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Whither catamarans?  Bottom

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  • I asked my son, a sophomore in college this. His answer was "Our phones are our hobby." That, and video games. One of his buddies is more of an outdoors man and we fish and boat, etc. but even in those activities it's a bit of a "short attention span theater" kind of thing. We appear to have less time, when in fact we're encouraged to dart from sound bite to sound bite giving rise to the way we now live our lives. My daughter and son-in-law (both 22) are some rare exceptions - they read books, hike exercise and lead healthy/happy lives, but don't watch news nor buy into much of that mass communication stuff. They love to sail with me.

    It would be nice to have a boat that's Hobie/Getaway-esque, drawing some of the form of high-performance, wave piercing hulls with decent performance, yet easy to operate with a modest price. I think Hobie was going there, but couldn't get the market.

    BTW, we still have a few out training on opti's and sunfish or lasers, but I'd estimate less than a 100 or so in the Houston/Galveston area (maybe a few more?). For such a metropolitan area, that's not enough to support a full industry, I think.

    --
    Chuck C.
    H21SE 408
    --
  • QuoteIt would be nice to have a boat that's Hobie/Getaway-esque, drawing some of the form of high-performance, wave piercing hulls with decent performance, yet easy to operate with a modest price. I think Hobie was going there, but couldn't get the market.


    G-Cat was such a boat, unfortunately they haven't made them for decades.

    The apparent demise in the popularity of small catamarans makes for a very interesting discussion.

    I started sailing beachcats in Southern California in the late seventies. They were everywhere. The most fun was informal races out to one of the offshore buoys and back and the one who came in last would buy the drinks. There were always people sailing and lots of comradery. By the time I moved away in '95
    it was fading away and I don't know what it's like today.

    I now live in Sarasota and with a bay 12 miles long and with sailing year-round you'd think it would be a hugely popular place for "Wet Boat" sailing. Over the years I've sailed my G-Cat over every inch of this Bay and there are hundreds of homes on the water, many with their own beach. An absolutely perfect set up! But sadly, there's only one house with a Hobie sitting out back. Go figure. There's a sailing club with a few cats but the only ones that go out frequently are the rental roto-molds and a handful of late model Nacras that seem to have their own club. On many perfect days I'll be the only catamaran out there.

    Now we can go on and on about the "Good Old Days", but really, what happened?

    One more thing, I keep hearing this term, "recreational boat". Aren't they all recreational? And can't they all be raced?

    --
    Bill Townsend
    G-Cat 5.0
    Sarasota
    --
  • danielt1263I've been going to my local sailing club for almost 30 years. They still have summer camps with kids on Optis, they still have Hobie Waves (by far the most popular boat there) and Getaways, along with 420's, Lasers and Sunfish. All are still getting used.

    That said, I see a lot of kids there and people in their late 40s +. Not many of the 20-30 somethings that make a sport "popular."


    The "club" part of that adds another factor entirely: Barriers to entry both financial (club dues) and psychological (one has to make a greater mental committment to a sport in order to take that extra step). The other issue is that clubs are not specific to cats, so that doesn't help us distinguish what's happened to the beachcat market relative to unimarans.

    Though it is interesting that you note Waves as being popular. Do you mean among all boats, or just among the cats?



    Edited by jonathan162 on Feb 07, 2023 - 11:33 AM.

    --
    Southern Alberta and all over the damn place.
    *
    1981 SuperCat 20 "Roberts' Rockets"
    1983 SuperCat 19
    TriFoiler #23 "Unfair Advantage"
    Mystere 17
    Unicorn A-Class (probably made by Trowbridge) that I couldn't resist rescuing at auction.
    H18 & Zygal (classic) Tornado - stolen and destroyed - very unpleasant story.
    Invitation and Mistral and Sunflower and windsurfers w/ Harken hydrofoils and god knows what else...
    --
  • QuoteG-Cat was such a boat, unfortunately they haven't made them for decades.


