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Pionier and Senta

Sailing stories



Sailor's humor

Why a trimaran instead of a catamaran?

If asked 10 years ago, I had preferred a catamaran! A Woods design, an Edelcat 35 , the dutch Wadvogel 38 or the French Louisiane are catamarans that pleased my mind in that time. However, I was still affected with a huge prejudice against multihulls. Time was needed to work that out. 

Once we were sailing in the Greek Aegean Sea with a very strong northerly, locally known as the Meltemi. It blew with 30 kn. and more. The sea was rough with steep breaking waves. In front of us there was a yacht with a strange behavior. Sailing wasn't easy and I thought for a while the yacht had problems and needed help. Still the yacht was far away and with my binoculars I could point out it was a catamaran. Strange enough it didn't come any closer but sailed on the same course as we did. It took almost the whole afternoon before I could catch her up. And then there was nothing wrong with her. In these strong winds and large waves it was probably her normal behavior, like a raft. The crew waved at us when we passed .... 

Ok Ok, it was probably a bare boat charter, but I was happy to be on my own steady SENTA, dragging her gunwale through the water and going faster than the cat. It contributed to my prejudice however. 

On another occasion we were in the overcrowded harbor of Isle de la Croix in the north of Biscay. We came in as one of the last boats who could enter the harbor. The small inner harbor was completely stuffed with yachts, who were tied up between some big rusty moorings. No free place left and the boats on the outside (like us) had almost nothing to hang onto. Then there was that at least 40 ft. French Cat. He came in and muddled along the yachts, came very close behind our stern and searched his way to the very inner side of the harbor. What is he looking for? There is no place anymore or ...... he anchored in no more than 2 feet of water with more than enough surrounding room. 

O boy, it's really true, a multihull doesn't need more water to float. Ever since in every harbor I am looking for that kind of spots not suitable for keelboats but kind enough for a multihull. And almost every harbor (except marina's, but I don't like them anyway) have such spots. 

Then there was our annual Hiswa Boat Show. Of course I knew the folding F-boat trimarans, but I thought they were too small for my needs. On the other side of the exhibition there was a strange ugly bird that caught my eye. Parked along the jetty she was a halfway build and unpainted trimaran with one folding float (the other wasn't ready yet). Started as a home-build project the reason for showing was to check the interest for this TRIMAX design and the possibilities for a production version. (TRI with MAX speed and accommodation) Looking with screwed up eyes I saw the beauty of her body. With 35 ft. in length and a suitable accommodation this great design from Dutch designer Peter Bosgraaf was worth a further investigation. I sailed the prototype and it was gorgeous. Nevertheless there were a lot of things that had to be improved, of course attributable to the prototype nature of the boat. For first buyers there was an extra discount, but the costs were to much to suit my budget. Also the lack of experience and the strong impression I was supporting an experiment didn't seem right to me. 

"There are three desirable qualities in a boat: speed, accommodations, and low cost, - choose any two" again is a very true dictum ! 

This was however the first important step in choosing the boat that was to become "the dreamboat". After a lifetime in mono-hulls, the choice of a trimaran was made. Her very fast sailing capabilities as well as the shallow draught were promise of a new way of sailing.

At the same time I discovered the Internet. Barefaced I lurked all over the Net searching for multihulls and particularly trimarans. I discovered the F-boats again and to my surprise there was also a bigger version available, the F-36. Now this was all I needed. No experiment, but a decent design with the highest references and everything on the right place. The accommodation is even better than on my SENTA. The determining factor however was the superbly detailed building plans and the building method. The more I studied the plans, the more I realized that this boat is an engineering marvel and accompanied by an building method that I could manage.  So all necessary attributes for an high quality yacht!

