Heavenly Cruising:

Magazine: Admarine (Issue No 18)
Date: May 1985

HEAVENLY TWINS is an excellent example of a modern cruising catamaran -- a field in which Britain has always been a world leader.

She is inbelievably spacious, stable, comfortable, and easy to sail, yet utterly safe and dependable; even in extreme survival conditions.

Admarine (Issue No 18) - Heavenly Cruising

In many circles twenty or more years ago a statement like that would have been greeted by loud and knowing guffaws, followed by equally loud expressed opinions which regrettably had no basis in either experience or considered analysis. Indeed, there is a remnant of the anti-multihull school still to be found adorning several well known club bars. Yet those who have had the strength of character to make up their own minds over the years have been rewarded by the services of a superb cruising boat.

The steady reliability with which they are now seen roaming the World's oceans as well as happily satisfying the needs of the less ambitious owners makes it easier nowadays for the newcomer to catamaran cruising to form a balanced view of this kind of sailing. Over 300 Heavenly Twins have ben built so far, and they seem to appeal to a remarkably wide range of users. Family sailors are probably the most numerious, closely followed by retired couples and blue water adventurers, with several singlehanders being also attracted by the easy sail handling of centre cockpits and the boats excellent self steering ability. There are even a handful of families living permanently aboard - some in the U.K., but most in sunnier climes - pretty remarkable for a boat which in spite of genuine "big boat" feel is in fact only just over 26 feet overall.

There is a thriving owners association of course, and a steady stream of ideas for detailed improvements has flowed from existing owners, which has resulted in the finely developed Mark IV current production version.

Length overall 26'3"
Beam 13'9"
Draft 2'3"
Sail Area 380sq.ft.
No. of Berths 6

Straight-Up Sailing:

Magazine: Southern Life Magazine [Yachting]
Date: February 1984

The Hamble's Heavenly Twins catamaran, sail-tested by Bob Goddard.

IT WAS WHEN we sat down to an ample yachtman's cooked breakfast in Heavenly Twins equally ample saloon that this catamaran's remarkable qualities began to dawn on us. Here we were, skating down the solent at five knots with a freshening following wind, and but for the chuckle of water coursing between her two hulls and the occasional creak of rigging as a gust swelled the sails, we could have been in the restaurant of the QE2.

Southern Life Magazine [Yachting]

Mugs stayed where we put them. Tea stayed inside, Our cook, who had been slaving over a hot galley for half an hour, whistled while he worked. On any normal yacht rhythmically rolling on a downwind course, breakfast would have consisted of biscuits and a table awash with tea. Not only are hot fat and a heaving galley incompatible, but they soon produce a heaving cook. Hanging on with one hand while preparing food with the other is a sure recipe for queasiness in the hardiest of mariners, and Neil, who'd been delegated galley slave for our two-day test sail, needs no encouragement to turn green...
Having two hulls instead of one, a catamaran doesn't lean over when its sails are full of wind and, unlike the pendulum effect of a single, ballasted hull, wave motion doesn't induce that uncontrollable downwind rolling in cats either. But the twin-hull design's advantages go far beyond mere stability and comfort. Living space can be up to twice that of a similar-length monohull, and having no heavy ballast to drag around, the catamaran's performance can be stunning.

It is necessary to point out here that Heavenly Twins is designed as a solid, ocean-going, cruising yacht with speed a low priority. Even so, this chunky 26-footer will crack along at 8 knots on a reach, and there are few monohulls under 35 feet which can match that, and safely cross oceans.

There has to be catch....

Ask in any yacht club bar and you will be told, amid guffaws, that catamarans jolly well turn upside down, doncha know. And it is true that a very few multihulls, a tiny proportion of those sailing all over the world's oceans, have capsized, most of them while racing.

But Heavenly Twins is a different kettle of fish to the light displacement, ultra-high performance , racing cat however. She sits so solidly on the water beneath her modest rig, that the makers claim the sails or mast will give before the boat blows over - if you are ever crazy enough to sail fully canvassed in a gale, that is.

