Differences of a Catamaran to a Keel Sailboat

Catamarans have many advantages but they do have a few differences from regular sailboats that you should know about.

Harder to Find Dock Space

Because of their width/beam (that ‘s what makes them so stable and safe) is wider than a conventional sailboat of the same length, many times catamarans will not fit into some marina slips that would otherwise take a monohull. The solution is to either go to an end tie dock or in a slip for a longer boat. This is ok as along as you can find such a slip, and the marina doesn’t charge you for what the boat that could fit into that slip.

This isn’t really an insurmountable problem. Some of the creative solutions are to search out docking situations where marinas have slips where shoaling is restricting who can use the slip or very long docks where your beam is not a factor.


Another difference that catamaran owners soon discover is that maneuvering in close quarters can be tricky especially when there is some wind. Catamarans sit on top of the water with much less keel area below the water and are much  more affected by the wind.

You have to be very aware of the wind conditions when arriving or departing a marina dock. Larger catamarans have an engine in each hull so they can still be highly maneuverable and offset the wind effect. In smaller cats, like our Woods Gypsy 28, one engine is usually the norm (saves weight and space). In these situations it is almost imperative that you set up your engine so it is linked to your steering system to give you added maneuverability.

You can’t take everything with you – Loading Limitations

As a consequence of having all this space on a catamaran, there is a tendency for you to feel like you should do something about “all that space” and try to fill it. The danger is that if you do fill it you will end up overloading your catamaran taking away from a cat’s sterling performance, and if badly overloaded, taking away from the huge safety margins inherent in a catamaran.

On a typical conventional 30′ sailboat (10,000 lbs) where just the lead keel alone weighs 4,000 lbs, you are not going to notice an extra 1,000 pounds of payload in the same way you will when you put in onto a catamaran where the whole cat (like our 28′ Woods Gypsy) only weighs 4,000 pounds.

So the lesson is to “think light” and “load light” on a catamaran.


Thinking of the above as “peculiarities” instead of disadvantages of a catamaran, the advantages list is still far ahead.