Thoughts on Our Gemini Catamaran

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2015 • all rights reserved

How We Like Our Gemini Catamaran: A review after seven months of living aboard

We’ve had a number of questions on how we like the Gemini or how was it to go from our previous boat — a Tayana 37 — to it. Here’s our answer.

In a nutshell, we LOVE the Gemini.

Okay, with that out of the way, there are a few things that we need to say:

  • The Tayana 37 is a true blue water boat. The Gemini is a coastal cruiser. They are very, very different boats and designed for different purposes.
  • Because of that, it’s almost impossible to truly compare them.

When we bought the Tayana (Que Tal), we didn’t know if we’d cross the Pacific, but thought we might (we didn’t). We wanted a boat that left the possibility open. The Tayana did well for us in the Sea of Cortez and down the coast to El Salvador, but the reality is that the Gemini would have been great, too. Probably better.

Things that we particularly like about the Gemini (Barefoot Gal is a 105M):

  • The living arrangement. It’s just a good layout for us, with a large “living room” (settee and table). The whole boat is much lighter and brighter, too. We also like the fact that the cockpit opens right into the living area, without going up and down stairs all the time. It’s also easier to get into and out of the queen berth (side entry) as opposed to the V-berth on the Tayana.
  • Huge cockpit. It’s great for entertaining or even just the two of us, with room to actually walk around. The Tayana 37 has what’s referred to as an “offshore” cockpit, meaning it’s very small so that if a wave breaks into the cockpit it won’t sink the boat. But that means that it’s a very tight fit for four people. The Gemini is a much better layout for having people over. When we bought Que Tal, we underestimated how much we’d use the cockpit for things other than just steering the boat.
  • Maneuverability. The Gemini is so much easier to handle in close quarters, it’s not even funny. The drive leg makes it like having an outboard, in that you steer it as well as the rudders. The Gemini is also technically 3 feet shorter than the Tayana (34 feet vs. 37) but with the Tayana’s bowsprit, it’s more like 8 or 9 feet shorter in reality. The lighter weight of the Gemini also makes it much more responsive. And any full keel boat such as the Tayana, in the words of another Tayana owner, “backs like a drunken elephant.” In other words, you don’t have a clue where it will go. Less freeboard on the Gemini also makes it easier to pick up a mooring ball both as it’s easier for the person at the helm to see it and much easier for the person at the bow to pick it up. The stress level on the Gemini as we approach a fixed object (dock, bridge, lock or even a mooring ball) is so much less than on the Tayana. The ease of getting underway/returning resulted in us going for a lot of short (1 – 2 hour) daysails. We had no idea how much this one factor would contribute to our enjoyment of the boat — and we’ve both always loved boating!
  • Ease of sail handling. The Gemini’s sails are considerably smaller than the Tayana’s and the boom is much lower to the coach house roof. It is so much easier to raise/roll out the sails and stow them again, and the spinnaker is also a much more manageable size and has a larger wind range. We never wonder if it’s worth the effort to set the sails, even for a short trip. We’re not getting any younger, either (Dave is 77 and I’m 55): easier sail handling and a smaller anchor mean we’ll be able to cruise longer.
  • Speed. Despite being smaller, the Gemini is considerably faster under sail and power. Our one-day range is considerably expanded. We can sail a lot more both as we move at a reasonable speed even in light winds (the drive leg pivots up out of the water easily to decrease drag) and we can afford several hours of light-air sailing and still make our intended anchorage since we typically motor at 6 knots versus 4.5 knots on the Tayana. Believe it or not, the Gemini sails slightly closer to the wind than our Tayana.
  • Shallow draft. Draft was never a big issue in the Sea of Cortez or along the coast of Mexico and Central America. But it is in Florida and the Bahamas. Our Tayana theoretically drew 6 feet but loaded for cruising it was probably closer to 6½ feet. The Gemini draws about 2½ feet with the centerboards up but the drive leg and rudders down. We can go lots of places that many other boats, including a lot of catamarans, can’t. And we like to explore off the beaten path. A related factor is that our bridge clearance is just 45 feet, also giving us the freedom to go places some others can’t . . . and we have a lot less stress going under those 54 and 55 foot spans!

