heavenly twins  
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taking ownership of top cat
living with an heavenly twins
ongoing refurbishment
a text narrative of our experiences owning a heavenly twins

I will try to be as unbiased as possible. I will outline problems and features as best I can, I will also give a brief summary of what work we have carried out to Top Cat in bringing her back up to date and modifications which have made sailing easier short handed. I have included some photographs to help any explanations if necessary. Any opinions are mine, and we may differ on expectations, like I said I will try to be as honest and unbiased as possible.

If you have seen my website http://www.topcatsail.co.uk you will have seen that Top Cat was bought by my parents in 1988/9 and had been moored in Porthmadog. During the time they owned her I sailed her as often as I could, although begrudgingly sometimes as my father was unwilling to make any investment in her.

The Heavenly Twins went through 5 main modification stages, the final being an addition of extra length from 26ft to 27ft, the MK5 or HT27 also had a bulge in the saloon roof to give extra headroom in the saloon. I am not sure that any extra headroom was given to the aft cabins at this time. The addition of creep through's from the saloon to the aft cabins was also added to this later model, but only when using an outboard which was in the centre of the cockpit. The creep through is where my engines are! You also lost two large cockpit lockers, which I believe is a great loss if cruising grounds are further than weekend sailing. I would avoid anything pre mark 3 (pre 1976/7) as these had wooden bolt on keels, the latter boats had the keels moulded.

The Twins is laid out with a fore saloon / galley / heads / chart area and twin aft double cabins, they are joined by the central cockpit.

Heavenly Twins side elevation schematic
Heavenly Twins plan schematic
Side Elevation
  1. Double aft cabins
  2. Aft cabin divider - removable option
  3. Engine posn when powered by outboard or central diesel/twin hydraulics.
  4. Engine position with twin diesels
  5. Buoyancy chambers
  6. Folding navigation table
  7. Saloon - standard - table drops to form queen berth
  8. Heads/shower compartment
  9. Cockpit and foredeck lockers
  10. Galley
  11. Stoopthrough access to aft cabin(s) unless twin diesels fitted
  Heavenly Twins side view drawing showing sail plan  

area by area :-

The saloon: Two long benches sit either side of the bridge deck, the floor is slightly lowered here by the central nacelle. Some vessels have modified this area to become more of a dinette by adding a seat under the windows fore of the table. Using removable table legs to allow the table to be free standing.

I am currently carrying out this modification. The table can be lowered down to the benches and with an extra piece of ply, or the extra seat discussed above, to make a queen sized double bunk. Useful if carrying guests, I have never yet used this, the benches are just wide enough to sleep singles on or become sea berths, having two separate double berths aft is usually plenty if you sail 4 up which is a nice number on board.

The headroom in the saloon in the HT26 is about 5ft, this means you do not spend time here unless sat down, generally I do not find this a problem, how often do you need to stand by the table? Under each bench is storage space, this is dry storage for us, we keep life jackets here, and perishables when cruising. We also keep two folding chairs under the seats. These are essential cruising items, nothing nicer than sitting out on the foredeck on a summers evening in a quiet anchorage. I often get remarks from monohull sailors when sat out like this, the masses of room on the foredeck is incredible.

To the port side and using the full fore part of the port hull is the galley, full headroom, an L shape is normal. There is masses of room, we have a reasonable fridge and two burner hob / grill / oven. A sink with drainer; With cupboards holding the same capacity as a small bed-sit. From experience the galley is equivalent to that of a 45ft monohull. You have to step down into the galley so carrying food / drinks can be a problem, but generally these can be passed over the port bench a little like a serving hatch. At the fore part of the galley we have a storage space above the fwd buoyancy tank going right up to the bow, we have on of those under-bed storage trays, the type on wheels, this allows us to use the area for storing tins etc. We have not yet moaned about galley storage.

