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I have had several reasons to be thinking about catamaran designs in the last little while, specifically larger ones in the 40-50 foot range. For those who are still unclear about the specs of our vessel, Zero To Cruising is a PDQ 32. Her LOA (length overall) is 32 feet and her beam (width) is 16 feet. Although we are very happy with her, as far as cruising cats go, she is small. In fact, in just about every anchorage south of Georgetown, Exuma, she has been the smallest catamaran in the anchorage, and in most cases, by a lot. I mention this only to illustrate that, when we’re talking about 40+ foot cats, they are all huge compared to our boat. HUGE!

The other day, we happened to dinghy by a particular cat in the neighboring anchorage and its design caught my eye. I am pretty familiar with most productions multihulls and although I have never been on one, I was quite sure that this was one of Chris White’s designs. For those unfamiliar with the Chris White Atlantic Cats, they have a unique forward cockpit which allows those on board to move with protection right up to the base of the mast. It’s quite a unique design although I think now that it may have been adopted by the larger and $$$ South African Gunboats.

The following day on the radio net, we mentioned that we had an electric coffee maker to give away and coincidentally, the first person to respond was the captain of that cat, Pegasus. I told him that I had just been admiring his boat the day before and that not only could he have the appliance but that we’d deliver it to him. 🙂 Of course, he offered to give us a tour and while onboard, we learned that he, his wife and two kids had just completed a circumnavigation on Pegasus and that it was now up for sale. For a mere 339k some lucky new owner will be able to take over where they left off. If only!

Pegasus under sail. Note the forward cockpit.

The design of this boat, with it’s very protected helm seems, at least to me, to be the polar opposite to some other expensive catamaran designs. Specifically I’m thinking about the Catanas although there may be others. At the risk of pissing off any of the owners of these beautiful and pricey boats, I can’t imagine WTF the manufacturers were thinking when they came up with their designs! If ever there were boats that seem ill-suited to sail in the elements, it is these. Catanas have helm stations which are set as far back on the boat as possible, and on every one we have seen, without any protection from the wind and the seas. Perhaps Catana owners will argue that most steering is done by autopilot but it would be foolish to believe that this is possible in all conditions and situations. No, when selecting a boat for cruising, I’d personally give these expensive beauties a pass.

The most commonly sighted cats around here in the 40-50 foot range are Lagoons, Leopards and Fountaine Pajots. Many of these are owned by charter companies and of those that are not, a selection still began their lives in charter. We have not had the opportunity to be on too many of the latter models but we do have multiple friends who own Lagoons and think they are beautiful. In fact, we have spent a good amount of time on our friends’ Lagoon 440 Ainulindale, which they purchased new by the way, and it is a virtual palace. Of course, all boats have their issues and I’m sure these are the same. It should go without saying that if we did have a boat in this size range, we’d have a lot more room for toys and guitars!

PS: Happy birthday, Rebecca! ???


  1. Doug and I would have never given up the fabulous simplicity of our PDQ if kids didn’t start entering the equation. Maybe we would have stepped up to a higher 30-something more modern design cat at most. But as much as we LOVELOVE our Stf44, she is A LOT of boat to take care of and clean and I don’t think it would be worth it for 2 people.
    We liked smaller bigger cats for couples like the Privilege 39 or Admiral 39 as far as just layout goes. BLah blah blah. Talking cats is fun stuff.

  2. Damn, I couldn’t agree more regarding the design of the Chris White Atlantic series of catamarans or the Catana catamarans.

    Yes, the Gunboats have a forward cockpit very similar to that on the Gunboats, but their design is essentially a copy of the Atlantic’s, which were introduced two decades earlier. The pilothouse and the forward cockpit make them one of the safest and most seaworthy designs IMHO, allowing them to sailed or motored in relative safety in all conditions.

    The Catanas are beautiful boats but the designer must be an idiot. We buddy boated with one in December of 2009 from Portsmouth, Virginia, to Belhaven, North Carolina. We were on a Gemini 105 Mc and I remember looking out at the captain and crew of the Catana 420 and thinking how uncomfortable they must be in the 20 degree weather, dressed like artic explorers to protect themselves from the wind in the artic conditions, while I was wearing just a short-sleeve shirt in the heated cockpit enclosure of the Gemini.

  3. When browsing boat porn I skip right over the cats with helms stationed right above the transom….seems wholly unsafe to me. But then what do I know…I’m a couch captain (for now).

    Pegasus has some really nice pics….the forward cockpit is an interesting set up on a cat. (the rigging on that staysail certainly is different!)

  4. Happy B Day Rebecca !!! Hope all is well in your world. (hugs)

  5. Thats a great price for an Atlantic 48 if it’s in great shape. I to love the design, forward cockpit, pilot house, daggerboards and high bridgedeck clearance. She definetly a performance oriented design and as such should be sailed conservatively while cruising. I know of at least two that have capsized. One problem with the pilot house steering is you aren’t able to feel the wind or have access to be able to release the sheets quickly if need be.
    I to don’t care for the Catana helm placement. The visibility is terrible if your trying to look towards the opposite bow. Shame as otherwise not a bad design.

