Catamarans vs Monohauls

What would be better for cruising. I keep reading about how catamarans are so great because of speed and comfort. I also have been told that they are extremely safe, even in extreme storms. Is this true. What about monohauls, are they that much slower, I realize weight become less of issue with them but is the trade off worth it for cruising. What do you this of the Atlantic 57 vs the Oyster 655? Which one is better?



Hi Kevin:

We started out in cats in the late 1950s, and for local cruising and day sailing would consider one. But for long term cruising they simply do not  have the speed or security of the same funds invested in a monohull.

That said, if you go for a light performance multihull platform, it has to be kept light, and sailed hard to equal a performance monohull in ocean crossing average speed.

There is lots more on this subject in our Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia and Surviving the Storm. In the latter we interviewed a number of professional multihull sailors and their comments will surprise and enlighten.


Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 8, 2009)

8 Responses to “Catamarans vs Monohauls”

  1. RayG Says:

    You might find, the best account that I’ve found of a “light performance multihull platform” “sailed hard”, informative. Capetown to New England with a stop in Saint Helena.
    Light performance multihull platforms can be expensive Atlantic Cats: Used ’42 2001 380K, 48’ 2005 769K, 55’ 2003 895K and new 57’ 1.5M. Maine Cats might be better value, even if not quite as much performance: Used ’30 1999 125K, ’41 2006 399K ’41 new. Although I haven’t some across any Blogs about any Maine Cats doing trans ocean passages just costal and island hopping, some may consider them passage makers.
    The Oyster 655 listings I found were 3M and 68’ 1990’s Oysters in the 800K range.
    It occurs to me that the “light performance multihull” fleet may be much newer than the comparable monohull performance cruiser fleet, thus may provide additional value.

    As an armchair sailor with no experience, all I can do is point out information. Hope it’s helpful.

    Fair winds and may the God that calmed a storm with a few words watch over your voyages,

  2. Matt Marsh Says:


    Given the current crop of production multihulls, I can see where your assessment is coming from. There seem to be two widely diverging schools of big cat design: high-tech racing, or high-capacity charter barges. (Let us ignore the “El Cheapo” plywood/polyester designs of years past.) Personally, I don’t think either of these groups is a suitable basis for a true long-range cruising boat: the former is too expensive and high-strung, the latter is not fast or seaworthy enough.

    Still, I can think of no fundamental reason why a cat or tri, if designed and built with long-range cruising in mind, couldn’t be at least as good a cruiser as a monohull of comparable cost and usable space. So far, I have seen few such boats (multis of any kind are rare in my part of Ontario, where slip space is expensive and nice destinations are nearby). But Chris White’s Atlantic series, among a small handful of others, do seem to be going for this niche.

    Cruising monohull design seems to have a few decades’ lead on cruising multihulls; it will be very interesting to see how performance cruiser design- however many hulls- progresses in the next few years.

    Keep up the excellent work with the site and books… it’s a wonderful inspiration to those of us who are currently icebound on land 🙂

  3. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Matt:
    The surface area and relative complexity of a cruising multihull adds to the cost of new construction. If you take the budget of something like a Gunboat or other performance multihull and put it into a monomaran, you will come out with a faster passaging yacht.

  4. Peter Bateman Says:

    Prices at this time for a Chris white Atlantic 58 built in Chile, US $1.7 M. A gunboat 66 built in South Africa at US $ 4 M. A FPB 60, built in New Zealand, in this context is very good value.

    I do not have comparable costs for a monohull 66 but the latest yachting world tests a Contest 62 at EU 1.7 M

    The operating costs per mile and average speeds are a discussion point. Dashew makes a cost comparison in favor of the Larger FPB versus his sailing similar sized Beowolf in favor of the FPB

    What would concern me as I get older and less agile are the abilities of the husband and wife crew to maintain the high speeds in comfort without becoming dangerously fatigued. The Daily Operational maintenance does not get done in these situations and the safety margins begin to slip. In the end I feel it comes down to the style of cruising that you want to do.

  5. Frank Goelo Says:

    I have experience crossing the Atlantic Westward with both a 37′ 12 tons double ended monohull and a 37′ Fountaine Pajot Antigua catamaran with a SHORT CREW of my inexperienced wife and 10 years old daughter with the cat: my next boat will definitely be a performance power monohull, using the same concepts as the FPB 64′ but scaled down to 50′ with cruising speed of about 9 knots…

    While the cat’s top speed was 15 knots under spinnaker in the trade wind compared to 12 knots for the monohull, once reached under storm spi in a blow, average speed over the passages wasn’t that much different: Madera – Saint Lucia in 21 days with the monohull and Cape Verde – Saint Vincent in 14.5 days. However, 6 days were spent on the Canaries – Cape Verde crossing…

    However, the monohull was far more comfortable in a seaway and progressed well to windward into a blow while motor sailing. The catamaran’s quirky motion and noisy berths in the hulls made for an exhausting passage, exacerbated by lack of sleep and concern about flipping the boat if overcome by an unseen squall at night…

    As a result of the lack of an experienced crew, the catamaran had to be sailed well below its speed potential most of the time…

    Thankfully, most of the passage in the catamaran was downwind, where motion is most comfortable, as trying to sail or even motor sail to windward in anything above 30 knots is futile…

    As an aside, somewhat oversize Autoprops fitted in the Canaries began to develop a lot of drag above 8 to 9 knots speed. The engines were locked into reverse, as per manufacturer’s recommendation. At 15 knots, the cat started to growl and vibrate: both engines had kicked started and were running at full speed…. in reverse, which actually made little difference to the speed…

  6. Steve Dashew Says:

    You have hit the nail on the head Frank:
    It is not top speed that counts but what can be comfortably averaged. This is where the multi fall down. They have short term burst speed capability, but cannot average the same as a performance monomaran in the same budget range.

  7. Richard Elder Says:

    I was involved as designer/builder of the Lightspeed Marine Sunchaser 58 cruising catamaran about 10 years ago. The intention was to produce a lightweight, wide beam, high performance cruising catamaran that could sail well to weather with dagger boards and motor very efficiently with them retracted. Out of 500 inquiries and three pre-sales I never encountered an customer who was willing to not load the available volume down with 10,000# of jet drive RIB’s, Sub-Zero refrigerators and the like. Give a boat owner with several million dollars in his pocket a large hole in the water and he will insist upon filling it up!

    So the standard of reference has become the condomarans that fill the anchorages in the Caribbean. If you want to experience having all of your fillings permanently loosened, try delivering one of these from New England to the Caribbean during the fall migration! For the person who is willing to choose a properly designed catamaran and use it within its proper environment they can be both very fast and comfortable. Light weight, narrow wave piercing hulls, high bridge deck clearance, carbon wing mast– not rocket science, just the elements of a great performance sailing vessel. For example, the Schoning Waterline 47 Barrocka ( logged 352 mile days with a young family sharing watches, and regularly sails at 20 knots.

    From the standpoint of safety and comfort on an ocean passage, I agree entirely with Steve that your money is better spent on a monohull of the vanishing breed with sea berths rather than a deck salon, and a galley rather than a kitchen. And if you intend to do high latitude exploring, there is nothing better than a well insulated aluminum hull.

  8. rod cova Says:

    I am considering purchasing a sunchaser 58 and was wondering what your thoughts were about the boat when finished. Were you able to get performance data on it etc. thank you