TIPS FOR CATAMARAN SAILING
INSTRUCTION AND CERTIFICATION
Do you want to learn about catamaran operation, prepare for a charter in the Caribbean, or learn about catamaran sailing, systems, maneuvering, or docking? We can teach you by sailing a catamaran . A popular option is a half to a full day of instruction before your cruise, ask us for details. There are probably more uniqueness in systems on a catamaran than in how to sail it per se. Catamarans have bridles, gull strikers, salons, hulls, and of course two of many things, we can familiarize you with the equipment to make your cruise more enjoyable.
See below for a few pointers....
HOW IS A CATAMARAN EASIER TO SAIL?
You may have heard that cats sail without heeling, have larger flatter decks, shallow draft, and simpler rigs. This is all true and makes it easy and safe to sail a catamaran; after all you don't slide off a flat surface, it is harder to run aground with a four foot draft than six and it is safer if you can stay in the cockpit to do all the sail handling. Now in fairness there are a few other differences, please read on....
Ever heard that it is difficult to tack a cat? You heard right. Under certain wind conditions it is more difficult to tack a cat. The problem is that a cat has less momentum because it is lighter and might slow down enough to not make it through the tack. The back-wind to the rescue! Until you are familiar with the boat, it is more reliable to back-wind the genoa when tacking. Simply keep the jib sheet in place while turning until the boat is past the direction of the wind, then release and sheet in on the opposite side, then winch in like crazy:)
MANEUVERING A TWIN ENGINE BOAT AND SOMETHING ABOUT DOCKING
You can, if need be, spin a catamaran around in place. Do this by locking the rudder in the center position, then reverse one engine while applying forward thrust with the other. Equal thrust in opposite directions will cause the boat to turn to the side with the engine in reverse, without moving forward or backward. Try it, it's fun.
Applying (more) forward power with the starboard engine while under way will cause the boat to turn to port and vice versa. This can be used to make a sharper turn. Remember to disengage the autopilot before trying this or you'll soon be back on your previous heading.
DOCKING A BEAMY CATAMARAN
Catamarans are beamy, this is one of the reasons for their stability, but visibility on the opposite side from the wheel is generally poor, especially the bow . It is easier to approach a dock that is on the side of the wheel, where you, the skipper, are. As always when docking: Slow down! Head into the wind/current and have a crew guide you to the dock. If possible approach with the dock on the wheel side. Always use plenty of fenders and/or fender boards.
Taking the pooch to shore.
DRAFT? WHAT DRAFT?
They say that the average depth of the Chesapeake Bay is 10 inches. I am not sure how accurate that is, but there are plenty of shallow areas. Don't be deceived by the fact that land is far away, some shoals extend far out into the Bay and don't look shallow of course. Luckily catamarans don't draw a lot of water (4 ft for Imagine), this means there are more banks you can cross and a lot of anchorages where you can get closer to the shore, just remember to slow down and watch the depth gauge, also keep an eye out for crab pots.
WHAT TO DO WHEN EVERYONE IS LOUNGING ON THE TRAMPOLINE AND THE SKIPPER IS LEFT ALL ALONE AT THE WHEEL?
Stay right there at the wheel and enjoy the quiet and solitude.
Maybe time to reef?
WHEN TO REEF?
Since a catamaran does not heel very much, how do you know when to reef? The rule of thumb is: Reef when you start to feel it is time. Even if the boat is not heeling there are plenty of clues, to let you know it's time: You are going very fast, say 12+ knots. You can't hear what people are saying because the wind is howling and there is the occasional spray of green water hitting you in the face. The horizon is not completely horizontal anymore. The jib sheets are very hard to winch in. The wind speed is over 16 knots. The wind speed is building. There are dark clouds on the horizon. These are all signs that it is time to reef.
So what do you do? First reduce the mainsail. Put in a reef in the main by lowering the main halyard, attaching the strap on the mast to a ring on the mainsail and tightening down one reef line, then re-trighten the halyard. Under these conditions always wear a PFD and hank on your safety harness. Now might also be a good time to locate your predetermined safe harbor.
If you need to reef more, roll in the furler 20%, there are markings on the port side of the genoa. This will be easier and safer when done before the wind has increased too much. The easiest way is to turn downwind, this blankets the jib from the wind, then furl in the jib and get back on course. DO NOT try to winch the furling line in with the cockpit winch. A second crew is necessary if not on autopilot.
A sign that you are reefed enough is that the boat sails as fast as before reefing, but it feels more settled. You will also feel better.
Try to keep the speed under 11 knots. You can furl in the genoa even more and put in a second reef in the main and then head for safe harbor. Reefing the main is easiest on a starboard tack because you can see the reef lines on the sail. DO NOT LEAVE THE MAINSAIL UP ALL THE WAY AND FURL THE GENOA IN ALL THE WAY, always furl a little and lower the main to the next reef point in steps.
PRIVACY, WHAT PRIVACY?
We all know that there is a shortage of privacy on sail boats. The configuration of a catamaran allows for slightly more privacy in that the four cabins are located at maximum distance from each other. There is a door to each cabin that you can close, although there still is the opportunity for a kid to poke a cute face (or whole body) down through an open hatch and surprise you:)