The words “comfortable” and “sailboat” usually don’t linger in the same sentence. Dark, narrow and sometimes “on the ear” (heeled over) under sail, monohull sailboats can put off would-be sailors or their significant others.
However, comfort is where sailing catamarans shine.
Usually, the larger the boat, the more comfort that can be expected. Well-designed deck spaces and interior accommodations make cats of all sizes seem bigger than their single-hulled cousins. Let’s look at a few cats of various lengths that are top choices for luxury-loving sailors.
Small production catamarans aren’t very common, so not too many choices are available until the 40’ mark. That’s what makes the Lagoon 380 so enticing. Currently the smallest—but also the most popular—of the Lagoon catamaran fleet, the 380 was launched in 1999 and well over 500 hulls have been built to date. Although some say that this model has been replaced by the much-updated Lagoon 39, the Lagoon 380 still appears as part of the company's current model lineup. So a new one may be available if you don't want a pre-owned boat.
The owner’s cabin in the starboard hull has a full bath forward, a large queen berth aft, and a desk in between, whereas the charter edition has identical hulls with four cabins and two shared heads amidships. Stowage is excellent, with plenty of hanging lockers and shelf space.
The main saloon has 6’5” headroom (not likely to be found on a monohull of this size) and comfortably seats eight at the round dinette table, with additional stowage under the settees. The galley-up layout keeps the cook in the social hub and the sliding glass window instantly connects the galley with the cockpit—which is so spacious, you’ll forget that you’re on a 38-foot boat altogether.
One additional nod to comfort is the helm, which is elevated on the port side above the cockpit. It keeps the driver connected with the activity in the cockpit, offers decent visibility forward, and can be protected from the elements with canvas so the captain avoids sunburn or a dousing shower.
See Lagoon 38 listings, or visit Lagoon for more information.
Leopard 44 and Bali 4.5
The mid-forties is where builders provide the most choice by specializing the layouts for owner or charter, and there are some wonderful options in this size range. So let’s investigate two boats in this range, the Leopard 44 and the Bali 4.5.
The most notable feature of the Leopard 44 is that it has two cockpits – one aft and one forward with a hardtop overhead and a door that leads directly to it from the saloon. Gino Morrelli, Leopard designer and the naval architect of some famous nautical creations like Playstation, says he came up with the twin cockpit idea while swinging to the hook in the heat of a Caribbean sunset. Instead of cooking while facing West, sailors can now escape to the shade of the forward cockpit. But it’s not just sunset that makes this an ideal place to hang out. It’s also protected from the elements by a Bimini, and it even comes with a canvas splashguard in case of heavy seas or rain.
When open, the forward door creates great ventilation through the interior and all the way back to the aft cockpit. It also provides direct access to the bow of the boat from the interior, so there’s no need to walk around the side decks if you have to drop the anchor in a hurry. Plus, the forward lounge offers a bit of separation from the rest of the activity aboard, so it can be a peaceful getaway when needed.
Another feature is more subtle; small molded-in bumps appear at the edges of certain exterior surfaces like the steps. These function like fiddles for the feet, to give anyone on deck a tactile clue where a surface ends. Unlike the radiused and smooth edges on most cats, these toe-kicks provide a bit of non- skid-covered surface all the way to the edges and that makes moving about safer, especially at night or when the decks are wet.
View some Leopard 44 listings, or visit Leopard for more information. You can also read about the 44's bigger sibling, the Leopard 48: Two Cockpits are Better than One.
The Bali 4.5, called “Open Space” by the builder, leaps out of the pack at a boat show. In breakthrough innovative fashion, designer Olivier Poncin reached beyond tradition and rethought the forward deck space of a catamaran. The new design does away with the forward trampoline, replacing it with what can only be called a patio. Traditionally, cats have kept the forward deck light by incorporating little but bracing beams and netting, but Bali has added solid surfaces covered with cushions.
Two tables and forward-facing seating for eight nestle up against the cabin-top and a nearly full-beam lounge accommodates six sun gods where the netting would normally be. A large vertically-sliding window opens to the interior, allowing air and conversation to flow, and makes it possible for food and drinks to be passed without ever leaving the galley.
Aft, you’ll find a traditional cockpit with a port side dinette that will seat six and a straight lounge to starboard. Stainless-steel dinghy davits deploy down to the waterline so the tender may be attached more easily. Once the dinghy is down, a vertical section of the transom unfolds to extend the cockpit by another two feet, which makes a difference when the whole family is aboard and having fun at anchor.
Wanting to reach new market segments, Catana Catamarans launched this new Bali brand, which offers a lower price point for charter companies as well as for private owners. The focus is on comfort rather than performance so unlike Catanas, there are no daggerboards and carbon is not used in the build. Because this design is so new, the Bali 4.5 will be the choice for sailors looking to buy a new, rather than a pre-owned, vessel.
Head to the Bali website to gather more info.
Fountaine Pajot Saba 50
The new Fountaine Pajot Saba 50 has optimized liveability and comfort for up to 10 overnight occupants—and can carry many more for a daysail, making this the ultimate entertaining platform. Between the dual sunpads on the bow, the large transom seat aft, the cockpit settees and the flybridge lounge, a dozen people can relax in various parts of the boat and never feel crowded. Four separate social interactions can take place aboard without any of them disturbing one another.
Since dining aboard catamarans takes place mostly al fresco in amenable climates, the main dinette is in the aft cockpit with the only a lounging settee inside the saloon. A wide glass door separates the outside from the inside but the two are on the same level, which eases the transition from one space to another.
Inside, the Saba 50 is available with two layouts. The Maestro is the owner version with four cabins and four heads. The master stateroom is in the port hull, with another smaller cabin forward. The Quintet charter version has five staterooms plus a captain’s cabin.
View Fountaine Pajot Saba 50 listings, or visit the Fountaine Pajot website.
Catamarans longer than 60 feet become like small city blocks with plenty of space and comfort options. But design is still important, especially on a powerful platform built to move in harsh environments. For a good example of a larger cat that’s comfy but also capable, look to the three-tiered Lagoon 620.
The real differentiator on this model is the flybridge, which is no compressed upper deck—it's a full bridge with separate crew and guest areas. Visibility from the twin wheels is excellent, and the winches are easily reached by anyone at the helms. Sheet boxes border the wheels to keep the area tidy and free of line clutter. Whether you want to drive, sip a cocktail while seated at the starboard L-shaped settee, or lounge on the midline sunpad, you will not be in anyone else’s way up here.
As expected, the other two levels of this boat are equally impressive. There’s a choice of four to six cabins with ensuite heads and an enormous great-room living area in the combined galley, saloon, and cockpit area. A testament to the comfort and safety of this large vessel is that the last one I visited was being sailed by an extended family on a world circumnavigation—with granny and a toddler in tow. If a boat is comfortable with three generations onboard, it’s comfortable enough for anyone.
You can’t beat a catamaran for pure space. The comfy cats above, however, have made smart use of the twin hull platform. Most of the boats discussed here will provide a good turn of speed, although comfort and performance can often be at odds with one another, especially when sailing to weather. Wider hulls create living volume but don’t cut through chop as well as narrower ones, and it’s hard to get a box-shaped boat to point better than 60 degrees. That said, for anyone looking for easy living, especially on downwind legs, sailing catamarans are just about unbeatable.