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Old 20-03-2023, 11:40   #1
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Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

Hi All -- I'm posting on behalf of myself as well as my wife and my two-year-old son.

Current Situation: We're hoping to set off cruising in about five to seven years at our current rate of saving. Currently we're focused on taking ASA courses and accepting whatever opportunities that come our way to get onto boats and gain experience.

When we leave, I would likely be 45, she would be 43, and kiddo would be 9.

My question for the forum: Are there any folks out there who set out cruising under similar circumstances and who opted for boats that were smaller (or even quite a bit smaller) than what the norm seems to be on YouTube?

A smaller boat (e.g. Gemini, Prout Snowgoose, etc) seems appealing in many ways because it would be easier for getting started, easier to manage, to maintain, etc. However, there are obvious downsides as well: less living space, more motion while underway (and while anchored) etc.

The default option for us that I have in mind might be something like a production Lagoon/Leopard/FP of about 40-45 feet...but a smaller boat also seems appealing in a lot a lot of ways too, esp. during initial phases, since prices would be lower for buying/maintaining/repair, and I have the sense that it would be easier to operate the boat.

My primary concern with a smaller boat would just be that we'd kill each other being confined in such a small space all the time haha!

I know we are years out, but it's great to begin forming a picture with as much lead time as possible and to learn about others' experience so we don't need to learn every lesson the hard -- and expensive! -- way.

Thanks all for your time and for your thoughts!
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Old 20-03-2023, 12:22   #2
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

For a family of three you don't need a very big boat, some of this equation is how long you plan to cruise for, as you can "put up with more" for a short period of time. My wife an I have had this same discussion recently, as we have 6 kids now and our 47' monohull seems a little small now.

I would say there are a lot more "Pros" than "Cons" for going smaller. Less startup cost, easier to handle, easier to get into small spaces, and less maintenance costs. It'll also be easier to sell when the time comes, as not everyone has the budget for a $500k+ sailboat!

You can always get a bigger boat in the future if you love cruising but just need more space.
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Old 20-03-2023, 13:14   #3
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

You don't need a 40 footer, I have a smallish 38 footer that was a great family cruiser for the three years we lived aboard. Friends circumnavigated on 33 footers based on the Crowther 10 production cat. The size of cats and most boats has increased over the last 30 years, not through need, but because of desire to bring more guff. You don't have to join that group. Cats need to be around 33ft to get enough stability to handle ocean swells (a rough guide), it is a thing about the square cube rule.

Live simply, and don't take all the unecessary guff. Keep the boat light and simple. It will cost you less, make maintenance easier and low hassle is fun.

I would look at a Woods, the Eclipse has always looked great to me. You should be able to find one in Europe and the US. Get sailing on cats and find what you need.

I would go earlier if possible. Our boys were 6 and 7 and when they get to 9 or so they were ready to make long term friends, but at 6 parents are the most important people in the world. As for killing each other, you can sort that out by getting off the boat and being a great dad. I have great memories of playing endless games of jumping off the bows, wrestling in the anchor chain and games on the sand with the boys. If you are a fun dad the boat size will matter much less.

Cheers

Phil
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Old 20-03-2023, 15:07   #4
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

Only you can tell how much space you need.


In our case we only need to make sure each kid gets a separate cabin with a door. But that is teenage years. When they were smaller they opted for one shared cabin to sleep and the other for play.
That and full standing headroom throughout.


Smallest cat we had that fit our bill was the FP Mahe 36. Large enough for extended family cruising in civilized regions. But for me not enough payload to carry the stuff needed for remote long distance cruising.


