Little Catamarans Vs. Little Trimarans for Beachcamping

Discussion in 'Multihulls' started by rayaldridge, Aug 17, 2008.

  1. Manie B
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    Manie B Senior Member

    Zilver thank you very much for the link.
    It is an absolute joy to see the folks building these small FUN boats, **** it makes me feel "normal"

    I frikken LOOOOOVE IT

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  2. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member


    I get that you are just kickin' it with all this sense of "community" and all, but normal...?

    I think that you'll be needing a visa to go there. ;-)

    Truthfully, it's interesting what you guys are doing and I can only wish you well in your pursuits. After sailing beach cats for some very long distances along the coast of Baja California, my only suggestion is that you VERY carefully plan your movements with a boat as small as these.

    Can it be done? Yeah, sure. With the right timing, careful seamanship and a measure of good fortune, you can go just about anywhere.

    I'm looking forward to seeing these boats being exposed to a wider array of conditions with full, going beach cat camping, loads. I would also like to see some vid clips of these size cats after being capsized and the maneuvers required to get them back on their feet. I am not suggesting that this righting business would be a regular event. A carefully sailed small cat should see few circumstances in which a capsize would enter into the mix.... but it does happen and the routine for righting should be understood.

    Looking forward to your process, Manie and thanks to Zilver for the link to the boat build. (Zilver, where is that small cat being built?)

  3. Trevlyns
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    Trevlyns Senior Citizen/Member

    Well done on your efforts so far, Manie! But the dancers must have a bit of a problem dodging all that wood. :D

    Your earlier comment about tents being pricey brought back a few memories of the tough times in South Africa. I picked up a nice double for the deck tent at only £12 and a huge 3 roomed 6 man job for camping ashore at under a hundred quid.

    Be sure and keep us posted and updated with new pics.

    All the best!
  4. Zilver
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    Zilver Junior Member

    Hello Chris,

    I think it is in Canada.
    To be clear : I don't know mr. Bigras, I just stumbled upon his site and mailed back and forth a few times about his boat which I find very cute and inspiring.
    I did quite a few of coastal cruising trips on small open cata- and trimarans (hobie 16, windrider 16 and wharram tiki 21), and this boat looks like a great alternative to these boats because it gives some shelter while sailing and apart from that I just love the cute and cozy looks.
    I hope it will work in practice because the designer already stated that the payload is not very high (500 lbs).

    Cheers, Hans
  5. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    Manie and Hans-- great stuff.

    I can certainly understand the urge to have cabins. In any boat, it's nice to have a "below" to go to.

    I recently posted a piece on Slider's blog about the list of requirements I drew up when I was thinking about how to build the boat. One of the areas I covered was the whole open boat idea. Among sailors of small monohulls, the pleasures of open boat cruising are well accepted, with literally hundreds of designs and even a fair number of production cruising boats available.

    Not so much in the multihull community. The only open boats are beach cats and a few dayboat tris.

    There have been some remarkable voyages and cruises made in open monohulls. Consider the Dyes and their North Sea exploits, for example. But there haven't been as many notable cruises in small open multis, and those that have been recorded seem to be more of an ironman stunt than the kind of relaxing sail past unfamiliar shores that is my favorite kind of cruising.

    However, a romantic attachment to the pleasures of cruising in an open boat was not the primary motivator for Slider's open cockpits. They actually came about largely because small cats with fine hulls require the crew to move fore and aft with the wind strength, and I couldn't figure out a way to do that with comfortable in-hull seating-- and that also permitted me to have a cabin. Or to put it another way, I could have had a cabin, but in order to have comfortable in-hull seating, all sailing would have had to be done inside, and that seemed a bit claustrophobic to me.

    All that said, one big difference between Slider and a beach cat is that most of the crews' bodies are protected from the wind and spray by virtue of being down inside a hull. Only your upper torso and head are out in the wind. This is already vastly more comfortable than a beach cat, even without considering the comfortable ergonomic seating, with back support and feet well below your knees.

    Still, heavy air and rain are inevitable, and I hope to deal with these conditions by putting dodgers on both cockpits. These will also allow the off-watch crew to sleep in dry comfort on a pipe berth, under the dodger. The dodgers can be put down in fine weather, don't weigh as much as cabins, and have no windage at all when they're down.

    Just a different way to skin a cat, I guess.

