catamaran speed vs monohull

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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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

catamaran speed vs monohull

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

catamaran speed vs monohull

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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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

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 speed vs monohull

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

catamaran speed vs monohull

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?

catamaran speed vs monohull

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

catamaran speed vs monohull

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

catamaran speed vs monohull

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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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: Which Is Better?

When considering sailboats for cruising or liveaboard purposes, two primary options often come to mind: catamarans vs. monohulls. We know, because we’ve been there!

Having sailed full-time for four years on a monohull before swapping to a catamaran with the impending arrival of baby, we really understand the whole catamaran vs. monohull debate, and it isn’t clear cut.

Both types of vessels have their own unique characteristics, advantages, and considerations. Understanding the differences between catamarans and monohulls can help individuals make an informed decision based on their specific needs and preferences.

Catamarans are known for their spaciousness, stability, and comfort. With their twin-hull design and wide beam, catamarans offer generous living spaces, expansive decks, and increased privacy with separate hulls.

The stability provided by the twin hulls creates a smoother ride, reduced rolling motion, and enhanced comfort in a variety of sea conditions. Catamarans also tend to have better maneuverability, fuel efficiency, and shallow draft capabilities.

On the other hand, monohulls are characterized by their sailing performance and versatility. Their single-hull design, deep keel, and ballast provide excellent upwind performance and responsiveness.

Monohulls offer a traditional sailing experience with the sensation of heeling and a closer connection to the water.

They are often more cost-effective in terms of initial purchase price and maintenance expenses. Monohulls also provide more options for docking in marinas with narrower slips.

Choosing between a catamaran and a monohull ultimately depends on individual preferences, intended use, and priorities.

Factors to consider include space requirements, stability preferences, sailing performance, budget, cruising plans, and personal comfort levels. Spending time on both types of boats and seeking advice from experienced sailors can help in making a well-informed decision.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into various aspects of catamarans and monohulls, exploring their advantages and considerations, including stability, speed, cost, maintenance, maneuverability, and more.

By examining these factors, individuals can gain a comprehensive understanding of which type of sailboat may be more suitable for their specific needs and aspirations.

a sailboat performing better than a catamaran

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Table of Contents

Which is better catamaran vs. monohull, the advantages of catamarans, the advantages of monohulls, the disadvantages of catamarans, the disadvantages of monohulls, are monohulls safer than catamarans, maintenance, ability to maneuver.

  • Fuel Efficiency

Which Is Better In Rough Seas?

  • Which makes a better liveaboard Sailboat?

a sailboat under a rainbow

There are lots of advantages to both catamarans and monohulls. Both can be excellent sailing or power vessels and suit various different needs. There is always a big debate among sailors about which is actually better and honestly, we don’t have the answers!

There are so many plus and minus points for each that it’s hard to come to a logical conclusion without knowing a certain sailor’s needs first.

What advantages does one have over the other? Let’s explore that now to help you decide which one is right for your individual needs.

a catamaran sailing better than a monohull

Catamarans offer several advantages that make them popular choices for various marine applications.

One key advantage is their superior stability. The two parallel hulls provide a wide base, which distributes the weight evenly and reduces the likelihood of tipping or rolling. This stability is especially beneficial in rough seas, making catamarans a preferred choice for cruising, offshore sailing, and passenger transportation.

Another advantage of catamarans is their speed performance. The twin hulls reduce drag and increase buoyancy, allowing them to achieve higher speeds with less power.

Catamarans are often faster than monohull boats of similar size, making them popular for racing, chartering, and personal use. The speed advantage of catamarans can be particularly appealing for those who enjoy thrilling water sports or need to reach their destinations quickly.

Catamarans are also known for their fuel efficiency. The design of catamarans minimizes drag and weight, enabling them to achieve higher speeds with less power and fuel consumption compared to monohull boats.

This advantage becomes especially significant during long-distance cruising, where fuel costs can be substantial. The fuel efficiency of catamarans not only saves money but also contributes to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly boating experience.

In addition to stability, speed, and fuel efficiency, catamarans offer other advantages as well. Their wide beam provides ample deck space, offering more room for socializing, entertaining, and enjoying outdoor activities.

Catamarans often feature spacious cabins, making them comfortable for extended periods on the water, whether for leisurely cruising or living aboard. The dual hulls also provide increased buoyancy, allowing for shallower drafts and access to more secluded anchorages and cruising grounds.

Furthermore, catamarans generally have shallower keels compared to monohulls, which allows them to navigate in shallower waters and access remote areas that might be inaccessible to deeper-draft vessels . This versatility opens up a broader range of exploration possibilities for catamaran owners.

Overall, the advantages of catamarans, including stability, speed, fuel efficiency, spaciousness, and versatility, make them attractive options for a variety of boating enthusiasts.

Whether for leisurely cruising, racing, chartering, or living aboard, catamarans offer a unique combination of features that enhance the boating experience.

a monohull in an anchorage

Monohull boats offer several advantages that make them popular among sailors.

One of the key advantages is their excellent seaworthiness, particularly in challenging conditions. The deep, V-shaped hulls of monohulls provide stability and a smoother ride through waves and choppy waters.

This design allows monohulls to cut through the water efficiently, making them well-suited for offshore sailing and bluewater cruising.

When out in huge waves during an unexpected storm I found it hard to imagine how a catamaran would cope compared to our heavy bluewater monohull that just plowed through the waves as though they were butter.

Another advantage of monohulls is their superior upwind performance. The single hull design allows them to tack more effectively and maintain a higher pointing ability, making them ideal for sailors who frequently navigate against the wind. This advantage is particularly important for racing sailors and those who enjoy exploring areas where upwind sailing is common.

Monohull boats are typically more maneuverable than catamarans. The single hull allows for sharper turns and greater agility, which can be advantageous in tight spaces, marinas, or when docking.

The ability to maneuver easily makes monohulls more versatile in navigating narrow channels, entering small harbors, or handling in confined areas.

Additionally, monohulls offer a wide availability and variety of models, sizes, and configurations. They have been the traditional and widely available choice in the boating industry for a long time. This abundance of options allows boaters to select a monohull that suits their specific preferences, needs, and budget.

Monohull boats also often have a lower initial cost compared to catamarans of similar size and quality. The construction and design of a monohull are typically simpler, resulting in a more affordable purchase price.

This cost advantage can be significant for individuals or families entering the boating world on a limited budget.

Finally, monohull boats are generally easier to dock and berth in standard marina slips. Their single hull design allows for straightforward docking procedures and fitting into narrower slips designed for monohulls.

This advantage simplifies the process for boaters who frequently visit marinas or require regular docking facilities.

It’s important to note that the choice between a monohull and a catamaran ultimately depends on individual preferences, intended use, and specific requirements. Both types of vessels have their unique advantages and considerations, and it’s crucial to carefully evaluate these factors when selecting a boat that best suits your needs.

a catamaran floating in clear waters

Catamarans, despite their advantages, also have some disadvantages that should be taken into consideration.

