Learning to sail a cruising catamaran may seem daunting, especially if you’re like me and transitioning from a monohull. So, how can you learn to sail a catamaran? Here’s what I have learned!
You can learn to sail a catamaran by enrolling in online or offline courses. Depending on your learning goals, you can also ask friends for help and read books. However, it’s always best to learn by doing. So consider chartering a catamaran to learn from a captain or becoming a crew member to advance your skills.
In this article, I’ll talk about how you can learn how to sail a cruising catamaran; once you understand the different ways, you will be able to choose the one that will accelerate your skills the fastest!
You’ll also find out what you should know to start sailing a Cat, how long it will take you to learn, and essential tips to become a better sailing learner.
1. Read Books or Online Articles
Learning how to sail is pretty much the same as learning any skills. You first learn the theories and then apply what you know in the real world. Just like driving, you need to get prepared, consider safety measures, and learn through trial and error.
There’s a wide range of sources to help you learn the ropes. You can find many online sources that teach you the A to Z of sailing, from YouTube videos to blog posts. For example, this video will give you an idea of what sailing a Cat feels like:
Books are also good sources of knowledge that guide you through the entire process. If you’re a complete beginner, Cruising Catamarans Made Easy is the real deal. It gives you detailed and instructive illustrations and photos as well as an entry-level educational text to help beginners get their feet wet.
If you’re already familiar with sailing, Catamarans: The Complete Guide for Cruising Sailors is a better option. It explains all the differences between a Cat and monohulls (something i also discuss in this article). The author is an experienced catamaran sailor and enthusiast, making the book an authoritative guide on sailing a Cat.
2. Sail With Other People
If you learn best by watching others, there are different ways you can use other people’s experiences to your advantage. Plus, just like driving, you can’t only rely on theories; you have to get your feet wet. So, no matter how much you’ve studied the basics, you can practice through the following methods :
Sail With a Friend
If you have a sailor friend, you’re in luck. Not only can you go sailing and immerse yourself in the experience, but you can also join their network of sailor friends and learn from them while they discuss their experiences and tricks. Don’t be afraid to get out and expand your network of like-minded friends to improve your chances of learning.
Rent a Cat
If you enjoy learning by doing, chartering a boat with a captain is probably the best education you can get. Although there’s no organized curriculum or teaching plan in this type of learning, it’s flexible, and you can match it to your learning preferences.
Become a Crew Member
Many Cat owners are always looking for new members to join their crews. You can find open positions online and offline. Websites such as FindaCrew and Crewseekers are great sources. You could also go to marina bars, talk to people and find out if you can join a crew.
Go on a Holiday
If you want to quickly get started with catamaran sailing, there are learn-to-sail weekends that get you going in just a couple of days. These intensive training programs are especially great for people who don’t have access to open waters, letting them immerse themselves in the experience and teaching them the necessary skills.
3. Cruising Catamaran Courses
If you don’t know where to start, you can sign up for a course. Many cruising schools offer flexible courses that benefit both beginners and experienced sailors.
These schools plan curriculums and on-shore and on-water training programs to make sure you develop your skills in an effective way without being overwhelmed with information. Then, you’ll go on board to put the theoretical information to work.
If you don’t have access to an experienced sailor to give you hands-on instructions, you can rely on these courses. This way, you’ll develop the confidence to start cruising, knowing an experienced and certified instructor is watching and helping you.
You can find these courses online, check out their curriculums and choose the best ones that match your schedule. The American Sailing Association (ASA) and the United States Sailing Association (Us Sailing) are the most reputable organizations that offer top-notch courses with certified instructors.
I have put together this comparison between ASA and US sailing and hopefully, it can guide you in the direction of your needs.
Another cool way is to ask around your local marina if someones is willing to teach you, my friend did this in Mexico and they had a two-week basic sailing course for almost no money and way more fun.
Also before i forget, if you use this link, Nauticed will offer you Two Free Sailing Courses.
