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Old 25-11-2010, 22:48   #16
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Transitioning into a catamaran was easy for us. Since we didn't sail like a bat out of hell and were rarely over canvassed, we didn't find that it was that much a big deal. If you sail any yacht at twenty knots, it's easy for bad things to happen. There is way too much kinetic energy on board the yacht, and if you don't dissipate it safely in an emergency, you are toast. If you sail more conservatively, kinetic energy levels are lower, and if you make a mistake, probably bad things are not going to happen.

I don't think sailing a multihull is rocket science unless you sail it like a rocket.

If you are like me and sail 150 miles a day, you won't find that sailing a multihull is that much different. If you sail 300 miles a day, then welcome to the risky world of rocket science and lots of kinetic energy. You better know what you are doing and pay attention to what you are doing, or bad things will happen.

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Old 26-11-2010, 00:44   #17
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Originally Posted by tsmwebb View Post
PS -- Happy Thanksgiving to all! (even if you also celebrate it on a different day ).

And, am I the only person who finds the automatic keyword hyperlinking REALLY annoying?


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Old 26-11-2010, 01:41   #18
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Originally Posted by tsmwebb View Post
When we made the transition from our monohulls to a cruising cat the new boat was larger and had far more systems on it than our previous boats and we did our learning in waters that were new to us. .................................................. ....
Early on I recall that most of the adrenaline rushes came from docking. We did our commissioning in a marina with strong currents running more or less across the fairways and managed to time our first landing for max stream... So, the experience might well have been burned into my memory in any boat. .................................................. ......................... Under sail my experience is that most monohull skills are directly transferable. ..........................
The boat gives plenty of feedback when she's overpowered -- the noise and feel of the apparent wind, spray and so on; it isn't subtle and I think you'd have to be unusually oblivious to miss the signs..........................................
Reefing downwind takes some thought and practice...........................
So, we work on staying aware of it more than we did on the monos.

On the whole I think mono skills are very transferable to the multihull world at any level and to cruising multihulls in particular. An awareness of the possibility of wind induced capsize and some thought to and practice of strategies to minimize the risk being the critical difference. Docking and anchoring may also be a touch different.

Tom, great post.

And all the above........ I think that you are reading my thoughts.

We made the switch from mono to multi 4 years ago. And it was a bit frightening realising how big a 38 foot cat felt in a marina designed for monos. But I remembered that phrase 'feel the fear and do it anyway'. And I repeated it many times.

Now we have traded up to a 40 foot cat with seemingly much bigger topsides (so it feel more unwieldy than just a 2 foot increase), I repeat the 'feel the fear and do it anyway' phrse regularly. It doesn't help that naively we took a berth in a marina which has a significant current running through it at times.

Whilst I do often have to crab my way in, there seems little room to sail straight down the fairways, never mind at a diagonal!


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Old 26-11-2010, 06:27   #19
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We went from a 25 ton Roberts 53 mono to a 5 ton 40' plywood trimaran, & that was a major shift for us. The tri was so light that knowing when to reef was very much a "boat feel" thing, & my wife felt it much better than I did (took me a while to realize that...) It took us 6 years of cruising in the E Caribbean before we felt really comfortable (with the boat & with each other) taking her out into the Pacific.

Part of the problem was that our tri was pretty delicate & had no wind instruments except a hand-held anemometer. Now we're on a 12 ton 45' cat. Ocelot's much more of a machine in terms of equipment but she's actually much easier to sail than our tri (or maybe I learned more than I thought). We also find that, while she's not a super performer, she's more stable in heavy weather, providing both comfort & security in a blow. Going upwind we'll reef at 20, 25, & 30 (+/-, depending on sea state) but we'll let that slide a bit going off the wind.

Still, without the built-in reefing of a mono heeling, if you're wondering if you should be reefing, you should be reefing NOW. Folks have called it pucker factor, but we find it's much more subtle than that. It's often hard for someone new to multi sailing to tell when a multi is getting over-pressed. It was certainly hard for me. Better to get wind instruments & do it by the numbers, especially at first.

