Why we chose a catamaran for cruising | ITIKI on Tour | FP Helia 44
Written by Lynda Shelley aboard ITIKI, their FP Helia 44 Evolution
For those of you who know Keith and I through our racing experience, you may have been surprised that we bought a catamaran (well two catamarans actually, as ITIKI is our second). For me personally, having always raced monohulls, and chartered them a few times as well, I really didn’t know any different. Keith as you know has dabbled in cats from the early days of racing Hobies, to his more recent dalliance with Adrenalin Rush Sailing (a Nacra 36 based on Hamilton Island) but as far as racing big boats goes, he is still a “mono-man”. The modern cruiser racers and cruising monos are of course very well laid out, spacious and wide and we had been considering the Hanse 40 amongst other options. All of that changed though when Keith did a delivery on a FP Lavezzi (precursor to the Lipari) from Adelaide to Sydney. He came back a changed man extolling the virtues of a catamaran for living aboard. We then chartered a cat in the Whitsundays for a few days to get a taste of it and I was instantly on the same page. So what’s the big deal? Here are the top 5 reasons why we chose a catamaran for our cruising adventures:
Space – Yes I know modern monos are wide and spacious however unless you are looking at a Deck Saloon model all that space is inside or “down below”. Our Helia has a huge amount of space indoors and outdoors on the same level with panoramic views all around. The U-shaped kitchen has plenty of bench space, large fridge and freezer and is reasonably secure for cooking underway should the need arise.
2. Space – for comfort. We have 3 bedrooms with queen sized beds, and 3 bathrooms as well as room for a full sized 7kg washing machine. We have a good-sized lounge area and outdoor dining area as well as a cocktail deck (now complete with lawn…) Plenty of room for us as well as space and privacy for our guests. My lower north shore Sydney apartment only has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.
3. Space – Being 7.5m wide we have room at the back for a reasonable sized RIB with a good sized (15hp) motor. Being on davits it is easier to lift in and out of the water. Monohulls either have to tow their (often smaller) dinghies behind, or lift them on and off the deck at night or when underway. Having a good-sized dinghy and motor increases your range from the mothership, which is handy if you are anchored out. It means you can explore interesting coastline, cross a large bay and go into town for a provisioning run, rather than having to come alongside a town quay or go to a marina to access civilisation or pick up visitors.
4, Space – With 7m between the two Volvo Penta 50HP engines your manoeuvrability increases dramatically. ITIKI can turn on a dime and is also easy to manoeuvre in reverse, which is important for crowded anchorages, med-mooring and coming into marinas and town quays. It is like having stern thrusters on both sides.
5. Space – or lack thereof – under the keels. ITIKI draws 1.15m which is pretty handy in crowded anchorages as it means you can go in closer to shore and take advantage of those shallow corners that mono-hulls will have to avoid.
6. Space – there are lockers, lazarettes, cupboards, coffee tables, drawers, wardrobes as well as plenty of storage space under seats and floor boards (note: this could be a downside…) but the bottom line is you never have to throw anything out and you need never run out of wine! Although you might just forget where you stashed it…
Of course there are some downsides to a catamaran but considering the amount of time you spend at anchor (lots) vs underway (a lot less) we feel these trade-offs are worthwhile, and readily manageable.
7. Space – yes Catamarans take up more lateral space than mono-hulls so if you are going into a marina you can expect to pay 1.5 or 2 times the going rate compared to a monohull (even though some of the modern monos are 5.5m wide compared to ITIKI’s 7.5m) You still pay this rate even if they put you on the end of a T arm so you are not even taking up 2 spaces, but sticking out into a thoroughfare! With all mod cons on board though, who needs to go into a marina? We certainly avoid it whenever we can, for a number of reasons, not just cost.
8. Space – The width of a catamaran, as well as the lack of keel below the waterline means that you don’t sail to windward very well. We don’t pull out a sail until the breeze angle is at 60 apparent and we much prefer to reach or run. In our 12 months of cruising so far I think I can recall doing 3 tacks and arriving back at the point we started from! Well you know what they say – Gentlemen don’t go to windward – we are cruising after all, we have time to wait for the wind to change, and 2 x 50HP Volvos if we really need to go the “wrong way” for a bit.
As our second season draws to a close we still feel extremely happy with our choice of boat. ITIKI has been everything we had hoped for. While everyone is entitled to their ridiculous opinions, weighing up the pros and cons of cat vs mono for cruising, we are definitely converts to the “dark side”. Racing of course is another story! Looking forward to getting back to Sydney Harbour to shake out a few cobwebs racing on a mono!