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Old 20-06-2011, 03:33   #1
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Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts . . .

Ideally, before you go looking for the right boat, you will have already decided what your plans are:

a) Embark on an active circumnavigation?
b) Enjoy an alternative cruising life-style on the oceans?
c) Use it primarily for week-ends in a specific region?
d) Engage in competitive sailing activities?
e) A combination?

In our case, we didn’t really know what we were going to do or where we were going to go once we had the boat. Apart from wanting to do more than just day sailing in the bay, we hadn’t put too much thought into our future cruising destinations and options. Now, after more than 14 yrs on board – mostly in the tropics – we can say that option b) was the one for us and that we were fortunate to find the perfect boat for the job.

For more than 20 years I was an avid monohull sailor, incl. one Atlantic crossing. Sailing was, in fact, part of my job for many years, even though I always battled with sea sickness. A 38-42 ft monohull would have been the logical choice for us, had it not been for a very convincing catamaran ad in a sailing magazine. The decision ‘pro catamaran’ was one of the best I took in my life!

But which cat? We had no idea of the catamaran market and availability of catamarans. Living on a remote Greek island in the mid 1990’s getting specific information was difficult and time consuming with the World Wide Web still in its baby shoes. These days a couple of clicks will put you on to all the information you can handle, besides the fact, that the catamaran industry has grown immensely.

So we visited the BOOT ‘95 in Dusseldorf, Germany, Europe’s largest boat show. But we left quite disappointed. The few cats on display didn’t convince us. Of course, these were the times when catamarans were only just beginning to gain in popularity in Europe.

Our next question was: new or used? This, of course, is ultimately a question of available finances. How much boat do I get for my money? How much will I lose when I sell? Generally, a new boat will always depreciate more in value than a used boat. Apart from size, structural substance plays the most important role – a factor that is often overlooked when dazzled by a brilliantly shining new boat at a boat show.

As a general recommendation we would suggest that every owner of a new boat remain in the vicinity of the boat yard for at least a season, better a year, to be able to return for warranty issues which will undoubtedly come up sooner or later. We have yet to hear from a cruiser whose new boat didn’t have any teething problems. We didn’t stay but sailed straight up from South Africa via Gibraltar into the Med and it took us two years before we could write into our log book “today everything works 100%”. Many issues were to do with faulty instruments or boating hardware from internationally renowned companies!

But how do you decide which boat is right for you? How do you know which boat offers the right properties for the intended purpose and is ideally suited for your plans? Every boat yard or owner will praise its boat(s) as the best, fastest, safest, etc. Us too - after we have now lived on PAPAGENA for 14 years and have sailed over 75’000 nm (that equates to 3 classical circumnavigations), incl. a southern ocean passage from Brazil, via Tristan da Cunha, to Cape Town. The past 10 years were spent in the Indian Ocean cruising between East Africa and SE Asia, primarily because we fell in love with Chagos and kept going back for more. And would I not be turning 71 this year and looking to settle back on land, we’d finally head into the Pacific.

Part of our decision was based on size. We had read that an ocean going catamaran should be at least 39 ft / 12 m. But who’s satisfied with the bare minimum?! As they say “a boat cannot be small enough for a marina and never big enough for the ocean”. We have been very happy with our 44 ft St. Francis and PAPAGENA has certainly proven that she can handle the oceans.

Looking at a used boat your main criteria will be structural integrity and general condition. Has the boat been well maintained and cared for? Was it privately kept or used in charter? Was it abused by inexperienced charterers or neglected by incompetent crews/skippers?

Your next criteria will be equipment. This is very much a personal choice and depends on your interpretation of what is necessary or useful. For some cruising folk electronic gadgets and household comforts take a higher priority than for others. On such boats, apart from of wide range of navigational and other electronic ”toys”, you will often see air-conditioning, ice-makers, bread-makers, washing machines, multiple fridges/freezers and of course watermakers and generators. We have often found ourselves anchored next to a boat that needed to run its generator at least twice a day to keep all systems working. Peaceful anchorage? Tranquillity? Sweet scent of fresh air in tropical paradise?

