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Old 16-11-2008, 17:53   #1
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Catamaran build quality & life expectancy

I keep seeing it over and over and over again. Comments like these and other similar negative comments about cats.

"the build quality isn't there for most of the brands"
"c
ats seem to be built for the charter market...after 5-7 years they are written off and sold."
"of all the boats I've surveyed, the catamarans...falling apart, etc."

I understand that cats generally use cheaper, lighter materials to keep the weight and cost down, for better performance and because in general the construction is higher than a mono. I also understand that some cats are built much better than others.

BUT...is there any REAL merit to these comments or are these just old school monohullers being overly critical and exaggerating?


Are these boats really falling apart in that short a time?
Isn't any boat going to get beat to **** if it's chartered full time?
Aren't partially selling them off after a few years, because it's much easier to charge those HIGH prices on a nice pretty new boat?
We're maybe the cats that aren't that old and are falling apart, just taken out in horrendous conditions, that could have caused damage to any boat?


I'm a newbie. Just took my first sailing class in July. Just got back from a week cruising on a Gemini 3400, the only cat I've sailed so far. I really want to buy something and move aboard in the spring, eventually cruise full time...ideally forever. Was thinking a Gemini 105...but with all the extra room and the potential of blue water down the road, I'm kind of leaning towards maybe a Lagoon 380.

I just want to know, am I going to be paying a lot more for something that's just going to fall apart on me in a few years, when I could have saved my money and already been living aboard by now on a monohull?
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Old 16-11-2008, 21:13   #2
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no doubt you will be saving money with a mono. You can get a monohull for dirt cheap, far less than any catamaran. However, Prouts built in the early 70s are still being sailed as well as they were built. Further the use of cored fiberglass isn't unique to catamarans, most boat builders use it. Last there are a few catamarans which weren't built well, just as most boats, like a poorly built monohull (see the monohull partially sunk in Texas that people aren't saying is worth the cost of floating it again).

For charter boats, yes, after 5 years or so they can loose 30% of their value, it's not because they are cheaply built or heavily used, it's just supply and demand. What type of discount would you need to forgo a new boat and purchase a 5 year old boat? Typically it's around 30%. As to build quality, we had a friend look around at monos at the boat show, most had the same cheap plastic hinges and locks and cheaper fixtures. So the "cheap finish" is very speculative. Also some would consider veneers to be "cheap finishes" where in fact constructing a catamaran with solid wood interior would be insane. Sooo, it depends on the boat. For lagoons, you'll find they hold up extremely well. But do yourself a favor, go look at 10 year old version of the boat your interested in, you'll see for yourself how well it holds up.
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Old 16-11-2008, 21:30   #3
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Cheap and light are opposites in a well built boat. I have a 30 year old Stiletto, 27 feet long, and not a crack in the hull. It was built from kevlar honey comb and weighs ~1400 pounds. Not a cheap way.

Another key factor is to remember that they have built monohulls for centuries. Multihulls are more resent, so good design took time. The good manufacturers have good designs these days, though there is variation, just as with any type.
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Old 17-11-2008, 11:06   #4
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schoonerdog:

I could care less about the boat losing it's value. In fact that's a good thing, since I seriously doubt I'm buying new anyway. What I'm concerned about about is the perception that some of these comments give that these boats just don't hold up.

Have they even been making the Lagoon 380 for 10 ten years? I thought it came into production around 2000. Anyway, if I'm going to look at one that old, it isn't going to be to see how they old up. It's going to be to potentially buy it.

Otherwise the Geminis seem to hold their value very well. Even if they don't hold up, I can just sell and get a newer one ever few years
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Old 17-11-2008, 12:08   #5
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What type of sailing will you be doing? Almost anything can be sailed anywhere. Then again there is comfort, & longevity to consider. Then again the toughest part for most of us is BUDGET!!!!!!ouch
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Old 17-11-2008, 18:28   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
What type of sailing will you be doing? Almost anything can be sailed anywhere. Then again there is comfort, & longevity to consider. Then again the toughest part for most of us is BUDGET!!!!!!ouch

WHAM!
Right back to earth.
Dang!
I don't like it here.
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Old 17-11-2008, 19:10   #7
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I have had my Privilege 39 catamaran for nearly fifteen years, and it's still going strong. The Privilege is one of the most robust catamarans out there, and even after an eleven year circumnavigation, I don't detect any structural weakness.

