How do I Switch to Skippering a Catamaran?
We get this call almost every day – “I’ve been sailing a monohull for years and am confident. I want to take a catamaran on a sailing vacation. What does it take to switch to a catamaran? Do I need a Catamaran Certification?”
Looking at switching over to sailing a catamaran on a sailing vacation or to buy? The thought of it can be intimidating and everyone wants to sell you something which may or may not be correct information.
Here we break it down for you to the real story and take away the intimidation.
First off, Yacht Charter Companies are totally fine to upgrade you to a catamaran as long as you have had plenty of large monohull skippering experience. “Plenty” meaning more than say 50 days of skippering a large monohull. “Large” meaning 38 ft (12m). If you’ve done that, you are essentially good to go – except that you’ll need to demonstrate your stated skills to the charter base once you get there. They will want to take you out for about 3-4 hours and make sure you are comfortable maneuvering the boat in the marina and getting the sails up and down.
Much of your experience should be fairly recent i.e. within the past 5 years and some in the last year or so. You should not be “rusty”. Also, you don’t want to exaggerate your previous experience because if the charter company feels that you are not so competent to handle their million-dollar boat, they will deny you being able to take it by yourself and demand that you take a Captain for either a few extra days or the whole week. A captain takes up a cabin so some of your guests will either need to sleep on the trampoline, in the sail bag, in the forepeak if there is one, on the couch, or under the table. In this sense just check in with yourself – have you really had that amount of experience and do you feel confident that you can pick up the maneuvering bit in a few hours enough to impress the charter company at the base? If so – go for it.
Regarding operating a catamaran, for now, we recommend that you at least take the NauticEd online Catamaran Sailing Confidence Course. This will give you a good idea of what to expect in terms of upgrading. The course is aptly named – it is designed to give you the confidence that operating a Catamaran is really pretty simple. It assumes that you know how to sail a monohull.
There are some big differences in operating a catamaran sailing yacht over a monohull. Fortunately most work in your favor. Maneuvering for example is a breeze (excuse the pun). A catamaran can spin inside its own length. The dual engines make maneuvering incredibly simple. BUT you just have to get used to it – i.e. gain a bit of experience. So how do you gain experience when no one will rent you a Catamaran?
Having said all the above, we apply the word PRUDENCE. Prudence means you think about your abilities, your true experience, your true knowledge, and how you handle yourself in an emergency situation. You ask yourself, what would a prudent person do in my situation? Many times the true answer would be to get some professional instruction prior to the trip just to be sure. A professional catamaran instructor will run you through everything you need to know when switching over to a catamaran. They will take the time you need to master your abilities.
NauticEd has many professional catamaran instructors and some can travel with you to that perfect destination. Visit our sailing schools page and look for the CAT logo next to each school.
What if I Don’t Have a Lot of Monohull Experience?
See prudence above. It also means that it is doubtful that any yacht charter company will give you the Catamaran for a week – nor should they. You don’t have enough experience. Even if you go through a “zero to hero” program at a school, and get a “catamaran certificate” you still don’t have enough experience. A catamaran certificate DOES NOT GUARANTEE you to be able to rent a catamaran – a full resume does.
Here is a pertinent blog article we wrote on why hire a captain on a sailing vacation. Read that article before you think about “winging” it.
What we totally recommend to solve this chicken-before-the-egg problem is to simply hire a local skipper on your Catamaran Sailing Vacation – the cost will be around $1500 for the week and you will learn so much more because you are actually there and actually doing it. The Captain will teach you how to handle the boat and by the end of the week, you will be able to add that experience to your logbook and resume – getting you closer to going on your own. There are so many other advantages to hiring a skipper – see the article above.
Sailing in the Mediterranean
If you’re ever planning on going to the Mediterranean (you should), you’ll need to master the Mediterranean Mooring technique. The Med Mooring is when you perfectly back your boat to the (very hard concrete) cay (pronounced key), stop perfectly within 2 ft (0.75m) of your stern to the cay, and your crew perfectly attaches docklines in the right manner to the cay, then pick up a slimey line running from the cay to a Corpa Morto (concrete block out in the slip channel) and perfectly attach that to both bows. In reality it is easy and we explain it very well in the Catamaran Sailing Confidence course. But you need some experience at doing that. To gain the Mediterranean Sailing License – the SLC, you need to demonstrate your skills, knowledge, and experience to your assessor as a requirement for gaining the SLC license.
In the Mediterranean, you will not do a Mediterranean Mooring once or twice during a weeklong vacation, you’ll do it maybe 10 times and each time you have to do it perfectly because there is likely to be a 10M Arab Prince’s yacht right next to you.
It is thus a very good idea to become a master at Mediterranean Mooring before you go sailing in the Mediterranean skippering your own boat. Don’t worry we gotcha covered. Catamarans are more maneuverable. All our SLC Assessor/Instructors are Mediterranean Mooring qualified.
Sailing License and Certification
You don’t need a license or certification to sail a large Catamaran in the Caribbean or Pacific. Companies that tell you so are just trying to sell you something. If they just told the truth, you could believe other things that they say but as soon as they say you need a catamaran certification, drop and run away. What you do need is to be confident and competent – if they start there then you should continue conversations.
For the Mediterranean and the Seychelles you need a Sailing License. A sailing license is similar in nature to a car drivers license. It is a legal requirement. The difference is that Countries and States are not set up to do competence assessments on boats themselves. Thus they appoint officially recognized sailing education bodies such as NauticEd to oversee the issuance of licenses. NauticEd issues the SLC which is an officially recognized sailing license for the Mediterranean and Seychelles by those governments and port authorities. Yacht Charter companies themselves are responsible for ensuring that their clients show a sailing license upon arrival at the base (or beforehand). They take the license to the local port who gives them permission based on the license for the yacht to leave port with the licensed skipper.
Acceptable licenses for the Mediterranean are the NauticEd SLC and the United Nations ICC (issued by European companies). The IPC has been known to work although in some cases it has been denied because of its rubber-stamp nature. Some IPC’s are issued by passing a 1 week long zero-to-hero course (only) and the holder shows up to the base with a license but no competence. We don’t knock “zero-to-hero” courses since all education is good education (well mostly). Just that yacht charter companies have thus been burned. You must be competent plus hold a license to charter a yacht. Standards for the ICC and the SLC have been put in place to ensure competence before licensure.
NauticEd provides a Catamaran Sailing Certification in two forms. One is a Catamaran Qualification, the other is a Catamaran Endorsement. The difference is that a Catamaran Qualification means a student has passed the online catamaran course and has demonstrated via their logbook sufficient catamaran sailing experience for NauticEd to feel confident that the charter company will allow the client to properly and safely charter their catamaran vessel. The Catamaran Endorsement means that the student has demonstrated their on-the-water catamaran skills to a NauticEd Professional Assessor and that the Assessor felt comfortable that the student was competent. The Endorsement carries more weight than the Qualification. Here is our support article on Catamaran Qualification and Endorsement.
We hope that gave you some good thoughts about upgrading to a catamaran.
The takeaways are:
- NauticEd can help you with finding a professional instructor for
- a short day of training and competence gaining
- OR find a training instructor for a weeklong Catamaran sailing adventure.
If you’re thinking about taking a sailing vacation, the NauticEd Sailing Vacations team can help with the entire booking reservation process. We don’t charge a fee and often save our clients money by our large database search ability.