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Multihull sailing for monohull sailors

2023 January 1

Thinking differently is the key to getting the most out of more hulls

If monohull sailors know one thing about multihull sailing it’s likely the importance of reefing early. Without a deep lead keel under the water the stability of a multihull is much different from a monohull. More than the safety factor, there’s no benefit to be had by overburdening a catamaran. Because the boom is often quite high on cruising catamarans, standing at the mast to reef can be precarious in worsening conditions. It’s far better to reef too soon and have to shake a reef than attempt to reef too late. 

Discovering ‘docking nirvana’

Monohull sailors may be more intimidated by docking a big cat than sailing one, but once they get the hang of it, they can experience what Jose Miranda, an instructor for Blue Water Sailing School, calls “docking nirvana.”

“Once a monohull sailor learns the proper techniques of docking and maneuvering a multihull in close quarters, they enter a state of ultimate happiness,” he said. “Thus the saying, ‘Once you go cat, you never go back.’”

That joy, of course, comes compliments of twin engines that offer far more control than a single engine and deep rudder can. Of course getting the hang of docking a catamaran takes practice but a few tricks will get even novice cat sailors to the dock relatively unscathed. Most of the close maneuvering should be done with the throttles rather than the rudders, so leave the wheel centered and put both hands on the throttles. From there, think of the boat like a shopping cart, nudging forward one once throttle and pulling back in the other to turn.

Spring lines, an important factor in successful docking for any boat, are even more important on a catamaran, particularly one without a bow thruster. Using a spring line may be the only way to get off a dock, particularly when factoring in the additional windage of a big cat. 

Springing off the dock can be a little nerve wracking because you basically turn the boat into a lever. The general process is to run a dock line from the bow to a cleat on the dock near the stern of the boat and load up fenders at the bow. Then apply a bit of power to the engine farthest from the dock. This pushes the bow in (that’s where the fenders come in handy) and the stern out, and then you can drive out backward. 

Thin-water anchoring

Anchoring a multihull can be a delight for monohull sailors who may for the first time get the opportunity to experience the shallow end of an anchorage.  

“Crossing from monohull to multihulls will open up far more anchorages,” Miranda said. “The shallower draft on multihulls will open a multitude of anchorages that may be off limits to monohull sailors. And anchorages that may be a bit to wavy for monohull owners, might be perfect for multihull cruisers since two hulls give you much more stability than what the average fin keel monohull offers.”

Because of their displacement and extra windage, catamarans require additional anchor rode. A minimum of a 5-to-1 ratio of rode to depth is required. Miranda said his rule is a 7-to-1 ratio. 

Passionate multihull sailors, many of whom came from monohulls, say that any adjustment in thinking and the disadvantages of a multihull—including the additional expense that comes with a wider boat with double the engines—are far outweighed by the delight of speedy sailing in a flat platform with room for friends, family and living.

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