Catamaran Fever on the Chesapeake Bay

The growing popularity of catamarans on the Chesapeake Bay is an indication of the platform’s versatility on local waters. With shallow drafts and phenomenal stability, opportunities for cruising with ease abound on the Chesapeake. And with roomier (and air conditioned) indoor living spaces, big cats allow for the cruiser’s lifestyle to extend beyond getting from one marina to the next. 

But the Bay’s marine infrastructure is still built with monohulls in mind. Owning and operating a catamaran in Annapolis demands a bit of insider information. 

The ideal location for big cats in Annapolis is Port Annapolis Marina, toward the mouth of Back Creek. “We’re a full-service yard,” says Christina Davidson, Service Manager at the Marina. “We can accommodate mostly anything, but being the only marina servicing multihulls in Annapolis, we need advance notice.” 

Port Annapolis has a 75-ton travel lift that allows for hauling out multihulls with beams up to 26 feet. Dock space is also available for boats with beams 25 feet and under, but as Davidson says, call early to reserve your space. 

Outside of Annapolis, Pier 7 on the South River in Edgewater offers one of the largest selections of catamaran slips in Maryland. Pier 7 is the home of The Catamaran Co, a dealer and charter service. If you’re considering purchasing a pre-owned multihull, they have an extensive range of sailing and power cats to test out. 

In terms of cruising, the Chesapeake Bay is well-known for its shallow waters and soft bottoms. For multihull sailors, this means that gunkholing is possible whereas on a monohull, we’re stuck further out. Shallow, hidden creeks and coves extend the perimeter of the Bay significantly, allowing for greater privacy when overnighting, and more adventures when exploring. From Annapolis, post up in Worton Creek, Tilghman Creek, or the Magothy, and make your deep-keeled friends swoon with envy. 

One thing to remember is that if your idyllic overnight becomes problematic, and one or both of your cruising cat’s engines fail, towing isn’t as straightforward of an operation as it is in a monohull. 

“Multihulls tow just fine from here to there,” says Adam Lawrence of BoatUS Kent Narrows. “The hard part is that they don’t turn well. If you’re towing, you have to make hard turns. And even then you watch the boat just keep tracking straight.”

Maneuvering to and from docks is also a headache. “When you’re towing a boat to a dock, you put the boat on your hip. But these catamarans have beams so wide, it’s like trying to maneuver two boats off your side instead of just one.”

Lawrence advises multihull owners to plan ahead, as towing takes a little more time than a standard monohull. And if you get in trouble in open water, be sure to drop your anchor in advance of the towboat’s arrival, as the approach takes a bit more time and the anchor will make things easier.