sailing monohull or catamaran

Catamaran vs. Monohull: We Changed, Should You?

Catamaran vs Monohull

There are two schools of thought when it comes to monohull versus catamaran . We have done extensive cruising and lived aboard two monohulls and four catamarans over the past 25+ years . We experienced the good and the bad for both single hull and multihulls first hand. Quite honestly, the pluses for catamarans far outweigh the minuses. There are multiple benefits of catamarans. They are faster, more stable and spacious, and have shallower drafts allowing safer anchorage closer to shore. Being on a stable platform with no heeling cuts down on crew fatigue and seasickness leaving the crew more alert and in control of the vessel. Even novice sailors feel more confident on catamarans.

When we built our monohull Royal Salute in the early 90s, catamarans were not established and were looked upon with extreme suspicion by most cruisers, including ourselves. “Safety and the capsize” issue were always the first things to come up against sailing catamarans. It is a fact that monohulls can get rolled in heavy seas but will right themselves because of the heavy lead keel, and while crew and vessel will be battered, the roll is survivable.

YouTube video

However a catamaran once capsized, will remain upside down (jokingly referring to this state of the catamaran as “reaching its most stable position when upside down”). The inability of a catamaran to self-right was and still is a major bone of contention. However, what is not often discussed is that a monohull has about a 5,000 pound keel of lead that is constantly trying to drag the boat to the bottom of the ocean versus a catamaran that has no ballast and is in most cases with modern catamarans, unsinkable.

So the options are to either sail the world on a boat that, if it springs a leak, will sink like a stone or a vessel that cannot self-right in the event of a capsize but will not sink no matter what. So from a practical point of view, here are our observations over the last 25+ years of living aboard, on the advantages and disadvantages of a catamaran.

ADVANTAGES OF A CATAMARAN

1. speed equals safety.

The speed of a catamaran makes it possible to outrun bad weather. While catamarans do not point as high into the wind as a monohull (or if it does, it makes more leeway or slides sideways), it is about 20% faster than a monohull. This means that even if you sail upwind at a slightly wider angle to the wind than a monohull and have to cover more distance, you will still arrive at your destination long before a monohull.

A modern performance catamaran with daggerboards and good quality sails will point as high as a similar sized monohull. It will point the same as a comparable monohull and sail much faster and therefore arrive at an upwind position much sooner than a the monohull. It is important to note that most of the production catamarans on the market are under-powered and are equipped with standard smaller sails. In lighter breezes many of these designs perform poorly unless fitted with bigger headsails, a Code Zero and a square-top mainsail.

While we believe that more comfortable and safer in rough weather , we have to concede that when the weather gets really bad (60 knots of wind or more) we would personally prefer to be on a monohull from the standpoint of surviving. I would say that a monohull is preferable for serious offshore single-handed sailing because you can more easily hove-to in a monohull. We have been in some extreme weather on a number of catamarans and never really felt that we were in danger, although it takes some nifty seamanship.

A monohull could capsize in extreme weather or even roll in a storm, but they generally come back upright. A catamaran on the other hand, will not right itself. But the cat will generally stay afloat, offering a good place to survive while you wait out the storm or until help comes along. Well-designed modern catamarans are very hard to capsize though.

Having said all that, most catamarans can do 200 to 250 miles a day and with modern technology allowing one to pull down weather at will, there is no good reason why you should get caught in extreme weather. A faster boat is a safer boat as it will in many cases be able to outrun bad weather. With good weather routing information a catamaran can avoid most serious weather and, at worst, place itself in the most favorable position to avoid the brunt of a storm.

2. A Catamaran is a Stable, Safe Platform Underway

Catamarans have no ballast in the keels like monohulls do and therefor it relies on beam and buoyancy for stability. Typically cruising catamarans will have a beam to length ratio of roughly 50%, although many designs nowadays exceed the 50% rule of thumb. So, a 45-ft long catamaran will be about 22-ft wide, providing a very stable platform when sailing. Unlike catamarans, monohulls cannot overcome the rolling and pitching with their narrow beam and the lead ballast for stability.

This rolling and pitching makes the deck on a monohull very unsafe whereas on walking around on the deck of a catamaran while underway is far easier since the boat is much more stable, and it doesn’t heel. This makes sail changes and reefing much easier and a lot safer for the crew. Without the rolling and pitching motion, the danger of falling overboard on a catamaran is considerably less than on a monohull.

3. Crew Fatigue Reduces on a Catamaran

Because a catamaran does not heel over like a monohull, it offers far more comfort underway because the motion is mostly fore and aft pitching and very little beam-to-beam rolling. On all points of sail, a catamaran tracks upright and significantly reduces crew fatigue and seasickness. Seasickness is usually caused by things like anxiety, fatigue, hunger and cold, which all add to a sense of disorientation. This leads the crew to making bad decisions and seamanship errors that could be fatal to the crew and vessel. The more stable platform of the catamaran will hugely keep those issues at bay, making the crew more alert and energized.

Every action and chore including cooking is much easier on a catamaran when underway. It is much more pleasant to be on the deck level looking out rather than being stuck “down below.” It is also much nicer to sleep on a boat that doesn’t heel. I remember nights at sea in our monohull when I was rolling around in my bunk unless I was properly wedge in a little corner. That is simply not the case on catamarans.

All these factors ensure that your crew will not expend unnecessary energy to simply try and stay upright, onboard and safe on a long passage. Your crew on a catamaran will be well rested and alert and will be able to function well if a stressful situation arises.

4. Comfort at Anchor

Catamarans provide a wide platform and therefore offer lovely spaces to relax at anchor without the rolling motion that monohulls have a tendency to do in a swell. During our 15 years of cruising on a monohull, we have often had to leave anchorages that we really were not finished exploring because of a rolly, uncomfortable anchorage. Big rollers or swells coming into an anchorage can make conditions in an anchorage very uncomfortable and unsafe.

We were anchored off Funchal on the island of Madeira in our monohull Royal Salute once, when we were forced to leave our anchorage. The rolling became so bad, we were rolling from gunnel to gunnel. The anchorage became untenable to remain anchored, forcing us to go out to sea in foul weather in the middle of the night. This is an extreme case but believe me, we have left many an idyllic anchorage because of a rolling swell into the anchorage. Catamarans, on the other hand, do not roll from like monohulls have a tendency to do and are far more comfortable at anchor.

sailing monohull or catamaran

5. Anchor Bridal Setup

Lagoon 450S named Zuri

Catamarans are fitted with a bridle, attached to both bows and down to the anchor chain, resulting in a very stable position at anchor. What we found with our monohull was that because the bow acts as a sail (because of the high freeboard), the boat tended to sail at anchor in high winds. It sailed in one direction until the chain snatched and tacked over and sailed in the other direction, feeling like it might dislodge the anchor altogether. The catamaran on the other hand sits at anchor a lot more stable and doesn’t sail around as much.

6. Ease of Boarding on a Catamaran

Thank goodness we were much younger and more agile during our monohull days. Royal Salute and most monohulls of her generation or older, have high free-boards, making it quite a feat to get onto the boat from the dinghy. It was one of the most challenging things to do because unlike the more modern monohulls that have a scoop at the back, we had to climb up on the side of the boat to get on and off. We, of course rigged steps, etc. but it was always a hassle compared to the ease of getting on and off a catamaran from a dingy or from the water.

7. Shallow Draft Equals Better Anchorages

Catamarans have significantly shallower drafts than monohulls, allowing for safer anchorages closer to shore. Most catamarans in the 40-ft to 50-ft range draw between 3-ft to 4.5-ft, so they can anchor in places that a monohulls can not even consider. In the shallow waters of the Bahamas for example, the catamarans have a big advantage. We often anchor our own catamaran just a few feet away from a beach. It definitely allows one to be able to explore areas where the water is shallow without the fear of running aground.

The shallow draft also allows for emergency repairs in shallow water and even doing the bottom job when the tide goes out as we have done in places like Mtwapa Creek in Kenya, East Africa. The catamaran easily rests on her keels on the sand without help making it a breeze to do the “annual haul out” even in remote locations.

Bali catamaran anchored

8. Dinghy Davits & Dinghy Size

All catamarans have a set of davits that make it very easy to raise and lower the dingy. Our monohull and most cruising monohulls do not have an efficient or easily accessible set of davits. This makes raising and lowering the dingy an elaborate production. Catamarans on the other hand, has davits systems easily accessible and some even have platforms to rest the dinghy on.

The lack of beam and difficulty of lifting the dinghy also limits the size and type of dingy that one can reasonably carry on a monohull. As we all know, the dingy is your transport to and from shore and diving or fishing spots, so the bigger and faster the dingy, the better off you are. A catamaran can carry both a heavier and bigger dinghy which makes the popular center consul dinghy so much more possible.

lagoon 450 cruising catamaran

9. Interior Space and Comfort on a Catamaran

We sailed 32,000 NM on our 45-ft monohull, happy as clams, not realizing that sailing does not have to be done lying on your ear 24/7 while on passage or sitting knee-to-knee in the cockpit at anchor with your two other guests at the dinner table! One can liken sitting in a monohull cockpit to sitting in an empty Jacuzzi, you are always nice and close to the other folks.

Now that we are on our fourth catamaran, there are a few things that have become more evident to us than the incredible space and comfort of a catamaran, not only at anchor but also underway. The cockpit and living space in general are huge compared to a monohull, making for very comfortable and spacious living conditions. It feels more like you are at home, rather than just on a camping trip.

Knowing that one spends at least 90% of one’s cruising life at anchor, it’s important to have good open living space, which most modern cats nowadays offer. A lot of cats have walk around beds, lots of storage, every modern appliance including washer/dryer, etc. However, one has to fight the urge to fill the space if you want to keep the cat light and fast.

Lagoon 450 Salon

Sailing with guests onboard for extended periods of time, in close quarters can become claustrophobic but on a catamaran people are spread out and separated. With guests sleeping in one hull and the owners in another, catamarans offer much more privacy and separation. Some cats even have privacy doors that will close off the entire hull and has a separate entrance onto the deck, which really separates you from the guests completely.

There is very little heeling on a catamaran, so there is no need for hand grips and safety harnesses inside the boat. There is nothing better (and safer) than being able to walk from the cockpit into the living room (saloon) on one level or one step down at most. In a monohull, when heeling at a severe angle, you would have to claw your way from the companionway steps down to the living area, while fighting to stay upright, significantly tapping your energy.

Unless you hit extreme conditions, everything stays put on a catamaran reducing the anxiety before doing passages of having to stow and secure everything. This very issue makes a lot of cruisers reluctant to weigh anchor and explore more often. It is just too much effort to pack away all your stuff once comfortable in an anchorage!

One thing you will notice is that the stove on catamarans are not gimbaled like it is on monohulls and this should tell the story in itself. The stability and comfort on a catamaran is far superior. Cooking is easy and safer. I often open a nice cold beer, put it down to do something and forget about it only to find a warm beer later in the same place I left it. This is not something that happens on a monohull.     

Lagoon 450 Owners cabin

10. Redundancy on a Catamaran

Unlike monohulls, catamarans have a lot of critical redundancies. That of course means two hulls to clean and anti-foul, double the engine maintenance, etc. but having two of the critical equipment like engines for instance, outweighs the downside.

With two engines, if one fails you still have adequate propulsion to go anywhere. If by some fluke the second engine also fails, you have a full set of spares to fix at least one of them. Our friends once hit a sleeping whale off Tanzania, and when it dove, it hit the prop, bending it. They limped into the narrow channel on the one engine but at least they could make it to a safe harbor where we surveyed and repaired their damage.

We often only use one engine when motoring while making passage in order to conserve our fuel. The one engine is totally capable of moving the boat along at a good speed unless you are in heavy seas and you may need more power. Other than that we only use two engines to dock or maneuver the boat in close quarters.

Because there are two engines there are also two independent charging systems via the alternator on each engine. If one alternator goes out, there is still another complete charging system. There are two rudders and if one fails or falls off (as has happened to our friends on a monohull off Columbia, where they almost lost their boat) you have a second rudder that is completely capable of steering the boat by itself indefinitely. That holds true for several things on a catamaran!     

11. Maneuverability

The engines are spaced far apart on a catamaran and it makes maneuvering much easier and more precise than monohulls, unless the monohull has a bow thruster. We did not have a bow thruster (not many monohulls do) and had to rely on prop-walk and using prop wash on the rudder. A modern catamaran can do a 360 turn on her own axis. A monohull cannot do this and have a bigger turning circle. However, a monohull under sail is much more maneuverable and certainly will tack a lot faster than a catamaran. The ease in maneuverability under engine on a catamaran in close quarters specifically, is vastly superior comparatively.

12. Rigging

Because of the beam on a catamaran the spinnaker pole has become unnecessary equipment. Hallelujah, I say. That pole on our monohull was a pain the behind and I always hated having to use it. On a catamaran, one can fly an asymmetrical cruising chute or spinnaker, using the bows to tack the clew or run a guy through a block so it is very much simplified, easier and safer.We also sail wing-on-wing with twin headsails when we sail downwind. We use our furling jib and furling Code Zero. It is as easy as one, two, three.

DISADVANTAGES OF A CATAMARAN

1. bridgedeck slamming.

One advantage most monohulls do have when underway is that they don’t slam. Catamarans with a low bridgedeck clearance can experience significant slamming in confused seas sailing upwind. This slamming can be quite disconcerting when you first experience it as we did on a Shuttleworth 44 design, our first ever catamaran experience, 20+ years ago. At times, it felt as though the boat was falling apart. Of course the boat was fine but nevertheless, the stress on the crew from the constant noise and discomfort was significant.

Monohulls don’t have a bridgedeck which means no slamming and are therefore a bit more comfortable than l ow bridgedeck catamarans when beating into severe confused conditions or “washing machine” conditions as we call it. Modern catamarans mostly have better bridgedeck clearance and the slamming is significantly less. However, not all cats have a good clear tunnel under the bridgedeck. Some manufacturers build beds into the bridge deck in order to make more space in the chest of the catamaran where the slamming occurs. These protuberances into the bridgedeck tunnel will likely increase slamming. So be mindful of that when selecting a catamaran. We currently own a Bali 5.4 and the bridgedeck clearance on this boat is more than adequate and the tunnel is clear. We therefor experience very little slamming compared to our Prout 45 that we previously owned (picture of sister ship below) with a much lower bridgedeck.

We Explain Bridgedeck Clearance

In the pictures below, the Bali 5.4 has very good clearance from the water to the bridgedeck and has a nice clean tunnel versus the very low bridgedeck of the Sunreef 50. 

Sunreef 50 bridgedeck clearance

2. Sailing Downwind

Monohull spreaders are set at 90 degrees to the mast whereas a catamaran has to have backswept spreaders. The reason is that, on a monohull, there is a backstay and using this, plus the intermediates you can get a nice pre-bend in the mast (the pre-bend is to flatten out the main sail and allow for better performance).

On a catamaran with no back stay, you need to use the back swept spreaders and the diamonds to pre-bend the mast. The reason I point this out is because on a catamaran, if you want to broad reach or run, the mainsail cannot be let out all the way because the backswept spreader tips could punch holes in the fabric.

On a monohull, the spreaders are at 90 degrees so you can let the main and the boom out much further which is, of course, much more effective. This is one of the reasons it is better to broad reach and tack downwind on a catamaran.

Whether a monohull or multihull, sailing dead downwind doesn’t usually make great VMG. Therefor a regular cruising cat, much like a monohull, needs a lot of sail area and has to sail deep downwind if it is to achieve a decent speed made good (VMG). This video demonstrates how we achieve this by sailing wing-on-wing downwind.

YouTube video

It is more difficult to find a dock either as a transient or a permanent slip for a catamaran in general because of the wide beam. But this is changing fast and will soon not be too much of an issue. In the USA dockage is charged by the length of the boat in feet, so there is no disadvantage there but, in some places, (the Mediterranean for example), dockage is charged at length times one and a half because of the additional beam.

Since the catamaran is stable at anchor, we mostly anchor out. We have more privacy, a better breeze and usually a stunning view.We have a nice dinghy with a good outboard engine and is big and comfortable enough to get to shore fast and together with the modern conveniences like the generator, watermaker and washer/dryer, docking becomes a non-issue.

It is definitely more difficult to find a travel lift with enough beam for a catamaran for a haulout, while, for a monohull, there are absolutely no problems anywhere. The wide beam of cats also greatly limits the number of shipyards that can haul them out. Most catamarans over 40-ft must be hauled out with a 50-ton travel lift. This not only increases the cost of the haulout, but greatly limits the choice of the shipyards for repairs and maintenance. With limited choice, prices are high for shipyard services.

Prout sailboat named Zuri

Catamarans do tend to have a lot more windage than monohulls. This can be an issue especially when maneuvering in close quarters with a strong wind. But I have found that, provided the engines are powerful enough for the size of catamaran, that twin engines negate this problem. Also, many modern large catamarans now have a bow thruster fitted. It is super easy to dock.

The cost of getting into a catamaran is much higher than that of monohulls. That could put a serious dent in your cruising kitty or require you to put your dream on hold a little longer. Pre-owned monohulls on the other hand are very cheap to buy comparatively, because the supply presently far outweighs the demand.

Catamarans are in high demand and they typically hold their value much better and longer and the trend is now heavily in favor of the catamaran market. When prospective buyers contact us for catamarans under $250,000 the choices are very limited and catamarans under $100,000 is near impossible to buy. In this case, your best bet is to go with a monohull unless you go with much older boats like the Prouts or the less expensive Geminis.

Our Own Catamarans & Monohulls

FYI: Royal Salute , a Bruce Roberts 45 monohull, was the first boat we owned and sailed approx. 30,000NM on. Mythral, a Seafarer 30, was our “toy boat” while we were waiting for our catamaran to be built. Even though this classic little monohull sailed around the world, it didn’t have much in modern conveniences like running water. Siyaya was an Island Spirit 40 catamaran that we sailed from Cape Town to Florida on and then taught live-aboard sailing classes for several years. Zuri I was a Prout 45, a beautifully crafted catamaran but by today’s standards is considered old technology. Our Lagoon 450 SporTop ( Zuri II ) is a fantastic live-aboard catamaran. We lived and taught aboard her for three years but sold her last year and we currently own a Bali 5.4 ( Zuri III or Z3 as we call her now). Read about our various boats .

catamaran vs monohull

CONCLUSION: CATAMARAN vs MONOHULL

We were dyed in the wool monohull sailors for 15+ years. We loved the pretty lines of monohulls, the sailing ability and what we believed at the time to be much safer vessels. However, now that we have been avid catamaran enthusiasts, we simply can never go back to monohulls. Catamarans have come of age and with modern technology have overcome most objections that sailors of old had against them. They are well designed and built, are safe, and we simply love that they sail fast and upright. There is not a whole lot to dislike about a catamaran when you live aboard. We have weighed all the pros and cons of catamarans and found that the pros far exceed the cons. We made the change to a catamaran and do not regret it one bit!

We hope that this article will clear things up for all the prospective catamaran owners out there.

Contact us if you have any questions regarding catamarans, Fractional Yacht Ownership or our Charter Management Programs .

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Estelle Cockcroft

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4 thoughts on “Catamaran vs. Monohull: We Changed, Should You?”

sailing monohull or catamaran

I read that the engineering on the catamarans were improved over the years. Whats the oldest year would you recommend designwise?

sailing monohull or catamaran

Scott, my apologies for the late reply. We’ve been traveling in Africa. Anyway, catamarans have come a long way and improvements in technology is happening at lightning speed. I reckon that even the older model catamarans are good. It depends on what your needs are. If you want something a little better performance wise, I would go for something no older than 15 years.

sailing monohull or catamaran

After buying a catamaran what is the difference in expense of a catamaran vs a monohull. Many articles state that not only the initial cost of a catamaran is more it the operating cost as well.

sailing monohull or catamaran

Hi Todd, it is more expensive. The annual dockage and haul out as well as maintenance will be more expensive. You obviously have two engines to maintain and various other pieces of equipment to service in both hulls. While there is more equipment there is also more redundancy and of course you have the comfort factor. So, depending on your situation, it’s probably worth it.

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Catamaran vs Monohull: Pros, Cons & Main Differences

By: B.J. Porter Editor

Catamaran Vs. Monohull

The choice of catamaran vs monohull ultimately comes down to preference. What’s critical for one buyer may mean little to another. If your partner refuses to set foot on a boat which heels, that’s a deal-breaker for a monohull. But if you’re passionate about classic looks and styling, your quest for beauty may override other considerations and rule out catamarans.

We can’t tell you whether a catamaran or a monohull is right for you. But we can help you with the pros and cons of each for your search.

Catamaran vs Monohull

The Strengths and Pros

No matter your choice of monohull or catamaran, there are safe, comfortable, and excellent sailing boats of both types. Neither has an exclusive lock on any strength, and both sail safely and comfortably. But there’s a different emphasis on how they do it. No matter what you are trying to do – sail fast, cruise the world, or just host a crowd at the dock, there are monohulls and catamarans that can work for any requirement.

Catamaran advantages

Catamaran advantages

Space and comfort: Two hulls and a wide beam make a very stable platform with lots of volume in the saloon and cockpit. Most living space is above the waterline, with wonderful light and airflow. Cabins in the hulls offer better privacy and isolation, usually with standing headroom.

Straight line speed: Most catamarans are faster in straight-line sailing speed (1) that similar sized or even longer monohulls. Without a lead keel, they’re lighter, so more driving force from the sails converts to speed, and narrower hull forms may have less drag than wide hulls with deep keels. Some heavier cruising catamarans may not be faster, especially if they keep rig size small for ease of handling.

Stability : The beam of two hulls with a bridge deck leads to much higher stability and resistance to roll (2). Waves in an anchorage that induce violent roll in a monohull may make a catamaran bounce or bob. Under sail, catamarans do not heel appreciably even when powered up.

Twin engines. : With one engine in forward and balanced in reverse, most catamarans can spin in a circle in place and make sharp adjustments to the boat’s direction. If you have an engine failure, you also have a second engine, giving a safety edge when you can’t sail. 

Monohull advantages

Monohull advantages

Upwind sailing performance: While catamarans have the edge at straight-line speed, monohulls sail closer to the wind. When you’re racing or you have to sail upwind to get to the next island, this can get you there faster.

Sailing feel and responsiveness : The “feel” of sailing a monohull is much better. With a single hull, you’ll feel wind pressure and trim adjustments immediately for a more responsive helm and a better ability to sail to the wind.

Maneuvering under sail: Monohulls are quite nimble tacking and turning under sail, and there’s less risk of slow or missed tacks.

Righting Moment: The primary offshore safety argument for monohulls is their ability to right when capsized. The heavy keel keeps the boat deck up when sailing, and most monohulls will come back upright even after a complete capsize.

Cargo and Loading: A higher displacement boat with thousands of pounds of lead hung from the bottom isn’t going to be as affected by loading as a relatively light multihull.

Aesthetics: This is subjective, as many catamaran enthusiasts love how they look. Classic sailboat styling, with swept sleek looks, springy sheer lines, and all the “right” proportions are more common on monohulls.

Also read: The 5 Best Electric Anchor Winches

Weaknesses and Cons

Like strengths, weaknesses are relative; just because one class has a strength doesn’t mean the other doesn’t. There are spacious monohulls and beautiful catamarans, just like there are cramped catamarans and unattractive monohulls. The differences have to be highlighted relative to each other, and the weaknesses of one are most apparent compared to the strengths of the other.

Catamaran Cons

Catamaran Cons

Upwind performance: Cats don’t sail as close to the wind, but they make up for it by sailing faster off the wind. You’ll sail a less direct course upwind. Even if you get in at the same time, you’ll have to sail farther.

Less responsive sailing: Two hulls with two rudders and a very broad platform reduce the helm feel when sailing, cutting responsiveness sailing in shifting wind and wave conditions. It also makes tacking slower.

No-flip zone: It is very difficult, but not impossible, to flip a large catamaran (3). But if a catamaran capsizes, it will not flip back over by itself.

Large in marina/close quarters: You have two problems in marinas. Beamy cats are tough to maneuver in tight spaces because they’re big and visibility is tough over the hulls. And many marinas charge extra because the wide beam extends into the next slip. The good news is that twin engines make tight maneuvering easier.

Price point: Catamarans are more difficult to build and need more materials. This is directly reflected in the cost of the boats.

Monohull Cons

They are heavier: Every large monohull needs a keel for stability (4). They can not sail or stay upright without thousands of pounds of ballast, and this makes them heavier and slows them down. Tiny monohulls can use a centerboard or daggerboard for stability, but most boats big enough to sleep on need ballast.

Darker interiors : Most monohull living space is lower in the boat, where you can’t put enormous windows for light and circulation. It’s very hard to get space as bright and airy as catamaran saloons.

Less living space: With one hull and no bridge deck saloon, most monohulls feel cramped compared to spacious catamarans.

More prone to rolling motions : Only one hull makes monohulls susceptible to rolling in waves, and the movement can be quite uncomfortable.

Heeling: Tipping is just part of sailing monohulls upwind and is unavoidable. It can be reduced on some other points of sail, but not eliminated. Many people, especially non-sailors and new sailors, find this movement uncomfortable or distressing.

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Catamarans vs Monohulls: Which is Better a Better Sailboat For You?

Catamarans vs Monohulls: Which is Better a Better Sailboat For You?

The question of whether to choose a monohull vessel or a catamaran is an eternal dispute between boat lovers. These arguments are usually based on one’s preferences and philosophy. In fact, the popularity of catamarans has grown significantly since their design facilitates many aspects of sailing. But, both mono-hulls and multi-hulls have their advantages and disadvantages. So, in this article, I’m going to list some details about both cats and monohulls so as to help you understand which one is better for you. Remember it all depends on what sort of experience you are looking for. Keep reading!

What is a Monohull?

In general, boats float due to the fact that they displace more water than they weigh. The hull is in “displacement mode” while a boat is stationary or moving slowly. That is, all of the upward forces that keep it afloat come from flotation, which is achieved by displacing water. With certain hulls, increasing the boat’s speed beyond a particular point causes the hull to lift up and skim along on top of the water. This is referred to as “planning.” Monohulls can be divided into two types; displacement and planing hulls.

Some hulls are only capable of moving at displacement speeds . This style of boat has generally slow speed, but it is incredibly efficient to operate. While moving, most have a smooth motion , though rolling (side-to-side movement) might be an issue. On the other hand, while on the sea, achieving fast speeds requires a hull that can readily transition onto a plane. Flat bottom surfaces from amidships aft, or from the middle to the back of the bottom, and a flat transom, or the back of the hull, are the main characteristics of a planing hull. Keep in mind that at a sharp angle, the transom must contact the bottom.

