Sailing The Pacific In A Catamaran – Tips!

Sailing the Pacific can be a dream to many. It can also be a wonderful experience to explore new routes, tackle varying weather conditions, and cherish moments for a lifetime. 

Sailing the Pacific in a catamaran of 30-50 feet is feasible, and it can take around eight weeks to sail it completely. Sailing offshore can be dangerous, so consider the West Coast route for a great experience. 

If you are still planning an itinerary to sail the entire Pacific Ocean, this article can offer extensive insights to help you plan better and make your trip more memorable.

Pacific Sailing Routes

There are two sailing routes across the Pacific – East to West and West to East. Taking the route from East to West via Panama and The Galapagos is ideal. 

Let’s look into these routes in more detail before you make your decision on which one to take.

Coconut Milk Run

Most sailors prefer taking the coconut milk run, which is the route from East to West, as the weather conditions are convenient and the route is comparatively shorter. 

The sailing begins from Panama and moves via French Polynesia. Perhaps, if you prefer a halt in the mid, you can visit the Galapagos Islands and rest for some time. It takes about 6-8 weeks to sail across the Pacific Ocean via this route. Perhaps, you can customize the stop points depending on the starting point. Some even go beyond the Pacific and sail the Caribbean for a unique experience. 

West to East

Most sailors don’t prefer taking the route from West to East due to the upwind that demands strong capability of the crew and other contingency preparations. The direct route is the fastest, but the winds are high. On the other hand, the Northern Route is filled with several small passages and can be the most favorite for adventure lovers. Do not attempt this route if you do not have a well-backed crew. Another route called the roaring forties takes about ten weeks and has several downwind spots. 

You could take a catamaran of 30 to 50 feet in length on both routes, but you may need additional helpers if you due to the demand of this trip length.

Do you have ample time to spend on your sail? In that case, you can set the United States as your starting route and go via Hawaii, Fiji, Polynesia, and New Zealand if you want a huge trip.

Can A Catamaran Cross The Pacific Ocean?

A catamaran of 30-50 feet in length can cross the Pacific Ocean smoothly. Remember to stock up with supplies if you are taking the West to East route due to its length. The East to West route is filled with scenic views and is the most favorable choice.

Catamarans are ideal for crossing oceans, including the Pacific due to their size and speed. Some experienced sailors choose monohulls to sail across the Pacific instead of catamarans, but the catamaran is safer and more comfortable to spend your vacation on. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion though.

Here are some more reasons to cross the Pacific Ocean with a catamaran over other sailboats. 

  • Cruising catamarans are perfect for oceans due to the positive buoyancy material used. 
  • Catamarans are also resistant to damage and can withstand wave crashes. Do not go with recreational cats when you sail across the ocean. 
  • Cruising catamarans are ideal for rough weather conditions as these contain enclosed cockpit spaces that keep the sailors safer. 
  • It is harder for a rogue wave to push a catamaran off course. Irrespective of the route you choose, you can go with a catamaran. 
  • Crews have found it extremely comfortable to balance on a catamaran. 
  • Knockdowns cannot hamper the catamaran because of the even weight allocation and the natural roll resistance in its design. 

Want to get a glimpse of the sailing experience across the Pacific? You should watch the video below:

As you can see from the video it can be rough at some times and safety is one thing you always need to consider before leaving port.

Dangers Of Sailing The South Pacific 

Sailing the South Pacific is the safest during the summer. Otherwise, it would be best if you had a balanced crew and a perfect itinerary to handle all situations. 

When you sail the Pacific along the United States and Canada, you are less likely to see upwind during summer. However, things can worsen during winter. 

Here’s a word of caution: Do not sail offshore if you do not have an expert team of sailors. 

Although fatalities are uncommon, it is better to take precautions as you travel on a catamaran. Typhoons are claimed to be the most dangerous hazard in the pacific and you need to be cautious when you sail across the Pacific. While these are always common, the speed and intensity can put everyone at high risk for injury or falling overboard. 

