Letter Re: Bug Out Boats


I want to address the specifics of Catamarans and their abilities. My experience exceeds most others. I grew up on powerboats, both large and small. Eventually, when it was my own money, I graduated to sail. I have owned and cruised on plastic classics, steel hull, and ferro-cement monohulls, as well as plywood/e-glass catamarans. The sailing rigs on those boats were simple modern sloop, ketch, cutter, wingsail, and lug (junk) schooner. Cockpit designs ranged from open, pilot house, center cockpit, and flush open. As a marine technician service manager, I have worked on more types of cruising boats, charter boats, sports fisherman, and mega yachts than you can shake a stick at. As a professional ships mate, I have been paid crew on both power and sail catamarans ranging in size from 32′ all the way up to 91′, including modern wave piercing power cats, safely taking tens of thousands of paying customers on various types of trips into the open ocean. These commercial charter boats were constructed of plywood/e-glass, fiberglass composite, foam/e-glass, and aluminum, with rigs of rotating wing masts, sloop, schooner, and cutter. As delivery crew, I have been on many more types of boats, commercial and private, power and sail. Over the years, I have built several successful offshore cruising catamarans.

From my own personal experience, multihulls are one of the safest platforms for ocean work. They are form stable, which is to say that by design they want to stay upright without assistance from internal or external ballast. But unlike form stable monohulls (think cargo ships and barges), when a typical cruising multihull might get inverted, which is almost exclusively the fault of the captain pushing the boat beyond the limits of the design, it still remains form stable and itself is the life raft. What most of the non-multihull sailors fail to realize is the significant amount of force it takes to invert modern cruising multihulls. Their fears are irrational and based on erroneous data. There are effectively only two ways to invert a sailing multihull: carrying too much sail for the conditions, and running at high speed in large seas which can lead to a pitchpole; both conditions are quite preventable. A multihull loaded with provisions becomes even more difficult to invert, as the lever arm force required has increased. As far as the comment about “everyone dying,” I would like to see the evidence that supports the claim. Though the author is correct about monohulls being a favorite for over a thousand years, multihulls have existed for over 3500 years, plying the oceans of the South Pacific, then and today.

The letter is also incorrect about the loading capacity of modern catamarans. They can easily carry more weight per foot of length than a monohull. Even a light weight performance catamaran can take a huge load of provisions, with the only detriment being its reduced performance in speed. The catamarans I build in the 40′ range weigh three tons dry and can easily carry three tons of provisions with minimal performance loss. Modern cruising catamarans, like those the author speaks of in charter, have even more capacity. A typical 40′ charter catamaran will weigh 10 tons empty and could easily carry 10 tons of provisions, but it would perform significantly better with five tons or less. FIVE TONS! Ten thousand pounds of food, water, and spares is quite a lot. Even though some 40′ monohulls could carry five tons or more, a typical catamaran of the same length can ALWAYS carry more than a monohull, with performance being the sacrifice. When I moved up from my 30′ full keel plastic classic cruiser to a light weight 34′ catamaran, I had to transfer all of the provisions from one to the other. The empty thirty-footer came up six inches on her waterline, while the catamaran barely sank an inch with the same load, and the loaded catamaran still out performed the empty monohull.

As for the capability and safety of catamarans on the open ocean, again the author is incorrect in his assessment of them being only suitable for coastal cruising. Using his own example of those charter catamarans in the Caribbean, how does he think those catamarans, built in South Africa and France came to berth in the Caribbean? They were not loaded on a ship, that is for sure. They were delivered over the open ocean on their own bottoms and under their own power, fresh from the factories. The delivery crews who move these boats do not have the luxury of waiting for perfect weather windows like cruisers might. They have a schedule and leave port in anything less than a hurricane. I have also delivered catamarans, both power and sail, over open oceans to their owners in the Florida Keys, and I would never hesitate to take a properly equipped catamaran into the open ocean for extended periods.

As for using a boat for bugging out or for permanent relocation, any properly designed, built, and equipped monohull or multihull can be utilized, provided the captain is competent in its operation and navigation.

For anyone who might like more visual representation. The following video links can provide some great references.

SV Delos (one of the best cruising video series on youtube): Provisioning a 53′ Amel monohull for the seven crew to cross the Indian Ocean (6-7 months): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E8upMiLA7E

Catamaran vs Monohull series (because they are considering switching to a catamaran and are speaking with experienced ocean sailors who have circumnavigated with their catamarans):

A young couple, both experienced captains delivering their own cruising catamaran from France to Florida for commissioning, then continuing to sail offshore to northern latitudes of Nova Scotia and back to the tropics via Bermuda. First video of 12 part series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REohRp_5X6k

Crew of three on a Leopard 39 (one of the exact catamarans used by the charter industry Captain Cather speaks of) spending 64 days non-stop at sea. The video shows the catamaran running in a storm with 65 knot winds and huge seas in the southern ocean. They hit a top boat speed of 34 knots, nearly five times the boat’s normal speed. Epic stuff that some people still think catamarans cannot do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ-svmgOxqw

For reference, a boat such as the Leopard 39 above doing 7 knots average per day for 64 days would get you nearly 11,000 miles away from the danger zone you are running from. And when you arrive, you will have been well fed, well rested, and ready to make a new beginning in a new land. It’s something to think about. – Budget Boater