Copyright 2017 - Woods Designs, Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN, UK
  • home built Flica 37

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran

In general terms: I would not buy a charter boat to live on. Charterers are only on the boat for 1-2 weeks and they tend to eat ashore and not sail at night. Usually there are 6-8 people to help with anchoring, sail handling etc. So there will be little stowage, no bookshelves, small galley, no chart storage area etcetc.

I would definitely NOT go for a scheme where you buy a big charter cat for 50% down and leave it with a charter company for 5 years. If you want a new Mercedes would you go for a scheme where you paid 50%, and then lent the car to a taxi firm for 5 years before being able to use it?

Charter boats are business assets, so owners want the maximum return for minimum investment. In other words, charter boats (like hotels) go for maximum bunks and lounging space (by the pool in a hotel, on deck on a boat) at minimum cost. Would you choose to live in a hotel?

I have owned cruising catamarans from 35' to 28' and lived on board and sailed multihulls up to 55'. I have also worked on charterboats up to 70ft in the Caribbean. I have found that a 35' cat is plenty big enough for a couple to live on. Bigger boats need more cleaning and maintenance, the sails and anchor are heavier etc.

If you only plan to day sail and holiday on the boat I'd recommend 32'-35'. If you want to live aboard then 38' is about the maximum for a small crew. The problem with smaller cats is the load carrying. I have lived on a Windsong and a Gypsy, but it's a bit like camping. A 32' boat is like having a caravan or RV. It's not until you get to 34-35' that you have the carrying capacity to live like you do in a hotel or house. Over 40' you have to take your servants with you (ie crew).

Specifically regarding the Norseman 43. I sailed it 4100 miles between Capetown and Rio and lived on it for 4 weeks with 5 other men. So I have probably sailed one more than the designer or builder. It was unstable. The bows are very fine, vertical and have no flare. So there is no reserve buoyancy.

I have pushed catamarans hard in races over the years, but until sailing the Norseman never had any worries about nose-diving. In a squall we had the rudders out of the water and the bows under until the maststep was in the water. After that we sailed very cautiously. We found it made a lot of leeway, tacked very slowly and only sailed 120 degrees between tacks even in ideal conditions.

The saloon seating was VERY uncomfortable. When I sat in the cockpit my feet would not touch the sole, so that was uncomfortable as well. The chart table was very small and the bookshelves tiny. There was little space for personal effects apart from one bag of clothes each (ie fine if you're a charterer). The bunks were very awkward to get into. Bridgedeck slam was very pronounced, even downwind. But there was 7' headroom in the saloon so why the low bridgedeck?

The deck layout did not work well. It took 5 fit men 10 minutes to hoist the mainsail, the mainsheet traveller didn't work properly, the stoppers were badly placed, the helmsman seat was poorly positioned etc. But in general the boat was well built except for the fact that the interior was gelcoated throughout and there were no headlinings. This means it would not be usable in the UK or most of Europe because of condensation. Also all the deck fittings are tapped into aluminium plates. So there is a potential corrosion risk. Also its impossible to add or change any deck fittings. Electric cables are run in the laminate so cannot be changed and again no extra lights or electrics can be fitted (again not a problem on a charter boat)