Catamaran vs monohull sailboats

12th January 2022 Elena Manighetti

Catamaran vs monohull sailboats

If you’re on the market for a cruising sailboat, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of catamarans vs monohulls before you settle on a model. They are two completely different kinds of vessels, so it’s important you choose the one that suits you best.

In this article, we will compare catamaran and monohull sailboats objectively to help you decide which type is best for you. 

Stability

Monohulls are well-known for rolling, as they rely on their keel to stay upright. Catamarans aren’t affected by a moderate side-on swell. Even in a big swell, the movement of a catamaran is very gentle. This can make a big difference on a long passage or a night at anchor. Stability is very important to people who suffer from seasickness and those who can’t stand rolling.

Bear in mind that some people get seasick on catamarans and not on monohulls. So before settling on either, get out there and try sailing on both in average conditions.

Draft

As a rule of thumb, monohulls have a deeper draft than catamarans, which means they can’t sail in shallower waters. You can get around this problem by buying a monohull with a swing keel, although these are quite rare. 

Racing monohulls tend to have a deeper draft, making it harder to enter certain marinas and harbours. So if you prefer monohulls, you may need to compromise on speed. However, an average-draft monohull will reach most places a catamaran can. You may not be able to anchor as close to shore, but is it such a big deal?

Maneuvrability

Maneuvrability in monohull sailboats has improved dramatically over the years. But you can’t beat a catamaran with its twin engines. They can turn on the spot. 

A downside of cats is that they tend to have a lot of windage, due to the big cabin. This means that they are more affected by the force of the wind, so you need to react quickly to gusts in close quarters.

Speed

People think of catamarans as really fast. However, it’s not always the case. Modern, lightweight catamarans can sail at high speeds. Yet, there are heavier, wider cats designed for chartering and entertaining, which often don’t go faster than 8 knots. The same goes for older cats from the 80s and 90s. 

While most monohulls tend to be heavier and slower, there are racing and cruiser-racer monohulls, which can reach great speeds. 

Purchase and maintenance costs

There’s no denying it: catamarans cost more to buy. They also have more gear to look after, such as an extra hull and a second engine. On top of that, mooring and storing a catamaran is more expensive, because marinas and yards usually charge catamarans 1.5 to 2 times more than a monohull of the same length. 

However, bear in mind that if you want to buy a monohull that offers the same living space as a catamaran, you’ll end up buying a bigger one, so the difference may not be as big. 

Living space

When it comes to living space, catamarans tend to win. The two hulls plus the platform between them offer a lot more real estate than a monohull of the same length. However, there are exceptions. 

Some modern monohulls now have a deck saloon, offering a bit of a catamaran feel and more space down below. While racing catamarans tend to feature narrower hulls, which host smaller accommodation. Comfort and performance require many compromises, so make sure you choose based on what is most important to you. Would you rather go 5 to 10 knots faster or have a bigger berth?

Capsizing

There’s a big debate among sailors over capsizing. Some people think catamarans are safer because they don’t sink, unless heavily holed, and act as a big floating safety platform. Others claim monohulls are better because they can right themselves up.

This comparison may be relevant to those of you who want to do some serious high-latitude sailing or racing. However, for most people who sail conservatively and have access to reliable marine weather forecasting, this shouldn’t be a big concern. If you always have someone on lookout duty and don’t push your boat, the risk of capsizing is very low.

Redundancy

Having two rudders and two engines can be an advantage. If a crab-pot line gets wrapped around a propeller or rudder, you can always get to safety using the other engine and rudder. On a monohull, you’d have to anchor or dock under sail, which can be a tricky maneuvre. Is this extra safety worth the additional money you’ll spend on the purchase, maintenance, and mooring? It’s up to you to decide.

When it comes to cruising monohulls and catamarans, both have their pros and cons. Every boat is a compromise. As we’ve seen, you can buy a slow, heavy, and comfortable catamaran or a fast, light, and cramped monohull. Take the time to test various boats and choose based on your priorities and preferences. 


Download the Deckee app from the App Store or Google Play for free to plan your next sailing trip. Look up points of interest and Aids To Navigation on the map, check the weather forecast, and set up boat-related reminders.

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