Back in the 80s, Phillipe Jeantot won the single-handed Round the World race. Arguably the best sailor in the world at the time. He wanted to do the OSTAR which needed a multi to really compete, so his sponsor built him a 60' cat. He turned it over in 15 knots of wind - the best (mono) sailor in the world. OK, this is very different from the sailing that we do, but I think depending on pucker factor is not the best way to start. You probably won't feel it until it's too late.

Something not yet discussed on this thread is storm handling (at sea). Multis generally don't lie a-hull, & they usually don't heave-to worth a hoot either. This means that you usually have to sail them out of trouble.

That Chris White design that started this thread went over sideways, but I think that's fairly rare. What I worry about is surfing down a steep wave & burying my bows in the back of the next wave, causing a pitch-pole. We started to see some of that off Columbia in 40+ knots & 20'+ seas, surfing at 23 knots. For this you need to either turn up when you get to the trough of the wave (tiring, & you need a nimble boat) &/or you need to slow the boat down. Dragging warps in a big bight (both ends tied to the boat) is a good way. This will also tend to cut the waves making up behind you, making them break behind you so it's less likely they'll poop you.

Chris White & Jim Brown (SeaRunner tris) talk about this sort of stuff quite a bit in their books. Chris's books are more numerical, while Jim's are more humorous & easier to read, but both have lots of good info.

We're blue-water cruisers, so for really heavy weather we carry a parachute sea-anchor. Like a life-raft, it's something that we carry but hope we'll never have to actually use. We also spend a lot of time looking at weather forecasts & GRIB files. I've weathered one hurricane & I don't really need to do that again, certainly not at sea...

On a more mundane front, we have 2 engines & 4 heads (ex-charter boat). These obviously require more maintenance. But having two 50hp diesel engines has saved our butts several times. It also makes docking MUCH easier. In fact, below a certain speed, I don't even need to bother with the wheel. I just do it all with the engines.
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Old 26-11-2010, 07:20   #20
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I went from a 30ft. mono to a 46 ft. cat. My biggest problem was getting that sheet eating grin off my face!................i2f
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Old 26-11-2010, 08:50   #21
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We've had our cat for four years and done two trans-Atlantic crossings on her. We know 'the numbers' for when the manufacturer said we should reef, but there are times when we reef before we get to that point. Better safe than sorry. Someone asked about at night what people do. On long hauls, we play it safe and watch the clouds. If things are looking ominous or questionable, we just go ahead and put in a reef. It's not always about how quickly you can get 'wherever', but rather about being comfortable and feeling safe. We go strictly off of apparent wind when looking at that, since that's what really matters. You can have 35 kts true but be going almost dead downwind and it's only about 10 kts. So you don't need to be reefed. We love our cat and wouldn't even consider doing this cruising on a monohull. Yes, they can flip. But monos can sink. If you sail your cat 'smartly' and don't push the button, you should be O.K.
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Old 26-11-2010, 11:36   #22
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Originally Posted by rockerdar View Post
...about being comfortable and feeling safe. We go strictly off of apparent wind when looking at that, since that's what really matters. You can have 35 kts true but be going almost dead downwind and it's only about 10 kts.
You've exactly described the to flip a cat. Going 25kts into the back of a wave (there's always waves with 35kts of wind) may turn the cat a little toward the wind. The apparent wind increases greatly. You flip.

Reefing, early, by the true wind is the smart safe way.
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Old 26-11-2010, 11:54   #23
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Transitioning to Catamarans

I found that my offshore monohull experience (> 100,000) helped significantly in my transition to a Chris White designed Atlantic 55 and that the skills are generally highly transferable (as others have mentioned). A new boat, no matter how many hulls, takes time to learn and I find that much of that time is systems related, especially if the boat is systems rich which many are today.