What is a Catamaran?

Nowadays, catamarans are becoming more and more popular. They’re particularly appealing to fishermen since they combine high-speed performance and a smooth rough-water ride with a solid angling platform. Catamarans have two primary disadvantages . Firstly, they require twin engines. Also, larger catamarans may be too broad to fit into standard marina docks. Another disadvantage is that there is less usable interior space than on a monohull of comparable length.

The two hulls of a catamaran are known as amas. These days, the popular phrase is “sponson,” but ama is still acceptable. Note that in comparison to its entire length, each ama is quite short. The narrow amas of a catamaran travel quickly through the water with little power. This allows for fast speeds even when the amas aren’t actively planning.

Trimarans on the other hand have three separate hulls. Sailboat designers have successfully employed this design to provide a large central hull for cabins. But, also for two outrigger amas for stability. The trimaran concept hasn’t been used much in powerboats, despite the fact that several “cathedral” hulls are related. Instead of three independent hulls, a cathedral design squishes them together to the point that they often share a similar planing surface near the transom.

are catamarans better than monohulls

Monohull or Catamaran? Let’s Take a Look at Their Pros and Cons

Catamarans are unsinkable because they are incredibly stable and have natural buoyancy. Yes, they can capsize in a major accident. But, being rescued while floating on the water’s surface is preferable to plunging to the bottom in a monohull. Furthermore, moving around on a flat deck is far safer than on an angled deck.

Classicists have long claimed that catamarans are not as safe as their keelboat counterparts. However, this remark is now regarded as archaic. Since it dates from the mid-nineteenth century when the majority of catamarans were made by amateurs. They could readily tip over even in calm weather, especially if one of their bodies became leakproof owing to damage. Sinking is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a well-built modern catamaran. Modern structures are designed using computer simulations of various water conditions. Bear in mind that the maximum potential safe sail area is available to cruisers and charter possibilities in particular.

Monohulls , particularly sailboats, offer significantly stronger “self-righting” capabilities in the event of a worst-case knockdown situation. In a catamaran, once you’re upside down, you’re stuck there…And, who wants to be upside down in the middle of the ocean? Returning to an upright position gives you complete access to onboard safety equipment. This includes a liferaft, dinghy, flotation devices, EPIRBs, and strobe lights, which can save you if the boat sinks.

Generally, a catamaran’s high speed allows it to avoid adverse weather . While catamarans do not point as high into the wind as monohulls they are around 20% faster . Or, if they do, they create more leeway or slide sideways. This means that even if you sail upwind at a slightly broader angle to the wind than a monohull and cover a more distance, you will arrive at your destination sooner than a monohull.

A modern performance catamaran with daggerboards and strong sails may point as high as a monohull of comparable size. It will point similar to a comparable monohull but will sail far faster. This allows it to reach an upwind position far sooner than a monohull. However, it’s worth noting that the majority of production cats on the market are underpowered and have standard smaller sails. Many of these designs perform poorly in light breezes. Unless they’re equipped with larger headsails, a Code Zero, and a square-top mainsail.

While cats are more comfortable and safer in rough weather, we must admit that if the weather gets extremely terrible (60 knots of wind or more), it’s better to be on a monohull for survival reasons. For serious offshore single-handed sailing, I believe a monohull is superior since it is easier to hove-to in it. Bear in mind that when you’re in a cat during severe storms you won’t feel any danger, but it demands some nifty seamanship. And, keep in mind that even though a monohull can capsize in bad weather or even roll in a storm, they usually right themselves. A catamaran , on the other hand, is incapable of self-righting . However, the cat will usually stay afloat, providing a safe haven to wait out until aid arrives. Modern catamarans, on the other hand, are extremely difficult to capsize.

That being said, most catamarans can travel 200 to 250 miles per day, and with contemporary technology allowing one to control weather, it’s difficult not to deal with bad weather. In many circumstances, a faster boat is a safer boat because it can outrun heavy weather. A catamaran can avoid the worst weather and, at worst, put itself in the best position to avoid the brunt of a storm if there’s good weather routing information.

So, to sum up, cruising catamarans are quicker than monohulls, and sailing catamarans, depending on their angle, can sail at half the speed of the wind. It’s great to be on a boat that can swiftly attain high speeds and get you to your destination safely and on time. However, catamarans are faster because of their lower surface area , but their prices are generally higher than those of monohulls. Instead of fighting the elements, monohull designs operate in harmony with them . In addition, keep in mind that when sailing upwind, sailing catamarans are inefficient and tack slowly.

Fuel Consumption

Do you want to save money on gas? Then, in most cases, catamarans have less fuel consumption than monohull boats. Catamarans save a lot of gasoline since they have a less wetted surface area on their hulls. They can propel the boat with just one engine in weak winds. Also in flat water, and if the engines have the same number and horsepower. However, in heavier weather , where the higher efficiency of a monohull design provides less resistance , this is not the case.

Generally, catamarans have two fuel-burning engines, which can raise fuel expenses . However, because a catamaran is lighter on the water, it requires less energy to move. In a catamaran, you’ll use less fuel than you would in a monohull. Furthermore, in low-wind areas, catamarans might choose to use only one engine. This reduces the amount of fuel consumed by a catamaran even more . But, only calm waters are subject to these laws. A monohull is far more efficient than a catamaran in navigating waters with heavy waves and heavy winds. A monohull will consume less fuel than a catamaran in this situation.

Are monohulls better than cats

The best feature of catamarans is that all of the rooms are on the same level. The four-cabin arrangement is common with sailing cats and is popular among charter companies. Owner versions usually feature three staterooms, with one hull serving as a big cabin for entertaining. Most catamarans have a big central living room with not one, but two narrow staircases leading down into the hulls—one on each side. It’s a little like living in a tube in the hulls. They’re too thin to accommodate walkaround double/queen berths like those found in monohulls. But, in case of an emergency, it would be impossible to communicate with someone in the opposite hull.

Obviously, a monohull has less space than a catamaran. This is due to the fact that a cat is broader and has a larger deck surface. It also has twice as many hulls as the other, giving you greater total space between them. People who want to host parties on their boats will appreciate the extra space. The catamaran is usually the party boat of choice at the docks, according to most boat owners. Even if you don’t like to host parties, the extra room might be useful for lounging on the balcony or tanning. The boat’s large open space also makes it simple to utilize as a fishing platform.

You also have more room for equipment like surfboards, rafts, and other equipment that can easily clutter a monohull’s deck. Even fishing from a catamaran can be easier because the deck allows for plenty of space between anglers. Owners of catamarans also have more room for carrying fresh water and installing generators and solar panels. A catamaran’s interior room is often larger, and in luxury catamarans, it’s easier to install heavy appliances like washers and dryers inside. These can be fitted to larger monohulls as well, though it will be more difficult than on a catamaran.

All of the extra space, on the other hand, means the catamaran owner has more room to maintain and clean. Furthermore, all of the other stuff that can be brought into the boat will add to its weight . And, as well all know, a heavier boat will consume more fuel and move at a slower speed.

Maneuverability

With their twin motors, catamarans are incredibly agile . On a catamaran, the engines are widely apart, making navigating more easier and more precise than on a monohull, unless the monohull incorporates a bow thruster. Most of the time, a bow thruster isn’t required because the engines are around 20 feet apart. When there’s no bow thruster (as do few monohulls) you have to rely on prop-walk and prop wash on the rudder. On her own axis, a contemporary catamaran can turn 360 degrees. A monohull would be unable to accomplish this while it has a larger turning circle.

A monohull under sail, on the other hand, is far more maneuverable and will tack much faster than a catamaran. But, the ease of movement under motor on a catamaran, especially in close quarters, is substantially superior. They also feature shallow drafts , allowing you to maneuver into areas that a monohull cannot, as well as anchor closer to shore . However, monohulls are more maneuverable as you don’t have to deal with two hulls. They can make sharper turns and travel through small channels and small areas easier than cats. In addition, their hull displacements lessen the negative impacts of crosswinds in confined spaces.

Anchoring and Docking

While docking a catamaran is simple, its big size makes it difficult to fit into a standard slip. However, with some skill and good planning, finding room should be no problem. You may even anchor or moor the boat and dock it with the dinghy, which is much easier than a monohull. However, keep in mind that in most cases docking, hauling, and slipping a monohull is significantly easier, takes up less room, and is far less expensive.

Moreover, docking a catamaran can be a challenging task. This is due to the fact that catamarans are frequently too wide to dock in the marina’s core regions. As a result, they must be docked at the far end of the dock. Therefore they have fewer docking options and raise the cost of docking. Owners of catamarans sailing through places where there aren’t many catamarans may find it difficult to find a dock at all. This is especially true in the northern Atlantic, where monohulls outnumber catamarans.

Keep in mind that one of the most significant advantages of a sailing multihull is its stability . Not only at sea, when heeling simply does not – or should not – occur to any significant extent, but also at anchor. It also greatly expands one’s anchorage options to include areas influenced by the swell. This is quite common in the Caribbean, where a slight shift in wind direction may make a previously flat, quiet anchorage intolerable in a monohull. In addition, its fairly shoal draught expands the options even more.

Catamarans have a large platform, making them ideal for relaxing at anchor without the rolling motion that monohulls are prone to in a swell. Many monohull sailors had to leave anchorages because of the uncomfortable anchoring. This is because large rollers or swells entering an anchorage can make the situation extremely uncomfortable and dangerous.

Also, a bridle is tied to both bows and down to the anchor chain on catamarans , resulting in a fairly secure position at anchor . In heavy winds, many monohulls tend to sail at anchor since the bow acted as a sail (due to the high freeboard). They sail in one direction until the chain snatches, then tack across and sail in the opposite direction, almost completely dislodging the anchor. The catamaran, on the other hand, is much more stable at anchor and does not sway as much.

Catamaran vs Monohull Sailboats

Sailing Abilities

Most cruising multihulls won’t point like a monohull with a deeper keel upwind, and the motion may be rather unpleasant when sailing in rough weather. You must also keep a close eye on the sail area, but we’ll analyze this further below.

Moreover, catamarans are not suitable for racing and sailing sports. They can be fantastic for a holiday or even living aboard, but most racers would never buy one because of the stability. There is no sense of wind, waves, flying, or the boat itself on a catamaran. It’s quite tough to tell when it’s time to reef. While this can be done by feel on a monohull, there is specific instruction for catamarans as to what winds the sail area should be reduced.

When sailing to higher latitudes, like the North Atlantic, then a monohull would be a better solution than a catamaran. Residential areas are easy to heat and keep warm, and traditional metal may even melt thin ice. The contrary is true in the tropical zone, where huge catamaran salons would be unbeatable.

Monohulls can sail higher into the wind than most catamarans due to their keel. Daggerboards, which serve the same role as a keel and boost windward performance significantly, are common in some catamarans. However, daggerboards are not seen on 95 percent of cruising cats (those available for charter). Also, a monohull will be much easier to tack than a catamaran and glide lightly through the water. Moreover, in rougher seas, certain catamarans experience an annoying slapping of water on the bridge decks. A monohull responds to the helm more quickly than a multihull (in other words, they turn faster). This is due to the fact that most cruising cats have small “spade rudders” whose depth is dictated by the need for a modest draft. While with a keel, a monohull can have a more responsive rudder for its draft.

Monohull spreaders are 90 degrees to the mast, however, catamaran spreaders must be backswept. The reason for this is that a monohull has a backstay, and by combining it with the intermediates, you can achieve a lovely pre-bend in the mast. Keep in mind that the pre-bend is to flatten out the mainsail and allow for better performance.

Also, in order to pre-bend the mast on a catamaran without a backstay, you’ll have to utilize the backswept spreaders and diamonds. The reason I bring this up is that if you want to broad reach or run on a catamaran, you can’t let the mainsail out all the way because the backswept spreader tips could puncture the cloth. Because the spreaders on a monohull are at 90 degrees, you can let the main and boom out much wider, which is obviously more effective. This is one of the reasons why a catamaran should broad reach and tack downwind.

  • Maintenance

Because catamarans have two of everything, there is a clear trade-off between maintenance costs, reliability, and redundancy. One of the most significant advantages of having two of everything is that you have a backup . As a result, even if one component fails, you can typically still utilize the boat, such as running on one engine while the other fails. While redundancy is fine, lower maintenance and repair costs are generally preferable. Although having two of everything provides you some redundancy, I doubt you’ll want to take the boat out if one of the two hulls “fails.” Of course, this means two hulls to clean and antifoul, double the engine maintenance, and so on , but having two of the important pieces of equipment, such as engines, outweighs the disadvantages.

cat vs monohull

Due to their weight-bearing, catamarans have minimal to no heeling and do not roll at anchor. With sudden gusts, heeling on a monohull can be dangerous and uncomfortable, not to mention seasickness. Again, the trade-off is a noisy ride and fast movement, which many people find uncomfortable in bad weather. However, the heeling action of a monohull sailboat offers stability, spills wind from the sails, and provides safety.

Catamarans, unlike monohulls, do not have ballast in their keels, therefore they rely on beam and buoyancy for stability. Typical cruising catamarans have a beam-to-length ratio of around 50%, while several modern designs exceed this figure. A 45-foot catamaran will be around 22 feet wide, offering a highly solid sailing platform. Monohulls, unlike catamarans, cannot overcome rolling and pitching because of their narrow beam and lead ballast.

Rolling and pitching on a monohull while underway is quite dangerous. But, walking around on the deck of a catamaran while underway is easier because the boat is considerably more stable and does not heel. Sail adjustments and reefing are also significantly easier and safer for the crew as a result of this. The risk of falling overboard on a catamaran is far lower than on a monohull because of the rolling and pitching motion.

Generally, buying a catamaran is substantially more expensive than a monohull. So, if you opt for a cat you should also consider your budget before even starting your research. Pre-owned monohulls, on the other hand, are extremely inexpensive to purchase due to a current supply that considerably outnumbers the demand.

Nowadays, catamarans are in high demand , and they normally keep their worth far better and longer than other types of boats. And that’s why the market is currently centered to manufacture lots of them. Bear in mind that looking for a catamaran under $250,000 your options will be limited, and finding a catamaran under $100,000 is nearly difficult. Unless you opt with older boats like the Prouts or the less priced Geminis, a monohull is your best bet in this instance.

The cost of a cat rises if you need at least two of everything. But, keep in mind that due to their popularity, catamarans have a high resale value and a low depreciation rate , and they normally sell faster than monohulls. Due to the fact that most catamarans are not made in the United States, delivery expenses must be considered when purchasing the boat. Multihulls are becoming more popular, and as a result of the increased demand, they command greater prices in both the new and brokerage markets. Lastly, when considering a purchase, keep in mind that maintenance costs are substantially higher than on a monohull.

catamaran vs monohull pros and cons

Catamarans vs Monohulls – The Bottom Line

So, this is it! We’ve come to the end of this highly discussed topic among sailors. Obviously, everything would be determined by two basic factors: personal preferences and budget considerations. Both monohulls and multihulls have their pros and cons and it’s totally up to you to decide which one suits you best. Because the two types of vessels provide such a different experience, it is highly recommended that you rent and test each one before purchasing to compare everything. In any event, it’s reasonable to say that a catamaran is an excellent choice for a charter, if not for purchase. Despite its high price, it provides comfort, space, and stability but you have a better overall sailing experience with a monohull. So, I hope that this article will help you make the right choice according to your needs. I wish you good luck with your research!

Peter

Peter is the editor of Better Sailing. He has sailed for countless hours and has maintained his own boats and sailboats for years. After years of trial and error, he decided to start this website to share the knowledge.

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Catamaran Vs Monohull

Catamaran Vs Monohull | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Monohulls and traditional sailboats, once ubiquitous, are giving way to modern catamarans. But how do these designs differ?

Monohulls have a single hull, and catamarans have two hulls side-by-side. Catamarans are faster than monohulls of the same length and displacement, but monohulls are stronger and more spacious. Monohulls are also cheaper and easier to build than multi-hulls.

In this article, we’ll cover the differences between catamarans and monohulls, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each design. We’ll also cover the sailing characteristics of each and why catamarans so easily outrun equivalently-sized monohulls.

We sourced the information used in this article from trusted sailboat design resources, along with manufacturer specifications and boat market analysis.

Table of contents

‍ What is a Catamaran?

Catamarans are a kind of multi-hull sailboat with two hulls joined together. They are often short and wide, resembling a square or rectangle from above.

Catamarans are colloquially distinct from outriggers, which are double-hulled vessels with one large primary hull and a small outboard stabilizing hull.

Catamarans usually have hulls that mirror each other, both in size and arrangement. Sometimes, the interior layouts are mirrored, too—but this varies between designs and manufacturers. Catamaran hulls are narrower and taller than most monohull designs of equal lengths.

Catamarans have limited commercial and military utility, as these applications favor space and ease-of-construction over handling characteristics. That said, there are some commercial uses for catamaran designs—most commonly passenger and car ferries.

What is a Monohull Sailboat?

A monohull is probably what you traditionally think of as a boat. Monohulls are longer than they are wide. It features a single hull—it’s that simple. Sailing monohull designs have evolved over the centuries into many distinct types, usually distinguished by keel type.

Monohulls come in many shapes and sizes . For example, sailing monohulls designed for offshore use have long keels that sometimes extend much further below the waterline than the freeboard and cabin extend above it.

Monohull sailboats are also designed for other purposes, such as inland sailing and racing. These vessels have more contemporary characteristics, such as rounded shallow ‘canoe’ bottoms, V-bottoms, and fin keels.

Monohulls aren’t just sailboats. Virtually every cargo and container ship, warship, and many passenger ships are monohulls due to their strength, ease of construction, and high cargo capacity.

Are Monohull Sailboats More Common?

Monohulls are more common in every application, though multi-hulls are becoming more common for ferries. Monohulls have numerous benefits over multi-hulls, and these benefits only increase with scale.

Monohulls are easy to construct. They’re also cheap. Large monohull ships, such as container ships, can be built with very little material and effort. This is because the vast majority of the length of a monohull is just a box, with a bow and stern welded onto the end.

Sailboat construction is more intricate, but the costs are still lower. Plus, monohull designs are robust, and cabin space is plentiful. There’s a lot more study in the field of monohull design, which was the universal truth until somewhat recently.

But all in all, the reason why monohull sailboats are more common is that they work just fine. Most sailboat owners aren’t interested in breaking speed records or hosting dozens of people aboard their boats. As a result, a standard, simple, and easy-to-control monohull are more than sufficient.

Are Catamarans Faster than Monohulls?

Catamarans are most certainly faster than monohulls. This is almost always the case. Even the fastest production monohulls can’t hold a candle to the average cruising catamaran.

But why is this the case? Aren’t catamarans restricted by the same hydrodynamic forces as monohulls? As it turns out, they aren’t. This has to do with the unusual way hull waves impact speed.

Hull Speed Limitations

Monohull speed is limited by something called hull speed. Hull speed is determined using a formula that calculates the maximum speed a displacement hull can travel under normal power and conditions.

When a displacement hull moves through the water, it kicks up a set of waves at the bow and stern. These waves travel along the side of the vessel and create drag, which slows down the boat. Normally, the power of the wind can overcome this drag—but only to a point.

At a certain speed, the waves kicked up by the bow will sync with the waves kicked up at the stern and begin ‘working together’ against the boat. The speed at which this occurs is the hull speed, which is calculated from the length of the boat.

Hull speed limitations for monohulls aren’t universally true all the time. Some vessels exceed it, and some don’t—but the number is a useful estimate of the limitations of monohull designs. Modern monohulls with clever hull shapes can defeat hull speed calculations.

Do Hull Speed Limitations Apply to Catamarans?

Surprisingly no—hull speed calculations don’t work for catamarans. This is because, for one, the hulls are shaped differently. Alone, catamaran hulls wouldn’t float correctly. But together, they create different hydrodynamic effects and cancel out the effects of hull speed.

This means that catamarans can easily exceed the speeds of even the fastest monohulls of equal length—and sometimes beat them by a margin of 50% or more. It’s not unheard of for 40-foot catamarans to exceed 20 knots, whereas 40-foot monohulls rarely get past 10.

Are Catamarans More Comfortable than Monohulls?

Catamarans can be much more comfortable than equivalently-sized monohulls—up to a point. This is because catamarans engage in ‘wave piercing’ and have a wider and more stable footprint on the water.

Catamaran hulls, when properly designed, can slice through parts of a wave instead of riding over every peak and trough. This effectively reduces the height of the weight, which reduces the amount the boat rolls.

Additionally, the wide footprint of a catamaran allows some waves to simply pass right under it, keeping the boat level for longer durations. Catamarans also don’t heel under sail—instead, they plane slightly, raising the bows out of the water and reducing bumps.

Monohull Benefits

Monohulls are proven in all conditions. A well-designed displacement monohull sailboat can ride out the strongest storms, and monohull workboats can support enormous loads and move them efficiently. They can be fast, comfortable, and also easy to sail (even for beginners).

Monohulls are cheap to build and forgiving, as precision doesn’t have to be microscopic to get them to sail right. They’re robust and strong, featuring a naturally stress-resistant hull shape. They’re also easy to modify and aren’t required to meet as strict of dimensional ratios to operate.

With a monohull sailboat, you have a lot of interior room to work with. This means that monohulls are available in numerous cabin layouts and are just as easy to modify as they are to build. Monohulls often have a center of gravity at or below the waterline, which enhances stability at steep heel angles.

On the water, displacement monohulls can weather extreme conditions with ease. They lack the initial stability of multi-hulls, but they can recover from knockdowns on their own, and they’re very difficult to push past their rollover point.

Why do Catamarans Cost More than Monohulls?

Catamarans cost more than monohulls because they’re more expensive to build, more complex to engineer, and require more material. This isn’t always the case, but the design of catamarans requires much more careful engineering and strength-of-materials analysis than comparatively simple monohulls.

There are several critical structural points on catamarans that monohulls lack. In fact, the very shape of a monohull is physically strong—so it has inherent durability. Catamaran hulls must be joined in the middle, and the mast must have a strong point far from the inherently sturdy hulls.

This requires stronger materials and more care during design or construction. This is why catamarans remain a premium part of the sailboat market and why they still aren’t the most popular sailboats despite their numerous performance and comfort benefits.

Catamaran Cabin Layout

Catamaran cabins are split between the two hulls, and there’s usually a large pilothouse in the center. Pilothouse catamarans can be quite spacious, primarily due to the large space between the hulls.

The pilothouse is usually where kitchen and sitting areas are located, along with cockpit access and the controls of the sailboat. The mast is also located in this area.

Catamaran cabins sometimes mirror each other. For example, each hull may contain two identical bedroom/bathroom combos, while the center console area contains the kitchen and living spaces.

The two identical hulls sometimes make for unusual design decisions (such as small catamarans with four master bedrooms), but owners say this gives their passengers a much better experience than a monohull cabin.

Monohull Cabin Layout

Monohull cabins, with the exception of split-cabin sailboats with a center cockpit, have only one large interior space to work with. It’s usually much wider than catamarans of equal length.

Monohull cabins are usually accessible from the bow (via a flush deck hatch) and the stern via a traditional companionway. They run the span of the hull between the bow and the cockpit and sometimes include spare berths under the cockpit seats.

These spare berths are often used as convenient sea cabins, as they offer quick access to controls in case of an emergency. Catamarans often have convertible berths in the center console for the same reason.

Monohull cabins are traditional and include everything that catamaran cabins do—albeit with slightly less room overall. That said, individual spaces are often much wider, and facilities are more appropriate.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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Catamaran vs. Monohull.

Catamaran vs. Monohull: Which Is Better?

sailing monohull or catamaran

Table of Contents

Last Updated on September 1, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

It used to be that sailors and powerboaters (blowboaters and stinkpotters, respectively) used to hold the loudest arguments about which was better– sailboats or powerboats. Today, the debate is centered around catamarans and monohulls— how many hulls are best? Is there a best?

Let’s look at what each boat offers— and continue to read for all Pro Boatsetter Tips .

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The benefits of catamarans

Spacious for large crews, easier on your body, shallow drafts, safety system in case of emergencies.

Pro Boatsetter Tip: Did you know catamarans have seen a great surge in popularity over the last decade?

Catamaran Sailboat.

If you’ve got a large crew or plan on throwing parties aboard, you’ll probably benefit from the catamaran’s (also known as “cats”) roominess. Cats offer separation on deck with the aft cockpit , forward lounge or trampoline, and maybe even a flybridge .

Inside, cats have cabins and multiple heads for convenience. A cat of a given length (let’s say 40 feet) has 1.25 x the space of the same length monohull. In other words, it feels the same as a 50-foot monohull. It’s also usually laid out in a more user-friendly manner.

Cats have two hulls, making walking easier for kids, older folks, and pets! Because of its steadiness, you and your crew are less likely to be fatigued by the end of your boat trip. Maybe stay out longer to catch more fish.

Best of all, you’re less likely to feel seasickness because they don’t feel “on their ear” even when sailing in high winds and rough conditions. Not to mention, they’re much easier to sleep on.

Most sailing catamarans have a shallow draft perfect for skinny water cruising like the Chesapeake Bay and Florida. They can venture into areas previously off-limits to deep-draft monohull sailboats.

Most cats have double the systems, including bilge pumps, freshwater pumps, showers, heads, engines, etc. This means if one system fails, you’ve got a backup!

Twin screws also offer easier docking and increased maneuverability. It’s much easier to drive a large sailing cat than a single-engine monohull, especially in a cross-breeze and when docking, backing, or maneuvering in tight quarters.

The benefits of monohulls

  • Performance
  • Easy cruising
  • Familiarity
  • Availability & expense

Pro Boat Type Tip: Operating a monohull can be challenging! If this is your first time sailing on a monohull , make sure to rent with one of our pro captains.

Monohull Sailboat.

Competitive performer

If you want to win a sailboat race, use a monohull. This boat’s design makes it a favorable contender even when weather conditions are working against you.

Let’s add a caveat here for cruising under power– cats tend to be more fuel efficient because they’re lighter and they’re not dragging a heavy keel through the water.

Easier motion

Monohull sailboats have their own groove. This motion is predictable and distinguishable by pro sailors. Cats, on the other hand, depend on the body of water’s condition state. Also, cats pound when going upwind into big seas if their bridge deck is pummeled by waves, while monohulls tend to slice through the waves.

