The Myriad Benefits of Cat Charters

With more room, lower costs and shallow draft, what’s stopping you? (Published Spring 2010)

Planning a sailing charter is a methodical process with multiple considerations. Where should we go? What size and type of boat will we need? And—importantly—How can we all live together on a boat for a week and remain friends? Many of those decisions boil down to one big question: monohull or catamaran?

ONE HULL VERSUS TWO

One great thing about cats in general is that they satisfy many different types of sailors. New sailors who are not accustomed to the heel of a monohull will quickly feel safe and relaxed on a multihull. This is nice for them and the others onboard, who—lest we forget—are on vacation. We all want to relax and savor our precious moments on holiday, rather than hanging on for dear life and watching breakfast become fish food over the leeward rail.

Novice sailors will also enjoy the comforts afforded by a catamaran’s spacious layout. The confines of a monohull can be intimidating for newcomers used to the creature comforts of home.

More experienced sailors, who may have sailed a beach cat, previously chartered a monohull or are considering a boat purchase, will be rewarded with a new experience. Adding the practical knowledge gained during a cat charter to your sailing resume will only help in the long run, and sailing a multihull can provide a needed boost in confidence to break out of habit and try a new venue on your next voyage. Plus, there is no better way to push yourself than by trying out some erstwhile tricks while learning new skills.

SET IT AND FORGET IT

From sail handling and motoring to anchoring and mooring, modern catamarans have become extremely user-friendly. Whether you are a trim freak or Otto Helm is your best mate, a cat’s sail controls are set up for ease of handling to help you get the most out of the wind conditions. Often, the running rigging on a cat is led back to the helm, keeping it centrally located. This is nice because it keeps the congestion out of common areas where people may be having a meal, sunbathing or just trying to stay out of the way. And it doesn’t hurt if you’re shorthanded, either.

Maneuvering under power in a catamaran is easy with engines in each hull. Windage is the biggest difference between a cat and a comparatively-sized monohull; make sure you pay due diligence to how much the wind will move a cat around under slow speeds.

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In a cat, unlike a monohull, you can basically spin the boat on a dime. This comes in handy when maneuvering in close quarters like a mooring field, anchorage or marina. In tight spots, try steering less with the wheel and concentrating more on how each engine will turn the vessel.

One trouble with operating a cat under power is having limited ability to see all four corners of the boat. To alleviate this problem, post a crewmember in blind spots to help you tell distance. And it never hurts to hand them a fender!

COME ONE, COME ALL

Family, friends, neighbors, your kid’s soccer team—everyone can fit on a catamaran. One overriding and undeniable advantage of a cat is the plethora of living space for all aboard. Multiple cabins and heads, a large bridge deck and galley, ample storage room and a spacious deck are common features on most charter cats.

Many people choose to charter catamarans based solely on these criteria alone. And why not? Large families or groups of couples can have their own personal space instead of cramming into smaller cabins, galleys and heads for a week at a time. One common hesitation of charterers is finding the perfect mix of friends who will work well on a sailboat for a week (and remain friends afterwards), and that problem is only compounded when you try to pack them into a tight space on a monohull.

When several families charter a cat together, not only are there cost benefits, but there’s also ample room for activities. The trampoline is a great spot to soak up some sun while waves pass below, or take in a star show on a clear night. Large tables in the saloon and aft deck can easily accommodate card games, happy hour and family style meals.

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A catamaran with four large cabins can comfortably accommodate four couples, all of whom may not be seasoned sailors. Your crew will appreciate having the ability to spread out in their private spaces down below as well as on deck during the day. Crew happiness is of utmost concern when deciding to charter, so try a cat and stay friends.

SEALING THE DEAL

Finding a big enough monohull to accommodate a sizeable group can be a challenge in certain areas, but large catamarans capable of fitting the whole crew are readily available through many reputable charter companies, including The Moorings, Sunsail and Maine Cat.

Catamarans have plied the waters of the world for thousands of years, sailed by everyone from fishermen and explorers to racers and daysailors. But now, the popularity of charter cats is at an all-time high. Be discerning and choose a vessel that will truly accommodate your needs—and those of the broad spectrum of guests who choose to set sail with you.

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CHARTER RECOMMENDATION: THE ABACOS

reat Abaco Island and its surrounding cays form a perfect blend of cruising character, natural beauty and friendly island atmosphere for a catamaran charter.

Not enough can be said about the many islands that make up the Abacos. There’s idyllic Hope Town on Elbow Cay, with its oft-pictured lighthouse, or its neighbor to the north, the quaint and laid back Man-O-War Cay. The stunning beach at Treasure Cay is first rate, and the famous feasts and libations at Nipper’s on Great Guana Cay will nourish your appetite and quench your thirst. The islands and their surrounding waters have a charm and beauty that is complimented by warm smiles. The friendly morning cruisers’ net radiates this vibe on VHF channel 63 at 8:15 am and will keep you in the loop on everything from the day’s weather to current events.

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One of the biggest reasons for choosing a cat in the Abacos is depth. The Bahamas are relatively shallow in general, but the Sea of Abaco rarely sends your depth meter deeper than the mid teens. Cruising in a cat with a shallow draft will keep your nerves at bay as you glide though the water, just feet from the bottom. The thin depths also make for trouble-free anchoring. And the numerous sandy bottom bays and coves are at your disposal for a lunch stop or overnight visit.

The Abacos’ proximity to the East Coast of the United States also makes the area a logical choice. Several flights arrive and depart from Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay each day, and charter boats, grocery stores and restaurants are all nearby.

The reasons for choosing a catamaran as your next charter vessel and the Abacos as a place to cruise are too many to count. The large platform you choose to cruise on will maintain your comfort, while the pleasures of exploring the beaches, anchorages, reefs and restaurants that envelop this tropical locale will keep you coming back for more.

For more, visit www.bahamas.com/out-islands/abacos

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