By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
|Principal Dimensions & Specifications|
|Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer's specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.|
|Waterline Length||27' 6"|
|Maximum Draft||1’ 6" – 4’ 6"|
|Fuel Capacity||42 Gallons|
|Water Capacity||60 gallons|
|Sail Area 100%|
|490 Sq ft.|
Some time ago, I was asked if I might be able to include a review of a cruising catamaran. Well, truth be known, my multihull sailing experience consists of several outings on friends Hobie Cats where I always felt just a bit out of control. My only multihull design project was a simple trampoline-styled catamaran to fulfill minimum curriculum requirements as a student years ago and I have surveyed only one multihull in the last year. I admit to being just a little nervous about this assignment but I accepted figuring the research required would only broaden my knowledge and if you've looked around the boat shows lately, it's apparent multihull sailing is gaining in popularity. The selection of a boat to review was left up to me but, to coin a popular expression of our times, it was a no brainer. The Gemini, with well over 400 hundred boats built is, by far, the most popular cruising catamaran in the United States and the designer/builder Tony Smith of Performance Cruising, Inc. is located right here in our back yard. For years Performance Cruising Inc. operated at Casa Rio Marina in Mayo. Recently they moved to a beautiful, brand new facility on Edgewood Rd. in Annapolis.
Introduced in 1981 the original Gemini 31 was patterned after the Aristocat designed in 1969 by Ken Shaw. Over the years there were several incarnations of the original design including the Gemini 3000 and the Gemini 3200. Although there were minor changes in LOA and styling all were based original hull shape and design. It's difficult to distinguish, at a glance, a 1982 from a 1992 model. In 1996 Tony Smith totally redesigned the hull and introduced the current Gemini 105M.
Construction of the Gemini is quite conventional with a solid lay-up of fiberglass mat, woven roving and polyester resin used for the hull. The decks are cored with end grain balsa for stiffness. Beginning with the Gemini 3200, a layer of vinylester resin was incorporated in the lay-up schedule of the hull in order to help prevent osmotic blistering. According to a survey conducted by Practical Sailor several years ago, about 20% of the owners of older Gemini's reported some degree of osmotic blistering. This is likely below the average of 1980's vintage production sailboats.
There are polyurethane- coated plywood centerboards in each hull which fully retract providing for a scant 18" of draft with the boards up and 4' 9" with the boards down. Many of the bulkheads of the Gemini are not tabbed into the structure but are free floating. This is by design similar to aircraft construction and the structures have reportedly held up well. There have been some reports of water migrating into flotation chambers of some Gemini models and going undetected due to the lack of inspection ports. In addition drains in the port side sail locker are sometimes below water when under sail resulting in the locker partially filling with water. Window leaks are another persistent problem on older boats.
The most attractive feature of a catamaran for the cruising sailor is livability. When it comes to livable accommodations, the Gemini is difficult if not impossible to beat. On what other 30' boat could you and your mate enjoy a private cabin with a comfortable queen sized bunk, invite two other couples along for a weekend and offer each their own "intimate" double cabin, have a head large enough to shower comfortably in and still have room for a dinette large enough for all to squeeze into for dinner. The Gemini offers this plus a good size galley and cockpit large enough to accommodate all your guests without feeling crowded.
If accommodations are the number one attraction of cruising catamarans, then speed and performance must be number two. Some will argue the relative importance of these two. The simple fact is, on most points of sail, a well designed catamaran is faster than a comparably sized monohull and they don't heel as much. A major key to performance of any boat is weight and weight distribution however, catamarans tend to be less tolerant of added weight. While the extra weight of a few months supplies carried by most long distance cruisers may slow a monohull a bit, it can be devastating to the performance of a catamaran. Nonetheless, Gemini owners overwhelmingly report satisfactory performance under most conditions. Because the bridge between the two hulls of the Gemini is quite low it tends to pound in short steep seas, particularly if the boat is overloaded.
Older Geminis are powered by outboard engines usually around 40 horsepower. An extra long 25" shaft is essential to proper performance and may be tough to find in the horsepower range if repowering becomes necessary. The major draw back of outboard power for cruising sailors and liveaboards is the engine's inability to generate sufficient amperage to run power-hungry refrigeration units and engine cooling systems can't be used to potable heat water. Gemini's solution is LPG appliances that, although efficient, can be quite hazardous when not properly installed, vented or maintained.
The beam of the Gemini has always been kept at 14' which makes it possible to fit in a good sized slip at a modern marina as well as haul and launch the boat with lift equipment at most marinas. Due to its high freeboard and shallow draft the Gemini can be a bit of a bear to handle in tight spaces. Practice, patience and planning are the keys to success.
The Gemini is a moderately priced modestly constructed catamaran. Used Geminis generally offer excellent value, outstanding accommodations, and solid sailing performance.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.