The last time I visited the Miami boat show, I heard a prominent sailing magazine editor say that catamarans are only seaworthy if they are more than forty feet in length.  That came as a big surprise to me, because I had already sailed Exit Only half way around the world, and we were only thirty-nine and a half feet long.  According to his gospel, we were circumnavigating the world in a barely seaworthy vessel.

I have more than 33,000 miles of offshore sailing under my belt, and I can unequivocally say that size has little to do with seaworthiness.  A sturdy small yacht that's sailed well is far more seaworthy than a large vessel sailed poorly by an inexperienced crew.

I know of a 32 foot catamaran that rounded Cape Horn, and I met sailors in Thailand who were completing a circumnavigation on a 35 foot catamaran with a crew of three.

So what's the difference between maxi cats and small cats like Exit Only?  It doesn't have much to do with seaworthiness; it's more about speed and the ability to carry weight.  Big cats go faster, sometimes a lot faster, and they can carry more weight.  Fast is good, but usually not that important.  If you're really into speed, you should be flying in a 747, after all, nothing goes to windward like a 747.

High speed is a mixed blessing.  Sailing at fifteen to twenty knots is exciting and may give you the ability to get out of harms way when you're running from a storm.  But the speed that can save you can also be your undoing.  What do I mean by that? 


When I sail Exit Only at six knots, my margin for error is infinitely large, but when I am sailing at twenty knots the margin for error is razor thin.  I once saw our speedometer max out at eighteen knots during an Atlantic storm as we sailed from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, and I was more than a little concerned.  If the autopilot failed or any significant problem happened at that speed, my catamaran could capsize or suffer structural damage.  There was no margin for error, and it was mandatory that I decrease our speed to safe levels.  I trailed two warps behind Exit Only bringing our speed down to four and a half knots, and immediately smiles broke out among the crew.  In spite of the twenty foot seas, Exit Only was sailing at a safe speed with a comfortable motion, and we knew that we would be ok.  We spent the next two days  running off in thirty five to forty knots of wind without a problem.  We were out of the danger zone and into the "No Worries Mate" zone.

No matter what the size of your cat, you can't maintain high speeds for long periods without incurring structural damage.  It's simply a matter of physics.  The hull structure simply can't safely dissipate all the kinetic energy associated with high speeds for an unlimited period of time.  If you push a large high tech cat too fast for too long in large seas, a demolition derby begins.  I've seen fast cats sitting high and dry in boatyards around the world awaiting repairs.  If you want to discover the structural weakness in your cat, just sail it fast in big seas, and it won't be long before you find the weakest link in your speed machine.

Seaworthiness isn't about size; its about seamanship.  You must know the sea, and know your vessel, and sail it in a manner that it makes it possible to survive.

I sail my catamaran at five to six knots around the clock when I am offshore.  I move at those speeds so that my crew is comfortable, and the boat has a reasonable motion.  At six knots my autopilot effortlessly handles the wind and seas, and everyone knows they are safe.  When boat speed goes above ten knots, everyone becomes uneasy, because we are sailing closer to the edge.

Our perfect boat speed is 6.25 knots.  At that speed Exit Only is able to click off one-hundred fifty miles per day and do it in comfort without risk.  Equally important, the autopilot is happy, and a happy autopilot means a happy crew.

When you're sailing fast in big seas, the load on the autopilot increases substantially.  That's not a problem until you strip the gears on the autopilot or burn out its motor.  Then you have a real problem, because suddenly you must hand steer in bad weather, and if you are crossing an ocean, you might be hand steering for several weeks.  When the wind and sea state increase, I sail in damage control mode to protect my autopilot, because I want my autopilot to live long and prosper.

Yacht designers and salesman worship at the altar of speed, while most cruisers worship at the altar of safety and comfort.  If you are a mariner versed in the ways of the sea, you know the truth about seaworthiness.  It's not the size of the vessel that matters; it's how you sail it that really counts.  So don't let anyone tell you that your vessel is unseaworthy because of it's size.  Just look them in the eye, and wave good-bye as you start your voyage around the world.

