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Why are multihulls more expensive to maintain?


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During my personal monohull-to-multihull conversion journey, I was asking about the usual pros, cons and misconceptions regarding safety, performance etc. and my good friend Airwick told me "The only disadvantage to multihulls is price". 

I get why multihulls are more expensive to build and buy versus a monohull of the same length:

  • More complex composite work, materials and shapes
  • Greater emphasis on weight savings
  • Higher loads require more expensive rigging and hardware
  • Multiple engines (sometimes)
  • Nets

But once it's built and bought, assuming similar sail plans and usage patterns, are there other reasons why multihulls are said to be more expensive to maintain?

Is it the higher loads and fatigue cycles that estarzinger referred to in the bluewater multihulls thread? Or is there something else?

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I suspect that hard core racing monohull'ers will spend a similar amount to most multihullers-performance is important to them too.  But a faster boat means bigger breeze going over the sailplan which means they'll wear out a little quicker (flag in calm air versus one flogging in 30 kt breeze).  nets are obviously not something that is on a monohull-and they need replacement occasionally.  More surface area to maintain.  AND, "they" see you coming with your fancy boat and charge a fancy price figuring you will pay it since you have enough money for the fancy toy.

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I don't know, my rotating mast and associated assembly is as simple or simpler than any fixed mast I've had.  My trimaran has about 2.5 times the waterline as an equivalent length monohull, and that is where most of the fouling and maintenance for bottom paint is located.

 

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1 hour ago, gspot said:

During my personal monohull-to-multihull conversion journey, I was asking about the usual pros, cons and misconceptions regarding safety, performance etc. and my good friend Airwick told me "The only disadvantage to multihulls is price". 

I get why multihulls are more expensive to build and buy versus a monohull of the same length:

  • More complex composite work, materials and shapes
  • Greater emphasis on weight savings
  • Higher loads require more expensive rigging and hardware
  • Multiple engines (sometimes)
  • Nets

But once it's built and bought, assuming similar sail plans and usage patterns, are there other reasons why multihulls are said to be more expensive to maintain?

Is it the higher loads and fatigue cycles that estarzinger referred to in the bluewater multihulls thread? Or is there something else?

I’m sure you will get more nuanced answers than mine but simplistically it costs more to maintain a multihull for the same reasons it costs more to make a multihull – basically what you listed.

Maintaining two of many things:

Engines, and related stuff (controls, fuel supply, ....)

rudders

keels/boards

helms

....

Cleaning and painting much more surface area

Higher loads

Greater beam – making docking and haul outs etc. much harder/more expensive

....

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47 minutes ago, Shu said:

I don't know, my rotating mast and associated assembly is as simple or simpler than any fixed mast I've had.  My trimaran has about 2.5 times the waterline as an equivalent length monohull, and that is where most of the fouling and maintenance for bottom paint is located.

 

Its one half dozen or the other. The mast rotation arm and associated rigging can add some complexity that would otherwise not be found on a fixed rig. From a performance standpoint, calibrating the mast head wind instruments are also challenging on a rotating rig, but its a well known issue that a good hall effect sensor can sort out.

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Do your own maintenance and work on your own boat, you'll save tons of money.

You'll also learn the skills you need to properly look after your sailboat, and that will reduce maintenance, and cost of maintenance.  :) 

rinse repeat, rinse repeat. 

 

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Thanks all! 

Everything I'm hearing so far is generally related to the obvious systems, surface area etc - what you see is what you get.

I'm not hearing anything related to hidden stress-related fatigue on the hull itself, like "You should X-Ray the akas every 30,000 miles" or "Be sure to grind out and thoroughly inspect every crack because it might lead to a catastrophic structural failure".

Unless there is an obvious structural issue (e.g. flexing or deflection) I've always treated gelcoat or fairing cracks on my monohull as cosmetic - any reason not to do the same on my multihull or is the protocol different? 

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45 minutes ago, Keith said:

Do your own maintenance and work on your own boat, you'll save tons of money.

You'll also learn the skills you need to properly look after your sailboat, and that will reduce maintenance, and cost of maintenance.  :) 

rinse repeat, rinse repeat. 

 

Keith what you say is good advice and absolutely true. The joy of a catamaran is that it offers a much richer learning environment than a monohull which is limited to singles of so many tasks you get to do twice on a multi. When you are learning it helps so much to do something a second time to make sure you have embedded the learning from you first muddling through. When you change the oil filter on the second engine you spill less oil and the clean up is faster.

Think of all the opportunities for improved learning from added practice. Be that square feet of antifouling or water pump impeller replacements, belt adjustments, rudder shaft seals, resealing deck hatches etc. A multihull, really a boat maintenance learning environment par excellence.

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55 minutes ago, Keith said:

Do your own maintenance and work on your own boat, you'll save tons of money.

You'll also learn the skills you need to properly look after your sailboat, and that will reduce maintenance, and cost of maintenance.  :) 

Totally agree - already there (although I do draw the line at smelting my own metal...)

