Are Cats Dogs? Page 2

Spectator - July 2002 continued

Spectator — July 2002

By Tom Fexas

Are Cats Dogs?
Part 2: Do catamarans have their place in the powerboat world?
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Catamarans
• Part 2: Catamarans
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Cats are regularly touted as providing considerably more interior (floor space) than monohulls, but do they really? Yes, a 24-foot-wide 50-footer will provide a huge amount of space on the main deck. But the two slender tunnels down below provide minimal space--much less than your typical rag boat. That's because hulls on a 50-footer might be only three or four feet wide. Accommodations stuffed in these long, narrow tubes are minimal at best.

And there are other problems with a 24-foot-wide 50-footer. Slips designed for 24-foot beams are usually built to accommodate 70-foot or 80-foot vessels. Thus, you will be paying for a 70-foot slip unless you are lucky enough to be berthed on one of the few outside spaces available at some marinas.

There are alternatives. A few years ago we spent three or four days at the test tank of Stevens Institute, testing an 80-foot craft we dubbed "monocat." The idea was to overcome the looks and other disadvantages of twin hulls with a rather conventional monohull bow that forms twin hulls aft. It's a work in progress. Trimarans that incorporate a long, slender center hull with two shorter hulls (called pontoons or outriggers) well aft are much better from an aesthetic standpoint. This configuration produces a very rakish arrow shape and works well. As a matter of fact, the around-the-world speed record is held by just such a hull.

Actually, I applaud designers and builders who are constantly "pushing the envelope" for something new, different, and, most important, better. But let's not forget aesthetics. If looking at your boat makes you want to barf, this is not a good thing. If you are approaching your boat from the bow and are digging in your pockets for toll money because you feel like you are entering the Lincoln Tunnel, this is not a good thing.

I have this vision of a catamaran enthusiast's life. On land he lives in two double-wides set side by side. He has wives in two different cities. His kids, of course, are twins, and his vehicle of choice is a twin-track tank. His favorite drink is a double martini, and his favorite meal is franks and beans with the franks placed side by side on the plate and the beans between. If he was a recreational flyer, his favorite plane would be a twin-boom P38 Fighter.

Do catamarans have their place in the powerboat world? Sure they do, and I am certain that as times goes by and we dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists, well...die in the wool, a new generation of boaters (who don't know any damn better) might accept the way these things look. But for now, let's make catamarans better-looking, because venturing out in one now is akin to going out for a night on the town in a polyester leisure suit and white boots. You are telling the world you just don't give a damn anymore. Hey! I suddenly have a hankering for Doublemint gum. Bring on those Doublemint twins!

Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and designer of powerboats. His Web site is

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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