Minimum cruising cat-size & cost

Discussion in 'Multihulls' started by Alex.A, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. Alex.A
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    Alex.A Senior Member

    What is viable size/cost wise? Looks like 9 to 10m seems to be as small as most will go.... others have done big trips in smaller - but the goal is a safe cruiser and not an attention grabbing/risky concept.
    It also seems that small and simple dont go together either - water ballast has been mooted and going light seems to involve more tech which then adds cost!
    What solutions? You also want reasonable speed - otherwise may as well go with a mono. We're presuming reasonable competancy of skipper (and crew).
     
  2. tspeer
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    tspeer Senior Member

    For a cruising multihull that size, one gets more interior room and performance in a trimaran than a catamaran. That's why the Farrier designs have been so popular. Above, say, 11 - 12m, the cat starts to have more interior room.

    Chris White says that an ocean-going trimaran needs to have a minimum of 40' in length and 100,000 ft-lb of righting moment. This is not only to be able to handle rougher sea states, but also to have the payload necessary for the longer passages. Ian Farrier used to say the F36 was his smallest design suitable for offshore, and now he says it's the F33. But he definitely doesn't view the F31/F9 as off-shore capable. Not that smaller multihulls haven't made ocean crossings, but it's a matter of risk. For a catamaran, I would think 12m would be about as small as you'd want to go for blue-water cruising.

    If you're talking 9 - 10 m to save cost, then I think you're really talking about a coastal cruiser rather than a blue-water cruiser. For coastal cruising, the ability to fold and be trailerable is a major asset. It vastly expands your cruising options. Say you want to go cruising in an archipelago. Instead of making a long passage to get there, you simply drive to the nearest launch ramp and start your cruise from there, and you spend all your time in the islands. This also means you don't have to take off several days extra from work to transit to and from the cruising grounds. If you can fold on the water, it means being able to get into a normal transient moorage slip instead of having to anchor out. So unless you are planning on crossing an ocean, there's very little you can do with the larger blue-water cruiser that you can't do with the trailerable coastal cruiser.

    Folding is also a key to containing costs. In the winter, you can take the boat home and turn off the money meter, instead of paying moorage fees all through the off-season. The same goes for doing maintenance on the boat. You can park it in the driveway and do your projects in the evening when you get home from work.

    Although there are folding catamarans, it's much more difficult to fold a cat because it is continuously supported by both hulls. You can't unload a hull to fold it like you can when folding a tri. This also argues for selecting a trimaran if you are interested in a cruising multihull under 10m. About the only non-folding trailerable cruising cat I know in this size range was the Gougeon G-32.

    I would set aside the selection of the type of boat and define what your cruising requirements are. Where do you want to go, and how long will you spend there? How many people, and what ages are they? What is your budget for acquisition, mooring, maintenance, etc? (Total cost of ownership is what you ought to be looking at, not just the cost of the boat.) Once you have all the requirements in hand, then you can start looking for a boat that meets them.

    You can't build a new boat for less than you can buy a new one, especially if you put any value on your time at all. I think you'll find that in the under 10m range, something like a used Corsair (especially the F27) will be the best compromise for utility vs total cost of ownership.
     
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  3. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    I like Tom's post above, and won't bother repeating the points he's made. I'll comment on the "reasonable speed - otherwise may as well go with a mono" though.

    The way I see it, the two main factors that draw people to multihulls are: (1) space, and (2) speed.

    Lots of living space means either a full bridgedeck, a very long/wide boat, or both. The full bridgedeck is almost impossible to achieve under 13-14 m or so without adding major windage and sacrificing speed. Going longer and wider should be great for performance and comfort, but you'd take a hit in the chequebook at the marina or boatyard.

    Lots of speed calls for a long, beamy cat/tri with little superstructure and a powerful rig. This can be reconciled with "lots of space" once you get north of 16-17 metres or so, but in smaller boats will probably cut too far into living space. If speed is your reason for thinking of multihulls, you can't compare against heavy 5-knot monos- you have to compare against lighter, faster monos such as a Sundeer (on the cruising side) or a Class 40 (on the racing side) that can churn out serious 24-hour distances.