4. Play Games
If you have a hard time getting your feet wet, you can get a natural feel of the cat sailing experience by playing games. It’s a fun and challenging experience that helps you get the hang of the whole thing. Many sailing simulation games teach you the basics of sailing a cat. You can play these games on your PC, Android devices, and iPhones.
As an example, Nautic Ed offers a free catamaran maneuvering game, which simulates a marina in the Caribbean. Using this game, you’ll learn to control the cat’s dual engines and move your vessel without hitting any obstacles. Although the activity is a bit challenging, you’ll get the hang of it after a few tries, and you’ll be able to complete it in under five minutes once you master the skills.
What’s the Best Way to Learn To Sail a Cruising Catamaran?
The best way to learn how to sail a catamaran is the way that suits your learning style the best. Some people are more comfortable learning on their own by reading, while others learn better by watching. No matter your style, everyone needs to get out on the water and get some experience.
So, it doesn’t matter which way you choose. Pick the learning method that feels right for you, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Learn the Basics
Whether you’re a seasoned monohull sailor or a beginner, you need to learn the basics of sailing catamarans. There are significant sailing differences between a catamaran and a monohull. To better understand the differences, I recommend you read my article named Monohull VS Catamarans, which is better for you.
Moreover, unlike a yacht or regular sailing boat, a catamaran has two hulls. As a result, the sailing experience is vastly different.
Multihulls are more stable and have more predictable movements. That’s why having sailing experience with a monohull is not vital when learning to sail a cruising Cat, although you can be a step ahead. So, you may be able to learn faster.
Here are the most important things you need to learn:
It’s important to know the language and the frequent terms you might hear when talking about catamarans. Knowing the terminology lets you communicate effectively with other people and learn from them. You should also have a basic grasp of nautical terms.
For example, do you know what a nacelle does, where you can find the bridle, or what a roach is? You should also learn if there are different types of the same thing and how they differ. For example, are there different kinds of headsails, helms, or booms?
Knowing the actions is essential in learning the instructions, and it’s closely related to learning the names of different parts of the boat. You should learn how to perform specific actions and what parts of the boat you need for them.
Check out my Catamarans Parts Explained article to start your learning today!
Techniques and Maneuvers
Maneuvers are essential for sailing in different conditions. They include jibing, tacking, safety position, sailing clock, head to wind, quick stop, and heaving to.
After learning what they mean, you should learn how to perform specific maneuvers. Note that even if you’re an experienced sailor, applying different maneuvers on a Cat can be vastly different from monohulls.
Plus, you need to practice steering the wheel while maneuvering in tight spots, using the throttle control, or how to sail at night. And if you sail with others, you should know the commands that a captain gives. This way, you’ll be prepared to collaborate with your crew without confusion.
Closely related to maneuvers are the points of sail you should be familiar with. Points of sail are your sailing direction relative to the wind. If you’re already familiar with yacht sailing, you should learn whether or not specific points of sail are different in the context of catamaran sailing.
And last but not least, you should learn how to anchor a cat. Again, no matter how experienced you are in sailing monohulls, anchoring a catamaran is different. For example, you need to spend much more time to slow down the boat than a monohull due to its shorter keel and lower resistance to the water.
To get you started I recommend you check these articles out:
How To Rig the Catamaran
Rigging a boat means preparing it to sail. There are standard steps you should take in sequential order before your catamaran is ready for sale.
You need to create a checklist of items to prepare. For example, it’s essential to know how to attach sails and optimize the boat’s performance for different weather conditions. This way, you can make sure you’ve considered all the necessary safety and security tips.
Tying knots is also another essential skill, which helps you secure your lines properly in different conditions. You need to learn the best knots for each situation.
Tips on Learning How To Sail a Catamaran
Learning the basics is easy, but becoming a pro sailor requires extensive practice, preferably under a experienced sailors supervision.
Here’s what you can do to get the best out of your knowledge:
Create a To-Do List
If you’re sailing alone, you need to consider every little detail, which can be tiresome and even frustrating. It’s easy to forget things, especially when there are many things to do. Sometimes you need to decide quickly while your mind may not be ready to react.
