Gemini 105: A Good Coastal Cruiser that has Evolved Over Time. This boat may be unique in the history of boatbuilding: a boat that has slowly and steadily evolved over time as owners suggested improvements and the builder/designer incorporated those ideas that he considered worthwhile. That’s what you have in the newer model Geminis: Essentially, it’s a boat designed by committee. Originally, the boat was a 30-foot cruising catamaran, and it has now evolved into a 34- foot cruising catamaran with an expressed emphasis on cruiser—not that these boats aren’t raced, as they are. It’s just not intended to be a racer. It’s designed as a cruiser, and the boat does measure up very well as a cruiser.
In my opinion, the Gemini 105 makes a fine near-coastal cruiser. Some would disagree and point to trans-Atlantic crossings as proof that the boat has big-ocean capability. Many boats of all sizes and shapes have crossed oceans, but that does not make a boat everyman’s ocean-crossing cruiser. I would also be the last to argue that near coastal conditions are more benign than ocean-crossing conditions. They’re not. But, at least in near coastal waters, when conditions get bad, you can duck back inside, seeking protected waters.
Why isn’t the Gemini an ocean-crossing design? It’s too small, number one. It can’t carry enough stuff, number two, and it’s too lightly built to be a safe haven in a severe ocean storm. I still think it’s a fine cruiser, provided you can pick your weather and not venture too far offshore for too long. The shallow draft centerboards and kick-up rudders allow navigating shallow anchorages—a plus for a coastal cruiser navigating an unmarked inlet to a secluded lagoon. Also, the Gemini can fit into most marina slips, being a moneysaver over beamier catamarans. I’ve been on a number of Geminis and sailed (even raced) with friends on theirs. I did a delivery trip on a new boat from the factory in Annapolis to Florida, and I’ve cruised the Bahamas alongside one, so I’m pretty familiar with the boat, although I have never owned one.
The boat is not fast despite claims to the contrary. The Edel 35 catamaran (I owned one) sails much faster than the Gemini, and the Edel is not particularly fast as catamarans go. But the Gemini is a cruiser. Is it fast compared to your average everyday 34- foot cruising monohull? That depends on conditions. Going to weather, a well-sailed and well-designed 34-foot monohull probably carries the day. Reaching, though, is a different story. Gemini 105s will get up there around 12 knots in perfect reaching conditions, and sailing at 8 to 9 knots is not uncommon. Unfortunately, there are sea conditions that will pound your Gemini relentlessly, and the noise of a wave slamming the bridge deck is unnerving. It probably doesn’t do the boat any good either.
Slamming is a feature of any catamaran where bridge deck clearance has been sacrificed on the altar of interior headroom. Even the larger cruising cats, such as the Lagoons or Moorings cats, suffer from this malady. The Gemini Rig The rig and sailing systems are fine, if a little light, and the deck layout works okay, but be careful negotiating the narrow side decks. I’m also not a fan of the optional Gemini system for managing a cruising spinnaker or “screecher.” That large curved traveler track is just not far enough forward to be optimal. A better arrangement is the folding bipod bowsprit that extends about six feet forward and yet folds back against the furled headsail for docking.
Several friends have this custom-made system, and it works very well without cluttering up the foredeck. Liveability The foredeck makes a great sunning platform, and at least one Gemini I’ve seen has a set of custom cushions for the foredeck that snap on, making a giant lounge. Interior accommodations are as good as they get in this size boat. Again, compare the Gemini 105 to your typical 34-foot monohull and you will find that the Gemini can accommodate three couples in separate staterooms. Yes, the after-cabin berths are a bit crowded if you’re a big person but workable for a weekend—or even a week or two. For a family of Mom, Dad and two kids…each gets a private room. Where’s that on your 34-foot monohull?
The forward berth is big enough for large people, although there is an inside position and an outside position. That is, the outside position (to starboard) can get in and out without disturbing the inside sleeper. So if one of you has to get up in the night to check the head or the anchor or whatever, put that person in the outside position; otherwise, the inside person will be climbing over to get out. The galley-down arrangement is as efficient as it can be, given the cook needs to stand and have access to stove, fridge and food storage.
Some couples cruising Geminis have converted the starboard aft berth to a pantry where most bulk food items are stowed. The propane fridge works well, too, although fuel consumption can be an issue, and the front opening means that most of the cold is lost with each opening. I’d prefer a larger top-loader for most cruising requirements. I would find the cold-food storage a bit small for extended cruises—beyond a couple of weeks anyway. Our friends report that when cruising, a propane tank will need a refill every couple of weeks.
I’m also not crazy about having an open flame in the cabin no matter how small it might be, but I’m not aware of any problems with the system, and these fridges have been standard in Gemini for many years. The dinette arrangement will work for four or even more for dinner, and the galley/dinette arrangement doesn’t leave the cook out of the cocktail hour. The head layout, on the port side, and the ingenious arrangement of valves, holding tank, pump-outs, etc., seems to work well. With the newer diesel boats, hot-water storage heaters are a much better solution than the older gas “demand” system.
The boats boast very adequate storage both below decks and on deck for the normal cruising gear although some planning will be needed to take advantage of the sometimes awkward shape of interior cubbyholes. A pair of davits on the stern is a reasonable solution to dinghy storage, provided you have a light dinghy. A bridge could also be constructed across the back for solar panels. Be sure to order the sling seat that rigs between the davits. Best seat in the house. Interior fit and finish is much better in the 105 models than in previous versions.
It’s light and airy, even if a bit of a “Clorox bottle”—better than the old dark and dreary wood. Water and fuel tankage is adequate for the short-term cruise, although water tankage could be a bit light for a family of four for more than a few days. The Engine and the Mechanics on the Gemini The little Westerbeke diesel engine in the newer boats is just about right. Fuel consumption is light, but the “agricultural” final drive unit seems to require more than a little maintenance. Changing the lower unit fluid is a challenge, and the manual hydraulic jack for lifting the unit clear of the water seems a bit silly.
If you take the trouble to make a hydraulic system for trim and tilt, why not make it electric with a thumb-button control just like any ordinary old Evinrude? The big prop is a plus though, and since the drive steers with the rudders, the maneuverability problem that existed in low speeds that was an issue in older Geminis has been eliminated. Cruising speeds under power are in the range of 6.5 to 7 knots. The helm position gets some complaints on older boats, but I found the 105 to be as good as any. It is sheltered from the sun and rain and at least faces forward. I found visibility to be good, and the helmsman can reach the controls even when perched alongside the hardtop for docking maneuvers.
The optional helm seat is great, especially when doing an extended motor down the ICW. The instrumentation and electronics package on my friend’s new boat is excellent. It’s all interfaced and integrated Raymarine stuff and very well done. That comment could be extended to the entire electrical system on the new boats. I especially like the inverter/charger arrangement. One drawback to be noted, though, is that the batteries are located in a position that makes servicing difficult. If it were my boat, I’d order Gel or AGM batteries to avoid the servicing issue. All in all, the Gemini is a good boat. If your cruising goals are relatively coastal, with maybe a venture to the Bahamas somewhere down the road, then this is a very good choice. It fulfills the mission of weekend cruiser for a family and offers the possibility of longer cruises for a lot less money than the next size up in catamarans.
This article originally appeared in South Winds Magazine, January 2007
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