Charter Advisors Special Feature
The First Time Charterer: Monohull Vs. Catamaran
by Kevin LaFond
For me the process of deciding to charter started far before the Internet search for "BVI CHARTER COMPANY." It started standing outside the pub at the Bitter End Yacht Club. Standing there, looking out over the Quarter Deck Club docks I saw gorgeous Catamarans filling out two slips worth of space and elegant long legged Monohulls, snuggled up to their fenders along the dockside. It was the very first time I experienced the Monohull vs. Catamaran confliction. It was also at that moment I that I was ready to give up my vacations at the yacht club and their fleet of thirty-foot and under sailboats. I wanted more! I wanted bigger! I wanted to venture far outside the clubs pre-set "sailing limits." It was 2000. A brand new millennium and a new world of possibilities were opening up right before my eyes.
Soon though, my charter dreaming was rudely interrupted. By what? Reality. Or so I thought.
What would it cost to charter something as big as these Monohulls and Catamarans!? Would my time on IC 24's qualify me? How about the Freedom 30s? Would my time sailing those be enough? How about powerboats? Would they count? My canoe? Again, how much would it cost? Would my wife even go for it? Even if we got a deal, would she think it was a deal?
Then the technical worries kicked in. Docking? Me? Those big boats? Really?! Aren't they complicated to run? They started looking even bigger than before. All those extra "systems," batteries, water. It was overwhelming.
The dream was fading, and quick. Then, I made the mistake many do. I shelved the idea and went right back to the same yacht club I had been going to, year after year, for the next couple of years. Standing back on the Quarter Deck docks at the BEYC, looking out over the docked yachts... again (ok, ogling them), I made the decision. I realized the type of yacht wasn't important. It was about the experience with my family. I didn't charter a yacht at that moment, but I did take the first logical step. I pitched the idea to my wife! To my surprise, she loved the idea! But also loved her BEYC. The next year we did what married people do. We compromised. She got her yacht club for the first half of the trip. When our time was up there, we headed out and picked up our first charter yacht.
I can't quite explain the excitement leading up to our first sleep aboard night. The responsibility and the anticipation of sailing a yacht worth hundreds of thousands of dollars made the evening electric! Many questions still bounced around my brain. Will they really hand the keys over after they look at my sailing resume? Nervous energy mixed with the excitement of finally living out what felt like a surreal fantasy added to the intoxication of the moment. The next morning, sailing down the Sir Francis Drake Channel all that nervous and excited energy turned into the joy of a toddler with a favorite toy.
Which won out? A Catamaran? A Monohull?
It's actually not an easy answer. Why? Because I took these decisions way too seriously. After all this time looking forward to my "dream" trip, either yacht looked equally as good. But as I started looking closer I realized that each yacht is very different. Not just differences between Monohulls and Catamarans, but the variations of brands of Monohulls, size differences, etc. There was a never-ending list of cool stuff on one yacht and even cooler over on the other yacht. There was so much to look at it made the fun task of fulfilling a dream into something more of a nightmare. From Monohull to Monohull.... from Catamaran to Catamaran. Each was unique. Each had things that I liked. It's less a decision of Catamaran vs. Monohull and more a decision of what YOU need to make your trip enjoyable. In other words, a Catamaran did not win. Nor did a Monohull. But one was SELECTED.
After pulling my hair out mulling over the pros and cons I realized that ANY choice would be a good one. I thought... even if I didn't pick the best yacht for what we needed, a less than good day in paradise is better than a great day at work! It's the experience, not the yacht. It's the people you're with, the places you go, and the introspective of the unexpected.
For my first charter trip, I chose a Catamaran. Not because it was bigger than something else. Not because it was smaller than another. Not because it had the latest chart plotter. We chose it because it had the space that fit our group, it was the right price for my budget, and we received a few bonus days for free from the charter company. It was the value and service that sold me on this particular Catamaran.
Would I have chartered a Monohull if the same value were offered?
Yes. Sailing the BVIs in a Monohull or Catamaran is equally enjoyable. Now, many years later, having sailed various types of yachts all over the Caribbean, I've learned this. As long as you like the people on your boat, you're going to have a good time.
"Cats" Are a Different Breed
Is one better? Not really. Not for bareboat chartering in the BVIs.
There are a few major differences between a Cat and a Monohull.
Space. Cats compared to the same size Monohull. They have more room in the saloon and cabins. You will also have more deck space for lounging.
Draft. All Cats are set up with a shoal (shallow) Draft. Charter Monohulls typically carry a keel that ranges between 5 and 7 feet. Do you need a shallow draft yacht in the BVIs? No. Not really. I regularly charter Monohulls with 6-7 foot drafts.
Heel (The yacht rolling up on its side). Heel is common in a Monohull. As the wind pipes up, so does the speed and heel of the yacht. Catamarans don't heel.
Heeling isn't scary (though some think it is). Heel is managed on a Monohull by letting the main sail out by adjusting the traveler.
I had my starting point and path to my first charter. You do as well. The trick is not getting hung up on the details and realize that bigger is definitely NOT necessarily better. Know that whatever your choice, it will be a good one. As long as you like your crew and they like you back, you're ready to start a whole new world of adventure, fun, and potentially life changing perspectives.
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