We’ve had a number of questions on how we like our Gemini catamaran or how was it to go from our previous boat — a monohull Tayana 37 — to it. Here’s our listing of the pros and cons.
In a nutshell, we LOVE our Gemini catamaran for what we are now doing — two people living aboard full-time, coastal cruising in the Florida Keys and going to the Bahamas for several months at a time. But I’m not going to say it’s the perfect boat for everyone.
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 catamaran 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.
The holding tank is small at 18 gallons. After a year of cruising, we switched to a composting head (read more about our reasons here).
Our Gemini is an “M,” built in 1999 towards the end of the “M” series 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 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 catamaran 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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