Familiar handling

Monohulls have been around for centuries, and chances are that you learned to sail or powerboat on one, so their handling is more familiar. A cat’s dimensions may seem intimidating at first, especially if you are short-handed.

Availability & cost

Monohulls are more available, especially for rent. There are simply more of them. They’re also usually less expensive to rent and less expensive to moor in a marina.

The good news about catamarans and monohulls

There’s no right or wrong choice. It all depends on your budget but, above all, your boating lifestyle. So the better question is: what will you use your sailboat to do?

Party at hidden coves with your crew. Take the kids out for a fun sailing excursion. Sunset cruises with your partner. Enter a regatta; win! Rent it out for an extra income.

Learn more about boating types, gear, and fun water toys at Boating Resources .

Boatsetter is a unique boat-sharing platform that gives everyone — whether you own a boat or you’re just renting — the chance to experience life on the water. You can list a boat , book a boat , or make money as a captain .

List, rent, earn — Only at Boatsetter.

Zuzana-Prochazka

Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin. 

A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide. 

Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico. 

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Catamaran vs Monohull in Rough Seas: Which is Better?

Catamarans and monohulls have different designs that affect how they handle rough sea conditions. In fact, they have an advantage over each other when sailing in heavy seas. Let's try to compare each type of vessel based on their performance, design, and stability, to help you decide which can give you a safer and more comfortable journey on the open water.

Regarding speed, efficiency, and stability, a catamaran may be the better option for you. Because they have twin hulls, they are more comfortable to sail in rough seas. A monohull can become more advantageous in rough seas when sailing upwind since it can point higher into the wind and can handle strong winds easily.

Catamarans with two rudders also allow for better control and maneuverability in rough seas compared to monohulls, which only have one rudder. Let's look at more of the comparison between these two types of boats when sailing through big waves in the sea.

  • When it comes to stability and comfort, catamarans can provide more stability. They are also less likely to cause seasickness and offer more living space and privacy.
  • In terms of speed, catamarans are also faster than monohulls because they have a smaller displacement. Their structure also makes them less likely to capsize or sink.
  • A monohull is advantageous when it comes to sailing upwind, and handling stronger winds. Their deep keel also provides them with increased stability and reduces drag, which can be an advantage in rough seas.

sailing monohull or catamaran

Catamarans Vs. Monohulls in Rough Seas

If you're planning to buy a boat, and you're deciding whether to go for a catamaran or a monohull, one of the many things you may need to consider is how they perform in rough seas. Rough seas can be challenging for any vessel, but some boats are better equipped to handle them than others. Below is a table summarizing how well these boats perform in rough seas:

Two hulls connected by a deck Cruising, chartering, racing More stable in terms of roll stability Generally faster and more efficient due to twin hulls Not as good as monohulls
Only one hull Day sailing, racing, cruising Better at handling heavy seas and high winds Not as fast or efficient due to single hull Better than catamarans

A catamaran is a boat with two hulls connected by a deck. Because they have two hulls , catamarans are known for their speed, stability, and spaciousness. They are often used for cruising and chartering, as well as racing. They also have a wider beam than monohulls, which means they offer more living space and stability. They are less likely to heel or tilt to one side, are more buoyant, and have a shallow draft.

On the other hand, monohulls are the most common type of boat with only one hull. They are known for their simplicity, versatility, and affordability. Monohulls are often used for day sailing, racing, and cruising.

sailing monohull or catamaran

When it comes to rough seas, catamarans are generally more stable than monohulls in terms of roll stability. Monohulls, on the other hand, are better at handling heavy seas and high winds, but they can be more prone to rolling and pitching, and can significantly heel more than a catamaran.

If you are aiming for speed, efficiency, and stability, then a catamaran may be the better option for you. They are generally faster and more efficient due to their twin hulls, and their stability can make for a more comfortable ride in rough seas.

On the other hand, if you prioritize upwind sailing performance, sailing feels and responsiveness, and the traditional look and feel of a sailboat, then a monohull may be the better option for you. Monohulls sail closer to the wind and have a unique feel to them that some sailors prefer.

Detailed Comparison Between Catamaran And Monohull

sailing monohull or catamaran

Catamarans provide better stability and comfort

Catamarans are more stable, less likely to cause seasickness and offer more living space and privacy. Below is a table summarizing why catamaran is more advantageous in this category:

More stable, less likely to roll or heel More likely to pitch and roll
Less likely to cause seasickness More likely to cause seasickness
More living space and privacy due to two hulls Less living space and privacy due to single hull

In terms of motion in rough seas

Catamarans are more stable in rough seas because they have two hulls instead of one. This means that they are less likely to roll or heel, which can make for a more comfortable ride. Monohulls, on the other hand, tend to pitch and roll more in rough seas.

In terms of handling seasickness

If you are prone to seasickness, a catamaran may be a better choice for you. The stability of a catamaran means that it is less likely to cause seasickness than a monohull. Additionally, the living space on a catamaran is often spread out between the two hulls, which can help to reduce the feeling of confinement that can contribute to seasickness.

In terms of living space and privacy

Catamarans also tend to offer more living space and privacy than monohulls. Because the living space is spread out between the two hulls, each hull can function as a separate living space. This can be especially beneficial if you are traveling with a group of people and want to have some privacy.

Both boat types have specific advantages in performance and speed

A catamaran is generally faster and more stable than a monohull, but a monohull can be easier to handle in certain conditions.

Less efficient More efficient
More stable due to wider beam Easier to handle

In terms of navigating upwind

When sailing upwind, a monohull has the advantage over a catamaran due to its ability to point higher into the wind. This means that a monohull can sail closer to the wind than a catamaran, which will need to tack more often. However, a catamaran can make up for this disadvantage with its speed. A catamaran can sail faster than a monohull , which can help it to cover more distance in less time.

In terms of handling strong winds

In strong winds, a catamaran is generally more stable than a monohull due to its wider beam. This means that a catamaran is less likely to heel over, making it more comfortable for passengers. However, a monohull can be easier to handle in strong winds due to its ability to reef the sails. By reducing the sail area, a monohull can reduce the amount of wind it catches, making it easier to control.

Catamarans and monohulls have different designs and function

Catamarans offer more deck and cabin space, shallow draft, and increased buoyancy, while monohulls have a deeper draft, reduced drag, and increased stability.

Has wider beam and two hulls Has a single hull
Has a shallow draft Has a deeper draft and keel

In terms of the deck and cabin space

One of the advantages of catamarans over monohulls is their wider beam, which provides more deck space. This means more room to move around and increased stability, which is important in rough seas.

sailing monohull or catamaran

Additionally, catamarans usually have two hulls, which means more cabin space and privacy for the crew and passengers. On the other hand, monohulls have a single hull, which means less deck and cabin space. However, monohulls usually have a deeper draft, which allows them to sail closer to the wind and tack more efficiently.

In terms of draft and buoyancy

Catamarans have a shallow draft, which means they can sail in shallow waters and anchor closer to shore. This makes them ideal for exploring shallow coves and bays. Also, catamarans have two hulls, which provide increased buoyancy and stability in rough seas.

Monohulls, on the other hand, have a deeper draft, which makes them less suitable for shallow waters. However, their deep keel provides increased stability and reduces drag , which can be an advantage in rough seas.

Both boat types have unique safety considerations

Safety is a top priority when sailing in rough seas. Catamarans are generally more stable and easier to control, while monohulls have a greater risk of capsizing but are also more maneuverable in certain situations.

Less likely to capsize and are virtually unsinkable Has a keel and ballast that increase the risk of capsizing
With two rudders that provide better control Only has one rudder and is more susceptible to being pushed off course by waves and wind

In terms of the risk of capsizing

One of the biggest safety concerns when sailing in rough seas is the risk of capsizing. Catamarans have two hulls, which make them more stable than monohulls. This means that they are less likely to capsize in rough seas. Catamarans are also technically unsinkable , meaning that they will not sink even if one hull is damaged or flooded.

sailing monohull or catamaran

On the other hand, monohulls have a keel and ballast, which provide stability but also increase the risk of capsizing. If a monohull capsizes, it can be difficult to right the boat and prevent it from sinking.

In terms of navigational control

Catamarans have two rudders, which provide additional control and maneuverability in rough seas. This means that you can steer the boat more easily and avoid obstacles like rocks and other boats. Meanwhile, a monohull only has one rudder.

However, despite the number of rudders involved, the ability to control and maneuver the boat, whether a catamaran or a monohull, still depends on the design and construction of the boat, as well as the skill of the captain and crew in handling the boat.

Other practical considerations when choosing between catamaran and monohull

Docking and anchorage Easier to dock or anchor but can be more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces due to size Generally easier to maneuver in tight spaces
Storage and equipment Has more storage space Only suited for certain types of equipment, such as fishing gear or diving equipment, due to the layout of the boat.
Crew accommodations More spacious accommodations, which can be an advantage for longer trips or larger crews May offer more privacy for individual crew members due to separate cabins and tighter quarters

In terms of docking and anchorage

Docking and anchorage can be easier with a catamaran due to the wider beam, which provides more stability. However, catamarans can be more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces due to their size. On the other hand, monohulls are generally easier to maneuver in tight spaces, but they may be less stable in rough seas.

For docking costs, catamarans tend to have higher docking rate costs due to their size and wider beam. Read this article to know more about the costs of docking a catamaran in different locations.

In terms of storage and equipment

Catamarans typically have more storage space than monohulls due to their wider beam and larger deck area. This means they can carry more gear and supplies, making them a good choice for longer voyages or liveaboard situations. They can accommodate larger equipment such as dinghies, kayaks, and paddleboards - making them a great choice for water sports enthusiasts who want to bring their gear along.

Monohulls, on the other hand, have less storage space due to their narrower beam and smaller deck area. This means they are better suited for shorter trips or day sailing, where less gear and supplies are needed. Monohulls may also be better suited for certain types of equipment, such as fishing gear or diving equipment, due to the layout of the boat.

In terms of crew accommodations

Catamarans tend to have more spacious accommodations than monohulls, which can be an advantage for longer trips or when traveling with a larger crew. However, monohulls may offer more privacy for individual crew members due to the separate cabins and tighter quarters.

Catamarans generally have more living space than monohulls so they can offer more room for sleeping, lounging, and cooking, which can be especially beneficial for larger crews or families. They also often have large, open salons and cockpits that allow for easy socializing and entertaining. This can be a great feature for crews who enjoy spending time together.

Monohulls, on the other hand, have less living space than catamarans due to their narrower beam. This means they may be better suited for smaller crews or shorter trips. They often have cabins located closer together, which can make it easier to communicate and work together as a crew, which is a plus for racing or cruising in crowded areas.

Choosing boat type based on personal preferences

In terms of aesthetics and personal taste.

One of the first things that come to mind when choosing between a catamaran and a monohull is aesthetics. Both types of boats have their unique look, and it is up to personal preference which one you find more appealing. Some people prefer the sleek and modern look of a catamaran, while others prefer the classic look of a monohull.

Another thing to consider is personal taste. If you are someone who prefers a more spacious and open boat, then a catamaran might be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a more traditional sailing experience, then a monohull might be the better option.

In terms of suitability for families and couples

Basically, catamarans are known for their stability and spaciousness, making them a great choice for families with children or couples who want to have more space and privacy.

Monohulls, on the other hand, might not be as spacious as catamarans, but they offer a more traditional sailing experience. If you are a couple or a small family who wants to experience the thrill of sailing and doesn't mind being in close quarters, then a monohull might be the right choice for you.

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You may also like, cost of catamaran vs. monohull: which is more expensive.

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Matt Weidert

Catamaran vs Monohull: Why the Cat is Better for Your Sailing

  • We enjoy the extra lounge space a cat provides, especially a flybridge if available - that's where we'll spend most of our time during the day
  • We like the common areas being above the waterline and the better stability
  • We care less about sailing performance - we are the type of crew that is OK dropping sails if the winds are light or it's more convenient to motor
  • As the captain, I appreciate the maneuverability twin engines provide for docking - it keeps some stress out of the equation
  • Most tend to come with generators, AC, and water makers: all features we enjoy on these trips

sailing monohull or catamaran

Space & lounging

Sailing performance, maneuverability.

  • Comfort & Stability

sailing monohull or catamaran

  • Catamaran draft: ~4-5 feet
  • Monohull draft: ~5-6 feet

sailing monohull or catamaran

Comfort & stability

sailing monohull or catamaran

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Catamaran vs Monohull – Which is Better?

Which is better a catamaran or a monohull.

I’m often asked by my students why one would choose a sailing monohull or a sailing catamaran for their adventures. The simple answer is: There is no simple answer — it depends on a lot of things, perhaps the most important one is your preference. “Yeah, well, this is my first week sailing ever, so how do I have a preference?” Let’s explore the differences and discuss the ins and outs of sailing, chartering, performance, and living aboard either vessel.

Catamaran vs Monohull

Notice that I don’t say “pros” and “cons” when considering the differences between the two vessels. To some, the gentle rocking of the monohull elicits nostalgia for a bygone youth spent sailing dinghies in the bay. To others, it represents sleepless nights, banging kitchenware, and angry spouses.

Short Summary – Catamaran vs Monohull

Generally, I describe my preference as follows: If I want to invite guests that are not frequently on the water, have less tolerance for “bumpy” nights, or expect a more “luxury” experience (you’ll see why I put it in quotes shortly) then I select a sailing catamaran. There is more room to spread out (vs the same length mono), rocking at anchor/mooring is minimized, and the kids love playing on the trampoline. Or perhaps phrased differently, “If you want to drink from beach to beach…”

DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL WHILE OPERATING ANY VESSEL. EVER.

If, however, you want to put some miles down sailing from port to port in the Med (or wherever you have variable wind direction), then the mono is probably the better option. It has better upwind performance and costs less in marinas.

Let’s get into the details. We’re going to compare a suitable, common charter catamaran ( Lagoon, 40 ’) with a good, common charter monohull (Beneteau, 41’).

Sailing and Performance

The monohull total tacking angle is about 90-100 degrees apparent wind angle (AWA). This means that the closest close-haul sailing angle achievable is approximately 45-50 degrees off the wind. The comparable catamaran has a total tacking angle of about 110-120 degrees (55-60 degrees AWA off the wind). This loss is due to the extra leeway experienced in the catamaran. This is a significant difference when trying to beat to windward and can mean the difference between sailing the entire distance vs putting the sails up for show only. For those interested in math, the progress into the wind is determined by the cosine of the close haul sailing angle (angle of the wind) times the length of the leg on that tack.

windward distance = cosine(𝜶) x leg length

Where α is the close haul sailing of the vessel. Table 1 compares the windward distance achieved of 3 sailing angles over a leg length of 1 unit (nautical mile, km, etc). For example, if the leg length is 1 nm, and 7 legs are sailed, a total distance of 7 nm is covered. However, the progress to windward is not 7 nm, but

cosine(𝜶) x leg length = cos(45°) x 7 nm = 0.71 x 7 nm = 5.0nm

for a monohull sailing 45° to the wind, and 4.0 nm for a catamaran sailing 55° to the wind. The final difference after 7 tacks each is 1.0 nm, which would take the catamaran an additional 2 tacks (and just shy of 2 nm distance sailed) to make up the difference.

Table 1. Sailing Angle and Distance Comparison Sailing Angle (off the wind) Windward Distance Achieved % loss from 45°

Sailing Angles table cat vs monohull

Figure 1. Sailing Angle Mono vs Cat

Sailing angles image

A real-life example

Sailing from Mallorca on a new Lagoon 40. We needed to sail directly upwind in about 20 knots of wind, 3 miles from Cala Mondragó to Cala D’Or. It took over 2 hours and we sailed over 7 nm. As you can see, the tacking angle is far from 90º typical to a monohull.

Catamaran sailing example

Additionally, the loss to each tack must be considered. Speed and headway is lost with each tack – the mono carries its momentum much better (minimal speed loss) through the tack and has minimal leeway loss compared to the catamaran. The cat loses a tremendous amount of its momentum and experiences significant leeway loss. And it has to take more tacks to make the same windward distance, rendering the loss greater than that just lost to having to sail a greater distance due to the tacking angle.

Daggerboards greatly reduce leeway and give catamarans excellent upwind performance on par with monohulls. There are reasons why all cats don’t just have daggerboards. Especially on charter boats, one mistake, leaving the boards down, in shallow water can destroy the boat.

Across the wind (most reaching situations), the catamaran is faster. Upwind, the mono makes better progress due to the tacking/sailing angle. Downwind is a competition.

Downwind is where catamarans really shine. The stability and smooth ride is no comparison to a monohull. We sailed Never Say Never, our Lagoon 400S2 from Hilton Head SC to Ft Lauderdale, we had a NE wind of 20-25 knots. For us to stay inshore of the Gulf Stream to avoid rough conditions, we were wing-on-wing for over 24 hours, surfing down gently at over 7 knots. We covered over 160 miles in 24 hours. Escorted by dolphins, this was one for the books —non-stop 3-day delivery.

Comfort & Stability

The catamaran doesn’t heel (well, it shouldn’t. I guess if that’s the case we’re having another conversation ). No heeling can mean easier walking about while underway: we’re all familiar with walking on level ground; walking with the ground at an angle is a less-common experience. However, there is an oft-missed discussion about the mono’s stability on a heel. Waves tend to roll under the mono’s hull. Once sea legs are found, the motion of the hull on the water is predictable and smooth.

The cat’s motion on waves tends to bounce between two “stable” states: one resting on the starboard hull, the other resting on the port hull. You get a slight, but sudden rock to starboard when the wave passes under the port pontoon, then a sudden return to port as the wave passes under the starboard hull. This tends to be a jarring motion all day. So while some argue that mono heeling is tiring, others will argue that this cat phenomenon is tiring. A sarcastic captain often says:

“One benefit of a cat, you get each wave twice!”

Each vessel has its own quirks for sail trim, so that is a wash. I can read a mono’s sails much easier than a cat’s, but I sailed monos for 20+ years before trying cats so I may be biased.

Catamaran vs Monohull Safety

The mono gives lots of feedback about being overpowered long before it becomes a problem: heel angle and weather helm are the loudest. The cat is much more subtle: mast and boom groans, light windward pontoon, lack of steerability. Experiment with the main traveller position and reefing on a schedule per the owners manual to find the optimum sail configuration on a cat.

When the seas pick up, catamarans do much better downwind. Monohulls tend to roll, yaw and wallow in the troughs and round up on the face of the waves. Catamaran’s tend to surf straight down the waves. A force 7-8 blow can be enjoyable. Stow your main and run with just the jib downwind on a cat and you’ll see the beauty and ease to steer this configuration.

“When the seas pick up, catamarans do much better downwind. Monohull’s tend to roll, yaw and wallow in the troughs”

Chartering and Living Aboard Considerations

Charter cost – cats are 30-60% more expensive than the equivalent mono.

In marinas, the cat rate is usually 50% greater than the mono rate. And, unless you get a reservation long in advance, they might not have room for you.

On moorings, depending on the bow cleat location, the mooring lines can run over or along portions of the hull of the cat. This leads to line stretch-and-relaxation noise all night long. For anyone in the forward cabins, this is a nightmare. Or worse since you can’t even get to sleep to have a nightmare.

Cats tend to have shallower draft and therefore can anchor closer to the beach. If wind and swell are from the same direction, cats tend to weather it better at anchor. Due to the bridle, cats do not swing on anchor. Older monos used to swing a lot, modern designs have reduced this swing tremendously.

There is lots more room on a cat to house the luxury amenities like A/C, water makers, and generators. Though, modern design is allowing for clever locations for these items in the mono, so there will probably be more monos becoming available with these options.

Cats tend to carry more potable water than the mono. They also carry more fuel. And burn more. Our weekly mono fuel bill ranges from $80-150 USD. Our weekly cat fuel bill ranges from $180-300 USD. (1.) Though you pay more for a catamaran, most systems are redundant. Two engines are better than one.

Catamaran vs Monohull Maneuverability

Cats are far easier to maneuver under power due to the two engines being separated by such a great distance. This makes picking up moorings, dropping and weighing anchor, and docking a breeze.

I would argue that monos are easier to manoeuvre under sail due to large rudders and heavy keels. The heavy keel maintains its momentum through manoeuvres much better than the cat. The large rudder means a small helm adjustment is quickly experienced in the respective heading. This large rudder also reduces steerage way to about 0.75-1.0 kts, whereas the cat is about 2.5 kts. While I doubt we’ll see cheaters , I mean bow thrusters, on 40’ monos, I have seen them on 44’ monos before. This added amenity makes up for greatly increased manoeuvrability while docking or weighing anchor.

Dinghy Storage

Storing the dinghy on the davits is a wonderful location for passages of any length. The reduced drag from not towing it is immediately seen in increased sailing speed. Monos must carry theirs on the bow or tow it astern. And you have to take the engine off too. Usually by hand, so you are not going to see a 20HP electric start engine on a dinghy for a 40’ mono. Not that you’d see that size for a 40’ cat either, but a 9.9 – 15 HP isn’t out of the question.

Ultimately, it boils down to what your preferences are. Do you like the extra space and amenities the cat provides? Do you like the sailing performance of the mono? Again, I choose a cat to sail from island to island in the Caribbean, where having a water maker or A/C is nice, fairly flat water is expected at all times, and anchoring close to the beach is a cool experience for everyone on board. I choose a mono to sail greater distances, go offshore, or hop from one marina to another in the Med.

1. This article was written in the spring of 2022, just before the crazy increase in fuel prices.  As of publication date, these numbers need to be adjusted higher by about 50-100%

sailing monohull or catamaran

Ben Martin is a long-standing instructor at Nautilus Sailing. ASA 201, 203, 204, 205, 214 Certified Instructor, RYA Yachmaster Offshore, USCG 100 Ton Captain. Ben grew up in Northern Maine sailing dinghies on a lake. He graduated from University of Maine with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering. After working for the US Navy for a few years, he decided to pursue his passion on the water and worked as a charter yacht captain for several years in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Eventually, his career led to sailing instruction and he hasn’t looked back since.

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Cruising Sea

Catamaran VS Monohull Sailing – Which Is Best For You?

Catamaran vs monohull sailing

When it comes to choosing the right boat for your sailing adventures, the debate between catamarans and monohulls is a hot topic. Many novice and experienced sailors face the challenge of deciding which type of boat best suits their needs, preferences, and sailing goals.

Each of these vessels has its unique characteristics, and your choice will ultimately depend on factors such as the intended use, the areas you plan to sail, budget constraints, and your personal preferences.

In this article, you’ll find all you need to know about catamaran vs monohull sailing. So, let’s dive into it right now and see the key differences between these two popular types of watercraft.

Post updated: 25.10.23

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the differences in design and performance between catamarans and monohulls.
  • Consider factors like comfort, safety, and cost when choosing a boat.
  • Gain insights into the pros and cons of each type of vessel to make an informed decision.

Design and Structure

Hull comparison.

When choosing between a catamaran and a monohull, one of the main differences lies in their hull structures. A  catamaran  consists of two parallel hulls connected by a beam, offering more stability and a shallower draft.

A  monohull  has a single hull and relies on a deep keel for stability. Monohulls often give the feeling of sailing closer to the water and provide the traditional sailing experience many enthusiasts enjoy.

Deck and Cabin

In terms of living quarters, catamarans offer larger, more open deck spaces and cabins than monohulls. This allows for a more comfortable living experience, with roomy kitchens and dining areas.

On a monohull , the living space can feel more confined, but some sailors appreciate the cozy atmosphere and the challenge of maximizing every inch of space.

Beam and Ballast

The beam refers to the width of the boat, and in the case of a catamaran , it is typically wider than a comparable monohull, as it stretches across both hulls. The increased beam improves stability, making catamarans less likely to rock or roll in waves when navigating in good conditions.

Monohulls, on the other hand, have a narrower beam and use ballast (typically in the form of a heavy keel) to assist in maintaining balance. This allows monohulls to lean or “heel” more while underway, providing a unique sailing experience for those on board.

Helm and Rudders

Both catamarans and monohulls have helms and rudders to control the boat’s direction and maneuverability. The key difference lies in the positioning and number of these components.

On a catamaran , there are typically two rudders, one behind each hull, providing more responsive steering and faster turning.

Monohulls have a single rudder, which might make steering more challenging in strong winds or high seas.

Performance

Speed and efficiency.

When comparing catamarans and monohulls, one of the first things that comes to mind is their speed and efficiency.

Catamarans are generally faster than monohulls of the same length and displacement.

This is primarily due to their lighter weight and slim hulls, which offer less water resistance and drag.

In fact, a catamaran can often sail at half the speed of wind, which is about 30% faster than a monohull. However, this also depends on factors like sail configuration, wind conditions, and sea state.

Handling and Maneuverability

Handling characteristics differ significantly between catamarans and monohulls. Generally, monohulls are more responsive to trim adjustments and wind pressure, providing a more engaging sailing experience for the sailor.

On the other hand, catamarans are less maneuverable under sail since they lack the deep keel of a monohull, which is essential to track and coast.

Nonetheless, catamarans excel in maneuvering when under power, thanks to their twin-engine configuration. They can pivot the boat into position more easily, making docking a breeze.

Monohulls rely on prop walk and reverse to position themselves, which can be challenging for some sailors.

Upwind Sailing

Sailing upwind is an essential aspect of any sailing adventure. Here, monohulls have the edge, as they can sail closer to the wind. This means that when you’re racing or trying to reach an upwind destination, a monohull might get you there faster.

Catamarans, on the other hand, struggle to tack upwind as efficiently due to their wider hull separation and lower resistance.

Water Resistance and Drag

Water resistance and drag play a crucial role in a sailboat’s performance. Catamarans have slender hulls with minimal wetted surface area, which reduces drag and allows them to cut through the water more efficiently.

This design contributes to their speed advantage over monohulls . On the contrary, monohulls have a larger wetted surface and a deeper draft, which increases water resistance and slows them down in comparison.

Both catamarans and monohulls have their unique strengths and weaknesses in terms of performance. While catamarans are generally faster and offer better maneuverability under power, monohulls excel in upwind sailing and provide a more engaging sailing experience. 

Comfort and Space

Spaciousness and comfort.

Regarding comfort and space, catamarans have a clear advantage over monohulls. Thanks to their wide beam, catamarans offer more spacious accommodations, especially in the main saloon and cockpit areas.

The twin-hulled design provides greater stability, resulting in a smoother sailing experience with less heeling and rocking.

