Top 10

Features of a Blue Water Sailing Catamaran

At Antares, our standards are high and everything is standard. From a watermaker and washer and dryer, to a full suite of cruising laminate sails and integrated 1200-watt solar panels, the Antares comes standard with high-quality components. But look beyond the standard B&G Electronics and Harken powered winches and you will find numerous details and decisions that go into the design and build that are at the foundation of what makes Antares the World’s Best Liveaboard.

When comparing one catamaran to another, you need to look beyond the length and number of heads and beds you get for the price. After all, there is little value in having additional heads and a lounger on the foredeck if they’re going to drive you to your wits end from squeaking joinery, or even worse, if you find yourself at the transom of your boat trying to trouble-shoot an engine issue – in the middle of the ocean – in the middle of the night.

Before making an important decision on your next catamaran, here are the top 10 features you need to consider when choosing a true blue water, circumnavigation-class cruising catamaran.

1. PROPULSION

Antares uses a shaft drive propulsion system

Antares has a shaft drive installation that allows us to place the engines amidships. By placing them in the middle and below the waterline, we are able to have the shaft exit where the keel meets the hull at a point where disruption to flow would be minimized. This is advantageous to minimize drag. It’s important to note that the engines are NOT located below the beds but are isolated in sound-proof enclosures – meaning you don’t have to sleep over hot or noisy engines.

The shaft exits where the keel meets the hull at a point where disruption to flow would be minimized

As you may be aware, the catamaran’s reactive behavior fore and aft in rough sea conditions can be influenced by weight distribution, but by concentrating the tanks and engines close to amidships, we reduce pitching and ensure that the boat can rise up and over waves with undiminished speed and comfort. Additionally, the engine placement is in a strong area of the hull where all the structural components converge. And in the case of a misfortunate grounding – the fixed ‘sacrificial’ keel will take the impact – protecting the shaft drive.

Why do so many catamaran builders choose sail drives? The answer may lie in the fact that it is an inexpensive approach to propulsion.

2. SKEGGED RUDDERS

Built for real world cruising

In real world cruising there are crab traps, fishing lines, logs and rocky seabeds. This means that the rudder needs to be protected. We’ve done just that.

Antares Catamaran Skegged Rudder

The two sides of the rudder are constructed from fiberglass with a core center.

The engineered rudders on the Antares catamaran are custom built. The two sides of the rudder are constructed from fiberglass with a core center. This core center significantly reduces the weight of the rudders. The skegs make the rudder stocks resistant to bending and allow us to use a lighter stainless steel stock without any sacrifice to strength. In the absence of a skeg, the stock material would have to be stronger and therefore heavier, but would remain vulnerable to bending.

Not only does this construction method allow Antares to keep weight off the catamaran, its primary function is to protect the rudder.

As demonstrated by one of our Antares owners, the first point of impact when hitting the seabed is the fixed “sacrificial” keel. One such unfortunate experience happened near Nantucket by owners of hull 4409.

They write:

“Any time you hit a rock at 9.5 knots with full sail up in 20 knots of wind with a following current, crush your keel (note photo) and suffer ZERO structural problems you are both lucky and have a good boat.” – C Miller

The impact was when hitting the seabed was felt on the fixed “sacrificial” keel.

While the fixed keel is an integral part of the hull construction, a barrier between the hull and the hollow keel prevents any structural damage to the hull upon impact. If hull 4409 had continued to bounce off the seabed, the most likely scenario would have been that the skeg would have taken the impact leaving the rudder undamaged. And when you’re cruising in the open ocean, an emergency tiller is useless if you don’t have a rudder.

Antares s/v Kailani beached for a quick bottom cleaning.

3. STEERING

A robust steering system

The main types of steering systems installed on a catamaran are typically shaft, wire and hydraulic steering.

Premium shaft drive steering system

Antares uses a shaft and gearbox system. This shaft steering system can withstand the heaviest water conditions, making steering more responsive under any circumstance and is ideal for a blue water cruising yacht. Unlike wire and hydraulic systems that require frequent inspection and maintenance, the robust shaft system require virtually no maintenance.

Antares also installs the premium electro-mechanical autopilot drive unit that uses less energy and still provides more power and speed control. It really does matter which autopilot drive unit you choose. The Electro-mechanical JEFA drive units are much better suited for sailboats than hydraulic drive. Link here to read more about what the engineers at JEFA steering systems have to say.

