In many ways Catamaran insurance is just like sailboat insurance. However, multiple hulls tend to add a few wrinkles to the insurance picture. It’s easy to empathize with Catamaran owners who say that two hulls means twice the headache. With a wide beam that restricts their access to certain ports, and twice as much surface area on the waterline, owning a catamaran involves risks that monohull sailors can’t understand. Catamarans do possess the advantages of shallow draught and spacious accommodations, however. It’s easy to see why more and more island hoppers and even long-distance cruisers and racers are choosing catamarans. So how does the insurance stack up?
Just as with monohulls, there is a huge difference between small catamarans and larger ones. What it comes down to principally is: is there anywhere other than a trampoline for people to go? Is there a cabin and can people enter the hulls?
There are a few catamarans that straddle the definition, with a trampoline and basic bunks in the hulls. However, the vast majority are either day sailors (also known as beach cats) or larger catamarans with a cabin and quarters in the hulls where people can go below and sleep.
Owners often forego insurance on smaller catamarans, especially when they store them on a beach. Beach cats (often under the Hobie brand) are quite durable and might only enter the water a few times a season. As a result, people feel no responsibility to insure them. We respectfully disagree with this perspective, as they can actually be quite expensive to replace.
The real reason to insure beach cats is liability when they tip over. Most small boats can be righted fairly easily by competent crew. Catamarans, on the other hand, can often only be righted with the support of a third party. Their wide base, which provides stability on top of the water, make them nearly impossible to right without the assistance of another boat. I know this sounds like a minor inconvenience, and on a busy summer day, it usually is. If you do not have a third party close, though, or if they do not see you go over, it can be quite some time until you are noticed.
Water temperatures can greatly increase the risk associated with a capsize. In northern latitudes throughout the year, and even in southern ones during the wrong season, relatively short stints in the water can lead to loss of coordination and eventually hypothermia. Furthermore, sailors and their guests face the danger of falling on the mast or boom from a significant height in a capsize. We therefore recommend liability insurance at a minimum for smaller vessels.
Large Multihull Insurance
Larger cats require similar levels of insurance to their monohulled cousins. For many years, insurers charged higher premiums for catamarans, largely due to unfamiliarity. Catamarans were considered ‘less safe” than monohulls. As their popularity (and safety record) has grown, catamaran insurance has fallen into line with monohull insurance. Nevertheless, you may still find that you need to jump through a few extra hoops when trying to insure your cat. For starters, insurers are more prone to ask for a survey on catamarans than they are on most monohulls. Insurers have several reasons to take surveys more seriously on cats:
Hull Joints: Every catamaran flexes differently. Some are famously stiff, while others are built to allow a certain (minor) degree of flexion. Excellent, safe catamarans fall into both categories, but it only takes a few mishaps to spook an insurance company. Catamaran surveyors will usually take particular care to inspect the joints between the hulls, and with good reason. Although it is exceedingly rare, some older catamarans have had issues with hulls separating from each other. Few, if any new cats face this problem. In fact, ample evidence suggests that catamarans are as safe and seaworthy as monohulls if not more. Nevertheless, we usually consider a survey a good idea. At the very least it’s worth knowing what level of flexion is normal for your catamaran.
Rigging Loads: When a monohull heels over, wind spills out of the sail, reducing strain on the sails and rigging. Because of their wide base, multihulls heel over significantly less, usually only a few degrees. They tend to accelerate instead, and their rigging thus endures correspondingly more strain than monohulls. As a result, surveyors will pay particular attention to the rigging, and you should too. If you’re buying a used boat, you want that rigging inspected beforehand. If the seller replaced the rigging at any point, make sure they replaced it with gear that is rated for excessive loads.
Width: The beam of a catamaran can work against you with the insurance company. If you don’t own a slip, they may consider you “higher risk”. Their logic works thusly: if a weather event comes in and no nearby marina has space for a Catamaran you may be forced to weather the storm at sea. Insurance companies never like to undertake that risk. Additionally, catamarans are tougher to dock than monohulls. Being both wider and lighter than equivalent length monohulls, wind will push you around more in a marina. You will therefore want sufficient property damage liability to protect you in case you make contact with another boat or the gas dock.
With larger catamarans, there is a huge range of brands but several core ones have been around for years that we wanted to highlight.
A French Performance Cruiser that is high-cost, but exceptional quality.
One of the largest Catamaran Brands in the world. They do not blow customers away with sailing performance or luxury, but they provide excellent value for the price.
Another French Catamaran company (there is a theme here) that was founded in 1976 and has produced both sailing catamarans and powered transport catamarans since 1983 (when it started producing powered transport catamarans). Producing between 150-200 catamarans a year Fountaine Pajot is one of the larger global producers, with a particularly strong reputation in the 30 to 40 foot range. They do produce some larger cats, with one at 80 foot, from time to time, though they appear to be custom projects.
Founded by the founder of the Vendee Globe world race, Privilege began as a project for making sure his family was comfortable and safe when journeying at sea, it quickly became a serious business as the orders quickly flew in. While these boats have varied quite substantially over the years, they have had several particularly notable years where they received boat of the year in the U.S., including 1995 and 1996. Particularly focused on producing larger catamarans, they produce fewer in any given year than some of their competitors (they have likely produced over 3,000 over the years), though they are typically over 15 meters at the smallest.
A prolific South African company with a strong foothold in the US market.
- An Australian outfit that prides itself on safety and comfort. They might not be cheap, but they do deliver.
Discovery PDQ Dolphin Gemini Performance Cruising