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Old 26-02-2013, 15:12   #1
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Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

So I am very early in the process of researching a boat to buy for doing some summer cruising on the Great Lakes. We are a family of three, my wife and I, and our 4 year old daughter. We'd plan on taking out friends or family on weekends around Chicago and the south end of Lake Michigan, and also do some longer-range cruising mostly for a month or so at a time in summer up on northern Lake Michigan and maybe Lake Huron if we get that far.

Short version of my question - why wouldn't a catamaran be a good choice for sailing the Great Lakes?

I notice that perhaps 99% of the boats around here on Lake Michigan are monohulls. Are catamarans less comfortable than monohulls on the choppier waves of the lakes? Is draft or beam an issue sailing into the smaller marinas along the Michigan coast? I am looking specifically at a Gemini 105mc or the new Legacy 35 that just came out. I would think these cats would be ideal as they fit in standard slips and also have centerboards that retract which I would think it would make it easier to negotiate the lower lake levels we've been having.

I've also been reading on the forum about how these smaller cats are not built to be blue water boats. I know lake crossings don't really qualify as blue water, but weather can kick up 70kt storms without warning and waves can whip up nice and steep around here and there may not always be time to duck for cover... Is weather going to be a concern? I know.. pick your weather windows, but still, stuff happens sometimes.

Assuming price is not a factor, why else would I not want a catamaran? Just trying to think of all the angles here. I don't intend this to be another monohull vs multihull debate, but let's just say my wife and I like a LOT of the advantages of catamarans, and I'm trying to figure out why there aren't more of them.

So far we only have one season of sailing classes behind us, which we both plan on continuing into this year. But our sailing school uses monohulls in the 30' range for instruction, so that's all the experience we have so far with larger boats. Never sailed a cat bigger than 18' before, so I guess I have to get out there and try it. Now that there is a Gemini dealer and catamaran charter service in northern Michigan, I am tempted to drive up there in spring and maybe charter one of the cats to see how they sail for myself.

Any thoughts are welcome
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Old 26-02-2013, 15:31   #2
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

Hi Enrique100, I'm a monohuller, but I do sail the Great Lakes. Hopefully some multi folks will chime in here, but I suspect the major reason is due to size limitations on dockage, hauling and storage. Most marinas I've seen on the Great Lakes were built for small to medium-sized monos, so it might take some additional planning, and likely cost more. That said, we have at least one Gemini owner who sails out of our yacht club. And I know of another tri who travels the North Channel, so clearly it is possible.

The advantages of being able to sail and anchor in thin water are significant (and may get even more so in the coming years), and all that space ensures you're the party-boat in any anchorage . I would assume the build quality of the boats you are considering are good. If so, they will do just as well as most monos in the wind and seas we get.

The only question (which I can't answer) is whether the wave patterns here on the Great Lakes would be a negative. Our typical wave patterns are shorter wavelength, and steeper -- sometimes a lot steeper. Not sure if that might be a big negative for multis.
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Old 26-02-2013, 15:37   #3
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

There are cats on the great lakes but the numbers are small I suspect due to the fact that they usually cost more than monohulls. We sail our PDQ32 in Ontario and can report that the boat makes an excellent floating cottage while providing sailing speeds that most monohulls only dream of. We have the distinction at our marina of spending more summer nights out at anchor than any other boat - you can't beat the comfort of a cat at anchor.
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Old 26-02-2013, 15:47   #4
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

It's the same situation here in the Northeast--you see cats, but not too many. You see a lot more in the Chesapeake and even more in Florida. Partly it is due to your lack of tidal waters and believe it or not relatively deep water compared to say Florida where in some places you can go all day and never be in water more than 10 feet deep. I know there are more and more problems with shallow waters and harbors in the Great Lakes, so maybe you will begin to see more cats. Also, we both have marinas that were designed and built a long time ago when a boat with a 12-foot beam was "beamy." Older marinas often can't handle many cats except on end tie ups. Where I am in New England it is about twice the cost to haul a cat for the winter too.
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Old 26-02-2013, 16:19   #5
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