  6. popperspop
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    popperspop popperspop

    Hans.......Thank you very much for your post. I particularly enjoyed the Tony
    Bigras Site and seeing the photos of Paradox. These were both very thoughtful and creative creations for micro cruisers even for short off-shore

  7. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    It can do all that?

    The case for the small cruising trimaran continued...

    I mentioned in a previous post that the amas for my XCR design are easily demountable, allowing the owner to use his vaka hull for a tripping canoe type of application. This gives him the opportunity to paddle upstream through very shallow water.

    I left out another, potentially significant use for the boat when configured in yet another way. Take a look at the photos shown below where you can see that the boat is sitting on its trailer for transport. With the outer aka tube section removed from all four locations and the ama reconnected to the center aka tube, the boat is well under trailer legal limits, measuring at 88 inches in beam.

    That's great for trailering, but it can provide other options when launched at this width. With a removable motor mount, the boat can be used simply, without sailing rigs, as an extremely stable launch. The launch allows the boat to be used for fishing, cruising a local lake, duck hunting, ferrying supplies quickly to a distant location, etc.

    With the motor removed, the boat is also easily paddled like a conventional canoe with near bullet-proof stability. Example: it would take three, average sized adult men, standing directly on the ama to just barely submerge the form, much less get it to the point where the boat would capsize.

    Want to take your ageing parents out for a spin and not spook them into a heart attack, while keeping them free of any real chance of getting tossed in the drink? This is the boat that will do that.

    If the rigs were to be lashed to the outer ends of the exposed aka tubes to reduce parasitic air drag, the boat could be motored at speed to the far end of a large lake. Once there, the amas could be extended to full length, the rigs hoisted and the boat would then be ready to sail.

    So, what you are getting here with this type of design is really three boats in one package. All this with shallow draft capabilities for those times when you have to cross very thin water.

    I do not wish to go overboard with all this business about the extreme flexibility of this type of small beach style cruising tri, as I also design small cats. There's an article on Duckworks about one of my catamaran designs, the Gato Especial, that addresses my interest level in small cats for cruising.


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  8. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    It's a good observation, and it would do the job pretty well, but I believe a cat like Slider is superior for this particular use, for several reasons.

    A big one is that in order for an infirm person to enter the tri's cockpit, they''ll have to scramble over the floats just to reach it, whereas with Slider they can step directly down into the cockpit from the dock, and this direct access even makes it easier to hoist a person from a wheelchair into the seat. In addition, the seats are more comfortable, because the level of the duckboards are an ergonomically correct distance below the seats. The deep cockpits feel much more secure than the cockpits of a canoe or kayak. Also, the cat has more freeboard, and is a much drier ride. A person in Slider's cockpits is better protected from the elements. The stay gives a person something handy to grab when stepping aboard from the dock, and Slider's hulls are so buoyant that she doesn't deflect much under a couple hundred pounds of weight.

    It's interesting, because one of the things I thought about when designing Slider is the issue of handicapped access. My mother is quite frail but likes to go sailing. (In fact, she once broke her leg trying to get aboard our 27' cruising yacht.) Anyway, I talked to a couple of paraplegic small boat sailors about the issue, and they both sailed trimarans. You might think this constitutes a vote for trimarans in this niche, but the fact is that they had no alternatives to consider, before Slider came along. They pretty much have to have a seat inside the boat, and there were no tiny cats like that.

  9. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    Just a few things.

    No old person that I know steps comfortably "down" into anything. They may step across to something with some aplomb, but not down. That direction is the reason so many old folks take gas and end up with broken hips and pelvis bones. As you know, that type of injury typically spells the beginning of the end for an old person, often well before their proper time, other circumstances considered.

    If you are going to ameliorate the stepping down thing by hand holding and guiding, then it works both ways for each type of boat.

    The trimaran can easily be equipped with a suitable, grippy surface between the amas and the vaka hull, making all these points rather moot as to the "scrambling" effect you describe.

    Sitting in the outboard hull of a catamaran eight feet wide asks the old person to ride in the part of the boat with greatest pitching and potentially rolling heave moments on the craft. As all of us know, after many hours in boats, pitching and also rolling moments are the biggest contributors to seasickness in any sailor, experienced, or not. Why subject the old people to more than they really need?

