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The Best Catamaran – 5 Awesome Cruising Cats (Plus Pro Tips and Buying Guide)

Best Premium Choice
OUTREMER 45

OUTREMER 45

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Best Budget Choice
MANTA 42
Best Overall Choice
PRIVILEGE 435

PRIVILEGE 435

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 by Updated on October 15, 2020. In Boats

Monohulls are good, but they can’t beat the comfort, speed, and performance of multihulls. So, if you are looking to make the switch from a small boat to a catamaran, you’ve come to the right place.

Many sailors find the construction and design of these vessels very appealing, and that has led to the building of various brands of catamarans to satisfy the needs of different owners. Whether you are searching for a sailing catamaran or a power catamaran, this list will present you with the best catamaran options available to help you decide which is most suitable for you.

So, we invite you to carefully go through this list if you are ready to plunge into the world of catamarans or cats for short.

1. DOLPHIN OCEMA 42

DOLPHIN OCEMA 42

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If you are searching for the best catamaran with a perfect balance between cruising comfort and high performance, look no further than the Dolphin Ocema 42.

Designer Phillipe Pouvreau put in a lot of work to ensure that this boat meets the demand for excellent performance without compromising comfort. For this reason, the Dolphin was designed to have a foam core in a bid to reduce weight throughout the boat. This makes the boat a comfortable cruising platform with a rich history of successful circumnavigations.

This is one of the few catamarans on this list equipped with daggerboards. The feature means that the boat will be able to pull into most anchorages, including shallower ones. It also allows the boat to pull to point higher on the wind and have a reduced surface that is immersed in water.

Check out the current listings for Dolphins here.

Specs

  • LOA: 41 ft 3 in
  • Beam: 23 ft
  • Draft: 3 ft 3 in / 6 ft 6 in
  • Displacement: 24, 255 lb (loaded)

Price Guide: $220,000 – $350,000

Buying/Pro Tips

While the Dolphin can point higher on the wind, the rudders will be left exposed if you lift up her daggerboards. And as with all vessels with daggerboards, the trunk reduces valuable interior space. Also, in the event that grounding occurs, the daggerboards are likely to compromise the hull integrity.

Note that before the global financial crises of 2008, Dolphins were built in Brazil. A few of these boats were built at other yards after the crises. So, before you purchase one, be sure there are no modifications to the structure, addition of transom, or any other deviation from the production boats.

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2. OUTREMER 45

OUTREMER 45

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The Outremer 45 is for those whose pockets run a little bit deeper. This special Gerard Danson design is a classic with a cute interior, well-proportioned bows, and very responsive to the helm.

Careful planning went into the design to make sure that the weight distribution of the vessel is balanced. This ensures smooth sailing and minimizes possible pitching. But that is to be expected of an exclusive multihull model that wasn’t mass-produced. And even though its major parts were built and molded in an infusion process, a semi-production manufacturing mode was employed in building this vessel.

Here’s basically what all these comes down to: the interior structure of the boat is very stiff because the components were directly laminated to the hull.

The Outremer 45 can be purchased in a few different versions. There is an owner’s version, a four-cabin layout version, and a club version that features extra berths in the owner’s hull. This vessel truly deserves to be on any list that features the best catamaran.

See here for Outremer 45 listings.

Specs

  • LOA: 45 ft
  • Beam: 23 ft
  • Draft: 2 ft 7 in / 7 ft 3 in
  • Displacement: 15,400 lb (light ship)

Price Guide: $320,000 – $560,000

Buying/Pro Tips

This vessel is a bit pricey, but that’s not so much of an issue compared to its volume. For its length, the Outremer 45 is perhaps the catamaran with the smallest interior. Be aware also, that the composite panel overhead that comes with some versions tends to become waterlogged, even with brief rainfalls. You might want to change the composite if you ordered one of the versions with that option.

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3. MANTA 42

MANTA 42

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An enormously curved integrated forward crossbeam with trademark high bows; these are the unmistakable features that make the Manta 42 stand out from the crowd and easily recognizable even from a distance. This multihull, designed by the talented Eric Lerouge, is a true America classic.

These boats have an owner’s association and an impressive following; a clear testament to their high quality. The Marina 42 is an excellent cruising catamaran with a great SA/D ratio and plenty of room.