After two days and nights aboard we felt confident enough to test the theory-up to a point. With her full 200 square foot roller-reefing genoa and 140 square foot mainsail set, we left Poole, heading back for the Solent in a gusty force five. Heavenly Twins averaged 8.5 knots between Sandbanks and Hengistbury Head, exceeding nine knots in the gusts, yet never even threatened to lift a hull. None of the rigging broke either, although it was apparent the boat would be happier, and us more comfortable, with less canvas or less breeze. At which point the wind obligingly eased.

Southern Life Magazine [Yachting]

Tacking up to Harst Castle, the boat showed it could sail at 45 degrees to the wind, but it was advantageous to bear away a few degrees. Lack of sensitivity from the wheel steering made it hard for the helmsman to keep her moving if she luffed, and in practice 50 degrees proved favourite.

On all other points of sailing the cat performed as well as, or better than a monohull, and under her inboard motor we chugged along happily at around 5 knots, except when plugging into a stiff headwind, when the single cylinder, 10hp Ducatti was obviously struggling. Manoeuvring with the motor mounted in the starboard hull was...urm ...different. Applying power ahead produced a sharpe turn to port, whilst a burst of astern turned her to starboard. With as little as one knot steerage way, the cat could be controlled quite well, but slow speed squeezes into dog-legged marinas could give skipper the odd grey hair.
Owners can opt for an engine in each hull, which gives ample power, excellent manoeuvrability and the security of numbers. Alternatively, and more cheaply, Heavenly Twins can be powered by a 15hp outboard mounted in the cockpit - its extra-long shaft protruding into the water between the hulls.

When it is time to stop for the night, a 25lb CQR anchor is waiting in one of the capacious foredeck lockers ready for use. Here is ample storage for mooring warps, spare sails, fenders etc. With a draft of 2ft 3in, Heavenly Twins can be wriggled up shallow creeks and estuaries with confidence, drying out safely on her two long stub keels on almost any bottom. This versatility gives catamaraners the independence to be untroubled by the few marinas which refuse entry to cats, and the occasional harbour which charges excessive dues for multihull owners.

On board Heavenly Twins, the sailor and his family should find everything they need. Behind the safe and sensible centre cockpit are two large double cabins, where beds can be left made up - ideal havens of peace for a nap while on passage - since the space is not required in the daytime. Step forward through the large sliding door into the day cabin, and the interior space is astounding. The main saloon has ample seating for six, although the table is a little short for that number. The table folds down and backrest cushions infill to form another double bed. The latest Mark IV version of Heavenly Twins will also offer a seventh berth option.

To port is the kitchen - galley is too meagre a term for this great expanse of shelves, cupboards, worksurfaces, stainless steel sink and drainer and full cooker with oven. Here is where Mum can reign supreme, producing sumptuous meals for skipper and mutinous 'crew' in the same sort of comfort and convenience she's used to at home. There is full standing headroom and a huge window for a fine view of the world going by, so cook need not feel the least bit cramped or claustrophobic. In fact, throughout the boat windows provide plenty of light and space, and in the main saloon the cat's wide windows give a panoramic view.

To starboard is one of the best navigation areas I've come across. The big chart table folds down across the navigators knees as he sits on the hull step. Charts, drawing equipment, hand compass, radio direction finder etc can all be stowed in the cupboard opened when the table is lowered.

Beyond the nav area is the loo and shower rooom. No contortions are needed in this sizeable department which contains handbasin, sea toilet, shower and a hanging locker for oilies. Improvements to some fittings and better access past the in-use chart table are being built into current production boats, answering our only minor criticism of the demo vessel.

During our two-day, live-aboard sail test we discovered more lockers than the average sailor is ever likely to need. There is ample storage space for a family's possessions and provisions for ocean passages, and more than enough stowage for living aboard permanently too. Of the 300 or so Heavenly Twins cats built since 1972 many now live in the Mediterranean, Atlantic crossing are commonplace and one is known to have been sailed to Australia.

For us, sadly the sail test was over before we could circumnavigate anything bigger than the Isle of Wight. But we were left with a lasting impression that here was a boat that could tackle anything asked of her in upright safety and supreme comfort.

