Minimum cruising cat-size & cost

Discussion in 'Multihulls' started by Alex.A, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. cavalier mk2
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    cavalier mk2 Senior Member

    On many boats with wood cores (and foam in some cases) first you must fair the core (filling and sanding) then cover the inside and outside with epoxy and glass, then fair and sand. You don't need 6 coats of epoxy 3-4 should be plenty. If you use a thinner epoxy there will be fewer sanding sags and the interior will be take a lighter sanding than a glass covered surface. Using large sheets of ply for the surfaces = less building time compared to core construction, the boat comes into the glassing process already fair. If you have the experience anything can become easy but the Wharrams use skills the average carpenter already has. The less shelter can be addressed by a hull cockpit with dodger which many of the classic designs had or the deckpod and cockpit combo with a dodger that offers as much shelter as most monohulls. The reduced weight and windage on the Wharram is actually safer than wing decks with cabins. Instead of building a 30' wing cabin boat you could go 5-10' longer for more speed and better seakeeping. The newer Tiki designs are achieving mainstream success and acceptance and holding their value well, having a boat that stands out from the crowd is part of the fun, and we should be sailing for fun !
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  2. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    Agreed. I guess I was looking at it compared to the Kurt Hughes cylinder mold boat I'm building. I wasn't thinking about a broad enough sample of other boats, just the one I'm building.

    The Kurt Hughes boat uses the same technique you are describing, using large sheets of ply for the hulls, which come off a mold after bagging in a shape that doesn't need fairing except along the keel after a stitch and glue job. Just like the Wharram, the hulls aren't cored either - they're just plywood.

    You're right... and I agree. Wharrams (and Hughes) take a lot less work to create the hulls than if you were to use cored panels, darts, etc...

    I suppose the big thing I was getting at was quite close to home for me, personally.

    A large Wharram, after the same amount of money and time you'd spend on a Kurt Hughes, is worth a lot less money when you're done and doesn't sail as well. That is why I *personally* chose the Kurt Hughes boat, but yes... to each their own. :)
  3. oldsailor7
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    oldsailor7 Senior Member

    I agree with Cavalier.
    I have no experience of Wharrams latest designs. However they look much more complicated than the earliar "Classic" designs, of which I have a lot of experience. They were a snip to build, were strong and seaworthy (if you took care with the crossbeam arrangement), but very spartan, like living in two monohulls side by side, ( without the horrible rolling and heeling.)
    Some of the early rig ideas were a bit way out, particularly the proposed junk rigs. The lack of leeway preventers reduced their windward abilities, and this was a dangerous factor when sailed by hippy dreamers with little or no seagoing sailing skills. Quite a few of these boats ended their lives on a lee shore. :eek:
    The bigger versions, which used full sized sheets of plywood, did not need any fairing and providing the butt joints were sealed with f/glass tape on the outside, only needed two coats of epoxy on the inside and three coats on the outside, plus two coats of polyurethane paint to protect the epoxy from UV rays. Expensive polyester resin and classcloth outer coatings were a waste of time and money.
    These early "Escape machines" served a lot of "Dreamers " very well until they all started to complicate them up, and Wharram himself went off on his crusade to emulate the ancient polynesians.
  4. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    I shall assume that we are still talking about a strong, seaworthy 30ft cruiser.

    In which case there are several ways one can save money building it.

    Plywood construction will probably be the cheapest, and a flat panel boat is the cheapest/easiest way of using plywood. So pretty much all budget boats will be flat panel plywood. A conventional 30fter with standing headroom in the hulls will use 9mm plywood. However you could save money by reducing the freeboard to give, say 4ft 6in headroom. That saves 25% straight away. (30 x 6 = 180 versus 30 x 4.5 = 135) But wait, there's more. The panel size is now small enough that you can change from 9mm ply to 6mm, another 30% saving.

    But what you have now is a 24ft boat stretched to 30ft. Most people want standing headroom in a cruising boat, most also want a dry boat to sail and be able to carry lots of "stuff". You cannot do that on a 24ft boat.

    You could also save money by using cheap materials. eg using "shuttering ply" instead of marine grade. And don't use epoxy, use a water resistant glue instead, and maybe sheath the hulls with polyester resin instead of epoxy.

