Some of the arm chair sailors prowling around on
the boating forums have called Catalac Catamarans a 'dated design'
because of their hardchined hulls. You will
note that catamaran hull design migrated to rounded bilge designs
in the '90s (ie... Gemini). The reason I mention this is that if
you paid attention to the America's Cup racing series last year
you may have noticed that BMW Oracle uses a hard chine main hull
on their boat, and they're obviously very successful campaigning that boat.
Catamaran designer Richard Woods noted that when run through
hull design software, we discover that surprisingly, the added hard
chine reduces WSA, which results in less hull drag, leaving us to
conclude that a hardchine hull (as used on Catalacs) is better than
people think, and in addition to lower WSA, they allow greater loads
to be carried.
He went on to say that Catalacs have a very
clever hull design. They are hollow and deep forward and then almost
flat aft. The idea being that it was so asymmetric that it wouldn't
pitch. And it would sail to windward a lot better than the old O'Brien
boats (Bobcats) despite not having keels. As history has shown,
with the advent of the added skegs Catalacs sail very well and are
much better boats than they look, as Prouts are much worse
than they look.
So, if a hardchined hull is good enough
for an America's Cup winner, it's certainly good enough for me!
Anyone want to bet that there'll be an explosion of hard chine catamaran
designs in the future??
Speaking of Prouts...... Prout's place in history
was cemented by folks who circumnavigated with their boats, beginning
in the '80s. As near as I can figure, one of the first men to do
it was Neale Ensign who took 6 years to complete the journey in S/V Psychic Flight. He was a San Francisco Prout dealer
who decided it was more fun using the boat than selling them. Neale
is a very knowledgeable guy and these days happens to be a friend
of mine, as when his journey was completed he picked my corner of
the world to settle down.
The point of this story is that
I met Neale when he wandered into my marina, approached me and tried
to buy my Catalac. Not a bad thing ordinarily, except my boat wasn't
for sale. I'm not complaining as I made a new friend and got a copy
of his book on the circumnavigation. It's interesting reading.
Now consider.... if Prout people sell their boats and try and
buy a Catalac, what does that tell you?
Catalac Catamaran Build Quality:
Catamaran construction techniques have evolved
over time. Boats are now built with some type of coring in their
hulls and decks to reduce weight (weight= material cost) and improve
performance. While newer boats do perform better because of the
use of coring, they have a whole set of construction issues which
develop because of it.
When considering a cored hull boat
one must understand that any used boat which was designed and constructed
with coring material has to be carefully examined before the purchase.
If not properly cared for, these boats are subject to water ingress
over time which unavoidably leads to the fiberglass delaminating
as the layers of glass separate from the coring material. Some boat
owners are meticulous with regular schedules of hardware bedding
on the boat.... and others are not. Boat Broker docks are full of
cored hull boats with delaminating issues, and surveyors have been
known to miss it.
Catalac Catamaran construction techniques
avoid this entire issue as the boats were built with double thickness
solid fiberglass hulls (I tell people they are built like a battleship).
Take just one look at these older boats and it's evident they
are built to last. I think you would have to look at a few
older (and in some cases newer) Catamarans from different builders
to really appreciate a Catalac's build quality.
The message here is that when it comes down
to comparing boats, it's not all about speed. Unless you plan on
spending $350k-$1.5 million to purchase a brand new boat, catamaran
hull design and construction techniques should be your number one
consideration when selecting a pre-owned Cruising Catamaran.
Catalac Catamaran Market Position:
A boat's current value is based on condition,
equipment, time since last refit, and of course the boat model's
perceived value in the marketplace. Catamarans in general have recently
become very popular and the Catalac's current value has benefited
immensely by this new interest in catamarans. Here is a link to
a search for Catalacs offered for sale on what is probably the most
comprehensive boat marketplace, Yachtworld, as well as boats listed for sale by owner
on this website. As Catalacs are a British built boat, it's
not surprising that most of these boats are in Europe.
that over 98% of the 600 boats produced are still sailing today
(2015), yet only a handful of most models are typically offered
for sale. Overall, Catalac owners are very pleased with the
build quality and satisfied with performance. However I think the
real reason most folks hang onto their Catalacs is that they are
unable to discover a clear upgrade path. Consider that there are
no catamarans available approaching Catalac build quality, which
are 2 or 3 meters longer, and which are offered for a reasonable
price. In addition, as you can see in the individual boat model
charts (select in the menu bar), very few Catalac Catamarans were
sailed or shipped to the Americas. This has resulted in increasing
Catalac boat prices in America despite what has become a depressed
boat sales market. A truly remarkable phenomenon which reflects
the increasing popularity of catamarans in general, as well as the
lack of affordable boats in reasonable condition offered for sale.
Catalac Boat Pricing explained:
When researching these boats you may discover that
the Catalac 8M and 9M have a somewhat wide range in pricing. This
requires an explanation. Tom Lack offered several engine powering
options on the smaller Catalac models. Boats built with the OEM
outboard gasoline/petrol engine are much less expensive than those
which were built as pocket Cruising Catamarans with twin diesel
engines with shaft driven props.
Catalac Catamaran Innovation:
Have a look at the constructionphotos. You'll notice that the cabin, cockpit and bridge
deck are one piece, an early innovation which is the strength of
these boats. The hulls are solid glass and only the foredeck is
balsa cored. The boats have two 3/4 inch hardwood plywood bulkheads
installed which tie the hulls together, and then the cabin/deck/cockpit
(another one piece mould) is installed to complete the assembly.
With Catamarans, there has always been a concern
over tightening the stays. Over tighten Port and Starboard lower
and upper stays and in time your boat's two hulls begin to pull
up, bending the boat in the center. Tom Lack came up with a solid
method of preventing this as the boat is rigged using the forward
bulkhead. The chainplates pass through the roof and are anchored
to 1/4" metal plates which are in turn anchored solidly into
the forward bulkhead. You can see the chain plate brackets in the
interior photos in the brochures provided in each individual boat
page. When tightening rigging stays, tension is applied only to
these bulkheads and never to the hulls. In my opinion, this is an
additional terrific design benefit. Over tightening rigging can
never warp a hull on a Catalac.
Diesel Engines in catamarans:
People who automatically dismiss the concept
of twin diesels in a catamaran are people who haven't sailed
in one. Safety, redundancy, reliability, maneuverability (especially
with high winds on the beam
when docking), speed, battery charging
capacity and cruising range, are all greatly increased with twin
diesels and are well worth the additional investment. Outboards
have cavitation issues, and just how do you keep them in the water
when it's blowing 60 knots and you're in short period waves?
Also, consider that diesel engines can run for 10,000 to 15,000
hours before a rebuild and a gasoline outboard for 2500 to 3000
hours if you're lucky. In the long run, the cost differential
is not as great as it would appear to be, especially if you repower
with rebuilt diesels. If you plan on actually sailing your boat
and it isn't destined to become a 'Dock Queen', I definitely
recommend twin diesels in any catamaran you might consider.