Sailing A Catamaran

In this article, we’re really talking about bareboat chartering of a Catamaran sailing boat on a sailing vacation.

Of the dozens of flotilla trips I’ve lead to the Mediterranean, Pacific and the Caribbean, I’d say it was about 50/50 between monohull charter and catamaran charter. Chartering in the Mediterranean, however tends to be more monohulls because of the tight space available in the marinas. Not to say that you can’t do a catamaran charter in the Mediterranean but if you want to, you should plan on booking ahead far in advance ( perhaps 1 year).

Sailing a Catamaran on a yacht charter sailing vacation in the Caribbean is much easier and more prevalent. Still, these days with the popularity of Catamaran Charter, you should still book at least 6-9 months in advance.

Catamaran Charter in Belize

Catamaran Charter in Belize

A good money saving tip here is to get on the email list of the catamaran charter companies. When they’re having a special – they’ll be certain to let you know. One week either side of a low/mid/high season could save you thousands.

There’s lots of advantages to a catamaran sailing boat over a monohull on a sailing vacation. First off, you don’t spill your rum drink ( I say Rum drink here now because of our newly formed alliance with Mount Gay Rum who sponsor the Sailing Spoken Here website and community. Mount Gay Rum has made NauticEd their exclusive Sailing Education partner (slight pat on the back to the NauticEd team)). Whilst sailing a catamaran, even on a beat to windward, you don’t heel over. You can just set your drink down and it won’t slide off the table.

No heeling over while sailing a catamaran

No heeling over while sailing a catamaran

New sailors like catamaran chartering again because of the no heeling factor. Funny – I can’t understand it – but new sailors don’t like spending all day hanging on for dear life. Go figure that one out.

True monohull sailors tend to scoff at sailing a catamaran but – we say get over it. Sail a monohull at home and do a catamaran charter on holiday with your family and mates. It’s not about you – it’s about everyone on the boat having a really good social fun time. Apologies for the admonishment but ….

One of the interesting differences about sailing a catamaran is that because they don’t heel over, you have to be especially weary about the loads on the rig. On a monohull, as the boat heels over, the load stays about the same because there is less sail area presented to the wind. When you get too much heel, it’s a signal to reef the sails. When sailing a catamaran, the loads just increase as the wind strength gets higher. Usually there is a chart that comes with the catamaran to show when to reef according to the wind strength. You should identify this chart before you leave the dock.

You can also twist out the top of the sail to reduce the wind load on the sails. You do this by pulling the traveler to windward and letting out on the mainsheet (with the boom vang loosened). This allows the boom to rise up and twist out the top of the mainsail. Thus forces aloft are reduced and consequently the forces on the rig. BUT you should reef the sails when you reach the windspeeds shown in the reefing chart else risk the rig coming down.

The traveler on a catamaran is so wide that this becomes a more noticeable effect over many monohulls. In the photo below you can see how the sail aloft is pointing at a much different angle than the sail section near the boom. Thus the bottom of the sail is doing the powering with a vastly reduced heeling (rig breaking) moment.

catamaran sailing: sail twist out

catamaran sailing: sail twist out

NauticEd’s Catamaran Sailing Confidence Sailing Course leads NauticEd Sailing Students through the switch over from monohull sailing to Catamaran Sailing. It even has a sailing game that helps the students learn to maneuver and dock a catamaran using the dual engine controls embedded into the catamaran sailing course. And as a reward for reading this blog – we’ll tell you that the Catamaran Maneuvering Game is Free when you set up a free student account with NauticEd. Login now using your facebook account.

We highly recommend (of course) that if you’re going to do a catamaran charter in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, that you take both NauticEd’s Bareboat Yacht Charter Sailing Course and NauticEd’s Catamaran Sailing Confidence Sailing Course.

Sailing a catamaran is pretty easy but there are some nuances that you should know like reefing etc above that you really should learn before you leave the dock.

If you’re thinking about a bareboat yacht charter sailing vacation, invest in the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master Sailing Certification accepted world wide by most charter companies including The Moorings, Sunsail, BVI Yacht Charters, Sailing New Zealand, Kiriacoulis etc etc.


My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.
Grant Headifen
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Last updated on February 2nd, 2023