    Just cause I love to argue with you icon_cool
    Hans made a few 5.0 turbo G-cats about 10 years ago. He hired a professional (brett moss) to race the boat in the f16 nationals in Clearwater. Brett had zero experience on the boat and did not know it's nuances and ended up t-boning another cat. IF Brett did well, Hans "planned" to go back into production ... didn't turn out well and i think production costs would have been a huge factor in this boat getting off the ground
  • QuoteThough it is interesting that you note Waves as being popular. Do you mean among all boats, or just among the cats?

    Among all the boats. The Sunfish are almost never used. The 420s go out but it's mostly teens who are part of the racing team.

    The only boat that you have to reserve ahead of time are the Getaways because they only have two (and with 3 hour blocks of reservation time, that means a total of 4 slots per weekend.) Meanwhile, they have seven Waves and all of them get wet every weekend day. They even see a bit of action during weekdays from retirees and snow-birds.

    As for your comment about cost and commitments. The club costs the same as a gym membership so I don't see that as much of a barrier to entry and the mental commitment is much less. No need to look for and buy a boat then figure out where to store it, or how to rig it. I've owned a Laser 2, a Taipan/F-16, and I just purchased a Topcat K4X. All told, I've only owned a boat for maybe 10% of the time I've been a member at the club. If anything, the club makes it harder to justify purchasing a boat.

    I went to the local launch spot last weekend, and was joined by a Hobie Wave w/gennaker, and a mini-cat. Three boats! But there were 7-8 drones and probably 10-15 kayaks.
  • Interesting - that's not how the clubs work around here. Not that I'm really familiar with any of them (I could never join any club that would have me as a member), but I can't recall ever seeing anything but relatively modest dinghys for teaching the kids. And I'm constantly on the road hunting for new places to put in, so intruding on others' clubs is relatively rare, but happens.

    (Hint: Even the snootiest, most exclusive club will drag you in and shove a beer in your hand if it has a serious group of cat sailors and you show up with a TF on the trailer.)



    Edited by jonathan162 on Feb 07, 2023 - 09:46 PM.

    --
    Southern Alberta and all over the damn place.
    *
    1981 SuperCat 20 "Roberts' Rockets"
    1983 SuperCat 19
    TriFoiler #23 "Unfair Advantage"
    Mystere 17
    Unicorn A-Class (probably made by Trowbridge) that I couldn't resist rescuing at auction.
    H18 & Zygal (classic) Tornado - stolen and destroyed - very unpleasant story.
    Invitation and Mistral and Sunflower and windsurfers w/ Harken hydrofoils and god knows what else...
    --
  • charlescarlisI asked my son, a sophomore in college this. His answer was "Our phones are our hobby." That, and video games. One of his buddies is more of an outdoors man and we fish and boat, etc. but even in those activities it's a bit of a "short attention span theater" kind of thing. We appear to have less time, when in fact we're encouraged to dart from sound bite to sound bite giving rise to the way we now live our lives. My daughter and son-in-law (both 22) are some rare exceptions - they read books, hike exercise and lead healthy/happy lives, but don't watch news nor buy into much of that mass communication stuff. They love to sail with me.


    and

    danielt1263That said, I see a lot of kids there and people in their late 40s +. Not many of the 20-30 somethings that make a sport "popular."


    I've really, really, really been trying to avoid bringing this up, because the natural reaction to it is, "Well, every generation thinks it's the greatest our civilization has brought - or will ever bring - forth, and every one before and after is inferior, and you're no different, just old farts who don't 'get' us like your parents didn't 'get' you."

    Problem is, I think there's some validity to it... this time. Is gaming an Olympic sport yet?

    Doug Stanhope agrees: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n34eeXWjUQ
  • It's interesting you brought up the Olympics because I was thinking about that. I deleted part of my post where I was talking about recent and upcoming events at my sailing club.

    • The F-18 Worlds was held there with 62 boats participating.
    • The Clearwater US Open (for all Olympic classes) had something like 100 boats.
    • The ILCA Midwinters East Championships is coming up and another 100 boats are expected.


