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Old 05-22-2009, 04:15 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2009
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Mono, Cat or Tri, that is the question?

G'day mates, I'm new here so please be gentle with me I'm seeking advice from old sea dogs...and cats who live aboard, on which type vessel they would chose to live aboard and why.

The vessels would be 35 to 45 ft and can be Mono, Cat or Tri sailboat.

I was also thinking on a power cruiser to live aboard but with the cost of fuel ever increasing, I "think" I'll forget about one of those.

The reason I'm asking? I know "nothing" about sailing. I'm a retired seaman (merchant service) and love the sea. So, in about 18 months time I plan on buying a vessel to live aboard. Something around 35 to 45 foot, a neglected vessel would be okay, something that needs TLC that I can work on and do-up myself, so to that end I was thinking of a vessel constructed in fiberglass over ply. What do you think?

Although I know nothing about sailing, for some reason Tri's appeal to me and I went after and missed out on two Tri's, one was a 31' Nicols, the other was a 35 Piver but as I have said, I missed out on both.

On another sailing forum I've been advised by a fellow member to skip Nicols and Piver Tri's:


Keep an eye out for ANY Kantola you might come across. Skip the Pivers, Horstmans, or Nicols - there are specific reasons for those, which I can give another time. Brown Searunners and Norm Cross tris are superior in seaworthiness and design, and will make you much happier as you gain knowledge and experience with an older trimaran. Where possible, choose wood/epoxy in lieu of other materials, because they are more user friendly for modification, repair and maintenance and they don't weigh you down too much. Don't buy anything with two masts or no keel. Multihulls need speed and directional control to perform to capacity. Making too many compromises will only save you money, ensure you go nowhere slowly, and long for that tri that just disappeared over the horizon.

End Quote:

I am a retired marine engineer and in my time I have crossed the worlds oceans a few times but that was in large steel general cargo vessels with large diesel engines. I have no illusions about life at sea, I know just how fast the sea can change from looking like a millpond to something that one must experience to believe, there were times at sea when I found myself wishing I was tucked-up in bed on shore but...I still love the sea.

I plan on living on board the vessel in various areas between the Hawkesbury River, NSW and Cairns, QLD...Wherever the mood takes me at the time, for those that know the East Coast of Australia, that gives me a pretty large area to pick and chose from where I can drop anchor and spend a week or two fishing/exploring/working on the vessel, before becoming restless again. There "may" be times when I want to visit Islands in the South or North Pacific...Tahiti takes my fancy but that would be on the back burner and depend on a "lot of things".

My carpentry skills are not professional grade but I have never had any complaints from people I have built car-ports, pergolas, decks and fences for and...I have never had any of my carpentry jobs, or other jobs, fall down. I have not worked much with fiberglass but I can follow instructions.

Why Tri's? There's just something about them. I like the idea of being able to take a vessel right up to the beach at high tide and walk ashore when the tide goes out. But I would like your views on 35' to 45' monos, Tri's and cats.

I'm by no means a wealthy man and I would be living modestly off my pension and savings.

So there you have it mates, if you were in my position, wanting to get back to sea, which type and model of vessel would you chose and why?

Almost forgot, I would be on my own most of the time but I would still like a shower onboard with the occasional visits of my daughter, granddaughter and her husband at holiday time.

Sorry if this post is long but I do need advice from sailors with experience...Before I start spending money traveling all over to look over vessels, or worse still, buying something that would not be suitable to my needs.

Thanking you in advance for your views. Calm waters to you all.


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Old 05-23-2009, 11:01 PM   #2
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Just my opinion but the differences have more to do with your supply of money and female crewmates. Monohulls are relatively inexpensive compared to catamarans. But mono's are narrow and you end up "living on the tilt" when underway. They are more stable in horrible seas if you have a "green-water" monohull. Catamarans have those wonderful huge "living rooms" and very rarely roll all night in anchorages subject to incoming swells. After you load them down cruising cat's are about as fast as monohulls. Think of cats as the "sports cars" as opposed to monos as the family sedans. And cat's are much more expensive mainly because everybody wants one. Tri's are normally home-made or "one-offs" and are little rockets on the water. But living space is very minimalistic.

Your intended cruising area can greatly influence which of the three you want. People cross ocean in ocean liners down to bathtubs but for minimal experience and skills the monohulls are more forgiving and stable. Cats require more skill and planning while tri's go so fast you've crossed before you figure out what's going on. So any of them can do anything, it is just a case of how your style and desires best match the one you want.

