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Multihull Maina

The popularity of the multihull is definitely on the increase.  Ferry companies, charter companies, day sail operators and private individuals are going ‘Pussy Galore’ and equipping their fleets with cats.   Amongst these floating felines, popular BVI choices include Robertson and Caine’s Leopards, Fountaine-Pajot’s Bahias and various Lagoon, Voyage and Privilege models.

And it’s not just the cats that get the cream in the BVI.  Multihull skippered charter operators Duncan and Annie Muirhead brought Misty Law, a 56' trimaran, to these waters in 1970.  Inspired by her performance, Duncan designed and built his second trimaran, Lammer Law in 1982.  She operated in the BVI until 1990. Duncan then went on to design and build the Tortola-based Cuan Law (www.cuanlaw.com), the largest cruising trimaran in the world.  

At 105' long on deck and 44' wide with two 103' masts spreading 5,200 square feet of sail, she displaces 75 tons and is capable of speeds up to 14 knots under sail. She has 20 luxurious guest cabins and 8 crew quarters and specializes in SCUBA diving vacations all over the Caribbean. She even has a couple of Hobie 16 catamarans on deck for the guests to enjoy.

Talking of Hobies, these little ‘kittens’ also have quite a following in the BVI.  You don’t have to book Cuan Law for a chance to try one out, the Bitter End Yacht Club’s facility in North Sound, Virgin Gorda has quite a fleet – let the children take the helm and go ‘fly a hull’. There’s nothing more exhilarating.

So, why pick a multihull?
The simple answer has to be its versatility.  We believe that many of the visitors to our beautiful BVI waters may come here under a degree of sufferance – a sailing holiday probably wasn’t their first choice for this year’s vacation.  And, very often, members of family and friends require different levels of assurance and comfort when it comes to sailing off into the sunset; a catamaran can offer every indulgence and often, much more.

A cruising cat is, to all intents and purposes, a floating villa.  Space, sun decks and every creature comfort conceivable come neatly bundled together in a 40' plus package.  And yet, for the ardent sailors in the group, a cat also offers performance sailing, stability and the easy handling characteristics needed to make for an enjoyable vacation.

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A typical charter catamaran will offer four or more cabins, often with their own separate heads and showers; a huge, comfortable saloon for relaxing and dining; a massive cockpit for outside lounging, alfresco meals and cocktails; and lots of flat areas for sunbathing, including the trampoline mesh located forward between the two hulls. There is nothing better than this for lying in the sun and watching the world go by as you sail from one of ‘Nature's Little Secrets’ to the next.  It’s great for stargazing, too.

There are many variations on the theme to choose from.  Depending upon the number of people in your party, their abilities and the comfort levels you seek, you’ll be faced with choices such as electric versus manual winches, extra air conditioning, separate cabins and heads for each couple, three hobs or four in the galley… Whether it’s a bareboat or a skippered charter, under power or sail, your cat is designed to fit your needs ‘purrfectly.’

As for the sailing, even the complete novice can lend a hand to trim sails, steer the boat or secure a mooring. Stability is the name of the game, and the efficient manoeuvrability using the twin engines makes docking, anchoring and mooring as stress free as it gets.

Who’s doing it?
If it’s a catamaran sailing holiday that you seek, then the BVI, as stated, can cater to your every whim.  There’s the Catamaran Charter Company at Nanny Cay Marina, a division of Florida-based The Catamaran Company, who specialize in Lagoon and Privilege models. Their fleet of 30 plus boats offers a variety of sizes from the 38’, 3 cabin 2 head layout to the 50 footer with 5 plus cabins.  For unbeatable luxury, the 72’ Yapluka comes with full crew, four staterooms and a multimedia entertainment centre.  You’ll be doing the purring.
Elite Island Yachts (www.eliteislandyachts.com), located on Nanny Cay’s north side just past the marina’s main entrance, offer catamaran chartering with a bit of a difference.  Membership of their Cruise Club buys you a number of weeks of chartering redeemable at any of their Caribbean locations, and the package is an all-inclusive, stateroom offering (think queen sized, en suite suites and a personal service that even ascertains your menu preferences before you arrive).  Patrons can purchase an entire boat and take family and friends, or a single suite and embark on an adventure with a few unknowns, making friends along the way.

But, almost all charter companies now have varying ratios of multihulls versus monohulls in their fleets. The Moorings, for example, boasts a 50/50 split. Their NauticBlue Power Yacht Vacations range of Power Cats outnumbers the monohulls 9 to 1. Sunsail and Footloose run at similar ratios, favouring the Robertson and Caine Leopard range.

Horizon Yacht Charters finds its 2006 Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46 'A Touch of Grey’ much in demand. At 46' with four double cabins, 2 single bunks, 4 heads and 5 showers, air conditioning, electric windlass and 1,322 sq feet of sail, she’s a beautiful, spacious cat benefitting from an innovative design that makes her a delight to sail.

Horizon’s Managing Director, Andrew Thompson, also gave us a sneak preview of what’s to come from Fountaine Pajot in 2007. For pure pleasure sailing, watch out for the Mahe 36, Lavezzi 40, Orana 44, Salina 48 and the ultimate, Eleuthera 60 range of Sailing Cats.  

If motoring is more your game, then keep an eye out for the Highland 35, Cumberland 44 and Queensland 60 range of Trawler Power Catamarans – a veritable pride of cats, with something for everyone. We very much look forward the reviewing them in later editions.

Creature Comfort:Tortola Ferry Operations
Smith’s Ferry’s Island Rocket, Speedy’s Peacemaker, and Road Town Fast Ferry’s Makata and Autshumato are just some of the vessels carrying passengers and cargo between the BVI and its neighbours. Aside from their duties, they all have something else in common: they are cats – big fast multihulls carrying up to 150 passengers at cruising speeds of over 25 knots.

In November 2003, Bobby Hodge decided to reduce the trip time from Road Town, Tortola BVI to down town Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas USVI from1 hr 30 to less than an hour.  He invested in his ‘Fast Ferry’, a catamaran called Friendship 4. The passage time was cut to 50 minutes dock to dock, a comparable, if not better time than his West End competitors could muster, and the Road Town Fast Ferry Company was born.

The passage is now quicker and more comfortable.  The cat’s aft-mounted engines considerably reduce noise levels in the cabin; stability and space add value and comfort.  Whilst the initial outlay for the big cats is more expensive, the fuel costs are slightly lower and consequently, the ferry companies are better able to maintain their prices.

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