How do you select the right catamaran to best suit your cruising? Learning from other owners is a good place to start
They have two different boats, different sailing plans and two very different sets of experience. But what these cruisers have in common is a desire to explore in two hulls rather than one.
Hal Haltom explains how he drew on decades of monohull sailing to choose a relatively light displacement Outremer 51 for the World ARC, while David Weible and Kellie Peterson tell of their snap decision to sell up and set sail in a Lagoon 42. They share hard won tips about setting up the boat for ambitious cruising and give an insight into life at sea.
Hal Haltom – Outremer 51
Hal Haltom, 59, from Texas, bought an Outremer 51 in 2016 and set off on the World ARC that winter. With his wife Marsha and daughter Haley, he has sailed more than 27,000 miles across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans to reach South Africa and believes that it makes sense to buy a lighter boat that performs better in light winds.
We did two trips through the eastern and western Caribbean with our kids about 10 years ago on a Tayana 52 monohull. This time we switched to a catamaran because it had features that we thought were better: living above the waterline, level (and not rolly) and easier sail handling.
Once we decided to switch, we started looking at the available boats in our price range. My wife Marsha and I have raced sailboats for many years and we wanted a better sailing cat, which ruled out the heavier ones. At the Miami Boat Show in early 2015 we looked at a Catana and St Francis but it was an Outremer 51 that interested us . Afterwards, we flew to the company’s factory in La Grande- Motte in southern France and were impressed. We thought the Outremer 51 was a boat that a couple in their 50s could handle and we ordered one and took delivery in May 2016.
Fit for bluewater
Ours is the base boat with only a few options added because Outremer builds a boat that is ready to go bluewater cruising. We have an aluminium mast, Mastervolt lithium battery system (360Ah at 24V), Dessalator watermaker, 560W of solar panels, and a Watt & Sea hydrogenerator. All this equipment worked well. As did the B&G instruments, Lecomble & Schmitt autopilot, Volvo D2-40 engines, and Incidence and Delta Voile sails. We don’t have a diesel generator.
Sailing on a sunny day, we can run the watermaker using only the batteries and on a cloudy day, I may need to turn on an engine for an hour or so. Each engine has a 110A alternator running through a Sterling booster. At anchor, we rely on the solar panels, which is all that is needed in the Tropics.
My advice would be to buy a boat that sails well and handles easily. Also, I would keep the equipment as simple as possible while maintaining the comfort level you need. Passagemaking is hard on boats. A light boat requires less effort to sail and a simpler boat requires less maintenance and repair. Even though our boat is a light cat, we have found it to be well-built and comfortable. Outremer has also been very responsive in dealing with any issues during the two-year warranty period and beyond.
After spending the summer cruising the Mediterranean, it was time to head off on our big adventure. We left La Grande-Motte in October 2017. We sailed to Spain and Gibraltar and crossed the Atlantic to St Lucia in November 2017 with the ARC+ rally. We joined the World ARC rally in St Lucia and sailed to Panama, through the canal, across the Pacific to Australia, and then across the Indian Ocean to Richards Bay, South Africa, where we are now.
The three of us have sailed more than 27,000 miles and are pleased with our choice of boat. Fast cruising is enjoyable and it is always good to get into port sooner.
We typically sail in tradewind conditions at boat speeds of 8 to 10 knots. We had six 200-plus mile days in a row during our crossing of the Pacific from the Galapagos to the Marquesas.
During our Indian Ocean crossing we had 30-plus knots of wind for several days and 4m seas. The boat also performed well in those conditions.
When cruising, you see more light air than heavy air and it is very nice to have a boat that will sail fast in light air. An additional benefit of a fast cat that is often not mentioned is the ability to sail with a reduced sail area and still go fast. We often sail with two or three reefs in the main and just our working jib in 15 knots of wind, which makes the boat very easy to handle, while still going fast. Another advantage is with narrow hulls and a smaller saloon the side decks are wider, which make moving around much safer. Our huge foredeck also makes sail handling much safer and easier, with less stress all round as we move through the water.