One notable disadvantage is the cost. Catamarans are generally more expensive than comparable monohull boats. The construction, materials, and design complexity of catamarans contribute to their higher price tag.

Additionally, maintenance, docking fees, and insurance costs can be higher due to the larger size and wider beam of catamarans. We’re only just starting to find out just how much more they cost, and it isn’t insignificant!

Another disadvantage of catamarans is the limited availability of berthing options. The wider beam of catamarans can pose challenges when it comes to finding suitable berths in marinas. Many marina slips are designed to accommodate monohull boats and may not have sufficient space for catamarans.

This limitation may require catamaran owners to seek specialized marinas or rely more frequently on anchoring.

The wider beam of catamarans can make maneuvering more challenging, especially in tight spaces, narrow channels, or crowded marinas. The increased width may require additional care and skill when docking or navigating in confined areas. Catamarans may also require specialized docking arrangements or wider slips to accommodate their size.

In heavy weather conditions, catamarans may experience some performance limitations. While they generally provide excellent stability, their wider beam can make them more susceptible to windage and slamming.

The larger surface area exposed to the wind can result in more resistance and difficulties maintaining course in strong winds. Skillful handling and careful sail management are necessary to optimize performance in challenging weather conditions.

Additionally, some sailors enjoy the heeling sensation experienced on monohulls when sailing close to the wind. Catamarans, with their stable platform, lack this sensation since they do not heel to the same degree.

This absence of heeling can be seen as a disadvantage for sailors who enjoy the dynamic experience of monohull sailing.

a monohull vs catamaran anchoring deeper

Monohull boats also have their own unique set of disadvantages.

One of the main disadvantages is their stability compared to catamarans. Monohulls typically have a narrower beam and a single hull, which can make them less stable in certain conditions, particularly in rough seas.

This may result in more rolling and pitching motions, which can be uncomfortable for some passengers.

Another disadvantage of monohulls is their potential for heeling. When sailing close to the wind, monohulls have a tendency to heel or lean to one side. While this is a characteristic appreciated by many sailors, it can be a disadvantage for those who prefer a more stable and level sailing experience.

Monohulls also tend to have limitations when it comes to living space and interior layout. The narrow beam of monohulls can result in smaller cabins and reduced interior space compared to catamarans. This can be a consideration for individuals or families looking for more spacious accommodations on their boat.

Additionally, monohull boats may have more limited access to shallow or restricted areas due to their deeper draft. The single keel design of monohulls often requires a deeper depth requirement, which can limit their ability to explore certain cruising grounds or navigate shallow waterways.

Lastly, monohull boats generally have a lower initial stability when at rest compared to catamarans. This means that while they may have better stability underway, monohulls can feel less stable and more susceptible to rolling when anchored or at the dock.

This may require additional measures such as stabilizers or careful weight distribution to enhance stability at rest.

Comparing Catamarans Vs. Monohulls

lots of catamarans vs monohulls in a blue anchorage

We’ve compared some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a boat.

Ultimately, I don’t think either a monohull or a catamaran is superior to the other, but simply superior to the individual sailors’ needs. Before you decide which is right for you it’s a good idea to spend some time on both and work out what your priorities are when it comes to choosing a vessel.

Hopefully these comparisons will help a little!

The safety of monohulls vs. catamarans is a topic that can vary depending on several factors. It is important to note that both types of vessels have their own safety considerations, and the overall safety can depend on various factors, including design, construction, maintenance, and the skill of the captain and crew.

One aspect to consider is stability. Catamarans generally offer better initial stability due to their wide beam and twin hulls.

This stability can provide a more stable platform for passengers and crew, reducing the likelihood of rolling or heeling in rough seas. However, it’s important to note that catamarans can still capsize if pushed beyond their design limits or operated improperly.

Monohulls, on the other hand, have a narrower beam and a single hull, which can result in a higher tendency to heel or roll. However, monohulls are designed to recover from heeling due to their deep keel and ballast system.

They generally have a higher risk of capsizing compared to catamarans but will right themselves if this happens. This is a big thing to consider. Do you want a boat that is less likely to capsize but will be far more catastrophic if it does, or a boat that is designed to capsize and then right itself again?

Seaworthiness is another consideration. Both monohulls and catamarans can be designed and built to be seaworthy.

The quality of construction, design integrity, and adherence to safety standards play a significant role in the seaworthiness of any vessel. A well-maintained and properly equipped boat, regardless of its type, can handle a wide range of sea conditions safely.

Another aspect to evaluate is motion comfort. This can be subjective and may vary depending on individual preferences.

Some people may find the gentle rocking motion of a monohull more comfortable, while others may prefer the stability and reduced motion of a catamaran. It’s essential to consider personal comfort levels and any potential motion-related concerns when choosing a boat.

Lastly, it’s important to emphasize that the safety of any vessel depends on factors beyond the boat itself, such as the skill and experience of the captain and crew, adherence to safety protocols, and proper maintenance.

Regular inspections, safety equipment, and knowledge of emergency procedures are crucial for ensuring safety on any type of vessel.

In conclusion, the safety of monohulls versus catamarans is not a straightforward comparison. Both types of boats can be safe when used appropriately and in accordance with good seamanship practices.

It’s essential to consider the specific design characteristics, maintenance standards, and individual preferences when assessing the safety of a particular vessel.

a monohull heeling while sailing

When comparing the stability of catamarans vs. monohulls, it’s important to consider their inherent design characteristics.

Catamarans, with their twin hulls and wide beam, generally offer better initial stability than monohulls. The separation of the hulls provides a larger base and increased resistance to rolling.

This stability advantage is particularly noticeable at rest and in calm or moderate sea conditions. Catamarans tend to have a more level sailing experience and minimal heeling, which can be appealing to those who prefer a stable platform.

On the other hand, monohulls have a single hull and a narrower beam. This design makes them more prone to heeling, especially when sailing close to the wind or in stronger gusts.

However, monohulls are designed with deep keels and ballast systems to provide stability and the ability to recover from heeling. The combination of their keel and ballast works to counterbalance the forces acting on the sails, enhancing stability and minimizing excessive rolling.

It’s important to note that the stability of both catamarans and monohulls can be influenced by factors such as weight distribution, sail plan, and sea conditions. Improper loading or sail handling can affect the stability of any vessel, regardless of its design.

In terms of overall stability, catamarans often provide a more initial stable platform due to their wider beam and twin hulls. However, monohulls can offer a different kind of stability through their ability to recover from heeling and their long-established track record of safe offshore passages.

We would advise you to experience both types of boats firsthand, if possible, to get a better sense of their stability characteristics and determine which suits your needs and preferences best.

Speed: Catamarans vs. Monohulls

a lady relaxing on the tramps of a catamaran

When it comes to speed, catamarans and monohulls have distinct characteristics and performance capabilities.

Catamarans are generally known for their high-speed potential. The design of a catamaran, with its two hulls separated by a wide beam, offers reduced drag and increased stability, allowing them to sail at higher speeds.

The wide beam also provides a larger surface area for sail plans, enabling catamarans to harness more wind power.

