Saturday, April 25, 2009

Questions from the Class - Catitude

One of my lady posse who lives on a beautiful monohull down here on the Mexican coastline with us, recently pushed me on an opinion I had casually tossed out: I'd written, “There is amongst even the older cruisers on cats a slightly different approach to cruising.” She replied, “I'm curious. How would you characterize this?”

Favorite People - Jimmy
Favorite People - Jimmy
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
The difference is subtle, unmistakable, and probably a temporary demographic oddity or maybe just a Winter 2008-2009 coincidence. However, there is something distinctive about this year's cruising class differentiating the multihull and monohull owners. I wrote on the subject long ago when I was naïve, and my skin was still had the pale healthy pallor of a Pacific Northwesterner. Living amongst a lot of monohull and multihull enthusiasts, it surprises me how much about that series still rings true.

Primarily for comedic effect, I characterized Catamaran guy as wearing Bermuda shorts, sun glasses, and a deep tan... the quintessential surfer dude. Weirdly, all the dedicated surfer-cruisers we have met thus far are on multihulls. That can't be right. There must be monohull surfers. But we haven't seen them yet. And all the surfing catamaran and trimaran owners dress like surfer dudes, sound like surfer dudes, look like surfer dudes complete with Polynesian beach wear, expensive sun glasses, and long bleach blonde locks. Except for Jimmie on Sea Level who looks precisely like Jean Luc Picard – in beach gear. Now all cruisers more or less look like beach bums down here. However, cruisers who surf look just a wee bit more so.

Catamarans and trimarans also show up in the anchorage with kayaks, boogie boards, dogs, cats, children, slides, floating islands, and surf boards. They look like mobile party platforms, and their crews take this responsibility very seriously.

"More room for toys makes us more like kids."
-- Steve, Endless Summer

Multihull owners look at the coastline differently for a very practical reason; During the mild winters of the Mexican Riviera, a cat or tri can comfortably stop for the night just about anywhere from Punta Ipala to Acapulco. Now, any boat can stop just about anywhere along the coastline, but in most areas the swell will roll in all night long. If you're tucked in to the beach closely enough, you'll even experience rebound waves off the shore. This means the roadstead anchorages are rolly as all hell. Only the multihulls seem to be able to comfortably skip the microdot breakwaters and just drop a hook anywhere. This totally changes their planning horizon.

"Well, sure the anchorage was a bit bumpy ... but not for ... you know... us."
-- Sue, Sun Baby

DrC's theory is that it's a minority group. Any time you are in a minority group -- for whatever reason -- there is a tendency to collect and bond over shared experience. Many in the multihull minority are also a bit defensive, since we prepped our boats in a culture of monohull dominance... negative monohull dominance. One evening in Barra lagoon, for example, we heard a captain bemoan on the net, "Well well, seven catamarans and a hippie tri. Time to party."

"There is still a multihull stigma. Since the 60's, they were homemade and not of good quality. It's going to take a long time for that image to go away." -- DrC

Another by product of being a minority is that multihull owners hang out with other multihull owners. So of course they tend to do the same things, visit the same places, enjoy the same restaurants and palapas.

"It's a choice to do something different. Seeing and hanging around with other multihulls validates that choice." -- DrC

"If you want to talk boat design, equipment and storm tactics, it's better to drink with someone whose boat has the same issues." -- Jim, Sea Level

Our Favorite Position
Our Favorite Position
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Anecdotally, the average age of multihull owners and their crews is less than that of the monohull cruisers. I believe this is a demographic and economic shift rather than self-selection or any meaningful distinction. Multihulls are just starting to popularize outside of the Med and Caribbean. As new owners come into the cruising community, a higher percentage than in the past are multihulls. As time progresses, this demographic will distribute more evenly throughout the age range present out here. But for awhile, at least, the average age is lower.

“I'll admit it. We're an oddity out here. Even more than you are.” – Toby (24), captain of Triumph

Whatever the reasons, this year sees an unusually high number of catamaran and trimarans plying the coastline. Long time cruisers here regularly comment on the influx. Those familiar with cruising the Caribbean talk about how it looks like Pacific Mexico is starting to see the same transition to catamarans as happened long since in those cruising grounds. Tonight in Tenacatita, there were 27 boats, 13 of which were multihulls.

Look, it's easy to make too much of this. The hull preference distinction is no more or less significant than “hookers and dockers”, “retirees and sabbatical cruisers”, or “old couples and the rest of us.” Basically, it's human nature to play with these differences to create shifting social groups, not to mention it makes for entertaining shop talk during sun downers.

However, don't be surprised or alarmed if an anchorage near you suddenly fills up with a flotilla of masted tennis courts, blasting music and calling friendly insults and invitations to one another as they spread into the shallow and rolly spots near the beach.

Particularly if the surf is up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long time reader delurking to say hi and ask you if you are worried at all about the swine flu? Has the decision that the US made to advise people against travel to Mexico affected your plans any? Thank you so much for your blog. I have very much enjoyed reading it and you have been a real inspiration to our family to get moving off our butts and make our dreams of cruising a reality. I look forward to reading more about your adventures and maybe one day our boats will cross paths. Thanks again!