Heavenly Twins - The Family Peacemaker:

Magazine: Shore Link [Looks at a family compromise]
Author: Jill North
Date: May-June 1986

If your family is anything like ours, sailing will almost certainly be a series of compromises, forced on you all by the sure and certain knowledge that Dad must sail, and would sooner sacrifice the lot of you, if pushed, than give up his beloved boat. Ultimately, I think we would prefer him like that, rather than be watching the box for his relaxation, or endlessely polishing the car at weekends. So we we used to sail with hubby in an assortment of keelboats, and suffer, quietly wherever possible.

Shore Link [Looks at a family compromise]

I, for instance, cannot stand any boat that heels over. I have had the theory explained endlessly to me - the further over she goes, the more stable she is, etc. etc. - but I just don't like it. It scares me, as well as making life very uncomfortable, above and below. I also violently dislike the sort of boat (and this means most of them, in my experience), where even in harbour, life, is too cramped for civilised life to be possible. I loathe squalid piles of clothes stuffed to fester in little lockers, tiny toilets and washbasins, and as for those quaint hell holes that are cutely named 'galleys' in all the glossy brochures, if ever there was anything expressly designed to put your average female off sailing for life, those are they.

First mate
I also knew that on those mercifully rare occasions when we were caught out in bad weather, fear and simple lack of physical strength rendered me practically useles in my unchosen role of First Mate.

The children, on the other hand, when they were smaller, quickly got cold and tired in the cockpit, and yet could not be sent below as we knew for a dead cert that a few minutes of dark, bouncy, angled motion would produce problems of a worst and messier kind. We were fortunately blessed by quite tolerant tots who would try to sleep in the cockpit, in corners away from the spray, but this was not always possible. Cusion and carpet materials were carefully chosen to more or less match the colour of redelivered breakfasts, but our boats were never able to totally lose that smell. Just the thought still gives me a bad attack of the shudders.

Stowing bikes
Now they are older, space for sunbathing, extra berths for their friends, and somewhere to stow sailboards or folding bikes, seem to be the main priority. Also, somewhere to be private, occasionally. At any age, if your sailing does not cater for their needs, children can make it hell for everybody - and why not? It wasn't their idea, after all. And surely families are about looking after each other's interests, and caring.

Well, all credit to my man - he cares. Well, most of the time. After we had finally managed to sell our last keelboat - nearly five years ago now - he spent months scouring the cruising books, brochures, magazines, and of course the shows, to find a boat that would not just give use the same old compromises with a bit more room. He wanted, in an age that has put men on the Moon, a logical solution to what he saw as a basically simple problem - how could all of us sail safely, with spaciousness and comfort, within a reasonable budget? Thank heavens he did, as without his perserverance we would now be stuck with something like a 30 foot monohull, still wondering why we were at each other's throats after our annual curise if conditions were anything other than ideal.

Well, to cut a long story short, he announced one day to an audience of by then almost professional sceptics, that he had found it. His ideal family cruiser. It was a production cruising catamaran, with, we discovered, a worldwide reputation among the cognoscenti for strength and safety, as well as good performance and outstanding accommodation. We spent a whole day with the designer Pat Patterson, sailing his own Heavenly Twins from Plymouth in a bleak, grey February with winds that occasionally dropped to a force 6, and as we all agreed during the evening's well lubricated debriefing, we actually enjoyed it. We also found that none of us had felt the slightest apprehension during the whole day, even when facing some pretty awa inspiring growlers fresh in from the Atlantic. That was a revelation. We were convinced.

So, apart from inspiring confidence in bad weather, what's so great about Heavenly Twins? Briefly, it's like moving to the Twentieth Century from the Stone Age. This is what you get, although it must be said that mere words cannot do her credit - it's really a quite different world.