Due to their lightweight construction and reduced resistance in the water, catamarans can often achieve faster speeds, especially in reaching and downwind conditions.

Monohulls, on the other hand, have a single hull and a narrower beam. Their design may result in increased drag and slower speeds compared to catamarans, particularly in light wind conditions.

However, monohulls are well-suited for upwind sailing, thanks to their ability to heel and make use of the lift generated by their sails. This characteristic allows monohulls to excel in close-hauled or beating angles, which can be advantageous when sailing against the wind.

It’s important to note that the specific design, size, and rigging of a catamaran or a monohull can greatly influence their speed potential.

Different models, materials, and sailing configurations will have varying performance characteristics. Additionally, the skill of the captain and crew in optimizing sail trim and harnessing the wind’s power also plays a significant role in achieving maximum speed.

an aerial view of a catamaran

The cost of catamarans and monohulls can vary significantly based on several factors, including the size, age, brand, construction materials, and overall condition of the vessel.

It is essential to consider both the initial purchase price and the ongoing costs associated with owning and maintaining the boat.

Catamarans, in general, tend to be more expensive than monohulls of similar size and condition. The construction, materials, and design complexity of catamarans often contribute to their higher price tag.

The wider beam, twin hulls, and larger deck spaces of catamarans require more materials and labor during the construction process, leading to increased costs. Additionally, the popularity and demand for catamarans can also impact their pricing.

Maintenance costs can be higher for catamarans compared to monohulls. Catamarans typically have more deck space, more systems and equipment, and two hulls to maintain, which can result in increased maintenance and repair expenses.

Furthermore, the cost of haul-outs, bottom paint, and other services may be higher for catamarans due to their wider beam and potentially larger size.

Docking fees in marinas can also be higher for catamarans. Many marinas charge slip fees based on the length overall (LOA) and beam of the vessel. Catamarans, with their wider beam, may require larger slips, resulting in higher docking fees compared to monohulls.

However, it’s worth noting that docking fees can vary between marinas and regions, so it’s important to research and compare the costs in the specific areas where you plan to moor your boat.

Insurance costs for catamarans are typically higher than for monohulls. Insurance premiums are influenced by various factors such as the value of the boat, its size, cruising area, and the owner’s experience.

Catamarans often have higher values, and their wider beam may result in higher insurance premiums compared to monohulls. It is crucial to obtain insurance quotes specific to the vessel you are considering to understand the potential costs involved.

It’s important to keep in mind that these cost considerations are general observations, and individual circumstances may vary. Factors such as age, condition, location, and market trends can all influence the actual costs of catamarans and monohulls.

You can definitely buy an older catamaran in bad condition for less than a newer, ready to sail monohull as we did! Or opt for a small catamaran for cruising instead of a larger monohull.

Conducting thorough research, consulting with experts, and obtaining specific quotes and estimates are advisable when evaluating the cost implications of owning either type of vessel.

In conclusion, while catamarans generally tend to be more expensive to purchase, maintain, and insure compared to monohulls, the actual costs can vary significantly based on individual factors.

It’s crucial to assess your budget, intended use, and long-term financial considerations when deciding between a catamaran vs. a monohull.

a large catamaran in a boatyard costing  more than a monohull

The maintenance requirements for catamarans and monohulls can vary based on factors such as size, age, construction materials, and the specific equipment and systems onboard.

Catamarans typically have more deck space and systems to maintain compared to monohulls. With two hulls, there are generally more areas to clean, inspect, and maintain.

This includes the hulls, decks, and various components such as trampolines, rigging, and bridge decks. The larger deck areas and additional systems, such as two engines, may require more time and effort for cleaning, maintenance, and routine checks.

The hulls of catamarans often require regular cleaning and antifouling to prevent the growth of marine organisms and maintain optimal performance. Due to their wider beam, catamarans may have a larger underwater surface area, which can result in increased costs for haul-outs, bottom paint, and related services.

Monohulls typically have a single hull and a more streamlined shape, which may make certain maintenance tasks more straightforward. The single-hull design can simplify tasks like hull cleaning, inspection, and maintenance.

However, monohulls may have deeper keels and other appendages that require attention and occasional maintenance, such as keel bolts, rudders, and through-hull fittings.

Both catamarans and monohulls have various onboard systems and equipment that require regular maintenance, such as engines, generators, plumbing, electrical systems, and navigation equipment.

The maintenance requirements for these systems can be similar regardless of the hull type, as they depend on the quality of the equipment, usage patterns, and adherence to recommended maintenance schedules. On a catamaran though, remember you’ll have double of most things!

It’s important to note that maintenance needs can also be influenced by the quality of construction, materials used, and overall condition of the vessel. A well-maintained and properly cared-for boat, whether a catamaran or a monohull, is likely to require less maintenance and be more reliable in the long run.

Regular inspections, maintenance checklists, and adherence to manufacturer guidelines and recommendations are crucial for ensuring the safety and longevity of any vessel.

In conclusion, while catamarans may have more deck space and systems to maintain, the specific maintenance requirements can vary depending on individual factors. Regular cleaning, inspection, and upkeep of hulls, systems, and equipment are essential for both catamarans and monohulls to ensure their safe and reliable operation.

When comparing the ability to maneuver, catamarans and monohulls have some differences based on their design characteristics.

Catamarans generally have better maneuverability in certain aspects. Due to their twin-hull design, catamarans typically have a smaller turning radius, allowing them to make tighter turns compared to monohulls. This can be advantageous when navigating in tight spaces, such as marinas or narrow channels.

The wide beam of catamarans provides inherent stability, which can contribute to a more predictable and controlled maneuvering experience. They have a reduced tendency to heel, allowing them to maintain a more level sailing platform while executing maneuvers. This stability can be particularly beneficial when sailing in challenging conditions or when performing quick maneuvers.

Monohulls, on the other hand, have different maneuvering characteristics. Their single-hull design allows them to tack more efficiently when sailing upwind, taking advantage of the lift generated by their sails. Monohulls can often point closer to the wind compared to catamarans, making them more effective in beating angles.

Monohulls with deep keels and rudders may have better tracking ability and may be more responsive to helm inputs compared to catamarans. This can make monohulls more agile and responsive during maneuvers such as jibing or changing course.

However, it’s important to note that the maneuverability of any boat depends not only on its design but also on factors such as size, weight, sail plan (how many sailboat masts ), rigging, and the skill of the captain and crew. The performance and maneuverability of a vessel can be influenced by the specific model, its handling characteristics, and the experience of those operating it.

Ultimately, the ability to maneuver a boat effectively depends on the individual’s familiarity with the vessel, understanding of sailing principles, and proficiency in handling various sailing maneuvers.

Practice, training, and experience are key factors in mastering the maneuvering capabilities of any sailboat, whether it’s a catamaran or a monohull.

It’s worth noting that modern catamarans and monohulls often incorporate advanced sail handling systems, such as electric winches and bow thrusters, which can enhance maneuverability and make handling the boat easier in certain situations.

In conclusion, catamarans and monohulls have their own maneuvering characteristics based on their design features. Catamarans generally offer tighter turning radius and better stability, while monohulls may excel in upwind sailing and responsiveness.

