Yacht Charter: Which is Better, Catamaran or Monohull?
by Zuzana Prochazka
Many charter companies today offer a choice between catamarans and traditional monohulls. So which should you reserve for your next charter vacation?
The Catana 47 is easy to sail, even in the big wind and waves of the Southern Caribbean.
The Case for Cats
- More room. Multihull devotees always start by talking up the extra space of their chosen ride. For an approximate comparison, multiply a cat’s length by 1.25 and you’ll get the equivalent space you would find on the same length of monohull. (Eg: a 40 foot cat has the room of a 50 foot monohull.) Typically there’s more interior space, with up to four cabins even in a cat under 40 feet. Large open cockpits provide enough outdoor social space for a small crowd, and you’ll probably enjoy more privacy and better ventilation on a cat. There’s also more shelter if it rains, so a cat is a good cold or hot weather option.
- Less seasickness. Cats don’t heel and move mostly upright. The ride is usually more family friendly, with less discomfort and fear than on some monohulls.
- Better rest. A rolly anchorage equals tired and cranky vacationers. You’ll find the same stability you experience while moving a delight while at anchor. And stability equals peace during the night, which equals a well-rested family in the morning.
- Shallower draft. The skinny water cruising you’ll find in the Chesapeake, Caribbean or Tahiti can be tricky with a deep draft boat. Cats can venture into areas previously off limits; every foot below the waterline that you save is more of the world to explore.
- Easier docking, increased maneuverability. Twin screws 10 or 20 feet apart give better control even at slow speeds. And you won’t need a bow thruster to get into tricky docks for provisioning or tanking.
- Backup Engine. If one engine fails or you wrap a mooring line in the prop, you have another engine that will get you back to the charter base.
- Easy sailing. When I took a Catana 47 from Dream Yacht Charters to the Grenadines, I never worried about the boat no matter the weather. We experienced 20-30 knots of wind almost every day. With one reef in the mainsail, the boat was always comfortable and under control. A monohull would have been on her ear and might have needed two reefs to keep the sail area manageable. Cats are just easy.
For tight tacks and upwind performance, a monohull like this Dufour 405 will be a good charter bet.
So with all these positives, why would anyone choose an old fashioned monohull? Read on for some advantages you just can’t find on two hulls.
Motivated by Monohulls
- Better performance. Sailing cats don’t like to go upwind, and they tack with all the agility of a shoebox. So if you want the true feeling of tight tacks and upwind performance, a monohull like the Dufour 405 (available from MarineMax Vacations) will be a better bet.
- Cats waddle. The older, wider designs will give some charterers sore core muscles as they try to adjust to a cat’s different motion. Cats also pound upwind into big seas; a monohull will slice. To improve the feel and performance of charter catamarans, Moorings is adding more Gino Morrelli-designed Leopard cats that are narrower, with tulip-shaped hulls.
- Cats are weird and intimidating. For people who aren’t used to multihulls, cats seem big, scary and difficult to drive. A monohull will seem more familiar to drive and dock for most boaters.
- Monohulls are more available. This is true at certain destinations like the Pacific Northwest. But cats (both power and sail) are becoming more and more common at charter companies around the world.
- Cats are expensive. Yes they are. There’s definitely a premium to charter a cat of the same size as a monohull, though it can be offset by sharing the costs with more people. If you’re chartering as a couple, a monohull will be plenty big and a better deal.
Making Your Choice
Catamaran or monohull? There is no right or wrong way to charter, and your needs will vary by destination and who you plan to bring along. The good news is, today you have a choice – power or sail, monohull or catamaran. And if you’re curious about one or the other, why not try it out on your next vacation? You might come back a convert.