    Meanwhile in other news, last year's H-16 words had 225 boats from 22 countries.
    And I think the 2022 F-16 worlds had 90+ boats? (I'm having trouble finding the data right now.)

    I'm not sure how this fits into your equation... Cat sailing isn't dead, but has become less recreational? Maybe?
  • I'm really focusing my curiosity on cat sailing as a greater, mass-market recreation. 225 boats in the H16 Worlds sounds to me like maybe between .01% and .1% of the total number of H16s sold (I might be overestimating the total a bit, as the numbers I've seen probably include the 14s and 18s). Regardless, a couple of hundred is pretty inconsequential noise when those kind of numbers represent what used to be the market.
  • QuoteAs for your comment about cost and commitments

    I purchased my first h16 for about $1000 (i had to pay it off in installments as i didn't have $1000)
    I purchased my first h18 for $400
    These boats were both over 20 years old and in usable but poor condition overall

    Try finding a modern boat for under 10,000

    Costs of a boat are a huge factor for attracting people into the sport - not to mention the storage factor
  • I get it. But the 16 wasn't $1000 new, and the 18 wasn't $400 new. The original owners paid much more for them, so your used price isn't really a gauge of anything. In fact, if it means anything at all, it's that there should be - literally - hundreds of thousands of used boats just like yours, that can be had for a few hundred bucks. So that's a strong attractant to the sport, not a deterrent.

    --
    Southern Alberta and all over the damn place.
    *
    1981 SuperCat 20 "Roberts' Rockets"
    1983 SuperCat 19
    TriFoiler #23 "Unfair Advantage"
    Mystere 17
    Unicorn A-Class (probably made by Trowbridge) that I couldn't resist rescuing at auction.
    H18 & Zygal (classic) Tornado - stolen and destroyed - very unpleasant story.
    Invitation and Mistral and Sunflower and windsurfers w/ Harken hydrofoils and god knows what else...
    --
  • the hobie 16 i purchased for around a grand was 13 years old at the time

    On this site there is a 13 year old C2 for sale for $13,000
    On this site there is a 12 year old C2 for sale for $7,900
    20 year old Taipan for $6,500
    10 year old Nacra 17 for $14,000
    10 year old Nacra 500 for $6,500

    A modern set of sails can easily cost over $4000 (main, jib, spin)

    Modern boats cost a LOT more to produce, ship, rig, and maintain and use MUCH higher performance components

    Quotethere should be - literally - hundreds of thousands of used boats just like yours, that can be had for a few hundred bucks.

    There are thousands of legacy boats for VERY Cheap, they are terribe condition, melting into the ground, getting softer by the day

    I stand by my statement that the barriers of entry (in the US) are much stronger than they were in the 70's and 80's.
    Costs, lack of launch spots, competition from sports that are easier to "rig" and transport
  • QuoteCosts, lack of launch spots, competition from sports that are easier to "rig" and transport

    I don't believe that costs are a major factor but competition from other watersports and lack of launch sites is. "Personal Watercraft" are everywhere, on lifts behind waterfront homes and on trailers at the launch ramp. They're not cheap but are an easy "fix" for those who just want to get on the water with as little hassle as possible. Even sailboards and foilers that are much more affordable and transportable aren't near as popular as jet skis. Scarcity of good launch sites is definitely another factor, There's only one that's suitable in my area and it's not anywhere near as nice as Dunedin Causeway.

    What makes sailing small catamarans so appealing is hard to explain to non- sailors especially when one considers the obstacles. What I tell people is that like a few other sports, the fun comes from being in control of something that can get out of control so quickly. When the whitecaps come up, it takes all your concentration. The times I have been able to get non-sailors out in those conditions, they get it.

    --
    Bill Townsend
    G-Cat 5.0
    Sarasota
    --
  • MN3the hobie 16 i purchased for around a grand was 13 years old at the time

    On this site there is a 13 year old C2 for sale for $13,000
    On this site there is a 12 year old C2 for sale for $7,900
    20 year old Taipan for $6,500
    10 year old Nacra 17 for $14,000
    10 year old Nacra 500 for $6,500


    And in 2001 I bought my 1987 H18 for $3500 (Canadian) and over the next
    dozen years put another $5000 into it - at a time when one of the last 18s
    sold new around here for close to $20K. There. I can throw numbers around
    too, but it doesn't really get us any closer to understanding the the problem,
    so let's not do that anymore.