If you want the best catamaran that will allow flexible upgrades to its transoms and aft cockpit, the Marina 42 might be your best bet. A few versions of this boat come with daggerboards, while others have stub keels. Some owners have added massive pushpit contraptions that can accommodate wind vanes, dinghies, solar panels, and even herb gardens!

Most used Manta 42 catamarans have a starting price within the range of $200K. Find more listings here.

Specs

  • LOA: 39 ft 8 in
  • Beam: 21 ft
  • Draft: 3 ft 8 in
  • Displacement: 13,500 lb (light ship)

Price Guide: $200,000 – $320,000

Buying/Pro Tips

Here’s a quick note about the bow area of the Manta. The catamaran has fixed aluminum crossbeams that absorb the massive twisting forces of the bows. In other words, there is only a slight movement allowed. You want to look out for stress cracks in the bows if you are purchasing a used Manta.

4. NAUTITECH 44

NAUTITECH 44

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The Nautitech 44 was a trendsetter back in the day when it launched with its integrated hardtop bimini – the first-ever sub-50 ft cat to do so!

The boat comes in two versions – single-wheel steering and twin wheels. Sailors who want a better view of the sails and experience the sensation of sailing prefer to choose the version with twin wheels farther aft. The saloon door can also be left open during a heavy downpour without water getting into the entrance.

Several layouts are available below the decks. In a nutshell, if you are looking for the best catamaran for a live-aboard couple, the Nautitech 44 is the perfect boat for you.

Check out the current listings for Nautitech 44.

Specs

  • LOA: 44 ft 2 in
  • Beam: 22 ft 4 in
  • Draft: 3 ft 11 in
  • Displacement: 19,780 lb (light ship)

Price Guide: $240,000 – $360,000

Buying/Pro Tips

The hulls in the Nautitech 44 are slimmer than most average hulls, which gives it increased speed. However, there’s a small tradeoff. Faster speed means a little less volume and payload. This might not be the right vessel for you if you intend to bring along heavy gear. Here’s one huge plus for the Nautitech 44 that can set intending owners’ minds at ease. These boats are built with moisture-resistant closed-cell foam.

Best Overall Choice

5. PRIVILEGE 435

PRIVILEGE 435

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The lavish construction and luxurious finish of the Privilege 435 are what stand it out from the rest of the catamarans on this list. These vessels have been around for about three decades, so the yard is not new to the usual highs and lows in the business. They are built as long-distance, heavy-displacement catamarans that tow the traditional French multihulls designs.

Sailors looking to purchase well-constructed catamarans on the high-end range will easily fall in love with this vessel, whether new or used. The Privilege 435 is available in two versions; one as an owner’s version and the other with four cabins and four heads and showers.

These cruiser vessels don’t come cheap. Prices start around $300K for well-maintained used ones. You can check out current listings for Privilege 435 here.

Specs

  • LOA: 43 ft 1 in
  • Beam: 23 ft 2 in
  • Draft: 4 ft 5 in
  • Displacement: 18,300 lb (light ship)

Price Guide: $300,000 – $350,000

Buying/Pro Tips

There are a lot of positives for the Privilege 435, as is reflected in the asking prices. However, it is important to point out that the bridge deck clearance tilts toward the low side, so you might have slight issues with the noise of the waves hitting the bottom of the vessel. The trick would be to keep the boat light for a smoother cruising experience.

The catamaran has a low-slung structure designed for low wind resistance. This might not be a problem for every sailor and is even pleasing to many people. But if you intend to cruise tropical regions, the heat buildup as a result of the sunlight coming in from the windows might pose a challenge. While other cats have overhangs to block out sunlight, the Privilege 435 provides internal window shades only.

How to Choose the Best Catamaran – Buying Guide

Many buyers don’t easily recognize the common pitfalls associated with choosing the right catamaran.  For this reason, we’ve compiled a short guide to help steer you away from those pitfalls and in the right direction.

We invite you to carefully consider the following before taking the plunge.

1. Identify Your Needs

The first thing you need to do when choosing the best catamaran is to decide what you will need the boat for. Are you looking for a vessel to use occasionally on a few weekends? Do you intend to live aboard for a long while? Do you want a boat for coastal cruising? Are you looking to get into some commercial survey?