However, individual experience, skill, and familiarity with the vessel play significant roles in maximizing maneuverability for either type of boat. I’m terrified of docking the new catamaran considering how much bigger it is, but with practice you can get used to any vessel.

Fuel Efficiency: Catamarans vs. Monohulls

a sailboat at anchor with the sunset behind

When comparing the fuel efficiency of catamarans vs. monohulls, there are several factors to consider that can impact their respective fuel consumption.

Catamarans, with their wide beam and twin-hull design, generally offer better fuel efficiency compared to monohulls of similar size.

The reduced hull drag and increased stability of catamarans contribute to improved fuel economy. The efficient hull shape and reduced resistance in the water allow catamarans to glide through the water more easily, requiring less power to maintain a given speed.

Monohulls, with their single hull and narrower beam, typically have higher hull drag and may require more power to maintain similar speeds compared to catamarans.

However, modern monohull designs incorporate advancements in hydrodynamics and sail technology, which can help optimize fuel efficiency. Efficient hull shapes, bulbous bows, and streamlined appendages can all contribute to improved fuel economy in monohulls.

The specific speed and conditions of sailing can significantly impact fuel efficiency for both catamarans and monohulls.

Generally, sailing at lower speeds or utilizing downwind conditions can improve fuel efficiency, as it reduces resistance and minimizes the need for engine power. On the other hand, pushing a vessel to its maximum speed or sailing against strong headwinds can increase fuel consumption.

Other factors that can influence fuel efficiency include the size and weight of the vessel, the engine type and power, the sail plan, and the cruising habits of the captain and crew.

Efficient propulsion systems, such as modern diesel engines or hybrid electric systems, can further enhance fuel efficiency for both catamarans and monohulls.

It’s important to note that the fuel efficiency of any boat is also influenced by factors such as maintenance, proper hull cleaning, and overall vessel condition. Fouled hulls, dirty propellers, and inefficient systems can increase drag and reduce fuel efficiency.

Ultimately, the fuel efficiency of a catamaran or a monohull can vary depending on multiple factors, and it’s challenging to make broad generalizations. When considering the fuel consumption of a particular vessel, it’s essential to evaluate the specific design, size, engine setup, and cruising habits to obtain a more accurate understanding of its fuel efficiency capabilities.

In conclusion, catamarans generally offer better fuel efficiency compared to monohulls of similar size, thanks to their reduced hull drag and increased stability.

However, advancements in monohull design and technology have narrowed the gap, and modern monohulls can also achieve respectable fuel efficiency. The specific vessel, its design, engine setup, and cruising habits will ultimately determine the fuel efficiency of a catamaran or a monohull.

a catamaran at a dock

When it comes to determining which is better in rough seas, whether a catamaran vs. a monohull, it depends on various factors and personal preferences.

Both types of vessels have their own strengths and considerations in rough conditions and it took us a lot of research to work out that really there isn’t a ‘better vessel’, just different preferences.

Catamarans, with their wide beam and twin-hull design, generally offer better stability and reduced rolling motion in rough seas. The separation of the hulls provides a larger base and increased resistance to rolling, resulting in a more stable platform.

This can contribute to a smoother and more comfortable ride, particularly in waves or when the sea state is challenging.

The inherent stability of catamarans can also be advantageous when sailing in rough seas, as it reduces the tendency to heel excessively and maintains a more level deck. This can enhance safety and comfort for crew and passengers, as well as provide better accessibility to onboard amenities and reduce the risk of items shifting or falling.

Adam and I have always found that the constant rolling on our monohull caused lots of opportunities for accidents, and even sometimes prevented us from checking things on deck because we felt too unsafe to move around up there in heavy seas.

On the other hand, monohulls are known for their ability to handle rough seas and heavy weather conditions effectively.

Their single hull design, with a deep keel and ballast, allows them to slice through waves and provide a more predictable motion in challenging sea states. The weight and ballasting of monohulls contribute to their ability to maintain course stability and resist being pushed around by waves and wind.

Monohulls also have a reputation for their ability to “self-right” in extreme situations, where their inherent stability helps them recover from a knockdown or capsize. This characteristic can provide added safety and reassurance in rough seas.

It’s worth noting that the specific design, size, construction, and condition of a vessel can significantly influence its performance in rough seas.

Heavy weather sailing often requires proper preparation, including reefing sails, securing loose items, and ensuring the boat is seaworthy and equipped with appropriate safety gear.

Additionally, the skill and experience of the captain and crew play a crucial role in handling a boat in rough seas. Understanding the vessel’s limitations, practicing good seamanship, and making sound decisions based on prevailing conditions are vital regardless of the type of boat.

Which Makes A Better Liveaboard Sailboat?

Determining which sailboat makes a better liveaboard depends on individual preferences, lifestyle, and specific needs. Both catamarans and monohulls can offer advantages and considerations for liveaboard sailing.

Catamarans are often preferred as liveaboard sailboats for several reasons:

  • Space and Comfort: Catamarans generally offer more interior space and living area compared to monohulls of similar size. The wide beam allows for spacious cabins, larger saloons, and generous deck space , providing a more open and comfortable living environment.
  • Stability: Catamarans’ twin-hull design provides inherent stability, minimizing rocking and rolling motion. This stability can contribute to a more comfortable living experience, especially for those prone to seasickness or families with young children.
  • Privacy: Catamarans often have separate hulls with cabins located in each hull. This layout can provide increased privacy, making them suitable for couples, families, or individuals who value their own space.
  • Accessibility: The level decks of catamarans make it easier to move around the boat, especially for those with mobility challenges or families with young children. The absence of heeling allows for a more stable and safer environment while underway or at anchor.

Monohulls also offer advantages for liveaboard sailing:

  • Sailing Performance: Monohulls are known for their sailing performance, particularly upwind. They typically have better windward ability and can handle a wider range of sailing conditions. If sailing and performance are priorities, a monohull may be preferred.
  • Cost: Monohulls generally have a lower purchase price and maintenance costs compared to catamarans of similar size and condition. This can be advantageous for those on a tighter budget or looking to minimize expenses.
  • Traditional Experience: Many sailors appreciate the traditional experience of sailing a monohull. The heeling sensation and close connection to the water can provide a sense of adventure and immersion in the sailing lifestyle. We have to say, we loved the romance that living on board our monohull gave.
  • Docking and Marinas: Monohulls generally require narrower slips, making them more suitable for certain marinas and docking situations where space may be limited. This can provide more flexibility in choosing berthing options (and cheaper too!)

Ultimately, the choice between a catamaran and a monohull as a liveaboard sailboat depends on individual preferences for space, comfort, stability, performance, budget, and intended use. Check out the best shallow draft liveaboard sailboats .

We would recommended you spend time on both types of boats, perhaps through charters or boat shows, to experience firsthand their layout, handling, and suitability for living aboard.

If you can’t do this, then we would suggest you buy a cheap boat to start with and spend six months living aboard to work out what you really want and need from a liveaboard boat.