The best solution is to have a to-do list that helps you keep everything in check. You can also predict any possible problems and write down the solutions. In the military, we call these types of documents SOP´s, standing operating procedures. These outlines a problem and a standard solution that will work in most cases.
You should always be ready for emergencies and take the necessary safety precautions. That’s a mistake most inexperienced sailors make and forget what things can go wrong. So, always have a first-aid kit at hand, anticipate different contingencies, and be ready to react appropriately.
These precautions involve knowing the weather forecast, abiding by safety regulations, and sharing your travel plans.
Plus, you need to have all the essential tools on board. Stuff like fresh drinking water, batteries, food, fuels, and life jackets are things you shouldn’t sail without. Make sure you have enough food and supplies for the length of your trip and some extra if something happens.
Another safety tip is to pin down dangerous areas and try to stay away from them. That’s particularly important when you’re a beginner and sailing alone.
Always Be Learning
In addition to reading books and blog posts, and taking courses, it’s always a great idea to gather information from other experienced sailors. They can give you tips and tricks that you can’t find anywhere in the textbooks. Talk to veteran sailors and ask them for advice and, if possible, watch them see how they do things differently.
When you go on a journey, try to record everything with a camera. This way, you have a visual account of everything you do to reflect upon later. This technique helps you learn from your mistakes and repeat the right things.
If you go sailing with an experienced person, you can also record them with their permission. Watching the footage can help you remember things visually and emulate them when you’re on your own.
How Long Does It Take to Learn To Sail a Cruising Catamaran?
It takes between 14 days and 5 years to learn how to sail a cruising catamaran. A 14-day course will teach you the basics to get out on your own and safely start learning more. After around 5 years you will be an experienced and high-level sailor.
Offocurse there are a number of factors involved in how long it takes.
Sailing courses normally take between 10 days to two weeks of full sailing days. So, by putting dedicated effort into getting hands-on experience, you can pick up the basics in less than a month.
Plus, no matter how much time you spend learning the fundamentals with the help of an instructor, you need to develop the confidence to set out on your own.
It also depends on your previous knowledge of sailing. If you know how to sail monohulls, learning to operate a multihull might speed up the process.
Where you decide to sail also affects your learning time. Calm, low-traffic inland lakes or bays are much easier to sail than areas with harsh tidal currents. Generally speaking, it’s better to start with a calm, tucked away place to learn the fundamentals and gain confidence. Then, move to busier areas once you seem to have practiced enough.
Look at your learning experience as a challenge and a new way to have fun. This way, you can learn faster and then brush up on your skills as you move along.
Do You Need Certifications To Sail a Cruising Catamaran?
You don’t need a certificate to start sailing a cruising Catamaran. However, it’ll come in handy in many situations. For example, if you want to rent a Cat, the owner will be more comfortable lending you the boat if you have a valid certificate as you’ll show proof of competency.
Many sailing organizations, including ASA and US Sailing, provide valid certificates that you can obtain by attending their courses and taking their exams.
How Hard Is Learning To Sail a Cat?
Catamarans are easy to sail. Experienced sailors generally consider catamarans easier to sail than monohulls. That’s because of their stable platform reducing heel to a minimum. They’re also faster, more lightweight, and able to sail in shallow waters. Due to the dual engines, docking is also much easier.
Since catamarans have larger areas exposed to the wind, anchoring is also different. Cats are safer because of their higher stability. Plus, they have two motors, making them operable even if one engine stops working.
These features make Cats a beginner-friendly boat that you can learn to sail more easily. However, the more you practice on water, the better you’ll get the hang of things.
Becoming a catamaran sailor can be easy as long as you learn it the way you like and see it as a challenge and a continual learning process.
Reading books, taking online and offline classes, getting help from a friend, joining a crew, and renting a Cat are different learning methods to choose from based on your preferences.
Whatever you do, make sure to learn the terminology, maneuvers and actions, safety measures, and preparation stages to get ahead.