When you have decided on your needs, it will guide you on the type, size, and style of vessel that will best meet those needs.

2. Decide on Your Budget

A realistic budget will help you choose the best catamaran with the size and style you prefer. But you probably already know that. Keep in mind to also budget for other expenses such as registration, marina fees, maintenance, insurance, and others. If you are purchasing a used boat, you may also need to set aside funds for repairs or upgrades.

3. Decide on a Purchase Timeframe

It may not seem obvious to many buyers but setting a time frame for the purchase process is an important part of choosing the right vessel. When you decide on the best time to buy your dream boat, it will guide where and when to start looking. For example, you will be on the lookout for events such as free multihull open days, upcoming boat shows, and even going to inspect marinas and brokers.

4. Research

It goes without saying that you can’t make an informed decision about the best catamaran without adequate research. Even if you already have a model in mind, take the time to gather all the relevant information you can about the boat before making your final decision. Speak to a broker, and, if possible, don’t just inspect only one boat.

5. Decide on a Keel Type

There are two keel types to choose from: fixed keels and daggerboards with both having their pros and cons.

Most cats come with fixed keels and allow for easy beaching. In some models, the fixed keels are sacrificial, meaning they take the impact and keep the hull from damage. Fixed keels also mean that the vessel has more interior space. However, the drawback is that boats with fixed keels don’t attain enough height when sailing upwind.

Catamarans with daggerboards are excellent for pointing better upwind, so you don’t have to worry about long passages. But they reduce usable interior space.

So, in choosing the best catamaran for your needs, decide which is more important to you. Do you prefer a boat with the ability to point higher upwind while sacrificing a portion of interior space? Or would you want a vessel with the ability to beach your boat easily and give more interior space, while losing some degree of height sailing upwind?

6. Bridge Deck Clearance

If you want a quieter ride on the water, with less noise from the wave slapping the underside of your boat, then you need to consider the space between the hulls from the waterline to the bottom of your boat. This space is known as the bridge deck clearance. The wider the space, the quieter and smoother your cruise will be.

7. Custom Design Vs. Production Cat

Choosing between a custom design and a production catamaran is pretty straightforward. On the one hand, customs designs are built to meet your exact needs. However, the downside of these vessels is that they are difficult to maintain and service since the parts are not readily available, and the construction knowledge might not be common.

On the flip side, a production catamaran is usually from a major brand with many years of experience, reliable construction, proven designs, and solid warranties. This makes it a lot easier to maintain and service them. Plus, they tend to retain their value so that reselling won’t be an issue.

8. Consider the Payload

The payload of a catamaran will determine how much gear you can bring on board. Keep in mind that all cats are weight-sensitive, but some can be less forgiving than others. You will need to choose a vessel that will take all the gear you have in mind without buckling under the weight. Generally, multihulls designed for fast cruising are far less forgiving than their production catamaran counterparts.

9. Physical Inspection

Lastly, you need to physically inspect the vessel by yourself to make sure it is as advertised and meets your needs. Paying for a boat you haven’t sighted is not the best course of action. To be on the safest side, it would be helpful if you hire an expert, such as a marine surveyor, to also inspect and give you a report on the boat’s condition.

The inspection doesn’t just end with seeing the boat. You need to take it for a sea trial to get a first-hand feel of the boat and all its systems, including engines, sails, windlass, and winches.

Bottom Line

Everyone loves the smell of a brand new catamaran and the polished topsides of a new boat. But the fact is that not everyone can cough up the premium required to have such a luxury. But the good thing is that you can find an older boat in great condition and sellers who will part with their boats (reluctantly) at the right price. As long as you are willing to do a few minor repairs and upgrades, all of the boats on this list will give you several years of amazing cruising comfort.

But whether you go for a used boat or pay through the nose to own a brand new boat, you will find a cat that suits every budget. Also, keep in mind that choosing the best catamaran is not just about fanciful equipment and superb layouts. Although those, too, are great, it is in your best interest to pay more attention to the basics, such as solid construction, a good sail plan, and a bridge deck that is properly dimensioned.

If you are buying a used catamaran, it definitely makes sense to focus more on the basics because you will be entrusting your life (and the lives of everyone that will be on board) to a boat that you most likely know next to nothing about its history.

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