Catamarans Offer a Host of Advantages on the Sea

The catamaran has a unique history among seafaring vehicles.

In fact, it was its unique design that made many Western people skeptical of its usefulness and led to it being ignored for over a century and a half by western civilization.

Fortunately, the world caught on and now catamarans are a very popular watercraft that are used for a variety of applications. 

The What, When, Where, and Who of the Catamaran

Catamarans have been in use for centuries. Their unique history may be attributed, in part, to their unique design. They are very distinctive vehicles with a range of uses. Below, we will explore their history and discover why they are such useful, dependable, sea vehicles. 

What

The word catamaran comes from the word kattumaram, which translates to logs tied together. A catamaran as we know it is a watercraft that has multiple hulls (the hull is the watertight body of a boat). The two hulls of a catamaran can be connected by simple netting, or elaborate structures that offer increased cabin or cargo space. The catamaran’s multi-hull design offers a few advantages. These advantages include;

  • Better handling/easier steering
  • Most types of catamarans have more room than single hulled boats
  • Because of their design they are typically faster than other boats in the same class
  • You can beach them

 When

There is evidence that catamarans were built and used by ancient peoples throughout the world, especially in the pacific. Their sturdy design allowed these ancient people to travel great distances. There is no record of their use in Europe until 1662, but they were still not widely used in the west until the late 1800’s. 

Where

The first known catamarans were developed in the Pacific. More specifically, they were used by the Austronesian peoples in the areas including  Madagascar, Polynesia, and Southeast Asia. The English adventurer, William Dampier, encountered these people in the late 1600’s and brought word of the strange vessels back to Europe. 

The technology didn’t catch on in the west until the late 1800’s. Once sailors in Europe and America understood the benefits of the catamaran, they began to use them extensively.

Who

Other than William Dampier and the early Austronesian people, there are many names that helped to spread the word and use of catamarans. 

  • William Petty designed the first, documented, European, double hulled boat, in 1662. 
  • Mayflower F. Crisp built a two hulled merchant ship in the late 1800’s. It was described as “a fast sailing, fine, sea boat”.
  • In 1876 Nathanael Herreshoff registered a U.S patent for his double hulled craft which was named Amaryllis. This boat performed so well that catamarans were banned from regular sailing races for almost 100 years. 
  • In 1936  Eric de Bisschop built a catamaran in Hawaii and sailed it to his home, in France. 

There are many people who have contributed to catamaran technology throughout the centuries. These are just a few that we decided to highlight. 

Catamarans have their roots in antiquity, but the design is so effective that they are still used extensively today. Catamarans offer increased stability, great steering and handling, and the ability to beach them (lay ashore in shallow water). 

The Austronesian people understood how a double hulled craft would offer important advantages when sailing the seas. The technology allowed them to safely reach islands that were very far away, and almost impossible to reach on other types of ships. Though it took centuries for the western world to adopt this clearly advantageous maritime technology, the catamaran eventually became a staple of the sailing world. Today, catamarans come in all shapes, sizes, speeds, and levels of luxury and can be found all over the world.

Set Sail on a Sloop

If you’ve always had a sense of adventure, you may have dreamed of hopping into a sailboat and floating off into the unknown.

Sloops, one of the smallest and most popular types of boats throughout history, are a common form of summer recreation for many people who live near lakes, rivers, and oceans. 

HISTORY OF SLOOPS

Early sloops have been around since at least the early 17th century. However, they did not reach the peak of their popularity until approximately a century ago. Sloops were named after the Dutch term sloep, which means “to glide.” While they are typically used for passengers today, they were once a popular means of transporting goods shorter distances than the routes commonly used by larger cargo ships.   

CHARACTERISTICS OF SLOOPS

Sloops are similar to many other types of small sailboats, but they are set apart from other boats by the distinct setup of their sails. Sloops have only one mast, while larger boats can have several more. This mast holds one mainsail and one headsail for the simplest and most common sloops, though more may be used. Some sloops may also use topsails. 

Many sloops are characterized by their size, and they are often no larger than small yachts. Because they have only one mast and a limited number of sails, most sloops are no larger than 45 feet long in order to keep them from becoming difficult to control. 

SLOOPS AS RIVER TRANSPORTATION

While today’s sloops are mainly used for recreational purposes, often in lakes, they were also instrumental in transporting people and goods along rivers throughout history. Prior to the invention of the steamboat, a type of self-powered boat that does not rely on sails, sloops were one of the most common types of boats used in rivers. Some major rivers, such as the Hudson River and the Mississippi River, were once major travel and trade routes within the country, and sloops and other riverboats played vital roles in expanding the early United States.  

ADVANTAGES OF SAILING SLOOPS OVER OTHER BOATS

Sloops are just one of a variety of possible small sailboats for sailors to choose from. One distinct advantage to sailing sloops is the ease with which they are controlled under ideal sailing conditions, which makes them a fine choice for both experienced and novice sailors. Recreational sailboats are much smaller than other types of ships, such as the massive cargo ships that are used for transporting goods across oceans, which means that they have far fewer crew members to handle them. 

Sailing sloops also offers a distinct economic advantage over larger boats. Using one mast and a smaller number of sails and wires means that it is often cheaper to build and purchase sloops than larger boats. Because many sloops are used for recreational purposes, sailors often prefer to purchase less expensive, smaller sailboats over larger boats with more complex masts and sails. 

SLOOPS IN POP CULTURE

Like many forms of transportation, sloops have their place in pop culture. One of the best-known references to this type of sailboat is The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.” The Beach Boys’ version of the song, which is based on a much older folk song from Nassau, was featured in the movie Forrest Gump, and it is considered to be one of the top 500 songs of all time

Sailors of all ages and levels of experience often choose the sloop over other small boats because it is often considered to be one of the easiest boats to manage. Its popularity over the last century has given it an irreplaceable place in nautical history, pop culture, and the hearts of sailors around the world.