Heavenly Twins sail plan and side elevation

The heads is at the fore of the starboard hull, it is of adequate size and has full headroom. Storage lockers are similar to those in the fore part of the galley. It should be noted to try not to put too much weight in the fore lockers, increased nose weight can cause uncomfortable pitching motion. The heads if sealed can also become a sit down shower area, I say sit down as this is the most comfortable. There is also a sink.

Between the heads and rear saloon bulkhead is the navigation area. This is not dedicated, and it is usual to have a drop down chart table. By sitting on the step this is actually quite a comfortable area to carry out chart navigation. It is not perfect, but I have to keep remembering this is a 26ft boat. I image set ups of this area are very individual, I am currently redesigning mine. The main power panel is also generally on this bulkhead.

At the foot of the steps on each side and running under the cockpit are the twin engine rooms. Access is tricky, but not impossible. I have fitted two Yanmar 1GM10's. These engines are designed such that oil changes etc. are all to the fore of the engine, so kneeling in the galley you can get full access to oil changes. The engines are short, this means bleeding or filter changing is not too difficult. I have chronic back pain and I can do it.

The starboard side is the usual place for the VHF, I have found this can be a problem with noise when the engine is running, I have not yet fitted noise suppression, and hope this will make it much better. There are three general methods of powering the Heavenly Twins:

A single outboard in the cockpit. I do not favour this method, I have heard of people becoming unstuck in strong winds when they could not get the boat to turn into the wind.
A single inboard engine such as a 3GM30 in the centre of the cockpit (using the outboard well) to drive twin hydraulic drives. I have heard this is a very noisy option with serious loss of power meaning a much larger engine than normal to be used, extra weight this high up is not in my opinion a great option.
Twin inboards, my favoured method. This gives maximum manoeuvrability close quarters. It also allows redundancy, I have a few times now been able to pick up my mooring with ease when one engine has been down due to problems. This has to be a good thing, she will cruise under a single engine at around 4.0 kts, under both around 7kts. At full chat the 1GM uses approximately 1/3 gallon an hour, cruising is less still.

The aft cabin layout. Each of the two cabins has a vertical step arrangement to the standing areas in the aft end of the hulls. On the bulkhead behind the steps are access panels to the front of the engines and in my case batteries. Thus climbing out can be a real pain, especially if stiff in the morning. The double 'square' bunks are over the bridge deck, there is kneeling room over the bunks themselves. Clothes storage is not massive, although extra storage could be built in, I have seen cupboards fitted along the transom for this, although similar to the forward lockers weight should be kept to a minimum here to avoid pitching.

We are currently looking to improve ventilation, the aft cabins can get stuffy in summer, although in winter our Eberspasher warms the cabin up very quickly and it's shape and size means that it tends to stay ambient over night with two people sleeping. The layout means one person has to sleep against the bulkhead separating the twin cabins. A further common modification is to have this bulkhead removable to open up the full aft cabins into one massive cabin with a king size+ bed. We have this but rarely remove the bulkhead as the spare cabin is too useful for storage such as our inflatable, cockpit cushions and the dog crate which we can leave up permanently allowing the dog to have a constant kennel onboard.


traveller modification

The cockpit, which stretches across the hull, 13ft 9in beam makes a large comfortable cockpit, slightly narrow sometimes, it can be like passing in the cinema aisles, but not too intrusive. The width can be a slight problem when sailing single handed as the genoa sheets are 10ft apart and as the helm is on the port side. An auto pilot is definitely needed in these circumstances. The mast is amidships and therefore right over the saloon door, this means all lines can be 'fully' controlled without leaving the cockpit. It also makes reefing simple as the clew is just above your head. The boom is controlled with a traveller across the aft cabin roof, I have made this adjustable to get maximum sail flatness when going to wind, I found that with out the adjuster the boom would fly out to the end stops on the traveller. Because unlike an aft cockpit, you cannot grab hold of the sheet car and position it manually. As there is no kicking strap, I think the adjuster is a necessary modification.

