Extensive comparison of monohull catamarans vs. sailboat multihulls. Find out which suits you better!
Are you asking yourself similar questions about monohull catamarans vs. multihull sailboats, as our charter guests:
Should I book a monohull or catamaran?
What are the key differences between them?
Are catamarans better than monohulls?
What is the price/cost difference?
You found the perfect article about it. In the next paragraphs, we will answer all these questions and break down all the differences between monohulls (standard sailing boats with one hull) and multihulls (catamarans), the pros and cons of each, and much more.
At the end of the article, you will easily decide which type of boat better suits your specific needs.
If case you are not yet aware, why listen to our advice, let us mention that we are one of the leading, if not the leading, and most experienced yacht charter company in Croatia, since 1995 with a charter fleet of 80 excellently maintained boats (sailing boats, catamarans, motor yacht), an outstanding client support service and one of the highest yacht charter guest satisfaction rate in Croatia.
Giving the best advice, support, and helping you, and our guest, find the right answer to all questions, and maximize your experience while sailing with us, is our daily mission and routine now already for more than 25 years.
Let's start the comparison between catamarans and monohulls with the basics.
What exactly is a catamaran and what a monohull
Monohull boats are classic sailing boats that have only one hull.
Catamaran boats are multihulls boats. Mostly they have two hulls but there are also versions with three hulls called trimarans.
Catamarans are a newer type of boat, less “traditional”, than sailboats, although some sources report that one of the first sailing boats ever developed, was a catamaran.
What we know for sure is that catamarans have become very popular for charter and sailing in the last 10-15 years. Some of the main reasons (which will be discussed more in detail later in the article) are:
extra large living space (on the deck and between two hulls),
much easier to dock in narrow spaces,
On the other hand, monohulls provide you with:
To not give you the wrong impression, modern monohulls also have a comfortable saloon area, more spacious cabins, and large areas in the cockpit, than the older sailing boats, but little less than a catamaran.
With our guests, we are also noticing an increasing interest in chartering monohull sailing yachts before and after the peak of the season when weather & sailing conditions are better for this kind of boat.
On the other hand, we are noticing a trend among our charter guests who are sailing during the peak of the season, that they prefer sailing with more spaciousness, comfort, and stability, therefore, are choosing catamaran yachts more and more (especially in comparison to our charter guest sailing at the beginning and at the end of the season).
Which is better: a monohull or a catamaran?
Probably one of the most popular sailing questions in recent years. We prefer paraphrasing it in: which is better for you: catamaran or monohull?
But there is no single answer to it.
It all depends on your plans and wishes for you and your crew and what sort of sailing experience are you looking for:
Do you want to take your family or your friends out for a sailing week?
Are they experienced or inexperienced sailors?
Does anyone suffer from seasickness?
Are you sailing enthusiasts?
Are you looking for a week of sailing or do you prefer to spend a week chilling on a boat?
When planning your sailing holiday and you are not sure what would suit you best: a catamaran or a monohull, know, that whatever you decide to sail a monohull or a catamaran, in both cases you will enjoy sailing, but weighing the pros and cons of each will help you find out which boat serve best your specific case.
Sailing with catamarans vs sailing with monohulls
The main difference in sailing the two is that monohulls are a bit harder to sail and more unstable since they heel much more than catamarans (the windier it gets for a given amount of sail, the more they heel over).
Sailing on a monohull (a heeling boat) is, therefore, more challenging but also a perfect choice when you enjoy the thrill of it and when you want to learn sailing. To make the long story short, monohulls are ideal for sailing enthusiasts.
On the other hand, catamarans, do not heel. Because of their higher stability and space, you can easily move around the boat. That is also the main reason catamaran boats are considered “easier” to sail, time spent on board feels more relaxing and they are the perfect fit for longer trips.
When you are taking your friends or family out for a sailing week, monohulls don't have the livability level of catamarans.
Boat designers of both need to strike the right balance between sailing performances and a nice and comfortable living area to spend time in.
The layout of the boat consequently needs to satisfy the required demands of each.
