Catamaran Charter – How To Guide

A catamaran charter, for many people, will be their first experience on a catamaran.
It gives you the first hand experience of the joys of sailing and cruising on
a catamaran. In the past 10 years there has been rapid growth in the availability
of catamarans in the all the charter fleets at the key charter locations. Whether
bareboat or crewed their are many options available to you.

If you are thinking of buying or building a catamaran, doing a catamaran charter
is a really great way to start the process. In our case, which is an exception
to the rule, we decided to build a catamaran and our only experience was sailing on
a small 12-foot low performance beach catamaran called an “Aqua Cat”
which is a very plain beach cat in no way like a hobie cat. It worked out for
us in terms of the design we picked to build but I think we were very fortunate.

Though chartering will give you some valuable experience on what a cat can
do, the only drawback is that many of the catamarans that make good cruising
cats and are readily available in the used market are not usually part of the
catamaran charter fleets which tend to be boats under 5 years old. Also the
charter fleets tend to go with the "condo cats" meaning they have
lost of berths and with below average sailing performance because of the wide
hulls and heavy weight. All that being said you can still get a real good feel
of what it is like on a cat.

If you are planning on building a catamaran, you will get some idea of the
features and sailing characteristics you want.

The major charter fleets are located in:

  • Florida
  • Bahamas
  • Caribbean
  • Mexico Sea of Cortez
  • Desolation Sound – BC, Canada
  • Greece
  • Tahiti
  • Australia
  • Mediterranean

The production cats that make up 95% of the fleets are:

  • Fontaine Pajot
  • Privilege
  • Prout
  • Lagoon
  • Gemini
  • Seawind
  • Maine Cats

There are very few home built catamarans that are in any of the bareboat charter
fleets. Some larger custom built catamarans are available in a crewed charter
by the owner/operators

The two cruising locations which we have done most of are cruising are: Desolation
Sound and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. We consider these two spot to be two
of the best: many protected and isolated anchorages, and fantastic scenery.
We have also met many people who have chartered all over the world and they
consider those two areas as their favorites for the same reason. Their only
drawback is that at certain times of the year they don’t have a lot of wind.

Another problem with chartering, in terms of evaluating a boat that you may
want to buy especially if you are going to do ocean passages, is "What
is it like in big ocean weather?" as many of the prime charter areas are
relatively chartered. Each area has there windier seasons and you should take
this account when chartering.

If you are looking at buying a catamaran for long term cruising which is typically
done by the cruising couple you will be looking at a boat under 40 feet. You
will see that these are **big** boats. As you sail them try to pick the smallest
crew member handling the boat alone on a night watch.

Hawaii Day Charter on a Catamaran

When we were in Hawaii in May 2008 on our cruise we had a chance to review
the day charter operation of Don Germain. Here is the review as it appeared
in our May 2008 Adventure Log.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 Garett:
Before setting out on our walk on the beach I had met Don Germain the owner
of North Shore Catamaran
in the morning and we talked about catamarans and stuff. He invited
us to join him and some of his paying guests for a sunset sail on his catamaran,
Ho’o Nanea, for some star watching and maybe even to see some sharks. Carllie
wanted to work on her latest article and so I joined Don, his first mate Jonathan,
Don’s 11-year old daughter, Paulina, and six guests. Don has a really first
class operation and his infectious enthusiasm makes for a really fun, exciting

Enthusiastic Don Germaine on his charter
catamaran Ho’o Nanea.

Paulina is equally enthusiastic, and later when
they stopped by to see Carllie she told us how she had jumped into the water
to swim with the spinner dolphins and saw a baby dolphin about a foot long swimming
alongside his mama. She also swam with the Galapagos sharks off her Dad’s boat,
and when he asked her if she had lost anything, she said, "Just my fear!"
In winter time most of Don’s cruises are for whale watching and in summer when
the north swells abate he takes groups out to the prime snorkel spots. He provided
snacks of popcorn shrimp, hot wings, and fruit to keep us well nourished.

Don’s 40 foot level sailing catamaran,
Ho’o Nanaea.

As we motored out as the sun set it looked promising for a
possible sighting of the green flash that occurs in certain conditions just
as the the last tip of the sun goes below the horizon when on the ocean. Don
had seen it many times as he has been sailing these tropical waters for 30 years,
but I had never seen it. We were all watching as the sun went down with Don
saying, "There goes the sun, watch, watch!" and sure enough just as
the sun goes down the tip of the sun flashes to bright emerald green. Wow! My
first green flash. You need a really clear sky to see it though, and unfortunately
since then there have always been a few clouds on the horizon just at sunset,
so Carllie hasn’t been able to see the green flash yet.

Here are the details in case you
want to book a cruise on Ho’o Nanea.

Sailing off for a sunset cruise on Ho’o Nanaea.

All of us waiting for the green flash.

We motored through the evening waves out to a spot about 2
miles from the breakwater where over the years a group of Galapagos sharks have
become accustomed to the fisherman pulling up their crab traps and feasting
on bait that falls out of the traps. Now, as soon as the sharks hear a boat
motor they come up to the surface from 200 feet down. One company runs shark
encounter tours where they put guests in a steel cage and lower them in the
water for an up-close-and personal encounter with these relatively tame sharks.
Don knows where the spot is and takes his guests out there to see the sharks
as they swim around his catamaran. He has actually gotten in the water with
them, as has his daughter Paulina. These Galapagos sharks are known as "bumpers"
instead of "biters" which means that they bump the seal, fish, or
person to see what it is. They eat diseased fish and sea mammals, so their role
in the ecological balance of the sea is important. They have bumped Don, and
that is all they do.

We got to the right spot with only a bit of light left and
sure enough one shark came by and Jonathan fed him some small tunas we got from
a local fisherman. It was quite something to see them take the fish almost out
of his hand.

A Galapagos shark comes up from 200 feet
deep to dine on some tuna.

We then sailed for an hour back in forth in the bay under the
stars. It was grand evening with some very nice people and now good friends.
I would highly recommend Don’s North
Shore Catamaran Charters
if you want to do something very special on the
North Shore of Oahu or better still to get away from the hustle and bustle of
Waikiki. See his web site at
or call him at 808-351-9371or email him at:

Don at the helm.

Paulina at the bow.

Don and his daughter Paulina,
whose enthusiasm and naturalness
was delightful

So good luck with your catamaran charter. You may even find that chartering
in different locations around the world is the best for you.

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