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There’s nothing quite as exciting as sailing the open sea. One of the most popular boats today is the cruising catamaran. If you are interested in cruising, whether you’re a passenger or a sailor, it’s worthwhile to learn more about the cruising catamaran.
A cruising catamaran is a double-hulled vessel that is used for ocean crossing. They are designed for long-distance journeys and can carry a significant load while maintaining high speed and stability. Cruising catamarans have a range of passenger facilities and amenities.
This article explores everything you need to know about cruising catamarans, from their physical features to their sea performance. It explores their different types and examines why they are such popular cruising vessels. It will also give you an insight into some of the most popular cruising catamaran brands and models on the market.
Design and Features of a Cruising Catamaran
In their present form, Catamarans can trace their history to more than 200 years ago when used in Taiwan and other Asian countries. Their chief defining feature is that they have two hulls. There are currently two types of cruising catamarans on the market: sailing catamarans and power catamarans.
- Sailing catamarans: Sailing catamarans rely on the wind to move. They are ideal for sailors who want to try their hand at harnessing the wind to power and navigate their catamaran. However, if there is little to no wind, sailing catamarans will not be able to go very fast.
- Power catamarans: Many passengers and crew prefer a power catamaran, which does not rely solely on the wind for power. Instead, power catamarans are powered by fuel, but can still cruise when there is no wind. They also tend to be larger than sailing catamarans and have more spaces for passengers to lounge in.
The two hulls are the defining feature of a cruising catamaran. However, there are several other design elements and technical features that both a sail and power cruising catamaran may have. These features and design aspects are explored below.
Several areas and spaces are in the same location in all cruising catamarans. For instance, the main deck is typically the home to the cockpit and the saloon. Meanwhile, the space below the main deck houses the stateroom and the headroom.
However, other features and spaces, such as the galley and the helm may be located in different places, depending on the cruising catamaran model.
The size of cruising catamarans also varies depending on the model. Catamarans between 32-36 feet (9.75-10.97 m) usually have two cabins, while catamarans that are between 36-50 feet (10.97-15.24 m) have three or four cabins. Models that are more than 50 feet (15.24 m) long may have five or more cabins.
The steering stations or helm positions can be in one of several places aboard the cruising catamarans. Each position has unique advantages and disadvantages. Some common helm positions include the aft position, the flybridge position, the off-set helm, and the forward helm.
When in the aft position, the helm is located in the cockpit and allows for excellent visibility on either side of the sail. It will enable the helmsman to engage with passengers in the cockpit and saloons. However, helms in the aft position are not weather protected and may be vulnerable to rain and storms. They only have room for two people, which may be inconvenient for a larger crew.
On some cruising catamarans, the helm is located on a second-story flybridge. A second-story flybridge allows for a higher vantage point of the surroundings, which is especially useful when docking in small spaces. However, the view can be obstructed when the headsail is raised and when the captain wants to check the sail trim. Also, an added flybridge for the helm may add windage and weight to the catamaran, resulting in reduced performance.
In rough weather, steering on the flybridge may be uncomfortable for the helmsman due to the additional height making it pivot and swing much more. They may also be too far from the crew and passengers on the catamaran, which may be dangerous in an emergency.
The off-set mid-level helm or the mezzanine helm addresses many of the flybridge’s and the aft helms disadvantages. Placed halfway between the cockpit and the coach roof, this helm position is close to the saloon and cockpit.
This position allows the helmsman close contact with the passenger and crew. This helm location also has good visibility on one side of the sail and can seat up to 3 people. However, the off-set mid-level helm doesn’t have any visibility on the other side of the mainsail once it is raised.
A helm that is sometimes found on cruising catamarans is the forward helm. This helm is located at the front of the catamaran, between the mast and the cabin. There is excellent visibility forward from this location, and it is close to the saloon. However, this helm can be challenging to protect in bad weather, and it may be difficult to dock the catamaran as the helmsman won’t have far-reaching visibility.
No matter the helm’s location, all modern cruising catamarans have autopilot built-in.