You guessed it! We don’t belong to the “gadget fraction”. No bothersome exhaust fumes, no loud generators or howling wind gens. PAPAGENA has been set up to run almost exclusively on solar power. At anchor or on day sails the panels generally produce enough power to feed all systems (e.g. fridge, computer, nav instruments, autopilot, cabin lights). On ocean passages we add the towing generator for nav lights and radar.

“KIS” – keep it simple – a motto well worth considering. The more extensive and complex your equipment on board, the more complicated, time consuming and often expensive your maintenance will be. Even more so if you decide to cruise to the more exotic locations where competent specialists are sparse and spare parts not available. Thanks to online chandleries and FedEx or DHL things have become somewhat easier but nevertheless costly and often highly frustrating due to customs officials who have their own ideas of “yacht in transit”.

When buying a used boat you are taking over an existing concept that may or may not be balanced (i.e. power consumption) and functional in its set up. Here less is possibly more since it gives you the opportunity to install the equipment of your choice.

And don’t forget to look at the sailing side, after all you are buying a sailing boat! Can the boat of your choice handle the extra load of generator, washing machine, etc? Catamarans are much more sensitive to weight than monohulls, the more gear you add the slower and more sluggish it gets. We have buddy sailed with other catamarans that were dead in the water simply because they were so overloaded. What about seaworthiness and performance in heavy weather? You don’t need to head into the southern oceans for that, the worst seas we ever experienced were in the Seychelles area! We purposely chose to keep a flexible bimini top that can easily be rolled away or even completely removed in storm conditions, we also opted for a traditional reefing system and Frederiksen ball slides for the main sail to ensure that the sail would never jam.

Maybe PAPAGENA is the perfect boat for you too - and she's for sale: www.papagenacat.yolasite.com


Good luck and fair winds all the way,

Heinz and Patricia



P.S.

A few month ago we met the owners of a new 50 ft cat. They were telling us how glad they were about their electric winches – “since we are getting older.” I disagreed and told them that, on the contrary, since both of them are a still quite a bit younger than me, they should have stuck to manual winches instead as a means to exercise and keep fit.
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Old 23-06-2011, 23:28   #2
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Re: Thinking of buying a sailing Catamaran? Some thoughts.

Nice introduction ... but if I had to chose between your boat and a 2nd hand Lagoon 380, which one would you recommend and why ?
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Old 26-06-2011, 22:56   #3
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Re: Thinking of buying a sailing Catamaran? Some thoughts.

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Originally Posted by Zonker View Post
Nice introduction ... but if I had to chose between your boat and a 2nd hand Lagoon 380, which one would you recommend and why ?

Hi Zonker,
not sure its makes sense to compare a 38' with a 44', so we won't comment on interior and deck space. Besides this, we don't know the Lagoon 380 very well.
Nevertheless, provided both boats are in good condition and structurally healthy (which PAPAGENA is) we'd go for the bigger boat. In general, a longer/bigger catamaran will have the better sea-going capabilities, smoother motion and better weight carrying capacity.
However, if you are planning to spend a lot of time in marinas or harbours the Lagoon 380 will be cheaper to accomodate and still offer ample living area for a couple or family.
Greetings from Tanzania.
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Old 10-07-2011, 19:53   #4
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Re: Thinking of buying a sailing Catamaran? Some thoughts.

Wow! She is really a beauty! In- and outside. Is she fast? What's her max. speed? And is she oceanic proof?
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Old 11-07-2011, 04:36   #5
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts

"Is she fast?"

She sails very well for a cruising catamaran of her size incl. light wind conditions. She will still do 4 kts in only 6 kts of wind on the beam. Our fastest ever was over 19 kts (of course with the assistance of a wave), best 24 hour run so far was 230 nautical miles (Chagos to Seychelles), fastest passage was 4 days and 14 hours for 934 nautical miles from Canary Islands to Cabo Verde Ils (= 203 nm average). This always well stocked/loaded and in 'cruising mode'.

