25 September 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 6) - Cats vs. Monos

Be warned - I am an unseasoned and not very salty sailor. Any tips I share about boat buying are of the low sodium variety.

With some trepidation, it is time to tackle the subject of catamarans vs. monohulls. Anyone who is anyone, plus lots and lots of regular folks have plenty to say on the subject. Given I know nothing about sailboats, I thought I would do what I do best which is do some haphazard internet research and regurgitate what others have to say, offering no original thought on my part. This seems like a very sensible approach, especially with such a controversial topic like cats vs. monos. I’m pretty sure whatever I might think on the subject would be wrong. So sit back and read what others have to say. And take notes as there will be a pop quiz later. It will be open book so your notes will come in handy.
I decided to start off with the Bumfuzzles as they have owned both a cat and a monohull. This would seem to give them the credentials to offer an opinion on the subject. And as luck would have it, Mr. Bumfuzzle is an expert in this, as he points out:

“I am talking solely of my experience on my two boats. That’s it. Though I must also say that I consider myself a leading expert in all fields, sailboats included. So don’t even try to disagree with me. Thank you.”
Phew. He knows what he is talking about so I don’t have to think too much about what he says. I can just accept it as true. That is unless I don’t like his answer. Then I will organize a coup d’├ętat, overthrow Mr. Bumfuzzle and declare myself expert in all things sailing. And all things chocolate too. Yum.

Mr. Bumfuzzle covers a lot of ground in his two posts on this subject so here are the Cliff Notes highlights:

Cost – No doubt about it, catamarans are more expensive. Their catamaran cost them $157,000, whereas their current monohull cost them $48,000. Key Point - $157k minus $48k = $109k. For $109k, you could buy over 20,000 Big Macs if you like that kind of thing. Or another couple of monohulls.

Ease of Sailing – The Bumfuzzles found their cat really easy to sail. Their mono, not so much. Too many winches and the lines aren’t run to the cockpit. Key Point – Sailing should be easy. Buy a boat that is easy to sail.

Heeling – This is a big one when it comes down to cats vs. monos. Cat’s don’t really heel (i.e., tip over on their side), monohulls do. The Bumfuzzles like not having to worry about drinks spilling and stuff flying everywhere. However, in the rare event that a cat does heel too far and rolls over, it is over. Cats can't right themselves, monos can. Key Point – Drinks are important. They shouldn’t spill all over your clothes and the boat. Another critical key point - Make sure you can hold your breath under the water in case your boat rolls over. Better yet, make sure your boat doesn't roll over. Also, don't ever go out on an AC72 - this could happen.

Engines & Maintenance – Like Siamese twins, cats have two hulls and two engines fused together with one mast. Freakish, yes, but having two of something is great when one breaks down. The Bumfuzzles liked the redundancy of their cat. However, Mr. Bumfuzzle did find the engines on his cat underpowered compared to his monohull. Many people argue that “double the hull, double the maintenance” and an associated increase in costs but Mr. Bumfuzzle hasn’t found this to be the case. There are no key points. Engines are boring. It is unfair to test people on boring facts. If only my high school teachers had followed this rule. My grades would have been so much better.

Livability – This one is pretty straightforward for the Bumfuzzles. Their monohull wins hands down in terms of aesthetics, space and comfort, whereas their cat felt sterile and hotel-like. Note this down – if you’re going to live on your boat, make sure you find it homey. It will likely be far smaller than any house you’ve ever lived in so make sure you’re happy in it. Even if that means decorating the inside with pictures of Narwhals and My Little Ponies. Who wouldn’t find that aesthetically pleasing.

Build Quality – This is scary. On his cat, when Mr. Bumfuzzle dropped a screwdriver, a hole was created in the hull. A hole he didn’t want. His mono is much more robust and it takes considerable effort to put holes in it. Key Point – Unintentional holes in your boat are not a good thing. I’m not so sure about intentional holes either.

Weighing it all up, Mr. Bumufzzle comes down on the side of cats. But I thought it only fair to see what Lin and Larry Pardey have to say on the matter as they know a thing or two about monohulls. They have the books to prove it too.

My sister thinks I write too much about Lin and Larry and is a bit worried about my tendency to stalk them. Lin and Larry might also be a bit worried about this too. But let’s face it - they are rock stars in the sailing world and who doesn’t want to stalk a rock star? You know how you bury those little statues of St. Joseph when you’re selling your house so that it will sell quickly and for a fabulous prices (which totally doesn’t work by the way)? Well I want to get little statues of Lin and Larry made and attach them to our boat so that we have smooth sailing. That’s how cool I think they are.

Even though the Pardeys are big fans of monohulls, they are nothing if not fair. So they turned to some people who have sailed both cats and monohulls to get their take on the pros/cons. And here is some of what they had to say:

Catamaran Pros
  • Provides a stable platform (they don’t roll like monohulls and you won’t spill your drinks)
  • Living quarters are above the waterline (you avoid the cave-like feel of a monohull)
  • Shallow draft (you can get up close and anchor)
  • You can go fast! (in certain conditions)
  • Given the two narrow hulls, cats tend to sail in a straight line (and are easier for an auto-pilot to steer)

Catamaran Cons
  • Unpredictable rhythm (with two keels, each one can respond differently to the water bashing against it)
  • If a cat heels too much it will turn over and never right itself
  • The size of a cat can limit mooring and haul-out options
  • Cats are more expensive than monohulls

Even given the pros of catamarans, I imagine the Pardeys still prefer monohulls. One of the things they enjoy most is short-tacking into a harbor, something that isn’t easy to do on a catamaran.

Taking all of that into consideration, I don't think we’ll end up going with a catamaran. It really comes down to cost and on our budget a cat just isn’t an option. But who knows, maybe someday we’ll win the lottery and make the switch.

If you're interested in other slightly eccentric posts on how to buy a sailboat when you know nothing about sailing or boats, check out this page.

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  1. I also did some pretty intensive research and soul search on this topic. I initially thought I'd fall on the cat side, but ultimately, the monohull won out. They are mostly better constructed, more longevity can be had, they are MUCH (did I say MUCH) less expensive and last but not least, monohulls are just simply sexier boats! :-)


    1. I'm right there with you on the money factor! I like the idea of sailing flat, but that does come at a price...

  2. Like mah ole sailing instructor Cap'n Monty used to say: "A catamaran is two boats for the price of two boats."


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