Part II of the great Catamaran versus Monohull debate. Part I is posted here, Cat vs. Mono – The Great Debate.
So we’ve covered a lot of ground so far. Cost, Maintenance, Engines, Heeling, Deck Space, etc. Now we just need to take a look at a few more variables and then we can come to a decision. Or rather, I will come to a decision and tell you what it is and you will have to live with the truth of it for all time.
Living accommodations. This is a tricky one. Indoors the monohull wins hands down. Our mono is 43′ with a 13′ beam. Our cat was 35′ with a 22′ beam. Yet it is the monohull that feels more roomy, more comfortable, and more homey. Yes, homey. The cat is a poor example of a home. It’s sterile. And despite having four bedrooms and two bathrooms, it has virtually no floor space. The cat looks and feels more like a room at the W Hotel than it does a home. Which for the weekend warrior might be considered a positive.
Kitchen. The catamaran galley looked similar to what you’d expect in a 400 square foot railroad apartment in New York. A mini-kitchen built for dolls to play in . Meanwhile the monohull galley is expansive, with actual real-people sized sink, faucet, refrigerator, stove, and counter space. And while I’ve never actually cooked anything in either of them I can still appreciate how this may be beneficial to those that do.
The cat had floors two-feet wide running the length of the hulls and just the tiniest slice of floor space in the saloon. The monohull however has an actual living room floor. A whopping thirty square feet for us as a family to lounge around on, spread toys all over, and generally act as if we live in a real life land home. Even the aft cabin has a bunch of floor space. I’m sure we must look ludicrous to McMansion families when the four of us are sprawled out on our prison cell sized living room floor, but to a 35′ catamaran owner it must seem luxurious.
The mono also has tons and tons of storage. To this day we’re still discovering compartments. Big compartments. We’ve got enough space to store all of our belongings, including two kids’ clothes, toys, bikes, and car seat. An air conditioner, dehumidifier, and who knows what else resides under a bed. It’s just massive amounts really.
On the cat Ali and I had a lot of storage as well, but it was in plastic containers that had to sit on the beds in the cabins we weren’t using. Aside from under the settee there was hardly any built in storage at all, and that bit was used almost exclusively for batteries. On the plus side I guess is the fact that we didn’t even have to secure those plastic bins on the beds. Being on a cat they never once fell off. Beer cases stayed put too. Even the crap beer we thought to pack back in 2003. I’m so embarrassed.
Wood interior. There really is no substitute for the beauty of a varnished teak interior. Our monohull actually feels like a home. The catamaran’s all white plastic looking interior felt as if it were designed with the idea of being able to wipe blood spatters off of any surface with nothing more than a wet paper towel. Just bleach away the crime scene.
What about safety? Falling off a catamaran would be akin to falling off your living room floor and landing in your front yard. Not easy to do and not very likely. Falling off a monohull is like falling off a trampoline. Very easy to do unless you are cautious at all times. And while I have no hard and fast data to support any opinion I’ve ever had about anything, I do have to imagine that there are a lot more broken bones associated with accidents aboard a monohull than there are on a catamaran.
Sinking? Who really sinks? I’ve never met a cruiser who has sunk his boat. I know it happens because whenever it does the sailing/cruising press goes on high alert. Would you rather be at the bottom of the ocean right side up, or on top of the ocean upside down? Isn’t that the old cat owner joke? To use this as a reason for choosing one boat over another seems like it should be pretty far down the list. Anyway, play the odds and assume that you are never going to be holed by a whale. Discount this argument entirely.
Dockage? True, finding dock space for a catamaran can be a problem. It can also be more expensive. Our cat had a 22′ beam for god’s sake. But in the end I think we were only charged more (1.5x monohull rates) twice, despite taking up two slips.
What about that argument that lots of cat owners like to use about how they can anchor in places that a monohull couldn’t get?
I think this one is bull. Sure there were a couple of places in the Bahamas that we anchored our cat in four feet of water, but by and large, say 99% of anchorages worldwide, we could just as easily have anchored our 6.5′ draft monohull as we could our 3.5′ catamaran. Cats might get to tuck in slightly further, but four feet of water depth vs. seven feet does not usually make much difference in how far from shore you will be. It’s a stupid argument.
Honestly, don’t we already know the answer to this question? Does anybody honestly believe that a monohull can compete with a catamaran? Of course not. The catamaran rules the high seas, while the monohull comes in a respectable second place. Out of two.
I actually consider it almost quaint now to see that occasionally monohulls still have ocean crossing races. It’s sort of like racing vintage Porsches after driving a 911 Turbo to the track. I mean it has to be a little embarrassing for these Open 40s heeled over twenty degrees to get passed by Ma and Pa Kettle aboard their Lagoon 44 having a barbeque in the cockpit.
But that doesn’t mean monohulls don’t have a lot going for them. They’re great value, for one. And to most discerning eyes, and notwithstanding the all white plastic mass production crap, they are more beautiful than cats. The old ones are built like bulldozers. Then there is the nostalgia factor. These things take a lot of people back to that simpler time when they were just kids sitting on dad’s lap steering the boat across the bay. There is something to be said for that.
Let’s face facts though. The catamaran is more stable by a factor of ten thousand to one (note: must check source on this statistic). And that’s really about the only thing that has to be said. It has other factors in it’s favor of course, but when it comes to picking a cruising boat there really is nothing as important as comfort. Nothing in my mind contributes more to the enjoyment and success of long-range long-term cruising than a stable platform.
There is one big caveat though, and again it comes down to the finances. If going cruising now, as in today, means taking a monohull, while the other option is to work another three years while you save up for the catamaran, the monohull wins hands down every time. The cat versus mono debate fades away very quickly when you are at anchor on a Sunday night knowing there is no job to go to the next morning. That instead you will be having a cuppa on deck, going snorkeling, building sandcastles with your kids on the beach, and having fresh caught Dorado for lunch.
Waiting for the day you can afford the catamaran of your dreams is nothing more than an excuse not to go. Your kids are getting older, your parents are getting older, your joints are getting older. Time waits for no one, right? Too many dreams are dashed in those “two or three more years.”
And so, the age old question of “cat or mono” really comes down to “now or later.”
It’s funny, during our first cruise in the catamaran I commented a number of times on the cat versus mono debate. I basically said there was no debate. I even went so far as to wonder aloud why they even build monohulls any more. Of course at the time I’d never actually been sailing on a monohull. And now?
We love our monohull. We don’t love rolling around at sea or at anchor. In fact we hate it. We don’t love our small cockpit. We don’t love using a ladder to get on and off the boat. But we do love being out here in Mexico cruising with our two kids. And that’s really all that matters in the great number of hulls debate.