The only way to figure it out for yourself is to sail on one. It's really a matter of taste and you either love 'em or you hate 'em, and Catophobes will never convince Catophiles, or vice-versa.
My own first experience with two hulls was a couple of weeks in the Caribbean
on a bare-boat charter
. For what it's worth, which may be very little, I didn't like it. And the list of things I didn't like would be long*. But you might love it -- lots of people do.
The catophiles here will give you tons of statistics which have somewhat convinced me that there is no big practical difference in safety
My totally subjective list of likes and dislikes of one lifelong mono sailor after two weeks on a cat:
1. Two widely spaced engines -- redundancy, manueverability (a big advantage). Better than a bow thruster!
2. Shallow draft
for such a big boat (a really, really big advantage, maybe even a decisive advantage in the Caribbean).
3. Good view from salon
(but deck salon
monos are not much worse).
4. Trampoline makes a great space (my wife loved it!).
1. Uncomfortable motion at sea (to my taste). A weird flicking, crabbing motion and a lot of noise
from waves between the hulls. I didn't like it. For me, a good mono goes through the waves like a horse cantering -- a harmonious, pleasant feeling. But of course that is totally subjective.
2. Can't tell when you need to reef -- no heel to tell you when the boat is overpowered. Scary and unpleasant! Catophiles will say you get used to that; maybe they're right.
3. Feels really scary to me in big seas (again, subjective, and maybe due to inexperience). I had an acute sensation that the cat would prefer to be inverted, and that I'd better be really, really careful how to tackle the big waves.
4. Spaces inside the two small hulls are not as nice as the spaces inside the one bigger hull
of a mono (this applies only to sleeping cabins and heads)
position (this varies from cat to cat; this one was a Norseman), poor visibility, very poor bracing for rough seas.
6. No decks to wander around on (but rear cockpit
monos and all monos less than about 45' dont' have this either, to be fair)
7. Dances at anchor
8. Beam is a disadvantage in maneuvering and docking
(but two engines a great advantage)
9. Really ugly compared to a mono. (I'll get flamed for that, I'm sure. Obviously that is totally subjective).
I didn't mention a number of traditional cat advantages (and disadvantages). That's not because I forgot, but because I didn't find them to exist in my two weeks of experience:
1. Speed. The boat we had was not faster than a mono of comparable volume. I know that cats must be much faster than monos in some conditions, but I just didn't experienced it. We were in rough conditions (Windwards in the off season) so maybe I was over-reefing due to lack of feel for the right power level.
2. Isolation of one hull
from the other. I guess that's an advantage compared to some monos, but a center cockpit
mono with aft cabin
has the same properties.
3. Allegedly fantastic salon/galley layout. I didn't like it (other than the view). A 49' center cockpit deck
salon mono has a much better layout, with seating on both sides of the salon, and the galley
somewhat separated in the passage
to the aft cabin
4. No heel. I don't mind heeling, and the degree of heel gives an excellent feel for the amount of power, which I sorely missed on the cat. So this did not seem like much of an advantage to me, although I guess for passengers who want to cook or use the toilet or take a shower
in a seaway (as opposed to the guy behind the helm), it's a great thing.
5. Cats don't point -- poor windward performance. I didn't experience this. The cat we rented was not all that fast, but it pointed as well as mono cruising boats of similar LWL of my experience.
My own totally subjective and frankly monocentric view is that cats are great party boats in the Caribbean
and other shallow, tropical waters, for good weather
. I wouldn't want to go on a long passage
in one. In rough weather
or northern latitudes, and all the more, at night, I would really not like to be on a cat. Monos just make more sense to me for most purposes, certainly for mine.
But I would gladly go out on a cat again with an open mind, just never again (!) as skipper
. It would be interesting to sail with an experienced cat skipper
. I'm sure I would learn a lot and it might change my mind about some of these things.
Now one of our erudite and eloquent catophiles will give you a completely different view, I'm sure.