The first time you step aboard to take command of your average bareboat catamaran can be unsettling if you haven't done it before, because the vessel seems as wide as it is long. I remember surveying a 46-footer I was about to take my friends out on, under the Sunsail Yacht Charters flag, looking nervously at the right-hand turn we would have to take as we exited the docks, and how cluttered the anchorage beyond looked. Much to my surprise, as we cast off and I engaged the two engines, widely separated in the twin hulls, I discovered I could easily steer with more or less throttle from either engine. Soon we were underway on what would be an unforgettable cruise in St. Lucia and Martinique, in the Caribbean.

The new Sunsail 384 offers entry-level ease of handling and berths to sleep four couples.

The new Sunsail 384 offers entry-level ease of handling and berths to sleep four couples.

I've been sold on the virtues of chartering catamarans ever since. The other day, I was encouraged to hear that Sunsail, one of the largest bareboat yacht charter companies in the world, has just commissioned a new cat that looks to me as if it would be an outstanding first choice for the sailor who is new to catamarans. At 38 feet in length, the new Sunsail 384 promises to be even easier to handle, and it can accommodate two couples in each hull. Like all cruising cats, it's a very stable platform for a vacation, yet unlike some others, Sunsail's cruising abilities won't slow it down significantly. The team of Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin comprise one of the top performance multihull design outfits in the business. Now that I think about it, a more experienced charterer who doesn't need the extra space would really enjoy this boat, too!

The interior is roomy, offers great views, and features 6-foot 5-inch headroom. On deck, sail controls are grouped near the helm station, a bimini hardtop provides sun protection, and a stepped transom should ease boarding from a dock or dinghy. The solar panels (shown on the back of the hardtop in the photo) are estimated to save charterers 20 percent on their engine hours.

The cats are built by one of the three largest cruising-cat builders in the world, Robertson and Caine, in Cape Town, South Africa. They will be joining Sunsail fleets in  Asia and the Caribbean this fall, the Mediterranean next spring.

—John Burnham