Ten more tips for catamaran sailors

Wow, how time flies! Nine years ago, I posted 10 tips for sailing catamarans. Since then, I’ve learned a few more tips I’d like to share.

On technique:

11. Tack fast, tack tight

Tacking a cat can be challenging, especially in light winds. Due to their lightness, cats lose speed very quickly when tacking, so you need as much speed as possible going into the tack. Further, a tight, centered main helps with steering and prevents the mainsail from backwinding. Ease the main only when past the head-to-wind position.

12. Traveler first, mainsheet second

When you get overpowered, before rushing to ease the mainsheet, let out the traveler instead. This sheds excess power while minimizing healing.

In particular, when sailing in strong winds and following seas, let out the traveler most of the way,  especially if there is any prospect of surfing. Cats typically heel to leeward when surfing, as the leeward hull partially lifts out of the water and reduces that hull's lateral resistance. With the traveler fully eased, the center of effort of the sails moves to windward, which helps keep your cat balanced. With the right sail trim, following seas are a lot of fun. Your crew will thank you and your autopilot will strain less. Or perhaps your crew will strain less and your autopilot will thank you.

13. Single-line reefing

I’m a big fan of single-line reefing (SLR). Arriba’s #2 reef runs parallel with the main halyard, to a clutch right beside the main halyard clutch. The helmsperson can quickly throw in two reefs without leaving the cockpit. All that is required is to pay out the halyard to a mark while taking in the reef line, by pushing a button on the electric winch. For the single-handed or light-handed sailor, it doesn’t get any easier.

14. Raise/lower mainsail at an angle to the boat

I used to diligently turn head-to-wind to raise or lower the mainsail, but if you think about it, you only need to turn enough to depower the sail. So if you’re moving at 50° to the wind, ease your traveler so the boom is also at 50° and hoist or lower away. In lighter winds, you only need to get the boom within about 15° of the wind angle if you don’t mind jostling with the sail a bit. Lazy jacks make it easier still.

15. Know your emergency steering system

Many cats don’t have an emergency tiller as can be found on a monohull. Instead, you can typically lock both of your rudders and steer by engines or by a combination of sails and engines. Additionally, a small drogue can be deployed astern off one side to steer in that direction. Rehearse emergency steering ahead of time. When you've unexpectedly lost steering on a lee shore is not the time to be figuring out how to lock your rudders for the first time.

16. Rev those engines

Even die-hard sailors find themselves motoring sometimes, sometimes running an engine at a constant RPM for hours on end. This cruising habit, in particular at light engine load, causes a problem known as “glazing”. Oil residues deposit as carbon on engine cylinder bores, reducing engine lubrication and worsening engine wear. A good practice is therefore to vary the RPMs every hour or so, by revving it for a few minutes.

On gadgets:

17. Install a wind turbine

Solar panels are a must for battery charging, but a wind turbine is a close second. With a wind turbine, you’re usually charging whenever you're underway and not going downwind. In windy anchorages, you’re charge all night long while your solar panels are idly waiting for dawn. It is nice to wake up to batteries that still are almost fully charged.

18. Get an electric outboard motor

An electric outboard is cleaner, lighter and more reliable. I have an Epropulsion Spirit 1, which I'm very happy with. The battery is easily removed for charging. Leave that extra jerry can behind, and instead charge your electric outboard battery with all of that free solar and wind power you’re generating.

Plus two things to avoid:

19. Do not lash bulky objects to stanchions

Lashing kayaks and SUPs to stanchions, while convenient, is courting disaster. Stanchions are not designed to resist the large forces generated by a wave pushing against a large flat object. I’ve also broken a window because a kayak came loose and pounded the glass.

Window shattered by kayak.

20. Do not connect your Seagull Striker to the prodder pole

While it is convenient to have a line to hold up the prodder pole when attaching flying sails, don’t leave the line attached while underway. If the prodder is pulled down for any reason, for example, by a downed headsail, it will pull on the Seagull Striker. Dyneema, which is up to 15 times stronger than steel of the same weight, will easily break your Seagull Striker. I have the photos to prove it! Instead, attach the line only when you need it.

Seagull Striker broken due to Dyneema line attached to prodder pole.

I hope you found these tips useful. Please share your tips too.