In my trip around the world, I only saw only a few structural problems related to catamaran design.

1. Cats that have low bridgedecks that constantly pound can have bridgedeck repairs that are expensive. I saw a 70 foot catamran in New Zealand getting a new bridgedeck on the underside.

2. I have seen two small catamarans in New Zealand that did not have a foam core composite hull, and when they took a wave hit on the beam, it detached the galley from the interior wall of the hull because of hull flexing. Hulls that lack a foam core tend to flex more causing the problem.

3. I have seen one catamaran that suffered forward bridgedeck damage from pounding when sailing from Gibraltar to the Caribbean, and in this case the flexing caused cracks in the solid bridgedeck close to the bow. This boat turned around, fixed the damage, reinforced the weak area, and the next year made his Atlantic crossing.

I don't think the life expectancy of a well-constructed cat is any different than a well-constructed monohull. You get what you pay for. Lightly constructed monohulls sailed hard also experience a demolition derby.

One other area to think about is delamination issues. Since most cats have a foam core, you need to be sure that hull delamination is not a problem in any cat that you think about buying. You need to have a surveyor take a tiny hammer and tap out every inch of the hull to see if any delamination is present.

I worry a lot more about myself falling apart than I do about my Privilege 39 falling apart during the next twenty years.
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Old 18-11-2008, 11:23   #8
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Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
What type of sailing will you be doing? Almost anything can be sailed anywhere. Then again there is comfort, & longevity to consider. Then again the toughest part for most of us is BUDGET!!!!!!ouch
Rough plan is:
  1. Buy something by the spring and move aboard immediately here in NJ.
  2. Sell work on the idea of me being off-site at least part time, by this time next year. (I actually think I have a pretty good shot at this).
  3. If 2 works out, the next few years, spend summers in NJ and head South for winter (SE Florida, keys, maybe Bahamas).
  4. After a few years, hopefully sell work on me being off-site full time, start cruising around the Caribbean, with an occasional trip back home.
  5. Eventually circumnavigate. Long slow circumnavigate that is, as in when I find someplace I really like, drop the anchor and stay, until I get bored or my visa expires.
Of course, this whole time, logging hours towards my 6 pack or maybe 100 ton, maybe taking the test somewhere between 3 and 4.
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Old 19-11-2008, 07:17   #9
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I agree with Maxing-out - the life expectancy of a well-designed/constructed cat should be no different than a similar monohull. My Cat was built to Lloyd's 100 A1 offshore standards in 1994 and has since crossed the Atlantic to Florida, sailed up to Canada, then back down through the Caribbean as far as Venezuela and then back up to Canada, where she is currently getting ready for another trip south next fall to Margarita Island. There are no signs of any structural damage; indeed, the only stress cracks on the boat are on the lids for two of the cockpit lockers and a small one below a fixed portlight. That's it.

Further, although my cat has somewhat lower bridgedeck clearance aft than is generally recommended, there are absolutely zero stress cracks on or around the bridgedeck, nor is there any apparent flexing/racking while underway.

The interior finish? Yes, this boat was finished with glued on (and eventually saggy) vinyl headliners and (eventually moldy) carpeting, as was common on earlier cats. I have chosen to replace all of these with frp panels at some considerable cost, at least in terms of labour. That being said, all plywood bulkheads in the boat are well tabbed with glass cloth/resin into the hull/bridgedeck, and none of these have needed attention (apart from refinishing).

Seek opinions on any boat you are looking at, inspect it carefully yourself and, if still interested, hire a competent surveyor. Really, this is the same procedure that you should follow with a monohull. If all of that checks out, you like the boat and the price, then there is no more reason to worry about structural issues/longevity of the cat than any other boat of comparable vintage/experience.

Brad
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Old 19-11-2008, 11:46   #10
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Thanks for all the replies.