This makes catamarans ideal for those who prioritize comfort and want plenty of room to move around during their sailing adventures.

Kitchen and Dining Experience

A key difference in the kitchen and dining experience between catamarans and monohulls lies in the amount of space and layout.

Catamarans typically feature roomier galleys with ample counter space for meal preparation, making it easier for everyone to lend a hand in the kitchen.

The dining area in catamarans is often designed as an extension of the cockpit, allowing for seamless indoor-outdoor socializing and easy access to both the galley and the deck.

In contrast, monohull sailboats have smaller galleys, often in a U-shape or along one side of the hull. The dining area might be more confined, usually within the main salon. While it may be cozy, it lacks the open and airy feel of a catamaran’s dining space.

Privacy and Living Quarters

Another aspect to consider is the privacy and living quarters in both types of sailboats.

Catamarans usually have separate hulls for the living accommodations, which can provide greater privacy and personal space for guests or crew members as the cabins tend to be physically separated from the common areas.

Additionally, because the cabins are situated in the hulls, they are less affected by noise or disturbance from the main salon and cockpit.

Monohull sailboats, on the other hand, usually have more compact living quarters located within the same hull. Privacy may be slightly compromised due to the closeness of the cabins to the common areas.

That said, monohulls can still provide adequate living space and privacy, depending on the layout and size of the sailboat.

Safety and Stability

When comparing catamarans and monohulls, safety and stability are important factors to consider. In this section, I’ll explain the differences between the two boat types regarding capsize and buoyancy, seasickness, motion, dealing with waves and bad weather, and docking and anchoring.

Capsize and Buoyancy

Catamarans are known for their stability due to their two-hull design, which increases their resistance to capsizing.

Conversely, Monohulls can roll over more easily but can right themselves due to their heavy, lead-loaded keels. However, catamarans have natural buoyancy and can remain afloat even if they are holed, while a monohull may sink if it takes on too much water.

Seasickness and Motion

Seasickness can be a major concern for boaters, and the motion of a catamaran is generally more stable and comfortable than that of a monohull.

Catamarans are less susceptible to roll, which can reduce the chances of seasickness for those onboard.

Monohulls , however, tend to pitch more in rough seas, which can lead to a more uncomfortable ride for passengers.

Dealing with Waves and Bad Weather

While catamarans are known for their speed advantage over monohulls, heavier cruising catamarans may not be as fast if they have smaller rig sizes for ease of handling.

In bad weather, a catamaran’s speed can help outrun storms, while monohulls rely more on their stability in rough waters.

Waves in an anchorage that induce violent roll in a monohull may, however, only cause a catamaran to bounce or bob.

Docking and Anchor

When it comes to docking and anchoring, there are differences between catamarans and monohulls.

Catamarans don’t coast well primarily because they don’t have a deep keel to track. They require a different approach to docking, utilizing engines to pivot the boat into position instead of relying on coasting and prop walk.

Monohulls typically need more depth when anchoring due to their keels, while catamarans benefit from their shallow drafts, allowing them to access shallower areas and anchor closer to shore.

Cost and Maintenance

When considering catamarans and monohulls, it’s important to take into account the cost and maintenance of each type of vessel. So, let’s explore the differences in maintenance and equipment, fuel consumption, and demand and resale value between the two.

Maintenance and Equipment

Generally, catamarans are more expensive to buy and maintain than monohulls. This is mostly due to their double-hull design, which requires extra maintenance and equipment costs.

On average, catamarans are 19-66% more expensive when new and have about 60% higher annual fees.

Although monohulls ‘ maintenance and repair costs are often lower, both boat types require regular upkeep to stay in good shape.

Some key maintenance differences between catamarans and monohulls include:

  • Hull and rigging maintenance:  Catamarans have two hulls, which can lead to double the maintenance costs for bottom painting and cleaning. However, their typically lighter and simpler rigging system can result in lower maintenance costs than monohulls.
  • Engine maintenance:  Catamarans usually have two engines, one in each hull, increasing overall maintenance costs. Monohulls generally have one engine, which can result in lower maintenance costs over time.

Fuel Consumption

When it comes to fuel consumption, catamarans tend to be more fuel-efficient than monohulls, especially at slower speeds. This is due to their hydrodynamic design, lightweight materials, and relatively less water resistance.

Although monohulls may consume more fuel, they often have a smaller fuel tank, which can result in lower overall fuel costs.

Demand and Resale Value

When purchasing a vessel, it’s important to consider the demand and resale value of both catamarans and monohulls.

Catamarans hold their value better due to their growing popularity and scarcity in the used boat market. This means that if you decide to sell your catamaran, you are likely to get a higher percentage of your investment back.

Monohulls, on the other hand, are more common on the used boat market, resulting in lower resale values. However, they typically have a lower initial purchase price, which may be more attractive for those on a budget.

Pros and Cons of Catamarans and Monohulls

Now, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of both catamarans and monohulls to help you decide when choosing the right boat for your needs. Let’s dive right into it!

Advantages of Catamarans

One of the main advantages of catamarans is their  comfort . They’re more stable and less prone to heeling, making it less likely for passengers to get seasick.

Catamarans are also more  spacious  due to their dual-hull design, providing ample living space above the waterline with bright and airy saloons. This makes them perfect for sailing with family or friends.

When it comes to  speed , catamarans generally perform better than monohulls. They usually sail faster and are more maneuverable in tight spaces due to their shallower draft, allowing for safer anchorages closer to shore.

Most catamarans in the 40-ft to 50-ft range draw between 3 ft to 4.5 ft, so they can access places that monohulls can’t even consider.

Disadvantages of Catamarans

Unfortunately, catamarans do have some downsides. One of the main disadvantages is their larger  windage .

The increased surface area can make them more difficult to handle in strong winds.

Additionally, their  maintenance  can often be more specialized and expensive due to the unique design features.

Advantages of Monohulls

Monohull boats have their own set of advantages. They provide a more classic  aesthetic  that many sailors find appealing.

When it comes to sailing performance, monohull boats  heel  naturally, which can give more direct  feedback  to the sailor and make for a more exhilarating experience.

In terms of speed, modern monohulls can sometimes exceed catamarans, particularly downwind and in choppy seas. Some can reach speeds of 10 knots or more.

Disadvantages of Monohulls

On the flip side, monohull boats often have less living space, and most spaces are below the waterline, making them feel more cramped and darker compared to catamarans. The heeling experience is a double-edged sword, as some passengers might enjoy it while others may feel more prone to seasickness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: which is safer in rough seas: a catamaran or a monohull.

When it comes to rough seas, both catamarans and monohulls have their safety advantages. Catamarans are known for their stability on the sea, and their speed can make it possible to outrun bad weather.

However, monohulls are considered to be stronger and may provide more space for emergency equipment and supplies. Safety ultimately depends on your skills as a sailor, the boat’s design, and the specific conditions you encounter.

Q: Can both catamarans and monohulls be used for offshore fishing?

Yes, both catamarans and monohulls can be used for offshore fishing. Catamarans are famous for their stability and ample deck space, which can provide a more comfortable fishing experience.

Monohulls, on the other hand, often have a deeper draft, allowing them to access deeper waters and a wider range of fishing spots. Ultimately, the choice comes down to your personal preferences and the type of fishing you plan to do.

Q: How do catamaran and monohull liveaboards differ?

There are notable differences between catamaran and monohull liveaboards. Catamarans typically provide more living and storage space, as well as more privacy due to their dual-hull design.

They’re also known to have better stability, which can make for a more comfortable living experience onboard.

Monohulls , however, can be more affordable and easier to maintain, and offer better sailing performance in certain conditions.

Q: Which type of boat is more suitable for Yacht Week: a catamaran or a monohull?

Both catamarans and monohulls can make for a fantastic Yacht Week experience, and the choice ultimately depends on your preferences and the specific event you’re attending.

Catamarans are ideal for those who prioritize stability, speed, and a more spacious layout for socializing.

Monohulls may be better suited for those who enjoy a more traditional sailing experience or are looking for a more budget-friendly option. Always consider the preferences of your crew and the requirements of the event when making your decision.

Final Words!

In summary, both designs offer their own unique advantages and drawbacks.

However, you should consider factors like your sailing goals, preferences in boat handling, and the type of waters you’ll be frequenting when deciding between a catamaran or monohull.

Both options have their merits, and your decision will ultimately be shaped by what best suits your unique needs and desires. Happy sailing!

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Which yacht do you prefer, a catamaran or a monohull? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below.

Picture of Daniella

Daniella has been passionate about travel, the sea, and nature for many years. As a child, she frequently traveled throughout the Mediterranean and continued with her journeys throughout her adult life.

Her experiences have created the desire within her to share her love for traveling with other passionate and adventurers who want to discover beautiful horizons and new cultures.

10 thoughts on “Catamaran VS Monohull Sailing – Which Is Best For You?”

This is a very interesting article, but I think it’s very clear which side you come down on! I would tend to agree and you have laid the key points out nicely to create a strong argument for the cat. I have been on both, but I’m definitely not a sailor, but the thing I remembered the most was the smoother ride that you get with the cat. So I agree with you!

Yes, you get a smoother ride with a Cat than with a Mono due to the two hulls and not to forget that the Cat is lighter than a Mono:)

Thank you for the comment

I wish you a great day!

Hello Daniella, I am mostly a ballast when sailing but thank you for this nice article. I’ve been curious what are the differences of catamarans vs monohulls and thanks to You now i have a little better understanding. And since i was sailing on monohull now it’s time to check out catas 😉 Maybe You could you provide some more information about renting prices of catas vs mono ? I couldn’t find it here and I think it could also play a big factor when chartering a yacht. Cheers!

You are right, I didn’t mention this important detail. Sorry about it! Here is the answer. A Catamarans is generally more expensive than a monohull of the same size and the reason is because the cat is a larger boat. But you’ll get the payback in the comfort and space.

I hope it helped!

Thank you for the comment and wish you a nice day

For myself I have always owned a mono haul sailboat for the fun of sailing around. To actually do a trip on one with others, I would choose the more spacious catamaran for down south in the warmer waters.

Not knowing much about the catamaran, it was nice to read a side by side description to have a better understanding between the two.

I am glad you found this article helpful and I hope it will help you to make the right choice. If you have never tried a catamaran, then I highly suggest you to try it, I am sure you will love it!

Thank you for the comment and wish you to sail soon!

Have an awesome day

I’ll go for Monohull in this case. I’ll rather sail alone or take a person with me on board. Not keen on having a group.

As I mention before, design is one thing I emphasise on but there are lots of people on board, I think I’ll stick by having more space than more passengers.

Thanks for sharing by the way, Daniella! They’re very analytical and informative, just like the previous debate I red. Good stuff!

As long as you feel good with your choice, then no matter what you’ll choose, it will be the good decision!

I personally love catamarans:) I feel much more comfortable and safe on these boats and the seasickness is reduced to 80%, so I won’t give up on Cats!

A Catamaran sounds awesome to me! I love that there is more living space and that they can be faster in the right winds. I’ve always thought they were so cool whenever I’ve seen one. So much space to relax and enjoy the ocean. I personally do more dinghy sailing and like for sailing to be more of a workout – hiking upwind and such. What big boats sail most like a dinghy?

Yes, I totally agree with you, Catamarans are great boats for cruising. As you said, cats have everything in order to sail comfortably and in luxury as well. As far as I know, a dinghy will always be a boat and you can try to workout as you do it on a dinghy on a bigger boat like a catamaran or a monohull. If you want to navigate the boat by yourself, then you’ll need to check if you are required to have a license for bigger vessels. You might need to do a sailing course.

However, I hope it helped and if you need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time, I’ll be glad to assist:)

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  • Articles and Guides

Catamaran vs Monohull: The Great Sailboat Debate

16th jun 2023 by john burnham.

Rightboat logo

Do you love the natural sounds of water sliding past the boat’s hull and a breeze blowing across your rigging and sails while gliding ahead powered only by the force of the wind? If yes, you are well-suited to spending plenty of time on a sailboat, like so many generations of boat people before you. 

But do you take your lead from the Egyptians who rigged sails on their boats built of reeds along the Nile River or follow the path of the Polynesians, who used an outrigger for extra stability and sailed from one Pacific island to the next in the earliest catamarans?

The question of which is better for sailing, one hull or two, has been a matter of debate over thousands of years. Today, let’s explore these two basic types of sailboat, and while we may not settle the argument once and for all, hopefully in the process you will begin to discover which option is better for you.

What Are the Differences Between Catamaran and Monohull Boats?

The monohull and the catamaran (often referred to as “cat”) are the two most common categories of sailboats, and of the two, the monohull far outnumbers the catamaran in popularity due to its simplicity and sturdiness. Advocates of the catamaran, however, are typically even more convinced than monohull sailors that their boats are best due to performance potential and overall spaciousness.  

What are catamaran-style boats?

Catamarans are easily identified by their two-hull design. Two hulls sit side by side with an interconnecting deck or structural beams across the bap in the middle. Catamarans have been around since Pacific Islanders and other Austronesian people sailed them centuries ago, and they continue to gain popularity in a wide range of designs both as high-performance racing boats and ocean-cruising designs.

Although not part of this debate, a third sailboat type comparable to a catamaran is a trimaran. Trimaran sailboats are constructed similarly to catamarans but have three parallel hulls rather than two. Collectively, catamarans and trimarans are referred to as multihulls, and sailors of both types often refer lightheartedly to monohulls as “monomarans.”

What are monohull-style boats?

Monohull sailboats are the most common boat type because they feature a single hull, typically with a single mast and two sails. Rather than maintaining stability with a second hull creating a wider beam, monohull boats usually carry lead or other heavy ballast in their keel, or are stabilized by human weight as their crews lean out to counter the force of the wind. Monohulls can also be excellent racers and cruisers, depending on their size, volume, sail area, and displacement or weight.

Where Catamarans and Monohulls Excel 

Each type of boat has its advantages, depending on what the owner wants in a boat. Here are the main advantages of each type.

Catamaran advantages

• More space .  Catamarans have greater beam for a given length, which provides more space for the crew on a daysailer and larger living quarters on cruising designs, which are often laid out with berths in each hull and living quarters across the bridgedeck between hulls.

• Faster hull . If they are light enough, the sleeker shape and reduced wetted surface of two narrow, shallow hulls can produce quicker straight-line sailing speed than a single, deeper and wider hull.

• Comfort and stability . Two hulls provide better initial stability and generally heel less than monohulls, especially in light- or medium-strength winds and waves.

Monohull advantages

• Upwind sailing . When sailing against the wind, monohulls often sail at a closer angle to the wind and arrive more quickly at their destination.

• Easier motion . Heavier monohulls often have a slower, gentler motion in waves than a lighter catamaran. 

• Load carrying capability . A monohull’s performance is reduced less than a catamaran’s when the boat is loaded heavily with cargo or crew.  

• Righting characteristics . Larger monohulls have weighted keels that provide increased resistance to a capsize when the boat is heeled far over by wind or a wave and if capsized will return the boat to an upright position.

Sailing yacht open sea

Catamaran vs. Monohull Sailing Speed

There are several reasons why a catamaran is often faster than a monohull boat. These include the fact that most catamaran hulls have less water resistance than monohulls, they are often lighter, and they can be more easily driven by a relatively small sailplan. At similar lengths, a catamaran can be dramatically faster than a monohull under similar sea conditions. However, weight is the enemy of a catamaran’s speed; a heavy or heavily loaded catamaran may be much slower than a lightweight monohull.

Catamaran vs. monohull power

A monohull under auxiliary power may be faster than a catamaran in certain conditions, like powering against a strong wind. In other wind and wave conditions, the catamaran is often faster. Also, with an engines on each hull, the cat is often much more maneuverable in close quarters or at the marina. While it may seem counter-intuitive, turning and controlling the boat is often less challenging than when sailing a monohull boat with the typical single engine. Monohull boats require more finesse when in tight quarters like berthing in a marina.

Catamaran vs. Monohull Efficiency

A sleek monohull may sail against the wind super efficiently, pointing close to the wind and making an excellent speed. However, the power-to-weight ratio of the catamaran allows it to make good use of whatever wind it has. Some fast, light catamarans can travel at speeds equal to or faster than the wind, something very few monohulls can achieve. When the wave action increases and you start sailing into the wind, the catamaran may lose its advantage, and in strong winds, the greater windage of the wide catamaran may have a pronounced slow-down effect compared to the sleeker monohull.  

Catamaran vs. Monohull Stability

Despite not having a weighted keel, a catamaran design is able to avoid heeling over in strong winds or bad weather due to its greater width or beam. As a result, the multihull also tends to be more stable at anchor and any time in calmer seas. However, if the winds are strong and the waves are large, a monohull, with its keel weight and ability to sail against the wind while controlling the sails, is sometimes the steadier of the two types. While a monohull with weighted keel can be knocked down by strong gusts of wind, it will only capsize in extremely large waves. Likewise, a cruising catamaran can only capsize in large ocean waves, unless it is a fast, lightweight catamaran, that can more easily tip over in gusty winds and waves.

Catamaran vs. Monohull Safety

Power catamarans and power monohulls are relatively comparable in terms of safety. But depending on the size of the mast and sails, the weight of the boat, and the wind and wave conditions experienced, many sailors believe that a monohull configuration is safer than a catamaran for a sailboat. That’s mainly because while a monohull will initially heel over further in a strong gust of wind, the weight of its keel provides increasing stability as described above and if completely capsized, the keel typically helps the boat self rescue.

It should be clarified that many sailing catamaran designs are conservatively configured and difficult to capsize except in extreme ocean wave conditions—and the same can be said for larger power catamarans. 

In terms of ultimate safety in the event of a capsize, however, the catamaran is considered safer because even should it turn once upside down, even if damaged, the catamaran with its two hulls and minimal ballast typically remains buoyant and provides a safer configuration in which to await rescue. By contrast, if a monohull’s hatches and port windows suffer damage in a knockdown, the boat can more quickly take on water and, weighed down by its keel or other ballast, be more difficult to keep afloat in extreme conditions.

fountaine pajot motor yachts my40

Photo credit: Fountaine Pajot

Monohull vs. Catamaran Maintenance

Depending on size, age, and type of hull construction, maintenance costs will vary, but when comparing two fiberglass sailboats of similar length, the catamaran typically costs more to maintain. That’s because there are two hulls to care for, two engines, connecting structures that align the two hulls, and an overall larger boat due to the catamaran’s greater beam. Hauling and launching a catamaran can be more expensive at many boatyards, as well.

However, smaller catamarans of about 20 feet in length or less are often more comparable and sometimes cheaper to maintain than a similar length monohull. That’s because cats are often lighter and suitable for keeping on a trailer rather than in a slip or on a mooring.

Catamaran vs. Monohull Cost

Compared to similar length monohulls, a catamaran will likely cost more than a monohull boat. That’s mainly because when you purchase a 40-foot catamaran, you are buying two hulls and two engines, but you are also buying a bigger boat that typically has much more volume. In the case of a 40-footer, you end up with a boat that has a large saloon and three or four private cabins, whereas in the monohull, the saloon is smaller and you’ll have three smaller sleeping cabins. Annual maintenance will also be greater, as described above.  

Among smaller catamarans and monohulls, pricing will vary, and a lightweight beach cat may be less expensive than a heavier monohull keelboat of similar length.

Catamaran vs. Monohull, Pros and Cons

Depending on a variety of factors, there are plenty of catamaran and monohull pros and cons. These are some to keep in mind when comparing the two boat types.

Catamaran pros

• Comfort . On a cruising designed catamaran, two hulls with a wide beam create a stable and comfortable living environment with open spaces and plenty of standing room.

• Speed . Smaller, lighter catamarans are speed champions, especially in a moderate wind and modest waves. Cruising cats are often fast when sailing at reaching angles.

• Maneuverability . When equipped with two engines, a catamaran is highly maneuverable under power.

Monohull pros

• Upwind sailing . Although catamarans are often faster when sailing in a straight line, monohulls typically perform better against the wind.

• Self-righting . Except for unballasted monohulls that rely on crew weight for stability, the ballasted keel of a monohull prevents capsizing in most circumstances and the keel makes the boat self-righting.

• Maneuvering under sail . Monohulls turn more easily due to their shape, maneuvering in close quarters or tacking when sailing against the wind.

family sailing yacht

Catamaran cons

• Lack of feel when steering . Except in lighter, more performance-oriented catamarans, the broad platform with two rudders and two hulls sometimes isolates the sailor and provides little feedback through the helm when under sail.

• Sailing against the wind . Upwind sailing is generally not a catamaran’s best point of sail, but its straight-line speed can be such that it may arrive quickly at its destination, even though you will have traveled much farther than in a monohull.

• Pricing . Catamarans are typically more expensive than monohull boats due to their two hulls and other required build components and complexity.

• Not self-righting . Thanks to its wide beam and two-hull design, a catamaran is more difficult to flip, but it is not designed to right itself except for small beach cats where the crew can use their weight to re-right the boat.

Monohull cons

• Weight . Most monohulls have thousands of pounds of weight in the keel for ballast that is vital to its stability but can degrade performance.

• Wave motions .   Monohull boats are much more susceptible to rolling wave motions.

• Cabin . With the monohull cruising design, you'll typically find a darker interior with smaller port windows and fewer space options.

• Heeling effect . Monohulls will heel over in a moderate wind, which is normal but often uncomfortable for newer sailors.

Written By: John Burnham

John Burnham is a marine ​editor and writer with ​decades of journalism experience as ​Chief Editor of​ boats.com,​ Sailing World, Cruising World, and ​other boating websites. As a competitive sailor, he has led teams to world and national titles in the International One-Design, Shields, and other classes. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, John is a​ PCC leadership coach, a member of the ​America’s Cup Hall of Fame Selection Committee​, and a ​past board member of Sail America and US Sailing. For more, see  johnsburnham.com .

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  • Catamaran vs. Monohull: What Type of Boat is Right for You?
  • Sailing Hub
  • Sailing Dilemmas
  • Catamaran vs. Monohull - which one should you choose?

When you are planning a sailing holiday, you’ll be faced with a choice; catamaran vs. monohull. Each type has many benefits, but it’s important to think about what your needs are because that will tell you just which one to pick!

Let's dive right in!

Ease of sailing

Maneuverability, space/layout, holiday vibe.

You may also like:  Sailing holiday destinations for your next boat trip

One of the top considerations you should have is what type of sailor you are because catamaran vs monohulls offer a distinctly different sailing experience. If you are a first time sailor and just want something incredibly easy to handle, then a catamaran will probably win out. 

Catamarans have great control when it comes to maneuvering in tight places. Since they have twin engines and rudders, you get a lot of control and can turn pretty much 360 degrees with ease.

Saba 50 catamaran helm and navigation area

Catamarans also have a shallow draft, which will allow you to explore much closer to the shoreline than a monohull would be able to venture. 

In the catamaran vs monohull speed debate, it might be more of a draw. Catamarans are typically 25-30% faster than a comparable monohull, but some argue that it comes at a price. When catamarans are sailing full speed you might experience a lot of slapping from the waves. Monohulls are designed to cut through the water. Also note that catamarans can be inefficient upwind and tack slowly. 

When considering sailing conditions , a catamaran vs monohull in rough seas will perform very differently. 

During rough sailing, you must be more vigilant when on a catamaran. The feedback from the wheel of a cat is not as obvious as that from a monohull. In high winds, you’ll need to know when to reduce sail. 

However, monohulls tend to roll more in stormy weather, while catamarans stay pretty level even in rough seas.

When thinking about catamaran vs monohull stability, the stability that catamarans offer is a huge draw for many. Since cats bounce with the waves less, it is easier to walk around and enjoy the yacht while in motion. The increased stability is also great for children, or seniors, or anyone who might be prone to seasickness. When it comes to catamaran vs monohull seasickness, catamarans come out on top.

Saona 47 sailing in Lavrion

Although it is worth noting that monohulls swing less than catamarans if placed side by side in an anchorage.

If you’re deciding on a catamaran vs. monohull, you’ll have to think about what type of group you have. For family sailing holidays , maybe a catamaran is the best choice. Catamarans are very spacious, offering a large living space, and many cabin/head options. This makes them optimal for parties that want to spread out. Whether you’re a family, a big group of friends, or even couples looking for a 5 star, luxury experience who appreciate the extra space and comfort even if it’s not needed, a catamaran can fit your needs.

If thinking about catamaran vs monohull liveaboard readiness, the catamaran is a top contender. With far more living space and a much more spacious kitchen, Catamarans are great for people and groups that want to focus on entertainment and lounging.  

Catamarans also typically have more spacious cabins and more privacy due to the layout with the cabins separate from the living area. This way you can send the kids to bed, and still enjoy the kitchen, dining, and living area. 

Saba 50 catamaran in Sicily, Italy

While catamarans are often touted for being roomy and luxurious, it’s worth nothing that monohull yachts can also be large and luxe. The Oceanis 62 and the Jeanneau 64 are top choices for those who want to live in the lap of luxury during their sailing holidays , while still getting that real sailing yacht experience.

In terms of catamarans vs monohull price , a monohull will definitely win. Charter prices for a catamaran can be 50-100% higher than that of a comparable sailing yacht. But that can be boiled down to the fact that you’re getting more space and more equipment with a catamaran! 

A monohull, will only have one of everything - like it’s name suggests. It has one hull, one engine, one rudder, whereas a catamaran has twice the equipment and twice the living space of a monohull of the same length.

Another catamaran vs monohull cost to consider is the mooring costs. A catamaran, due to its twin hulls, might use two spots. Monohulls take less space to moor, and will be less expensive in that regard. 

The cost of fuel should also be a consideration and in the question of catamaran vs monohull fuel efficiency, catamarans are the winner. With easy to drive hulls, and super light weight, they have great fuel efficiency. 

Lastly, there is an abundant supply of monohull charters yachts, so the charter costs tend to be less to match the demand. 

sailing monohull or catamaran

In the end, what it all comes down to is preference. In terms of performance, price, and comfort, catamarans and monohulls both have a lot going for them. You just need to decide what kind of holiday vibe you’re looking for, and Yacht4Less can help you with the rest! 

At Yacht4Less we recommend fully crewed catamaran charters if you’re looking for top-of-the-line luxury and a super relaxing holiday where you don’t have to lift a finger. These boats will offer the space and comfort you’d expect from a 5-star hotel. 

Saba 50 catamaran flybridge lounge in Italy.