Since we all have different wishes and priorities, when choosing between catamarans and monohulls, it is important to check your exigencies:
how big must be the boat,
what are the sailing performances you are looking for,
how big should be the cockpit area,
do you need a swimming platform on board,
do you need a toilet in every cabin
Due to their two hulls, catamarans have an eye-catching design and offer a glamorous inside.
Layouts are often open and connected to a dining area with a lot of seating space. Near the seating area, there is a glass door that opens the aft cockpit. Below deck, you will find cabins and bathrooms that impress with the spaciousness of a catamaran.
Because of the open layout, catamarans have a nice panoramic view from every part of the boat.
On the other hand, for some of you, catamarans are not as “sexy” as monohulls. Sailboats have classic beauty, sleek design, they can be romantic for sailing with your soulmate, while also fast and sporty machines for a more exciting sailing with friends.
But it is hard to make a direct comparison of the exterior beauty of monohulls with the modern and spacious multihull interior although monohulls still have all you need to more than just enjoy your time on the water.
The second main difference between monohulls and multihulls, and also a main characteristic of catamarans, is their spaciousness.
than monohulls of the same length.
And of course large net areas on the bow for lying and sunbathing during the sailing or while anchored in a bay.
Living and sleeping spaces are also well separated, from the cockpit and saloon.
You also have bigger kitchens with more storage space, higher helm stations on a flybridge, more storage space all over the boat, with a lower bridge deck clearance.
To make the long story short, catamarans offer much more space for everybody and everything aboard.
Cockpit areas on monohulls are made with the table in the center and seats all around, making them ideal as a large dining area.
The bigger is the monohull, the larger and more comfortable is the cockpit area.
A catamaran has a rectangular design, the beam is carried fully forward, meaning that multihull boats offer a more usable deck space.
Modern monohulls have a mostly triangular shape, from the "sharp" peak of the bow, they are getting larger/wider to the aft of the boat, and usually, at the aft, they have a foldable swimming platform which offers extra living space in the cockpit during the stay at anchor in a bay.
The triangular design feature makes the monohull less space-efficient than a catamaran.
Catamaran’s all main living spaces:: saloon, kitchen, bedrooms, and toilets are located about the waterline.
On a monohull, almost all living spaces: saloon, kitchen, bedrooms, and toilets are located partially below the waterline, which limits the light and view.
Due to the shape of the monohull and design permits, each area inside and outside is smaller than on a catamaran.
Crew and Living Space
Modern cruising catamarans offer a lot of comfort inside and a large and spacious cockpit and sunbathing area. Some models even have a flybridge with a steering wheel and extra place for sitting.
The cockpit and living space are huge compared to a monohull, making you feel like you are at home.
Most of the bedrooms in catamarans are spacious and have “walk around beds”, with a lot of space for storage too.
In general, a catamaran of the same size as a monohull offers similar extra space to a 10ft larger monohull.
Relaxing diners around the cockpit table are also more comfortable on catamarans, where you can easily walk around the table than on the monohull.
Catamarans have also great solutions for storage of a dingy, it is on the aft of the boat, placed between two hulls, so you do not use deck area for storage, which is usually the case on a monohull.
It is important to also mention that even the smallest cabin in a catamaran has a standing headroom.
Comfort & enjoyability
Not so long ago, boats were made mostly to comfort the captain. The rest of the crew was placed somewhere around the captain's place.
Contrary to it, modern sailing boats are made in a way that gives the best possible comfort to all the passengers, with easy access to all needed artifacts for smooth sailing.
Main characteristics of a multihull are ride comfort, stability, load distribution, and smoothness in sailing.
There will be no unpredictable rolling while at sea due to its wide footprint that helps negate the effects. The efficient multihull design allows faster headway, especially in rough conditions, since it reduces the resistance on the water.
Because of all this, catamarans are more comfortable than monohulls.
Since they are also more stable and do not heel too much it is easier to stay on board for cooking, reading, sleeping, etc, therefore they are the preferred choice for people/families with kids or older family members.