4. INTERIOR CONSTRUCTION

Lightweight, luxury interiors

We can’t stress enough how weight aboard a catamaran significantly impacts stability, seaworthiness and performance. Antares is much lighter than other catamarans of its size. The light-weight construction also means we don’t compromise performance and we don’t have to overcompensate with the size of the rigging.

Hi-tech, Tri-cell honeycomb board

Because so many other catamarans are built for charter, they typically use wood accents inserted into heavy fiberglass molds, adding weight to the catamaran at the cost of performance. However, as with all true luxury yachts, the Antares’ interior is hand-crafted using lightweight Tricel Honeycomb panels sandwiched between cherry veneer.

By using Tricel Honeycomb panels, we can also shape and form all the woodwork, essentially removing all sharp and potentially dangerous angles onboard.

Unlike other mass-production catamarans, the Antares’ wood components are not screwed or glued into fiberglass rebates. Instead, the wood modules are glassed-in and contribute to the strength and rigidity of the overall structure.

The result is a wood-finished interior that is not only luxurious, but is also durable and won’t torque, squeak or rub when underway.

5. CORE-CELL CORING

The foundation of any build

The type of coring used in the construction of the hull and deck lies at the foundation of any build. Coring is a structural stiffener sandwiched between two layers of fiberglass skin. Coring is particularly important to a catamaran builder because of the need to create stiffness with reduced weight. Builders wishing to build long-lasting boats choose performance composite foam core throughout the structure.

Most production catamaran builders choose to build their hulls and decks using balsa coring, which is made of balsa wood cut across the grain in thin slices to expose the end grain fibers.

Coring and Layup by 40 Grados Sur

Core-cell at the foundation of the hull and deck construction

Antares uses a product called Core-Cell in the hull and deck construction. Core-Cell is a high-density foam core known for its impermeability to water, toughness, light-weight and resistance to impact.

Core-Cell foam core is a closed cell structure that will never rot or absorb water. Balsa core, on the other hand, shows its weakness when exposed to water. Balsa will soak up water from any small cracks or weakness in the skins and has no resistance to water permeability. This leads to rot, loss of structural integrity, weight gain, and undermines the longevity and resale value of the boat.

The core also needs to have enough elasticity to absorb impact and maintain the bond to the skin. The Core-Cell foam core acts as a shock absorber that supports the outside skin from severe impacts and protects the inside skin by dissipating the impact load over a wider area.

No delamination on the corecell after impact

While Balsa core may be stiffer, it is also brittle. Brittleness leaves the core vulnerable to crack spread as the sandwich panel continues to flex on impact. Another symptom of impact is de-bonding. Core-Cell foam bounces back to shape after impact, ensuring the bond is not broken. Balsa core, on the other hand, will de-bond from the skin. Due to its compression strength, there is little outward damage visible on the exterior skin. What happens instead is the end grain splits parallel to the grain, causing localized delamination.

It is obvious that construction materials chosen by the manufacturer clearly betray the intentions of the builder. At Antares Catamarans it is our expectation that in 30 to 35 years from now, the catamarans we build today will still have the original engineered properties. Perhaps the best evidence of longevity and quality of construction is in the resale value to the boat.

The question remains, why are so many catamaran builders using balsa coring in the construction of their boats? Maybe the answer lies in the simple fact that on a cost basis, balsa coring is the cheapest option of any of the materials available on the market.

6. A COCKPIT DESIGNED FOR LOUNGING & SAFETY

Protects you from a following sea

An enormous cockpit that’s fully open to the stern with sliding patio doors may be ideal for lounging when anchored in azure-blue waters, but is not suitable for an ocean voyaging vessel.

At Antares, we know that owners have entrusted us with trying for the best level of safety for themselves and their families on open sea voyages. We feel a responsibility to consider the design choices accordingly and plan for eventualities. The cockpit design is one such example.

Antares designed a substantial stern bulwark aft of the opening to the cockpit as a defense from a breaking following sea, which may potentially be much higher than the vessel itself. We also kept the sliding door at a practical size to give us the access we want without potentially sacrificing seaworthiness.