David Weible and Kellie Peterson – Lagoon 42
David Weible had a liveaboard adventure on a leaky monohull many years ago but he and his partner Kellie still managed to surprise themselves when they decided to sell their Florida home and go cruising. They chose a Lagoon 42 and, with few regrets, have just crossed the Atlantic to Saint Lucia after a summer in the Med.
A little more than a year ago, we were riding our bikes across the playa at the Burning Man festival in Nevada when a dust storm rolled in. We took refuge in a lighthouse art installation, talked about our dreams and hatched a plan: sell everything, buy a sailboat, sail the globe — and share our story on YouTube.
Four months later, we made an offer on a Tartan 44 monohull in St Petersburg, Florida. A sea trial and inspection revealed major issues, so we kept looking for another bluewater cruising boat. In February, we flew to San Diego to see a Tayana – another disappointment. But the effort wasn’t a total loss: we discovered catamarans. We looked at Leopard, Fountaine-Pajot and Lagoon. When we boarded the Lagoon 42, a comfortable catamaran that could really take us places, we were sold.
Hull #300 was delivered in August. We moved aboard on a Saturday and set sail across the Bay of Biscay the following Wednesday. Sitting at anchor in Spain, navigating narrow rivers in Portugal, picking our way through the Atlantic fog, surfing big swells on the way to Madeira, lounging with the wildlife in the Selvagens and currently sailing across the Atlantic Ocean have all added up nicely and validated our decision to buy the catamaran.
Starship Friendship handles a lot better than we expected. These heavier cruising catamarans sail really well with the right sail plan, but they do come with a relatively conservative set-up. The square-top main, Code 0 and ACH cruising chute options are a must. On a dead run, speed over ground exceeds half of the true wind speed; up to 45° into the wind, with 15 knots or more, she does even better. On a beam reach, she nearly matches true wind speed; fly the chute in as little as 8 knots and she’ll keep a comfortable walking pace downwind. In a solid swell, she’s balanced and comfortable. Crew members suffer little or no seasickness and are not worn out after longer passages.
We still have a wishlist of improvements including a dual battery charger for 110V and 220V, painted bow compartments to avoid fibreglass itchiness, an accessible place for wet gear and fishing tools, and a bit more solar and battery capacity (oh, and a Parasailor too). The broker recommended two rigid LG300 solar panels, which put out roughly 270W each at max output. This is not enough to run all systems on the boat, so when we go offshore, the generator becomes a necessity – we run it for roughly four hours per day. If money were no object we would have loved to put a custom stainless attachment above the dingy davit with three or four panels, which would be the correct amount of power necessary for our boat.
Otherwise, we have not done much to her. The lighting indoor and outdoor is bright and does not have dim or colour option. We put red spinnaker tape over our lights when offshore to create a more friendly night environment and intend to have red lighting in the Caribbean. We also installed an electric toilet in the owner’s cabin, which has been really nice.
The helm station is a hot topic among Lagoon 42 owners. It’s a love-hate relationship. A lot of owners find the seat uncomfortable and too short. We have seen many modifications. In bad weather we are cautious and always use safety tethers while at the helm. We run a piece of webbing on occasion from the arm rail on the seat to the grab rail on the helm for additional safety in heavy conditions.
Our only real regret is that we were rushed to meet our Atlantic crossing deadline. Buyers benefit from more time and support during the handover. Details like setting up the boat, walking through the installed gear, testing the systems and reviewing best practices make the experience less stressful and more satisfying for those with resources on hand.
If we ever pick up a new boat again, it would make sense to deal directly with a local representative — having boots on the ground seems to improve the experience for those we’ve talked to. Our friends in the Lagoon community rave about the assistance they received with warranties, training, and delivery services from local agents. That said, would we buy again? Yes. The stability, easy sailing rig, forgiving design and comfortable floor plan deliver one hell of a good lifestyle.
The Starship makes cruising easy and handles a variety of conditions comfortably. Her reliable performance under sail has made our passages pretty awesome. From France to Gibraltar, Tangier to Madeira, Salvagen to Cape Verde and across the ocean — the voyages of Starship Friendship have been stellar. She’s even a bit famous. The YouTube channel ‘Sailing Starship Friendship’ chronicles all the good and the bad. Luckily, the stability of a catamaran makes editing at sea easy and new episodes are published every Sunday – even in big seas and strong winds!