    Personally, my take on a serious ocean cruising cat would come in at around 15-17 m LOA, displacing 8-10 tonnes or so in cruising trim, with minimal and relatively streamlined bridgedeck and superstructure and simple systems- the accommodations and price we're used to seeing in a ~13 m cat, but simplified and stretched out. You'll see some Chris White and John Shuttleworth boats in this category. Most charter cats (Lagoon, FP, etc.) will be heavier for their length and have large superstructures / low bridgedecks to fit the luxurious "floating condo" interior, while any pure racing machine under 20 m or so is going to be pretty cramped inside.

    If your cruising is coastal, smaller / cheaper / more compact / foldable might well suit the bill.

    Needless to say, there's no one clear and simple answer.... as Tom says, you really need a good idea of what your personal requirements are.
     
  4. aussiebushman
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    aussiebushman Innovator

    Cruising catamaran

    Hi

    I agree with most of what Tom and Matt say but with a few minor differences due to my experience with a 9.1 metre Simpson crusing (bridgedeck) catamaran. (You can see pictures at www.mainproject.info) Please consider:


    A 9 metre cat CAN deliver a reasonable mix of comfort, safety and speed. Mine has full standing headroom in both hulls and in the companionway/doghouse without looking boxy (my opinion anyway)


    • Folding might allow removal from the water, but it would make the creation of the sort of space described above virtually impossible

      The bridgedeck clearance will be one of the most important requirements for safe offshore sailing. Mine is a bit low at 750mm but it does not slam. The forward tramps stop the potential for water to lift the bows and the clear run between the hulls (no pods) means the water can funnel straight through. Interestingly, a very similar Simpson design came though a cyclone in the Coral Sea that caused several other boats (including cats and monohulls) to flip or sink.

      The construction including choice of materials will also contribute to safety and to cost. The racing purists love foam and carbon fibre but I have seen professionally built boats with the carbon literally peeled off by water abrasion and would not have in a cruising boat of mine. Cedar/epoxy strip with a layer of 440 gram double diagonal cloth each side will be heavier, but so what if it means structural integrity. Mine will still do 9 knots - faster than most monohulls of comparable size

      The integrity of the rig is another reason to avoid demountable masts and other trailer-viable enhancements. Mine has an external sleeve to strengthen it at the point where it has most potential to bend or break. The rig allows double diagonals to keep the mast in column.

      All of the control gear is one size bigger than strictly necessary and if you have tried to tame a huge, heavily roached main when sailing fast, you will appreciate the reason. Hence Lewmar size 2 everything, with size 40 winches

      I could go on, but this will hopefully provide some interesting input. Of course, if you can afford it, a 45 footer would be wonderful, but remember the cost rises disproportionally with length. Therefore, a 30-35 foot craft that is well designed and built might well do what you want without too many compromises

      Regards

      Alan
     
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  5. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    While im not a big fan of the old british cat one simply cannot argue that they have proven over and over and over again that smaller cats in the 26ft(heavenly twins) to 30ft oceanics and many prouts in the low 30ft range are capable of cruising just about anywhere. Its rather interesting that 30 to 40 years ago there were lots of these cats as well as Piver,Cross,Brown,horstman and many other small trimarans plying the oceans the world.The problem is that few seaworthy small multihulls are built today,all the trimarans are way too performance oriented which is not consistent with seaworthiness and most of the cat companies want to build behemoths,higher profit margins i guess.There are still plenty of old seaworthy small multis around capable of getting the job done,just few modern ones.
    Steve.
     
  6. aussiebushman
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    aussiebushman Innovator

    Steve

    I'm not sure you would describe Simpson's designs as "old British Cats." Roger may have seemed old-fashioned in many of the design aspects and certainly, there were problems transposing his designs from paper to reality, but he created many sturdy, safe multihulls.

    However, in principle, I agree with you. There is far too much emphasis on lightness and speed with most modern designs, with little consideration for longevity or robustness. You are right that this reflects current customer attitudes, though it is mostly the designers themselves who created the mindset. I'd rather travel a few knots slower in comfort and safety than break up the boat because it hit one of the many things cluttering today's seaways.

    I'm currently building a Trimaran hull to work with a pair of A"class cat hulls and rig and to the dismay of the new breed, will strip plank the centre hull in good old-fashioned timber strip/epoxy. Big deal - the speed might drop from 18 knots to 12 or so. So what?

