We have been looking around for an appropriate boat for some time to become blue nomads. Our requirements are likely very different to others, but are mainly:
- Power catamaran
- ability to go through the canals of France and Europe
- ability to go to different cruising areas, especially Mediterranean, Great Loop (USA), Pacific NW, Asia, Australia-NZ
- power catamaran.
We like the abilities of cat’s, including depth, safety, internal size, separation of living areas, etc. We have also had multihulls before – a Jarcat 5, Jarcat 6, Jarcat 7, and the oh-so-fun Hobie Adventure Island and Hobie Tandem Island.
We have sailed smaller boats for many years on and off, but have never had a larger boat (7m maximum). There are various reasons to go power over sail: the canals and Grand Loop are power-only, most long-distance cruisers spend the majority of their time motoring or motor-sailing, motoring is easier for an older couple than sailing (very few people move from motoring to sailing, whereas many move from sailing to motor cruising), etc. As we said, our decision isn’t for everyone.
- ability to go through the canals of France and Europe.
The Freycinet Standard in France was established in 1879 during the tenure of the French minister of public works Charles de Freycinet, this standardized canal profile assured that boats drawing less than 1.80 meters, shorter than 38.50 meters, and with a width less than 5.05 meters can go most anywhere on the French and Belgium. As of 2001, France had 3,604 miles of Freycinet-gauge waterways.
The key point though is the width and the air height: the maximum height above the waterline which is needed for bridges and tunnels. The width, while 5.05m is the standard, doesn’t allow any room for fenders on the sometimes rough locks. A maximum fixed width of 4.85m seems to be accepted as the usable width.
The air height differs depending upon the actual canals you want to go on. Some canals are 2.4m or less, but the lowest to actually gets from north to south is 3.5m. This is the figure we are working with. Note that this doesn’t cover low levels sometimes in the year and higher levels at other times, merely the average.
So out boat envelope is <38m long, 4.85m wide, 3.5m high, <1.8m deep.
- ability to go to different cruising areas, especially Mediterranean, Great Loop (USA), Pacific NW, Asia, Australia-NZ. This means either the ability to cross oceans on her own hulls, or be taken by yacht transport cheaply, or be demountable into shipping containers.
While we don’t intend to be cruising across oceans every day of the year, we do want to be able to move between the cruising grounds. We have investigated shipping containers as the cheapest transport method, but this would need an entirely newly designed and built boat.
Yacht transport is expensive and does depend on the overall footprint of the boat. Given this wouldn’t change too much between different boats, it’s unlikely the price would change much from “very expensive”.
The most fun would be to go under her own steam between cruising grounds, and works with our notion of being blue nomads. However finding blue-water capable catamarans isn’t necessarily easy.
This all indicates a strong boat, ready for blue water, probably at least 35’/10.5m or even better if 40’/11.5m+.
We don’t like using fossil fuels. And one of the big things we miss of a motor cruiser versus sailor is the quiet. So we would like, at some time, to make the main motors electric. Battery technology is obviously key, and our desire for distance cruising means a fossil fuel motor fits somewhere in the equation (serial hybrid or parallel, or even diesel on one hull and electric on the other).
One outcome of being electrifiable though is the size of the boat: a larger boat can take the weight of batteries and size of a larger solar-assisted array much better than a small boat.
We will be living aboard and cruising once we retire (soon?!), so the boat needs to be large enough to cater for a long-term liveaboard cruising couple, sometimes with guests or additional assistance on longer crossings.
This indicates a boat of at least 35’/10.5m. Preferable is 40’/11.5m+.