9 important points to consider before buying a CAT of your dreams
It might sound obvious to say, but the purchase of a new boat is a particularly important moment in a sailor’s life. And to be certain of making the right choice, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the right questions, to take yourself right back to some of the fundamental reasons why you go sailing in the first place...
The most important question is to ask yourself, with honesty, what are you going to do with your beautiful multihull? With the IC36 and all the independence and self-reliance it offers, the world really is your oyster. You could set off for the other side of the world and discover far-flung, exotic islands. Or you could race every Saturday at your local club with the IC36 RAW, or venture further afield with the IC36 Pacer. Whatever you decide is the primary purpose for your boat, you want to make sure that it has been designed and customised to fit that purpose as closely as possible. Small changes can make a big difference to your enjoyment of life on the water.
A big blue-water cruising boat doesn't like to be highly loaded, a racing boat with numerous control lines for weekend racing with a family crew can be a nightmare, a heavy boat with only the most basic of fittings to race the Fastnet is not a good choice for offshore sailing. There are lots of examples of multihulls which are excellent in their field, but which have caused no end of problems for owners using them for other purposes beyond their original design brief.
So before you choose one of our model or venture elsewhere, ask yourself what your plan for the boat is going to be.
Following on from the boat’s program, the crew that you're likely to sail with is an equally important consideration in the choice of your future boat. A couple with young children will not sail in the same way as would the same couple a few years later with two teenagers who love sailing. On the one hand, a comfortable boat with games to occupy the little ones during passages; on the other, a more sporty boat equipped with a comprehensive sail wardrobe – gennaker, assymetric spinnaker, code 0 – so you can sail fast and arrive first at the anchorage.
In short, the program and the competence and ambitions of your crew will already define the kind of boat that best suits you.
When cruising the oceans, comfort aboard is essential. But how far do you want to go? Being self-sufficient in energy (such as with the IC36 Independence) and water has a financial cost, as well as a technical one, especially in the case of a well-equipped - and dare we suggest, over-equipped - boat. Freezers, as well as autopilots devour the energy you will have to produce. Diesel engines, generators, watermakers and other electrical equipment are all elements which require maintenance and repairs. Oceanvolt electric proplulsion with hydrogenerator are here to help you get back some energy whilst keeping the maintenance bill low. Consider the merits of each item on the boat - for example, a coach roof which adds slightly to windage but which is essential for comfort and safety. Here again, it is a good idea not to be led by market fashion or industry trends, but to think carefully about how YOU like to sail. In the marina, you may feel that you need a lot of comfort elements which - once at sea - are really superfluous and unnecessary.
The legend of the ‘floating caravan’ catamaran, incapable of coping with the open sea or maintaining a respectable average speed, has for a long time now been the uneducated opinion of those who have probably never even experienced the thrill of sailing aboard a modern, lightweight multihull. Look at the evidence of transatlantic rallies of the past decade, for example, and it's undeniable that multihulls frequently outperform the monohulls in the same category.
However, not all multihulls are born equal! There are some catamarans which are faster than others in same range. Never forget that if you want to sail fast, excess weight is the enemy, along with high windage and less sophisticated equipment such as an aluminium, non-rotating mast. If you're truly interested in performance, you will want to inspect the weight specifications scrupulously, and take great care with the selection of the hulls and hardware for your speed machine. A modern wardrobe of latest-generation sails, set on a carbon-fibre rotating mast, is essential for anyone who wants to achieve the highest efficiency from the rig. The lighter weight of a carbon fibre rig keeps fore-and-aft pitching to a minimum, and contributes to lateral stability and a more comfortable ride generally. The right mast, correctly-profiled daggerboards and absence of coach roof will increase your pontential by up to 20%.
A boat’s passive safety is its inherent ability to withstand the worst of the weather conditions that you will encounter. Put simply, a sports cat which has a more tendency to capsize in the slightest gust is not the ideal machine for traversing an ocean. The IC36 models have been designed to be unsinkable and because of their careful weight distribution, have been built to withstand the extreme stresses and strains of being caught in stormy seas.
