Are Catamarans Good In Rough Water?

Are Catamarans Good In Rough Water? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

August 30, 2022

Catamarans are comfortable and offer large and comfortable living spaces, making them ideal for longer trips. But are catamarans good in rough water?

Yes, catamarans are good in rough water. One of the reasons for this is that boaters have the option to steer from the inside during bad weather. What's more; the size, bridge, and bridge clearance all contribute to catamarans being a joy to drive when the water conditions are less than ideal.

Due to the width of the catamaran, you can have a large dinghy with a powerful engine, which is always good to get through rough waters. However, other factors also need to be considered when navigating your catamaran through rough waters.

As experienced sailors, we're quite baffled by the myth that catamarans can't handle rough waters. Having sailed these wonderful vessels for years, here, we're going to put these myths to rest. Let's get started.


Table of contents

Sailing Catamarans

In essence, we need the same sailing abilities as any other sailing boat to sail a catamaran. A catamaran, on the other hand, is considerably easier to manage. As a keel sailing yacht, a catamaran may sail close to the wind. The drawback is that the drift is substantially greater, owing to the lack of a deep keel (only while sailing upwind).

Another major factor that sets the catamaran apart from the rest is that it is quicker in half and heavy breezes (and certainly more comfortable). The helmsman aboard a catamaran can do all sailing movements by himself because all essential lines are channeled to the helm. However, if the sailor requires further assistance, they also have the option of an autopilot function for some extra assistance. This is a great feature to have, especially when trying to navigate through rough waters.

In comparison, monohulls are more difficult to sail than catamarans because they heel significantly more, and they have less room and comfort in the cockpit. This is one of the reasons why sailing in a heeling boat is more difficult. Catamarans, on the other hand, do not heel. You can easily move around the boat because of its added stability and space. As a result, catamaran boats are thought to be "easier" to sail.

A catamaran differs from a monohull in that it has TWO hulls, two motors, and two rudders. When comparing the two types of boats, a catamaran's engines and rudders are spaced far apart, making navigating easier (particularly in tight situations like within the marina) than the single-engine monohull.

The good news for those who are thinking about getting a catamaran is that while some folks think that learning to operate a power catamaran is just too tough and that they will never get used to maneuvering a cat, the truth is that catamarans are extremely easy to control once you get the hang of it. They certainly have a lower learning curve as compared to monohulls.

In fact, cats are considered to be very easy to handle by experienced boaters. Once you understand the basics of keeping a correct trim, you'll be 90% of the way to being an expert. Experienced boaters would tell you that learning to sail a catamaran was simple and that they find it better than sailing a monohull, which only shows just how good catamarans are for sailing or when navigating through rough waters.

Advantages of Catamarans 

Because a catamaran has two separate hulls, it has an extremely little possibility of sinking totally. If one hull is damaged or leaks, the other hull will float. A catamaran, on the other hand, cannot lose its keel and will not capsize readily. However, if it capsizes, it will not be able to right itself. Even if a catamaran capsizes, it will float.

Catamarans also have the advantage of duplicating several essential navigation systems that are crucial for onboard safety, making it easier to control the catamaran even with minimal resources. For instance, it is possible for boaters to still sail and steer using a rope or net in the propeller if the engine is damaged. Additionally, when one of the rudders on the catamaran fails, sailors can still steer by using the other rudder and the engines.

One of the main difficulties that boaters face when navigating through rough waters on a catamaran is the risk of falling overboard. This issue is solved with the catamaran because these boats are designed with a wider gangway that does not have any obstacles in the way, which makes it easier to walk up and down the boat.

Also, since the catamarans are known for not tilting easily while sailing, even through rough waters, the risk of going overboard is lowered dramatically as compared to monohulls.

One of the biggest myths that monohull salesmen tell potential power catamaran buyers is that they will be flung off the boat if they need to turn quickly at high speeds. While catamarans do lean slightly outward at moderate speeds and in slow spins, the effect is so modest that no one is at risk of falling into the sea.

The twin-hull design provides for a smooth drift in beam seas. That's because catamarans are designed to settle considerably faster as compared to monohull designs. This is mainly because they do not suffer from the pendulum effect that a monohull does. After all, every movement has an opposing edge.

Some believe that the dual hull design's fundamental flaw is that the two hulls compete for dominance in the catamaran, both tugging in different directions. But, this could not be farther from the truth. Despite the fact that catamarans have a different design than monohulls, with their own unique handling, learning to drive a catamaran is far easier than learning to drive a conventional boat.

Catamarans, as opposed to monohulls, perform better in head seas because of their twin-hull configuration. The key is hidden in the tunnel. Between the tunnel and the water, the air is trapped, producing a cushion of air for the boat to ride on, giving you the finest ride possible.

Factors that Make Catamarans Easier to Navigate on Rough Waters


The length of the blue water catamaran is crucial in resisting strong winds. Longer cats move more easily, are more maneuverable, and are naturally heavier. Strong winds can readily toss the boat about if its length is proportional to its other dimensions.

Most cat aficionados think that a catamaran should be at least 40 feet (12 meters) to keep its stability in rough waters. The optimal length-to-width ratio is 45 to 22 feet (13.72 to 6.71 meters). Because it has greater capacity, a larger boat can carry more weight, and you may arrange your goods in a more ordered manner. This also makes it much easier to handle them in an emergency. It is also important to note for beginners that a heavy-weight boat (lead-filled keel monohull) will move through the waves, but a light vessel will go up and over them.

Bridge Clearance

The distance between the hulls is referred to as bridgedeck clearance. The cat's capacity to manage turbulent waves in a pleasant and safe manner is determined by the bridgedeck height. The high bridgedeck clearance allows waves to flow freely between the hulls.

When there isn't enough bridgedeck clearance, sailing in strong waves produces slamming and pounding that more experienced boaters are familiar with. The pounding might lead to tiredness among the crew and a loss of speed. Furthermore, it will result in increased wear and tear on the gear and equipment. When the boat is heavily laden, the bridgedeck clearance will be lowered.

As a result, the taller it is, the more freedom you have when it comes to filling your boat with gear, water, and gasoline. The pounding under rough circumstances may be unpleasant for both the boat and the crew. Although bridgedeck height is more of a comfort-related consideration, the pounding under rough conditions can be stressful for both the boat and the crew.


When compared to monohulls, one of the benefits of a cat is its incredible stability on the water. This is the case regardless of the type of catamaran you go for and ensures that you are always going to get the highest level of stability while out on the water. Thanks to the boat's multi-hull structure, it will be more stable, with no more heeling.

Even in strong waves, catamarans experience less rocking and rolling, making the crew more comfortable and assisting them in dealing with the situation. The crew's ability to steer the vessel in harsh weather is influenced by fatigue and even seasickness. Catamarans, unlike monohulls, do not have a ballast or lead-filled keels. As a result, their stability is entirely dependent on their broad beam and buoyancy.


It pays to make sure that you stay as far away from harmful situations as possible at sea. This is where catamarans make a good option, mainly because a high-speed catamaran can help you get out of a sticky situation more quickly. To avoid such terrible weather, weather monitoring and smart routing are required. It is important to note that displacement is a critical component that influences speed in a catamaran. The good news is that light displacement is common in contemporary cats, resulting in lower hull drag and increased speed.

Are Catamarans Good In Rough Water?
Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

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