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I’ll admit it: I was a catamaran newbie until last week when my wife, my family, and I chartered a Leopard 4300 from The Mooring’s base in beautiful Saint Lucia. Coming from a racing background spent on high-performance monohulls, I was a bit intimidated, especially when it came to maneuvering the boat in tight quarters. Luckily, this part proved to be the easy bit: It was sailing Steppin Up through the turbulent waters around Martinique’s Cape Solomon where things got spicy.

A massive high-pressure system off the coast of Florida cast strong winds (25 – 30 knots) out of the east-northeast, as well as big seas (7 – 10 feet) in the Saint Lucia Channel. Up by Cape Solomon, a place where the wind funnels and the ocean’s floor rises from the murky depths to far less water (charts depict wave warnings), we found ourselves motor-sailing Steppin Up straight into the wind, bashing through big square waves en route to the lovely port of Saint Anne. As we moved from the protected waters of Fort de France to the open expanses, and then through the rough waters of Cape Solomon, Steppin Up’s bow started rising and crashing hard before a curious thing (for a monohull sailor) started happening: We were slamming into the waves so hard and so violently that the water coming up to meet the bow nets got pressurized and blasted up vertically in salty columns, all generated by the water meeting the net. Talk about a party trick!

Goes to show that while you can’t teach an old dog a new trick, you can teach a monohull sailor a thing or two about cats.

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Posted: April 8, 2008

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