Depending on your program a boat will be more, or less, suitable. The choice of construction material (more or less easy to repair, more or less impact resistant…) as well as a hull designed for certain sea conditions, all these considerations must direct you in your best choice of boat.
Plenty of people have sailed around the world in crazy boats that were never fit for purpose, and they survived to tell the tale. However, we can’t advise you strongly enough to avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation by following their foolhardy example. If the brain between your ears functions as well as the beating passion of your sailor's heart, you will prepare your boat with the best available safety and survival equipment and enjoy your Atlantic passage sometimes at speeds in excess of 20 knots. There is plenty of choice in the market for boats of all kinds of performance at every price point. Just remember that you can't put a price on safety, it's not something where you want to cut corners. The IC36 has been specified with the equipment that will give you and your family the assurance of safety that you'll want should you ever find yourself caught in a mid-ocean storm.
Are you starting to get a good idea of the model you need? Now you will have to fit it out with the right equipment. In the case of a new boat, you will need to design everything from first principles. There are a few things to keep in mind, the builder's weight specifications, the energy production and your consumption, and of course your budget. Once again, you have to know yourself and your way of sailing, and be honest with yourself. If you aren’t sure what you need, don’t hesitate to seek help from us to equip your boat in the best and most coherent manner for your needs and your level of competence. The quality of life on board, and thus the success of your cruise, often depends on how much attention you give this phase of the process.
A sailing boat is made to sail. For good performance, the boat must be sufficiently well-canvassed. What about the motor? For ocean cruising, a powerful engine is still a nice thing to have. It gives you another answer when you the situation arises, to assist on a passage against difficult seas, or in no wind, or to deliver you to safe shelter in case of problems with the rig. A powerful engine will run slower for a given speed and will not wear out as quickly. But be careful because as ever - when we are talking about boats - everything is a question of balance and compromise. An electric engine is lighter, lower maintanance and is very effective for weight management and hydro-regeneration. An almost zero carbon footprint and state-of-the-art of technology makes electric a very attractive option. A diesel engine and full diesel tanks are heavier, which can unbalance the boat’s trim and consumes more fuel as well as requiring much more maintenance. An outboard engine is a very light and cheap solution, but is not a very elegant solution. It requires more manhandling and is not nearly so effective in a rough sea state. So you need to give careful thought to the engine power you're likely to need. A good test is to cruise solely under engine power into a rough sea, into a strong headwind. That will soon give you a good idea of how much power you need.
It’s often the poor relation when buying a boat, yet … a boat’s deck plan is so, so important. Control lines that are led back to the cockpit, quick and easy reefing, the positioning, power and number of winches and cleats are all important factors for safety as well as enjoyment when under sail. Here again, don't hesitate to ask us for help; we'll explain the pros and cons of different options and how they might help define your needs. You need to have a deck layout that allows you straightforward and simple control of the sail plan, ideally with as much as possible led into the cockpit to make it simple to control the boat and the rig from a safe, well-protected place. For similar reasons, it's important to get the steering position right, especially for long passages.
A typical round the world trip reveals the following - and somewhat surprising - statistic: 80% of the time spent at anchor, and 20% under sail. You will sail a bit more on a three-year circumnavigation (approximately 25% of the time) and a bit less if you take more than 7 years to complete the trip. Whatever your timescale, never forget that - while your beautiful cat must be able to get you to where you want to go in safety - you will spend most of your time at anchor; hence the importance of the living accommodation in your choice of boat. A practical saloon and a well-protected cockpit with coach roof, sugar scoops with more or less easy access for swimming, for example. And maybe you need to think about the ergonomic launching of your dinghy (and hauling it back up again); it doesn't sound that sexy, but perhaps that additional hoisting equipment is a performance trade-off worth making.
We hope these 9 points have been helpful and thought provoking. Know yourself and the wishes of those you'll be sailing with. Be honest, and when you have considered all the factors mentioned above, you'll be in a much better place to make the right decisions for designing the boat of your dreams....