While there are many differences in the transition, four areas stand out for me:

1) Relatively speaking, the loads on a catamaran are eye popping. This, of course, translates into why they can potentially be fast. Nevertheless, it also changes how they are handled. By way of example, my slab reefing lines (on a new Hall Spar rig, as delivered) were initially run directly through the cringles at the clews. We found that we could chafe through a reefing line in four hours. Yes … you read that right. I bought some luff blocks and they solved the problem. You see luff-reefing blocks on really large mono-hulls for the same reason, but I have raced across oceans on 60 footers and we didn’t need them.

You can generalize this load issue broadly. The sails on a catamaran need to be built much more heavily than on a monohull. This has implications in their handling and the size of winches and other gear.

All of this isn’t a problem, but I still find it striking after 10,000 miles on the boat.

2) The flat ride of a catamaran is very different. On the one hand, it dramatically increased the comfort level for us. For example, I have gimpy knees and found that I was much more comfortable and safe on the stable platform with a “one level” wheel house and cockpit combination. We are converts for our cruising style.

On the other hand, as noted elsewhere, you don’t get the warning or safety factor provided by heeling as the wind increases. We found that sailing “by the numbers” with a good dose of anticipation guided by experience worked for us. We operated referring to true winds speeds rather than apparent wind speeds always adjusting for wind direction. Our catamaran would bring the wind forward, sometimes 25 degrees, depending on our speed. Targeting true wind helped us to recognize the situation where our boat speed was reducing the apparent wind relative to the true wind. In any case, getting used to the “flat ride” and having an appropriate response to whatever stimulus, whether the “pucker factor” or the various weather conditions, are particularly important skills to develop in a catamaran.

3) The beam of a catamaran takes some getting used to with both pros and cons. Here are a few examples:

a. When maneuvering in a tight situation, a 28 Ĺ foot beam was a new experience. “Where is my starboard/port bow/stern?” was a frequent question early in the game. On the other hand, with props that are 22 feet apart, you can turn the boat on a dime – just watch your drift as Tom suggested in his post.

b. But … the beam affects lots of other characteristics. Downwind sailing is a snap. We use both symmetrical and asymmetrical spinnakers. With no pole, much of the rigmarole and concern goes away. Being able to sit down, well inboard from the toe rail, and use the snuffer comfortably (we use ATNs) made us happy to use the chutes extensively offshore.

c. We had two blocks fixed on the inboard side of the hulls just aft of the stem. With snap shackles on their working ends and the tails led neatly to the forward cockpit, we would attach one to each clew on the symmetrical. After adding an after-guy, we had complete control of the spinnaker. We would drop the main and sail from 90 degrees on starboard tack all the way through to 90 degrees on port tack. A gybe was a non-event as the spinnaker just swayed slightly from one side to the other.

d. With a barber haul on the genoa sheet, you can get great shape on all points of sail. Add a preventer forward from the end of the staysail boom and you can go wing and wing with roller furling sails in heavy winds from astern.

4) While not exclusively the domain of a multihull, our 3 Ĺ foot draft (55 foot boat) changed our perspective in a wonderful way. In so many places, it opened up our cruising grounds or reduced anxiety. This is not to say that you can’t have an absolutely wonderful time with lots and lots more draft; you can and we have. Nevertheless, it is somewhat liberating not to worry about the bar entering the Rio Dulce in Guatemala; the passes in Belize or the banks in the Bahamas (just as examples). While safely anchored and stern tied off a beach in the San Blas in Panama, we were able to jump off the sugar scoops into a few feet of water – once we got used to the shallow draft, we took advantage of it extensively.

