This time of the year, a lot of us are headed to the sunny south to charter a bareboat for a week or more. Some (if not most) will be chartering a catamaran and will have to get the hang of handling the wide, two-hulled boats around the docks. Here are three tips:
1. Around the docks, use the twin engines to their best advantage to get the boat in and out of tight situations. Usually, the boat will be moored stern-to-the-dock when you arrive, so leaving is not a big issue. You just drop the mooring lines and motor ahead. Once free, you may need to make a tight turn; use the engine on the outside of the turn in forward and add revs and put the inside engine in reverse. With the engines opposing themselves, you can actually spin the boat in its own length it you need to.
2. You may need to dock the cat alongside at some point to take on water, fuel and groceries. Try to approach the dock from the leeward side and with your bow as close to the wind direction as possible. Get the fenders and docking lines rigged early and make sure your crew understands their jobs. You can make the cat crab sideways with the engines and rudders; put the outside engine in slow forward and the inside engine in slow reverse and turn the rudders slightly away from the dock. The boat will move sideways and you can adjust the forward motion and angle of the motion by adjusting thrust on the engines and the rudder angles.
3. Mooring stern-to will be a challenge the first time, but with twin engines it should not be too difficult even for novices…unless you have a cross wind. In calm conditions, position the cat so its stern is squarely in the center of the slip you want to occupy and then back gently in. Make sure you get the bow lines and forward springs on the pilings and under control before backing into the end of the slip; then tie off the stern lines, crossed, to the bollards or cleats on the dock. In a cross wind, you will need to use engine revs and rudder angles, much as you did when docking side on, to offset the side force of the wind. You can make the boat crab slightly to windward while backing to keep the hull in the middle of the slip.
With a little practice, you will discover that handling a big cruising cat around the docks is almost easier than handling a single screw monohull.