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Old 05-24-2009, 11:11 AM   #3
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Knowing the coast of the coast of Brisbane up to Cairns and the Gulf of Carpenteria to Darwin and having sailed often on a Jim Brown designed Trimaran, a Sea Runner called "Alegra" and on a Norman Cross 50' Tri called "Querida" - and having lived aboard and sailed Catamarans for a long time. Having worked with the WEST system of saturating wood with epoxy to form hulls and parts of boats. Having surveyed a few wooden boats.

Here is my 2 cents :- In your neck of the beach - stick to a catamaran; trimarans as livaboards have less and less followers -- 3 hulls take a lot longer to scrub on the beach, when they are beached, some designs will mean that only 2 hulls are touching the ground. Tris will not hold their value comparably. The Saloon and Cockpit of a catamaran provides far more social room than a trimaran - This factor alone may be the most important if one is living aboard and is coastal meandering - where the boat is stationary some 90% of its life. The Beaches and Tides of Queensland and of the Northern Territory were designed for Catamarans to explore and enjoy.

Not sure how far away a place like Mooloolaba is from where you are ? But, it would be a very good start to visit there to have a look at cats that need a little TLC.

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Old 05-24-2009, 03:53 PM   #4
Join Date: May 2009
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G'day mates,

Thanks for your views, having lived aboard small monos, 25 to 35 footers, MV fishing boats in the UK, Devon, Sailboats in the Med, Greece and the South of France and in Durban, S. Africa, I must admit I enjoyed being rocked to sleep while at anchor

Nor did I mind the "tilting" when underway but...I did not enjoy a meal being dumped in my lap or on the cabin deck from time to time. I must admit, even on larger vessels, 20 + thousand ton, food ended-up on deck...given the right seas. Those large cargo vessels were a great deal more than 20 or 25 foot in the beam, so I believe, given the right conditions at sea, it dosen't matter the beam...or the length of your vessel, there will be times to stick with a bar of chocolate for a meal

I had my first experience with a Tri in Greece, Pasalamini, back in the mid seventies, I and a few mates met the owner/skipper in The Landfall Club, he invited a couple of us back to his vessel, a 45' Aluminium Tri, which he had built himself and had sailed from the States to the Med. She was a beautiful vessel and looked to me to have loads of room onboard. When the owner told me she only drew around 2.5' or 3' of water, I don't recall precisely, I was hooked on Tri's and I have liked them ever since.

On Cats, a bloke I knew in Durban built a 65' fiberglass Cat. I and a lot of other mates turned-up to help him put her safely in the water, once she was safely afloat and tied-up, we went aboard for a beer. That was the biggest Cat I had ever seen! That was back in 1982 so it may well have been the biggest Cat of it's day. It was a beaut, twin engines and that "hotel sized" saloon! But for some reason I still prefered the Aloy American Tri.

I do not know what vessel you have osirissailing but I see Richard has a Cat and has experiences with both Cats and Tri's. He is definitly a Cat man and "perhaps" a little bias towards Cats but that's okay, each to his own and I did ask for advice

As for getting up to up to Moloolaba Richard, if I went up the Newell Hwy, it's the shortest rout, it's about 1,849 km from my home in Geelong to Mooloolaba, anyway, we'll see what I can do. No rush mates, like I have said, I will not be buying anything for some time, 12 months or so.

Hope I get some views from Tri owners and Mono owners as well as Cat owners, surely all yacht owners are not converting to Cats. I hope not

Thanks for your views mates and calm sailing to you all.

Bill AU
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Old 06-06-2009, 12:42 AM   #5
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 143

Just a thought from the other side. We own a monohull and are long-time sailors. But we have recently met a number of folk who own trawlers and travel on them for very little money. Now, I'm not suggesting that I'd go for motor instead of sail unless we could no longer handle our boat, but I was surprised at how little diesel it actually took them to go from port to port.