    QuoteA modern set of sails can easily cost over $4000 (main, jib, spin)


    And my SC19 desperately needs a new suit, but I don't have that kind of cash
    to spare, so I'm sailing the beaten up old original Dacrons with totally wrong
    battens. My point is that shitty sails aren't necessarily a barrier to taking a boat
    out and having fun, because we're talking about average recreational sailing
    and not maximum-performance racing. So once again we're talking about
    something that isn't really a barrier to entry, because the boat may not need
    them.

    QuoteModern boats cost a LOT more to produce, ship, rig, and maintain and use
    MUCH higher performance components


    Seems to me that this was already discussed and agreed on, so I don't need
    any convincing. It's what I described above as "the performance virus", to
    which one adds the same factors as drive up prices on everthing else in our
    lives.

    QuoteThere are thousands of legacy boats for VERY Cheap, they are terribe condition, melting into the ground, getting softer by the day]


    Things decay over time - dog bites man. If your estimate is right, and "thousands"
    are in unusable states of decay, that still represents what - 1%? 10%? of the boats
    built through the peak? Where are the rest?

    QuoteI stand by my statement that the barriers of entry (in the US) are much stronger than they were in the 70's and 80's.
    Costs, lack of launch spots, competition from sports that are easier to "rig" and transport


    It's very difficult to move research like this ahead if you bounce around between
    factors - what I'm trying to do is isolate and focus on the various factors in turn.

    So:

    Yes, everyone's in total agreement that new fiberglass boats have priced
    themselves out of the mass market. But I think there are still real questions
    unresolved about the actual cost of putting a used boat in the water.
    Everything is (more) expensive, and a recreational item like this is no
    exception, but I believe that the low prices of the many used boats out
    there, when compared to the price of them new back in the 70s and 80s
    (and considering inflation, of course), make their affordability now better
    as an adjusted percentage of our earnings than they were. But unless
    there's an actual economist in our midst who can help untangle that, let's
    not continue to beat it to death. I think this remains an unresolved mystery
    that's key to understanding the problem.

    Now, the lack of launch spots and competition from other water sports
    (because we're not going to learn anything by comparing sailing to pickleball)
    we can consider in turn.



    Edited by jonathan162 on Feb 10, 2023 - 11:45 AM.
  • A Hobie 16/18 and a Prindle 16/18 or even a Nacra 5.0 probably sold new for around 5K in the early eighties. I'm just guessing, but my point is when you translate that into today's dollars, you're probably into five figures and there was no shortage of those boats. Like I mentioned in my previous post, where I live there are hundreds of homes on the water but no beach cats. These homes cost millions so the cost of boats should be inconsequential. It's just purely lack of interest, driven by a combination of the other factors. Besides, how many people participate in a sport where you get wet, cold and bruised and say they had a good day on the water? One more thing, the high prices aren't just affecting beach cats. Check out the prices of used 18ft power boats with low hours. No shortage of them out there.

    --
    Bill Townsend
    G-Cat 5.0
    Sarasota
    --
  • Alright - some actual data points! They may not be hard numbers, but
    you've got what you think is a reasonable population sample to look at.
    I think you're on the mark when you adjust for inflation and reduce the
    cost barrier importance, and I find the "cost... should be
    inconsequential [to these people]" argument compelling. But... we have
    to consider a couple of factors: First, because of the price creep
    attached to the performance virus, that $5K boat doesn't exist new
    anymore, so while that potential entry-level buyer in the megabuck
    house may not have been deterred by a now-$10K H16, he may be if the
    only option for a new boat is some carbon fiber and mylar scorcher at
    $25K - I think that even the well-heeled have a limit to what they'll
    spend on spec on a brand-new toy they may not like. Get out your
    clipboard and start the door-to-door survey!