  1. No heeling. Total stability. Easy for adults and children to walk about, above and below, no need to carefully stow everything before departure, no spilt coffees or G&T's, even in bad weather.
  2. Centre cockpit. Very important for safety and comfort. All sail handling can be done from the cockpit, and even in big seas you all feel securely in rather than on the boat. The standard arrangement is two double cabins aft of the cockpit, although we have seen retired couples who have removed the divider and created a simply huge double, just for their own use, leaving the saloon double for occasional visitors.
  3. Stacks of space below. Having a beam of 13'9", which does not significantly taper at the ends, creates a massive interior that leads many visitors to doubt that the boat is only 26' overall. My kitchen is 8' long, with full standing headroom of course, and acres of worktop and stowage space. It is also not in a passage to another part of the boat, for the crew to keep squeezing by. A beautiful saloon, which in spite of a lovely airiness, given by the large windows, is finished in teak with lovely headlinings, to give a cosy, almost traditional feel to the evening meal (the table seats 8) and post-children's bedtime activities (they depart to the aft cabins, don't forget). A spacious toilet compartment with shower and no need to slip a disc to reach those parts that we prefer not to bother with in keelboats. I also take my turn in navigating, and really appreciate the site and size of the nav. table. We have some good friends who are living permanently aboard their HT in Cornwall at present - all 6 of them!!
  4. Deck space galore, with lots of different sitting or lying positions which can still be used in quite bad weather because of the almost complete absence of spray. We only wear oilies in the rain, and even then, only the helmsman needs to as we can all happily amuse ourselves inside the boat without queasiness. What a difference!

  1. Unsinkability. Punch a hole through both hulls and sealed buoyancy compartments ensure you not only stay afloat, but are actually sailable. This is a far cry from the latest unsinkable keelboats which are totally awash when holed, and totally untenable like that in any seas.
  2. Shoal draft, and perfect beachability. 2'3" we draw, which speaks for itself. She has long fixed keels, and skegs, which also give good self steering.

A floating caravan
Ok, you say - a floating caravan. Well, this is certainly a common opinion amongst those who have never sailed them. But if it's the truth you are after, it's a different story. We plan, when sailing long distance, for 5.5 knots average, and can point to 45 degrees if we have to. She'll sail faster and often get you quicker to windward at 50 degrees, it's true, but we can certainly give a modern 30 foot cruising monohull a run for his money in moderate winds forward of the beam. Once the wind pipes up and/or moves aft, we gain the edge. We notice that we reef much later than most monohulls, probably because the motion is more comfortable than theirs in strong winds. Downwind sailing in a gale aboard HT is also an exhilarating, and yes, an enjoyable experience, as far removed from doing the same thing in a mono as taking a Daimler rather than a donkey down the M1. No rolling, no fear of broaching, and wheel steering and a super hull shape take care of the worst that old Mother Nature can throw at your behind. 10 knots under such conditions is easy, and totally safe and controllable with it.

What about capsize? You may well ask yourself the question. Well, the important thing to note is the huge difference between cruising catamarans like Heavenly Twins and the racing kind. The later are built as light as possible, for speed and are given huge sail areas, for the same reason. They are also mostly trimarans, with deep centerboards to trip over, and a small downwind hull to strain the structure in beam seas. They are sailed hard too, with crews and boats continually stretched to their limits. Hardly surprising that they come to grief occasionally.

The fact is that no HT is even known to have lifted a hull out of the water while sailing and certainly never come near to capsize, since they were first launched over 13 years ago - and many HT's have encouraged their owners to make some pretty ambitious cruises, often involving the sale of homes and businesses to realize the dream. Atlantic crossings are taken for granted and several of them are known to have reached Australia and New Zealand - not bad for a 26 footer of any kind.

Well, after a few year's acquaintance, we are all totally hooked on our superb sailing cottage - so much so that when an opportunity arose ot become involved with them commercially, my husband gave up a lucrative and demanding computer career just to spread the gospel according to Heavenly Twins. We all agreed at the time that this was a great move, and now have a thriving little business, flourishing Owners' Association, and hosts of HT owning friends to prove it.

The family's grown a bit now, with over 400 boats sold - and it's still small enought to welcome new disciples. But be warned - after sailing HT, ordinary boats will never seem quite the same again unless you all get a kick out of unnecessary suffering, of course.

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