Different Types of Sailboats

Follow this easy sailing guide to look at the different types of sailboats to help you decide on the best to fit your brand of sailing!

Monohull Sailboats – Pros and Cons

Mono means “one” of something, so in sailing, a monohull means a sailboat that has just one hull. Most sailors on the water sail on boats with a single hull. They are easy to sail, cheaper to purchase, simpler to rig, and take up less room when docking or turning.

Most new sailors learn to sail on small monos called dinghies. Once they learn how to sail aboard a dinghy, sailors might move up to the larger cruising monohulls. These cruising sailboats heel over less than their dinghy cousins, have more room to move around and might have a head (toilet and/or shower), galley (small kitchen), and inboard or outboard engine. Cruising sailboats with single hulls have made successful voyages across every ocean in the world.

Small monohull sailboats like dinghies heel over a lot. If they heel too much, they can flip over. Larger monohulls heel over too, but most of these will not flip over because they carry extra weight in a “keel” below the waterline. The keel helps to counter-balance a lot of the heeling.

In breezy conditions, you will begin to heel a lot and the boat will become more difficult to hold on her sailing course. You will need to reduce sail–called “reefing”–when this happens to keep the boat balanced and easy to steer.

Single-hull sailboats can have limited space for supplies like food, clothing, sailing gear, water, fuel. You will need supplies like this if you go cruising for the weekend or longer. The longer you stay out cruising, the more supplies you need. So, on a monohull sailboat, you need to be careful to be extra careful to load the supplies the correct way so that the boat stays “in trim” (in balance and level).

Multihull Sailboats – Pros and Cons

Multihull boats have more than one hull, attached by cross members. Catamarans have two hulls with a wide flat area or cabin space between. Trimarans have three hulls. Both boats give you a lot more living space for supplies and living aboard.

Boats with multiple hulls tend to heel much less than monohulls because of their wide beam. This gives a much more comfortable ride in most calm to moderate sailing weather. Underway or at anchor, these boats give you more room for sleeping and offer more privacy for friends or guests that come aboard to cruise with you.

Below the water, these boats have less depth–of “draft”. That means you can poke into coves and shallow waterways where deeper draft boats could not go. And that opens up a whole new cruising world for you. Cats and Tris can skim across the blue-green waters in the Bahamas and Caribbean to explore new areas that other boats could not. That’s one reason these boats are so popular for island cruising.

Multihulls cost more than monohulls because you are buying two hulls (or three in the case of a trimaran), instead of one hull. Overall maintenance costs can be higher because you have two hulls to take care of. Marinas may charge more for boats with multiple hulls. They take up more dock space than a single-hulled boat.

Multihulls need more care when sailing. Because they heel less than their monohull cousins, you need to be careful not to carry too much sail. This could cause the boat to become unstable and in extreme conditions, cause the boat to capsize. Reduce sail sooner than you think on windy days to keep the boat balanced and sailing at peak performance.

At anchor, multihulls tend to sway back and forth because most of the boat lies above the surface of the water. Two or three hulls present a lot of surfaces for the wind to blow against. Rig an anchor bridle that looks like a “V” from pontoon to pontoon. Join the anchor line to the apex (point) of the “V”. This will help the multihull behave in a windy anchorage.

Learn to sail with more confidence when you understand the different designs available to sailors. This will help you decide on the best type of sailboat to meet your needs–wherever in the world you choose to go sailing!