Just a thought, considering that you're a non-sailor. You might look into the economics of it all. Ask Jeanne. She and her husband Peter sailed a monohull for many years and now have a catamaran power boat. If anyone can give you the economics of the various modes, she can.
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Old 08-30-2009, 06:30 PM   #6
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Hi Bill to start out, I have been sailing for most of my life, I started at 13 years old with my mother, and am now 38 years old. I have lived and sailed aboard a 1979 24ft San juan Sloop for 5 years, and then another 2 1/2 years on a 1966 28ft colombia that I purchased for a dollar in Florida. My friend had a Piver Tri 36ft with an aft cabin, and the boat was sweet. I wouldn't think the boat is to small for 1 person, although I have personally lived on some small boats. That tri was the fastest sailboat I have ever been on in my life, It was a 1969, and looked like it just came off the showroom floor. He had redone everything on her and she was a nice tri. Now that im older, and have cancer I don't want to be messing with sails anymore, I am looking at the 36ft-38ft trawlers, they have better layouts than sailboats and with the 120hp single engine they are good on fuel, they are more like being in a house rather than being in a sailboat. some even have bathtubs on them, you should really check them out. I will be purchasing a trawler very soon, and I was just giving you my thoughts on a boat. trawlers are better I believe.
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Old 09-01-2009, 04:58 PM   #7
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I agree with SeaVenture....

I'm a monohull live-aboard and while I love my sailboat there are definitely days I watch the trawlers rumble by and wish I had gone for an MV instead of a SV, especially since I'm coastal at the moment... When I'm forced to motor on my sailboat, which is all too common at the moment since I'm trying to go south into a prevailing southerly wind, I end up spending I figure about $0.75 US per mile on diesel (that 37hp engine has to really work to slug my 17,000lb boat into a head wind) and then I'm lucky if I'm making 6 odd knots... in other words OUCH!... and don't discount the cost of sails, and rigging maintenance... if your looking into older boats then this is probably something you'll have to pump money into right away... a lot of it probably, your average new genoa for a 35ft sail boat is rounds about $2500US, again OUCH! plus a main, and at least 1 storm sail... it all adds up very quickly...

not trying to talk you out of a sailboat but don't look to them for cost savings... I also recommend looking at the type of sailing you plan on doing. I prefer offshore passage making, so I have a sailboat, if you like coastal hopping and drying up on the beach I would either go for a power boat or cat... also.. if you looking at space as a consideration as has been said a cat has a lot more space... so to my mind if your happy with a 35ft mono then 26ft cat might do it for you, probably about the same interior space. some might say that 26 is too small but I have a friend with one who has sailed with it on the north sea and across biscay with confidence... and its beachable, and quick, and I think they only paid about $10,000US.

Just stuff to take into consideration.
The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going. (Epictetus 55 - 135 AD)

"To see new things, and live day to day, is better than wine or poppy, and fitter for a man." (Theseus)
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Old 06-30-2014, 03:07 PM   #8
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Howdy reader.

I know this thread was started some years ago, but I also know the question of "Mono, Cat, or Tri" comes up with almost every sailor or person thinking of buying a boat. So, I will add my two bits of opinion or experience into the pot.

I like monohulls. I like cats. I would own either. I would sail either (if properly found/rigged) on a long voyage. So, yes, I would buy a cat (or SOME cats) for cruising. Or a monohull.

But, what about a trimaran?

I would buy a trimaran for fun in protected waters. Something like a Corsair F-27 would be fun. But, I would not cruise it (too little headroom for me).

My Anecdote: Once on an overnight offshore race (off the California coast), I admired a big trimaran as it pulled out ahead of us (I was on a 40 foot IOR race boat). The trimaran was BIG (about 50 feet I think) and it was so cool to see it sailing past all the other boats in the race. It moved ahead. I admired it. Of course I had earlier experience on smaller multi-hulls and enjoyed the speed. And of course my crew mates were negative about the Trimaran (as is common with monohull sailors about any multi-hull). I was told the Tri was owned by a very experienced skipper. I thought: "I would like to sail on that some day."

Later that night, with high winds and high seas, we were surfing down the big hissing ocean waves. I was at the helm (white knuckled) of a big squirrelly boat trying to keep us from broaching as we were on a fast run. Racers do push the limits some times. It was night and very windy. Maximum sail up for speed. Like I said, racers do push it. Dark. Then we saw a spot light. It was from a Coast Guard helicopter. It approached and shown the light on us as it flew low overhead, searching. The cockpit crew wondered: "What's up with that helo?"

It was searching for that same Trimaran I had admired earlier. The boat had capsized (turtle) and thrown its crew overboard. Very dangerous conditions. Total loss of boat. I can't recall if the entire crew was recovered. But, in conditions like that and at night, it would be very dangerous to be in the water.

Obviously that made a strong impression on me.

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