old 02-02-2010, 21:07   #3
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With 90% of the sail area and only 20% of the displacement, our tri is a lot faster and more fun to sail than our Lord Nelson 35, (in protected waters) but I'm not so sure if I'd trust it to 50 knots worth of ocean fury.
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Old 03-02-2010, 00:11   #4
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If, as you say, we are only talking about forgiveness, My vote goes to a heavy mono with a deep full keel.
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Old 03-02-2010, 04:32   #5
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Originally Posted by maxingout View Post
When we sailed our Westsail to windward in the tradewinds, the yacht routinely heeled thirty degrees.

This is impressive, in a scary way,to me. The only time I heel 30 degrees is during a gust knockover. I bet you had bruises as a way of life back then.

I've never sailed a cat, but it always seemed to me it would be less bouncy, but I don't know if I would think of it as more forgiving.
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Old 03-02-2010, 06:47   #6
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When we sailed our Westsail to windward in the tradewinds, the yacht routinely heeled thirty degrees. When we took a knockdown, it heeled substantially more than thirty degrees. When I made a mistake and took a knockdown, I ended up with bruises on my legs and hips as evidence. It was definitely bruising cruising. I have never taken a knockdown on my multihull, and I have no bruises to hide from my trade wind sailing on board Exit Only.


I can only assume from the above statement that you either had too much sail up or that they were badly set for the prevailing conditions....
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Old 03-02-2010, 09:39   #7
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Okay, let me have a go at this ;-)

First, I think that the length of the boat is more relevant than the shape of the keel or how many hulls the boat has. Second, I think we're talking a bit about comfort here because at under 50 knots the wind should not lead to serious problems for either mono / multi.

About the length of the boat: we are 64' and my estimated guess is that our sailing experience with 50 knots is equal to that on a 32' boat with 30-35 knots. At 35 knots we have a smooth ride much like a 32' boat with 15 knots.
I hear everyone thinking two things: 1) it's the waves and indeed but apart from swell from distant storms etc. the waves are related to the wind and 2) here he goes again with his 64' boat but really, I have spend much more time on a 30 footer than on our current boat.
When we "buddy-boat" we always try to do that with a cat because they are faster and it's easier for us to match speed with them (because we're always bigger). But when we sailed together with another (smaller) mono we always see this difference in boat length. The difference is so big that we sometimes feel like we're cheating.
The same difference is also found when you reef. I mean that on a big boat, putting in a reef makes more difference in comfort level than it does on a small boat. I strongly feel that a pilot house is like an extra reef because it provides another jump in comfort and safety compared to being out there in the cockpit.

Now the difference between mono and multi. Both have a problem for comfort: the mono heels and the multi (I mean a cat really because a tri is like in between) bounces more and that includes these sideways jerks. You get used to both but once you are used to one, you start to dislike the other more. Both lead to injuries too: the OP relates of bruises caused by a knock down (I always though that meant spreaders in the water but I guess we mean a sudden increase in heel during a gust here). A friend of ours on a cat fell because of one of those sudden jerks and landed with his back on a winch which could have put him in a wheelchair so there's the example for the other side.

At anchor it's the same really. Mono's often sail back and forth behind their anchor while cats don't. But cats still have that jerking motion like when a wake from another boat passes by and I need to grab my drink to prevent spilling it more often on an anchored cat than on an anchored mono. Also, not all mono's sail behind their anchors plus there are ways to stop others from doing that (riding sail). But some mono's are just terrible at this and I wouldn't consider those designs because of that.

The only other thing I notice is that tendency of a cat to bury their bows in following seas. I know they are not about to pitch-pole but I always get that nasty feeling in my stomach when it happens or even if I see it happen on another cat. This is much more a problem for small cats just like it is for mono's but it's much worse with cats compared to mono's.

When you go above 50 knots of wind it all changes but that's not the subject of this thread. I just want to write that I think the chance of some catastrophic failure on a cat is much higher than on a mono because there is much more stress.

I like posting photo's and was just told that I don't do that enough so here we go ;-) The first one I took of Gecko, a 30 footish cat during our passage to the Colombian coast. This means high winds and seas, we had about 30-35 knots of winds and 8-10' seas here:


The crew doesn't look worried at all but I had that feeling in my stomach already ;-) Actually, Ian had it too which is the reason he reefed his mainsail down all the way.

The next one is us at the same place and the same time. You can actually see me taking the photo's of Gecko:

You can see that we lift the stern from the water but the bow shows no tendency to dig in. This is the combined effect of both being a mono and being longer. Also, note we are under full working sails.

Next two are on top of a wave:

and


And behind a wave:

and

We're behind a big one here and look like a submarine sailboat ;-)

And just for fun, this is later that day when we were arriving at Islas Los Monjes just off the coast of Colombia (but actually belonging to Venezuela). We have just furled the jib and gybed to go between two islands (they are more like rocks really). The photo was taken by another cruiser who climbed the rock and had his portable VHF with him. The wind were up to 40 knots now and even without the jib we were planing at well over hull speed (the wake looks like we were doing 14 knots).


You can click on any of these photo's to go to the full album of this passage. Hover the mouse over the photo there to find a panel that allows more detail up to full camera resolution. (SmugMug is really cool if you like your photo's and want to get them organized!)

