Two hulls are better than one, or so it seems at boat shows lately as more multihulls are showcased (and purchased) in the U.S. than ever before. But like most new boats, the beautiful new cats come with a hefty price tag—which makes one ask, what good used sailing cats are available? One example of a pre-owned performance catamaran is the popular Catana 431, a boat that came “all-inclusive” when new.
Ninety percent of Catana owners (or their broker representatives) pick up the boats at the factory in France and cross the Atlantic on their own bottom. It’s important then that the boats are bluewater-ready right out of the box. Just about every piece of safety and cruising equipment is standard on a Catana, and that should help a buyer locate a cruise-ready boat on the secondary market that hasn’t succumbed to potentially sketchy owner DIY projects and additions.
Design, Deck & Rigging
The Catana 431 was the baby of the family, much like the 42 is today. The hulls are asymmetric and canted outwards, and the bows are bulbed and tulip-shaped to increase buoyancy and reduce pitching and the risk of burying a hull. The daggerboards extend down for 7’2” draft and help considerably with windward performance. Downwind, Catana advises them to be raised in heavy seas, allowing the boat to slide along the waves rather than tripping on the underwater appendages.
Catana has built a reputation for using very high quality materials in the production of their offshore boats, putting an emphasis on both the quality of construction and sailing performance. The sandwich construction incorporates Twaron, a fiber that is 10 times more resistant to puncturing than classic fiberglass—at half its density. The weight savings and the stiffness provided in this construction are the basis of Catana’s reputable performance. Added rigidity comes from 21 structural bulkheads reinforced with carbon fiber and molded into one piece. The reinforced hull bottoms even let them be beached. The builder claims that the nine waterproof bulkheads create crash zones, making the boat unsinkable.
Catana continues its weight-saving measures by providing a carbon fiber mast (standard) and using all foam cored furniture, balsa cored soles, and a light mahogany veneer (rather than solid wood) in the interior. Weight considerations are extremely important on a catamaran so that you don’t “make a dog out of a cat” in terms of performance and safety.
The fully-battened main (standard) drops into a zippered bag integrated into the boom (standard), the genoa is on a Profurl roller furler and the chute is an asymmetrical in a sock (standard) that two people can manage with ease. With the exception of the chute, there is no real need to ever go to the foot of the mast to handle the sails in any kind of weather.
All lines are led aft, mostly below the deck so as to not create a tripping hazard, and you can raise, lower and reef the main standing by the electric winch in the center of the cockpit. There’s even a box built into the aft beam bulkhead to stow all the lines out of sight and out of the way.
Both steering stations are located at the aft end of the hulls. This is a notorious Catana tripping point for some. Not only is visibility to the opposite forward corner drastically impaired, but also, you’ll hope for a working autopilot because there is no good way to shelter the helms in case you have to hand-steer for hours or days at a time.
Layout & Accommodations
The layout is very open between the cockpit and saloon and the interior is light and airy due to the large windows. The fold-out galley table seats eight comfortably and the nav station is forward facing, taking advantage of the excellent visibility provided by the ample windows. If I have any complaints in the saloon, it would be the nav station seat where my feet dangled just above the sole but I had no back support to gain any leverage and steady myself in rough seas.
The owner’s hull is to starboard with a large head and a separate shower forward, a desk amidships, and a large, comfortable queen aft with good clothing and book stowage. The port hull has two cabins and a shared head amidships. The bunk in the aft cabin can be separated into two singles.
Some people don’t like the herky-jerky movement of catamarans but I think it takes little time to get used to it and you do not have to compensate for the boat’s heeling angle. It’s nice that in this world of high-end luxury cat cruising, the fatigue factor is low, leaving you to use your stomach muscles for laughing rather than staying upright.
Catana’s are known as performance boats – built for serious sailing rather than light charter use—and they can move in big or small wind. In fact, with seven knots of wind, we managed to sail five knots at 45 degrees apparent. Downwind, Catanas have been known to cruise at 15 knots or more. When the wind shuts down completely, turn on the twin 40 hp Volvo diesels with Saildrives and skim along at 9.5 knots. In the monohull world, we just don’t motor at that speed in a 40-foot boat.
Catana’s motto is that an owner’s dream and Catana’s ambition is to have the perfect balance of safety, performance and comfort in a design that can take care of you as much as you care for it. Now that cats are beginning to roar on this side of the Atlantic, it might be time to check out this pre-owned kitty and join the twin-hulled world that everyone is raving about.
View Catana 431 listings.
* LOA: 43’ 2” * Beam: 24’ 5” * Draft: Boards Up 3’ 6”/Boards Down 7’2” * Displacement: 19,000 lbs. * Sail Area: 1272 sq. feet * Fuel Capacity: 100 gallons * Water Capacity: 114 gallons