The catamaran vessels of today are the direct descendants of the highly evolved Polynesian sailing canoes. Double-hulled canoes had two important qualities, good buoyancy and stability, and it is these two qualities that led to the development of the modern catamaran. Early attempts at building catamarans started in 1662 when Sir William Petty built his "Double Bottom" to race in Dublin. He beat all comers and established the speed potential of catamarans in the Western Hemisphere. Most early steamboats were catamarans where the paddle wheel was protected between the hulls. The connecting structure between the hulls was used for navigation and since became known as "the bridge".
Western perception of the catamaran has been shaped by yachting rather than commerce.
In the world of yachting, catamarans became better known as "multi-hulls", and they are the most sea kindly vessels on all points of sail, and the safest and most comfortable cruising boats afloat.
Looking at it in a very simple way and comparing it with an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe, the cross-beams joining the two hulls, on which rest the deck, have been replaced by a bridge, or platform, whose structure cuts directly into the starboard and port hull topsides. On top of the bridge there is the cockpit, from where the catamaran is steered, the saloon, where guests socialize, the skipper charts maps and navigational instruments, and the crew has shelter.
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