If you’re looking for a hands-on sailing adventure holiday, you might want to do a skippered charter with a monohull.. Your captain can show the ropes and help you learn how to sail. Or if you’re already an experienced sailor, go for a bareboat monohull charter . The exhilarating feeling of sailing a monohull is unmatched. It’s the classic romantic sailing experience, and makes for a thrilling holiday. 

For those looking for a sailing experience somewhere in between extravagant luxury and exciting escapades, Yacht4Less is here to help you find the perfect boat for your needs.  More sailing holiday dilemmas? We got you covered! Sailing Holidays vs. Land-Based Holidays  » Party Sailing vs. Natural Wonders  »

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Catamaran VS Monohull: what should you choose to sail around the world?

sailing monohull or catamaran

Sailing around the world is a dream come true: you discover the world to the rhythm of the wind and the stopovers, exploring new destinations every day as you sail. If you’re just starting to read this article, you’re probably nurturing this project. Are you planning to sail around the globe? Then the choice of ship for your next voyage is crucial. It alone will determine how you experience this adventure! Catamaran VS Monohull : Do you know the differences between single-hulled and double-hulled sailing yachts for an ocean voyage? What are the advantages of sailing around the world in a catamaran, rather than a monohull?

Aboard a multihull, greater comfort and stability

When you decide to sail around the world, whether you’re going alone, as a couple or as a family, you’re always leaving your home and comforts behind to move aboard a monohull or catamaran. While you’ll always have to get used to living in different spaces, in a changing environment, the living space on each boat can vary. So, if you’re setting off on an adventure on a monohull, for example, you’ll inevitably have less living space than in a unit made up of two hulls. It’s up to you to work out how much living space and storage volume you need, depending on the crew you’re putting together!

The length of the hull, of course, will have a big influence on the interior layout of the boat and its facilities: the number of cabins, washrooms and the width of spaces often depend on the waterline length of a boat. Fortunately, choosing a larger catamaran for greater living comfort doesn’t mean sacrificing sailing comfort. Bénédicte Héliès, owner of the first Outremer 55, Saga, confided as much to our yard: “After our first round-the-world trip on our Outremer 51, our children were growing up and taking up more space, so we wanted a saloon that was a little more spacious, but just as easy to manoeuvre. We were delighted! Our new catamaran has proved to be very agile in light airs despite its size, powerful in a breeze and comfortable at sea. The platform is exceptionally spacious for such a seaworthy boat, and the living space in the saloon is very appreciable.

As you know, the comfort of a boat is mainly experienced when sailing. By opting for a catamaran on a round-the-world trip, you will always choose to heel less than you would aboard a monohull yacht. When sailing or at anchor, you’ll notice the difference aboard a catamaran: by definition, it is much more stable!

Read also: Monohull to multihull – Nikki Henderson

sailing monohull or catamaran

The evolution of catamaran performance

The perception of catamarans has evolved considerably over the last few decades, from boats mainly associated with chartering to multihulls capable of competing with monohulls in terms of performance.

In the 1960s and 1970s, catamarans began to appear in regattas, where their speed potential was already evident. At the famous Transpacific Yacht Race, for example, catamarans such as the Seasmoke broke records, proving their ability to sail fast over long distances.

A catamaran’s ability to sail upwind and close-hauled, once considered inferior to that of monohulls, has been enhanced by slimmer, more efficient hull designs, as well as improvements in rigging and sails. These technological advances have enabled catamarans to achieve previously unattainable performances, making them suitable for fast and safe ocean crossings.

Bénédicte can testify to this development: “The catamaran we’ve chosen sails easily in light airs. From 4-5 knots, it moves under sail, whereas classic catamarans need 10 to 15 knots to move properly, depending on the points of sail. So we use the engine very little and sail almost exclusively.

On long journeys, sometimes the weather conditions are not as forecast. They can also change more quickly than expected. If, for example, there’s a storm approaching that we weren’t able to anticipate, a good sailboat will enable you to reach your destination more quickly. Bénédicte explains: “On our boat, being able to ‘swallow’ 250 miles a day is very interesting. This means we can shorten crossing times and avoid being caught out by bad weather, as most phenomena can be predicted within 4-5 days”.

In short, today’s catamarans are no longer simply cruising boats designed for coastal sailing. They represent a serious choice for sailors looking to combine comfort, performance and safety, capable of competing with monohulls in the most demanding sailing conditions.

Read also: Why every serious cruiser should go racing

sailing monohull or catamaran

On a round-the-world catamaran trip, make the most of stopovers

You’ve probably already decided which islands or ports you’d like to visit.

Bear in mind that some catamarans allow you to make the most of anchorages and places to stop off: with a shallower draught than most monohulls, many allow their owners to get closer to the coast and beaches. With a catamaran, you can choose anchorages less frequented by other yachts to make the most of your time, and disembark more easily.

When you arrive in port or at an anchorage, for mooring, anchoring or taking a locker, catamarans also generally have the advantage of being more manoeuvrable than monohull yachts. So your arrival at your port of call will be much easier.

When you sail around the world, you inevitably meet other crews who are also travelling, and with whom you always find things in common. If you like having people over, welcoming them aboard your catamaran will be ideal!

Continue navigation

sailing monohull or catamaran

Setting off on a catamaran with the best sailing weather

When you’re getting ready to set off on a sailing trip, it’s vital to find out about the seasons and weather phenomena in your chosen sailing area. Even before choosing your cruising destination or travel itinerary, or even selecting your yacht!

sailing monohull or catamaran

The Importance of Defining Success

In the Autumn of 2023, I ran a ‘Webinars for Women’ mini-series on transatlantic preparations. The first session was titled: “How to approach transatlantic preparation.” As I zoomed out of the nitty gritty of canned food recipes, spare parts inventories, and preventative sail repair and took a broader look at the framework for a successful crossing, I homed in on what I think the first and most important step is: defining your goal.

sailing monohull or catamaran

Sailing in the Bahamas : unforgettable stopovers

The Bahamas Islands are a dream destination to explore under sail! In the heart of the Caribbean Sea, the archipelago offers the chance to enjoy sailing through splendid scenery, pleasant places to stop off and memorable activities. In this article, the Outremer team tells you what they consider to be the essential stages of a catamaran cruise in the Bahamas.

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Catamarans vs. Monohulls

Which is better, a monohull or a catamaran.

This question gets asked a lot in sailing. Especially if you are looking to take your friends or family out for the week: which will be better, a catamaran (aka cat) or monohull (aka mono)? The short answer is it depends what sort of experience you are looking for. Let's explore this further.

Tell me more about monohulls and catamarans.

Monohulls are boats that have one hull. They are the classic sailing yachts that you see old black & white photos of, racing off Newport or Cowes.

Catamarans on the other hand have two hulls. They tend to be newer, and are said to be less traditional, although some of the earliest sailing boats ever developed may well have been catamarans.

Catamaran vs Monohull

Image: monohull (left) and catamaran (right)

Things to consider

Now that we understand the difference between catamarans and monohulls, let's look at attributes that are important in sailing. Once we have explained these, we can look at how each boat-type deals with them:

For obvious reasons, you want to have a stable boat. Monohulls are a bit like a roly-poly doll, where when pushed over, they tend to right themselves. That is unless they reach what is termed the "angle of vanishing stability" or AVS. Catamarans deal with stability in a different way.

Catamarans tend to be much more stable in most conditions, but should they capsize, they quickly become stable, albeit upside down.

Nevertheless capsizing is such a rare occurrence that "stability" here really means comfort when sailing.

Heavy-Seas-5-rya-avs

Angle of Vanishing Stability (AVS) graph, image thanks RYA: rya.org.uk

Living area

Your boat needs to strike a balance between sailing well and being comfortable to spend time in. The layout of the boat is important in this regard: what level it is on, how large it is, and how square the space is.

lagoon-450-12b-vivisail

Lagoon 450 Living Area. Image thanks vivisail.com

The draft of a boat is how far in the water it goes. "How much does she draw" means "what is the minimum depth of water that this boat needs so she doesn't go aground". Monohulls by definition require a keel, a heavy piece of iron or lead that goes deep into the water. Catamarans do not require this, and therefore tend to have a "shallower draft".

boatparts2-thecampfirecollective

Draft and Freeboard explained. Image thanks thecampfirecollective.com

Maneuverability

Being able to easily maneuver your boat is clearly an advantage in tight situations, such as when docking in a crowded marina. Both monohulls and catamarans have their pros and cons here, which will be explained further below.

cat-maneauver-cruising-world

Maneuverability, image thanks Cruising World (cruisingworld.com)

The speed of a sailboat is not as simple as for a motorboat. The angle of the wind has a large effect on the speed of a sailboat. Some boats can sail faster when close to the wind - monohulls normally fall into this category - while others can sail very fast when the wind is on their side (aka a beam reach) - catamarans usually like this sort of "reaching" sailing.

F50 catamaran - Sailing Virgins

F50 catamaran in the fastest sailing competition in the world. Image thanks SailGP and James Wierzbowski

Having natural light and a decent view can make the living space much more comfortable. With monohulls, most of the living space is "down below" whereas for catamarans, most of the living area happens "up" in the saloon which is located between and above the two hulls. This creates two different environments. One person's "cozy" is another person's "claustrophobic". Just the same, one person's "light and open atmosphere" is another person's "soulless". So there is a fair degree of taste to this particular aspect.

190110-Swan48-Nortern-light-view1

Interior of the incredible Nautor Swan 48, image thanks Nautor Swan

"Feeling Sailing"

By this we mean the feel of the boat responding to the wind as she slices through the water. Some people sail for this feeling, while others simply sail as an ecological, efficient way to move from A to B. Monohulls and catamarans offer very different visceral experiences here.

wally-yacht-off-monaco

WallyCento Tango sails off Monaco, image thanks Gilles Martin-Raget/Wally Yachts

In breaking down the pros and cons of monohulls and catamarans, we found that a pro for one was a con for another. With that in mind, we think it is more helpful to list the pros of each, so you only read it once. Here goes:

8 Pros to Catamarans

1. catamarans are inherently stable..

Two hulls provides a wide base, which means in most sea states, less "bobbing". Every now and then, when the space between wave tops is a certain distance, the cat can lurch. But this is more the exception than the rule.

Catamaran-Roll-Stability

Great illustration of reduced rolling on a catamaran, image thanks aeroyacht.com

Here are some more pros of stability:

  • Stability is a big factor for families with young children or seniors. It suits "non-sailors" in the group;
  • Stability is very helpful for those prone to sea sickness (although scopolamine patches are probably still required if someone is very susceptible to getting sea sick);
  • Stability means things are more comfortable at anchor, and for cooking;
  • Because cats don’t heel over nearly as much, storage and stowing of provisions and household items is much easier.

Apologies for resolution, a brilliant graph on catamaran stability, thanks sailingcatamarans.com

2. Catamarans have more space.

Catamarans generally have much more living space in the main salon, galley and cockpit, and in the cabins. This can allow for greater privacy when chartering with friends or children, as the two sleeping areas (one in each hull) are separated by the living area. Here are some more pros of space:

  • More space on a catamaran for preparing food, which means the cooking experience tends to be less a balancing act, and more like the kitchen at home;
  • More space on a catamaran for storing things, which means people are not tripping over them throughout the trip.
  • The space on a catamaran is square-shaped, akin to an apartment, as opposed to a monohull which tends to be more rectangular.

Enigma-Saloon-600x360

Interior of a Lagoon 620, image thanks Indigo Bay Yacht Charters

3. Catamaran living space is above the water line.

On a monohull, almost all living space on a is at least partially below the water line, which limits light and view, and can lead to claustrophobia in some. Catamarans on the other hand, sit above the water line. In addition:

  • Ventilation in the main saloon area on catamarans is generally excellent, given their above-water design.
  • Most of the living quarters are also above the water line, which allows for more light and a better view, as well as better circulation of air.

4. Catamarans can venture into shallower areas.

The lack of keel on a catamaran results in a shallower draft, allowing to anchor in shallower water, which is especially valuable around reefs in the tropics.

shallow-draft-aeroyacht

Shallow draft of a catamaran, image thanks aeroyacht.com

5. Catamarans can turn on a dime.

Because catamarans have two engines and two rudders, maneuverability in tight spaces is improved, with most cats being able to turn 360º within the length of the boat.

6. Catamarans (usually) sail faster.

Without the need for a heavy keel, catamarans are lighter than an equivalent monohull. That, plus the fact that they keep their sails perpendicular to the wind, means they sail faster than monohulls, especially on a run or broad reach.

hh66-sail-fast

The magnificent HH66 catamaran, image thanks Sail Magazine

7. Catamarans are harder to sink.

Without the need for a lead-weighted keel, catamarans are not just lighter and faster, they are also harder to sink. Monohulls have been known to "lose their keel", by hitting something such as a semi-submerged container or even a whale. When this happens, the boat will tend to sink within minutes. Catamarans do not have a keel to lose, which means in this (admittedly very rare, blue-water) event, catamarans come out trumps.

8. Catamarans allow spooning.

Most catamarans have a trampoline or net at the front. This allows for spacious and comfortable cuddling under the stars - not to be underrated.

Monohull Pros

1. monohulls look great..

You can’t beat a monohull sailboat for good looks. Classic, sleek, beautiful, there is a timeless beauty to monohull sailboats.

Catamarans on the other hand have a “non-traditional” aesthetic that some consider to be a little harsher on the eyes. Let's face it, many are downright ugly.

DJI_0021-SailingVirgins-TisaSencur-BVI-2019-Edit

2. Monohulls are a romantic, evolving tradition.

Do you love the old photos of well-dressed people sailing their immaculate wooden monohulls in beautiful surroundings? If you answer yes to this question, take a good look at monohulls. That romance and tradition is still there.

3. Monohulls give you more options.

Due to the sheer volume of monohulls made over the last century, there are many more options for a boat that meets your individual lifestyle, personal aesthetic, or budget.

4. Monohulls carry a lower cost.

  • Monohulls take up half the space at a marina than catamarans, and therefore generally cost you half as much.
  • Monohulls are more readily available used in good shape, and cost less to charter for equal sleeping capacity.

5. Monohulls sail better upwind.

Due to their keel, monohulls can sail higher into the wind than most catamarans. Some of the more exotic catamarans have daggerboards which serve the same purpose as a keel, and therefore improve windward performance substantially. However 95% of cruising cats (ie. those you can charter) do not have daggerboards. Furthermore:

  • A monohull will be far easier than a catamaran to tack.
  • Monohulls slice through the water effortlessly. On some catamarans you get an irritating slapping of water on the bridge decks in rougher seas.
  • A monohull is generally faster to respond to the helm (in other words, they turn faster). This is because most cruising cats have little "spade rudders", with their depth dictated by the need to have a shallow draft. Whereas with a keel, a monohull can have a far deeper (read: more responsive) rudder for its draft.

mono60

Monohull sailing upwind, image thanks Sail Magazine

6. Monohulls give you more feedback when sailing.

This factor (and lower cost) is why most sail training happens on monohulls. If you have too much sail out for the wind, your overpowered monohull will heel over and become a pain to sail, before anything breaks. 

On a catamaran you get less feedback at the wheel, which if you are not being very attentive can get you into trouble in big winds.

Then there is the visceral joy of "feeling sailing". A monohull will heel (meaning it is designed to tip over anywhere from 10º to say 50º) whereas a catamaran won't. While their increased heeling can be a performance disadvantage, it can also be an advantage as it is a lot of fun. 

7. Tacking is easier on a monohull.

While they can accelerate faster, catamarans also decelerate much quicker, and as such can have a harder time maintaining momentum through a tack. It depends what sort of sailing you are after. If it is about enjoying being outside, and not so much about the sailing itself, then a catamaran is fine. But if you are out there sailing for sailing's sake, then you will probably find more enjoyment on a monohull.

8. Monohulls tend to swing less at anchor.

While they may rock more in a side to side motion than their equivalent catamaran, monohulls tend to swing less at anchor.

email-banner-2

Libertas on a mooring ball. Monohulls exhibit less "sailing on their anchor" when moored.

Conclusions

The above shows that there are no clear winners to the Catamaran vs. Monohull debate. At Sailing Virgins we teach and cruise on both monohulls and catamarans. If you have to make a decision yourself it really comes down to:

  • How much hard-core sailing you (and your crew) intend to do;
  • What your budget is;
  • How much space you need;
  • How shallow the bays are that you would like to visit.

We hope that helps your decision making. If you would ever like to know more, if you become a Sailing Virgins Patron, you can take part in any of our once-per-month live Q&A sessions, where absolutely any sailing-related question if yours can be asked and answered. Patron support starts from as little as $3 per episode. Click here for more information.

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sailing monohull or catamaran

sailing monohull or catamaran

Catamaran Or Monohull? 27 Important Facts (Explained)

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Catamarans and monohull boats are two very different kinds of vessels.  Each craft offers distinct advantages and disadvantages that you’ll want to consider before choosing between the two.

In this post, we’ll go over some of the important things to consider when choosing between catamarans and monohull boats:

Table of Contents

Cost & Availability

Both catamarans and monohull boats come in small recreational sailing versions, larger motorboat versions, and larger sailing models.  In all cases, the catamarans will cost more and will be harder to find.

The reason catamarans are harder to find because there are not as many of them, and they’re mostly made overseas.

Also, there aren’t as many catamaran manufacturers, so sailors have fewer options when buying them.

On top of this, catamarans have only recently become popular in the United States and other areas of the developed world.  This means the used market for boats doesn’t have as many catamarans on it.  You might find that you have fewer options when making a used catamaran purchase, which could bring costs up to a premium.

Two Times The Fun with Catamarans

sailing monohull or catamaran

Another reason that catamarans are more expensive than monohulls is the fact that catamaran buyers have to purchase two hulls, two engines, and two of all of the components that help make an engine work.

Traditional sailboats and large powerboats with one engine don’t have this cost issue.

On top of this, a catamaran is much wider than a monohull, and thus you have more space to build and equip.

On the other hand, once you’ve purchased the boat, you do get to enjoy the benefits of having two of everything.  We’ll talk about the advantages of this further down in this post.

Maintenance Cost Makes A Difference

The maintenance on a catamaran is also more expensive than the maintenance on a monohull boat.  This goes back to the fact that there is twice as much of everything to maintain.

Catamaran owners will need to do preventative maintenance on two different engines, and they’ll have two hulls and a large deck area to clean and maintain as well.  If they’re getting the bottom of the boat treated, they’ll have to do this twice (once for each hull).

Even the interior components can usually be found twice.

Each cabin will usually have a head in it, so you’ll have at least two toilets and sinks to maintain, which obviously has its plusses and minuses.

One positive aspect of this is that catamaran owners do have the option of deferring some of their maintenance.  For example, if one head is no longer functioning properly, you always have the second one that you can use.

It also adds a bit of safety as well.

This is because while the catamaran does have two engines to maintain, the owner does have power even if one of the engines happens to go down.

Some catamaran owners also like to point out that maintenance may not have to be done as frequently.  This is because the engines don’t have to work quite as hard, and other items like additional bathrooms and sinks might only be used half as much.

How Much Space Do You Need?

sailing monohull or catamaran

A catamaran has more space than a monohull.  This is because the boat is wider, and it has a much larger deck area.  It also has twice as many hulls, so you have more overall space between the two of them.

The additional space is great for people looking to throw parties on their boats.

Most boat owners would agree that the catamaran is usually the party boat of choice at the docks.

Even if you aren’t into throwing parties, the extra space can still be nice for relaxing on the deck or getting a suntan.  The wide-open space also makes it easy to use the boat as a fishing platform.

Additionally, you have more space for stuff like surfboards, rafts, and other items that can easily clutter up the deck of a monohull.  Even fishing can be easier from a catamaran as the deck provides plenty of space between different anglers.

Catamaran owners also have additional space for carrying fresh water and adding generators and solar panels.

Interior space is generally more plentiful on a catamaran, and luxury catamarans have an easier time fitting large items like washers and dryers inside of them.  You can have these on larger monohulls as well, but it will be harder to make them fit than it is in a catamaran.

On the other hand, all of the additional space means the catamaran owner has more space to maintain and clean.  Also, all of the additional items that can be brought onto the boat will make it heavier.  A heavier boat will use more fuel, and it will travel more slowly.

Living Quarters Vary Between The Two

The living quarters on a catamaran are much different than they are on a monohull.  Most people would agree that the berths in a monohull are much more spacious than in a catamaran.

A monohull offers people the opportunity to have a large bed with space on either side to walk around it.  This is great for couples who want to get out of bed without waking up their partner.

Catamarans, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to offer large above-deck salon areas.  The galleys, the dining areas, and the living areas can all be above-deck, while the two hulls can provide heads and berths.

Some boat owners say that living in a monohull is akin to living in a basement apartment .  Other boat owners prefer the monohull because it brings them closer to the water and gives them the feeling of being at sea.

Privacy Can Be Prioritized On Catamarans

A catamaran offers up many different living areas that people can take advantage of.  For example, each hull will typically have its own bathroom and bedroom.

This gives each sleeping area complete privacy from the other.

The living quarters are usually up on the deck, so early risers can wake up and move to these quarters without waking up the others.

The same holds for night owls.  A night owl can stay up late without bothering the people who want to retire to their beds earlier.

With two hulls, large catamaran owners can hire a crew and give them their own hull to live in so that there is separation between the cruisers and the crew.  This is a wonderful advantage for honeymooners looking to have their own space.

The downside to all of this, of course, is that sometimes a family may not want the additional privacy.  For example, a family with small children might not want their children in a different hull than they are.

Additionally, the extra privacy can make it hard for people on the boat to communicate.  This could become a big problem in the event of an emergency.

For this reason, it is often recommended that each hull have a radio in it so that the occupants can quickly communicate with each other.  Remember, even in inland areas, cell phone reception may not be very good inside the boat hulls.

Recreation In a Monohull vs. a Catamaran

Most sailors agree that sailing a monohull boat is much more exhilarating than sailing a catamaran.  Traditional sailboats heel, and sailors get instant feedback while they’re sailing.  For the most part, catamarans stay stable, and you don’t get the same feeling with the movement of the wind and the water.

When it comes to monohull powerboats, you have the advantage of being able to pull water skiers, kneeboarders, and tubers with ease, as long as the boat has the power and a planing hull.  A power catamaran usually doesn’t have the speed or maneuverability to pull off these recreational opportunities because they are displacement hull designs.

Catamarans excel in more leisurely recreational activities.  A catamaran makes a great party deck as well as a great cruising deck.  Catamaran owners can comfortably walk around a catamaran without having to worry that the boat might knock them over the next time it decides to heel.  This allows boaters to sit and talk with one another comfortably.

A catamaran can also be used as a beaching vessel.  This makes it a great platform for people looking to go swimming or fishing around sand bars and other shallow water areas.  It also makes it a great boat for sailors looking to sail a larger boat on a river or lake known for having shallow areas.

Swimming and Diving

Swimming and diving off of a catamaran are usually much easier than doing the same from a monohull.  The wide stance of the two hulls offers boat designers the option to put in staircases at the back of both hulls.

In between these staircases, some boats will have an additional diving platform and/or a dedicated frame for pieces of equipment and dinghy storage.  This makes catamarans great for swimmers, snorkelers, and divers.

On the other hand, modern monohull sailboats can also have good transom stairs for easy access to the dinghy and swimming.  Both types of boats can easily travel far out to sea, giving boaters the option of diving in areas that can’t be accessed from beaches and developed areas.

Boat Draft In Shallow Waters

For the uninitiated, the boat’s draft refers to how deep the boat’s hull sits within the water.

A monohull typically sits deep within the water, while a catamaran sits much higher on the water.  This is why we stated that a catamaran is good for shallow waters.

The advantage of having a boat that can go into shallow waters isn’t restricted to just recreational activities like swimming and fishing.  A boat that can go into shallow water is safer to operate in areas where a boat with a deeper draft might become damaged.

Additionally, a catamaran has more stability on calm waters.  This helps make a catamaran more comfortable to relax or sleep on while at anchor or the dock.

The deeper draft of a monohull boat has its advantages as well.  A deeper draft provides more stability in rough waters and allows a boat to go further into the sea.

For this reason, many coastal cruisers will prefer catamarans, while many ocean voyagers will prefer monohull boats.  In fact, some areas of the Caribbean and the Florida Keys can be off-limits to boats with deep drafts as it simply isn’t safe for the boat to navigate these waters.

This isn’t to say that you can’t navigate these waters in a monohull boat, but you will have to be cautious depending on how deep your monohull’s boat draft is.  You wouldn’t have this issue in a catamaran.

Stability On The Sea

sailing monohull or catamaran

A catamaran offers a lot more stability in shallow waters, in calm waters, at the dock, and anchorage.  This makes the boat great for cruising and for relaxing in port.

A monohull offers a lot more stability in rough waters.

This makes this boat great for heading out to sea and for navigating vast distances.

Safety Issues To Consider

Both catamarans and monohulls can be built to navigate the waters they were made for safely.  This will be determined more by the boat’s category designation rather than the type of boat.

However, each boat deals with unsafe situations in different ways.  For instance, a monohull boat is likely to right itself if it is capsized.

This means that even in rough seas, you’re unlikely to find yourself permanently capsized.

The downside to this is that should you become completely swamped from a capsize in a monohull boat, you are much more likely to sink.  In fact, if there is a hull breach on a monohull boat, your boat could sink.

Catamarans are said to be unsinkable.  This isn’t completely true, but it is very unlikely that a catamaran will sink.  Even if a hull is breached, you still have a second hull to keep the catamaran afloat.

However, a catamaran can’t right itself.  If you capsize your catamaran, it will stay capsized.

One other safety concern to consider is that a monohull sailboat will heel while a catamaran will not.  This increases the chances that someone could fall off the boat or onto the deck in a monohull boat.

Catamarans Are Faster Than Monohull Boats

A catamaran is faster than the average monohull boat.

This is because they face less water resistance, and their narrow hulls don’t have to deal with their own bow waves as a monohull does.

Of course, catamarans aren’t always faster.  Old cruising catamarans may not go faster than 8 knots, and modern monohulls can exceed 10 knots.

Monohull boats tend to sail downwind and in choppy seas better than catamarans.  This gives them a speed advantage during ocean voyages.

We have a separate post with complete average speeds per type of catemaran . It’s a must read if you are at all concerned about speed!

Fuel Consumption Considerations

Catamarans have two engines to burn fuel, which can drive up fuel costs.