With the nice shaded places in the cockpit to enjoy a cold drink or the large sunbathing areas (including the net in between two bows) for enjoying the sun and tanning, there is something for everybody`s taste.
Monohulls are a little bit less comfortable than catamarans, but with modern sailboats, we are far from uncomfortable.
Its narrow design mostly relies heavily on the calmness of the water to ensure a smooth ride.
The bouncing and heeling during the sailing ride is much greater due to the large amount of surface area that remains in contact with the water.
Almost all newer catamarans have raised their helms or have a helm on the flybridge offering fantastic 360-degree panoramic views of the surroundings. No sailing yacht offers such visibility from the helm.
You can enjoy an excellent panoramic view also from the cockpit and saloon.
Privacy is quite important to some of you. Since more spacious, catamarans offer also more privacy than monohulls sailing boats.
There is also a greater separation between the main living space and the cabins.
In case you do not need a lot of privacy and are looking forward to enjoying sailing with your friends and family, you will have enough space in the cockpit of any newer monohull sailing yacht too.
As already mentioned, catamarans have more open space, and all main living spaces are located about the waterline, therefore you get more light inside the living space through side windows.
On the other hand, almost all the living spaces on sailboats are located partially below the waterline, which limits the light and view.
For most enthusiastic sailors this is not a problem, but for some new ones, it can be quite uncomfortable and can increase the feeling of claustrophobia.
Because of the living space about the water, it can become very hot in the catamaran’s saloon and galley during the hot summer days, this is why almost all catamarans nowadays have air conditioning inside.
Contrary to multihulls, on monohulls, you will have a nice and shady atmosphere in the saloon of a monohull, during hot summer, even without air conditioning.
Modern catamarans and monohulls both offer easy access to the boat from the shore. There are many modern hydraulic or electronic gangways to help you get on board. On top of that most modern monohulls have huge swim platforms for easy access from the sea or the shore.
As already explained at the beginning monohulls are a bit harder to sail since they heel much more than catamarans. When pushed over, they tend to right themselves. This is why sailing on a heeling boat is more challenging.
For all of you, who are inexperienced sailors, it means that when you "get" the wind into your sail, the boat will heel, but the wind will keep you in that position all the time until you change your course or in case the wind changes direction.
Another important advantage of monohulls is that when sailing upwind they don’t slam on the water, on the other way catamarans with a low bridge deck clearance (tunnel under the bridge deck) experience significant slamming on the sea waves.
Catamarans however do not heel as much as monohulls. That is why catamaran boats are also considered “easier” to sail with.
Consequently, the next obvious advantage of catamaran stability is less seasickness for passengers.
Although it is hard to explain how it looks like sailing on both types of boat, if you never sailed before, let's say that monohulls are more stable while sailing, when you have the right wind in your sails and set up your course your boat will go smoothly through the waves.
On the other side, while motoring on the monohull with the wind/waves from the side of the boat, your boat will heel from one to another side. To avoid this heeling it is recommended to set up your course directly into the wind direction.
In comparison to sailing boats, multihulls, due to their two hulls, are more affected by the waves during sailing since the two hulls are not synchronized with incoming waves and it produces the effect of “tilting” and "splashing" of the boat.
We always say that there are no dangerous boats, it can only happen that “the boat gets in dangerous hands”.
The facts are that catamarans are lighter and wider, with short keels and two engines, and you have much more options to avoid possible danger during maneuvers in narrow harbors or in shallow waters.
Also, a hull fracture on a monohull is far more serious and dangerous than on a multihull.
Catamarans don’t have a big heavy keel as a monohull, so even if you have a hole in one of the hulls, the catamaran will float.
Modern charter monohulls have much better “self-righting” capabilities in rough and heavy weather and are almost impossible to capsize, making them extremely safe at sea. This extra stability is provided by the keel and ballast.
You don’t have to be a professional skipper to maneuver a catamaran. Catamaran double engine and lightweight make it very easy to sail.
Catamarans' biggest maneuvering advantages are its two separate engines and two rudders that allow you to maneuver the boat easily. This is especially useful in harbors and bays.