Consulting with experienced liveaboard sailors can also provide valuable insights and perspectives based on their own experiences, and watching sailing YouTube channels can also help you form an idea of what you might need.

Conclusion: Catamaran Vs. Monohull

a catamaran in beautiful clear water

In conclusion, the choice between a catamaran and a monohull depends on various factors and personal preferences. Both types of sailboats offer distinct advantages and considerations.

Catamarans excel in areas such as spaciousness, stability, and comfort. Their wide beam provides ample living space, and their twin-hull design offers inherent stability, making them popular choices for liveaboard sailors seeking a comfortable and roomy living environment.

Catamarans also have advantages in terms of maneuverability, fuel efficiency, and shallow draft capabilities.

Monohulls, on the other hand, are known for their sailing performance, particularly upwind. They offer a traditional sailing experience with a heeling sensation and a closer connection to the water.

Monohulls generally have lower purchase and maintenance costs compared to catamarans, making them more budget-friendly options. They can also be advantageous in certain docking situations and marinas that have narrower slips.

It is important to consider factors such as space requirements, stability preferences, sailing performance, budget, and specific cruising plans. It is advisable to spend time on both types of boats to gain firsthand experience and insights into their handling, comfort, and suitability for specific needs.

Consulting with experienced sailors, attending boat shows, and seeking professional advice can also provide valuable guidance in making an informed decision.

Ultimately, selecting the right sailboat, whether a catamaran or a monohull, is about finding the vessel that aligns with your preferences, lifestyle, and goals for the sailing experience.

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  • Search Search Hi! We’re Emily, Adam and Tiny Cat, liveaboard sailors travelling the world on our 38ft sailboat and writing about it as we go. We hope we can inspire you to live the life you’ve always dreamed, whether that’s exploring the world or living a more simple way of life in a tiny home. Find out more. Patreon
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  • 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. 

catamaran speed vs monohull

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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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

catamaran speed vs monohull

Space & lounging

Sailing performance, maneuverability.

  • Comfort & Stability

catamaran speed vs monohull

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

catamaran speed vs monohull

Comfort & stability

catamaran speed vs monohull

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Better Sailing

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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Monohull vs Catamaran: A Deep Dive into Design and Performance

The genesis of two designs.

In the world of sailing, the debate between monohulls and catamarans is a tale as old as time. The history of these two iconic designs stretches back to antiquity, reflecting the evolution of human innovation and our insatiable desire for exploration.

The monohull's genesis lies in the early days of human seafaring. Traditional cultures from the Mediterranean to the South Pacific have all used some form of monohull craft for fishing, trade, and exploration. The monohull's sleek, single-hulled design, characterized by a deep keel and distinct bow and stern, offers an efficient shape for cutting through waves. Over centuries, the monohull design has been refined and perfected, culminating in the magnificent yachts we see gracing our waters today.

old-monohull-painting-sailing-virgins

On the other hand, the catamaran, a vessel with two parallel hulls, boasts a legacy equally steeped in seafaring history. Its origins can be traced back to the outrigger canoes used by ancient Austronesian cultures.

The word 'catamaran' itself is derived from the Tamil word 'kattumaram', which loosely translates to 'logs tied together'.

These innovative sailors discovered that by adding a second hull, they could greatly improve the stability and speed of their vessels, a design principle that holds true to this day.

earliest-catamarans-sailing-virgins

Exploring the Monohull Design

Stepping into the present, let's delve deeper into the modern monohull design. Its traditional single hull offers a quintessential sailing experience that's hard to match. Monohulls are typically seen as the embodiment of the romantic sailing ideal, thanks to their elegance and the graceful way they heel under sail.

One of the major benefits of monohulls lies in their seaworthiness. Their deep keels provide excellent stability, allowing them to handle heavy seas and high winds effectively. In addition, the keel acts as a counterbalance, enabling the boat to right itself after being heeled over by a gust of wind. This 'self-righting' characteristic is a significant safety feature exclusive to monohulls, adding a level of reassurance when navigating challenging sea conditions.

Monohulls are also known for their responsive handling and satisfying sailing performance. The mono-hulled design cuts cleanly through waves, resulting in a smooth and predictable ride. If you're the type of sailor who enjoys feeling the wind and waves' raw power, the visceral connection that a monohull provides is unparalleled.

However, as with everything in life, monohulls also have their downsides. For one, space can be at a premium. The deep keel and the rounded hull shape necessary for stability and performance take up much of the interior volume, leaving less room for living space compared to a similarly sized catamaran.

Another consideration is the heeling motion. While some sailors love the feeling of a boat leaning into the wind, others may find it uncomfortable or disorienting, especially during prolonged passages.

Despite these trade-offs, monohulls continue to hold their charm for many, offering a blend of tradition, performance, and adventure that has stood the test of time. In the next part of this deep dive, we'll shift our focus to the twin-hulled wonder of the sailing world: the catamaran.

The Catamaran Conundrum

As we switch gears to catamarans, it becomes apparent how contrasting they are to their monohull counterparts. Catamarans, with their dual hulls connected by a central platform or cabin, present an entirely different set of strengths and challenges.

Let's start with one of the most prominent features of catamarans: their stability. The wide beam of a catamaran provides a significant increase in stability over a monohull, reducing the boat's tendency to roll. This stability not only enhances the comfort of your crew but also allows for safer and easier movement on deck and below. If the notion of preparing a meal in a level galley while underway appeals to you, a catamaran might be the perfect fit.

Space is another major advantage of catamarans. With essentially two hulls worth of volume, catamarans typically offer much more living space than a similarly sized monohull. This makes them an attractive option for those planning extended cruises or living aboard. The additional space also allows for separate, private cabins in each hull, perfect for accommodating families or groups.

When it comes to performance, catamarans have a distinct edge in certain areas. Their dual-hulled design and lack of a ballasted keel result in less drag, allowing them to often outpace monohulls in moderate conditions. However, this speed advantage may be offset in heavy weather, where the ability to cut through waves (rather than ride over them) can make a monohull's ride smoother and faster.

But, just like monohulls, catamarans aren't without their drawbacks. While their stability and flat sailing characteristics are often seen as benefits, they can also create a false sense of security, leading some sailors to push their boats beyond safe limits. Additionally, while catamarans are significantly harder to capsize than monohulls, if they do flip, they generally won't self-right like a monohull would.

Furthermore, catamarans can be more challenging to handle in confined spaces due to their wider beam. Docking, in particular, can be trickier, especially in marinas designed with narrower monohulls in mind. Also, the increased beam and dual hulls often lead to higher mooring and maintenance costs.

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.

For starters, how a boat handles various wind conditions is critical. Monohulls, due to their keeled design, tend to excel upwind. Their ability to 'point' into the wind is usually superior to that of a catamaran. On the other hand, catamarans, with their lighter weight and reduced drag, often have the upper hand in downwind and lighter wind conditions.

Another factor to consider is load carrying capacity. While catamarans have more space for storing gear and provisions, they can be more sensitive to overloading. Additional weight can significantly impact a catamaran's performance, whereas monohulls tend to be more forgiving in this regard.

