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Chartering a catamaran - some great tips

by Grant Headifen, Nauticed on 8 Jun 2011
Catamaran sailing - your drink won’t spill .. .
In this article Grant Headifen, Principal of Nauticed online sail training school, talks about bareboat chartering of a catamaran on a sailing vacation, and gives some great tips:

Of the dozens of flotilla trips I’ve lead to the Mediterranean, Pacific and the Caribbean, I’d say it was about 50/50 between monohull charter and catamaran charter.


Chartering in the Mediterranean, however tends to be more monohulls because of the tight space available in the marinas. Not to say that you can’t do a catamaran charter in the Mediterranean but if you want to, you should plan on booking ahead far in advance (perhaps one year).

Sailing a Catamaran on a yacht charter sailing vacation in the Caribbean is much easier and more prevalent. Still, these days with the popularity of Catamaran Charter, you should still book at least 6-9 months in advance.

Catamaran Charter in Belize:
A good money saving tip here is to get on the email list of the catamaran charter companies. When they’re having a special – they’ll be certain to let you know. One week either side of a low/mid/high season could save you thousands.

No heeling over while sailing a catamaran:
There’s lots of advantages to a catamaran sailing boat over a monohull on a sailing vacation. First off, you don’t spill your rum. Whilst sailing a catamaran, even on a beat to windward, you don’t heel over. You can just set your drink down and it won’t slide off the table.

New sailors like catamaran chartering again because of the no heeling factor. Funny – I can’t understand it – but new sailors don’t like spending all day hanging on for dear life. Go figure that one out.

True monohull sailors tend to scoff at sailing a catamaran but – we say 'Get over it. Sail a monohull at home and do a catamaran charter on holiday with your family and mates. It’s not about you – it’s about everyone on the boat having a really good social fun time. Apologies for the admonishment but ….'

But there are things to be careful of:
One of the interesting differences about sailing a catamaran is that because they don’t heel over, you have to be especially wary about the loads on the rig. On a monohull, as the boat heels over, the load stays about the same because there is less sail area presented to the wind. When you get too much heel, it’s a signal to reef the sails. When sailing a catamaran, the loads just increase as the wind strength gets higher. Usually there is a chart that comes with the catamaran to show when to reef according to the wind strength. You should identify this chart before you leave the dock.

You can also twist out the top of the sail to reduce the wind load on the sails. You do this by pulling the traveler to windward and letting out on the mainsheet (with the boom vang loosened). This allows the boom to rise up and twist out the top of the mainsail. As a result forces aloft are reduced and consequently so are the forces on the rig - BUT you should reef the sails when you reach the windspeeds shown in the reefing chart or else risk the rig coming down!

The traveler on a catamaran is so wide that this becomes a more noticeable effect over many monohulls. In the photo to the left you can see how the sail aloft is pointing at a much different angle than the sail section near the boom. Thus the bottom of the sail is doing the powering with a vastly reduced heeling (rig breaking) moment.

Learn to sail online at Grant's online sailing school, or brush up on your techniques, by http://www.nauticed.org!clicking_here

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