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. The experience was pretty intense all told but when I discount the stuff that we'd have been dealing with if we'd just upgraded to a similarly sized and complex monohull
(commissioning and learning to use lots of new systems and learning to maneuver a bigger boat in tight quarters) I think most of the challenge was not multi-specific.
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. Still, lining up on a narrow fairway with a 24' wide boat and contemplating crabbing down it and then making a quick downstream turn into a slip with fingers shorter than the boat provided about the same palm sweat as hanging out the door of an airplane just before leaping out. I remember the moment of lining it up and the moment that I arrived in the slip and discovering that it's a long way down to a floating dock
when the stern steps are sticking way out in the fairway... IME, docking
is different from monos I have lived with. The extra beam means that in places where there is limited room to go sideways I have less time and space to work with. And while not much less effected by current
we are more effected by wind than typical keel yachts. This can be daunting. On the other hand, our cat with widely spaced twin engines does the skid steerer thing wonderfully well (far better than any of the twin engined motor
boats I've steered). That means that pointing the boat any direction I want going forward, reverse or stationary is a breeze so long as I have the room and time to do it in. The twins also give nice control of the boat when hanging on a single
spring so putting the bow or stern on the dock
or working off a cross wind/current slip is usually superlatively simple. For me the differences between docking my current
boat and my previous (a 36' fin keel monohull) are hard to summarize on a better-worse scale. On the one hand, I routinely docked the monohull
by myself but with the multi I usually need an extra set of hands. On the other hand very positive steering
in reverse and the ability to rotate without backing and filling and a substantially reduced prop wash effect sometimes make putting the cat on the dock or getting it off kinda fun...
Under sail my experience is that most monohull skills are directly transferable. Perhaps the biggest change for me wasn't a hulls issue at all but the hydraulic steering
system. My first sailboat experience with hydraulic steering
was on my new cat... In time, I have come to accept the system... The performance envelope of my boat is different from that of monohulls and even small cats that I have known. Top speeds are similar to sport boat speeds but they come with less drama and work. The boat has much more inertia than the racing
boats but more power than cruising boats. It really pays to work on keeping the boat speed up. Upwind I've learned to sail a bit more bow down that I would habitually with the monos but our VMG upwind seems quite good. Otherwise, upwind sailing characteristics are quite similar to the monos. 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. I did install a couple of 10-0-10 clinometers and I think that's a good idea but I seldom use them now.
When the wind is aft of the beam it seems to me there are more differences. Our mainsail
is constrained by the aft shroud
position. Reefing downwind takes some thought and practice. While on a keel yacht one always has the option of rounding up and dropping in a reef that's not always the case with a multihull
. We have gone through a few different reefing systems and are currently using a very simple single
line system. It works on all points of sail but has a bit more friction than is ideal. At any rate, for us the keys to a functional off the wind reefing (and even more so unreefing) system has been to maintain control over the twist of the sail as it goes up and down and to have the ability to pull the sail down the mast
. There are lots of options here but, IMO, the new to multihull sailor should take some time to understand this task. Tactically, off the wind we make a practice of reefing the main first and early. We often set the spinnaker
along with a reefed main and are working on getting a screacher set up as well. Well off the wind the handling characteristics of the cat are wonderful -- roll stability really pays off when sailing deep. The nice ride may make an awareness of the true wind speed even harder on the cat than on the monos. 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.