Bridge Deck Clearance
If the bridge deck clearance is too low, the waves may pound against the bottom of the bridge deck. This pounding can cause discomfort and fatigue for the passengers and crew and potentially reduce the catamaran’s speed.
The height of the bridge deck clearance needs to be proportionate to the hulls of the catamaran. It should be a minimum of 20% of the space between the hulls.
A boat draft refers to the minimum amount of water needed to float a vessel without the bottom of it touching the ocean bed. Cruising catamarans have a shallow draft—they can stay afloat in water less than 4 feet (1.21 m) in depth.
This makes it possible to go really close to shore(how to beach a cat) and sail places where no monohull can go.
Cruising catamarans have their galleys (cooking areas) in one of two areas. The ‘galley up’ is when the galley is situated next to the saloon. Those working in this galley can see the crew as they cook and can also see the sea and horizon beyond.
Meanwhile, the ‘galley down’ is when the galley is located in the catamaran’s hull. This galley location separates it from the saloon area, allowing for more space and maneuverability in both the galley and the saloon. However, this may be isolating for the people who are working in the galley.
Why Choose a Cruising Catamaran?
Cruising catamarans are not the only vessels that are used for cruising. Cruise ships are the vessel of choice for lengthy ocean cruises that carry hundreds or thousands of passengers.
However, cruising catamarans are the vessel of choice for smaller, more intimate cruise experiences with a maximum of 15 passengers. They are superior to boats with only one hull, and offer a range of other benefits for passengers and crews alike.
Speed and Safety
Cruising catamarans can be 25-30% faster than their monohulled counterparts of the same length.
These vessels also tend to heel (tip to one side) less than a watercraft with one hull. Because of this, the crew finds the cruising catamaran more comfortable to sail in rough weather. Thanks to the cruising catamaran’s speed advantages, the crew can also move quickly out of an area about to be hit by bad weather.
Closed-cell foam fills many spaces in a cruising catamaran. This gives most parts of the vessel extra buoyancy. Even if the catamaran tips over or breaks apart, most of the vessel will float, allowing crew and passengers to remain floating on the surface of the water as they wait for rescue service.
Read this article on “when and why catamarans capsize”.
Many cruising catamarans models have a significant amount of space, much of which is placed above the deck. This space can be used for various passenger amenities, including a salon, cabins, and a galley.
Thanks to the amount of space available, there are plenty of passenger and crew facilities and amenities available. Larger cruising catamarans can have 4-5 cabins, 8-10 berths, and up to 4 toilets or shower facilities.
The galleys in these catamarans have room for a range of amenities, including a dishwasher, coffee machines, and other cooking equipment.
The crew also benefits from the space in cruising catamarans as there is more room in the cockpit and a large amount of deck space.
Stable and Easy To Maneuver
As they have two hulls and therefore a broader base, cruising catamarans are much more stable as compared to mono-hulled vessels.
Cruising catamarans can hold their own against rough waves—even in the face of a stormy sea, the upper deck of a cruising catamaran will not rock too much. Therefore, passengers can walk on the upper decks comfortably—this is especially beneficial for young children or elderly passengers. Thanks to the cruising catamaran’s stability, it is easier to do activities like cooking and cleaning. All in all, cruising catamarans make for a more comfortable living!
Compared to monohulls, cruising catamarans are also more maneuverable. They can be turned 360 degrees within their length and are easy to dock because they have two motors and two rudders making them easier to steer.
The cruising catamaran’s shallow draft allows the crew to take it into significantly shallow regions. This is great because it increases the areas that the crew can access and explore.
Drawbacks of Cruising Catamarans
Cruising catamarans are appealing to both passengers and crew for a range of reasons. However, it is also essential to consider and prepare for some of the drawbacks of cruising catamarans.
Cruising catamarans require a significant amount of space to dock because of their length and hull size. It may be hard for the crew to navigate a large cruising catamaran into a marina with limited docking space. Due to the additional space they need, it will cost more to dock cruising catamarans.
It will also be more expensive to charter, rent, or buy a cruising catamaran as compared to a monohull. It may cost 200%-300% more to charter a cruising catamaran as compared to a yacht of the same size.
