It is a question that we hear time and time again. Which is best: multihulls or monohulls? Is a catamaran faster than a monohull? Apart from the number of hulls, what are the main differences between the two? The choice is an important one because it has all kinds of consequences for speed, handling, comfort and safety. To make sure your choice of new boat lives up to your dreams, you first need to understand the basics and find out what makes cruising monohulls and multihulls tick:
A monohull has just the one hull and displaces its volume in water. Monohulls have a keel underneath their hulls which is generally very heavy (made of lead). This ensures that when a monohull heels over, once the pressure is removed from the sails, the boat rights itself using gravity. There is no doubt that a well-built monohull can be a beautiful and extremely sound boat. Their sleek lines look fantastic on the water and they offer an exhilarating sailing experience. Monohulls tend to preferred by ‘purist sailors’ – those who enjoy traditional sailing and the thrill of heeling over when underway.
Multihulls have either two hulls (catamarans) or three hulls (trimarans) and displace a smaller amount of water. This is due to both hulls being in the water with the main living areas located on the bridgedeck above, spreading the displacement of their weight over a larger area. Multihulls have become the leading choice of cruising sailors due to their combination of speed, onboard living space, performance, and safety.
But which one is right for you? To help you choose the right boat for your individual needs, we’ve compiled an overview of the main differences between comparatively sized cruising multihulls and monohulls:
SPEED: Due to their lighter weight, multihulls tend to be faster and can sail better in lighter winds. On average, a cruising catamaran or trimaran is around 25-30% speedier than a conventional monohull of an identical size. The only downside is that multihull vessels are only this fast if the load is relatively light. While you can get away with a cruising load on a monohull, the same weight has the tendency to slow a catamaran.
LIVING SPACE: Multihulls offer far more living space as well as more exterior space for safe and easy movement around the deck. As a guide, a 40-foot catamaran generally has the space of a 60-foot monohull.
STORAGE CAPACITY: Due to its extra hulls and wider living and cockpit areas, cruising multihulls tend to have greater storage space than monohulls. For long-haul cruising adventures, the extra storage of a multihull is extremely beneficial for accommodating additional supplies, safety gear, back-up parts, etc.
HEELING: When it comes to sailing, the biggest difference between a multihull and a conventional monohull is the lack of heeling. Cruising catamarans and trimarans do not heel over like a monohull when underway. Even when fully powered, a multihull is unlikely to heel more than 5-10 degrees. So, if you opt for a catamaran, there’ll be no more bracing awkwardly or spilling drinks when under sail!
ROLLING AT ANCHOR: Multihulls do not get a rolling motion from swell when at anchor. Monohulls suffer from the pendulum effect in a windy anchorage, whereas catamarans sit flat on their two hulls offering greater comfort at anchor.
DRAFT: Multihulls have a shallower draft than a similar-sized monohull, which enables them better access to inlets and lets them anchor much closer to beaches. This is particularly helpful when coastal cruising, as multihull sailors can enjoy more exploring and anchor out of uncomfortable wind and tidal conditions.
PROTECTION: Most multihulls have overhead coverage to the cockpit area and helmstations, offering great protection from the fierce sun and rain while at sea and at anchor. Even in miserable drizzle, multihull sailors can enjoy the space and views while sitting in the cockpit.
MANOEVRABILITY: Multihulls with two engines generally have better manoeuvrability than monohulls. With two engines set far apart it is possible to do a 360-degree turn in a very tight space. This is extremely handy in marinas in windy conditions. The extra windage the higher sides attract can be counteracted with the double screw engines. Two engines also add a safety element, as if something happens to one you always have the second engine as a backup.
SAFETY: Multihulls are also generally recognised as safer than monohulls for a range of reasons:
Their speeds allow you to out-run bad weather.
In the unlikely event a multihull capsizes, it stays afloat rather than sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
Why Multihull Solutions is the top choice for catamarans and trimarans:
If you are on the hunt for your dream boat, it is time to get in touch with Multihull Solutions. We can help you find the catamaran or trimaran that truly suits your budget, experience, cruising plans and lifestyle. Our team has an ocean of experience with both monohulls and multihulls and is thoroughly familiar with the features and performance of the world’s multihull brands. We can find the right solution for your cruising needs, with a sales process that is simple, professional and stress free.