Two hulls are better than one. This thinking has launched the tremendous popularity of catamarans for charter over the last decade. But why?
“Space,” answers Ann Wallis-White, owner of Annapolis-based Ann Wallis-White Yacht Charters. “Clients choose catamarans for the same reason they drive minivans. There’s more room. Unlike monohulls, there’s the ability to have children, other family members or friends stay in a whole other hull while on charter.”
Ian Pedersen, assistant marketing manager at The Moorings, headquartered in Clearwater, Fla., says, “Many charterers on vacation put a premium on space, comfort and amenities that make you feel right at home, and modern-day catamarans offer all of these. In comparison to a monohull, a catamaran averages twice as much deck space, and the galley, the cabins and cockpit areas are expansive. One can easily accommodate up to 8 guests on a 45’ catamaran.”
Stability is another plus, adds Stephen Cockcroft, an Aventura, Fla.-based yacht broker for Dream Yacht Charters, and owner with wife Estelle of the website catamaranguru.com. “Catamarans do not roll at anchor like monohulls can and they provide a very steady platform.”
Catamarans also offer easy access to the water, explains Kathleen Mullen, yacht and charter broker at the British Virgin Island-based branch of Regency Yacht Vacations, Ltd. “Plus, the huge covered cockpits on catamarans are wonderful open air living spaces.”
Catamarans, however, aren’t for everyone. “For example,” says White, “Most of my sailing clients’ observations have been less than enthused about the sailing on board a catamaran.”
Hardcore sailors tend to be monohull purists. After all, most monohulls are based on performance and most catamarans are not performance-based vessels, explains the Moorings’ Pedersen. “Catamarans will not heel over in high winds and are much heavier in the water and therefore much more stable. For those looking to truly harness the winds, a monohull is still the way to go.”
Another concern for some charterers may be price.
“Catamarans are more expensive to charter because they are more expensive to buy,” explains Cockcroft. “A general comparison is that the length of a catamaran can be multiplied by 1.5 to get a similar size in a monohull.”
This added cost comes with many benefits, Pedersen explains. “Newer catamarans come equipped with a generator which powers all the comforts of home: air conditioning, a microwave, hair dryers, stereos with MP3 connections, flat screen TV’s, DVD players, and of course the all-important coffee maker! In short, catamarans these days have become floating hotel rooms.”
As for cruising grounds, Pedersen explains, “A catamaran’s shallow keel means you can sail almost completely worry-free. You can get much closer to shallow shorelines and still have a few feet of water to work with. When you’re looking for great snorkeling holes or trying to reduce the distance of your dinghy ride to shore, that extra 50 meters to shore can seem like a long way off.”
Finally, as for the decision to choose a bareboat or crewed charter a catamaran, it all depends on your experience and what you are looking for in a charter. On one hand, there is a certain majesty to being the captain of your own ship where you can do what you want, when and how you’d like to do it. However, consider that sailing a cat is different than helming a monohull. The turning radius under power is different and sailing into seas requires a different touch, both skills in which a crew comes in handy — not to mention a crew’s ability to provide local knowledge, gourmet meals and five-star service.