Many charterers stick to what they know and take a monohull yacht. But there are two alternatives – catamarans and motor boats.
Catamarans tend to attract for two reasons; space and a perception that because they don’t heel over, they’ll be more comfortable for those less used to sailing. The former is unquestionably true; with a large saloon, foredeck and cockpit area there is much more room than on a conventional yacht. However, the cabins and toilets/showers don’t tend to be much more spacious than on a traditional monohull, albeit that the bunks are generally rectangular, rather than tapered at one end as it often the case on a monohull.
The comfort at sea is another matter. A monohull tends to ride with the waves but with two hulls, catamarans can jar as one or other hull becomes out of synch with the wave motion. I have certainly found a greater tendency for clients to feel ill on catamarans.
There are other disadvantage too:
- Cost – a catamaran costs much more to purchase than a monohull of the same cabin capacity so charter rates are correspondingly higher.
- Mooring space – stating the obvious, a cat takes up more room, which can make it hard to find quay space in busier areas. That’s less of an issue if you’re happy to anchor off, or in places such as Turkey where many jetties are owned and operated by restaurants who will bust a gut to find a way of getting you moored up. But just try finding a space in high season in the Ionian (though if you’re obssessive about being on the quay, the Ionian in high season isn’t the best option even with a monohull)!
- Manoeuvrability (yes my American friends, that’s how we Brits spell it)! – most cats have twin engines and so slow speed manoeuvring is done by adjusting the throttles with the wheel becoming largely useless. You might want to practice in some open space before trying it in a tight harbour as I had to on my first ever cat trip (I had to get out through a gap with 3 inches clearance on either side as the based staff declined to move the other yachts. I discovered later that bets were being taken on whether I’d make it or not)! Be aware too that with the often high decks and superstructure, there can be a lot of windage, making parking in a sidewind interesting.
- Sailing – cats will go well with the wind behind them but turn around and it’s another matter. Some are little worse than monohulls but others are awful.
- Mast security – if you overpower a monhull it heels more and spills wind. If you leave too much sail up on a catamaran, you’ll blow the mast off the deck. And because charter catamarans don’t tend to heel, it can be less obvious that you’re overpowered. One cat operator I worked for used to reckon on losing at least one mast a season!
So whilst catamarans are a great solution for those wanting plenty of room, I’d think hard about my choice of sailing area.
I see so many charter yachts motoring around in good winds (and I don’t just mean Flotilla Lead Yachts) that I wonder why more people don’t hire motor boats. They are available but not in great numbers for Bareboat charter, though if you’re looking to swan around on a private charter, you’ll find more options.
The biggest problem I always have with motor boats is answering the key question of cost. You see I can tell you the hire price but with the cost of fuel these days, a fair amount of the total bill is going to come down to how far you intend to go, and how fast! If anyone has come across a good way of working this out, or failing that, convincing prospective clients that fuel inclusive charters are about as common as fuel inclusive car hires, do let me know!