Spacious cockpit with plenty of seating for lounging and entertaining

These safety measures don’t mean that you are isolated from your environment – quite the opposite. The visibility from the helm and the seating arrangement offer plenty of socializing opportunities – in fact, you should probably be forewarned as you’ll likely become the IT boat at any anchorage.

Perhaps the best appreciation of the Antares cockpit design comes from Memo Castro, the builder of the Antares. Memo has recently completed a combined 1200 NM delivering the Antares from Buenos Aires to the Caribbean. He writes:

“I was in difficult situations with lots of wind, and even worse, a lot of ocean waves. I am saying this to stress how safe the cockpit is. There are round edges everywhere and there’s always something to hold on to near at hand. Add to this that we were always warm, dry and comfortable during the entire delivery.

When I see an “open” cockpit design on other cats with either a helm station positioned near the transom or exposed to the weather, I always think of rough sea conditions similar to what I experienced on a charter with this open design several years ago while sailing with my family. At that time, no one was able to move in the cockpit without getting banged up against sharp corners.“

7. AT THE HELM

Excellent visibility and accessibility

While there is nothing sexy about selling safety, we can’t stress this enough – your boat should protect you. This starts by providing a truly functional helm station that protects the helmsman from exposure to the weather, provides excellent visibility throughout, and has integrated smart line management that leads to the cockpit to the standard electric winches, virtually eliminating the need to go forward in bad weather.

The protected helm station

The Antares has a forward-facing navigation station in the saloon but owners rarely use it for more than communicating on their SSB radio or charting a course on their laptops. That’s because with the full enclosure and curved glass windshield, the Antares helm position keeps you warm and comfortable in all weather conditions.

Like we said, there is nothing sexy about safety, but this is something we can live with.

8. WATERTIGHT COMPARTMENTS

Watertight compartments throughout

Here we go again, but a boat builder should always put safety ahead of fashion and accommodation. With that in mind, we have left the 2 forward lockers – typically assigned for extra beds on charter catamarans – empty.  These watertight compartments, along with the transom lockers, provide safety at sea by protecting you in case of a collision.

Looking down into the spacious generator locker

Even the fixed keels, which are an integral part of the hull, have a barrier between the hull and hollow keel to prevent any structural damage in case of impact.

The spacious, watertight starboard forward locker is not only ideal for placing the standard generator, keeping it away from the interior living spaces; it is also indispensable for stowage of bulky and wet gear including fenders and additional sails. This additional outdoor stowage space can be found throughout the Antares with many lockers designated for this purpose.

9. ALL THINGS CONSIDERED

Equipped for a serious liveaboard

A serious cruising catamaran needs to be equipped with all the essentials for offshore sailing and extended living aboard. While the list is numerous, one example is that a provision for a second anchor be built into the design from day one. There needs to be a second anchor roller, a compartment for the chain and rode and access to a common windlass.

Unlike the Antares that makes provision for a second anchor, other catamaran builders do not. While other catamarans may be perceived to be a better value for price, the additional expense, effort and amount of time spent to equip your catamaran with a second anchor, or a full enclosure, or additional solar panels may be less than ideal in terms of both price and overall design continuity.

10. THE VALUE OF AN ANTARES

We never build for the charter market

The Antares line enjoys a resale value far greater than most other catamarans. While small production numbers play a part in this, there is no disputing that the construction methods and components used in the build of the Antares are a big factor in the resale market. The fact that we use core-cell and skegged rudders, a robust steering and propulsion system, all lay the foundation for an exceptional build.

Antares owners sailing around the world!

We never build for the charter market. While the charter cat market is lucrative, from day one, we made the design decision to build for a cruising couple. This means that when the Antares comes up on the re-sale market, you know that there is a pride of ownership and a certain level of maintenance and care taken, with many owners taking the effort to upgrade their equipment and systems.

We acknowledge that the Antares is not for everyone. Antares has established a unique niche in the marketplace that appeals to a group of individuals looking to sail and live aboard extensively. In fact, you’ll rarely find an Antares tied to the dock.

There is no better testament to the Antares Catamaran’s blue water capability than the stories and adventures shared by Antares owners. From Argentina to Vanuatu and Malaysia, Brazil and the Caribbean Islands, the Mediterranean, South Africa and the Middle East, Antares owners have sailed around the world on voyages both near and far. Link to owner sites to read more about their adventures.