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 03-02-2010, 09:59   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
First, I think that the length of the boat is more relevant than the shape of the keel or how many hulls the boat has.
I couldn't agree more.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:11   #9
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Great pictures Nick...thanks.
Are your masts raked back at different angles...the tops look further apart then the bases.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:44   #10
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Great pictures Nick...thanks.
Are your masts raked back at different angles...the tops look further apart then the bases.
See, posting photo's (I just include links to my photo's) is nice. We should all do that more often!

Yes, the mizzen is raked more. Actually, we sometimes change that and the rake is now less than what we had before. We changed that in Trini anticipating more downwind sails (had been all uphill from Gulf of Mexico to Trini before that). We can change that relatively simple because we have neither backstays nor a triatic stay on the masts. (actually, having a backstay is easier for changing the rake but a triatic takes all incentive for such a change away... ;-) The mizzen is fractional rigged with two forestays that attach just under the upper spreaders. There is a diamond stay with a forward pointing spreader to support the upper section, you can see that best on the photo where we are on top the wave.
It is basically a catamaran rig, probably because of Dashew's roots in cat sailing.

What I like in some of the photo's is how it shows the big gap between main and mizzen. For most ketches, the main boom almost touches the mizzen mast, while we have about 10' in between. This is also why the mizzen is big (almost a schooner): it is a separate sail instead of a flap for the main. The gap also allows us to fly a real spinnaker from the mizzen.
The main mast is 60' from deck and the mizzen 50'.

ciao!
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Old 03-02-2010, 17:07   #11
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This is impressive, in a scary way,to me. The only time I heel 30 degrees is during a gust knockover. I bet you had bruises as a way of life back then.

I've never sailed a cat, but it always seemed to me it would be less bouncy, but I don't know if I would think of it as more forgiving.
Our Westsail was underballasted I suspect. Westsail went through several bankruptcies, and depending on when you got your Westsail 32, you either had lead ballast or steel punchings for ballast. Less ballast does make a difference in heeling in a yacht like ours. We added ballast to make it heel less when sailing to windward. On a long windward sail, I had bumps and bruises, and I was physically very tired from hanging on with the yacht heeled over. I would like to have tried sailing in a Westsail 32 with a full complement of lead ballast.
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Old 03-02-2010, 17:43   #12
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When we sailed our Westsail to windward in the tradewinds, the yacht routinely heeled thirty degrees. When we took a knockdown, it heeled substantially more than thirty degrees. When I made a mistake and took a knockdown, I ended up with bruises on my legs and hips as evidence. It was definitely bruising cruising. I have never taken a knockdown on my multihull, and I have no bruises to hide from my trade wind sailing on board Exit Only.


I can only assume from the above statement that you either had too much sail up or that they were badly set for the prevailing conditions....
That's sort of the point of the thread. When the captain, me, makes poor choices in prevailing conditions, what type of yacht is more forgiving of my poor choices. When I was overcanvassed in my Westsail, I suffered and my wife complained. When I was overcanvassed on my catamaran, my yacht suffered, but I did not suffer. It may have been hard on my yacht, but it wasn't hard on me.
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Old 03-02-2010, 18:21   #13
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When I was overcanvassed in my Westsail, I suffered and my wife complained. When I was overcanvassed on my catamaran, my yacht suffered, but I did not suffer. It may have been hard on my yacht, but it wasn't hard on me.
Well, yes. But isn't it a bit unfair to rate an Anything 32 against an Anything 39? I've stayed in monohulls my entire sailing career, but I've migrated from a 22 footer to 30, then 37, then 41, and now 46. Every subsequent boat has been far less punishing than the previous boat--so much so as to defy comparison between boats. Conditions that would cause white knuckles and purple bruises on the early boats are in no way uncomfortable in the current boat. Indeed, I've been astonished at how much more mannerly/safe/comfy the 46 footer is than the 41 footer was. It's only a 5-foot difference LOA, but a 50% increase in displacement between the two boats.

When we first got the new boat I did a few beer-can races just to see how she performed against other boats. Back at the yacht club bar one night, when all my buddies were complaining about how ferocious the wind chop had been that evening, I remember thinking, "Wind chop? Was there wind chop tonight?"

Some things are better kept to oneself, of course.
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Old 03-02-2010, 19:07   #14
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There are so many different ways of looking at yachts.

For example, if you look at weight, my Westsail 32 and my Privilege 39 weighed approximately 20,000 pounds fully loaded. Very similar weights.

If you look at the weights/displacements of 30 footers, 40 footers, and 50 footers, they will all have different displacements and will be different in how forgiving they are of the mistakes made by their skippers.

One of the reasons I liked my catamaran for a circumnavigation was because it was so forgiving when I or my crew made a mistake or were not as diligent as we could have been in running our yacht. The autopilot steered the boat 99% of the time, and the cataramaran took good care of us when we made a mistake. It was a forgiving yacht.

It's different strokes for different folks when sailing offshore. Most cruising sailors want a forgiving yacht. It's not something that is frequently discussed in forums. Discussions often focus on speed and other aspects of performance. It's not very often that prospective cruisers focus on the question of whether a particular design will be a forgiving yacht when they make a mistake.

I suspect that most cruisers would like to have a forgiving yacht. Most yachting discussion doesn't focus on how a yacht will behave when the skipper makes a mistake. It's not the kind of thing sales people are going to talk about. You buy the boat, get into a storm, and suddently you discover whether or not you have a forgiving yacht. I think having to go through a storm is a poor way to discover whether you have a forgiving yacht that is tolerant to the mistakes of the skipper and crew.
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Old 03-02-2010, 19:14   #15
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Dave,

How did you add ballast to your Westsail and how much was needed to make a difference ?
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