The discussion regarding features that are most sought after by people planning on cruising continues ... and it revolves often about one's needs and objectives. This ranges from the single-handed non-stop sailor, to the folk who have no time constraints and who wish to stop, stay and enjoy a leisurely cruise, experiencing all that each stop has to offer.
Some are planning on island hopping, some plan to circumnavigate. Others may do a bit of chartering and yet others will take their young families, who will enjoy a privileged home-schooling and experiential education.
So, what makes a good design and configuration?
Space utilisation and Customisation
Certainly it is always good to have space to accommodate the crew, family or friends, besides being able to carry adequate long- range fuel and water tanks (and it is often good to have independent tanks in each hull to provide safe alternatives, should one tank get contaminated.) It is also good to have the ability to work safely in a dry and safe location on engines, and to have space to store tools, spares and consumables without intruding on the living areas. For some, a study and/or studio area is desirable while others may like a pantry or a workshop. So, while a small cruising catamaran is far more comfortable than a monohull, there are still significant limitations in a smaller cat because one cannot easily add space or volume / carrying capacity.
Volume, Bouyancy and Carrying Capacity
The ability to carry water-makers, generators, refrigeration plus other modern home conveniences is possible if one has the volume, and also if one has the battery storage and solar generating capabilities to allow one to operate the facilities, including air-conditioning, washer/drier and dive compressors.
Power that enables you to cruise internationally
Cruising in different parts of the world also requires that one gives due consideration to various power issues, which extend beyond voltage to frequencies, if one is to avoid problems with sensitive electronics. This also can result in heavier cabling and additional inverter / charger transformer requirements. Many bareboat production charter boats do not provide for most of these considerations.
Waste water considerations
Around the world, marinas and local authorities are now focusing on effluent discharge. Many production boats and smaller cruising catamarans are unable to include adequate tankage to avoid frequent visits to the pump-out facilities, if the owners are to avoid heavy fines for illegally discharging black and grey water.
Sailing performance enhancement
A screecher and bigger mast (unless one wants to cruise the intercoastal waterways) can be accommodated on most cruising catamarans, in order to give one a couple of extra knots in light winds.
Ease of operation
Some folk have questioned their ability to manage a suitable cruising catamaran. Most serious contenders nowadays cater for single-handed sailing with electric winches , windlass and engines located far enough apart in each hull to facilitate manoeuvreabilty. Good visibility from the suitably protected helm (preferably behind a bulkhead, rather than being exposed in a relatively unprotected area) is also recommended and it helps to have line of sight with people and crew members in the galley, cockpit, on the transom and forward on the deck. Docking, as with parallel parking, presents its challenges - and sleep deprivation can result if one is doing a long crossing without crew to share shifts, but those two aspects apply to sailing a 30ft or a 60ft cruising catamaran. As the saying goes "a good big one will beat a good little one" and this will generally apply to your cruising catamaran too.
Effective research and comparisons
These are realities which one needs to be aware of. One needs to be careful too when doing comparisons, because the price often does not include the features that one finds necessary, or the standard price excludes electric winches, toilets etc. There are many items which some production builders do not consider to be part of a sail away, eg launch and sea trials, A-category safety gear and many many other necessities!! Make sure you compare " apples with apples " ! And beware the uninformed opinion.