Although the sea is big, and my ship is small, life is still good.

Log 1 Peter Pan Around the World
Log 2 Weapons of Mackerel Destruction
Log 3 Pirates of the Malacca Straits
Log 4 Kissing Cobras
Log 5 Debriosaurus Rex
Log 6 Go Ahead - Live Your Dreams

Log 7 The Man Who Built His House on a Rock
Log 8 Ambivalent Eagles
Log 9 One-Shovel Full at a Time
Log 10 Hitchhiker's Guide to Planet Earth

Log 11 Keeshond

Log 12 The Red Sea Blues

Log 13 Feel the Freedom

Log 14 The Danger Zone

Log 15 Lucky Man
Log 16 Dream Machines - Land Rover Defenders

Log 17 Trade Wind Dreams
Log 18 Logs With Fins
Log 19 Everywhere, Everything
Log 20 Shark Slayer Is History

Log 21 Viking Funeral - Burial at Sea
Log 22 Improbable and Impossible

Log 23 Keep on Trucking
Log 24 Dream Machines II
Log 25 Bodysurfing Whales
Log 26 Hitting the Wall
Log 27 Surviving the Savage Seas

Log 28 The Next Step
Log 29 Welcome to Barbados
Log 30 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
Log 31 The Man with the Unplan
Log 32 Dali Dolphins
Log 33 Flying Like a Turtle
Log 34 The Foolish Man Built His House on a Pitch Lake
Log 35 Go West Young Man
Log 36 Crossing the Atlantic in a Row Boat
Log 37 The Unsinkable HMS Diamond Rock
Log 38 Catamaran Capsize in 170 mph Winds
Log 39 When Are You Coming Home?

Log 40 Master and Commander of Anegada - Frigate Birds
Log 41 Baths of Virgin Gorda - Batholiths of Central Arabia

Log 42 Free at Last
Log 43 Stalking the Wild Manatee

Log 44 Spreaderman
Log 45 Attack of the Flesh Eating Bees
Log 46 Sharks and Coconuts
Log 47 Stingray Picnic
Log 48 Boo Boo Hill
Log 49 Whale Slayers
Log 50 Noddies (Not Naughty)


Log 51 Exumas Land and Sea Park
Log 52 David and Goliath
Log 53 Turquoise Clouds of Paradise

Log 54 Momma Nightjar
Log 55 Maximillian The Great
Log 56 Chiton Kingdom
Log 57 Flying and Holding On
Log 58 Far Horizons
Log 59 Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend
Log 60 Getting Connected
Log 61 Fear
Log 62 Grand Schemes and Other Important Things
Log 63 If Jellyfish Had a Brain
Log 64 Cousins That Don't Kiss
Log 65 Swimming With Sharks
Log 66 Perfect the Way You Are
Log 67 Space Travelers
Log 68 Aliens
Log 69 Monsters of the Mind
Log 70 My Butterfly Collection
Log 71 Somewhere Other Than Here Societies
Log 72 Five-Hundred Pound Spiders
Log 73 Red Sea Sunsets
Log 74 Gibraltar Sunrise
Log 75 Big Sea - Small Ship
Log 76 Just Cruising
Log 77 Castle Mania
Log 78 You Must Know the Sea
Log 79 Flying Like a Goat
Log 80 The Joy of Photography
Log 81 Universal Camouflage
Log 82 My Rainbow Collection
Log 83 Indian Ocean Reward
Log 84 Fiber W
Log 85 Turkish Reflections
Log 86 Mirrors and Mirages
Log 87 Lycean Tombs Rock
Log 88 Rigging Emergency
Log 89 Pamukkale
Log 90 Volcano Land
Log 91 Sniffing the Air
Log 92 Why I Don't Kite Surf
Log 93 Resurrecting Exit Only in Turkey
Log 94 Greased Pole Competition
Log 95 Tsunami Damage
Log 96 Afraid of Living
Log 97 Living on the Edge
Log 98 Borneo Adventure
Log 99 Uligamu Tree Tender with Full Benefits
Log 100 God's Fireworks Display

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