27 minutes ago, KC375 said:

Keith what you say is good advice and absolutely true. The joy of a catamaran is that it offers a much richer learning environment than a monohull which is limited to singles of so many tasks you get to do twice on a multi. When you are learning it helps so much to do something a second time to make sure you have embedded the learning from you first muddling through. When you change the oil filter on the second engine you spill less oil and the clean up is faster.

Think of all the opportunities for improved learning from added practice. Be that square feet of antifouling or water pump impeller replacements, belt adjustments, rudder shaft seals, resealing deck hatches etc. A multihull, really a boat maintenance learning environment par excellence.

Yes - installing the new nets on the second side went so much faster than the first side!

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Agree with what most have said, although there are a different contexts in which this is asked.
This often comes up when discussion cruising monos vs cats. And people compare cats to equivalent size monos and that's where the huge differences come in. A 40ft cat is a lot more "boat" than a 40ft mono... On top of duplicated systems, larger areas and higher loads, there may also be limits on where to haul out and higher costs associated with it.

Tris are better than cats for this as there is a lot less duplications of systems and on a trailerable it solve the issues of haulouts etc... You still have more area to deal with and they also tend to be generally more "high tech" for weight reduction and performance. Maintenance should be fairly comparable to a similarly priced racing mono (that would also be high tech with expensive gear).

The stress/structural issues should not be much of a factor on a well designed and built boat (but can definitely come into play on "mass produced" condomarans that are heavy, flexible and potentially overloaded). On light weight/high performance types there is less room for error (in both design and construction) but it wouldn't be too different than on a ligthweight racing mono.

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One of the biggest red flags for a survey is going to be inaccessible spaces, so that even if you do create access there it's still too tight to do much. Fibre optics can help but ultimately the narrow hulls and beams, if not carefully and thoughtfully designed and built, over time can bite hard. Wood is especially prone to this but other materials can also be problematic. If it's a net boat then the surface is still 3 or 2x times a mono. If it's got bridgedecks then 4x +. Then there's the issue of yard and dock space, including haulout facilites, folding tris solve some of this, why they're popular but the folding mechanism then require maintenance. If you have thin lams then grounding/contact can create more costs. It ends up being a long list. As RM is much greater hardware, lines, and sails also get upsized which usually is nonlinear cost wise. Etc.

It costs more to go faster is probably a good heuristic to apply.

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5 hours ago, gspot said:

I've always treated gelcoat or fairing cracks on my monohull as cosmetic - any reason not to do the same on my multihull or is the protocol different

The only areas I would worry about would be under bridge deck/hull junction area or around fwd crossbeam. Cracks in those areas would be cause for investigation.

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The other side to this is the expense of slip fees for a cat/tri. Generally double the equivalent length mono. Its all great if you are living aboard and spending most of your time at anchor or on a mooring ball, but in order to make this work for a more day sailing type operation, you practically have to own a dock.

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11 hours ago, Zonker said:

The only areas I would worry about would be under bridge deck/hull junction area or around fwd crossbeam. Cracks in those areas would be cause for investigation.

This makes sense - in retrospect I would also consider the hull-to-keel joint of a monohull as a critical structural area to keep an eye on and/or investigate if there are signs of stress.

Otherwise it sounds like it's a simple matter of enumerating things (e.g. number of engines, systems, sail and hull square footage) and multiplying by unit cost for maintaining said things - it just so happens that multihulls typically have more units to maintain. And you can get your unit cost down substantially by doing the work yourself. 

One area where my monohull is significantly more expensive are the huge masthead 150% Genoas that get dragged across the rig at every tack. The comparatively tiny fractional jib on the multihull will take far less abuse, and being smaller will be much cheaper to replace at half the frequency. And the roachy mainsail on my monohull wears on the backstay at every tack/gybe too, which also won't happen on the multihull as there is no backstay. 

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True, and usually multi won't have boom vang nor #1, 2 or 3 genoa or a suite of spinnakers or a rail where you have a bunch of moveable ballast that drinks your beer and complains.

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16 minutes ago, MultiThom said:

True, and usually multi won't have boom vang nor #1, 2 or 3 genoa or a suite of spinnakers or a rail where you have a bunch of moveable ballast that drinks your beer and complains.

Exactly -  my monohull racing suite has 10 headsails - light, medium and heavy #1, #3 and #4 jibs, plus A2, A3, S1.5, S2, S4 kites.

The multihull has jib, screacher, kite - done (okay there are also storm jibs for each but still...)

And we can race the multihull with 2-3 versus 7-8 for the monohull so there are significant savings in beer!

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5 hours ago, samc99us said:

The other side to this is the expense of slip fees for a cat/tri. Generally double the equivalent length mono

It really varies we found. If you can get a T / end tie you're not taking up more room than any mono.  Or a long linear dock with side ties.  Or a shallow spot near shore that they can't rent to deeper sailboats. Most of these seem to be 1x

This is a big marina near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They don't charge anything more for multis (wide slips so a bay can have 1 multi and 1 mono)

https://www.marinarivieranayarit.com/index.php/us/reservations/rates

Some marinas charge 1.5X

Some charge 2x

Port Annapolis Marina (where I used to live)

Daily Rate  – $3.00ft
Daily Catamaran Rate – $4.00ft

(which is insane for a daily rate by the way - $160/day for a 40' cat??)

