3 Considerations When Considering a Cruising Cat

high clearance and light

Ok, so you’re looking for a cruising cat. Or, you already have one, and you know what is good, and less than good, about that cat. The following are some discussion points that everyone hears over and over. Do they really apply to you? You tell me!

1.       Bridgedeck clearance. Hey, there are a bunch of boats out there for sale that have lower than advised bridge clearance.  You can get a relatively great deal on one of these boats. So how much does clearance REALLY matter?

Answer: A lot if you plan to go offshore, or sail upwind frequently. A cruising cat with low clearance pounds relentlessly, and is incredibly uncomfortable. A pounding cat ruins your sailing experience, and will relegate you to early insanity.

HOWEVER! If you sail 90% of the time in coastal or protected waters, one of these boats can be a great deal, and make a perfect liveaboard. Even if you plan to move the boat long distances once in a while, the tradeoff might be worth it. There are many South African cats in this category.

2.       Weight and payload. This boat is going to be your home, and you want to have all the amenities of home. How big of a boat do you need to allow you to carry what you want, and still have your boat sail?

Answer:  Before you buy, you need to reconcile what is acceptable performance, and what you need to bring with you to live comfortably. Do you need to have air conditioning, washer/dryer and a generator?  In the 40-foot range, there are going to be compromises, but it is possible to have a boat that will sail acceptably and carry a well considered amount of home amenities. If you want a boat that will sail 200 miles a day and have three cabins, entertainment stuff, and carry all your toys, you need something larger—maybe 46’, 48’ or even 50’ plus.

3.       This is a buyer’s market; you can “steal” a boat these days!

Answer: There are great deals out there, absolutely. The part of the market that is particularly vulnerable is in ex-charter boats. So, if you think you can accomplish what you want with a boat that has been in service for a while, you are in business. Here is the problem. In the evolution of the cruising cat, many buyers are now looking for a dream boat with more innovations and performance. For cats that are un-chartered, owner versions, with daggerboards and high bridgedeck clearance, the deals dry up a bit. Each one of those points increases desirability and limits the inventory of boats out there. Owner version boats are worth at least 20% more than their charter version counterparts, and often much more than that. Daggerboards are worth 15-20% over keels, and for many are mandatory. It goes on and on. SO, the truth is, the buyer’s market is there, but well-designed owner version cats have not devalued at all in the recent recession.

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6 Responses to 3 Considerations When Considering a Cruising Cat

  1. George says:

    Derek: Good points. What’s the cat in the picture. Looks cool.

  2. Lincoln Baxter says:

    Hey Derek!

    I think I just posted my comment in the wrong place. At any rate, is the big cat in the picture Dave Penfield’s?


  3. Derek says:

    The cat in the picture is a Morelli and Melvin custom 50′ cat. Great innovative boat. For sale!

  4. Derek says:

    yes, it is!

  5. Christopher Bevan says:

    There is a fourth critical consideration: who will crew it? A large boat may be fine with a crew of burly athletes but too much of a handful to single-hand or sail as a couple. Many cruisers are couples. Consider when the going gets rough, can I manage this boat if my partner is incapacitated? Could my partner handle her if I got bumped on the head?

    Having a high-performance rig on a boat over about 45 foot can be a handful for a strong person when the wind gets up. A 50-60 footer may accommodate all the toys but be too big for a couple to manage.

  6. derek says:

    Hi Christopher,

    On one level I completely agree with you, but on another, I don’t. I think that the issue of having physical strength to handle a rig is not the primary concern. A well planned rig uses smartly placed winches, electric winches, 2 to 1, 3 to 1, 4 to 1 ratios on halyards and sheets. Emergency plans have to be considered up front. The scramble comes with need to reduce sail area. When more sail is required, things are ok, weather is settled etc.

    The physical requirements to reef are minimal, no matter the rig size. The mental requirements are quite high, but it really doesn’t matter if your boat is 66′, or 26′, you need to know what to do. If you wait too long, or if your reefing system doesn’t work well, what difference does it make? You are in trouble. Reefing should be simply a matter of unloading the sail, dropping the halyard, winching in the reef line, and tightening the halyard again. In a well designed system, the process ought to take 2-3 minutes, at most.

    However, for many people, there are different reasons why a smaller boat is better for them. Cost. Handling. Not everyone cares about sailing really fast. So that all plays into it. I really think if you know how to sail a 38, you know how to sail a 68. I go back to the idea that you need to look at what you are bringing, where do you want to go, how fast do you want to get there, and how much are you willing to spend. Lastly, the one thing that would keep me looking at smaller boats are the maintenance requirements of trying to keep a big boat going. That, and expense, are pretty sobering.

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