Now I guess the only question is:
Do I start the search for a Lagoon or similar cat, or do I settle on a Gemini (I know of a 105M that looks really promising, that hasn't even gone on the market yet), and then upgrade to the bigger boat when I'm ready to graduate beyond coastal cruising?
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Old 19-11-2008, 11:54   #11
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There is a major benefit in building catamarans light. There is a major benefit in building ALL boats for a lower price. I think this results in catamarans built in materials that have a lower life expectancy than an equivalent monohull.
That doesnt mean that catamarans cannot be built to be built to be light and longlasting but it costs lots of money and not many consumers are prepared to pay the cost.
With monohuls manufactures are more likely to choise slightly higher weight and better durability.
Having said this I think catamarans offer a great lifestyle and if crusing protectected waters they would be my choice, but I would choose the construction methods carefully.
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Old 19-11-2008, 12:05   #12
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There are some good deals to be had at the moment due to the downturn in the world economy and typically, the savings will increase as the size/value of the boat increases. Since you are not planning on any extended voyaging for several years, the Gemini would certainly suffice from a practical perspective. It has the added advantage of a smaller initial outlay, should you decide that this is not the life for you.

On the other hand, as indicated earlier, the potential savings are larger on a larger boat. Furthermore, assuming that the economy bounces back by the time you are ready for some extended voyaging, the demand for good, used catamarans will likely by then have also rebounded. Since there is good reason to believe that the supply will then be smaller than now (less incentive/need to sell, and less new boats being purchased in the interim due to the economic downturn and its effect on both private sales and the charter market). As a result, you could well find yourself paying substantially more then, than now for the boat of your dreams.

Finally, buying the larger boat now has the following added advantages: it will give you more time to familiarize yourself with the boat, its equipment and handling prior to taking off for distant horizons; it will give you additional time to find and fix any potential flaws; you can take some comfort in knowning that any large expenditures that are required for maintenance/upgrades in the interim, will be useful for a much longer period that they will on a 'stop-gap' boat.

Brad
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Old 20-11-2008, 12:22   #13
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That last paragraph describes my thinking exactly. Why spend time and money on something that will only be temporary, when I can get the boat I really want now, and get to know it the much sooner.

Also, even if don't ever do any real voyaging, it would still be nice to have something a little bigger with a lot more room.

As far as the comment about the Gemini and "if I decide the life isn't for me..." I'm still thinking I'm better off with the Lagoon. If I buy now and get a better deal due to the economy, if it doesn't work out, things will most likely have bounced back by the time I sell, so I should take less of a loss.
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Old 25-11-2008, 09:05   #14
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Go for the Gemini. You bucks will get you a newer boat. Newer boats are cheaper to maintain and insure. Its narrow beam means you will find a slip far more easily. Many people live on their Geminis, albeit in warmer climates. Try to find one with a full cockpit enclosure. You will have an issue with heating, but just bite the bullet and do what it takes. Learn to use the library system rether than store books. Learn to live with a greener footprint in terms of electrical use, as in refrigeration, cooking, entertainment, etc.

What skeptics (and armchair experts) forget is that fiberglass is forever. Its easy to repair and make stronger than new. Most things on a catamaran come from the same shelves as half-a-marans, and are just as easily replaced. If the cheap stuff was the choice of the builder or earlier owners, it was a choice, not an inherent flaw in the genre. Somewhere else, someone made the choice for a monohull often enough for the item to be on that shelf to begin with! Let no one tell you weight isn't a problem on a monohull. Its a LESSER problem. One reason cats are more expensive is this: building strong and LIGHT costs more that building strong heavy.

Lastly: nobody really buys their last boat first. If it works for you, someone else will step up to your Gemini and you will find anther, possibly bigger cat. What goes around....
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Old 25-11-2008, 11:24   #15
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Sandy,

That's exactly what I'm doing. Yeah, changed my mind again.

Getting the offer sheet on the Gem I was looking at could have something to do with it. Also this one is already VERY well equipped. There really isn't much at all as far as upgrades/additional equipment I'll have to put money into.

Yeah that narrow beam and shallow draft is the reason it made my list in the first place...although I'd like to be on the hook as much as possible.

And lastly, to recite the mantra of the livingaboard forum.

Buy smaller...payoff faster...leave sooner.
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