In the final part of this blog, we'll wrap up our deep dive by considering these and other factors to help determine which design might be the best fit for your sailing needs.

Choosing Your Vessel: What Suits Your Sailing Style?

Now that we’ve explored the design principles and performance traits of monohulls and catamarans, it’s time to consider what kind of vessel will best cater to your personal sailing needs and preferences.

If your sailing plans involve long passages in open waters, especially in rougher seas or challenging wind conditions, a monohull's sturdy and seaworthy design might be the most fitting choice. Their excellent upwind performance and smoother ride in heavy weather will provide you with both comfort and safety on lengthy oceanic voyages.

catamaran-tahiti-sailing-virgins

For those attracted to the exhilaration of speed, catamarans, with their swift downwind capabilities, can offer a thrilling sailing experience. They can be the ideal choice if your sailing adventures are primarily focused on coastal cruising, island-hopping, or participating in sailing races where their speed advantage can shine.

Lifestyle preferences play an essential role as well. If you value space and comfort, and perhaps are contemplating living aboard or planning extended family cruises, the spacious interior of a catamaran, with its level sailing and private cabins, may be the superior option.

However, if you're a sailing purist who enjoys the classic feel of a boat that heels under sail, the thrill of mastering the art of balancing a boat in various wind conditions, a monohull will likely provide the sailing experience you're seeking.

As for cost considerations, remember that while catamarans offer more living space and stability, they can also come with higher purchase, maintenance, and mooring costs.

Closing Thoughts: Your Ideal Adventure on the Water

If you're looking to buy or charter a sailboat , the choice between a monohull and a catamaran ultimately boils down to your sailing goals, personal preferences, and budget. There's no definitive answer to which is better because it's subjective to the individual sailor.

Whether you're lured by the traditional appeal and seaworthiness of a monohull or the comfort, stability, and speed of a catamaran, the most important thing is to choose a vessel that will provide you with many memorable and safe adventures on the water.

At Sailing Virgins , we love them both and appreciate their unique characteristics. Whatever you choose, the sea will always be an ever-changing playground that continually challenges and rewards those who embrace the sailing lifestyle.

If you're still unsure about which one is for you, why not join one of our sailing courses or adventures? It's the perfect way to gain hands-on experience and discover what type of sailing brings you the most joy. Feel free to press the button below to check out our courses.

Fair winds and following seas to all prospective boat buyers out there!

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Catamarans vs. Monohulls

Which is better, a monohull or a catamaran.

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catamaran speed vs monohull

Catamaran vs. Monohull.

Catamaran vs. Monohull: Which Is Better?

catamaran speed vs monohull

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 .

Got a boat? Put it to work

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.

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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 and Monohull Compared: Which is Better, Faster, Safier, and More Stable in Rought Sea?

Catamarans and monohulls are two vessels that have distinct features from each other. Catamarans have two hulls connected by a bridge structure whereas, as the name suggests monohulls have a single hull.

Both types of vessels have different features in terms of both aesthetics and function, let’s get into the details to find out more.

Catamaran Vs  Monohull: Boats in Stavanger harbor, sometimes hard to choose between Catamarans and Monohulls

Do Catamarans Have More Space?

Since catamarans have two hulls, they are normally wider than monohulls. This gives the designers and owners the flexibility to maximize the space requirements in terms of space and function.

Vessels can be designed for either commercial or recreational uses. The additional space can serve as an advantage in both fields. In terms of recreational vessels such as yachts, the accommodation can be split up between the two hulls and can be well designed in such a manner that separate spaces can be allotted for the owner, guest, and crews with separate passages such that the path between the primary guests and the crew don’t collide.

In terms of interiors, the huge space addition can give the owners much more flexibility in choosing furniture without size restrictions and more space for additional appliances such as washers, dryers and so on which can make life on board much easier.

The deck can also house more people without the feeling of being enclosed in a closed space and for this reason, catamarans are normally used as party boats with wider deck space and more space to move around.

In terms of storage, catamarans have better storage options than monohulls as both the hulls can be utilized for different functions which not only increases the overall capacity of storage in terms of fuel , fresh water , cargo, and so on but also gives the designer an option to segregate the storage areas for different uses.

Catamarans are also now a growing trend in the fishing industry as the wide decks provide more area for the fisherman to move around without any obstructions making fishing much easier also, catamarans tend to roll less which stabilizes the vessel better than monohulls, giving more stable conditions for fishing without the risk of going aboard.

Due to the wider proportions, the spaces can also be designed in such a way so as to house tenders, jet-skis, and so on, on either of the deck spaces normally aft of the vessel mostly functioned by a small crane which can launch the vessel into the water.

Recreational activities such as swimming and diving can be performed with ease on both types of boats. On catamarans, the wide aft spaces also provide effective spacing for housing equipment and accessories such as dive tanks, telescopic staircases and so on which can serve as must-haves for similar activities.

The same can also be performed on monohulls with limitations to the width of the vessel. The wide superstructures on catamarans can also be used to house solar panels for green and renewable energy solutions which surely is going to be a great advantage in the near future.

Monohulls have the advantage of having wider compartments below the deck when compared to catamarans, as the overall width of the hull is larger than a single hull on a catamaran. This gives room for larger living spaces below the deck, which can have the option to walk around on either side of the bed.

Why Are Catamarans More Expensive Than Monohulls?

Catamarans are normally priced more than monohulls. This is because they have more overall area which requires more raw materials in the production stage than monohulls.

In terms of machinery, they have two or more engines on each hull depending on the width of each semi-hull and its supporting machinery which can increase the overall cost of the final product.

In terms of engines, maintenance is less frequent when compared to monohulls as they don’t need to operate on their maximum limits to push the vessel.

Maintenance costs can also be higher for catamarans as they have more machinery and more deck space, but on the contrary, the ease of maintenance will be much better in catamarans than monohulls as they have better accessible spaces.

The preventive maintenance for corrosion and marine growth on catamaran hulls is also higher as they normally have more area to treat than monohulls.

Are Catamarans Faster Than Monohulls?

Catamarans tend to outperform monohulls due to their slender hulls which help in reducing the drag forces. On performance power catamarans the space between the two hulls is called a “Tunnel” which is designed in a similar manner to an aerofoil so that it acts like a wing, which increases the aerodynamic lift forces thereby increasing overall efficiency and top-end speeds of the vessel.

The balance between the hydrodynamic and aerodynamic forces is the key aspect that determines the performance and stability of high-speed catamarans.

Fuel economy is normally better on catamarans due to the higher lift forces and lower water friction compared to monohulls which thereby reduces the overall load on the engines, reducing fuel consumption.

Is A Catamaran More Stable Than A Monohull?

Catamarans are generally more stable than monohulls in terms of roll stability. Let’s take an example of balancing a stick in the middle compared to balancing it by supporting the two ends, obviously, the second case has an advantage. In a similar manner, we can observe that catamarans have better roll stability when compared to monohulls.

