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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection


Wharram cat at Cooper Island, BVI in 1973
People have been discussing the merits of multihulls vs monohulls since the early trimarans appeared.

In the 1960s when legends such as Arthur Piver experimented with new designs, weight was key. His 30' Nimble was so light it literally slid across the waves, but became dangerous when enthusiasts started adding gear. He regularly pushed his designs to the limit and sadly died at sea in 1968, but he laid much of the groundwork for the multihull revolution.

Multihull design has changed unrecognizably. If a modern day charter captain could see the Wharram cat that Tim Short and his young bride Jan sailed from England, before becoming the first proprietor of the Cooper Island Beach Club in 1973, they wouldn't want to sail it outside the Drake's Channel! Wharram's philosophy was to let the hulls flex independently of each other as they moved over each wave. Dozens of these pioneer cats sailed around the world (see footnote below, for more on this picture and these cats).

Instead of a bunk in one hull, a galley and a bucket in the other, and a trampoline stretched between the hulls serving as the open air salon, a modern 45' cat has four guest cabins, four heads and a salon the size of some living rooms. They come with every luxury, from A/C to water and ice makers. The newest designs have flybridges and profiles akin to three story buildings, but what space and comfort!

Like it or not, it is a fact that cats are steadily becoming more popular in the charter fleets (and with boat buyers everywhere). This is most noticable in the Caribbean, particularly in the sheltered waters of the Virgin Islands, which are ideal for them.

Here are some statistics (these are departures between November 1 and October 30).
2000-2001: Cats made up 24% of our bookings
2003-2004: Cats made up 29% of our bookings
2007-2008: Cats made up 32% of our bookings

These figures include bareboat and crewed charters worldwide. The trend is slightly more pronounced when limited to the Virgin Islands. The fleets have tended to bias their inventory towards cats, as they are more lucrative, which might have an influence on these figures, because a monohull sailor can sometimes be persuaded to charter a cat when that's what's available, but generally a cat enthusiast is a cat enthusiast!

Most people have a fairly good idea which hull type they prefer, and I do hope that everyone will take the time to tell us by voting in this month's poll at the end of the article. To help fuel discussion, here are some pros and cons of both.

1: More of a sensation of sailing. Someone who has grown up sailing a monohull will often miss the sheer sensation of heeling and plowing through the waves.

2: Monohulls tend to be better in rough, open water conditions. Many multihull enthusiasts will dispute this, but generally in rough conditions, the monohull plows relatively comfortably through the waves and the cat follows the surface, resulting in far more movement. The two bow waves tend to combine under the bridgedeck and slam on the flat surface, sometimes quite violently.

Flat decks on a monohull charter yacht3: Monohulls tend to have more attractive lines. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but most people would agree that cats are more practical than pretty.

4: More economic. Monohulls are of course less expensive to charter (and to buy) than similar length multihulls. This is particularly true when just two people are chartering a boat. A cat will often have three or four relatively small equal cabins, only one of which will be used. A couple might do better taking a monohull with a much larger master cabin.

5: A monohull will point closer than a cat and will sail better upwind. Offwind however, the multihull will sail faster, particularly as the wind freshens and the monohull spills air as it heels. With some of the heavier cruising cats, the speed difference isn't as great as some people believe.


1: Incredible space for the length. Comparing the two types by length is however misleading. A more fair comparison is by price, as a 45' cat can cost as much as a 55-60' monohull. The cat might still have more room, but not by the same margin.

2: Salon on the same level as the cockpit. Few people stay below when sailing a monohull, but because a cat's salon is at cockpit level, with large windows, it really is practical to sit in the salon while sailing, which opens up so much more sitting space.

3: Privacy. The cabins on a cat tend to be at the far corners of the boat, leading off a central salon.

4: Huge flat decks and a trampoline forward. Even compared to a larger monohull, the cat will have more deckspace and will allow even larger groups to 'find their own space'.

5: Virtually no heeling when sailing or rolling at anchor. Cats draw less so can get in closer to the beach, so the fact that they don't roll at anchor is a big advantage.

6: With two engines set far apart, a cat is more easily maneuvered under power. Until they get used to it, monohull sailors are however sometimes intimidated by the enormous beam when approaching a dock and by the way a multihull slides sideways in a crosswind, as it has so much less of a keel

7: Elderly or handicapped guests will find it a lot easier to go below, move around the cockpit or get in and out of the water on a cat.


Wharram catamaran, British Virgin IslandsFootnote on Wharram cats. My picture of Tim and Jan's cat was taken at Cooper Island, BVI in 1973. Notice the lack of boats, people, mooring bouys and houses!

There were actually two Wharram cats in the BVI at the time, which shows how popular they were with long distance sailors. Peter Hansen and Emy Thomas went on to sail theirs to Australia. Emy wrote a book about it, called 'Home is where the boat is' and Peter is still building and sailing cruising cats. James Wharram is still designing and building this traditional style of cat to a loyal following, though they are not as spartan as the originals.


I prefer a monohull for my next charter.

I prefer a multihull for my next charter.

I prefer a powerboat for my next charter.

Not sure (ask us for advice!)

Probable number of guests in your party for this next charter.

Generally there are

more than 8
in my charter party.

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