Saturday 10 December 2011

Catamaran Character Compromise Conundrum

     "She's a combination- Anita Ekberg, Mamie Van Doren..."
                                                            -Rough Trade

      In my dreams,  I draw a Venn diagram where the intersection of "Brian's design skills" and "Brian's boatbuilding skills"  is a nice big fat ellipse of  "Beautiful catamaran, a design tour de force, comfortable, seakindly,  swift and a joy to sail."

     In my nightmares there are screams, snickers, some vomiting and only a few feet of mast above the surface.

    As always, reality will hover somewhere in the big void in the middle.

    With some input from the WLYDO I am redesigning the redesign of my latest redesigned redesign.

    Here's the challenge- controlling the compromises.

     If money, time, skill and space were infinite, I could, and likely would build something like this:

Alas, money, time, space and skill are NOT  infinite;  in my case, more often infinitesimal.  My workspace is small, my budget is small, and my self-imposed schedule for this build is small.
SWMBO and I keep refining our needs and wants as regards this new boat,  clarifying what is a non-compromise point and what aspects are open to new ideas.

  A head with elbowroom.
  A galley with an oven.
  A master berth big enough for two.
  A cockpit two can stretch out in.
  Enough cabin  space for two to lounge with two dogs out of the weather.
  Easy passage forward.
  Hard bimini.
  Wheel steering.
   5'10" + headroom. At least in the hulls.
    Dock Six size  25'-ish LOA max.
    Reasonably handsome.
     500-600 hours build time to sailability.
    Sails as well as, or better than, Whiskeyjack.

    Shower, or provisions for shower to be added.
    Hot water.
    Accomodations for 4.
    80 watts of solar power.
    Stunning magazine cover beauty.
    No slamming, 12 knot cruise, excellent performance to windward.
Posted Image

  It may very well be  a perfectly fine sailing boat, but with the slabsided construction and the colour scheme, it looks like it should be commanded by Rommel.

Posted Image

  The challenge of the designs I have crafted to date is the curves.  The bendy- swoopy roofline and cabin sides and the curve of the hull all add up to one thing- hours and hours of fairing.  For mom those unfamiliar with the jargon,  "fairing " is the black art of filling all the dents, dings, gouges, bruises, pits, joints, imperfections and other unsightlies to create a smooth flowing shape which is both pleasing to the eye and travels easily through the water.
  This is one big advantage to fiberglass as a commercial boatbuilding material, fewer man-hours invested in finish.  Once you get your mold perfect, every piece that comes out needs minimal clean-up and fairing.

  Another advantage of fiberglass is that it is much easier to form complex shapes.  Working with plywood and dimensional lumber, one CAN make the nice bendy- swoopy shapes seen on this fiberglass catamaran:

 (Image courtesy of
... by cutting the lumber into strips and moulding it into shape, then planing and filling and sanding and fairing and...
... it will be a very beautiful boat that will take the rest of my life to build.

   So, how do we end up with a boat that won't be a floating embarrassment?

   Accept that we (er, I,) don't have the skillset and the patience and the budget required to build a bendy, swoopy, fiberglassy looking boat out of wood. Further accept that we (er, I,) do not have the budget, space and time to build in fiberglass.
   But that doesn't mean I have to build a floating Panzer.

Let's celebrate and showcase the material instead of trying to make it something it's not.

   I'm content with the dory hulls. Seems like a good hullform for this purpose,  and  relatively straightforward to construct.  It is everything above and between the hulls that I am constantly rethinking.

   Looking for design inspiration, I found this:

(images courtesy of Woodwind Yachts

Yes, I know it is not a catamaran, humour me for a second, willya?

Ignore the hull and look at the house.  Clean, handsome,  looks like it might still be handsome if widened to 10-12' in width. Simple curves, simple ports.   Maybe break up the big expanse of overhead with a pair of butterfly hatches, outboard and aft of the mast on port and starboard.

Finish the transoms and the rudders bright. Yeah, it means more maintenance, but not much.  Besides, when was the last time you saw a catamaran with a varnished rear end?

    Round and oval ports instead of more complex sliding windows for ventilation.

 Rather than attempt to slit my wrists on the cutting edge of design, I'm gonna embrace my inner curmudgeon and go retro.

   A TRADITIONAL catamaran, rather than the traditional contemporary catamaran.

    THIS, I can build.


  I'll post some drawings soon.  Meanwhile, it's back to stripping DonorBoat.  The clock is now ticking, but that's another post.


     Thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Link us, follow us or just tell your friends.



  1. Keep in mind that if you have access to someone who can do woodworking with a computerized saw that can use routers to cut curves determined by an autocad program you could have them cut framework and supports with accurate curves. This would make skinning much easier and more accurate.
    Just an idea.

  2. So excited about this project of yours. You know, cats need to be light to sail properly so once you get it all done we will adopt Chirp just to save you some weight. :)

  3. I was considering a similar cat build but have now swerved back to a mono due simply to the sheer amount of hull(s) building for the cat. I am going to compromise with a center board shoaler with part of the saloon raised ala old Alden designs for lots of light and visibility. 32-38ft loa, 30-34 lwl.
    Good luck.