Can You Sail a Catamaran Around The World?

Can You Sail a Catamaran Around The World? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Many people have sailed around the world in traditional monohull sailboats, but has anybody tried with a catamaran?

Sailing around the world is hazardous and trying at times, so it pays to have a sailboat that's built for the job. Sailors place a premium on safety and comfort—so where do catamarans fit into the equation?

Yes, you can sail a catamaran around the world. In fact, full-size catamarans are some of the best circumnavigation sailboats on the market. They offer superior comfort, safety, storage space, and speed when compared to monohulls.

Catamarans have become increasingly popular since the 1990s, and they're seen in ports all over the world. If you consider their handling characteristics, it's no wonder they're so popular for circumnavigation. But what are the things that make cruising catamarans so good for long ocean voyages?

We sourced the information used in this article from sailboat design guides and the online sailing community. We also considered the input of several experienced catamaran captains, most of which have embarked on circumnavigations in catamarans and monohulls.


Table of contents

Can You Circumnavigate in a Catamaran?

You can absolutely sail a catamaran around the world! In fact, catamarans are preferred by many sailors for long ocean voyages, and dozens circumnavigate in all seasons each year. The number of catamarans continues to rise every year, and some of the world’s most influential long-distance sailors have switched to them from monohulls.

There are many benefits to choosing a catamaran for a circumnavigation, and we’ll cover some of those soon. But first, here’s what makes a catamaran suitable for an around the world sailing trip.

What Kind of Catamaran Can Sail Around the World?

Not all catamarans are ideal for long ocean voyages, but the vast majority above 25 feet in length are. The kind of vessel that's suitable for a long ocean voyage is called a cruising catamaran.

Cruising catamarans have a number of defining characteristics that make them ideal for Sailing around the world. Here are a few of them.


Cruising catamarans have extensive cabinet space. Smaller catamarans that aren't designed for large ocean voyages aren't designed for comfort. Cruising catamarans have between two and four staterooms, along with a large covered cockpit and standing headroom throughout.

High Freeboard

Cruising catamarans have a high freeboard, which means the decks are relatively high above the water. They also have a shallow draft, as a catamaran has no need for a centerboard, fin keel, or bulb keel.  


Catamarans are not as long as monohulls relative to their capabilities. A 35 or 40-foot catamaran has much more interior space than an equivalently-sized monohull. Catamarans split their living quarters between the two hulls and include an additional spacious covered cockpit above.

Cruising catamarans range in size from 30 feet to 60 feet in length, and they typically measure around 40 to 50 feet from stem to stern. The bottom limit for livable Catamarans seems to be about 25 to 30 feet. Catamarans that are smaller than this lack the space for comfortable living accommodations.

Benefits of Catamaran Circumnavigation

Catamarans are quick and robust, and they make excellent long-term cruising sailboats. They're spacious, safe, comfortable, and have exceptional handling characteristics in almost all weather conditions. Here are some of the main advantages of choosing a catamaran to sail around the world.


Speed is one of the most significant benefits of sailing a catamaran around the world. The ocean is a huge place—and unless you're sailing just to sail, it's always advantageous to shorten the time between destinations.

Catamarans are fast—really fast. A typical cruising catamaran can reach speeds in excess of 20 knots in the best conditions, which is more than twice as fast as a typical monohull. This is because catamaran hulls cancel out the hydrodynamic interference that limits the 'hull speed' of monohulls.

Speed also has other important benefits. For one, it reduces the amount (and cost) of provisions that you need to store aboard. Additionally, speed gives you more flexibility when planning and avoiding weather.

Comfort in Rough Weather

Speaking of weather, catamarans have another notable advantage: stability. Catamarans are inherently stable vessels, and they ride much more softly in the rough weather than traditional sailboats.

Catamarans distribute their weight between two hulls. These hulls are connected on the tops, and water is free to flow in between them. Catamaran hulls are also sharp and narrow, and their shape allows wave punching.

This allows them to cut through waves instead of riding over them, and the effects of lateral rolling are also greatly diminished. That means it won't roll as violently from side to side.


All that extra stability contributes to the overall safety of the catamaran design. Since they incorporate two hulls, catamarans are extremely difficult to capsize.

There's another hidden safety benefit of the catamaran design. If in the very unlikely event that you capsize, a catamaran will float just as well upside down provided the hulls split apart. This makes it an effective life raft in a catastrophic situation.

