Are Cats Dogs?

Spectator - July 2002

Spectator — July 2002

By Tom Fexas

Are Cats Dogs?
It's all about aesthetics.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Catamarans
• Part 2: Catamarans
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This piece will no doubt upset some power catamaran people (and maybe my editor), so it must be interpreted as one man's opinion. This piece will not address the dynamics of a catamaran versus a monohull. I have ridden on catamarans and had some experience in the test tank with them, but cats are like women: Unless you have lived with one for a while, you shouldn't critique her moves. This piece will address only the appearance and function of larger cruising power cats.

Good God! My Dyer dinghy and I are about to be devoured alive by a gigantic manta ray! I feverishly start rowing away from the gaping mouth. I knew there were such things as giant mantas, but I have never heard of anything this big and this far north. I row harder and finally pull away from the wicked-looking mouth. Boy, that was a close shave! A bad dream? No, in fact, I was only bearing down on the bow of a large cruising power catamaran anchored in the bay.

For all the wonderful things I could say about power catamarans, I simply cannot get past the way the damned things look. I am a traditionalist at heart, and I suspect that a good many of you out there are the same and object to these boxy,wide sleds. Tell me catamarans are ten times more efficient than a monohull. Tell me that you can balance a penny on the edge of the saloon table in 20-foot beam seas.  Tell me that the saloon is as expansive as a Fifth Avenue penthouse. I don't really care because I simply cannot get past their appearance.

The forward ends of monohulls can be lovely sculptures. The confluence of shapes--the rake of the stem, the sheerline, and the flair and flam of the topsides--can, if done right, produce a shape that can make you weep for the beauty of it all. The bow of a Trumpy is a classic example. If God meant for boats to have two hulls, He would have designed ducks with two bodies.

Viewing them in profile and not knowing whether they are catamarans or monohulls, you'd think catamarans were styled by some kid using Crayolas or by people whose full-time job is designing cheese graters. I will say that some catamarans are better than others. Catamarans seem to work better in smaller sizes--open sport boats and fishing boats, for example. First of all, people are not as concerned about how these small boats look, and they offer a great amount of deck space compared to monohulls. Generally the cats with the hulls closest together are the best-looking of the bunch. Of course, this is because they closely resemble a proper monohull. But with hulls spread wide apart, they became ungainly floating kitchen appliances. If designers would not be so greedy trying to incorporate maximum beam, cats might become powerboat community members in good standing.

Next page > Cats Part 2 > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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