OK I am rather happy I have put this blog up – firstly because it has been too long between posts, but mainly because I feel like I’ve graduated from beginner to someone who knows a thing or two about sailing. I wrote this blog as we travelled from Fiji to Vanuatu, however the internet is very slow so photos will have to be posted later.
- Danger, Don’t Over Power
Monohulls and Cats are different sailing beasts, they tell us what’s going on in different ways. A monohull will scream at you when the sails are overpowered by heeling over dramatically into the water. The heeling in turn automatically reduces the sail exposure to wind, acting as a natural safety feature.
Cats on the other hand show little sign of being overpowered, until sailing from 6 knots per hour to 13 knots per hour. This is the benefit of having a smooth ride, you need to be vigilant of wind conditions and other variants at all times. Monohull sailors like to think this aspect of cat sailing, is all drama and danger, truth is it’s not hard to know what’s happening with a Catamaran.
- Keep an eye on wind gauges – use the technology available to keep you informed at all times. Watch the weather constantly.
- On some overpowered catamarans the bows will start to plunge a little, you may notice a heavy touch to your helm or steering wheel.
- It’s called weather helm – meaning your boat will want to move up into the wind, due to the increase of pressure on the sail as more wind speed is applied. In simple language your boat will start to turn up into the wind if overpowered. An overpowered catamaran will go significantly faster having made no changes to the sail plan.
A cat can go from 6 knots to 10 knots with little change in the ride – it’s smooth fast sailing so be aware.
- The Simple Solution– Reefing
Reefing means to reduce the area of the main sail to reduce the size of your front sail.
Rule 1. – If in doubt reef.
Rule 2. – See Rule One – Reef early.
Rule 3. – Reef before you sail and then adjust up as weather dictates. Take the pressure off before sailing.
Rule 4. – Always reef for a night sail, unless weather is extraordinarily calm. Even one reef makes a difference.
Surprisingly often after a reef, your boat maintains the same speed as prior to the reef, with reduced pressure and safer sailing conditions.
FACT – Reefing does not always slow your boat down but it does increases comfort level.
Reefing Guidelines On Our Boat
Please note these vary for different catamarans, for our Catana 42 these are the rules we use to reef. These are maximum amounts, we often reef prior to hitting wind speeds, it depends on the conditions and circumstances.
Full Mainsail Upwind below 21 knots – Full Gennoa or Gennaker
1st Reef – 21 to 27 knots – Reduce Gennoa to between 90 and 70%
2nd Reef – 27 to 34 knots – Reduce Gennoa to 75 to 50%
3rd Reef – 34 to 41 knots – Reduce Gennoa to 45 to 33%
Wind higher than 42 knots drop the main and use a storm jib or a reduced Gennoa for boat stability. When travelling between Turkey and Greece one morning we hit 50 knot gusts, we saw the front coming and had time to drop our main first. Phew
- You Need Quality Sails On A Catamaran
Sails on a catamaran must be good quality. Stronger sail cloth is needed due to the extra demands placed on the sails as a result of non heeling. Stress points of the sail at the luff and clew point should be reinforced. This applies for the reefing points on the main sail also.
When buying sails, always buy the best available.
- Have A Gennaker
The gennaker makes for a fantastic sail on a catamaran, when you know how to use it correctly. Obtain one about the same size as your main. The big advantage of a gennaker is the extra speed it will give you plus ease of use. Being on a furler they are easy to adjust and move from side to side as the wind dictates, it’s easy to have things go wrong when bringing in or letting out.
With Your Gennaker – always keep some tension on the furling line. Gaz usually starts to hand pull the furling line until he feels there is too much resistance to pull in by hand. At this point I release the gennaker sheet slowly while he continues to pull the sail in. The aim is to keep a medium amount of pressure or tension on the sail as it’s pulled.
If you have too much tension as you furl the sail in, it can get jammed in the furling roller, or evenly roll on the furling drum.
If you get a bad jam in the furling drum, best solution is bring down the sail and start again.
- Smooth Tacking On A Catamaran
To tack or change direction of your boat, these are simple steps to ensure you don’t go into the irons – or stop dead in the eye of the wind.
- Build boat speed before you start to tack
- Ease your mainsail out at the same time and go through the eye.
- Timing is important –
When the boat goes through the eye of the wind, slightly backfill the sail, putting wind into the wrong side of the sail brings the nose of the boat around.
- Next you release your windward sheet and tighten your leeward gennoa sheet. Don’t over tighten the gennoa as you need to build up boat speed and trim your sails once moving.
Self tacking jibs are much easier to tack with, though not all have this feature.
Note – If you find the tack manoeuvre has gone badly, restart the motors and move boat around. No serious racers here thanks very much.
- Be Cat Smart And Loosen Up
Many catamaran sailors have a tendency to over trim or pull the sails in too tight – this is called over sheeting. Pulling the sheets or sails in too tight is a sure way to kill sail power. The sailing adage, if in doubt let it out, is true on both a catamaran and monohull.
- Be A Sleek Cat
It might be tempting to fill up all that space with unnecessary gear, however keeping your catamaran light for sailing is important. Important also is to keep the weight at front of boat and trampolines. Our rule is nothing heavy in the front lockers and nothing tied or stored on the trampoline. Our fuel sits at the base of the mast, that’s where the weight forward stops.
- Two Hulls To Keep Clean
Clean hulls mean a faster sailing boat, though having two hulls means your boat will suffer twice as much as a monohull. It also means twice the work, though it’s easier as you don’t have to clean a long keel. We try to clean our hulls at least once a fortnight so the task is quick and easy. Don’t ignore a dirty bottom you will pay for it in longer journeys with slower speed.
- Moor Your Boat Like A Pro – Let Go Of The Wheel
One joy of sailing a catamaran is the ability to manoeuvre, to turn or spin the boat forward or backwards. When mooring your boat leave the wheel alone, centre your rudders and lock the wheels evenly. Once you get used to mooring your boat and sailing with two engines you will look like a professional. There will be a video and article on this subject coming very soon.
- Two Motors – Only Sometimes
The fact you can turn on two motors to get from point A to B if the wind is not good, is reason enough to turn both on. The second motor only gives you a small amount of additional speed, usually one or two knots. Better to keep the engine hours down, with one motor on then the other, ensuring you keep the hours used as even as possible.
- Safety So You Only Fall On Your Knees
There are many documented cases of sailors drowning, even though they have followed safety rules they have still gone overboard. Once in the water unless crew aboard is able to pull the sailor back on deck they can drown. A great tragedy for many people.
I think one of the most spectacular and wondrous features of a catamaran is your safety lines can keep you inside the boat if you fall.
On our vessel the major safety line goes across the back of the boat and around the mast. If you have a mishap it’s difficult to actually fall into the water. If you have to go onto the bimini to deal with the mast, there’s a safety line that runs under the boom from end to end so once again, impossible to fall into the water if you slip.
Rule One – Stay On The Boat.
Two Of Everything Is Amazing
- We all know the brilliance and insurance of having two of everything. If one motor is down you can still use the other, if one rudder is damaged you can sail on one. If your boat doesn’t seem right, make sure you look, listen and observe both sides of the boat for as much feedback and information as possible.
If you think we have left anything off the list or don’t agree with what we have written, we would love your feedback.
PS The new video channel continues with a few technical issues, should have some good internet very soon.