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Cat vs. Mono: The Family Factor Page 2

Selecting a boat to cruise on inevitably involves compromises, but this is especially true when searching for a good family cruiser. Families often make ideal cruising crews in that they already know each other well, but they do have particular requirements as to living space and sailing performance that differ from those of all-adult crews. Some of these are perfectly fulfilled by modern

Eating & entertaining

When feeding children on boats, supply lines between galley and table should be kept as short as possible. Euro-style midship galleys on monohulls work well for in-saloon feedings, but from the more traditional aft location by the companionway you can instantly deliver food in two directions, both out to the cockpit and forward to a saloon table. Catamarans again offer an optimal solution. Those aft-bulkhead bridgedeck-saloon galleys (seen on many production cats) that open out directly into the cockpit from behind sliding doors or panels really cannot be improved upon.

Family cockpit feeding is strongly preferred in any palatable weather, and a fixed cockpit table is extremely useful. On monohulls this will be a centerline table with folding leaves. Saloon tables should also be fixed, both because kids always need a flat surface on which to play or spread out projects, and because fixed furniture—in the cockpit and below—creates more strong brace points and shortens up falling distances when a monohull is heeled.

Junior appetites are much sharper on boats, and the galley will always be busy. There should be at least one dedicated counter area whose use does not block access to important stowage areas. It is best if this area is adjacent to the stove.

Advantage: Catamaran

On deck

The skipper will be more relaxed and everyone will be more secure if he or she can sail the boat unassisted by crew when necessary. Balanced against this imperative is a strong juvenile need for outdoor social and resting space, both at anchor and while under way. It is also very useful if cockpit seats are long enough to sleep and spend the night on.

Given these contradictory directives, the best location for the main traveler is either behind the cockpit, as seen on many cats and on most center-cockpit monohulls, or over it on an arch or rooftop, as seen on very few monohulls and more often on cats. Here they are both clear of children loitering in the cockpit and can also be made accessible to the helm. Travelers positioned within the cockpit—either on a bridgedeck or on a rail directly in front of the helm—are strongly discouraged, as any temporary loss of control (a common enough phenomenon when working a boat in the presence of children) might lead to the mainsheet abruptly falling to leeward and crushing and/or trapping both smaller and larger crew.

The deck itself should have lots of flat surfaces, lots of antiskid, and lots of useful handholds. A flush deck with raised features like granny bars around the mast and tall, strong Dorade vents is great. A deck with a house raised enough that the house itself is a decent brace point for people under 4 feet tall is also very good. Very-low-profile rounded houses with grabrails at ankle height are not so good. Strong stanchions and lifelines should be mandatory.

Catamarans, once again, are optimal in that tramps between hulls make great resting and play areas, are reasonably secure while under way in moderate conditions, and are also usually clear of working lines and gear. On some cats, however, the route to the tramp is over curved cabin faces with poor handholds, which is less than optimal. In catamaran cockpits it often isn’t possible for the skipper to lay hands on all controls from the helm, so routes from the helm to outboard controls should be direct and not obstructed by cockpit seating or tables.

Advantage: Catamaran

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