Cap’n Jack here…
In the previous episode of Cat Calls Summer Squalls I was saying…
…At night the cat calls kept us wake. I awoke at about 3:00 am on morning only to find Nicole fully awake and both of us thinking about catamarans. We could not stop thinking of the possibilities. I could not stop thinking of the drawbacks of cats. The Kitty Hawk was like a part of me. Breaking that bond would be like cutting my arm off. Could I do it? Would I do it? Could I dash all of Nicole’s hopes and now dreams? This was one summer squall that messed up my head and became a maelstrom in my heart.
And now for the long awaited finale…
Once at the Magothy River we tied up alongside Ile de Grace the Orana 44 that Jon and Jennifer Galudemans own. We learned a lot that weekend and the kids loved jumping on the trampoline. I got more than an earful of all of their experiences on their circumnavigation and found that I had begun to succumb to the cats’ callings as I began to see myself actually sailing and living aboard those boats. Jon made a comment that stuck with me. He stated, “We did not sail around the world as much as we anchored around the world”. Considering that cruisers spend about 90% of their time at anchor, the comforts of living on a “catamaran condo” weighed heavily in the cat’s favor. This meant that whatever drawback there was to the sailing of a catamaran this would only impact us 10% of the time. “I could live with that” I thought to myself. The big cruising catamarans can in fact feel like a condo on the water. They have so much room inside and out, plus the trampoline is like having a front yard for the kids to play on.
The wrap around windshield of the salon reminds me of the observation deck of the USS Enterprise, the Star Trek one. It would not only have that terrific view but we could stand there looking out into inner space and dream of the sights we would see from there as we traveled the world. A voice saying, “These are the voyages of the star-ship…” playing in the back of our minds.
Switching boats would be like moving from a two bedroom two bath house to a four by four, plus a huge cockpit, deck, etc. The thought of a new house, especially one we would buy together, definitely made the wife happy. Purr, purr, purr!
In the past, one of the things I did not like about cats was their motion. I much preferred the hobby horse motion of a mono-hull under sail. I did not mind the healing either, but I wasn’t the one trying to cook and care for the kids while under way. Once we got out on our Bahia 46 I was pleasantly surprised by her motion. It was not like the one I had experienced on a different smaller cat years before. With her weight and the distribution thereof, her movement was gentle and not choppy. Sailing fast and not healing meant being able to carry on with life as usual while under way instead of wedging oneself into a corner
while using ones legs to brace against the opposite seat and with the kids strapped into their car seats for far too many hours. Sailing fast in light winds and being able to point higher that our previous boat meant more comfort under sail and more choices in terms of weather windows. It also adds to the safety factor related to making faster passages. On the biggest leg of a Pacific crossing we could expect to easily cut a week to ten days off that passage. That means that the risk of adverse weather catching up with us is reduced by reaching safe harbor sooner. Since we can sail closer to the wind we don’t have to wait for the wind to shift. Sailing fast in light winds means that we can get out there when the seas are kinder.
Catamarans being light as they must be to sail well do not have a thick hull with a heavy layup such as our previous “coral cruncher”. This fact together with the fact that they have spade mounted rudders were two reasons I had my reservations against cats. How did I mitigate those issues? Well, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. If you want one thing then you can’t have another, such are the compromises, however this is not exactly the case here. Ok, I said I would not go to sea with a spade hung rudder and although there are cats with skeg mounted rudders, this is not the case with the FP. However, the fact that rudders on cats are much smaller than on a mono-hull and the fact that there are two of them, plus the fact that the cats track better and have less load on the rudders than on a mono-hull reduces the need to have the rudder fully supported. Aside from that, FP’s have a solid stainless steel rudder shaft inserted into a very long rudder shaft tube which is fully integrated into a bulkhead which makes for a solid, beefy installation. The family who owned Let it Be before us sailed back from New Zeland to French Polynesia in the Roaring Forties. This alone attests to the vessels seaworthiness in my book. They did however have trouble with their steering but that was due to a failure of one of the rudder’s tiller arm. The failure was caused because the owner modified it by replacing one of the set screws with a larger one, thereby reducing the effective area of the metal around it, so it cracked and let go, allowing the rudder to spin around and collide
with the saildrive. We have addressed this potential failure point by having a beefier tiller arm machined and will carry the originals as spares. As for the thinner lighter hulls, well, we must be more careful not to hit coral, but since the boat draws less than four and half feet, the chances of this are reduced. More so, since the keels on this boat are designed to break away without compromising the hull, the actual hulls are only about two feet under water. Those keels are set in such a way as to protect the saildrives and the rudder. In reality we just need to make sure we do not hit anything. We certainly will not be taking the chances we took with the CSY.
We have heard of a catamaran that had one of its saildrives pulled out by a line that got wrapped in the propeller. The rubber membrane which creates a seal between it and the hull pulled out of its retainer ring leaving a gaping hole where water entered and began to flood the engine compartment. They saved their boat by shoving a towel in the gap from the outside while deploying additional bilge pumps to keep up with the flow. They then managed to re-attach the membrane. Although this is an area of risk, on the Bahia this has been mitigated by building water proof bulkheads which separate the engine compartments for the rest of the hull. Also, the volume under the steps in the back of the boat is filled with foam to add flotation in such emergencies. The area behind the bows is also filled with foam to a level well above the waterline in case the hull is compromised by crashing into an underwater obstruction. One cliche used by multi-hullers in defense of their choice of boat is that a multi-hull’s natural resting place when holed and filled with water is on the surface of the water, however, a mono-hull, with a ballasted keel, will rest on the bottom of the ocean. When it comes to an ocean rescue, being spotted and a partially submerged catamaran is easier than looking for a life raft or people bobbing in the water with life preservers. So this is another plus for cats.
What about catamarans capsizing? This is something I feared. After sailing the Kitty Hawk through Tropical Storm Gama I knew what she could do and how safe I felt on her even in those conditions. I was apprehensive of the cats, but was pleased to learn how stable cruising cats are and the fact that stability is built into the design. One of those mitigating factors, I have been told, is that the rig in this cat is designed to give way, break off, before it will capsize the boat. Such is why it’s recommend that we reef, that is reduce sail, as recommended by the manufactures when the wind increases. “Reef by the numbers” say the multi-hullers. Before these cats begin to raise one hull out of the water, the boat should begin to side slip, thereby reducing the risk of a capsize, so I am told.
I must admit there were many other factors which I weighed in this process of selecting a cat, but none of those was as hard as simply breaking with the Kitty Hawk. What helped with that was that we sold the boat quickly to a couple that had done their research well and appreciated everything we had put in her. Also, we got to really liking the couple, and have become good friends with the Prices. For me it was like giving my daughter away in marriage and I was please that she had found a good match. The other thing that helped was when we found this boat online, being sailed by a family like us, we immediately felt this was the right boat for us. Then we learned its name and it was “Let It Be”. Beyond all of my concerns and confusion thereof, the name spoke to something deep within me. The cat said, “Let it Be”.
…and they lived happily ever after.