However, a catamaran is lighter on the water, so it usually takes less energy to move a catamaran.  This means you’ll end up using less fuel in a catamaran than you would in a monohull.

On top of this, catamarans can decide to use just one engine in low wind areas.  This further decreases the amount of fuel that a catamaran consumes.

These rules only apply to calm waters.

A monohull navigates waters with high waves and strong winds much more efficiently than a catamaran.  In this case, you’ll use less fuel in a monohull than you would in a catamaran.

Sailing Differences To Notice

Sailing a monohull boat can be exhilarating.  These boats can glide through choppy waters, and you get to feel the motion of the boat as the sea rushes by the cockpit and the wind causes you to heel.

This type of sailing also provides instant feedback as you’ll know what you need to do with the sails as you’ll feel what is going on through the boat’s motion.

Sailors all over the world have been using monohull sailboats for years, and you’ll find plenty of outlets for recreational sailing with a monohull sailboat.

Sailing catamarans do not heel like a monohull sailboat.

These boats, therefore, do not provide the sailor with instant feedback.  Also, if you incorrectly sail a catamaran, you do risk capsizing the boat more easily.

Training Can Be Quite Hard

Sailing a catamaran and sailing a monohull boat are two different experiences.  People looking to sail either should probably get professional training.

Obtaining this training will always be easier with a monohull boat.

This is because monohulls are more popular, so you’ll have more instructors available to you.

Do You (Or Your Friends) Get Seasick?

People who are prone to getting seasick easily might want to consider a catamaran.  A catamaran provides much more stability in calm waters, and you get a lot less movement.

On the other hand, people who are not prone to getting seasick might prefer a monohull in choppy waters.

This is because a monohull will deal with deep and choppy waters with high waves much better than a catamaran will.

As a result, a catamarans movement can seem extreme under these types of conditions.  People who have never gotten seasick before can end up sick under these conditions.

Here’s a separate article we wrote with everything you should know about seasickness on Catamarans . There are some things you can do and some things you should know!

Docking Is (Usually) Easier With A Monohull Boat

Docking a catamaran can be a difficult endeavor.

This is because catamarans are often too wide to be docked within the slips located in central areas of a marina.

Because of this, they need to be docked at the end of the dock.  This leaves them with fewer spots to dock.  It also makes docking more expensive.

Catamaran owners traveling through areas that are unlikely to have many catamarans in them may find it difficult to find a dock at all.  This is true in areas of the northern Atlantic where monohulls are much more popular than catamarans.

Storage Issues To Consider

Even storing a catamaran can be more difficult.  This is because storage facilities often do not have the equipment to get a catamaran out of the water.

The wide width of these boats requires special lifts, and not all boat marinas will have them.

Storage facilities that do get the catamaran out of the water will often charge more money for it.  They’ll charge additional fees for taking the catamaran out of the water, and they’ll charge additional fees for the actual storage of the boat as well.

Redundancy And Backup Equipment

We touched upon this earlier, but it is worth repeating that catamarans have many redundancy built into them.  This can be a big advantage when it comes to safety.

For example, if one rudder becomes inoperable, the boat can still be steered with the other one.  If one engine becomes inoperable, the boat can still be driven with the other one.

In extreme cases, a hull could become damaged, and you could still stay afloat because the other hull will keep the boat safely above water.  These safety advantages can save lives and keep people from becoming stranded out at sea.

The primary downside is the maintenance issue that we mentioned earlier.  All of these redundant components will need to be maintained.  As a result, maintenance costs will be close to twice as expensive in a catamaran.

Cooking Is Easier On Catamarans

sailing monohull or catamaran

Cooking on a catamaran is usually easier than it is on a monohull.  The main reason for this is that a catamaran doesn’t heel like a monohull, so you don’t have to worry as much about things falling over.

This not only makes cooking easier, but it makes cooking safer as well.

Additionally, catamaran galleys tend to have more space in them to move around.  Also, they are often up on the deck, so you don’t have to climb in and out of the hull with your dinner in hand.

Dinghy Storage

Monohulls and catamarans can both hold dinghies.  The larger the boat, the larger the dinghy can be.

However, catamarans have a wide area at the rear of the boat that is perfect for holding dinghies.

This makes getting in and out of the dinghy easier.  Also, people can often have larger dinghies on their catamarans because the boat’s stern is so accommodating.

Power Generation Is Easy On A Catamaran

A catamaran has a lot of space for solar panels and wind turbines.  Rigid panels can be placed in areas that won’t be walked on, like overtop of the bimini, and flexible panels can be placed in areas where the panels might end up getting stepped on.

The width of a catamaran even gives them more opportunities to put hydro generators into the water.

This means catamarans can generate more power than the average monohull boat can generate.

On the other hand, a monohull usually has less powered items to worry about.  Monohulls need less power to operate at full capacity, so you may not need all of the additional space for generating power.

Ventilation Issues To Think About

Some people feel that monohull boats don’t offer enough ventilation.  This is especially true in warmer areas of the world.

Catamarans also lack ventilation within their hulls, but fortunately for them, much of the living space is located up on deck.  This gives catamarans an edge when it comes to cruising in warm weather.

On the other hand, monohull owners aren’t exposed to the cold winds that you might find up on deck in harsher climates. 

This lack of airflow may actually be of benefit in this instance.

Some people find monohulls to be better looking than catamarans and vice versa.

This all comes down to personal preference, so you’ll have to decide for yourself which type of boat has the advantage in this case.

Some people think catamarans are the most elegant thing in the world while others prefer monohull boats as they look more classic.

Resale Value Is An Important Factor

If you read our extensive guide to boat depreciation per boat type , you know that no matter what boat you buy, it will always go down in value.  This is just a sad fact of boat ownership that people need to consider before buying a boat.

Many factors go into how much you’ll be able to get for your boat when you resell it.  These factors are the condition of the boat, the age of the boat, and the economy in general.  For example, people are less likely to want to buy boats during a recession.  This is especially true when it comes to smaller boats.

However, one additional factor that catamaran owners need to consider when thinking about resale value is the value of the dollar. 

People from the United States don’t have many American catamarans to choose from and will usually need to buy these overseas.

This means that a catamaran will be less expensive to buy when the dollar is strong compared to the Euro and more expensive to buy when the dollar is weaker in comparison.  This will affect the used market as well because higher values on new catamarans can help to bring up the value on the used market.

With a monohull boat, you may not have to consider situations like this as there are makers of monohull boats all over the world.

Don’t Let The Length Trick You!

One thought to keep in mind when comparing monohull boats and catamarans is that their different shapes account for different space advantages.

For example, a 40-foot long catamaran will have much more cubic space than a 40-foot long monohull.

Because of this, when comparing boats, you should look at the cubic space rather than the length. In this case, you may be comparing a 48-foot long monohull with a 40-foot long catamaran.

When you compare the two types of boats in this manner, the price differences aren’t quite as large, and the comparison is fairer.  It also may make the operating and maintenance costs more similar.

This is an important distinction to make because the length of the boats can trick you!

Consider Trying Both (Before Buying)

Boats can be an expensive purchase, so it makes sense to try them out before you decide to make your purchase.

Rent each type of boat and use it on the types of waters that you intend to cruise on the most.

Try the boat out in different weather conditions as well, and don’t be afraid to do multiple rentals before you make your final choice.  The time and money invested into making sure you get the boat you really want will be more than worth it in the end.

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My Cruiser Life Magazine

Monohulls or Catamarans – Which is Best for the Cruising Sailor?

The debate between catamarans vs monohulls still rages, and most boaters are firmly on one side or the other. The truth is, either a catamaran or a monohull can provide a wonderful way to enjoy sailing, traveling, and being on the water. 

Both have advantages and disadvantages, and both have large and loud fan clubs. The choice between a catamaran and a monohull depends on your budget, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

My wife and I have owned both types of vessels over the years. After five years of cruising on a Lagoon catamaran, we decided to go old school and bought our current boat—a heavy, full-keel monohull. The catamaran was fun, for sure—but it wasn’t for us in the end. Here’s a look at all of the differences we learned about during our journey.

Table of Contents

Life at anchor, life at a dock, life underway, living space, storage space, ride comfort and motion at sea, maintenance time and costs, docking and maneuvering, capsize risk, hull breach scenarios.

  • Rigging Safety 

Rigging Strength and Configuration

Monohull vs catamaran speed, thoughts on catamaran vs monohull for circumnavigation, deciding monohull vs catamaran, faqs – catamarans vs monohulls.

white catamaran sailing during sunset

Life on Sailing Catamarans vs Life on a Monohull Vessel

At anchor, a catamaran provides superb comfort and living space. The “upstairs” cockpit and salon mean that boaters can enjoy non-stop wrap-around views.  Monohull boaters are stuck in their caves and must peek out of their small portlights or climb into their cockpits to view the world. 

A modern catamaran will also have swim steps that make it easy to get on and off the boat and provide easy access to dinghies and water toys. 

If there’s an uncomfortable roll or swell in the anchorage, the catamaran’s stability will make the roll a bit less noticeable. Monohull boaters are more likely to be adversely impacted in a rolly anchorage. This does not mean that the cat owners are getting a perfect night’s sleep every evening, however. Catamarans just have a different motion in rocky anchorages, not a lack of motion.

Life at a dock gets a little more tricky for catamarans. Most marinas were built long before the catamaran trend and feature traditional slip sizes meant for monohulls. Marinas have to put catamarans on t-heads or make other accommodations. Therefore, it can be harder and more expensive to find a catamaran-friendly dock. 

Once at a dock, the massive space of a catamaran can be harder to heat and cool efficiently. Catamarans usually need several air conditioners or heaters installed, whereas a monohull can get by with only one or two. That also means that cats might need more power (50 or 100 amp service instead of 30 amp) than some marinas can provide.

Monohulls will have fewer issues finding marinas that can accommodate them, and they pay standard rates. 

parked boats on water

When sailing in protected waters, catamarans usually speed past their monohull friends. A catamaran provides a flat ride and sailors can move around their boats easily to make sail changes as needed. Walking on a catamaran’s deck is undemanding. 

Catamaran sailors also have many options to rest comfortably underway. Because catamarans don’t heel over, catamaran sailors can sleep in their usual cabins. They can move about the interior of the boat with ease. Cooking in the galley doesn’t usually look any different underway.

In similar conditions, a monohull will heel over. Some sailors love the feeling of being heeled over and feeling the wind in their hair. Some don’t. It can be more challenging to walk the decks and work sails on a monohull vs a catamaran. While in the cockpit, monohull sailors will want to sit on one side and may even need to brace themselves to stay comfortable. For long trips, there is no doubt that living while heeled over for days at a time is exhausting. 

Moving around the interior of a monohull boat at sea is also more challenging. Monohull sailors usually sleep in sea-berths with lee cloths instead of their usual quarters. It would be very uncomfortable to sleep in a v-berth underway, as the bow may be continuously pitching in seas. The lee-cloth in the sea-berth helps keep a resting sailor in their berth instead of falling onto the floor. 

Monohull boats have gimbaled stoves. Even while the boat is heeled over, the galley stove will remain level. However, cooking in a monohull while underway is still more challenging than cooking in a catamaran since the cook needs to constantly brace themselves against the heel and rolling motion. 

At the same time, none of this is to say that catamaran sailors have it easier at sea. In reality, catamarans may be more level, but they feel every wave in the ocean twice. The result is a choppy, bumpy ride with no rhythm. It can be just as tiring as being heeled over in a monohull.  

Sailing Casco Bay Maine

Catamaran vs Monohull Sailing Compared

Here are just a few ways that catamarans differentiate themselves from monohulls as platforms for living aboard.

  • Living space—quantity and quality
  • Storage space and weight
  • Budget—purchase and routine maintenance
  • Maintenance
  • Catamaran vs Monohull for Circumnavigation
  • Docking and close-quarters maneuvering

Catamarans have significantly larger and often more attractive living spaces. On the other hand, the living space on a monohull is usually small and can be dark due to small windows.

A monohull’s cockpit tends to be small and focused on safety. Families are more likely to feel in each other’s way, and moving around while others are seated can be awkward. On a catamaran, the cockpit is likely to be large and social. Catamaran cockpits have large tables and lots of lounging space in the cockpit.

Catamarans have large trampolines forward, which provides another comfortable, social lounging space that monohulls lack. Many catamarans also feature additional lounge space via the large cockpit roof. 

The salon on a monohull is located in the main cabin. A monohull’s salon will be smaller than a similarly-sized catamaran. Often there is a small table, room for several people to sit, and a single sleeping berth. 

Catamarans feature a wide bridge deck that crosses both hulls. This large living area features great visibility, ventilation, and natural light. On some catamarans, the galley is located on the bridge deck (called “galley up”), and on others, the galley is located in one of the hulls (called “galley down”). 

Monohulls have sleeping quarters in the bow and stern of the boat. On smaller monohulls, the main sleeping area is usually a v-berth. Older, smaller monohulls usually have just one head. 

On a catamaran, the sleeping quarters are located in each hull. These cabins often feature regular-sized boat beds and large en-suite heads. Cabins on a catamaran usually offer more privacy than monohulls. 

Catamarans are popular with charter companies because large families or groups of friends can enjoy living on a boat together in style and comfort. Each will have a private cabin and a private head. In addition, if you want to find space to exercise, do yoga, or watersports, you’ll find these activities much easier and more comfortable on a catamaran. 

yacht on sea

Catamarans have more space in general and certainly have more storage space. The additional deck space catamaran designs offer lends to easy storage for larger items, such as paddleboards and kayaks. Catamarans can often hoist and store larger dinghies than monohulls can. Large compartments make storage easy. 

However, many catamaran owners are very cautious about storing too much. Additional weight can slow down a catamaran’s performance speeds. With so much space to put things in, it’s remarkably easy to overload a cruising catamaran. Many owners complain about the performance of smaller cats, when in reality they are often just badly overloaded.

Monohulls have less space and less storage. Finding space for big items like water toys can be challenging. But monohullers worry less about weight and freely carry around their cast iron skillet collections—because weight doesn’t impact performance on a monohull nearly as much. 

This is a consideration when cruisers consider adding additional equipment. For example, a catamaran owner will have to consider the added weight of a generator and its detriment to sailing speed. In contrast, a monohull owner will have to consider finding space for the new generator. 

Some prefer the motion of a monohull while sailing. Monohulls heel over but are steady, and sailors usually get used to the heeling motion. On a catamaran, if conditions are good, the boat won’t heel and will provide a comfortable ride. 

When sailing upwind, some catamarans experience bridge deck slamming. Waves get caught between the two hulls and create a slamming motion and sound. It’s hard to predict the timing and strength of each slamming motion, so some catamaran sailors can find it tiresome. 

The amount of bridge deck slam varies from boat to boat. Catamarans with higher bridge decks will experience less slamming, while boats with bridge decks closer to the water experience more. 

Beyond that often-discussed issue, there is also the issue of the boat’s motion. It’s very difficult to imagine how different the motions are when compared to one another. The monohulls slice through the waves, usually with a predictable rhythm. A catamaran, built lightly to sail fast, feels more like it bounces over the tops of waves. The crew will feel each impact as each hull hits each wave. The result is a choppy, unpredictable motion—but it’s generally flat and level.

Monohulls have been around for ages. Therefore, sailors just starting out can find inexpensive, older monohulls. If you have a tight budget, you’ll probably start looking for a monohull.

Catamarans are newer to the market. Therefore, the initial purchase price of a catamaran is likely to be higher. Monohull buyers can often find a used, well-equipped, comfortable monohull for less than $100,000. Catamaran buyers usually spend upwards of $250,000 for a used cruising catamaran. 

Because monohulls have been produced for so long, there is much more supply. The catamaran’s more modern pedigree means that there are always fewer catamarans on the market than monohulls. As more and more customers are drawn to the attractive living space and stable sailing offered by catamarans, demand keeps going up, while supply remains low.

Besides the higher up-front costs, catamarans are more expensive to keep and maintain. A monohull usually just has one engine. A monohull might have one head (bathroom) and will generally have less equipment. Monohulls have less space and storage, after all. Catamarans have twin engines, multiple heads, more hatches—more everything. 

With more equipment, catamarans have higher maintenance costs. When a monohull owner services their engine, they have just one engine. A catamaran owner will need to service twin engines. Furthermore, each hull on a catamaran usually has separate and independent systems like bilge pumps, plumbing, fuel, water tanks, holding tanks…the list goes on. 

A monohull owner will paint one hull bottom and wax only one hull. A catamaran owner will do everything twice. Therefore, the effort and cost of maintenance are often doubled on a catamaran. 

Not only does it cost more money, it can also be harder to accomplish maintenance on a catamaran. You see, catamaran owners have fewer options to haul out. Most older boatyards have travel lifts that only accommodate boats up to 18 or 20 feet wide. Therefore, catamarans need to find a boatyard that has a large enough travel lift or a trailer to haul them. Because there is less supply and more demand for these larger travel lifts, the cost of hauling out a catamaran is often higher. 

While some monohulls have lifting or swing keels and can reduce their draft, most catamarans have a shallow draft. This allows them greater flexibility while choosing anchorages. Even if a catamaran and monohull boat choose the same anchorage, the catamaran can get closer to shore and get better wind protection. 

One final big difference between these two types of vessels is their ability to maneuver in tight spaces. Monohull sailboats are notoriously difficult to maneuver around docks and marinas. They often have poor visibility from the helm and difficult handling, especially in reverse. The single-engine design often requires a bow thruster, even on smaller boats. 

The contrast that catamarans offer is pretty stunning. Even though they appear massive and ungainly in comparison, their twin engines mounted far outboard enable them to spin in their own length. Catamarans can be maneuvered in pretty much any direction using only differential thrust from the engines–all without a bow thruster.

Safety Considerations — Are Cruising Catamarans Safe?

Since most people have only limited experience with these vessels, many people wonder are catamarans safe. Even though they have been making large cruising cats for decades now, most of us have only really played on Hobie cats at the beach. And if there’s one thing we know about Hobie cats, it’s that they’re a lot of fun until you flip it over!

Here’s a look at a few safety considerations and how catamarans stack up against monohulls. 

  • Catamaran stability — capsize potential 
  • Hull breaches and sinking risk
  • Rigging failures
  • Designing for speed
  • Redundancy on board

So, can you capsize a cruising catamaran? The answer is yes, no matter what the fanboys and girls say. It is technically possible but highly unlikely. Cruising cats are massive, and in all likelihood, you’re more likely to break the rigging than flip the boat. But in rough seas and extreme conditions, it does happen even on modern catamarans.

If a monohull encounters strong winds and rough weather, it will heel and roll significantly—but it will keep righting itself. In dire conditions, the vessel could suffer a knockdown. But a monohull will always right itself after a roll—it has tens of thousands of pounds of heavy keel to ensure that it does. Of course, the rig and anything on deck will sustain serious damage in the process, but the boat will be upright in the end. 

In the same scenario, while unlikely, a catamaran can capsize. And the catamaran will then remain capsized, with no possibility of righting itself.  

One of the scariest risks at sea is that of a serious hull breach, one that a bilge pump couldn’t keep up with. For example, a boat could be holed by an errant floating object or suffer a stuffing box or through-hull failure.

If a monohull sailboat is holed, it could sink straight to the bottom of the ocean. The crew would be left with only a liferaft and whatever they were able to recover before the sinking.

But a catamaran is filled with foam and is (more or less) unsinkable. If a catamaran experienced a hull breach or capsizes, it would take on water and may become less habitable. However, it will still float. In many cases, not much of the boat is left above the water—but it’s still at the top of the water.

Boaters may be able to perform emergency repairs and get the boat to port themselves. Or, they may have to stay with their vessel until help arrives. In either scenario, the crew maintains access to supplies and can stay with a much larger vessel, increasing the likelihood of being found and rescued. 

Some catamaran sailors are so certain of their vessels floating in all scenarios that they don’t even carry a liferaft aboard. This is fool-hearty, to say the least, given the crazy and unpredictable things that can happen to any boat on the ocean. But one scenario is equally scary for the monohull or the catamaran sailor and should convince everyone that any offshore vessel should have a liferaft—the possibility of an uncontrollable fire.

Rigging Safety

When wind speed increases, a monohull will heel over. This heeling motion sheds the excess power of the wind. Monohull boaters should pay attention to the weather and reduce sail to ensure they aren’t overpowering the boat. This is why knowing how to reef a sail is so important for all sailors.

However, on a catamaran, the sails and rigging take the increased load when wind speed increases. Catamarans don’t heel, and therefore, don’t shed excess power. If the weather becomes gusty and a catamaran has too much sail up, all that extra power is transferred to the sails and rigging.

This can cause a dangerous situation. For example, there have been reports of catamarans being de-masted in sudden gusts of wind. In a worst-case scenario, a catamaran could capsize if they are over-canvassed when experiencing extreme wind conditions.

Most monohulls have strong standing rigging. The forestay is connected to a solid structure, the hull. This means that the forestay has a strong, stable platform and gives a monohull better upwind performance. Monohulls also usually have backstays, which provide rigging redundancy.

On a catamaran, the forestay is attached to a crossbeam. Because the platform is not as rigid as a monohull’s hull, the forestay is not as strong. In addition, catamarans usually don’t have backstays, and therefore have less rigging redundancy. 

The configuration of the rigging is another rigging consideration. On a monohull, the spreaders and shrouds are perpendicular to the mast. Most catamarans come with fractional rigs that don’t have backstays, and their shrouds are set far back. Because of this configuration, catamaran sailors can’t let their mainsails out all the way on a downwind run because the shrouds are in the way. This leads to less efficient sail shapes when sailing downwind.

However, catamaran sailors can rig their sails to sail wing-on-wing. While monohull sailors can also use this configuration with the help of a whisker pole, catamaran sailors have a nice, wide, stable platform to fly large downwind sails. 

There’s no doubt about it–catamarans sail faster. Most articles and comparisons state that catamarans are about 20% faster than a similarly sized monohull. Catamarans have a lower wetted surface area and less drag than monohulls. They’re especially nice to sail in light winds, conditions that heavy cruising monohulls tend to not do well in.

While most cruising cats can’t sail upwind as high as monohulls can, they still win the race. However, if a catamaran has daggerboards and a good sail inventory, it can point as well as a monohull. 

Many boat owners believe that speed equals safety, as you might be able to outrun an impending storm. That’s a debatable strategy since weather systems often move faster than any cruising boat can move. It has a lot more to do with planning and the decisions made by the skipper, in the end. 

Furthermore, more speed means a rougher ride. A heavy, full-keeled monohull might not move very fast, but the sea-kindly and forgiving ride means a more comfortable and better-rested crew. This only goes to illustrate that the “more speed” argument is far more of a personal preference than many sailors admit—especially when it comes to long-distance cruising.

A faster boat provides a skipper with more options, but it does not ultimately equal inherent safety. That will always come down to the skipper and the crew, and the choices they make. A slow boat in the hands of an experienced and careful crew will always be safer than a fast racer under the command of an inexperienced and green crew. In other words, there is no replacement for seamanship and careful planning.

"Dragonfly" heads downwind in the lead during The Prince of Wales Trophy race sponsored by The Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron,  the oldest yacht club in the Americas.

Catamarans have two of everything. While this does equal double the cost and maintenance, it also provides redundancy. If a monohull’s single engine dies and there is no wind, they may have to call for a tow or wait for wind. If a catamaran’s left engine dies, sailors can just continue on the right engine. 

Twenty years ago, the majority of boats completing circumnavigations were classic bluewater monohulls. Monohulls are considered safe and capable circumnavigators.

But today, catamarans are establishing themselves as the more desirable choice for many circumnavigators. Catamarans are fast, stable, and capable of crossing oceans. In addition, catamarans can carry significant supplies and offer redundancies. Plus, the extra space that catamarans provide also means that the crew will enjoy watersports like diving, paddle boarding, and surfing. 

Since nearly all traditional routes are downwind “milk runs,” catamarans naturally excel along the way. If you take a look at the competing boats for the World ARC rally for the last few years, a definite trend is growing. More catamarans compete every year. Common entrants include Lagoon 450s and Antares 44s.

Shots from a boat trip to Orak Island Bay near Bodrum, Turkey. The Aegean Sea / Mediterranean

One of the most significant decision points when thinking about catamarans versus monohulls is your budget. If your budget is under $100,000, a monohull will be your best bet. If your budget is between $100,000 and $250,000, you can consider a smaller, older catamaran. Catamarans such as PDQs, Prouts, and Geminis will be in your budget. If you have a budget of over $250,000 and can afford higher dockage and maintenance costs, you can consider a catamaran.

Next, consider your comfort level. To try it out, you might want to charter both a monohull and a catamaran. Check out a sailing vacation in the BVI or with a company like Cruise Abaco. Taking classes at our local sailing school might also be helpful. https://cruiseabaco.com

Many folks are attracted to the larger, more comfortable spaces of a catamaran. However, some people feel more seasick on a catamaran and can’t get used to the motion.  So a lot of your decision will come down to personal preference. 

If you can’t imagine squeezing into a darker, smaller cabin in a monohull, then a catamaran might be calling your name. On the other hand, if you are a traditionalist who loves heeling and boats with a lot of teak, a monohull might be your dream boat. It’s just impossible to know how a boat will make you feel until you’ve experienced both.

Boaters often discuss the compromises involved in boat choices. Whether you choose a monohull or a catamaran, there will be some compromises involved. However, no matter which boat you choose, you can enjoy smooth sailing, beautiful anchorages, and some adventure along the way.

Worried about getting caught in severe storm conditions in your boat ? Visit our guide!

Which is better monohull or catamaran?

Both monohulls and catamarans are popular choices for cruising sailors. Which one is better depends entirely on your personal preferences and which boat is more comfortable and appealing to you. If you are on a tight budget, a monohull is your best choice. On the other hand, if you love large open living spaces, a catamaran will be the better option.

Which is safer catamaran or monohull?

When wondering are catamarans safe, always remember that the primary determinant of the safety of a vessel is its captain, not the vessel itself. Both monohull sailboats and cruising cats have important limitations that their skippers must know and abide by. 

Some consider catamarans safer because they are virtually unsinkable. If it has a hull breach or capsizes, it will still float. 

Others see the sea-kindly monohull to be the safer bet, as they are better designed to protect their crews from the elements in severe weather. They also cannot capsize, as their ballast provides a righting moment in all conditions. But on the other hand, if a monohull experiences a hull breach, it can sink.

Can catamarans handle rough seas?