    • My guess about those boats flipping is that the people who are attracted to performance cats tend to sail them less conservatively. Lots of sail + gusty conditions + big waves + the boat on autopilot is a recipe for trouble.

  6. I am very interested to hear what kind of cat you lall will buy if you have a loose $300k. I must buy for a cruise and have 20months to deside on a brand. I like the St Francis and Langoon most of what i have seen this far.

  7. I bet the sunsets are the same from the deck of your smaller cat as the Chris White design. Isn’t all about having fun and exploring?

  8. Happy birthday Rebecca! I love my boat, a beautiful Nassau 42 monohull and when we purchased it, it was the prefect cruising platform for a family of 3. Then we added a baby and suddenly, those catamarans are starting to look really, really attractive. *sigh*Never mind, too much time and money in this boat now to change horses but to me a PDQ 32 looks absolutely palacious at this point. 😉

  9. If you could only see where you were going! In January we came across a sunken wooden monuhull thanks to a SOLO Charter Captain at the helm of a Catana.

    • I assume the dual helms are to afford better visibility on the side blocked by the sails. Of course, it’s a long walk to go from one side of the stern to the other!

  10. On the cat topic, regarding size, no matter how big a boat you have you can always fill it up with “stuff” and it then gets small in a hurry. And bigger always seems better until you wash and wax it or worse yet, pay the bills. 🙁
    I agree with you on the Catana.

    Happy Birthday, Rebecca! K&D 🙂

  11. Happy Birthday Rebecca! You are still H O T!

  12. HAPPY BIRTHDAY REBECCA !! Lots of celebrating going on this week (grand-parent-hood, anniversaries, and birthdays) n’est ce pas ??!! Hope you enjoyed your day (well your week really !) !!

  13. From a land lubber’s point of view; I’d rather hoist out my outboards for repair than perform yoga moves to repair the engine. The rest is just beer storage space!

  14. Helen A. Spalding

    I”ll still stick with my plans for getting a 30 footer. That’s about all I can handle alone, and it’s plenty roomy for me and the menagerie and still has room for visiting grandchildren, even with spouses or significant others!

  15. Hey, what’s with all the Catana bashing? Seriously though, we do own a Catana 471 equipped with the signature “Shake and Bake” exposed, outboard helm stations, so I feel compelled to add my 2 cents.

    You’re absolutely correct. The exposed helms on the Catana really suck in bad weather! And the argument about the autopilot doing 90% of the work is BS, because in really bad weather the autopilot is often not able to cope, so you have to hand steer. That said, in any other conditions I love the helm stations. It’s a great place to sit on a passage as you can see everything going on, it’s easy to check the sail trim and you’re at the back so you can keep an eye on the kids, they leave lots more space in the cockpit for entertaining and it’s nice to be able to steer or sit on either side of the boat. They also give great visibility for docking. The thing I truly can’t deal with is the lack of shade, so we are having custom carbon & fiberglass mini-biminis made to cover each helm so we can get protection from the sun.

    There are so many things I love about our Catana: safety, performance, stability, great layout, comfort, space, ease of sail handling, cockpit layout, etc. that I decided to live with the exposed helms. So far I haven’t regretted the decision and I can honestly say there isn’t another boat I’ve seen that I would prefer.


    • Hi Doug

      Thanks for the comments and your first-hand review. I’m surprised I didn’t hear from other Catana owners but I guess they don’t read our blog. 🙂

      As I wrote, the Catana’s are beautiful. We have had the opportunity to have drinks on and tour a 60 footer and it was awesome. I just personally couldn’t deal with that helm setup though.

  16. Helm stations forward of the cabin are just as bad as ones on the aft corners of the boat as far as wind and spray protection goes, especially on higher performance catamarans. Remember, on a high performance cat the apparent wind is nearly always ahead of the beam if you’re sailing it right, so if you’re in front of the cabin you’re getting it in the face. Granted the Gunboat and Atlantic series have interior helms as well so that remedies it.

    Check out Schionning’s designs…full spectrum of cats and sells kits too, lot of used inventory in Australia especially.

  17. Catanas are outstanding, award winning boats and the helm positions are ideal for serious blue water sailors & racers. They provide the excellent visibility. With the hight of the topsides spray is rarely an issue. I find it laughable that many cat sailors consider an exposed helm to be idiotic. My mom & dad sailed half way round the world in a Columbia 26. They shy away from boats with pilot houses and what not.
    Also Lagoons aren’t sailboats, they’re motor sailors at best.

    • Hi Rory. Your opinion is noted.

      Just a few minutes ago I stood behind our nice hard dodger during a squall that hit 37 knots. There is NO WAY I would want to be at a Catana’s helm during that. Or in the hot sun for that matter. Do they sail well? I have been told that they do. I still wouldn’t want that helm.

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