A catamaran sailboat has also a smaller draft and can sail in shallow water and closer to the beach.
On top of that, you can handle the boat even if one of the engines fails.
Catamaran sailing can become dangerous only when not done properly, as with any other type of vessel.
Sailing with a catamaran is not as thrilling as sailing with a sailboat but it results in a more stable experience. It is also easier to operate for everyone that is new to sailing. If you want the thrill of a heeling boat you should probably sail with a monohull (sailing boat).
You can walk safely from the cockpit into the saloon on one level during the sailing.
They are also very stable at a bay and do not tilt while sailing, making it very comfortable to stay, cook, read, sleep, etc
Monohull sailing boat
Monohull sailboats are the most widespread type of boat in the world. A very important characteristic is its stability.
Modern monohull sailboats are equipped with one mast and have two sails:
Front sail called genoa (can be jib as well). When not in use you need to roll it around the forestay using the furling drum.
Rear sail is also the main sail. It can be a conventional sail that is hoisted up the mast and store into the lazy jack or can be a roll mainsail that is rolled into the mast.
When not in the sailing mood, you can drive your sailing boat with a motor. Monohull sailing boats are powered by one diesel engine and have one propeller. Modern sailing monohulls are also equipped with a bow thruster (it can be electric or jet thruster) which helps to move the bow of the boat sideways during maneuvering.
The angle of the wind has a large effect on the speed of boats.
Catamarans are faster than monohulls when the wind is on their side of the boat and when sailing downwind because their hulls are less immersed in water than monohulls.
On the other hand, monohulls can sail faster when close to the wind and in windward situations.
When it comes to docking, it is much easier to dock a catamaran with two engines than a monohull sailing yacht with one engine.
On the other hand, it is much easier to find a place in the harbor for a monohull sailboat because it takes up less space, and is cheaper to dock.
Unfortunately, the unique size of a catamaran with a wide beam doesn’t always fit standard dock places in the marinas. Since the catamaran is stable at anchor it is easier to anchor or moor the boat somewhere and take the dinghy to the shore, weather permits.
While anchoring a catamaran you will have much more options to anchor closer to the shore, but the monohull sailing yacht tends to swing less while at anchor and therefore is easier to anchor.
All monohulls require a keel, a heavy piece that goes deep into the water to help stabilize the boat.
Catamarans do not require it, so we say that they have a “shallower draft". Because of it catamarans are allowed to sail through shallow waters and anchor in shallow bays which a monohull can not even consider.
Staying in a marina or at anchor
Since everything is bigger and greater on a catamaran, a lot of equipment and extra room on board helps you easily stay away from the shore for a longer time. Two engines make your life easier while maneuvering in shallow or narrow bays and harbors but with a larger boat there comes also some cones. The biggest downside of a catamaran is getting a place in a busy harbor at the peak of the season.
With a monohull sailing yacht (even larger one) you will easily find a free place for the night in the harbor, which is a great benefit especially in case of bad weather coming.
Even smaller catamarans have a bigger tender and stronger outboard engine than you can find on a bigger monohull sailing boat, which makes your life easier when you stay in a bay and want to transfer your crew to the shore. This is great only when you are at a safe place in calm weather.
In case of bad weather conditions, you will need to act fast and be the first one in the harbor to get two needed places available for catamarans.
A catamaran due to its smaller drag results in better fuel economy than a monohull.
A monohull sailing yacht is higher than a catamaran and has greater displacement, which makes higher resistance with the water and results in higher fuel consumption.
But when both engines are used on catamarans it comes almost to the same cost.
Some people try to save money on fuel and use only one engine while on a catamaran, which is ok in light winds, but you will need both of them when you have more wind (it will be better to use your sail J ).
With its shape and two hulls, the catamaran is the absolute winner when it comes to load distribution.
Its triangular design also offers more space inside and outside. Passengers have more room to stretch and relax even on the bow.
When it comes to costs, a definite advantage goes to monohull sailing yachts:
But as we have discussed throughout this article, they also offer a lot more for their price.