This gives them an upper hand in terms of comfort and executing different operations onboard the vessel with ease, also reducing the risk of people falling on board the vessel. Catamarans are mostly used as ferries or passenger vessels as people tend to get less seasick on these kinds of vessels.

The deeper the deadrise the better the sea-keeping characteristics, most monohulls are designed with a deep v deadrise and tend to outperform catamarans which normally have displacement or semi-displacement hulls, in rough waters.

The typical catamarans are better in shallower water than rough water due to this reason and that’s why we see most of the coastal or inland cruisers as catamarans and most ocean-going vessels as deep v monohulls.

The draft can be defined as the distance of the waterline to the keel of the vessel. Catamarans normally tend to have a lower draft compared to monohulls which gives them an advantage of plying over shallower waters without the risk of grounding.

The lower the draft of the less the vessel, the less it is in contact with water, and therefore the overall water friction resistance is reduced leading to the need for lower power to push the vessel and better fuel efficiency.

What Is Easier To Sail A Catamaran Or Monohull?

For the thrill of sailing most sailors prefer monohulls over catamarans. They are sensitive to different forces like wind and waves acting on the vessel and there is an immediate response on the vessel. They ride through rough and choppy waves; this is the experience the sailors look forward to, giving them an adrenaline rush.

Sailing catamarans do not respond similarly to monohulls as the overall motions are reduced and also monohulls maneuver much easier than catamarans at high speeds.

Docking in marinas usually is easier with monohulls than catamarans as they require lesser space to mauver into the docking space.

Which Is Safer Catamaran Or The Monohull?

Catamarans normally tend to be on the safer side than monohulls in terms of backups and safety. If any machinery fails there is always a backup, say for example if rudder machinery fails on the port hull we can always get back ashore with the help of the starboard rudder, similarly if an engine fails there is always the second engine which can be used as a backup.

In terms of reserve buoyancy, if the port side hull gets damaged, the vessel will still remain afloat. These advantages can help people on board keeping them safe and saving a life.

The only downside to the above aspects is the maintenance costs which come up with the same as we discussed earlier.

Which One Should I Get?

The type of vessel should depend totally on your end goals in terms of functionality, performance, region of operation, and so on.

But always keep in mind never to get blinded by the length when you compare a monohull to a catamaran. A monohull in comparison might be longer but the overall space which is measured in cubic space will be higher in the shorter-length catamaran.

Going through the pros and cons the final decision should be made depending on your personal requirements.

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I worked as an officer in the deck department on various types of vessels, including oil and chemical tankers, LPG carriers, and even reefer and TSHD in the early years. Currently employed as Marine Surveyor carrying cargo, draft, bunker, and warranty survey.

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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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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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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

catamaran speed vs monohull

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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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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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 

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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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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.

catamaran speed vs monohull

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%

catamaran speed vs monohull

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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CATAMARANS VS. MONOHULLS

by sailmaui | Oct 27, 2016 | Sailing | 0 comments

catamaran speed vs monohull

What’s the difference?

There are obvious differences between catamarans and monohulls. Most notably, a  monohull vessel   has only one hull, or main body, whereas a catamaran has two hulls. Because of these two hulls, catamarans typically stay more level than their single-hulled counterparts. They also tend to offer more space, and arguably will go a lot faster. Lets dive in to  what differentiates the two types of boats and what makes the Sail Maui vessels so great…

Smooth Sailing

A monohull sailboat, as the name implies, has only one hull, and this hull is generally centered around a heavy keel. A catamaran has two hulls, with the spar and sails in the middle ( amidships in sailor speak). The wide stance of catamarans means they don’t heel much (heeling is when the boat leans while under sail); in fact, a catamaran will rarely heel more than five to ten degrees before you need to reduce sail area. For these reasons, catamarans are especially good for families with young children or older, less agile people because the boats aren’t as susceptible to the wave action and walking around is easier on level ground. While any sailor enjoys the thrill of a monohull heeled over in perfect sail trim, enjoying a beverage on the deck or laying out a buffet lunch is certainly easier with minimum tilt! Seasickness can also be less of a problem on sailing catamarans, & if you’re concerned about feeling uneasy, be sure to read our blog on preventive tips !  

catamarans offer more space

Catamarans  usually have more space than monohulls, both above and below deck. Though it increases windage, it is nice to have a covered salon area on deck as well as the luxury of spreading out and lounging in the cockpit. Prime seating on Paragon & Paragon II is the netted area in between the hulls called trampolines (no not the bouncy ones) which offer guests a great place to watch for whales and dolphins.  This is also the wettest place, as the hulls are always on different points of a wave and sometimes they break under the boat!

fast charter sailing maui

Fast is fun!

There’s many benefits to both types of sailboats, and certainly everyone has their preference, but possibly the biggest factor for some in the question of catamarans vs monohulls is that performance built multi-hulled sailboats are able to reach higher speeds. This is due to limited drag and their power-to-weight ratio—in other words, there is a lot of sail power but very little weight and resistance in the water. Depending on the design, catamarans can be up to 25–30% faster than single-hulled boats of the same length. This is of course not always the case, as many of the catamarans you’ll find on Maui are built more for comfort than speed. Sail Maui is the fastest charter on Maui, and we regularly go in excess of 15 knots under sail during our charters in the tradewinds. **This isn’t always the goal, as we take our passengers enthusiasm for fast sailing into consideration before attempting to sail so aggressively! 

Sail Maui catamarans sailing during whale watch

Paragon and Paragon II

With Sail Maui, you can discover the beauty of our pacific island aboard one of two gorgeous, high-performance catamarans: Paragon and Paragon II . Both boats were built with carbon fiber rotating wing masts modeled after the  America’s Cup winner  Stars & Stripes . With this spar technology combined with our fractional rig, we are able to increase our sail area and point higher than traditional multihulls which enables us to achieve higher speeds all the while maintaining comfort and safety.

What’s better than exploring the breathtaking coastline and waters of Maui? Getting to do so on a spacious, fast, high-performance catamaran! Contact us today to learn more about our many different tours we offer through Sail Maui! Happy Sailing!

TULIP – 88ft Sail Yacth from Pedro EA on Vimeo .

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Catamaran vs. Monohulls: Pros and Cons

small boat swinging in the left during the morning

Published Aug 30, 2021

Going on a trip but don’t know what boat to use? If you have been eyeing Catamaran and Monohull boats, you are in the right place. If you can’t choose between the two, knowing their pros and cons should help you decide. In this article, we will be battling catamaran vs. monohulls to determine which one is more suitable for you.

What is Catamaran?

A catamaran is a sailboat with multihulls that features two parallel hulls of equal size. This type of boat has been popular ever since because of its stability and size. In addition, vacationers tend to sail with catamaran boats because of their space above and below.

What are Monohulls?

Unlike catamaran boats, a monohull is a boat that comes with only one hull. Monohull boats are the most widely used form of waterborne vessel. Sailing in a monohull may satisfy a person’s inner sailor self and give them the whole sailing experience. In addition, this type of boat is cheaper than other boats since it only caters to one hull.