If you have inexperienced sailors, you must know that the Pacific is not simple sailing. Heavy weather is anticipated from November to April. You need several experienced sailors to tackle rough weather conditions and the seasickness of passengers can cause issues when sailing. 

There are other risks as well, including passengers overboard, rough weather, catamaran problems, and navigation errors. Sailing amidst rough weather conditions is common for sailors to get confused or lose access to navigation. In such cases, you need to make use of communication models like tracking devices and search and rescue services. 

Here are a few precautions to keep in mind before you begin sailing across the Pacific:

  • Evaluate your crew’s stability and health – Check if you are prepared to handle sudden medical emergencies of your crew. 
  • Make a note of contacts to search and rescue services – This will be helpful if you lose navigation or are stuck in the middle of the ocean. 
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your sailors – You do not necessarily need 10 highly skilled sailors. However, having a handful is sufficient to handle the issues that may come up.
  • Monitor weather conditions and note contingency plans – It is recommended to plan your vacation during May-July. Otherwise, weather conditions can get rough and pose several emergencies. 

How Long Does It Take To Cross The Pacific By Catamaran?

It takes an average of 7-10 weeks to cross the Pacific by catamaran. The duration depends on the size of the vessel, the number of passengers, route, itinerary, and weather conditions.

Some prefer having several stopping points to relax and take a break before continuing the cruise. A rough estimate of the duration is feasible. However, identifying the accurate duration is difficult since several variables exist in the ocean. 

Here are some tips to obtain a better grip on the duration:

– Choose the perfect route. The East to West route is the shortest of all. 

– Keep modern technologies handy so you do not waste time finding solutions to your emergencies. I’d recommend installing radar systems to avoid collisions and plan your itinerary better.  

– Plan the itinerary before leaving port. Perhaps, you can make adjustments along the way, but that should not affect the duration on a large scale. 

– The size of the catamaran is also influenced by the number of passengers and other baggage. 

How Big Of A Sailboat Do I Need To Cross The Pacific?

A sailboat at a minimum of 30 feet is required to cross the Pacific and handle rough seas. However, if you have a sailboat of 40 ft in length, it is perfect for tackling weather, and storage needs, and also helps improve comfort. 

There is also the option to rent a sailboat to cross the Pacific. Ensure you have a complete understanding of how this boat works. You do not want to be caught out in the middle of rough weather not knowing how to correct a boat’s issue.  

Smaller sailboats do not support rough weather conditions. Further, your comfort is at stake when you choose smaller sizes. Even if you are traveling solo, the size of the vessel matters a lot. 

Tips For Better Pacific Sailing 

Sailing across the Pacific is likely to throw unexpected situations at travelers. Based on the experiences of various sailors, I have come up with some handy tips to improvise and get the best out of your sailing experience across the Pacific. 

  • Maintain a crew of at least three experienced sailors. This crew needs to take shifts in sailing the catamaran and watching the route. Even when one of them falls sick, the other two are available. 
  • Keep a navigation chart handy. It is better to have multiple copies and also share them with your passengers, so all are well-equipped and informed about the itinerary. 
  • Perform an extensive evaluation of the catamaran. Do not randomly choose a catamaran. Remember to inspect the boat and rate its current health. Keep spare parts on board for certain situations. It is also equally important to have experienced sailors who can repair the boat and fix things when required. 
  • Check with safety laws and ensure that your catamaran complies with all of them before you start your journey across the Pacific. 

These have always helped me sail better and more confidently.   

Final Thoughts

Sailing across the Pacific is a must-have experience in life, but it also comes with its drawbacks. Sailing at the right time (May – July) in a cruising catamaran of at least 30 feet in length with a proper plan will make the experience fruitful and interesting. 

Remember not to overload your catamaran with people or items. Likewise, choose the route that is convenient to you. Cruising on a catamaran is the perfect way to enjoy your journey! 


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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