    Put them, instead, in the center of the center hull of a trimaran and nearly zero-out all of the moments that contribute to the malady. There's a reason why experienced boaters migrate to the lowest, most center point on any boat when they wish to clear their heads of the tossing experiences one can encounter on the water. Outboard, with an aft bias is not that place.

    The cockpits of the XCR are plenty deep, putting the crew right down on the waterline, surrounded by nice firm hull panels as well as a partially enclosing deck. On top of the deck is a raised cockpit coaming with a molded, outward flange for deflecting away any spray that might get to the occupants.

    My position is that the trimaran is a superior vessel for the business of sailing, motoring or paddling with elder family members as crew.

    It's far more than the isolated argument of what to do with old folks, though. A beach style trimaran, such as the XCR, is a far more adaptable, and versatile vessel that can be quickly morphed into a form that is highly developed for the task at hand. I do not see that capability in any catamaran, even the ones that have sliding beams for enhanced beam potential over what is available from the typical trailered width.

    In the catamarans of this size, 16 to 21 feet, I see a boat that is very nicely suited for a specific set of design brief elements with very little morphing adaptability in its form. You get what you get and if that suits you, then you are living the high life.

    If, however, you want your boat to do something more than its limited mission (and who doesn’t in this day and age of shrinking resources, expensive materials and limited time?) then the prudent person would look hard and long at all the missions that can be performed by the same craft. That craft is the highly adaptable beach cruising trimaran, such as exemplified by the XCR design.

    I invite all the readers of this thread to make their own list of potential uses for each boat type. Make a check mark beside each component element that is possible from the two types of craft and see which one has the most checks when you are done. The reality is that the adaptable trimaran, such as the XCR, has way more possibilities and end uses than any fixed beam beach cat could ever have. And it weighs considerably less, which is not inconsequential when it comes time to retrieve the boat and get it on its trailer bunks, or when the time is right to pull the boat up on the beach for the night. 200 lbs. vs 500 lbs. is not insignificant

  10. uncookedlentil
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    uncookedlentil Junior Member

    Folding Outriggers

    Just to give this debate a tiny nudge in the directional favor of trimarans, folding outriggers may mitigate or eliminate any docking problems attributable to tris.

    To my understanding, Ian Farrier's marvelous design is in the public domain and the scissor style used by the Hobie outriggers may not be in patent status due to the homemade versions I've seen over the years.

    The one argument I see in solid favor with the tri configuration is that it responds to applications of human power in terms of paddling, rowing, or propeller/bicycle gears propulsion as every thing stays on a symetrical thrust line.

    Being rid of the smell of gasoline is no small thing on a wilderness trip and keeping those ugly registration numbers off the side of our boats is an incredible savings in cash and time hassles on the water.
  11. dsuursoo
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    dsuursoo Senior Member

    i'll agree, tris are much much easier to power on your own, for whatever reason.

    i like them for their stability, and more balanced feel. i'm in the middle of designing and building a 25-30' shallow-drafting tri, that will feature lots of storage and possibly a cuddy-cabin. more likely, i'll just use a specially sewn tarp thrown over the boom and down to the outboard sides of the hiking benches for cover when overnighting. now, i'm aiming for speed and handling stablity first, as i plan to one day solo sail from seattle to juneau, but it's also going to see a lot of puget sound use.

    in all the experience i've had, the trimarans feature the most bouyancy for their overall size, without getting oversized in their hulls. they're also much easier to single-hand, which is the main sort of sailing i do.

    and my own tris have generally included collapsible booms on the outriggers. i'm thinking a upwards-moving folding type, this time around.

    though with the right cat, you can break it down to fit on top of a truck...
  12. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    I see a bit of a contradiction here. I don't think you can really have it both ways. Either folks have to step down, or they have to sit on top.

    Slider's seat rails provide an intermediate step between the duckboards and the side decks, which makes it a little easier.

    A problem with the "step across" you describe is that no infirm person is going to take a step that big-- they'll have to step on the float first, and that is going to be a lot less stable than stepping on one of Slider's hulls, which are many times more buoyant than the little tri's floats.