    Alan
     
  7. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    I have owned raced cats

    Prout Sheerwaters Mk 1's
    Then in 1999 I charted a 40 foot cat for the extended family
    What i like was for coastal we would up the pick, whilst the table was still cluttered, space, pace although in loaded trim overall was no faster on Long passage than mono
    What I could not get used to was the motion, I call it a "joggle" I have no idea if tris have the same, but I know this joggle is still there at 100 feet, as I experienced it on a ferry Also I suspect it would be a very strage motion at 30 feet or am I wrong, would it be less?
     
  8. aussiebushman
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    aussiebushman Innovator

    Don't know about bigger Cats, but at 30' its sortof like a raft motion - takes a bit of getting used to but having less than 10 degrees of heel makes the ride very acceptable. Its a whole lot better than living live at 45 degrees, having to hold on all of the time to prevent falling over the side.

    Alan
     
  9. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    Mate if you are sailing a mono at 45 there is something very wrong
     
  10. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    You're probably right, but that's a shame, and a failure of multihull enthusiasts to properly proselytize the other advantages.

    Speed is fun, no doubt about that, but as a cruiser, comfort and safety are more compelling advantages to me. Also, space is not entirely about interior space.

    Folks probably get tired of me blithering on about my little beachcruising cat, and this discussion is about offshore capability, but the lessons I've learned can surely be enlarged. Slider is a 16 foot open boat, but she is vastly more comfortable than any 16' open monohull you'll come across. You can set a can of soda down on the deck, and no matter what sort of chop you hit, the soda isn't going to spill. Last summer, we sailed out Destin's notorious East Pass just as the pass began to break so heavily that the buoys on either side of the channel were submerging.. With the rocks of the jetty close at hand and no engine, we had no choice but to keep going. Slider flew off the tops of the breakers and buried her bows in the troughs, but hardly a drop of water made it aboard. In any open monohull that I can think of, swamping would have been almost inevitable in those conditions.

    One great advantage of a small cat over a small monohull, or for that matter, a small tri, is that you can have so much usable space between the hulls. With an awning, you can have a huge and very comfortable patio at anchor, and most cruising boats spend a lot more time at anchor than on passage. Again looking at the example of Slider, I can have a fairly vast enclosed space at anchor, for a 16' open boat. No open monohull of similar length can come close.

    [​IMG]

    Essentially, this is a 16' boat that can have standing headroom inside an 8' X 8' room, at anchor.

    This is not a popular viewpoint, but I believe that small cats can be a lot safer than is commonly believed. A lot of anecdotal evidence supports this view, and I'm not aware of much anecdotal evidence that contradicts it. For example, Thomas Firth Jones survived a hurricane at sea in a cat with a 19 foot waterline-- a storm that sank a well-found much larger monohull that was sailing nearby. He crossed oceans several times in multis under 30 feet. One of his designs is Brine Shrimp, a 23 foot folding cat that he believed capable of crossing oceans. In his view, the limiting factor on how small a cat can be and still be usable offshore is the displacement required to carry supplies. The first cat to cross the Atlantic was under 24 feet. Cooking Fat, a Tiki 21, sailed around the world, and I can't believe that its survival was entirely due to luck. I actually can't think of any disaster stories involving tiny cruising cats and ocean crossings, which you'd think would be more numerous.

    My own theory as to why these little boats might be less dangerous than can be explained by static stability calculations arises from my own experiences in a Wharram Tane we owned long ago. This was a relatively small cat, 27 ft, with the typical Wharram overhangs. I was caught out in heavy weather on a number of occasions, including one sail through the fringes of Hurricane Fredric in 1979. According to most theorists, those huge breaking seas should have been dangerous to a small and relatively narrow cat like the Tane. But what in fact happened was that breaking seas caused the boat to surf sideways away from the crests, when lying ahull. Naturally, I was scared shitless, but in retrospect, there was never a moment when I thought the boat was about to go over. Tanes, in fact, have made many ocean crossings in perfect safety, and they are fairly small 27 footers..

    When talking about speed, I don't see why we shouldn't compare our boats to heavy five knot monohulls, because even the most ridiculous condomarans will be faster than that, and well-designed, low-windage multis can be substantially faster than a monohull of similar length, and they can do it with a smaller simpler cheaper and more easily handled rig. Turning once again to Slider, even though she has a very conservative rig, and can make probably half the speed a good beach cat can make in similar conditions, she is still faster than most 16 open monohull cruising boats. Why is this not a substantial advantage, even if she's slower than a planing dinghy? Planing dinghies aren't the most relaxing cruising boats.