Extra Storage Space

Catamarans have tons of extra storage space, especially if you're traveling with a smaller crew. A typical cruising catamaran has accommodations for around eight people or more and usually includes at least four bunk areas in the hulls.

With all that extra room, there's plenty of space to store food, toiletries, emergency supplies, souvenirs, and personal items. There's also plenty of room for guests.

Room for More Passengers

Catamarans have many more sleeping spaces than an equally sized conventional sailboat. Catamarans usually include two master staterooms in the forward part of each hull and two aft.

The hulls typically contain at least one head in each, and usually two. Some catamarans include four large bathroom/shower combinations, which give each passenger or couple a private bathing area.

Larger 'Day Living' Spaces

Catamarans also have larger living areas between the hulls. The cockpit of a cruising catamaran is usually covered and spans almost the entire beam of the vessel.

This space often contains the galley and a large sitting area, along with a chart table and other essential equipment. The hulls can be accessed on either side of this space, and there's usually a large window forward.

There's standing headroom throughout the covered cockpit. It more than makes up for the lost space in the comparatively narrow hulls, as these areas are used primarily for sleeping.

Shallow Draft

Catamarans don't need an extended keel for stability. As a result, they draw very little water and can traverse shallow waters that similarly sized monohulls couldn't dream of accessing.

It's easy to beach a catamaran which makes it an excellent island-hopping boat as well. Plus, when the tide runs out, a catamaran will rest evenly on the seabed without any additional supports.

Cons of Sailing Around The World in a Catamaran

So what are the cons of sailing a catamaran around the world? We covered many of the benefits, and we'll touch on a few additional topics here. But there are some downsides that are important to consider.

Size Limitations

Size is your friend out on the open ocean. The wide beam and considerable length of most cruising catamarans make them exceptionally safe and comfortable in a variety of weather conditions. However, most marinas aren't designed for Doublewide boats, and size restrictions could cause headaches in many parts of the world.

The problem of having a wide boat extends beyond the marina. Many channels in passageways can't accommodate wide boats, and those that to me charge more for your passage.

Structural Deficiencies

The vast majority of cruising catamarans are extremely well-built and will never suffer any serious structural failures. However, the basic design of a catamaran makes it vulnerable in certain places, specifically where the hull meets the frames that hold them together.

There have been several cases of catamarans literally snapping in half, usually when under tremendous load or when improperly maintained. This can usually be attributed to a flaw in a specific vessel, and it's not very common. But it is a possibility, and monohulls are not susceptible to it.

Cost to Sail a Catamaran Around the World

Are you waiting for the downsides of sailing a catamaran? Cost is the biggest one. Catamarans are obscenely expensive compared to conventional single-hull sailboats.

The average new catamaran cost upwards of $300,000, and some cost as much as $750,000. An equivalent monohull, new from the factory, costs around $150,000-$200,000. Cruising catamarans don't lose much value either, and you're still likely to pay over $100,000 for one.

Compare that to a monohull. A conventional sailboat that's capable of sailing around the world (say, 40 feet or so in length) is likely to cost between $30,000 and $60,000. Some are even cheaper. For many people, the cost is the prohibiting factor when choosing a sailboat to circumnavigate with.

How Popular are Catamarans for Circumnavigation?

If you've spent much time in the sailing community, you've undoubtedly noticed the prolific number of catamarans on YouTube, internet forums, and sailing blogs. But are catamarans really as popular as they seem, or is it just a case of selection bias?

Catamarans are surprisingly popular these days, but mostly among buyers of new and lead model sailboats. Catamarans, as we know them today, weren't produced in great numbers until recently, and they've only been popular for sailing around the world since the 2000s.

Over the years, an increasing number of people have chosen a catamaran as their long-range cruising sailboat, and the sailing community widely accepted the superior handling and comfort of these vessels.

Catamaran Vs Monohull for Circumnavigation

So, which is better for sailing around the world, a catamaran or a monohull? When it comes to sailing around the world, a Catamaran is an obvious choice for a number of reasons. Speed, safety, and comfort or the primary benefits, and these are worth their weight in gold on a long circumnavigation.

Catamaran Vs Trimaran for Circumnavigation

But what about the trimaran? Many multihull sailors prefer the trimaran due to its superior speed, and many claim it has better motion comfort as well. A trimaran, which has three hulls, is a sizable upgrade from a monohull.

Comparatively, a trimaran is a much less considerable improvement over a catamaran. They also cost more, but the exceptional handling and motion comfort of a trimaran is worth it to many.

Can You Sail a Catamaran Around The World?
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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