    As to motion-- I would think the motion in a light tri would be a lot bouncier than in the heavier, more stable hulls of a cat like Slider. The tri will heel more, as well, and lacks the weight to drive through a modest chop. I assume folks wouldn't be taking elderly folks sailing when the weather is bad, but you can get a foot or two of chop just about any time you go out. Further, a canoe, with its pinched-in stern and wide center, is more prone to pitching than hulls like Slider's, which are designed specifically to damp out pitching. Her sprit sloop rig keeps weight low-- also contributing to her good pitch damping. And as a generality, cruising catamarans are held by most knowledgeable sailors to have a slightly better motion than cruising tris.

    I can relate an anecdote in regard to Slider's motion, which to everyone who's been sailing in her seems astonishingly smooth for a 16' boat. My daughter's boyfriend is terribly prone to seasickness. In every other boat he's been on, he's turned green-- in fact he looks a little queasy any time you mention sailing. When we were camping at St. Joe peninsula at the beginning of August, he and my daughter came down to spend a day with us. We finally persuaded him to take a ride in Slider, even though it was blowing pretty hard and there was a lot of chop out on the bay. We put him in the starboard seat, right at the center of rotation, and went out to knock some chop. Even driving to windward at 7 knots through some whitecaps, he was fine. He couldn't stop talking about how stable the ride was. The smoothness is also pretty easy to see in the videos posted on Slider's blog. I do know it's contributed to some early plans sales-- women see my wife sitting comfortably and steering to windward effortlessly and with very little bounce... and they want that.

    The lightness of the tri is certainly an advantage, if you intend to haul the boat up on a beach every night. But there is a downside to that lightness-- you can't haul as much gear with you. And you do get knocked around more. That's one reason monohulls are often faster than multis in a dying breeze and leftover chop-- they have the weight to keep moving, while a light boat may be stopped frequently.

    The convertability of the XCR is also a plus, though I fear that serving two very different purposes may mean that the boat isn't quite as good at the individual tasks as one dedicated to a single purpose. This is usually the case. For example, a small boat designed mainly for rowing is rarely as good at sailing as a boat designed mainly for sailing, and vice versa. But all boats are compromises, and I can certainly see that a person who wanted both a small multi and a canoe in the same package might be very happy with the XCR.

  13. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    The trouble with the Farrier mechanism is that it's very expensive. The close tolerances required make it less suitable for inexpensive home-built boats, unless you happen to be a machinist with a well-equipped shop. For the cost of one set of Farrier folding beams, you could build a whole fleet of Sliders, and probablyt several larger versions.

    One thing I wonder about human-powered tris is that if you have side nets, where do you paddle? If you don't have side nets, then you have no more deck space than a canoe does. A Mirage drive might be a great thing to put in a tri. I've heard good things about Hobie's Adventure Island kayak-based tris in that regard.

    I will say that a tri has an advantage when mounting an outboard, because it can often be placed on the broader transom of a tri, whereas with a cat, it often has to be placed on the rear crossbeam, where it is more exposed to spray and waves.

  14. dsuursoo
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    dsuursoo Senior Member

    my own trimarans typically have no nets past the aft crossbeams. since i myself have a fair bit of deck, if i'm willing to sit on the cockpit lip, i have no trouble paddling.

    of course, my trampolines are also built for easy take down.

    and you do bring a good point up about the light weight of a multihull impacting its inertia. i've myself found that the extremely generous stability allows for a larger than normal sailplan that can catch even the lightest puffs, when set properly. for my next build, i've been considering controlled flooding in the outriggers and main hull, to give it the mass to punch in heavy seas, and the enhanced inertia monohulls enjoy. a little complexity(less than you'd think, i was suprised by how elegant it got when i started drawing the plumbing), and it really pays off. and as a bonus, since i'm not single-handed racing the boat, it doesn't need to be a ridiculously high-flow setup, like it did on the... experiment...

    yeah, that just wasn't right. 400 gallons per minute, that takes some big plumbing and a LOT of power.

  15. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    In reality, Ray, it's very much the same motion for entry as you describe for your boat.
    A zero sum comparison point.

    Well, take a look at the URL video clip link supplied above and tell me if the boat heels more. That clip shows the XCR in 15 knots of steady wind, 18-19 gusting and I don’t really see your point about heeling. It also looks to be driving through chop quite effectively, so, again, please tell me what the point might be.