Check Bay Breeze Yacht Charters in Traverse City, MI for there Cruising Catamaran ASA 114 class this spring. We saw the new Legacy 35 at Chicago Strictly Sale. Our mooring neighbors had a 105 for a while on Portage Lake & sailed LK Michigan north without incident. The marina there had no problem hauling it and she didn't require stands!
Actually I've seen more large, 40+ power cats up here than sailing cats. There are slips to accomidate them.
Price & availability have probably been the biggest reasons that there are not more cats here. More than waves on the Inland Seas. Even lower lakers heed the warnings!
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Old 26-02-2013, 16:44   #6
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jnrdafoe View Post
Check Bay Breeze Yacht Charters in Traverse City, MI for there Cruising Catamaran ASA 114 class this spring. We saw the new Legacy 35 at Chicago Strictly Sale.
That's exactly what got me thinking about this The Legacy 35 is a pretty nice little boat. Thanks for the info. I'll look into their class for sure.
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Old 26-02-2013, 16:46   #7
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

We sailed the North Channel last summer. I recommend you plan on it. There are several charters up there and all offer cats. I see no reason not to have one other than the noted beam restrictions at some marinas and haul-out facilities.

I've lived here for 60 years and note that the low water cycle is about every 50. It will be back. That said, we will probably be on a mooring this year due to low water at Harbortown marina.

FWI - many from your region winter store at Torresens in Muskegon. Good folks and lower cost than Chicago. We find costs go down with distance away from Chicago. Muskegon is about the bottom of the curve. If you don't mind the drive, summer slips are more affordable too.
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Old 26-02-2013, 16:56   #8
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I'm going with dockage and haul in/out expense. Some friends of ours ran a 50' cat for a family member for several years. It was in the Great Lakes in the summer and the Keys for the winter. They said those were major obstacles up in the Great Lakes but no problem in the Keys. The owner apparently had plenty of cash to rent multiple docks and pay a skipper. I'm not sure how a cat would handle the waves. 6 footers in a mono is miserable but I would think worse with the short wave interval. If you do this let us know. I'm kind of curious. SC
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Old 26-02-2013, 17:29   #9
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

Best bet is to charter the gemini up on your lake from the local charter company
When your there ask a lot of question to see what others in the area are doing and how they are docked.
Call your local marina and explain what you would like to do and see what feedback they give you.

When we purchased ours, we did all that before we put a deposit down on the boat
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Old 27-02-2013, 05:21   #10
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

What about a corsair 36 or 31. Fast comfortable and ability fit a mono berth and be trailered
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Old 27-02-2013, 06:05   #11
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

Ya can't beat a cat for onboard space and getting into the shallows, but here are some of the downsides:
1. A cat may be almost as wide as the entrance to a marina
2. Most marinas don't have slips to accommodate a cat or the space to manouver.
3. Cost to purchase
4. Overnight transient slip fee. Figure on $2/ft. x 2
5. Shorter wave period in the Great Lakes might make a noisy hull at anchor.
6. Most marinas may not have a travel lift wide enough to lift a big cat out for haul out.

Good luck!
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Old 01-03-2013, 06:24   #12
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

I looked at purchasing a cat about a year or two ago in Chicago. My biggest concern was not the sailing but how/where I was going to moor/store it. I don't have my notes with me, but I did find that you can get it hauled for the winter there, although not everyone had the facilities for it (40' cat). We were looking at having a mooring at Monroe Harbor because we live in Lakeshore East. I don't remember there being a problem or a price difference between a mono and a cat at that time. However, getting a slip seemed to be a bigger problem and a lot more expensive. Talking with the folks that rent the slips will provide you with better information about availability. While the waiting list seemed very long, slips did open up because people usually had made other arrangements. Best of luck with the sailing. I don't think there's a better way to have fun with the family. Cheers
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:01   #13
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

I suspect the reason is the difficulty of transporting large catamarans inland. This leads to low demand for services for cats in the lakes, the end result being that it just doesn't make economic sense to put sailing cats into lakes - even the Great Lakes - unless it is for a specialized purpose.


Smaller cats like an Iroquois or similar model may be able to make the trip at an economical price.
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:10   #14
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Re: Catamaran in the Great Lakes - why not?

Choppiness may be a factor, especially in cats with low bridgedecks.

Small cat (easy to transport, haul, and dock) + large saloon (one of the main features of catamarans) = greater risk of bridge-slapping

I don't know whether choppier or longer waves would lead to more slapping, or how they would affect comfort on the hook.
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