The boom is controlled with a traveller across the aft cabin roof, I have made this adjustable to get maximum sail flatness when going to wind, I found that with out the adjuster the boom would fly out to the end stops on the traveller. Because unlike an aft cockpit, you cannot grab hold of the sheet car and position it manually. As there is no kicking strap,

See here for more information regarding my modifications to the traveller.

  Heavenly Twins traveller arrangement with adjustment  

The steering is by wheel on the port side of the cockpit. The helm position is quite comfortable and out of the way, this means crew have full access to the boat without generally interrupting the helm. It can get cold however on a starboard tack when the cold air falls off the mainsail right on top of the helmsman, you can however stand in the centre of the cockpit and steer with your fingers, there is very little weight on the helm, the autopilot is also an option here. Steering is by push - pull morse cable.

Coming alongside on the port side is easy peazy as you can lean out and see right along the port hull. Coming alongside on the starboard side can be a problem until you learn the width of the boat, or you need your crew to talk you in to a pontoon, as it soon disappears into a blind spot.

The addition of a cockpit tent on a Heavenly Twins is an essential modification in my opinion. This not only makes a full new sitting area in the rain, keeping cushions dry, or an open workshop area in poor weather; it also gives privacy for the midnight toilet run or the lazy morning walk into the saloon for coffee with just your undies on. The design means without the tent you have to get dressed before leaving the aft cabins when in a visually exposed location. The tent can be quite expensive to buy, luckily my partner Tanya is a dress designer and was able to use her skills to replace ours when we took the boat over. We used the old material which had rotted as a template. The framework is actually very simple and if you go for a HT I will be happy to send you plans for this. The prices we obtained from the likes of C & J at the boat show for full replacement, i.e. frames and material was in the region of £1,500. But as I say, in my opinion essential. You can sail with the cover up, this makes it a little like a wheel house, though I prefer not too, it is extra windage.

Long genoa tracks are necessary to carry a decent sized headsail, she only has a small main and the head sail makes the boat. I bought a new sail from Kemps at the end of last season and it revolutionised the boat, it is 145% so must be treated with care, reefing is sooner than a monohull, yet with a third reefed, and a reef in main, I can still sail at 8kts in stronger wind (25-30kts). You have to reef by instinct sometimes, she will not always tell you when, having too much sail showing on a cat can cause serious problems. The rig of the Heavenly Twins is designed small. She is designed to slide sideways long before she gets tippy, I have seen some quite incredible leeway in strong gusts, but it is a characteristic you can easily get used to, I mean it is that or be held over at 35°.

This year I have fitted a lazy jack system to the mast, one problem with being right under the clew in the cockpit, when we lowered the main we often ended up with masses of sailcloth filling the cockpit. I have only as yet tried my system on the mooring, but it seems to work well. This has however stopped my roller boom reefing, though it has to be said, I never actually used it. You insert a crank into the end of the boom, and turn like a mad man, at about 1 inch per hour the main starts coming down, the worst part though, to raise the sail again just meant reversing the turning of the handle. This is just too much like hard work!

Moving aft on the deck you have a walkway around the aft cabins. On older boats pre mk4 this would have been taken up by the wooden steering tie-bar arrangement. A common modification which my dad had fitted on Top Cat is to have an internal tie-bar linking the rudders, this runs across the bottom of the two double bunks. It has not dramatically made the rudders any heavier to turn. I intend to fit pushpits here to make this area a little safer to use, we have a boarding ladder on the transom, not possible with the older steering arrangement. Being a catamaran the aft ladder is far more useful than that on a mono, she is a much more stable platform, the ladder stays still in the water.

Going up to the bow, this is where a monohull crew will be blown away, the room is amazing. We barbecue, sunbathe, sit out everything! There are 2 massive chain lockers here, I have for example in mine -

  The London Boat Show, where we got many ideas and I was brought up to speed about yacht instruments.  
  • 3 large balloon wall fenders
  • 8 standard sized fenders
  • 1 delta anchor (10kg) 40m chain and 60m rode.
  • 1 kedge (9kg) 60m rode.
  • Rode and chain, for storm anchor which is kept on the foredeck
  • 1 bucket and clean up after dog kit
  • Outboard petrol can
  • And they are not full, it really is a little like a Tardis.



new foredeck.