Modern cruising catamarans are built strong enough to cross oceans and survive in all kinds of conditions. It might be an uncomfortable ride, but not an unsafe ride. In the end, it is the skipper of the boat who ensures its safety at sea. Good seamanship makes a far bigger difference in how a boat handles rough seas than the design of the boat does. 

In extreme conditions, such as hurricanes or sudden gusty winds, catamarans can capsize. Once a catamaran has capsized, it won’t right itself. However, it will still float, although upside down. Heavy seas are more likely to cause maintenance and chafing issues on both catamarans and monohulls.

sailing monohull or catamaran

Matt has been boating around Florida for over 25 years in everything from small powerboats to large cruising catamarans. He currently lives aboard a 38-foot Cabo Rico sailboat with his wife Lucy and adventure dog Chelsea. Together, they cruise between winters in The Bahamas and summers in the Chesapeake Bay.

sailing monohull or catamaran

  • Cruising / Liveaboard
  • Sustainability
  • Impressions

28. May 2022, updated 29. June 2022

Monohull , Sailboat , Sailing Advice , Sailing Catamaran , Sailing Cruiser

Sailing Cruiser: Monohull vs. Catamaran

monohull and catamaran anchoring in the Dalmatian Sea in Croatia next to each other

Whether you plan to buy a sailboat to sail around the world, become a full-time liveaboard , or just occasionally go on nice sailing trips with the family, you will be confronted at some point with the question of whether it should be a monohull or a catamaran. With this article, we want to help you decide and provide a detailed comparison. Of course, this comparison is not valid for real racing boats, because there are quite different aspects of importance, but we are talking mainly about cruising sailboats. In the following will look at aspects of performance, comfort/livability, safety, costs and more. Be curious, because it will be an exciting comparison, which will certainly surprise some people’s expectations in certain aspects. Let’s start with the performance!

Table of Contents

Performance

In general, catamarans are faster than monohulls due to their design, because they do not need a keel, so they are lighter, and they have a shallower draft, thus less water resistance. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to generalize with regard to speed, because it depends very much on the specific boat and especially with production boats the speed differences are rather small. In addition, the wind conditions are also decisive, because under certain conditions a monohull can be quite faster than a catamaran. This brings us directly to the next aspect, which is upwind sailing.

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Upwind Sailing

In most conditions catamarans are faster, as mentioned above, but as soon as you sail upwind, i.e., close hauling, the monohull is far superior to the catamaran due to its deep keel. While there are some catamarans that compensate for this disadvantage with daggerboards, very few production cruising catamarans have them. Often a longer course closer to beam reach must be chosen compared to the monohull, although there is then the potential to offset the longer distance with higher speed.

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Maneuverability

An unbeatable advantage of a catamaran is that they can be turned on the spot with the help of their twin engines, making harbor maneuvers child’s play and precise.

In the following video you will get a good impression of how to dock with a catamaran.

While monohulls are clearly at a disadvantage when it comes to mooring, they benefit from their deep keel when it comes to actual sailing, which allows for faster response to the helm.

In addition, tacking is also much easier for monohulls, mainly because they maintain their speed longer than catamarans.

In general, catamarans have the edge here, as they typically have a much shallower draft than their monohull competitors. Some monohulls have lifting keels, but these also have their disadvantages and are not very common. The shallower draft makes it possible for catamarans to reach areas that a monohull sailor can only reach by dinghy. Reaching shallower water can be especially advantageous when anchoring, as you may be able to reach secluded bays or find better protection from strong swells.

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However, the actual navigation through shallow water is easier with a monohull, and if you do run aground, it is actually easier to get a monohull free than a catamaran. Of course, it is best to avoid such tricky situations.

Comfort/Livability

In terms of space, a catamaran is far superior to a monohull, that should be no secret. Cabins with standing height are almost a matter of course in catamarans and in your berth is actually so much space that you can make your bed.

Also on deck is more space on catamarans and the often-existing huge net in the bow you will not find on any monohull. This extra deck space on a catamaran also provides more room to install solar panels, which provides more self-sufficient power without a generator. The cockpit of monohulls is also much smaller, which is usually even intended to reduce the risk of flying through the cockpit in heavy seas. But the huge cockpit of a catamaran really shines, as we all know that most people spend a lot of time there.

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In addition, a catamaran with its two clearly separated hulls provides much more opportunities for privacy, which is convenient for guests on board or when sailing with your children.

Another aspect of space is that of storage. Here, too, the catamaran excels, because it has more storage space than a monohull and the storage space is often more usable because it is easier to access. The monohull also has a lot of storage space, but it is typically located deep inside the hull or behind some panels, which makes it harder to access and reduces its actual usefulness. This also complicates organization on a monohull, which is already a challenge on any boat.

With more storage space, however, you will be tempted to overload your boat more likely and especially catamarans respond to overloading or even incorrect weight distribution quickly with a significantly reduced sailing performance.

In addition, most catamarans have a davit that can be used to stow the dinghy quickly and safely. Of course, such davits are also found on monohulls, but much less often and less well integrated into the overall boat design.

two catamarans with dinghies attached to their davits

A huge advantage of a catamaran is that, unlike the monohull, it hardly heels and generally moves less in the swell. Especially for people who get seasick quickly, this is a decisive advantage. Some sailors would even miss the heeling of a monohull because it surely is sometimes fun, but in the long run most people feel more comfortable on a catamaran. Living on board, from doing repair work to daily cooking, is simply more comfortable under non-heeling conditions. Especially elderly people or also pets appreciate the stability that a catamaran offers.

However, it must be said that a monohull has advantages in very rough sea conditions, as it then goes through the water with greater stability than a catamaran, which has less course stability in such extreme weather conditions. But always ask yourself how often you actually sail in such conditions, because usually you can avoid such situations with some meteorological preparation. In confused seas, that you as a sailor certainly encounter occasionally, the monohull is more predictable than a catamaran, which tends to make rather uncomfortable movements under such conditions.

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Moreover, the better lateral stability of a catamaran, together with the large space described above, also makes it easier to exercise on the boat. All athletes among you will know how good it feels to have the opportunity to work out a bit on a multi-week passage.

Height Above Waterline

Catamarans are generally higher above the waterline than monohulls, which brings many different advantages.

For one thing, you have a much better all-around view from an elevated helm than from the deep cockpit of a monohull. Also, the galley, saloon and cabins usually offer much more light and a better view than in a monohull, where much living space is below the waterline.

Many people don’t realize that the ocean can be quite noisy, and if you’ve ever slept in a monohull at or below the waterline, you know that. While some find the noise relaxing, most would prefer quiet. The fact that on a catamaran the cabins are usually above the waterline makes for a quieter sleep.

In addition, a catamaran’s height above the waterline makes ventilation much better, as there are more opportunities for air exchange. Especially for sailors in tropical areas and without air conditioning, this is a huge advantage. In general, the additional fresh air in a catamaran provides more well-being and a better quality of life on board.

Accessibility

While almost all catamarans are easily accessible from the water as well as from the dock, this is a bit more complicated with many monohulls, as there is usually less space and bathing platforms are far from being standard. While almost all catamarans are easily accessible from the water as well as from the dock, this is a bit more complicated with many monohulls, as there is usually less space and bathing platforms are far from being standard. Especially when loading and unloading heavy and bulky items, you will be grateful for the better accessibility of the catamaran.

Another aspect of accessibility is that certain maintenance and servicing work is easier on a catamaran than on a monohull. Cleaning the hull is easier due to the lower draft and inside the boat, work on the engines is often more comfortable to do, because they are usually easier to access than on a monohull (exceptions prove the rule). However, a catamaran requires much more work than a monohull, which will be discussed further below under the aspect of costs.

When it comes to safety, for a long time many people, especially blue water sailors, were convinced that a monohull is superior to a catamaran, because a monohull can’t capsize, and a catamaran can. Principally this is true, because of its keel a monohull can only flip over under extreme conditions and even if this were to happen, the boat would capsize and then right itself. After such a capsize, the boat will most likely no longer be able to sail, but it will float upright on the water.

A catamaran, on the other hand, can no longer right itself in the event of capsizing and will then float with the mast pointing downwards in the water. The crew can still escape through escape hatches in the hull. While the catamaran definitely loses out in the event of capsizing, it must be emphasized that today’s cruising catamarans can hardly be flipped over. From a purely statistical point of view, this danger is actually negligible, and also if you ask around among sailors, you will notice that hardly anyone has ever heard of such an incident. If catamarans do capsize, they are usually racing boats and not cruisers. Nevertheless, it is a danger that exists and that might be greater on an emotional and psychological level than it actually is.

Capsizing a cruising catamaran is so rare that we couldn’t even find a suitable picture.

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Danger of Sinking

Having already discovered that a catamaran is inferior to a monohull in terms of capsizing, the tide turns when we look at the risk of sinking. Probably one of the most feared hazards of any sailor is colliding with an object like a half-submerged container or a sleeping whale. In such a severe collision, the hull may be damaged to such an extent that a lot of water quickly flows into the boat, which can lead to the complete sinking of the boat in a very short time. At least this is the case with many monohulls.

Catamarans, on the other hand, cannot sink at all due to their enormous buoyancy. They have two hulls and even if one of them fills up due to a water breakthrough, the other one remains undamaged. The lack of a keel also means that there is no danger of losing it in a collision, which is definitely a serious risk with monohulls, as such a loss would lead to immediate flooding and subsequent sinking.

Risk for Man Overboard

On a monohull, you’ll probably want to clip in earlier than on a catamaran in the same sea conditions, as the risk of a wave crashing into the cockpit is definitely greater on a monohull. Additional unsafety on deck is also provided by heavy heeling. In short, the risk of falling overboard from a monohull is usually higher than from a catamaran.

Even if a man overboard (MOB) should occur, it is easier to perform a MOB procedure with a catamaran than with a monohull. This is due to the superiority of the catamaran in terms of maneuverability, the absence of heeling and more possibilities to get the person overboard back on board.

Comfort Means Safety

We have already explained in detail why catamarans are much more comfortable than monohulls. This comfort implies also more safety. We all know that when we are under discomfort, such as severe fatigue, we are more likely to make mistakes than when we are in good shape. Especially when sailing, any mistakes can quickly become a safety concern and therefore any aspect that makes us feel more comfortable on board is an aspect that improves safety.

Of course, this is only true up to a limited extent, because above a certain level of comfort, any additional gain in comfort is more of a gain in luxury than actually improving one’s own well-being. And there is no question that there are many monohulls on which it is possible to live exceptionally well, and the comfort gain of a catamaran would be negligible in terms of safety.

On an Amel 60, a monohull, comfort and luxury certainly do not come short…

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Due to the design itself, many important systems and components are duplicated on a catamaran, so there is a certain redundancy. This redundancy, of course, improves safety because there is always a backup available. No matter if an engine fails, a rudder is lost, or in the worst case a hull has a leak, an undamaged version of the part is always at hand.

Especially on long trips far away from good technical repair facilities, you should always be prepared for the worst and be able to cope independently with a defect. A catamaran offers a good starting point with its redundancy, but with good know-how and proper equipment you can always sail a monohull and be prepared for almost anything.

Initial Costs

In general, you get more bang for your buck with a monohull than with a catamaran. Above a certain purchase price, the difference may be smaller for new boats, but especially in the second-hand market, monohulls usually offer significantly better value for money.

The high price level of catamarans is due to the more expensive development and production and the combination of high demand and low supply. Especially on the second-hand market you can see that up to now there are only relatively few catamarans available, because compared to monohulls cruisers from serial production have not been marketed that long. Monohulls, on the other hand, have been on the market for many decades and many older boats are still interesting for buyers today. However, we expect the supply of catamarans to increase steadily in the future, especially when the many charter companies start to renew their catamaran fleets.

As a rule of thumb, you can assume that you will pay about 50% more for a used catamaran than for a used monohull and for a new catamaran you will have to accept about 25% additional costs compared to a new monohull. We underline, it is only a broad guideline, a precise comparison is only possible when looking at the actual boats.

blue catamaran is heading out to the sea while hoisting the genoa

In addition, the financial barrier to purchase is much lower for monohulls than for catamarans. While $50,000 will buy you an impressively well-equipped blue water cruiser (used, of course), you’re unlikely to find just one single listing on the catamaran market. Just have a look on the common marketplaces and you will find out that you must pay much more for a catamaran than for a monohull.

However, the higher purchase price of a catamaran is compensated by the stable value retention, because due to the high demand and the low supply, you can sell your catamaran at a relatively high price and find a buyer quickly.

At the end of the day, you must ask yourself how much you can and want to spend. Because if your budget is not enough for a catamaran, although you would actually prefer one to the monohull, it is still better to set sail with a monohull today, than in 10 years, when you would have saved enough money for the extra price of the catamaran. You can’t know what will happen in the future and at the end of the day it’s the time on the water that matters, not the boat you’re sailing. Live in the present and not in the future!

Ongoing Costs

When purchasing a boat, we always advise you to look realistically at the future maintenance costs, because many inexperienced buyers underestimate them far too often. It is even more important to realize that a catamaran is associated with considerable additional costs in maintenance than a monohull.

While the inherent redundancy in catamarans has been very positively evaluated in terms of safety, it is one of the main cost drivers here. After all, maintenance costs also double up easily, because two engines require twice the effort in maintenance, two hulls have more surface area than one and require more coating, and so on.

In addition, the rigging of a catamaran is exposed to higher loads than that of a monohull, since the absence of heeling, does not reduce the loads in strong wind gusts as heeling would also reduce the sail area at the same time. This means that the rigging of a catamaran usually needs to be overhauled much sooner than that of a monohull.

Also, marina berths are usually double the berthing fee since the wide catamaran takes up twice the space. Even if you can negotiate a good deal, you still pay at least 1.5 times more than with a monohull.

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In addition to the higher berthing fees, the number of haul-out options for a catamaran is also more limited and operators are aware of the lower supply and adjust cranage accordingly.

Other Aspects

Aesthetics and tradition.

We admit, this point is very subjective, but most people agree with us when we say that monohulls usually look more aesthetic than catamarans. The sleek hull of a monohull simply convinces with its maritime elegance and many associate a certain tradition with monohulls that catamarans do not have. Catamarans often remind more of floating vacation homes than real boats, exaggerated.

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Less Material Choices

While monohulls can be made from a wide variety of materials with all their advantages and disadvantages (see this article for a detailed comparison of the different hull materials ), most mass-produced cruising catamarans are made from GRP (glass fiber reinforced plastic). This material is perfectly suitable for most purposes, but especially in high latitude sailing and very remote areas, a metal hull, preferably aluminum, is superior to GRP because of its strength. Nevertheless, there are some shipyards that also manufacture catamarans from aluminum, which makes the price shoot up even more.

Here you can see the impressive Garcia Explocat 52 that is made of aluminum.

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Ground Transportation

Most of you will probably want to move their boat on the water rather than on land, but in some cases a land transport is preferable and in such a scenario, of course, the catamaran is clearly at a disadvantage due to its enormous width. A monohull, on the other hand, can be transported quite comfortably on public roads with an appropriate transporter.

To Wrap It Up

Now that we have looked at aspects such as performance, comfort/livability, safety, costs and others in detail, we would like to summarize our assessment.

In terms of performance, it is a close race between the monohull and the catamaran, as it depends heavily on the actual boat model and the sailing conditions. But in the end, we see the catamaran slightly ahead here.

The comfort/livability point leaves little room for doubt, because here the catamaran is clearly superior.

Safety, on the other hand, is not so easy to assess, especially since the catamaran can capsize and the monohull cannot. On the other hand, the monohull can sink, and the catamaran cannot. Apart from these two statistically very unlikely scenarios, the catamaran is otherwise superior, and we personally would rather sit on a capsized catamaran than in a sinking monohull, so the safety point also goes to the catamaran.

In terms of cost, however, the monohull clearly wins the point, which should be quite obvious. However, if you are considering a new purchase, keep in mind that the price advantage of a monohull is significantly lower, and the better value retention of the catamaran can also outweigh some of the additional costs.

We do not want to give a summarizing evaluation of the other aspects we covered, as these are very subjective and individual.

In the following table you will find a summary of our assessment.

CatamaranMonohull
No RatingNo Rating

A Final Advice

After this detailed discussion of catamarans and monohulls, it should now be clear to you that there is no definite answer to the question of which is better. At the end of the day, you must ask yourself under what circumstances you want to sail. In what areas do you plan to sail? Do you plan to live on the boat full time or only for shorter periods of time? Will you spend a lot of time in marinas or more in anchoring bays? How do you want to travel? Is comfort your priority or do you rather enjoy the actual sailing? How much budget do you have on hand?

As you can see, there are many different aspects that determine whether a catamaran or a monohull makes more sense for you. Especially the last question, the budget, is important, because as you can see from our comparison, we see the catamaran superior to the monohull in all aspects, if you can bear the extra costs. If you can’t, then just buy a monohull and enjoy your time on the water, because that’s what it’s all about!

Did you like this article? Then feel free to share it, because we always look forward to new input and a lively discussion in the comments! Do you disagree with us on some points, or can you confirm certain aspects from your own experience? Write us in the comments, we are curious!

Happy sailing!

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Bluewater Cruising With a Powerboat Instead of a Sailboat?

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Catamaran vs Monohull: Let’s Solve This (we Lived on Both).

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The ultimate question – catamaran vs monohull, which is better? This post will help solve the dilemma. It is packed-full of information, by real boaters!

We prefer catamarans, now that we have tried both. But we strongly recommend that you start with a monohull, if possible.

We cruised on a monohull for three years (two of which full-time), and then switched to a catamaran for two more years of sailing and living aboard .

We have years of boating experience and I spent lots of time making this post as helpful as possible, and fully human-generated .

All of our boat-life posts – Boat Life @ No Texting & Tacking

Top Catamaran Pros and Cons.

Here is what we loved the most and the least about our catamaran:

Catamaran Pros

  • Stable while cruising
  • Calm at rest
  • Easy to dock
  • Shallow draft

Catamaran Cons

  • Jerk and slam cruising
  • Cost to buy and maintain
  • No sail feel

I am covering each in greater detail in this post, so keep reading.

Top Monohull Pros and Cons

Here is what we loved the most and the least about our monohull:

Monohull Pros

  • Great sail feel
  • See the crew at all times
  • Best for solo sail

Monohull Cons

  • Roll and heel
  • Small space

Now that you have seen the short version of it, read below. Each of these pros and cons are discussed in much greater detail.

And I have a few more features too!

Monohull vs catamaran – are they even comparable?

Are we really comparing apples to apples ? Apart from the number of hulls, the two sailboats are, actually quite different.

A monohull is a sailboat with a single hull , while a catamaran has two – imagine Pirates of the Caribbean versus Moana (but nicer).

There is yet another kind – a trimaran – a sailboat with three hulls (which is where we might be headed next, if we venture out into the big blue again).

Since few people are sailing trimarans, I will focus on the two most common sailboats – cats and monos.

19 Things to Consider – Know Before You Compare.

Below are a few main features which will define the performance of a boat, as well as the overall cruising experience .

I am offering simple explanations and descriptions, so that anyone can understand and decide what matters most.

It is the sailor that makes mistakes, not the boat.

kids in the front of the boat while sailing in the DR

Monohulls can handle bad weather, if steered well – where each larger wave must be surfed. It really is up to the captain to make or break the journey in poor weather.

Catamarans are like small moving islands. They, too, can handle bad weather safely, but are a bit harder to yield to the wishes of the captain, as they are slower to respond.

We have made mistakes on both cats and monos and the weather was not even that bad – poor choices will affect safety far more than the number of hulls.

Both catamarans and monohulls can sail perfectly fine out in the ocean, around the world, more than once.

Boater’s Tip : The best favor you can do yourself, is to take sailing classes , practice and learn everything you can about your boat.

2. Stability

Monohulls have a heavy bottom, which constantly pulls the boat down. Catamarans are very hard to flip over.

A boy on the bow of a sailboat, with the sea horizon in front

If a monohull flips, it will right itself fairly quickly (unless it starts taking in water). If it takes in water, a monohull will sink quickly.

It is likely the mast will break, before a cat capsizes . Once they flip over, however, they stay that way and turn into a raft.

Let’s be real, though. If the boat is truly in such daring conditions that it flips over, the injuries and damage are the real danger, for those still conscious.

Boater’s Tip: Avoid bad weather in the first place – use Predict Wind App , have a guide during longer passages. Avoiding a major storm is perfectly doable.

Monohulls are far more affordable than catamarans.

Our family on the Grand Soleil sailboat in Miami

There are also a lot more of them to choose from , making it a buyer’s market in almost all cases.

It is not unheard of to offer half of what a monohull is listed for and be able to get a great deal.

Catamarans have always been more expensive , but especially in the last few years. With more people able to be location-independent , catamarans have become the first choice for a floating home, for many.

Buying a catamaran? Read this: Buying a Catamaran in 10 Steps – Complete Guide.

When we first moved on a sailboat , we still had our house and its large mortgage , and we were not sure if that boating thing was going to work at all . So, we only looked at monohulls and were able to find our 1985 Grand Soleil 39 at a very good price.

Once we decided to switch to a catamaran, low-balling went out the window . It was a hot cats’ market out there. We looked hard , made tons of calls, but most of all waited as long as it took.

Patience can pay off and is a good financial habit to adopt.

For more good financial habits: 12 Practical Ideas to Spend Less

The prices for cats have been staying high due to many people being willing to finance a boat , kind of like having a mortgage on a home.

It sort of makes sense, if the boat is to become your new home.

4. Resale value

Flipping a fixer-upper boat is a risky business. Few venture into it.

Sunset on the water while sailing the Mona Passage

Monohulls and catamarans are like cars , they lose their value over time.

Sure, one can buy a fixer-upper of a boat, update all the systems and end up with a beautiful boat, but the cost of boat upgrades and repairs is very high. Unless you do most of the work yourself, return on investment is zero.

Even catamarans do not hold their value. You have to rely on a crash in the luxury items market, or a hurricane leaving lots of boats with reparable damage, to snag a good deal on a cat.

We lost money selling our monohull, but made money on our catamaran – we did almost all the work ourselves and it was a good market, so we took advantage . It did cut our cruising short, unfortunately.

Boater’s Tip: Sell your boat “by owner” and do the listing right – here is a whole post about it: How to Sell a Boat by Owner, the Honest Way

5. Maintenance

Plan for around 10% of the boat value for annual maintenance cost.

a monohull hauled out for maintenance

Monohulls only have one of each to run and fix – one engine, one hull to paint, one AC unit.

Catamarans cost more to maintain and expenses add up quickly.

In addition, it costs more to haul out a catamaran , as few boatyards are equipped with a sling to accommodate the width of a catamaran.

There are even fewer options in remote island countries .

Boater’s Tip: If sailing internationally, do just the urgent repairs at the US/other developed country. Cheaper destinations offer a lot cheaper services. Buy spares, they are hard to find in remote places.

Both or our boats have been designed with speed in mind.

a spinnaker sail on a catamaran

We have sailed at 11 knots downwind on our 42 ft Privilege catamaran. We usually reached 7-8 knots into wind, on our 39 ft Grand Soleil monohull.

That was in around 15-20 knots of wind.

Catamarans sail faster, with all other things being equal . A few factors contribute to higher speed in catamarans:

  • Hull design and shape – the less of the hull in the water, the less drag.
  • Lighter weight overall – aided by proper load distribution and boat material.
  • The hull material, in performance cats – carbon fiber, or an inner foam layer.
  • Larger sail surface area, calculated as the beam : length ratio.

A 50 foot sailing catamaran (and smaller), with proper hull and body design, can exceed 20 knots of sailing speed in 25 knots of wind.

More subjective factors that have major influence on the speed of both monohulls and catamarans:

  • Boat load and distribution – lots of cargo means slower speed.
  • Proper sails management – how much wind the sails can “grab” (I am a master of spilling wind on monohulls, because I hate going fast , call me for tips).
  • Crew experience – wind speed and direction changes almost constantly. Sails have to be adjusted at the same rate, if you want to go fast.
  • Cabin and cockpit design – the larger, higher and boxier that cabin / cockpit, the more it will slow down the boat.

Boater’s Tip: To increase boat speed during sail, buy folding propellers . Put the boat on reverse, so they don’t spin, to decrease drag. Just make sure you take the boat off reverse when starting the engine!

7. Wind feel

If you are starting new, with no sailing experience , start sailing a monohull.

sails up on a cruising monohull

A monohull allows you to be the one sailing the vessel. You can really feel the wind and gain a perfect understanding of how the wind and the sails work together.

Our monohull did not have an autopilot and even though overnight passages were hard, we became very familiar and comfortable with our boat. This is coming from a mama who never grew fond of sailing .

If going out for a day sail, for the sake of sailing, I would pick a monohull.

Catamarans are fast, but they kind of sail as they wish . It is almost impossible to feel the wind and its pull on the mast.

That is why catamarans are sailed by numbers – by reefing the sails following the manufacturer’s recommendations. With experience it becomes easier.

Boater’s Tip : Try sailing a monohull and a catamaran, to see the difference. Both will likely make you sick , so don’t let that be the determining factor.

8. Performance

I am discussing performance in terms of how the boat sails at different angles to the wind.

a boat traveling into the sunset with a child on the bow

Monohulls sail great into the wind , making it easy to start a passage when the wind is blowing almost in your face. They achieve this by heeling over (leaning to one side).

Monohulls do not sail well downwind . You can have a spinnaker up, or spread the sails to grab the most wind possible, but it is hard for light apparent wind (true wind speed reduced by your boat’s speed, when sailing downwind) to move a heavy monohull.

Catamarans do not sail into the wind . Even performance cats need a winder angle into the wind to be able to move.

Downwind, catamarans will give you the most comfortable ride ever , while flying a spinnaker. That glass of wine they are talking about not spilling aboard – it is during downwind sailing.

Both cats and monos suck when sailed into beam wind (wind coming from the side). I know, I am not terribly technical here, but it feels like choosing between two evils – rolling and puking, or being jerked and puking.

Feeling sick? This might help: Seasickness Sucks – 21 Tried and Tested Tips to Stop it.

Boater’s Tip : Wait for a better weather window. Nothing can ruin a great adventure quite like sailing, scheduled by your calendar.

9. Maneuverability

When discussing maneuverability, I am featuring here behavior under sail .

a man at the helm of a sailboat, with blue green water and a city behind him

Monohulls are very easy and responsive to tacking (changing the direction of the boat, while sailing upwind). All those movies where teams work in excellent synchronized movements to flip sails to the other side of the boat, show you examples of tacking.