On no account I will be building again in another place than at home, so the new boat and the way she is built has to fit in my garage. Ian Farrier did a perfect job with the F-36 and now superseded by the F-39. Both main hull and floats will be built in two vertical halves. The center hull, the cabin sides, roof and most of the deck can be combined and all made at the same time. Many of the interior panels can be added before the hull is joined. An overlap join is required down the center, but this is exactly the place where any extra glass-reinforcement should be, for stiffness, and abrasion resistance. 

This method is much more easier and faster than the traditional hull-with-deck joining. Main disadvantage: the working subject is abstract (at least for most spectators) and it takes long before it may be imagined what it will be. After joining the hull halves suddenly you have a boat. 

I can live with this! 

So why not a catamaran ? 

A catamaran has great benefits: she heels less, is cheaper to build, has more deck area, less exotic and better excepted by the sailing crowd (and insurance companies!), she is a better load carrier, with twin engines easy maneuverable, has more accommodation and the two separate hulls give more privacy, less overall beam and finally one less hull to scrub and paint !

Well, my simple answer is: a trimaran is more boat ( one and a half to be exactly ) , offers overall the best all round performance and still has the thrill of sailing, the more positive tacking motion and in the groove feeling
going to windward. 

It's motion, tack ability, handling, construction and support for mast and stays is all better matching with my monohull roots! In fact, as a friend of mine said, "it's a monohull with side-wheels". The tri combines the speed of a (fast) cat with the maneuverability of a monohull.

There is still one problem I have to find out in practice. Twice in my live my boat had to take care for me and for herself. With the hatches closed watertight and everything tight up there wasn't more to do then waiting inside for things to calm down. Outside was only salt water and little air.

Heavy weather tactic with a trimaran is different. She requires more action and care. Where the monohull may have some forgiveness, the trimaran does not. If flipped, she stays flipped. This doesn't mean the trimaran is unsafe to operate in severe conditions or that the monohull isn't susceptible to suffering the ultimate hazard of sinking.  In the end, the ultimate hazard of the multihull (capsize) is less severe than the ultimate hazard of the monohull (sinking), After all, the trimaran's ultimate stability position is floating upside down, where it makes a great liferaft. The monohull's ultimate stability position is resting on the bottom where it makes a good fish farm. (quote Ian Farrier)  The F-39 is unsinkable from many separate watertight compartments,  the material she is made from and no heavy ballast.

There's a reassuring sense of security in knowing that no matter what, the tri cannot sink. (7.000 containers are yearly lost by freighters !)

On the other hand, the trimaran's speed abilities makes it possible to steer her clear of the worst. The high performance capability means one can frequently outrun bad weather to be snug and safe in harbor while slower craft have to remain at sea.

With a boat that has a top speed of 25 knots and can maintain averages of over 15 knots, limiting top speed to say 15 knots, or averages to around 10 knots, gives a responsible and very safe margin for secure general family sailing.

Most life threatening risks (besides of driving your car!) are ....

  1. falling overboard;
  2. fire;
  3. being run over;

and this is independent of being mono, cat or tri !


A foretaste of sailing with a trimaran, Gary Mulder's F36

The Case for the Cruising TrimaranBy the way, a good book to read is "The Case for the Cruising Trimaran" by Jim Brown. This classic book about cruising trimarans is now back in print! Well-known trimaran designer Jim Brown offers his unique experiences and insight into the design factors that make for safe, seaworthy, comfortable trimarans. Jim is always entertaining in his writing, and this book is no exception. He blends personal stories with technical information about these fast vessels, and shows why multihull pioneers in the 20th century were sometimes referred to as the "Hells Angels of the Sea." Much of the book is dedicated to the subject of "capsizing," and offers timeless wisdom on how it can be prevented. There is even a chapter about "self-rescue," and a technique for how a capsized vessel can be righted. This book is fully illustrated with original black and white photos and humorous illustrations by Jo Hudson. Multihullers in general (and trimaran lovers in particular) will discover Jim Brown's sailing philosophy and walk away with a thorough understanding of the features and benefits offered in well-designed and properly handled cruising trimarans. Read the authors preface for the third edition here.