Catamaran vs. Monohull Sailboats

Catamaran vs. Monohull Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

November 18, 2020

When it comes to catamaran vs. monohull, there are two schools of thought that always prompt impassioned debates as to which one is much better.

If you've used both a catamaran (a boat with two hulls) and a monohull (a boat with one hull), you know that they both have pros and cons. In most cases, it all boils down to your personal preferences and intended use but that shouldn't prevent us from highlighting the better one.

A catamaran is much better than a monohull in many ways. Catamarans are more stable, faster, and spacious. They also offer safer anchorage and are easy to control. Monohulls are more maneuverable, have lower costs, and better when sailing upwind. It all comes down to personal preference and intended purposes, but when it's all said and done, a catamaran has more advantages than a monohull.

In this incisive article, we'll highlight the critical differences between a catamaran and a monohull and see the one that comes out on top.

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Catamaran vs Monohull

Safety

Safety while out there on the water is one of the most critical things that any sailor should have in mind when choosing the type of boat to use.

Catamarans

Catamarans shine on many aspects of safety. They're generally more stable and seem to have natural buoyancy since they don't have ballast and this makes them almost unsinkable. Generally, catamarans are designed with a considerable amount of reserve buoyancy thanks to the crannies of the vessel, nooks, and closed-cell foam. These objects can, however, become a serious cause of safety concern should there be a fire outbreak. All in all, a cat can sink in an accident, but it'll most likely float on the surface of water unlike monohulls, which will sink to the bottom.

Again, catamarans have flat decks. This makes it a lot safer to walk on them than it would be to walk on angled decks of monohulls. Given their flat decks, a catamaran boat will stay level and have less pitching and so it's a lot easier to keep the crew aboard and safe even in rough weather.

Another important fact that may contribute to the safety of a catamaran is its speed. If you've always believed that speed equals safety, then a catamaran is the right boat for you. In short, the speed of a catamaran will allow you to outrun rough weather. A modern catamaran can clock nearly 250 miles a day, which is quite faster, and so there's no reason why you should get caught in bad weather.

Monohull

In terms of safety, a monohull is nowhere near a catamaran as far as safety is concerned. The most important thing about a monohull in terms of safety is its self-righting capabilities. With a monohull, you're likely to return to an upright position even after capsizing and this can give you a chance of accessing onboard safety equipment, floatation devices, life raft, EPIRBS, dinghy, strobe lights, and many more.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of a catamaran. With a catamaran, you'll stay upside down once you're upside down and this can be fatal in the middle of the ocean.

Verdict: The self-righting capabilities of a monohull can be life-saving but it isn't guaranteed. On the contrary, a catamaran has loads of safety features chief among them is its unsinkability, so it easily comes out on top as far as safety is concerned.

Speed and Performance

Catamaran

If everything including length remains the same, a catamaran is about 30% faster than a monohull. A cat can sail at half the speed of wind but this will, of course, upon the angle of the wind. It remains the faster vessel and will allow you to arrive at your destination promptly. If anything, you can outrun bad weather with a catamaran.

Monohull

Monohulls are generally designed to operate pleasantly with the sailing elements. This means that they won't fight these elements and will, in turn, offer slow but sure sailing. However, they do not have a lower wetted surface area and are certainly much slower when compared to catamarans. They can, nonetheless, be a great choice for sailing upwind.

Verdict: When it comes to speed, the catamaran wins hands down. No argument.

Stability

Catamaran

Needless to say, a catamaran is designed with two parallel hulls that give it a more reliable form of stability. This is crucial in preventing heeling and capsizing while also mitigating any chances of rolling when speeding. This stability is also of great importance in eliminating seasickness for passengers.

The level of stability that a catamaran has is one of the main reasons why capsizing is a very rare occurrence. A catamaran can lurch when the tops of the waves are at a certain distance, thereby leading to less bobbing.

Monohull

The stability of a monohull will always be questioned, especially when compared to a catamaran. To put it into perspective, a monohull is four times more likely to capsize than a catamaran because its design means that it has less stability. If anything, a mono's single-beam design makes it seven times more likely to feel the effects of heeling than a catamaran of the same size. In essence, heeling is a major problem in monohulls.

Verdict: The high level of stability that a catamaran brings to sailing will make even a novice sailor feel more confident sailing on a catamaran. Differently, a monohull is less stable and seems to be in constant rolling and pitching motion, which makes it very unstable and unsafe to walk around the deck.

Maneuverability

Catamaran

In most cases, cats always have twin engines, set almost 20 feet apart. This will not only give you superb close control in tight situations but certainly removes the need for a bow thruster. While it may seem redundant to have twin engines on a cat, you'll appreciate the importance of the second engine if the first engine develops a mechanical issue while you're out there on the water.

The shallow drafts of the catamaran also play a major role in maneuverability in the sense that you can navigate into places where you can't get with a monohull such as close to the shore without thinking about running aground.

Monohull

From a different point of view, a monohull can be better in terms of maneuverability since you won't be dealing with two hulls. A monohull can also make sharp turns and even sail through narrow channels and tight spaces, which is almost impossible with a catamaran. Additionally, a monohull has a higher hull displacement, which is essential in reducing the adverse effects of crosswinds, especially in tight conditions.

Verdict: The differences in terms of maneuverability are slight in both the catamaran and monohull. The fair verdict here is a draw.