    Thomas Firth Jones recounts a race where on the way to the windward mark he was passed by a J-27 with Mylar sails, a crew of five, lots of big winches, etc. The J-27's crew jeered as they passed Jones and his wife in their 24 foot Dandy, with Dacron sails and three winches. At the windward mark, both boats set their spinnakers, and on that broad reach Dandy went past the J-27 like a rocket, so that by the jibing mark, the J-27 was "indistinct on the horizon." When you consider that the J-27s sails probably cost a lot more than Dandy's total materials list, this is big bang for the buck.

    Finally, (and I'm sorry for writing a book) I think that one reason why we tend not to think of small cats as capable offshore, is that there is a temptation for designers of such craft to be overly influenced by what Matt probably accurately estimates are the two major selling points-- speed and space. A 25 foot cat with standing headroom is going to be something of a monstrosity, way too much weight and windage for the platform. And the temptation for the designer to give that boat an overly powerful rig is going to be overwhelming. That's unfortunate. If buyers had more reasonable expectations of small cruising multis, they would be safer, more comfortable, and ultimately, more satisfying to sail.

    I'm going on at such length because I think there is a huge hole is the spectrum of cruising multis. Except for the work of rare designers, like Jones and Wharram, there are very few small, simple, wholesome, conservative entry-level cruising multis. Jones is dead and Wharram is ancient. I got my copy of Multihulls Magazine the other day, and it's become nothing but a PR outlet for the big condomaran builders. The cover shot was this massive dreadnought of a cat, with a central pod that touched the water. Who the hell wants that boat?

    I don't know if I'd have the nerve to take the 23 footer I'm drawing now across an ocean. But if I did, I don't think it would kill me.
     
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  11. CT 249
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    Aussiebushman, re ;

    "Interestingly, a very similar Simpson design came though a cyclone in the Coral Sea that caused several other boats (including cats and monohulls) to flip or sink."

    May I ask, what year was that? What monos and other cats sank or flipped?

    Ray, re

    "Thomas Firth Jones recounts a race where on the way to the windward mark he was passed by a J-27 with Mylar sails, a crew of five, lots of big winches, etc. The J-27's crew jeered as they passed Jones and his wife in their 24 foot Dandy, with Dacron sails and three winches. At the windward mark, both boats set their spinnakers, and on that broad reach Dandy went past the J-27 like a rocket, so that by the jibing mark, the J-27 was "indistinct on the horizon." When you consider that the J-27s sails probably cost a lot more than Dandy's total materials list, this is big bang for the buck."

    Can I ask, where and when did that happen?

    Small cats can be great; I've borrowed one for cruising and it was a fantastic platform. They are brilliant at many things, and for many people much better than a mono or tri. But I'm curious about such claims for their performance.

    At a guess, a J/27 would be hull down from a small cat at about 3 miles or more. If we assume that this was a long race, with a 6 mile leg and that the cat was only just behind at the top mark, that means the cat was sailing at twice the speed of a J/27.

    That means the Smith cat would be going about 100 seconds per mile faster than a D Class cat or Formula 40 cat rate on BAMA PHRF, and some 120 seconds per mile quicker than a C Class cat. That would make it also much faster than an Olympic Tornado, with two crew on trap and a big kite. I dunno, whenever I raced Bundy, Forbes and Gashby on their Tornadoes they seemed to be going a bit quicker than a small cruising cat. I saw the wing-masted C Class cat Yellow Pages race once, burning off unrestricted 18 Foot Skiffs and Tornadoes, and to my inexpert eye it seemed a fair bit quicker than most small cruising cats I've seen.

    Those figures may be pretty rough, and I am comparing all-round speeds to reaching speeds. However, the estimate of the little cruising cat's speed does seem rather optimistic. Interestingly, there are few cases around here where small cruising cats have shown such performance in our many trailable-yacht races. Such claims also make one rather dubious about the allegation that the J/27 crew jeered at the cat.
     
  12. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    There are definitely some wonderful things that can be done with a cat or tri design in the smaller sizes. Ray's example above is a case in point. And I'm working on an 8-metre trimaran design for myself.

