The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Q&A: Is An Aluminum Catamaran Suitable For The High Latitudes?

Question: I would like to do some cruising in the high latitudes and am in the process of planning a boat to take me there. You and others, like Jimmy Cornell, are very partial to alloy boats and I agree it seems to be the way to go. But I also like catamarans.

I can have a cat made from alloy. What do you think of sailing in the high latitudes in a catamaran? I was thinking at least 50′ long with thin hulls to help her point well. I would like to visit Alaska and Antarctica, among many other places.

Answer: As I answer this, please keep in mind that I have had no multi-hull experience since a summer skippering a 50ft day charter (head boat) catamaran some 30 years ago. Having said that, I see no reason why an aluminum catamaran would not be perfectly practical for the high latitudes; in fact, some real advantages come to mind:

  • Shallow draft enabling the boat to get away from drifting ice.
  • Could be built to easily dry out on the tide.
  • The potential for fast passages, thereby reducing the chance of getting caught out in heavy weather.

I think that the main issues will be making the boat strong enough to withstand the demands of high latitude sailing as well as capable of carrying the necessary equipment (particularly ground tackle) without making the boat too heavy. As I understand it, the key to safety in multi-hulls is keeping them light. I can remember that the charter cat mentioned above used to scare me in a breeze when we had a full load of tourists aboard and, in fact, my predecessor as skipper flipped it in that condition, luckily without loss of life. Of course multi-hull design has come a huge distance since then.

There is even a French yard Yapluka that specializes in aluminum catamarans, albeit large and expensive ones.

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Robert McArthur

As a new member, although an old message, I’ll add that we have bought a secondhand aluminium power cat that we think is perfect for high latitudes (well, and everything, but we’re biased, lol). She was built by ProMeta, the French shipyard specializing in aluminium. She was built in their trademarked StrongAll method, meaning the hulls are 12mm thick plate and there are no/few stringers. Have a look at our not-uptodate blog So there are aluminium cats around that will work…