About those snobby catamaran owners

The perception of the snobby catamaran owner – and, I gather it’s not a well-kept secret in boating circles –  came as a shock to me and my husband. The topic was raised by Herbert Stuemer a few weeks ago at his kitchen table, as we told him that we had bought a St Francis 50 catamaran.

Artwork by Betty, age 9. Message = parenting fail
Artwork by my daughter Betty, age 9.  Requested by me for this blog in a questionable parenting moment.

Herbert, if you recall from a previous post, was the skipper of the SV Northern Magic, and the husband of Diane Stuemer. He and his family circumnavigated the globe in their 42-foot steel ketch in the late 90s, early 2000s.

Herbert suggested that we had bought ourselves a “fancy” boat. And, that our choice in boats might affect our ability to forge friendships with local people, as well as monohull owners.

Really? I hope we haven’t bought ourselves a Rolex of the boating world, a social barrier between us and everyone we meet. Certainly, our silhouette in the sunset will say “catamaran” but I think that the shouts from our four young children, should scream “kid boat.”

To learn more about catamaran culture and it’s rumoured snob status, I searched the web and found this entertaining article, “Snobs at Sea” By Michael Kilian. This article first appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1986, back when Miami Vice was in full swing.

To the puffed up, new boat owner, Kilian has this to say:

You may have status over boatless folk–like those family groups who gather in their undershirts for waterside picnics that end in games of charcoal grill throwing. Sail close by them and they may be impressed enough to throw a red-hot Weber at you. Certainly a beer can.

After this ego-deflating introduction, Kilian points to a distinction between those who “yacht” and those who “sail”. With some sarcasm, Kilian writes:

True Yachting is a strict discipline…

Figuring out port and starboard and learning to say “forward“ instead of “up there at the sharp end“ will not suffice. True Yachtsmen will be listening for your every mistake, such as thinking a boom vang is a kind of cheap wine, or giving the command, “Prepare to jive!“

Based on Kilian’s article and my lack of sailing experience, I can confirm that I have a long way to go before I can out-snob anyone at sea. In fact, I think my thrifty but ill-conceived idea to use old tires as fenders places me somewhere at the lower end of sailing sophistication.

And, in terms of sailing language and the incorrect usage thereof – I would have plenty of fodder to give the “True Yachtsmen”. I only learned that a “tender” was a “dinghy” yesterday. Does anyone else remember learning about sailing as an adult? Is it always this awkward?

Real sailors – of the variety that would be worth knowing – have genuine skill. This is a group that I hope to join sooner than later. I am going to Antigua in late April for sailing training. It will be fantastic to gain practical sailing experience. And, in mid-July I hope to stow our fenders – probably real ones, not tires – and set off with my family for the Caribbean – in our catamaran.

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