    Small has its advantages, especially for coastal and inland cruising where there are canals, bridges and marinas to contend with. And yes, there have been many relatively tiny cats that have crossed oceans.

    I do think, though, that a serious bluewater multihull ought to be on the larger side- about 12-13 m (40') and up, with >15 m being preferable. Such a boat is expected to serve as a home for several people for months on end, it has to carry a considerable payload, handle serious bad weather, etc. and simply making the boat longer, with more hull and less superstructure (keeping displacement and cost about the same) seems to be one of the easiest ways to accomplish this.

    This isn't to denigrate the smaller cats and tris, many of which serve their owners remarkably well. It's just that, for a bluewater boat, putting build resources into longer, more spacious hulls seems (IMHO) to be a better choice than putting those same resources into a complex bridgedeck structure on a shorter boat.
     
  13. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    I can't tell you when or where, though it was probably in New England. I'm just going to have to take Jones' word for it, as he wrote about this in his book New Plywood Boats. I believe he's a remarkably honest person, but you're free to believe whatever you want. The story was in the context of describing certain limitations in design. The J/27 was faster than Dandy to windward; that's why they passed Dandy. Jones reports that on a broad reach, the cat was going twice as fast as the J/27. This seems completely reasonable to me. (By the way, he didn't say "hull down." He said "indistinct on the horizon.) Dead downwind, Jones dropped his spinnaker and the J/27 kept its spinnaker up. There was little difference in their speed. So it was only on one leg of the triangle that Jones claimed a speed advantage. But it was a big one.

    As he says, "Of course, we would like to have that extra bit of speed upwind. Among other benefits it would save us hearing the comments of buffoons in J/27s." But the cost of sailing with a too-powerful rig is high, in terms of both money and safety.

    And what's this automatic defense of Corinthians? As with any other group of human beings, some of them are jerks. Are you seriously suggesting you've never heard a crew make disparaging remarks as they sail past a slower boat? If so, they must be a lot more polite down under than they are here.
     
  14. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Bushman, most of Roger simpsons cats are fairly conservative (a good thing) and definatly much better boats than the old british cats i mentioned,Ramtha comes to mind as a very seaworthy design which,at 36ft would be considered by many on this thread to be too small for ocean cruising yet when she was abandoned (through no fault of her own) in the queens birthday storm north of New Zealand she made it through alone and was later salvaged.My reference to the british cats was simply that it is annoying to read on these threads over and over again that you have to have 40 to 50 feet to be able to go offshore in a cat completly, ignoring the many safe voyages in small ones that have gone before,where you need the large cat is if you want to carry all the crap that people feel they must carry with them these days.
    I dont care for most of the old cats because they are heavy,slow,ugly,low bridgedeck clearance,not so good upwind performance,i could go on and on, BUT, they are also seaworthy strong, durable and still provide better deckspace,cockpit space and level sailing and less rolling at anchor and all the other good things that cats provide while offering up marginally better downwind speed in the tradewinds without the rolling when compared to cruising monos of similar accomadations.Whoosh is right about the jerky motion of cats though but im not sure it is there on all multis,i have sailed on old pivers,Horstman,wharrams ,my own Macgregor 36, a GBE, F27 and a Catana, The Catana was the only one with a bad jerky motion,all the other cats mentioned are net and tube types so are a lot more flexible which probably acts like a shock absorber,the catana was wide and stiff and i assume similar to most current larger cruising cats.
    Steve.
     

  15. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    Steve,

    I haven't seen anyone saying that you HAVE to have a 40+ footer to do serious offshore cruising. As has been demonstrated time and time again, smaller cats and tris can and have crossed oceans.

    I think there's a very good argument, though, for a bluewater cruiser to be on the longer side. If you can get all the accommodations you need in a 10 m full-bridgedeck cat, I'd rather stretch the hulls to 13-14 m and ditch the full bridgedeck saloon. The total usable space is about the same, the displacement is about the same, the cost is about the same, but it'll be a faster and more comfortable sea boat.

    Now and then you see 36-foot cats with a D/L in the 200s, a foot and a half of clearance under the bridgedeck, and the interior of a 50' mono. They serve their purpose well, but I think this is a waste of a catamaran form's performance and seakeeping potential.

    Going shorter, with a more compact layout for the same interior space, is great for mooring costs and close-quarters handling, but personally I'd rather have the speed and comfort of a longer boat.
     
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