Bottom line is that for what we’re doing, the Gemini is just plain a fun boat. But I want to emphasize the “for what we’re doing.” Should we decide that we want to go to the Virgin Islands, we won’t have the option of going offshore — we’ll have to island hop down (yes, I know a few Geminis have gone offshore but I’ve also read their accounts). To keep the speed and maneuverability that we like, we have to watch how much we load on board — and that means that we can’t carry as many provisions. The guest arrangements are great if one person comes, bad for more (what’s billed as a double berth is 4″ narrower than a double bed). The galley arrangement isn’t quite as good, but it’s not at all unworkable. Finally, the motion of a catamaran is different than a monohull. Not necessarily bad but it does take some getting used to if sailing in chop.

Our Gemini is an “M,” built in 1999 towards the end of the “M” and has many features of an “MC” such as composite centerboards instead of plywood. The MC has many features that we’d like but the available ones at the time of our purchase were out of our budget.

The current model is the “Legacy” and it is totally redesigned with the interior layout changed slightly and, most importantly to us, skegs instead of centerboards. While the skegs are lower maintenance and require no effort while underway (versus having the lower a centerboard if sailing above a beam reach), we like the greatly improved windward performance that the centerboards bring over a skeg.

Everything is a tradeoff. We are extremely glad that we decided on a Gemini as we absolutely love it. Some of the things that we love about it — such as the speed — are fairly typical of catamarans as opposed to monohulls, while other items are more specific to having a small catamaran or even to the Gemini (maneuverability).

I’ve been asked a few times if we intend to get a larger boat now that we’re going to be living aboard full time. You’ve probably already guessed that our answer is no — the Gemini is big enough for our needs and its small size leads to many of the things that we like about her. Within reason, smaller is just easier . . . and costs less too!

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Comments

  1. Couldn’t’t agree more. We also love our Gem.

  2. This was a very informative comparison. Thank you!

    • Some of the differences we expected, such as the living arrangement and the large cockpit. But we didn’t realize how much easier she’d be to “move” — whether by motor or sail. And that’s turned out to be a big part of why we love her!

    • I have only ever sailed monohulls. I am looking to live aboard in the next few years. I was considering a boat like your former one for the same reasons – like leaving the possibility of ocean crossing open. Still open to all possibilities, which is why your post gave me a lot to consider. Thanks again.

  3. Rik Dove, food for thought, if you aren’t going around the world.

  4. We wouldn’t trade our Gem either. Love it!

  5. Thanks for the accounting! Very helpful!

  6. How much of a factor were tramps when you picked the Gemini? I love everything about it, except for I have this dream of laying out on the trampolines, and I’m not sure I can give it up. How much do you think you’d use them if you had them?

    • We’ve been on some cats with tramps (friends’ boats) and didn’t use them as much as we’d envisioned. So we didn’t really consider them (or the lack of them) in picking the Gemini. I don’t think (I may be mis-remembering) I’ve seen any of the small cats with them — they just need the space for living quarters and storage. Probably the biggest thing is that since it’s solid up from, there is more wave slap when you’re beating. We don’t find it too annoying, but some people hate it.

    • Bob Kimble says:

      I too had wanted tramps when I bought my Gem, but the hard foredeck turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was the perfect place for morning sun salutes.

  7. True. And I agree with the thought. Problem is… Dikenga and I have been through so much. She is family. I could never bring myself to sell my Tayana

  8. Sounds like a perfect boat for the Keys. We had a 30′ Iroquois for 14 years with a trampoline and while the kids loved it, it made the boat wetter going into heavy seas. I’m thinking too, now that I’m older, it wouldn’t be as stable a platform for foredeck work. We moved up to an Island Packet catamaran 8 years ago with a solid foredeck. It’s very dry( has a pod to break waves) but there is slap at anchor if there’s a heavy chop( no fun on any boat, either). What’s nice about the Gemini and Island Packet is they usually fit into a conventional slip, being 14 and 15 foot beam, respectively. The cockpit is another “room” for us. Thanks for your thoughts on your model. We sailed a Legacy last summer as a demo, but could never afford a newer one.