Because of their appeal, cruising catamarans are significantly in demand in some areas. It’s essential to book a cruising catamaran well in advance if you’re looking to enjoy a sea cruise.
What Are Some Popular Cruising Catamaran Models?
If you are looking to charter, rent, or buy a cruising catamaran, it is worth examining some of the most popular models and brands currently on the market. Some of the best companies that manufacture or have manufactured cruising catamarans include:
Each of these companies sells one or more high-quality cruising catamarans. Some specific cruising catamaran model suggestions can be found below. However, if you are looking to charter or buy a cruising catamaran, take some time to explore a range of specific models in addition to the following ones.
Looking to buy a catamaran? check out my list of Best catamarans under 200k USD.
The Nautitech 47 is a powerful, modern vessel with a range of attractive features for owners, crew, and passengers.
Depending on your preference, the Nautitech 47 can have 3-4 cabins and 6-8 berths. The number of cabins in this catamaran can easily be adapted by closing (or opening) a few doors. This versatility makes the Nautitech 47 excellent for entertaining.
The flybridge can be wholly enclosed, which is great in bad weather conditions.
A used Nautitech 47 power catamaran can cost between $800,000-$100,0000. Nautitech 47s that are currently on sale can be found here.
The 60 Sunreef Power is a luxury catamaran that can easily be customized and is easy to maneuver and program for navigation.
One of the most enticing features of the 60 Sunreef Power is that it can be operated with and without a crew. It has an advanced navigation system, where the helmsman can program in the desired destination, speed, and other information. The in-built system will then use autopilot to navigate.
The 60 Sunreef Power is also extremely spacious. It is 60 feet (18.3 m) in length and can host up to 12 guests. There’s a variety of spaces for guests to lounge on, including the semi-open saloon, the main deck, and the aft cockpit.
A 60 Sunreef Power can be bought either new or used for around $1,700,000 USD.
Manta is a well-known brand for designing and building high-performance catamarans. A popular cruising catamaran that Manta produced in the 1990s and in 2000 is the Manta 42. There are several Manta 42s that are still being used or sold.
The Manta 42 is popular as it has a large amount of space and an excellent sail-area-to-displacement ratio. However, it is also vulnerable to stress cracks in the bow area. It’s also important to note that the berth area in Manta 42 is small compared to more modern catamarans. Taller passengers may also have to stoop slightly to enter its saloon.
There is a dedicated owner’s association for Manta models, including the Manta 42. The owner’s association is evidence of the Manta 42’s popularity and is also an excellent place for cruising catamaran owners to connect.
A used Manta 42 can cost between $200,000-$300,000.
Other Types of Catamarans
While cruising catamarans are the watercraft of choice for leisure cruises, there are several other catamaran types. Some popular catamaran types are:
- Racing catamarans: These catamarans are designed for racing and long-distance and endurance sailing. They often have full-length battens on the mainsail and a rotating mast. There are also very small catamarans called beach cats, these can typically be launched from and landed on a beach.
- Whitewater catamarans: Used in whitewater rivers, the whitewater catamaran has an aluminum or a tree trunk base and two inflatable hulls with inflation holes. These features allow these catamarans to move quickly through the water.
- Military catamarans: Some countries’ navies use catamarans for transport. For instance, the US Navy owns and operates Expeditionary Fast Transport catamarans to transport cargo quickly.
However, while there are several different types of catamarans, sailing catamarans are arguably the most popular for long-distance cruising.
Cruising catamarans are very common vessels used for long-distance sailing, sometimes around the world. They have a variety of benefits as compared to other cruising vessels. While cruising catamarans’ design and size may differ, most are relatively spacious, stable, and easy to maneuver. They also have a range of facilities and amenities for passengers.
Several companies design and make high-end cruising catamarans, including Manta, Nautitech, and Sunreef. However, there is a vast range of cruising catamaran models on the market ranging from 20 000 USD up to 1 000 000+.
With this foundational knowledge, you are now better equipped to delve deeper into the world of cruising catamarans.