Some cats are more dangerous than others. And really, I’m not talking about domestic cats. Although Cat scratch Fever is a thing! I’m talking about Cats people sail the oceans on. A week or so ago a Lagoon 40 ish left Indonesia traveling to Oz. About 4 days later they returned to Medana Bay Marina. What the Hell !
Turns out; while in rough seas (the boat was doing well) a life threatening event occurred. Today many Catamarans have escape hatches under the bridge on the inside of each hull. I believe the EU demanded they be there “In case the Catamaran flips over”; people can get out of each hull. They are not trapped. You see, when a cat gets overpowered by wind and seas they can flip and will not right themselves. Mono’s on the other hand will pop back up. Not that I wish to try it. Both situations are dangerous. Mono’s can be and have been knocked down, their mast hits the water and because they have a huge amount of weight in the keel they stand back up. Some Cat owner will just say, naw – they’ll simply sink. We know two cruisers in monos’ that have been knocked down. Both boats survived and are sailing today. But; that is not what I”m talking about.
Anyway they were sailing along in some bouncy seas. At 4 am (ish) one of the escape windows came off. It didn’t just open up where you could reclose it. The window disappeared in a few 1,000 feet of water. The window is about 56 cm square. Every time a wave reached the window hundreds of liters of water poured in. The window was less than 50 cm above the static waterline. As luck would have it; one of the crew was off watch and in the berth with the escape hatch. Sea water dousing him was not how he wished to wake up . Imagine several buckets of ocean water being thrown at you every few seconds.
They were fortunate he was there. Otherwise there would have been several tons of water in the boat before anyone noticed. Each cubic meter of water is a metric ton. The crew never mentioned if they had a bilge alarm. And more luck, there were 4 guys aboard. All awake now they worked to stop the water. So much water was entering the boat that the bilge pump couldn’t keep up. While bilge pumps are often rated 2,000 gallons / hour given the lift height to the exhaust outlet they pump much less. Plus as long as the batteries are good the pump is good. So assume it pumps half that rate you only get about 15 gallons / minute or about 100 lbs of water out of the boat every minute. Remember; about every 10 seconds a hundred or more lbs of sea water was cascading in. As they slowed the water ingress with cushions and cabinetry they started a bucket brigade removing the water. Changing the boat course helped to reduce water ingress and gain some control. Once they had won the water war they turned around.
They were only 150 nm or so from Medana and 50 miles or so from a port they could seek shelter and temporary repairs. Again lucky they weren’t two or three days further on. And the stars were closely aligned. The starting battery was in the dry hull and they were able to start the engines. They passed a ship and let off a flare to no effect. No response from the ship! One crew member was able to use the Iridium Go and contact his partner in Australia. She then called the Oz authorities who then called the Indonesian authorities in a worse case scenario. The crew had enough experience to know that by now they were not in danger of sinking. But, they were fighting the seas and wind while attempting to return to port. Their speed was now close to one nautical miles / hour; plus or minus a bit. Fifty hours later they made safe harbor . More paperwork completed – they had recently checked out of Indonesia. Indonesia loves paperwork! They jury rigged an Aluminum plate for the window opening and used 3 tubes of Sikaflex. The harbor master inspected the boat ensuring there was no more safety issues. They now had both openings sealed. Two days later they returned to Medana Bay Marina where they could get hauled out and effect repairs.
Catamarans are lovely boats. They have enormous elbow room and a place to hide from kids or crew when the need arises. Yet, from my perspective; when offshore Catamarans too often are dangerous.
It is events like this that make me leery of owning one. However; never say never! Instead I will say “not now”. When I was in the tech industry we had a saying “you bleed living on the cutting edge”. In ocean cruising; Cats are the cutting edge.