Aristocat 1973 30ft British built cruising catamaran

by PBird
(Suffolk, England)

I prefer sailing upright. To me it's less twist on ankles and other limbs and much less likely to slip over or be thrown sideways. I was also limited by budget. My old style 30 catamaran is a big boat inside with standing headroom along both hulls, a generous saloon, and an even more generous cockpit. But with a 14ft beam and 34" draft I can go through the French Canals, or gunk hole (dry out on the level) in many a river or estuary. Because the boat is relatively low displacement (no heavyweight lump of metal to drag around the world) then the sail plan is easy to handle, even single handed.

The motor is an 4-stroke outboard made by Yamaha which if needed I can take off and take ashore for repair. The exhaust and drive shaft are integral so there are less systems to maintain on the boat. It's electrics & fuel are very simple plug connections. The fuel tank is polyprop and I can wheel this to the local garage for filling up. The outboard steers with the rudder (or can be set straight ahead) and so close quarter maneuvering is excellent even at almost zero knots.

The boat was built as a weekend cruiser with 5 fixed berths + 2 saloon settees. I'm converting it to have a king size centreline berth on the bridge-deck forward of the mast, and to have a 4ft aft-quarter berth. One of the saloon settees will retain its lee cloths for when I sail single handed.

I'm 6'5" tall and I can stand upright to pee in the other after quarter heads, and for the full length of the almost 10ft galley. Opposite hull is as big and now used as the ships workshop and stores. A nice feature is when sailing with family or friends is that the saloon is on the same level as the cockpit sole, so the on-watch crew are still part of the in-house activities. This model of catamaran has an exceptionally wide companionway hatch, which I've now made to tilt open (across it front edge) so the saloon is still sheltered but wonderfully open to the cockpit, night sky and ventilation.

But.. I recognize that my cruising will be mainly inshore and a lifestyle of living on the boat, rather than constantly being on the move across expanses of open seas. I'm working towards using the boat as a self-sufficient traveling home and workshop so that I might serve communities in the 3rd world.

Accordingly space, stability and also not so glamorous looks are important in the vessel of my choice. Having said that I like sailing and the performance of the Catamaran is really very good.. comparable to a monohull half as long again. Because the boat sails well even to wind the apparent wind increases and so one has to flatten the sails so much that you bare-away to restore their shape. VMG overall though wins through.

The underside of the bridge-deck on the old boats is a little low for short seas, so keep the vessel's weight down and sail diagonally across the waves. Keeping the weight down for long duration travels is not so easy. It necessitates a change of mindset/lifestyle to a much simpler way - which takes some getting used to - but in the long run means less maintenance and a more leisure...

BTW the Aristocat is the predecessor of the Gemini Catamaran. Moulds were bought & shipped to the US, then re-badged as the (old model) Gemini. The boat sails well on all points of sail and was strongly built with good quality materials (but watch out for water ingress into the bridgedeck's and deck's balsa core).

Aristocats (designed in the late 1960's) are still good boats, and I'm pleased to have bought a catamaran to convert to a liveaboard.

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