There are many types, brands, and models of catamarans on the market today, and they have as many differences between them as you would expect from looking at cars. If you are really interested in purchasing a boat or catamaran at some point, then it’s highly recommended that you study, learn, and listen as much as you can to all the manufacturers, cruisers, and people in the know before you actually lay down your money and buy something. Decide what you’re more interested in, a sailboat or a powerboat. Both have pros and cons involved. With a sailboat you can travel farther and lighter, but there is more work involved. With power, there is less to do on deck as far as unfurling sails, but you also may be limited in overall range.
Check out as many boat shows as you can, because that is really the only way to see the differences in the boats and types. Some of the major brands or manufacturers on the market for catamarans are Lagoon, Leopard, and Fountaine Pajot. These may be the big 3 cat makers, especially for the huge charter business. That actually brings up another point, if you really want to see if purchasing a live aboard catamaran is for you, then go ahead and charter one for a week in the Caribbean and practice operating it, working the sails, and give it a good test. Only you will know if you’re going to like it or not, and the captains are usually pretty good about catering to your needs or questions.
Lagoon may very well be the overall leader in sales, and they have been around for a while. It’s a French company and they manufacture their boats in that country, even though they also have a large plant in South Carolina. The most popular charter models range from 38 feet to 42 feet in length, but they also build them up to 67 feet. Lagoon tends to show off at as many boat shows as possible, and I’ve always seen them when I go. One thing about Lagoon is that their hulls tend to be thinner or more condensed, and there is not a lot of elbow room down in the sleeping areas. These boats are more designed for the charter business, where they can fit 4 cabins onboard for 4 couples and make as much rental income as possible. The bunks are not very luxurious compared to some of the South African models I’ve seen, but that may be all you need.
Leopard is actually pretty similar in size and look to Lagoon, but has a size range from 39 feet to 47 feet in length. Leopard is a South African company, and I actually prefer them slightly over Lagoon having seen them side by side, but in reality you have to study them closely to see that much of a difference. Leopard was also designed for the charter market and has a similar layout and living area. The company is an offshoot of Robertson and Caine, and long established catamaran maker in that country.
Fountaine Pajot is a French company that has been building production cruising catamarans since 1983, and has a size range from 36 feet to 65 feet in length. They are also one of the leaders in the industry, and hugely popular in the charter business. Lots of luxury and options available, and many owners are happy and satisfied with their purchase.
I can’t end a discussion of luxury catamaran makers without mentioning South Africa and some of their fine high end products. The charter market is one thing, but for discerning owners more living space and room to move around is always a great asset. One company from South Africa, Royal Cape Catamarans, makes a great cat with huge amounts of space down below without bumping your elbows into things around you. An immaculate master bedroom area with desk and lots of counter space, closets for both hanging and storage, and an optional bathtub in the master head! The hulls are much wider than other catamarans, but it doesn’t effectively reduce the overall speed much either. If you’re looking for more fishing or diving space on the stern, you can opt for an extra 3 feet of activity space that you will be sure to love! All in all, I give Royal Cape Catamarans two thumbs up!
I hope you’ve learned a few things today about the types of catamarans out there and some brands available. You can really only know what it is you’re looking for by actually going to as many boat shows as possible, and the bigger ones are the best. Such as the Miami International Boat Show in Florida. Try to attend, it usually happens in February of each year. Good luck, and have fun!