    Well, a canoe hull, all by itself is prone to pitching potential due to the double-ended effect, as you suggest. Unfortunately, that does not apply to a tri design with properly executed ama forms. Just as you mention that Slider’s hulls are formed to resist pitching, the same is true for the amas on the XCR. Since they are carried aft to within one foot of the stern stem, the potential for pitching is virtually eliminated. I say virtually because no boat is immune to pitching, even yours, Ray. They all do it.

    Perhaps that could be an issue, Ray, if...

    1. You feel like you need to have a lot of gear. XCR owners typically travel responsibly light to minimize impact on remote cruising locations, maintain a shallow draft signature for the ability to go well into extremely shallow waters and also… to fulfill the performance promise of the typical trimaran.

    Remember… every bit of gear at the launch removes that claim for a speedy transition on the ramp just a little bit more. Put the gear in the boat for the drive to the lake to speed things up and the hull will take an unnecessary beating on the highway. A guy watching out for his boat would likely carry this gear pile in the vehicle and load it once the boat has been launched.

    So, just how much stuff are you hauling around while still keeping a satisfactory performance envelope? Like you said, you can't have it both ways.

    2. There is considerable reserve displacement in the XCR, so the boat is capable of far more weight hauling, such as when one wants to stock pile a base camp on the other side of a very big body of water.

    The knocking around part depends on the guy steering the boat, just like any craft in the same conditions.

    Are you suggesting that your boat is not also a lightweight? I have read the claims and even when loaded to a point where it is quite a bit heavier than the XCR, Slider is still not as a heavy as a keeled mono. A note: I have seen Hobie 21SC’s, designed for cruising as we are discussing and every bit as heavy, if not heavier than the Slider, being bounced in a three foot cross chop. So, I’d like to know where you would next send this component of the discussion?

    The convertibility is more than a plus. It is the very essence of the design's success. A canoe is a unique hull form with a great deal of historic adaptation study to develop the form to its current iteration. The reason that so many recreational boaters turn to a form like this for a wide range of boating needs is that it is so versatile. Hunters, fishermen, birdwatchers, lake trippers, river runners, sailors... and the list goes on and on.

    I once held the same opinion that you put forth here, Ray and for most hull styles what you say is quite true. A sailing/paddling or sailing/rowing design usually has an identity crisis of some type. Famed Canadian canoe and kayak designer, John Winters, who put forth a lot of effort to teach me some of the art of design back when I started, once told me that a sailing sea kayak was neither fish nor fowl. Canoes, though, are really quite different and with but a few very small, but critical modifications in hull form, they can be turned into a truly remarkable craft with shining salient points that have been well described within this thread.

    My original forays into the boat design arena, some nine/ten years ago were in the sailing sea kayak end of the spectrum. I used to be a fairly serious sea kayaker and because I had also raced multihulls, I wanted a sail rig and portable stowable amas to be able to cover larger distances when the wind was up. I quickly found that my rigs and aka/ama setups were easily adapted to many models of canoes in the marketplace.

    When I sailed the first canoe version of my rig, I was knocked flat with the amazing versatility of the design and application potential. In fact, my very first sailing canoe (based on a Wenonah Spirit II hull) is still in full operation today. It has made a circumnavigation of SoCal's Catalina Island from a mainland put-in (26 mile crossing in a beam sea) and I felt safe, in control and fully satisfied with the adventure. It was one of the remarkable "doh" moments that inspired the eventual XCR design.

    There is one more thing that I have left out of the discussion.

    How much success have you had with Slider as a car topped craft?

    Can it be car topped at all without exceeding the load rating of the typical roof racks? If it were to be car topped by some very strong and very stubborn owners, would it require a custom built rack for load support? If not easily car-toppable, then that means that the person owning your boat will be responsible for storage of a trailer and a boat. Live in an apartment? Then that puts an additional onus on the guy who wants to own one.

    The XCR and all its components easily fit in the typical single, or double car garage with room underneath for a car(s). Yes.... the whole beautiful dude can be hoisted from the rafters of the garage, leaving the floor clear. One of those bitchin' silent benefits for having a really light, component oriented design.

    Hang a Slider from the rafters...? Hmmmm, better check with the local building codes for span ratings and nominal lumber sizing.

    It all comes back to this very simple point... It all depends on what you are looking for in a small beach style cruiser and how that design idiom looks to your eye and expectations.

    One is not better than the other and there's nothing more to say.

    Thanks for the great thread, Ray and good luck with your great little cat.

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