Since catamaran and monohulls are completely different boats, we should compare and contrast their characteristics.

Spaciousness

The multihulls of catamarans give the boat additional space for the galley, cockpit, and more rooms when it comes to space. Catamaran boats also feature shallower draft, smaller displacement, and less hull volume than monohull boats. Therefore, this boat is more spacious than a monohull boat. It should be what you’re looking for if you’re sailing with family or friends.

On the other hand, monohull boats provide limited space, and most spaces are below the waterline. This might be concerning, especially for non-sailors, like vacationers. However, long-time sailors are most likely used to this situation. In addition, a monohull is smaller than most catamarans since it only consists of one hull.

Stability and Comfort

Another advantage of having multi-hulls is inheriting more stability than a one-hull boat. Catamarans are less prone to rocking and heeling, which makes them an ideal boat for family vacations. Large families usually include kids or seniors that get out of balance easily. Sailing in a catamaran boat would surely be more comfortable for you. Catamaran also features a separated skipper cabin that separates the crew and boat guests. Some larger skipper cabins provide full equipment like an isolated shower, sink, and toilet. In catamaran boats, you can sunbathe, lounge, or even jump on a trampoline while onboard.

Monohull boats are obviously less stable than multi-hull catamarans. From the word “mono,” monohulls only have one hull, which makes it prone to being rocky than a multihull boat. A rocking boat might not be an ideal vacation boat for families. 

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of sailing for both boats:

Catamaran boats are often faster than monohulls when sailing downwind, reaches, and broad. Moreover, they have low bridge decks likely to slap on the undercarriage when the boat is sailing upwind. That is what slows the speed of the catamaran boats.

Monohulls sail through water without any slapping or pounding that may slow down the boat. They tend to be faster than catamaran boats when going upwind since the slapping slows down the multihull.  

Pounding and slapping

Multihulls are made so that guests and sailors can get the most out of their vacation. That is why producers of catamarans try their best to add as much platform in the boat as the low bridge deck. Unfortunately, the low bridge deck of a catamaran tends to pound and slap the undercarriage of the boat, especially when sailing upwind. Some people find the pounding and slapping sound annoying. 

Monohulls don’t have a low bridge deck, so sailing comes smoothly for monohull boats. Monohull guests wouldn’t have a problem with the noise at all. 

Maneuvering and docking

Multihulls are powered by two engines. Having two engines can be extremely helpful when it comes to an emergency. These engines make it possible for the boat to rotate to a full 360 degrees. Catamarans also have two rudders which makes it easier to dock the boat. 

Monohulls are easier to maneuver because of their size. However, the monohull only consists of one engine for the whole boat. The engine of the monohull can be combined with a front bow thruster so the yacht/boat can move sideways, which is helpful for tight spaces. This function makes it easier for the sailor to dock the boat.

Catamaran boats are more expensive than most monohulls because of their features. They are known as a high-quality boat that reassures sailor’s guests that it’s safer than most boats and costs a lot of building materials as catamaran boats are more spacious. Catamaran boats may cost more because it’s a high demand boat. The cost for docking for this type of boat also costs double the price of a monohull since it’s bigger.

Monohulls usually cost cheaper than most catamaran boats because of the monohull’s building materials. Multihull boats typically need to double the building materials required for a catamaran. Therefore, monohull boats with the same sleeping capacity and equipment as the catamaran may cost cheaper than buying a catamaran.

Ocean view during the sun set

Catamaran vs. Monohulls: What to Choose?

Catamarans are more expensive, but it’s a family vacation-friendly boat that offers a lot of advantages. On the other hand, monohull boats are cheaper, simpler, and perfect for aspiring sailors. In the end, it all comes down to the person’s preference, budget, and what suits their needs. So I will ask you, catamaran vs. monohulls? (Related: What to Know Before Renting a Catamaran Charter )

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Krizzia Paolyn has a bachelors degree in Psychology and a passion for yachting in South Florida. She has a desire to be heard and to encourage others to make their voices heard as well.

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  1. Catamaran vs. Monohull: We Changed, Should You?

    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.

  2. Catamaran vs. Monohull Sailboats

    Speed and Performance Catamaran. 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.

  3. Catamaran Vs Monohull

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  4. Catamarans Vs. Monohulls: Choosing The Right Boat

    Attach one line to each of the forward cleats and bring the loose ends to the center. Pick up the mooring with a boathook. String one line through the eye and bring it back to the same cleat. Repeat on the other side, keeping the lines the same length so the cat is centered.

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  7. Catamaran Vs. Monohull: Which Is Better?

    Speed: Catamarans vs. Monohulls. When it comes to speed, catamarans and monohulls have distinct characteristics and performance capabilities. Catamarans are generally known for their high-speed potential. The design of a catamaran, with its two hulls separated by a wide beam, offers reduced drag and increased stability, allowing them to sail at ...

  8. 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.

  9. 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. ... Speed - most charter sailboats aren't particularly fast, topping out around 8-10 knots on ideal points of sail and fresh breezes. While the ...

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

    Speed. 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 ...

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    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. ... For those attracted to the exhilaration of speed, catamarans, with their swift ...

  12. Catamaran vs. Monohull: Which Is Better?

    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.

  13. Catamaran Vs Monohull: Which Is Better, Faster And Safier?

    Monohulls have the advantage of having wider compartments below the deck when compared to catamarans, as the overall width of the hull is larger than a single hull on a catamaran. This gives room for larger living spaces below the deck, which can have the option to walk around on either side of the bed.

  14. Catamaran vs Monohull: Pros, Cons & Main Differences

    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. ... Straight line speed: Most catamarans are faster in straight-line sailing speed (1) that similar sized or even ...

  15. Catamaran vs Monohull in Rough Seas: Which is Better?

    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. ... Both boat types have specific advantages in performance and speed. A catamaran is generally faster and more stable than ...

  16. Monohulls or Catamarans

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    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)

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    Most notably, a monohull vessel has only one hull, or main body, whereas a catamaran has two hulls. Because of these two hulls, catamarans typically stay more level than their single-hulled counterparts. They also tend to offer more space, and arguably will go a lot faster. Lets dive in to what differentiates the two types of boats and what ...

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    Catamaran boats also feature shallower draft, smaller displacement, and less hull volume than monohull boats. Therefore, this boat is more spacious than a monohull boat. It should be what you're looking for if you're sailing with family or friends. On the other hand, monohull boats provide limited space, and most spaces are below the waterline.

  21. Catamaran Vs. Monohull: Which One Should You Buy?

    If you buy new, you're looking at a starting price of about $250,000. For a brand new 40ft cat, you're looking at a starting price of about $400,000. Of course, you can buy a used, older catamaran, too. There's the Prout Snowgoose 37, the Lagoon 380, and the PDQ 36. Any of these can be purchased for under $90,000.

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    Monohull vs catamaran . What are the main differences between monohull and catamaran.Which one is better to travel around the world. ... is better, just different. Certainly the cat was faster and more comfortable, but we had to pay a lot of attention to speed and weather. Storms that we wouldn't have worried about on the monohull were more ...