There are lots of other things to learn, of course. I love boats of all kinds and find the “this versus that” debate sometimes gets a little tedious. There are differences, though, and we found our 14 month excursion on the Atlantic 55 a great learning experience.
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Old 26-11-2010, 12:30   #24
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I agree with the others, monohull sailing prior to cats is hugely beneficial. Mono's provide the instant feedback of how much force your relieving when you release you mainsheet. It's a valuable lesson that strictly cat sailing doesn't provide. A cat will accelerate, and it can lead you to a false sense of security if you've got the wind aft of beam. As Chris White also said, the two boats that he designed that flipped in the past 20 years were on autopilot during a sudden and violent wind gust. They didn't need to reduce sails (though they should have), simply blowing the mainsheet would have been enough. Our rules are simple:

1) true winds approaching 20, reef

2) approaching 30, 2nd reef

3) approaching 40, only have main with 2nd reef.

Any sort of approaching storm, reef.

And on any day where high winds are possible, stand by with the mainsheet.
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Old 28-11-2010, 11:53   #25
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I went from a heavy displacement monohull to a trimaran of the same length.

The tri was much more weight sensitive.

The tri was much, much faster in light wind.

The tri, having less draft allowed more flexibility in shallow cruising areas.

The mono handled seas much better (due to under deck slamming of the tri.) In the end, this is why I sold the trimaran.

I think one needs to be careful of making generalities however. Different models of both behave differently and have different characteristics.
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Old 28-11-2010, 12:58   #26
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I never was a mono sailer so I didn't have any transition factors. But, some things that are different is that you almost always back into your slip. Maneuvering under power is really, really easy. When fishing, we tow at least two and up to 5 lines. You also have to get used to the sound of the hull slamming. It doesn't happen often but when it does, it can unnerve you.

On my boat, reefing is a real pain in the butt so I'm more inclined to start out with one reef in and not shake it out if the wind dictates rather then start without one in and have to reef. I'm not really concerned about pitchpoling at all, but am worried about loosing my mast due to stress loads. I'm fairly confident that my mast or sails would blow out before the boat would capsize sideways. We typically sail from 7 to 9 knots. Over that speed and I'm getting the above mentioned pucker factor. All in all, I would say that sailing a catamaran is easier then a mono, not because of the motion or beam, but because there are fewer things to mess with.
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Old 30-11-2010, 13:38   #27
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Some things I've discovered in making the transition from mono to multi:

Passage times are much shorter. I can get up later, and still arrive earlier than I used to.

I put far fewer hours on the engines, and use far less fuel.

Anchorages that are described as "uncomfortable", "rolly" or even "abominable" in cruising guides, are actually pretty good.

Places that dry out at low tide can be excellent anchorages.

Being inside the saloon no longer means I can't see what's going on outside.

We don't have to put every single thing away before heading out for a sail. Cups of coffee really will stay on the table, even at 18 knots. Our flatscreen TV is just standing on the base it came with, and it never moves.

I am still sailing the boat conservatively - for instance I'll usually hoist the mainsail with a reef in, and wait till I see what conditions are like "outside" before deciding whether or not to shake it out.

Certainly I can feel, see and hear when things are loading up - boatspeed starts getting up there, the lee shroud starts geting a bit loose, there is a little (but definitely noticable) heeling, you can hear the rush of the water, above around 10 knots there is this really nice hiss from the transoms - plenty of cues that you'd really have to be very insensitive not to notice.

I love it.
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Old 30-11-2010, 13:46   #28
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Your boat completely rocks. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing you blow by me like I wasn't moving.
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Old 30-11-2010, 14:55   #29
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Sail a beach cat for a few years, in ALL conditions. There is no proper substitute.

Though I agree with the posts, I cannot understand where "pucker factor" comes from, if it is not from actual capsize and pitchpole expereince. THAT is how you learn what trouble coming feels like.
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Old 30-11-2010, 15:17   #30
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Interesting observation, Thinwater. I owned a 15' Venture, 18' SolCat, 18' Hobie, and 20' Hobie and can't recall getting that "pucker factor". Of course, we capsized very often and pitchpoled a couple of times (true pitchpoling = amateur in my book). The recovery was so quick and easy I guess it never mattered.

Regardless, I do get it now. Maybe it's because there won't be an easy recovery?

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