If it's the first long boat trip for the kids I'd second the idea of going as early as possible. My kids still enjoy family cruising at their teenage years but they bonded with the crusing lifestyle at pre-school age.
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Old 20-03-2023, 17:05   #5
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

Uneven_Sailor you need to read a few books about cruising before YouTube was invented and all that unrealistic BS was touted as fact.
Children of Cape Horn by Rosie Swale is a brilliant small cat adventure book and well worth paying $5 US from ABE Books. Our own forum member Paul Howard circumnavigated in a 30-foot yacht with two kids and wrote a great couple of books about the circumnavigation. They are well worth paying $9 for on ABE Books.
Phils right about being the best dad you can be onboard. Plus be the best the husband and let the wife sail the cat while you do the "Pink" jobs. Thats the advantage of a smaller boat, they are way easier to handle. We have a 32-foot yacht, and the wife handles her easily. Same with the kids, there's not many tasks they can't do onboard. I have even had the 12-year-old daughter change the oil on the Yanmar diesel. It's good to know that if they abandoned me on the beach for being a bad dad then at least the boat will be maintained!
Cheers
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Old 20-03-2023, 17:15   #6
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

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If it's the first long boat trip for the kids I'd second the idea of going as early as possible. My kids still enjoy family cruising at their teenage years but they bonded with the crusing lifestyle at pre-school age.
Soundest advice you’ll get.

Also, check out Sailing Solianis on YouTube. They just had a baby and downgraded from ~36ft cruiser to a trailerable trimaran that looks sweet. One thing to ensure on smaller boats is you have enough headroom.
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Old 20-03-2023, 17:16   #7
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

After owning 4 trimarans and one cat we’re just getting ready to go cruising afar. My wife will be 62 and I’ll be 70, although we’re both younger than our years.
We’ve downsized from a 45’ cat to a 39’2” cat and quite happy. I have several sets of friends that have Lagoon 380s and have crossed oceans.
At night, the stars look the same from the trampolines on their boats as they did on our 45 footer. 😉
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Old 21-03-2023, 10:58   #8
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

Thanks all for your responses and advice. I spend a lot of time thinking about the value of going as soon as we can. The Pardeys boiled this down to "Go Small, go simple, go now" and this resonates with me a lot. Notwithstanding the fact that I believe this 100%, it is a bit more challenging to actually live this ideal as I am sure many of you know as well. But...trying to get there as fast as possible, and that is why I made this post. In fairness, even the Pardeys spent years preparing: building their boats and developing their careers as digital nomads (way ahead of their time!). I like the idea that one poster shared that the size of the boat becomes far less important if you're actually out there in the world (nature!) enjoying time with your family. Thanks all for sharing these thoughts and lessons from your own experience...my wife and I have been reading these responses together. Right now we have been working to save "enough" to go cruising with a savings goal in mind. I'm thinking that one thing that might help us to go sooner might be to reframe our approach a bit...maybe we could take on some remote work that could enable us to work while cruising. Or maybe we could take a six-month break from work before reaching our goal so that we could experience some cruising before we start that life full time. Who knows -- something for us to think about more and focus on! Thanks again all for your time and suggestions.
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Old 21-03-2023, 11:10   #9
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

As you are still in your early sailing years, there’s nothing wrong with starting small, developing family sailing skills, OR finding out that bad weather and large seas deter some members from really enjoying it, and going from there. Stay small, and sail when you can OR sell and move to something larger. Just get out and do it!
Have fun!
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Old 31-03-2023, 14:36   #10
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

Hi All,

Thanks for your replies and feedback. I've adjusted my thinking a bit in response to your input and I think that it will actually help us to get on the water faster if we can work toward starting out on a smaller boat...maybe much smaller...and then learning to live aboard and learning to cruise, etc. during a phase of a couple of years before really setting off. This would help us to get out there sooner with the kiddo as well, which I agree is important.

I circled back to a blog that I used to read from time to time several years ago, Atom Voyages and stumbled upon the VolksCruiser blog after spotting it listed as Fore and Aft's boat Also I have been reading Sailing Totem as an account of that family's experience sailing their 47-foot monohull.

Do folks have any other blog recommendations? Or book recommendations? In particular, accounts of families that opted for smaller, less expensive boats?

