by Gregor Tarjan, Aeroyacht Ltd.
Catamaran Advantages vs. Monohulls: Seasickness Minimized
Catamarans are known to afflict sailors with much less seasickness than monohulls. This is the main reason why rental companies choose catamarans. Seasickness, after the expense of sailing as a sport, is probably the single biggest deterrent, which keeps people on land. This condition is most uncomfortable and often the afflicted crew members utter confused death-wishes to end their agony. Seasickness is caused by a number of factors such as anxiety, fatigue, thirst, hunger and cold, which all add to a sense of disorientation, yet the first and foremost cause of this malady is motion. In foul weather the heeling and yawing environment of a monohull is conducive to a sense of helplessness, where one feels they must hide in the bowels of the boat, surrounded by diesel fumes, and lacking air or a seaview. It is a fact that more people get seasick on monohulls than catamarans. The best remedy for a nauseous crew member is to get him out into the open and keep him busy. Usually driving the boat and looking at a distant object on the horizon will help.
The catamaran provides a gentler motion and in general, a more pleasurable sailing environment. The motion of the boat might be quicker, especially if sailing upwind, but it is usually perceived as more predictable. The high initial stiffness and moment of inertia of a cruising catamaran greatly help the human body to anticipate the next move of the boat. This is in significant contrast to the slower roll behavior of a ballasted monohull where seasickness in muffled cabins down below is more prone to occur.
Locating twin engines separate, and at a distance, from the living accommodations, as is mostly the case on modern catamarans, also keeps the sickening diesel vapors and noise away from the crew. Most monohulls, in comparison, have their engine buried under the cockpit, with only the folding companionway ladder separating the smelly beast from the passengers. Novice sailors will also appreciate the better ventilation a cat can offer. Breathing fresh air and being able to see the horizon from a sheltered saloon greatly reduces the anxiety associated with seasickness.
As we can see, safety has many faces and seasickness is possibly the ugliest of them all. More seamanship errors are committed by fatigued and queasy sailors than healthy ones. Creating a more habitable environment will thus contribute to the safety of crew and ship. A catamaran therefore seems the smarter alternative.