1997 we left Malta port at the same time as a Lagoon 47 (just 6 months old). After 3 hours of beating into 20+ kts we were 4 degrees closer to the wind and 5 nm ahead. And this after we had only just brought PAPAGENA up from South Africa and had not had much catamaran experience.

in Palstek No. 3/99 (German Sailing Magazine), an article on the first ‘Multihull Regatta’ in Mallorca, a multihull fun race organized by Astrid Haupt: “… the catamarans with dagger boards always had an edge over the ones with fixed keels. One exception was the South African St. Francis (our PAPAGENA), that was able to keep up with the light Catanas although it was heavily loaded.” (we were stocked up and on our way out of the Med)

2006 we sailed from Chagos to northern Sumatra in company with a 43 ft Catana (= 43 ft WL as opposed to our 39.7 ft WL). In winds slightly aft of the beam (the Catana dagger boards did not come into effect) we won an average of 10 nm every day.

"Is she oceanic proof?"

By this we understand you are asking if PAPAGENA is blue water capable. About 50'000 of the 75'000 nm we have sailed so far were blue water miles, including a passage from southern Brazil to Cape Town and twice around the Cape of South Africa. PAPAGENA has certainly proven that she can handle some very rough situations.
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Old 11-07-2011, 07:46   #6
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts

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....1997 we left Malta port at the same time as a Lagoon 47 (just 6 months old). After 3 hours of beating into 20+ kts we were 4 degrees closer to the wind and 5 nm ahead. And this after we had only just brought PAPAGENA up from South Africa and had not had much catamaran experience.
I always like the looks of the St Francis designs, and the relatively lower windage of their deckhouse.

But one nagging thought accures to me, their relatively low wing clearance. I've never sailed one of these designs personally, but it appears to be a relatively low clearance, paricularly in beating situation as you describe??
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Old 13-07-2011, 05:18   #7
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts

Bridge deck clearance is relatively low. This seems to be typical of many South Africa designs, possibly to keep windage down in those southern ocean conditions. PAPAGENA has certainly proven to be a very seaworthy boat. We were once told by an experienced catamaran sailor “whether it slams 5 times or only 3 doesn’t really make much of a difference”. Our experience is that it slams less the faster you sail.
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Old 13-07-2011, 08:54   #8
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts . . .

Would you be intersted in selling her and then bringing her to San Diego?
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Old 20-12-2011, 13:25   #9
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts

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Bridge deck clearance is relatively low. This seems to be typical of many South Africa designs, possibly to keep windage down in those southern ocean conditions. PAPAGENA has certainly proven to be a very seaworthy boat. We were once told by an experienced catamaran sailor “whether it slams 5 times or only 3 doesn’t really make much of a difference”. Our experience is that it slams less the faster you sail.
There's one for sale out of Seattle by a guy on CF. As far as bridge deck slamming the boats are built for it.
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Old 20-12-2011, 17:52   #10
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts

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. As far as bridge deck slamming the boats are built for it.
Built for it or not, it is not a pleasant experience
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Old 20-12-2011, 17:58   #11
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts . . .

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Originally Posted by papagena View Post
Maybe PAPAGENA is the perfect boat for you too - and she's for sale: www.papagenacat.yolasite.com


Good luck and fair winds all the way,

Heinz and Patricia



P.S.

A few month ago we met the owners of a new 50 ft cat. They were telling us how glad they were about their electric winches – “since we are getting older.” I disagreed and told them that, on the contrary, since both of them are a still quite a bit younger than me, they should have stuck to manual winches instead as a means to exercise and keep fit.
Your boat does look nicely fitted out,...and the price seems reasonable.

Those electric winches should be able to be operated manually as well.
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Old 23-12-2011, 10:41   #12
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Re: Thinking of Buying a Sailing Catamaran ? Some Thoughts . . .

Wow, that's my dream boat. Too bad you weren't trying to sell it 25 years from now when I'll be ready. I envy your experiences. Looks like you've led quite an adventure. Thanks for sharing the pictures.
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Old 23-12-2011, 11:21   #13
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Built for it or not, it is not a pleasant experience
Neither is being heeled over for days on end... Grin...
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