  9. Judy Richterman says:

    What a good comparison! We’ve been living aboard our Cal 39 in the Leewards since November 2014, and I have enjoyed the luxury of space and light when I visited friends with large catamarans. It didn’t occur to me that we could find a catamaran with maneuverability and a size that would be comfortable for gunk holing in the Chesapeake and the Florida Bay. My husband got very excited by your article. You’ve planted a seed for our next stage of cruising a few years down the road.

  10. Do you have problems with stress cracks,..a friend has one and has cracks along all his shrouds and basically all around the deck, everywhere anything is bolted thru.

    • The gelcoat is a problem area on the Gems. Ours is chalky and has a lot of crazing. The company swears that it’s not structural and that is how it seems on all that we’ve seen and owners we’ve talked to — not pretty but not structural.

    • Right, we’re doing his this fall, just curious if it was universal.

  11. After owning our Gemini 105M for 15 years, we are putting it up for sale. It has been a great boat to own and we have had many great trips with it. We will miss it and all the great Gemini sailors that we have met over the past 15 years.

  12. Gregory Allen says:

    I have been hearing about the gemini so much that for the last year I have been researching every thing about this cat and the more I read the more I am looking forward to purchasing my own. I’m in love with it and have not even chartered one yet.

    • David Ditacchio says:

      We bought our Gemini 105M from PCI in 2000. It’s been a great boat and we have had 16 years of great sailing. Health issues and age are catching up with us so we are putting our boat up for sale. We are spending this winter in Cocoa Village, FL.

  13. I’m looking at getting a Gemini legacy 35 for a live aboard and possibly some blue water sailing. What would be the pros and cons of this type of sailing occasionally. I have 2 children that will with me so accommodations should be just right.

  14. I sure love mine. I can hardly wait for spring!

  15. Interesting, Carolyn; we’re not looking to trade boats any time soon but you make good points.

  16. Those of you who are considering a Gemini:

    Have a look at the Canadian-made “Tomcat.” We looked at one at Miami Boat Show and were very impressed. Very like the Gems, yet to us, better thought out. If we were in the Gem market we’d seriously consider them. http://www.tomcatboats.com

  17. How many degrees off the wind will she sail?

  18. Love our Gem, nearly 5 years and counting…

  19. We love ours, too! Paula L Mueller, did you see this?

  20. Russ Titus

  21. I’m currently refitting a Gemini 3000. We’re very pleased with her performance as a Costal Cruiser and plan on upgrading to a 105 in a few years!

  22. werner thomas says:

    hi great comments evaluating your cat. The small cats do it for me too, I now have a Catalac 10m after my first cat a Wharram Tiki 30! The centerboard set up ibdeed better upwind sailing but so much weaker in gunkholing! It is amazing how these under 35 foot cats have such large living areas. I would not howecer use a Gemini where I am cruising with my Catalac because no chandlers, no technical backup. My Catalac can take quite a knock which leseer strong cars wpuldnt survive. Imagine hitting an old bridge head thats completely dubmerged and nowhere indicated on charts but in major river gere in Mozambique. Great blog keep it up, I admire those bloggers that entertain/inform us so well.

  23. Dan Rupli says:

    I love the whole idea of the Gemini 35, but will always want to go around the world at least one time. Is there no compromise between catamaran comfort and Tayana blue water capabilities?

    • There are definitely boats that are in between . . . some of the 40-foot cats and some of the lighter monohulls. No boat can be everything, though, so you have to decide what’s important for you.

  24. Thanks for this insightful article. I am one of many investigating/considering the Gemini – I’m curious whether you found yourself sitting on the combing when handling the wheel? I had not realized the other advantages you pointed out regarding visibility/convenience in handling.

    • We rarely hand steer — only when doing close quarters work. The rest of the time we let the autopilot do it’s thing. But yes, we usually sit up on the “upper level” on the side of the cockpit.

  25. Great article. We are close to a boat purchase and liked both the gemini cats and my lifelong favorite, the Tayana 37. Being so different, and generally for different purposes, it was hard to make a choice. Your story helprf. Thanks

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