Catamarans are multi-hulled vessels/yachts, which means they combine two parallel hulls of equal size.
Thanks to their two hulls, they offer a lot of individual living space, which makes the time onboard life very comfortable and relaxing. They are also very stable in a bay. With a little bit of wave action, you can see the masts of the keel sailboats going back and forth.
Multihull boats offer also much higher stability and comfort than a monohull one, because of two-hull design, which also helps in reducing seasickness because there is much less heeling than on a monohull boat.
Catamaran boats also have the best balance of sailing performance and comfort. With its massive space on deck and inside they make everything perfect for bigger groups, families, and individuals.
Large outside cockpit space with a big table is located on the same level as the saloon and kitchen of the boat (in between two hulls), which makes it a large and comfortable living area.
Cabins and toilets are placed inside of two hulls where everybody can have their privacy.
A catamaran has easy access to the sea through the stern, which is excellent in case you want to use water toys or for water sports or any other summer fun activities.
The layout is more or less similar between different brands, the biggest difference is in size of the chosen boat, smaller models like Lagoon 380 (4 cabins + 2 toilets) will give you less space inside or outside of the boat than a bigger Lagoon 450 (4 cabins + 4 toilets).
A monohull sailboat is a sailing boat with only one hull.
The main advantage of a monohull sailing boat is the sailing experience itself and its stability.
The stability is achieved by adding the ballast, the deep keel.
Sailing boats range from smaller ones that are used also for sailing courses, to bigger ones that have two or three cabins like Dufour 335 (2 cabins) or Dufour 382 ( 3 cabins), bigger sailing boats with 4 cabins (and also with 4 toilets) - Dufour 460 GL, and the largest five or six cabins models - Hanse 505, or larger luxury sailboats with 3 or more luxury cabins depending on the customer's wishes like Jeanneau 57 equipped with air conditioning, generator and much more.
Standard sailing boats have a dining area in the saloon which is convertible into the sleeping area. The table can fold away to create a large double bed.
Cabins are located just next to the saloon, separated by doors or a small hallway. Toilets are usually next door to the cabin door entrance.
Modern sailing boats have much larger cockpit space than it used to be on older models.
For comfort in the cockpit, you have to pay attention to boats with two steering wheels, they have much easier access from shore to the cockpit area. The benefit is also if you have a swimming platform on board as well, you can open it while you are staying on anchor and get your cockpit area even larger and more comfortable. An excellent example of a sailing boat like this is Dufour 460 GL with 4 cabins & 4 toilets, 2 steering wheels, a swimming platform & a grill in the cockpit.
The persons who are more interested in adrenaline sailing will have more fun sailing a monohull than a catamaran, especially under full sails.
Experienced sailors will choose a sailing boat with full batten mainsail and large genoa, for example, Grand Soleil 50.
Less experienced sailors prefer sailing boats with roll mainsail for easier handling like Dufour 430 GL.
Whether you decide to sail a monohull or a catamaran, we are sure you will enjoy sailing!
Although we have made an extensive comparison of the boats in this article we must pinpoint that with any type of boat the most important thing is to have a good crew for the occasion that is fun and enjoyable company onboard. In the end, yacht selection depends on personal preferences, priorities, and possibilities.
There are no winners or losers when it comes to the catamaran vs. monohull debate.
Both of them are great “toys” for having a great time sailing in good company, with your family or friends.
Making the final decision which type of boat to choose comes down to a couple of questions:
- How much space do you need onboard?
- What is your budget?
- How big are the other costs, besides charter cost (berth fees, fuel costs...)?
- How experienced is the crew?
- Do you prefer to experience hard/pure sailing or chilling in the cockpit of the boat with a glass of cold drink?
- Where do you want to sail, what will be your sailing route, are you planning to go to the shallow bays?
We hope that with this article we have helped you to clear things up which type of boat suits you better: catamaran multihull or sailing monohull.
If you have any additional questions about catamarans, monohulls, sailing, yacht chartering in general, or about booking your next vacation on the sea, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.