Docking and Anchorage

Catamaran

With no ballast or a considerable keel, the overall weight of a cat is significantly reduced. This makes it more lightweight and this is why it wouldn't be uncommon for a 36+ foot catamaran to explore some of the shallow areas that a monohull wouldn't dare reach.

However, the wider and unique size of a cat means that it won't easily fit on a traditional slip and this needs a unique set of skills and careful planning to anchor at most docks. This means that finding the right space at the dock can be quite difficult, so you may have to take a dinghy to the shore.

Monohull

A monohull is a lot easier to dock as it takes less space compared to a catamaran. This means that your docking, hauling, and slipping charges will be much less than those of a catamaran.

Verdict: Does it make any sense to bring two boats to the shore? Well, this is what you do when you have a catamaran and it certainly loses to the mono as far as docking and anchorage are concerned.

Ride Comfort

A comfortable ride is, without a doubt, one of the most important things to consider when looking for the right boat for you.

Catamaran

The fact that a catamaran is designed with a wider footprint is of great importance in mitigating the negative effects of unpredictable rolling and pitching that sailing is known for. A catamaran has a broad surface area, which makes it more comfortable and stable. As such, it's a lot easier and safer to cook while sailing.

Again, your passengers will be less prone to seasickness in a catamaran because there's less pitching and a cat doesn't roll from swell to swell as it happens in a monohull. That's not all; walking on the deck of a catamaran is a lot easier and safer since the boat is flat. This makes reefing much easier and safer and your chances of falling overboard are greatly reduced. More importantly, it's more pleasurable to sleep in a catamaran because it never heels.

Monohull

In terms of ride comfort, a monohull offers smooth sailing as it doesn't slap or pound the water like a catamaran. This is because it works harmoniously with the sailing element and doesn't fight it like a catamaran, especially when sailing upwind. However, seasickness brought about by constant rolling and pitching of a monohull.

Verdict: If you want to have a comfortable sailing ride, a catamaran has many benefits than a monohull as long as it has a superb bridge deck clearance that disperses wave action.

Maintenance

Catamaran

A catamaran is general designed with two of everything. From the two hulls to the two engines, you seem to get things double, which can be reliable when sailing if there's an issue with one part. In other words, you always have a backup.

However, the costs of maintenance can be high if you have to maintain the boat, even though you can still use one part if the other part isn't working.

Monohull

The fact that you only have single parts means that you have to be very careful and ensure that your monohull vessel is maintained or repaired regularly. Fortunately, the costs of maintenance and repairs are greatly reduced when compared to those of a catamaran.

Verdict: It's highly doubtful that you'll take your catamaran out if one of the two hulls or engines are faulty. The monohull wins this.

Cost

Catamaran

The costs of a catamaran are substantially high since everything seems to come in pairs. However, catamarans are known to have high resale values, very low depreciation rates, and can sell a lot faster than monohulls because they're more popular with modern sailors. But because catamarans aren't widely manufactured in the United States, their costs are still high as you'll have to include the delivery costs.

Monohull

When deciding to buy a monohull vessel, you should keep in mind that they're widely available on the market so their costs might be a bit lower compared to catamarans. Again, their low maintenance cost will work to your advantage.

Verdict: The costs of buying and maintaining a monohull are quite low, so it's the best choice if you're on a tight budget but still want to enjoy sailing. Catamarans are very costly to build and are more expensive than monohulls.

Deck Space

Catamaran

The amount of deck space afforded by a catamaran is huge and always very spacious. The amount of space that a cat can afford you is one of the main reasons why you should choose it if you're looking for comfort or planning to live aboard the vessel.

Monohull

On the contrary, monohulls are narrower when compared to catamarans; hence they have a very limited deck space. This is particularly mitigated by the fact that they have additional storage space.

Verdict: A catamaran has a lot more deck space and wins on this.

Load Distribution

Catamarans

Unlike monohulls, catamarans are rectangular and are more stable. This is essential in giving the passengers more freedom without necessarily having to worry about how their weight is distributed inside the boat.

Monohulls

A monohull is almost similar to standing on one leg and balancing can be quite overwhelming. This means that the weight of the passengers will have to be evenly distributed to ensure that the boat is balanced. Of course, this will limit the freedom of passengers and any imbalance might make the boat capsize.

Verdict: You don't have to worry about load distribution in a catamaran but this can be a negative issue in a monohull.

Fuel Efficiency

Catamaran

If you want to save money by reducing the fuel costs, a catamaran is an ideal option. A cat generally experiences little drag or resistance and doesn't need lots of fuel to move. They also have a steady rise in speed, which means that there will be no sudden increase in fuel consumption.

Monohull

In comparison, the level of drag created due to greater displacement in a monohull vessel means that there will be a higher resistance and this translates to higher fuel consumption.

Verdict: A monohull consumes more fuel than a catamaran, so a cat is an ideal option if you're looking for fuel-efficiency.

In Conclusion

To this end, it's easy to see that a catamaran comes out on top as the best option on many fronts. This doesn't mean that a monohull doesn't have its advantages. Of course, it has both advantages and disadvantages just like a catamaran does.

And even though the catamaran comes out on top, the final decision is on you and may depend on your personal preferences. Whatever you choose, make sure that you enjoy your sailing vacation.

Catamaran vs. Monohull Sailboats

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