I'll be sure to check out Children of Cape Horn by Rosie Swale as well.

Thanks all for your input as I learn about all of this.
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Old 31-03-2023, 15:52   #11
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

Uneven_Sailor there was a brilliant blog written by a European family of four who did an Atlantic crossing via West Africa and Brazil on a 28 foot yacht. Covid stopped them by the time they reached the states. I can't find it online now. Fathom is a good blog about circumnavigating in a 28 foot yacht.
Another good cat family book is Daughter's of the wind and Children of three ocean's written by David Lewis. He must have been one of the first families to circumnavigate on a cat in the 1960s.
I see your boy is only 2 now so it's a good time to be an involved father. My boy was like my shadow growing up and it makes it so much easier when you move aboard or go on other adventures. Some of the dad's I know are almost annoyed by their own children and like to have their "space". It's probably why we can cruise for two months on our 32 footer and it's me trying to drag the family home to get ready for a new school year.
Cheers
https://yachtfathom.co.uk/
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Old 31-03-2023, 18:15   #12
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

What I chose to do is start as small as I possibly could, with a Catalina 25 - a monohull, yes, but sailing and building skills first. Day sails, coastal cruising, just barely large enough to do multi-day trips on the Great Lakes to see how everyone takes it. I wouldn’t take it offshore, but as one of the most numerous and popular production sailboats made, I don’t anticipate trouble passing it on to someone else if it turns out that our family wants to go offshore.

There’s a YouTube channel, French Boheme Sailing the World, made by a family of four that have done at least one Atlantic crossing on a Wharram-designed Pahi 31. Their content is (unsurprisingly) in French, but has English subtitles available. They have some good boat tours and frank discussions of what worked and what was challenging to them doing long voyages on a very small but seaworthy catamaran.
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Old 31-03-2023, 23:15   #13
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

Thanks for those book and blog recommendations Fore and Aft -- yes, anything involving families is super helpful at this point. Interesting insight about your kid being like your shadow when they were really little. I do think that it matters a lot to be the best possible parent, especially at this stage. My son is super responsive to any and all inputs right now. We were actually playing with Lego together just before he went to sleep this evening, but before that he had been watching a little bit of Sesame Street. When we switched to Lego, he suddenly became 100% more animated and happy because we were actually doing something together in real life. Important to remember those things...and also to consider that it all has a lasting effect. Crazy stuff.

hlprmnky...that's awesome about the Catalina 25. We do a lot of sailing through my sailing club on a Cal 2-27 and a 2-25 that right in that vicinity...super fun boats...but also not the same as actually owning one, and we can't take them out for more than a few hours at a time. Thanks for the channel recommendation for La Boheme sailing. There are a couple of super interesting videos where they are sailing with a kite. Not like a spinnaker, but an actual parafoil type kite. They got it in case of emergency so if their mast were to come down they would still be able to hoist a sail without a mast. Always learning something.
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Old 31-03-2023, 23:52   #14
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

a lot of the 30-35ft cats would be perfect for 3.

We had a Gemini. One aft cabin was converted to a pantry but the other just tended to collect junk. We would typically clear it out when the nieces came to visit.

Depending where you intend to cruise, smaller may allow more marina stays where it's easy to let the munchcin burn off energy.
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Old 01-04-2023, 05:02   #15
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Re: Small Catamaran with a Family of Three? Pros/Cons?

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Originally Posted by uneven_sailor View Post
Thanks all for your responses and advice. I spend a lot of time thinking about the value of going as soon as we can. The Pardeys boiled this down to "Go Small, go simple, go now" and this resonates with me a lot.
Don't be fooled by the Go Small Go Now BS.

The Pardey's Boats were absolute beats.

Very seaworthy and very heavy.

You'll can learn a lot right now on any small sailboat that you can sleep over on even though it's best to learn on a small boat say 20' and under and light weight.

People forget all the spare time you have being stuck on a boat when they are planning these distant dreams
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