TRIMARANS - THE NEWEST IN WATER HOMES
By - Nancy Terrell (Compass 1995)
This is the summer that you have decided to put some zest into your life. You are going to "live your dream" and you're going to "live it in Paradise". Hats off to you! Now that you've made your decision to obtain a sailboat, either by buying it or by building it from plans or kits, you'll do just as you would if you were about to engage in any other sport, hobby, or avocation - learn all you can about sailing, techniques, equipment, maintenance, and navigational procedures.
There are, generally speaking, two basic kinds of sailboats, the monohull and the multihull. Multihulls come as either the catamaran (two hulls), or the trimaran (three hulls).
Monohulls are a single hull boat. It's a traditional boat, which, in my opinion, is an advantage, because it's been around, in some form or other, for 5,000 years. There are advantages and disadvantages in owning a monohull. The monohull can carry more weight than a comparable multihull boat, but has the disadvantage of being comparatively slow, with a speed of about seven knots per hour. We're not talking about expensive racing yachts here. Another disadvantage of the monohull is largely one of comfort, as it heels some 20 to 40 degrees to leeward. Single hulls also have a heavy keel that can virtually assure sinking if water leaks into the hull through a rupture. And, let's face it, it is much easier to run aground in a monohull, with its deep draft, than it is a catamaran, which is some cases can even be "beached".
MULTIHULLS ARE GAINING IN POPULARITY
For whatever reason, here in the Caribbean, multihulls are gaining in popularity. We now have catamarans that are very fast, capable of some 30 knots, and with a heel of less than 15 degrees, which makes them much more comfortable overall. Also, if the catamaran is properly built, and equipped with flotation material, the non-keel construction makes it unsinkable, even if both hulls become filled with water.
Some sailors don't care for the living arrangement on a cat as two wide hulls separate the living space. But I think that a more serious disadvantage of the cat is its sensitivity to capsize in stormy winds.
Trimarans overcome most of the problems of both the monohull and the catamaran. Like the catamaran, they are fast -- about 30 knots -- and relatively comfortable, with a maximum heel of only nine degrees. Because of a large central hull, comfortable living quarters can be arranged, and in trimarans over forty feet long, there is a living space in the two outer hulls, as well as in the central hull.
Surprisingly, a trimaran is less expensive initially, and has more volume, than a monohull of the same length and the rigging is lighter. Add the advantage of comfort and the fact that the trimaran is unsinkable (if equipped with adequate flotation material) and will not capsize. Then the logical conclusion is that the trimaran is the best choice in sailboats as floating homes. On the negative side, it will carry less weight than the monohull and, with its large beam, finding a slip that fits can be a problem.
RIGGING In my opinion, the best choice for rigging is a ketch or yawl rig, each with two masts, as compared to the sloop, with only one mast. Even though the sloop is slightly faster, a divided, or two-masted, rig offers more ease in handling as well as a greater variety of sail plans for different weather conditions.
BOAT SIZE Once you've decided on a trimaran, because of its comparatively better safety, mobility, and comfort features, what size would suit you best? Just as with any other major purchase, the decision of size must be a fine balance between your needs, desires, and budget.
The 25- to 30-foot trimaran will accommodate one or two persons, but in a rather cramped style. Moreover, there is not a lot of room on the 25 to 30-footer to stock supplies for an extended cruise. The 35-foot trimaran will take two to four people in reasonable comfort with more room for storage. The 40-45 foot trimaran will accommodate a family with plenty of space. The 50- to 60-footer is, relatively speaking, a luxury liner. My suggestion is to buy the largest boat you can afford. You'll be glad you did later.
SHOPPING FOR YOUR BOAT
If you can afford it, the best way to get a boat is to purchase it, completely built and outfitted. Here in the Caribbean there is a very good chance that you can find what you want, as there are always trimarans that have been in charter service for sale. Also, there is no tax to pay if you buy it in a duty free port like the BVI. Before buying a used boat, however, familiarize yourself with prices, construction principles, and features to look for in a boat. And finally, have your prospective purchase inspected for flaws by a marine surveyor who specializes in trimarans.
A friend of mine, Gary Kiela, bought his trimaran in the BVI. With his wife Beth he does charters on TAMARIN II out of Village Cay Marina. Gary reports that his new life style certainly is more enjoyable than his old one - living in a house in the states. Gary and Beth have discovered what you might, too. There is a whole other world out there, on the tranquil seas of the Caribbean, just waiting to be discovered.