Catamarans are hard to tack . They are very slow to respond , so you need lots of momentum and speed, as you prepare to tack. Once you wait a bit too long, the opportunity is gone. It is not a big deal, but in stronger winds, you can easily rip a sail when it starts flopping uncontrollably in the wind.

We are not fans of jibing on either boat (changing the direction of the boat during downwind sailing). True downwind sailing is never a good idea, because accidental jibing can hurt both the boat (done it!) and the crew , in stronger winds.

Boater’s Tip: No texting and tacking – teamwork pays off best when working together to sail against the direction of the wind 😉

10. Docking

The best part about docking is pushing off the docks. Marinas are expensive and the adventure is never, ever the same , if the boat is just tied in place.

catamaran at the docks

Still, when considering docking keep in mind:

Catamarans are super easy to dock and can rotate a full circle on a very small radius. This is because catamarans have two engines and it is a breeze to control the boat, while using the engines to maneuver into tight spaces.

Monohulls are such a pain to dock ; it was our captain’s biggest nightmare. We were all threading very carefully when it was time to dock our monohull . That momentum the boat gives you while tacking, works quite against you when docking.

When we purchased our monohull back in 2017, we found the tiniest, cheapest marina on the Chesapeake Bay, and sailed on the weekends, practicing docking .

Only the marina owners laughed at us (even though they never admitted it).

Boater’s Tip : We like casting the spring line first, when docking. Some marinas have ridiculously strong currents – call ahead and make sure someone is there to help.

If you want to jump off and swim to the beach, you need a catamaran.

girl on bow, crossing the Bahama Banks

The draft of the boat is the distance between the waterline and the end of the keel. This defines how deep the boat can go without hitting bottom.

Catamarans are lighter and have a shallower draft , compared to monohulls. From around 3ft for a cat under 40ft, to around 6ft for larger catamarans. Our Privilege 42 drew 3.5ft.

Catamarans can go in shallower water. They can even be “beached” , meaning, you can actually take the boat all the way to the beach, then use the high tide to bring her back into the deeper water. Just ensure the access is free from any rocks and coral.

For the times you “beach” the boat accidentally, make sure you have towing help .

The photo above is from us sailing the Great Bahama Bank – an amazing shallow plateau that only a catamaran can handle.

Monohulls have a longer keel, which helps stabilize the boat . The keel must go fairly deep, in order to “hold” a monohull upright , and to counter the wind force on the sails.

The most common keel types you might see are:

  • full-keel – a keel looks like a natural extension of the keel. It provides great stability, but makes the boat heavier and slower.
  • fin keel – a keel that looks like a fin, attached to the bottom (the most common kind), for stability without sacrificing speed.
  • lifting keel – An adjustable keel to change the draft of the boat, if needing to navigate shallow water. They are convenient, but not as sturdy.

Our 39-foot monohull drew 6 feet – quite a lot for such a small boat. It did limit our anchoring options.

We have seen both catamarans and monohulls stuck, by running aground . It is possible to free up the boat, if you are careful with the engines and don’t end up digging yourself deeper.

We had a Boat US membership the entire time we were coastal sailing the US. They even rescued our dinghy once.

Boater’s Tip : We always set our depth instruments to show smaller than actual depth, giving us a cushion with the uneven sea floor.

12. Cruise comfort

Comfort at anchor matters most, but a miserable passage can ruin the entire adventure very quickly.

A man at the helm of a healed monohull

So, let’s talk about passages – seasickness, heeling, slamming, rolling, keeping watch…

Seasickness happens both on catamarans and monohulls . We found it worse on catamarans, contrary to popular belief. Anything but downwind sailing makes the catamaran turn and twist in ways that only make sense to a catamaran.

The jerking of the catamaran almost feels like riding a tractor on a very bumpy road, but without the chance to stop and rest. On top of that, waves slamming under the boat (even with higher clearance), make the entire boat shake.

Seasickness on a monohull is an absolute given in beam winds . The entire boat rolls from side to side, with every single wave and such passages are downright miserable.

Heeling is a must on a monohull, if you wish to go anywhere. While this is great for speed, it makes life at an angle uncomfortable .

Personally, healing always freaked me out . I feared a kid might fall out of the boat and chased everyone below deck (where seasickness eagerly awaited).

Sleeping on a catamaran during passages is hard, because the slamming of the waves below is too loud and disturbing. I never got used to it.

Sleeping on a monohull during passages is actually a bit better, once you fall asleep. The movement of the monohull is predictable, which can, actually, rock you to sleep .

Boater’s Tip: Buy a Reliefband ! All of us got seasick, every single passage. We tried everything . Nothing worked like Reliefbands, and they come with zero side effects.

13. Comfort at anchor

The art of anchoring must be learnt along with the art of sailing. Otherwise damage to other boats is quite possible. Anchoring is simple math and common sense .

Boat anchored at Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas

Catamarans behave much better at anchor, compared to monohulls. They are more stable and not affected as much by a wrap-around swell (when the waves are coming from the side, while the boat is facing into the wind).

Considering cruising is 99% standing still , it is not hard to understand why this single advantage can negate everything else.

Cats tend to “sail” on their anchor , meaning the boat may move about, being pushed by the wind. Just something to keep in mind in a tight anchorage.

Monohulls will roll a lot more at anchor , if the anchorage is not super calm. We have been seasick at anchor a few times, which the kids loved , because those “wind days” meant “no school aboard”.

Monohulls can counter wrap around swell by bridling – dropping a second anchor off the bow, in order to keep the boat facing into the waves, rather than into the wind.

No matter what boat you end up anchoring, keep in mind that with the changing wind, the boat position will also change.

Oh, and watch the boat behind you, please ( yes, I’m talking to you, St. Thomas guys, on that chartered boat ).

Boater’s Tip : a good rule of thumb, for normal sea conditions, is 5:1 – five feet of chain for every foot of depth.

14. Indoor space

The indoor space is a huge factor for many, when shopping for a sailboat .

salon of a monohull Grand Soleil 39

It mattered a lot to us, as well. The most important things to keep in mind are:

  • Ceiling height

I have a popular post all about space on a boat: Why We Never Missed Space, While Living on a Sailboat.

Catamarans have more indoor, living space , compared to monohulls (for same length boats). This should come as no surprise. The salon and hulls together make the cat feel like a cute apartment on the water.

Catamarans offer a much better view and lots of light . Monohulls offer no view, but they are not dark, because the hatches act like skylights. The photos, from our boats above, prove just how bright a monohull is.

If you want more of a performance cat, then the view will be sacrificed a bit, because the cabin must be curved and relatively low, to avoid extra windage.

a 6'4" man inside a 1985 Grand Soleil 39

Only certain model catamarans and monohulls will have ceilings suitable for tall people. Joe is 6’4″ and the only catamaran under 43 feet, which would accommodate him, was the Privilege.

Catamarans offer a perfect separation of living space and private cabins. Monohulls with a center cockpit do have a nice aft cabin, but everything else is tight, or a bunk-style closet. Again, focusing on boats under 45 feet.

With three teens aboard , privacy was high on our list. We loved the separate heads (bathrooms) for each hull, although having four of them aboard is excessive (we turned one into the laundry room , and another into a shower room).

Boater’s Tip : Do consider catamarans with the galley below – I loved it! You get a ton more counter-space, and the salon above is more spacious.

15. Outdoor space

Considering most boats sail in warm climates, the outdoor space is a crucial factor, when shopping for a boat.

cockpit of 1985 grand Soleil 39

Catamarans offer much, much better outdoor space, compared to monohulls . The cockpit was my favorite space, on our Privilege .

Unlike the patio of a house, the outdoor space of an anchored boat provides constant breeze and zero bugs (occasional bee swarms might happen in some places).

Another point for the catamaran is the bow trampolines , which are a favorite hang-out spot. It is easy to send the kids and their friends to the front, while the adults hang out in the cockpit.

With older kids , however, we just left them all boat-alone, while the adults gathered on a different boat.

Walking on deck during passages is easier on a catamaran , because the boat does not heel.

16. Sustainability

Sustainability is all in the hands of the crew , much like safety. It is never the boat’s fault, if the crew wants to motor, instead of sail.

a sailboat with solar panels and a wind generator

Both catamarans and monohulls have plenty of surface area to attach solar panels and wind generators.

You will like this post: This Sustainable Lifestyle is the Fairest of Them All. 10 Reasons Why Living on a Sailboat Matters.

A few boating families we met swore by their solar ovens too. I bought a super cheap one and never got it to cook anything, but granola.

As far as the cats having two engines – many motor using only one of them, and the one engine aboard a heavier monohull uses plenty of diesel too.

Boater’s Tip : Forget the generator. They are super noisy and use lots of diesel. When you are at anchor, there is a constant breeze. Buy wind scoopers instead.

17. Fun and entertainment

Our kids were happy, as long as there were other boatkids . So, that should be on the top of the priorities’ list.

Lots of kids on the bow of a catamaran, in the Dominican Republic.

I have an excellent post on socializing the kids while on the water:

Sailing and Socializing Kids – 8 Ways to Find Friends on the High Seas.

Having said that, our catamaran was much more comfortable to invite company over, compared to our monohull.

Catamarans have an excellent division of space – both indoor and outdoor. Not to mention that on a hot day, a swim platform can go under the trampolines for shade!

Monohulls are best for swinging and playing catapult games , but they are not great for entertainment .

We have had family visit aboard our Privilege , and it did not feel crowded at all.

Boater’ tip : Be the party boat, at the anchorage, if you have kids, this will make them enjoy boat-life more.

18. The looks

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Captains are not the only beholders.

A 1985 Grand Soleil 39 sailboat

Both monohulls and catamarans can look amazing, or ridiculous. We liked both of our boats, the captain actually loved them both , which put me in a perpetual love triangle.

To be perfectly honest, Graceful was a better suited name for our Grand Soleil Monohull. We were not able to come up with a better name, and everyone knew us as the SV Graceful crew, so we kept the name for our catamaran .

There is also some romance surrounding the looks of a monohull , from paintings and movies, so I’ll give the beauty point to the monohull.

Boater’s Tip: Pick the one, which will make your wife less jealous.

19. The crew

Unless you are solo-sailing, you must consider the wishes of the crew .

kids at the bow of a catamaran, making funny faces

When we first looked at boats, catamarans were out of the question, because they were expensive, and our captain thought they were ugly .

Three years later, two of which full-time living aboard our monohull, the boatkids spoke! They wanted to continue sailing, but on a catamaran . And we listened.

Check out the full story of our crazy adventures

In the end, we are the parents and there are decisions as well as consequences, which are not OK to dump on the kids.

But the crew is a true team on the water . So, everyone’s opinion matters (which is also why we returned to land life).

What is the right boat for you ?

Now that we have talked about the differences between the two boats, let’s see which one might be right for you, at this stage of your adventure .

a calm anchorage with a rainbow

Sailing with family

We believe that a catamaran is the best choice for a family , especially when traveling with older kids .

Teens will love the clever separation of space with cabins, providing plenty of privacy.

Our favorite Privilege, actually has a fully enclosed cockpit, for added safety.

A monohull might be best for couples with toddlers , requiring help and constant supervision (got for one with a centyer cockpit).

When the need arises, for both people to be handling the sails, it usually requires one’s full attention and a kid on a catamaran can run out of sight quickly.

The best thing you can do, if no other factors are at play, if to hop on both sailboats, enjoy a day-sail trip, then discuss it with the crew.

Sailing as a couple

A monohull would be the better choice for a physically fit couple , sailing without kids (or with young ones).

Owning a monohull is cheaper , and a couple might have the budget to stop at marinas more often and explore places in-land.

A retired couple might find a small catamaran more comfortable . The acrobatics and strain to sail at an angle, climbing in and out of the salon, as well as climbing on deck do require agility and a healthy body.

Sailing solo

It is hard to beat a monohull, if sailing solo .

If the boat is rigged for solo-sailing, the smaller cockpit of a monohull provides great space to handle the lines. Especially, if the instruments fail.

One person can solo sail a catamaran that is no bigger than 40 feet , with a small cockpit and rigged for solo sailing. Hop in the cockpit of a desired cat and try grabbing the lines on either side, alone, from the cockpit. Can you do it?

Sailing lifestyle

If planning to do lots of cruising, then either boat would be fine , depending on your preference, considering all the things mentioned above.

a man on a sailboat wearing a long sun shirt, short and a hat, swinging on a swing

If planning to live mostly at marinas and travel to explore land, maybe a monohull is better, offering a lot more options for marinas at a lower cost.

If you need to haul out the boat frequently, during hurricane season, a monohull would be easier and cheaper.

Catamaran at a mooring field, in an expensive location , will grant you those million-dollar views , from your living room, for a small fraction of the cost that people pay ashore.

We loved Coconut Grove, Downtown Miami, USVI, from our quiet, private and affordable boat.

Speaking of waterfront living, I have a great post about living on a boat:

Can you Live on a Boat? Yes, and Now is the Right Time 

Just chartering for vacation?

A catamaran will be the better chartering option , if you are just sailing out for a week, or so. Here is why:

  • Great views from the salon.
  • Better separation of space, if diving the cost with another party.
  • Larger space for entertaining.
  • Easier to get in and out of the water.
  • Catamarans are a lot more comfortable when anchored, than monohulls.
  • Motoring between anchorages can get you there faster.
  • You can anchor closer to the beach, because of the shallow draft on a cat.

What other boaters say.

Still uncertain? Check out the praises sung to both monohulls and catamarans below – all by our dear friends, who have sailed extensively and know what they are talking about.

boat anchorage with many boats in it

Praises to the mono

SV Silent Thunder , “Mono- smoother ride as she cuts through the sea.”

SV Lady of Mettle dad, “I prefer monos. I never seen the need to go over the same wave twice. Mono’s are a more predictable swaying motion. Cats feel unpredictable and “twitchy” to me. Monohulls handle weight better than cats. If blown over, monos stand back up. Cats don’t.”

SV Lady of Mettle mama , “When we sailed a Cat with family in Key West, I didn’t like that the helm was outside and upstairs. In foul weather that would not be great along with always having to be outside to helm. In comparison we have an inside helm to get out of sun or weather. I also did not enjoy the bow, outside on the deck was not as enjoyable to watch he dolphins play, and the smallest wave splashes over, keeping you in the back while sailing.

Overall sailing, I think a Monohull, but staying still, probably a cat just because of the open galley and living room areas.

My boat has plenty space however, a cat would not hold our things. Also, cats all look the same. Also 2 hulls to clean and scrape…booo The Cat has to go overboard.”

SV Traveler, “I would like the additional living space on a cat but I really like that my husband can captain our monohull by himself and if we need dock space or a haul out it seems easier to find with a monohull.”

😂

Praises to the cat

SV Half Dozen , “CAT allows for view and comfort at anchor.”

SV Varekai , “…I can honestly say that (monohull) it’s not as comfortable. Cockpit, salon, berths…we all feel less comfortable on the mono. I also miss being up where I can see out. The sugar scoops were nice for when docked and sailing. I’m not a fan of boarding on the side as much.”

SV Mojo , “Straight and smooth sailing no healing. I would hate having to be angled while moving. Loved the space inside and out. There’s a compromise in everything but that worked for us for a bit anyway, because then I needed more space. If you give a pig a pancake…right?!”

SV Colibri , “We love the room, light and layout of our cat. We rarely sway at anchor. It’s nimble and has enough space and privacy for a family with two teens (and a cat!). It can be single handed. The mast is 63″ so we can take the ICW. All in all, a dream boat (FP Lipari).”

SV Snowless , “Love the cat. Would definitely take the cat over a mono for most of the time. Yes the mono is great for going to to the wind aka, getting from us to Caribbean, but that is only a small portion of the travel. After that it’s mostly beam or downwind sailing. The trade off for being at anchor which is where you spend most is your time is unmatchable in my opinion.

However, when going upwind and I look ahead and see a mono healed over cutting through the waves with this mast holding steady, vs me and my mechanical bull that I am riding, I am envious.”

SV Aquafox , “I liked all the different living spaces we had on ours. I really liked the stability of it vs the movement you can get on a mono. Monos are awesome on speed and price though.”

Tours of our boats

Below are links to our boat tours, as well as episodes on Youtube, showing our boats, enjoy:

Our Catamaran Tour – 1995 Privilege 42

Our Monohull Boat Tour – 1985 Grand Soleil 39

Our 1985 Privilege 42 For Sale Video

Our first few YouTube episodes feature our monohull

In the end, I propose that Catamaran vs Monohull Battle be renamed to Sailor vs Sailor Battl e.

It really matters most what kind of cruising the sailor wants to do , and what matters most to the crew. And, just like in real battles, sides can be changed.

So, let’s focus on the crew and leave the poor cat and mono alone .

Links to what we recommend in this post

  • Reliefband – excellent against seasickness. Zero side effects, we loved them.
  • Sailing classes via the American Sailing Association
  • Predict Wind – to always select the best possible weather window.
  • Folding propellers – to help increase boat speed and protect the propeller.
  • Boat US Membership – for peace of mind, while sailing the US coast.
  • Wind scooper – for extra breeze inside the cabins – a must aboard!

Helpful posts about boating life

All of our Boat Life Posts

Buying a Catamaran in 10 Steps – Complete Guide.

Pros and Cons of Living on a Boat. By Experienced Boaters.

The cost of living on a boat for a family

How to Sell a Boat by Owner, the Honest Way

Can you Live on a Boat? Yes, and Now is the Right Time

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Mina is the creator and owner of No Texting and Tacking. She is an award-winning author, a philologist, a registered nurse and a native Bulgarian. She turned into a travel blogger in 2018, when her family of five decided to sail and travel the world.

IMAGES

  1. CATAMARAN vs MONOHULL: Price & Performance

    sailing monohull or catamaran

  2. Monohull or Catamaran? Picking the Right Boat for Your Chesapeake

    sailing monohull or catamaran

  3. Monohull, catamaran or motor boat

    sailing monohull or catamaran

  4. Catamaran vs. Monohull Sailboats

    sailing monohull or catamaran

  5. Monohull vs Catamaran: A Deep Dive into Design and Performance

    sailing monohull or catamaran

  6. Catamaran vs Monohull

    sailing monohull or catamaran

VIDEO

  1. Why Catamarans SUCK

  2. Catamaran vs Monohull The No Sail Zone #sailing #boat #shorts

  3. Episode 31 New Year new friends, Santa Marta Leopard 48

  4. Catamaran over monohull ⛵️

  5. Brrr it's getting cold! #boat #travel #brrr #chilly

  6. UPDATE Season 2

COMMENTS

  1. Catamarans Vs. Monohulls: Choosing The Right Boat

    Managing a catamaran is not like driving a monohull in both good and bad ways. For example, because cats have twin screws set maybe 20 feet apart, they offer better control even at slow speeds so it's easier to keep station when waiting for the fuel dock to open or picking up a mooring. ... Off the wind, sailing on a cat is a lovely upright ...

  2. Catamaran vs. Monohull: We Changed, Should You?

    Whether a monohull or multihull, sailing dead downwind doesn't usually make great VMG. Therefor a regular cruising cat, much like a monohull, needs a lot of sail area and has to sail deep downwind if it is to achieve a decent speed made good (VMG). This video demonstrates how we achieve this by sailing wing-on-wing downwind.

  3. Catamaran vs. Monohull Sailboats

    If everything including length remains the same, a catamaran is about 30% faster than a monohull. A cat can sail at half the speed of wind but this will, of course, upon the angle of the wind. It remains the faster vessel and will allow you to arrive at your destination promptly. If anything, you can outrun bad weather with a catamaran. Monohull

  4. Catamaran vs Monohull: Pros, Cons & Main Differences

    Upwind sailing performance: While catamarans have the edge at straight-line speed, monohulls sail closer to the wind. When you're racing or you have to sail upwind to get to the next island, this can get you there faster. Sailing feel and responsiveness: The "feel" of sailing a monohull is much better.With a single hull, you'll feel wind pressure and trim adjustments immediately for a ...

  5. Catamarans vs Monohulls: Which is Better a Better ...

    The question of whether to choose a monohull vessel or a catamaran is an eternal dispute between boat lovers. These arguments are usually based on one's preferences and philosophy. In fact, the popularity of catamarans has grown significantly since their design facilitates many aspects of sailing. But, both mono-hulls and multi-hulls have their advantages and disadvantages. So, in this ...

  6. Sailboat Debate: Monohull vs. Catamaran

    Jul 30, 2018. Original: Aug 17, 2015. Two sailboat experts argue monohull vs. catamaran. Contributed by Denison Yacht Sales. The great debate over which is better—one or two hulls—boils down to several factors, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages. The verdict usually defaults to personal preference and intended use of the vessel ...

  7. Catamaran Vs Monohull

    Catamaran hulls are narrower and taller than most monohull designs of equal lengths. Catamarans have limited commercial and military utility, as these applications favor space and ease-of-construction over handling characteristics. ... Catamarans also don't heel under sail—instead, they plane slightly, raising the bows out of the water and ...

  8. Catamaran vs. Monohull: Which Is Better?

    Most sailing catamarans have a shallow draft perfect for skinny water cruising like the Chesapeake Bay and Florida. They can venture into areas previously off-limits to deep-draft monohull sailboats. Safety system in case of emergencies. Most cats have double the systems, including bilge pumps, freshwater pumps, showers, heads, engines, etc ...

  9. Catamaran vs Monohull in Rough Seas: Which is Better?

    When sailing upwind, a monohull has the advantage over a catamaran due to its ability to point higher into the wind. This means that a monohull can sail closer to the wind than a catamaran, which will need to tack more often. However, a catamaran can make up for this disadvantage with its speed.

  10. Catamaran vs Monohull: Why the Cat is Better for Your Sailing

    These 6 key factors decide the catamaran vs monohull debate. Find out why the catamaran is the best option for your next sailing trip. These 6 key factors decide the catamaran vs monohull debate. ... Many people also find that sailing in a monohull can be much more exhilarating since you can feel the power of the wind as it heels over.

  11. Catamaran vs Monohull

    for a monohull sailing 45° to the wind, and 4.0 nm for a catamaran sailing 55° to the wind. The final difference after 7 tacks each is 1.0 nm, which would take the catamaran an additional 2 tacks (and just shy of 2 nm distance sailed) to make up the difference. Table 1. Sailing Angle and Distance Comparison Sailing Angle (off the wind)

  12. Catamaran Vs. Monohull Sailing

    Catamarans are generally faster than monohulls of the same length and displacement. This is primarily due to their lighter weight and slim hulls, which offer less water resistance and drag. In fact, a catamaran can often sail at half the speed of wind, which is about 30% faster than a monohull.

  13. Catamaran vs Monohull: The Great Sailboat Debate

    Monohull advantages. • Upwind sailing. When sailing against the wind, monohulls often sail at a closer angle to the wind and arrive more quickly at their destination. • Easier motion. Heavier monohulls often have a slower, gentler motion in waves than a lighter catamaran. • Load carrying capability.

  14. Catamaran vs. Monohull: What Type of Boat is Right for You?

    Speed. In the catamaran vs monohull speed debate, it might be more of a draw. Catamarans are typically 25-30% faster than a comparable monohull, but some argue that it comes at a price. When catamarans are sailing full speed you might experience a lot of slapping from the waves. Monohulls are designed to cut through the water.

  15. Catamaran VS Monohull: what should you choose to sail around the world?

    Bénédicte can testify to this development: "The catamaran we've chosen sails easily in light airs. From 4-5 knots, it moves under sail, whereas classic catamarans need 10 to 15 knots to move properly, depending on the points of sail. So we use the engine very little and sail almost exclusively. On long journeys, sometimes the weather ...

  16. Monohull vs Catamaran: A Deep Dive into Design and Performance

    Monohull vs Catamaran: Performance Parameters. Before we take this deep dive to its conclusion, it's important to touch on a few key performance parameters. These can greatly influence whether a monohull or catamaran would be a better fit for your sailing needs.

  17. Catamarans vs. Monohulls

    A monohull will be far easier than a catamaran to tack. Monohulls slice through the water effortlessly. On some catamarans you get an irritating slapping of water on the bridge decks in rougher seas. A monohull is generally faster to respond to the helm (in other words, they turn faster).

  18. Catamaran Or Monohull? 27 Important Facts (Explained)

    Sailing catamarans do not heel like a monohull sailboat. These boats, therefore, do not provide the sailor with instant feedback. Also, if you incorrectly sail a catamaran, you do risk capsizing the boat more easily. Training Can Be Quite Hard. Sailing a catamaran and sailing a monohull boat are two different experiences.

  19. Monohulls or Catamarans

    When sailing in protected waters, catamarans usually speed past their monohull friends. A catamaran provides a flat ride and sailors can move around their boats easily to make sail changes as needed. Walking on a catamaran's deck is undemanding. Catamaran sailors also have many options to rest comfortably underway.

  20. Catamaran Vs. Monohull: Which One Should You Buy?

    Sailing performance with a catamaran vs monohull can be a deal-breaker for some people, depending on how fast or how close to the wind you want to go. If you're looking for a performance-oriented boat, then there are great options out there for both catamarans and monohulls: racing monohulls that sail fast and catamarans with a diamond rig ...

  21. Sailing Cruiser: Monohull vs. Catamaran

    Whether you plan to buy a sailboat to sail around the world, become a full-time liveaboard, or just occasionally go on nice sailing trips with the family, you will be confronted at some point with the question of whether it should be a monohull or a catamaran.With this article, we want to help you decide and provide a detailed comparison.

  22. Catamaran vs Monohull: Let's Solve This (we Lived on Both)

    Sailing solo. It is hard to beat a monohull, if sailing solo. If the boat is rigged for solo-sailing, the smaller cockpit of a monohull provides great space to handle the lines. Especially, if the instruments fail. One person can solo sail a catamaran that is no bigger than 40 feet, with a small cockpit and rigged for solo sailing. Hop in the ...

  23. Monohull vs catamaran : r/sailing

    If the joy of sailing a monohull is that much better for you than a catamaran, get a monohull. If you plan on using marinas rather than anchorages, get a monohull. If you are budget constrained, get a monohull. Else get a catamaran. My decision tree ended at which one I enjoy sailing more (monohull). The stability complaint against catamarans ...

  24. Catamaran Racing

    6 likes, 0 comments - catsailingnews on June 18, 2024: "Marco Anessi & Georg Reutter, winners Open & Classic fleets, Italian A-at Nats 2024. Photos: Martina Orsini".