    Also, it's worth considering whether any of those cat-deficient houses
    have sailboats at all.

    And I'm going to toss in one other idea, which is me presuming to do a
    psychological analysis of a bunch of people I've never met: As we've
    discussed, it's still possible to get into a used cat on the cheap
    (fixing it up and maintaining it, of course, is another conversation,
    but it's not expected to be a multiple of the acquisition cost - at
    least in the short term), and I expect that present company is unanimous
    in that none of us would hesitate to snag a good used deal. But does
    that same thinking apply to people with a lot of discretionary cash, or
    would they habitually exhibit a greater tendency to simply buy new
    rather than a fixer-upper, and thus convince themselves there's nothing
    available "in their price range"?



    Edited by jonathan162 on Feb 10, 2023 - 10:22 PM.
  • There's been a collapse of young people that fix stuff up, much less have the skill sets to do it right. Not that they don't have the aptitude, they don't have the patience or want to commit the time. I've got a buddy that would just rather pay to get something fixed and he's a reasonable engineer with grew up in his dads auto shop. Don't know if it's about time or what, but they don't want to fix up stuff.

    --
    Chuck C.
    H21SE 408
    --
  • The notion of "the disposable society" has certainly been the long-term trend,
    but I'm not sure it's a one-way trip - I think the pendulum may be swinging back.
    The shine seems to be starting to come off of simply buying cheaper everythings
    from China, not only because the pandemic revealed the fragility of JIT supply
    chains, but it's beginning to dawn on people that outsourcing manufacturing to
    the lowest international bidder doesn't do your own country much good. The
    environmental pressures keep piling up and making consumers more conscious
    of the greater costs of just replacing stuff when it breaks rather than fixing it;
    that in turn is pushing right-to-repair legislation. And "maker spaces" (though I
    hate the term) and repair cafes represent a grassroots movement (however
    small) to try to extend the useful lives of the stuff we buy. Then again, I'm at
    the opposite end of the spectrum from the too-rich-to-buy-anything-used that I
    speculated about in my previous posting. I take pride in not buying anything
    new if I can possibly do otherwise, and can't even understand the mentality of
    people who do. Honestly, why on earth would anyone not go to the thrift shop
    first for something that works perfectly well yet was tossed for any number
    of very poor reasons?
  • I'm right there with you, bud. I, in fact grew up buying cheaper and fixing up so that I could have those things I otherwise couldn't afford, and still do. Watching The boat market, you can buy a very nice, used reading keel boat for the same price as a new cat. And, the same goes for the cat market in general, but storage always seems the issue. Oh Well, time to go work on my boat.

    --
    Chuck C.
    H21SE 408
    --
  • Alright, then I'm going to toss another idea up for discussion - I had some
    time to think over the past week while pulling up about 500 ft^2 of 1.5" oak
    flooring, which is an ugly and tedious job if you're planning to reuse it and
    don't want it to suffer any damage.

    The term that occurred to me was "generational novelty". Basically, a new
    thing that has a relatively short (that is, one or two generations) lifetime
    ahead of it, but isn't way down at the "months" level of pure pointless fads
    like hula hoops and fidget spinners. The proximate analog to cats would
    be windsurfers - huge hit for a few years, then faded completely from view,
    though there are still relatively small numbers of hardcore adherents. It's
    an obvious comparison because they're both sail/water sports, but where
    cats seemed to get a couple of generations, windsurfing got less than one.
    Or is the time comparison wonky because I'm not acknowledging how
    short the cat mass market actually was?

    Of course, if this is a valid idea, then why is another completely different
    question. Is there a hint in the word "generational"? Is it a simple truth that
    "these kinds of sports" (whatever that means...) just aren't picked up by a
    second generation because that was their parents' thing and they want to
    find somethng new? Because now we're getting out of the realm of marketing
    and economics and well into psychology.



    Edited by jonathan162 on Feb 12, 2023 - 05:47 PM.

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