The forestay on the older boats like Top Cat is on a bridle arrangement. This is because of the non-solid foredeck. The mk.4 and above has a solid foredeck and the forestay is fitted to it. Personally I do not like the solid foredeck as it adds to slamming, there is nowhere for the sea to go, it also adds to pitch poling. The earlier boats had wooden foredecks which are ok, though Top Cats was rotten. I replaced ours with a stainless mesh and have been happy ever since. It was an expensive alternative, but lighter and easy to clean, the mesh allows water through while retaining the feel of a solid deck. I have dropped countless screws, nuts etc and they do not fall through. It is also where we have trained the dog to empty, being stainless and quick bleach and scrub and it is perfect again.




  New stainless steel foredeck to replace the wooden slat  original  
in summary
Top Cat, a Heavenly Twins catamaran


  • Masses of space on a 26ft boat
  • Permanent double cabins, leave the beds made up
  • Sailing at 8kts easily achievable 10kts in good conditions, more if you are brave!
  • Easy to sail single handed
  • Safe stable platform, no heeling
  • Stable at anchor, sleep when the monohull crews are up all night with mal de mer
  • At least equivalent to a 45ft monohull with respect to space
  • Will not be hit with light dues 7.9 metres.
  • Drafts 2ft 2", can cross sand bars or sail inshore.
  • Dries out level, or drive her into the beach, I have done this, great for picnics.
  • Will suit a drying mooring or pontoon, getting aboard from dinghy safer as little movement.
  • Big galley, seating for 6 adults.
  • Big cockpit.
  • Need to work on the hull, drive into shallow water, let tide go out, paint work etc, float off next tide.
  • She looks acceptable in even the poshest marina, she is not dwarfed by the bigger benjenbavs.
  • Running before the wind is safe, and easy, you can get silly speeds
  • She is pretty. She looks like a yacht not a caravan.
  • A large number were built, which means a wealth of resource available from a large ownership.




  • A tendency to slam in a short chop, this does not harm but can slow down progress and be uncomfortable
  • Being a catamaran you have to start to become more obsessed by weight than an America's cup skipper, though I have yet to cut toothbrushes in half.
  • She will struggle to sail to windward in light winds, about 45° is good going, in stronger wind this becomes less of a problem, my advice, get a good headsail, see above.
  • Lack of standing headroom on the bridge deck areas, though, this also means better windage, it is always a compromise on catamarans.
  • Pitch poling movement can be uncomfortable to long served monohull sailors, I remember being very wary for the first few trips, it just feels 'different'.
  • The capsize threat, yes it is there, but in context. This is a cruising catamaran, she has a small rig. There has been only one reported capsize of a Heavenly Twins, that was Lottie Warren off Shetland in a full F12. Special circumstances? A write up of that is in one of the links at the bottom. Or here.
  • Close quarter manoeuvring in strong winds can be fun, if you turn into the wind without enough power on she can stop dead in the water, practice makes perfect. She is a light boat with higher windage, if you account for that you have no problems.

You asked about cruising, well we have so far spent 3 weeks non stop aboard and were not yearning for home comforts. Having separate living areas also means separate space, being able to have a nap or read in privacy in the aft cabin has to be a plus. Being able to move all around the boat while the crew sits in the saloon, not having to get them to move so you can get to the heads etc.

She dries flat, this gives you so much more choice when cruising, pick up a drying mooring, anchor in the shallows for lunch, stay on a drying wall. Maintenance of the hulls is much easier, lift out to antifoul is just not required. For example, west country cruising opens up such places as St. Ives, Polperro and many others.


Below are some links to help you out with Heavenly Twins info :






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