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23 hours ago, gspot said:

During my personal monohull-to-multihull conversion journey, I was asking about the usual pros, cons and misconceptions regarding safety, performance etc. and my good friend Airwick told me "The only disadvantage to multihulls is price". 

I get why multihulls are more expensive to build and buy versus a monohull of the same length:

  • More complex composite work, materials and shapes
  • Greater emphasis on weight savings
  • Higher loads require more expensive rigging and hardware
  • Multiple engines (sometimes)
  • Nets

But once it's built and bought, assuming similar sail plans and usage patterns, are there other reasons why multihulls are said to be more expensive to maintain?

Is it the higher loads and fatigue cycles that estarzinger referred to in the bluewater multihulls thread? Or is there something else?

Composite structure repair work is more expensive but its really the redundant systems costs and dockage/storage that hurts multihulls.

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1 hour ago, Zonker said:

It really varies we found. If you can get a T / end tie you're not taking up more room than any mono.  Or a long linear dock with side ties.  Or a shallow spot near shore that they can't rent to deeper sailboats. Most of these seem to be 1x

This is a big marina near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They don't charge anything more for multis (wide slips so a bay can have 1 multi and 1 mono)

https://www.marinarivieranayarit.com/index.php/us/reservations/rates

Some marinas charge 1.5X

Some charge 2x

Port Annapolis Marina (where I used to live)

Daily Rate  – $3.00ft
Daily Catamaran Rate – $4.00ft

(which is insane for a daily rate by the way - $160/day for a 40' cat??)

My comments were generally for the east coast of the U.S and the Chesapeake more specifically, which is in line with that 1.5x-2x kind of number. No doubt places in Central America and the Caribbean can be a lot cheaper, and long term slip fees can be found for less everywhere i’m sure. 

If you want to see insane, checkout The Wharf or MGM National Harbor for dock rates. 

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What specifically are you comparing, a cruising mono vs condomaran cat? Then yes the cost is more as you have 2x engine, longer runs on wires and sheets and probably a bit more ‘stuff in it.  AND the yard will nail you for storage, haul etc.

however if it is a racing boat, vs a f-boat, I might argue that.

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On 1/25/2020 at 5:43 AM, Loose Cannon said:

What specifically are you comparing, a cruising mono vs condomaran cat? Then yes the cost is more as you have 2x engine, longer runs on wires and sheets and probably a bit more ‘stuff in it.  AND the yard will nail you for storage, haul etc.

however if it is a racing boat, vs a f-boat, I might argue that.

I was wondering if the higher loads were a significant factor in the higher cost, but it sounds like it's a simple matter of enumerating things (e.g. number of engines, systems, sail and hull square footage) and multiplying by unit cost for maintaining said things - it just so happens that multihulls typically have more units to maintain.

I personally happen to have a sporty cruising monohull that I race, and a race-oriented multihull, and in my case I'm actually expecting the multihull to be slightly cheaper because it has fewer complex systems - I realize it's not always apples to apples.

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4 hours ago, gspot said:

I was wondering if the higher loads were a significant factor in the higher cost, but it sounds like it's a simple matter of enumerating things (e.g. number of engines, systems, sail and hull square footage) and multiplying by unit cost for maintaining said things - it just so happens that multihulls typically have more units to maintain.

I personally happen to have a sporty cruising monohull that I race, and a race-oriented multihull, and in my case I'm actually expecting the multihull to be slightly cheaper because it has fewer complex systems - I realize it's not always apples to apples.

Higher loads means oversized equipment.. The blocks, furlers, running rigging and standing rigging on my 28ft tri are equivalent to those found on a 36ft racer/cruiser.

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The most obvious thing is double. Two hulls, two heads, two motors. Twice the trouble. We are not talking about two cars. This is a marine question. Therefore the math requires the marine coefficient of the square. It costs 4 times as much not double. 

The Square/Cube law of surface/volume may come into effect when comparing mono’s & multi’s.

The Laws of procrastination may have some bearing on these questions. Two hulls may double one’s procrastination about maintenance. This leads to more inevitable breakdowns. 

I need to get back to lowering the water level in my beer bottle before I contemplate such rigorous ideas. 

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This is such a relative question.  It's relative to how big the boat is, how old it is and how complex and how competent the owner is at doing his own maintenance.  Personally they aren't more expensive it you keep them simple and chose a well designed and maintained boat in the first place.  If you want to pay people to do simple maintenance then you're going to have higher costs no matter how many hulls you have.  We lived on an average of $1,000 a month onboard Spirit and that can be done on any boat as long as you keep things simple and buy a boat that was a solid base to begin with and when you do fix things you make them better, improving reliability and reducing breakdowns and costs.  The answer really lies within the owners wants and expectations.  

There's a lot of ways to save money with any boat but here's a two you can do with a multihull.  Less rigging on average if you chose a simple mast and standing rigging design.  Beachable which can save you money with reduced hauling fees............. there's a multitude of ways to reduce costs it's just up to you how big that number is at the end.

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