    That is what Wharram used to advocate back in the 1960's-70's and how his boats got a reputation for being cheap and easy to build. He built his own 50ft Tehini in cheap wood and launched it in 1968. I first sailed it in 1976. By then it was on its third set of beams and needed pretty much continous maintenance. A couple of years later I sailed it across the Atlantic. On its return from that crossing in 1979 it was in a very sorry state and I don't think it ever sailed again. So Wharram learnt his lesson. If you build in cheap materials your boat will last ten years at best. Not a good investment especially if the boat had taken five years to build.

    So his Tikis are very different, they last a long time but use a lot of epoxy so are no longer cheap to build (except for the fact that his 30ft Tiki, say, is pretty much just a stretched 24ft, or being generous a 26fter). During my time working for Wharram I did a lot of the early drawings for the Pahi 42 and also helped build the prototype 35 and then sailed it extensively.

    Having said all that, as others have said before me, the hull shell is probably only 25-30% of the total cost.

    So you don't save much money overall by building a cheap hull.

    Much better is to save money on the fitout. Have tiller steering, not a wheel. A single outboard engine, not inboards. Hand pumps in the galley. The minimum of electronics, a handheld gps and cheap fishfinder are all the navigational tools you need, while AA powered LED lights save a lot of wiring/switchpanels/battery capacity.

    Get a cheap used mast and boom from a monohull cruiser about 3-5ft longer (then it will be stiff enough). You can usually find a suitable used monohull headsail for a good price that will work OK on a multihull. Mainsails are harder to find, as most monohull mainsails are too full for a multihull, but there will probably be a Dragonfly or F27 racer discarding his no-good-for-racing sails in your area.

    Fortuantely you don't need to buy the rig or engines at the beginning of a project, that is usually several years down the line. Gives you plenty of time to search out bargains.

    And you can easily replace the old sails with new ones as your budget allows.

    I have built a lot of boats over the years, usually on a tight budget. In fact it is rare for me to have the money to finish a boat when I start it, but money comes along if you want it badly enough. It is easy to spend lots of money, but equally with careful shopping and planning you can save a lot. Just don't scrimp on the structure, and while planning your dream boat forget about budget. Only cost out the design when you have decided what you really want.

    Hope that helps

    Happy building

    Richard Woods of Woods Designs
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  5. Alex.A
    Joined: Feb 2010
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    Alex.A Senior Member

    I agree completely - the hulls are what keep the water out - best to do it properly!!!
    It's the rest that i'm trying to save on. Sound advice RW.
    Also good to hear some balance in the wharram 'debate'.
    Building to the un/semi skilled is a worry and promises of simple/easy to build are appealing - sure i'm not the only one.....
  6. Manie B
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    Manie B Senior Member

  7. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    Yes, I did, and I liked it a lot. It was my favorite boat until I built Slider. It's true that a good little monohull could beat it to windward, unlike a more modern design, but it was a great boat for a novice sailor. It took good care of us. It wasn't luxurious, by any means, but it was tolerable for young folks.

    Manie, I'm going to point out that Rory MacDougal and his Tiki 21, Cooking Fat, is one of the leaders in the ongoing Jester Challenge. I'm a little worried about them, because the boat is old and he mentioned soft spots in the beams before the start, and he's mentioned having beam trouble and using lashings to stabilize the rear beam. But that isn't the fault of the design.

    What Phil says about resale value is probably true. When I bought my Tane, I had plans to build a Hinemoa, a smaller boat. I calculated that the Tane cost me considerably less to buy used than it would have cost in materials to build the Hinemoa. So if you want a Wharram, it may make better financial sense to buy used than to build.
  8. david@boatsmith
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    david@boatsmith Senior Member

    Inexpensive used Wharram
    Good value new Wharram
  9. rob denney
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    rob denney Senior Member


    Lovely boat. How much for the boat ready to sail (not cruise), and how many hours went into building it?

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  10. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    That really is a nice boat, David.

    Of course, not all used Wharrams are floating disaster sites. My old Tane had beautifully built hulls, courtesy of the first owner, who I think died before completing the boat. The second owner finished the cabins and beams, and didn't do a great job, and I was always fighting rot. He also put a pedestal and wheel in the center of the deck, which I immediately ripped off. But in his favor, he did put a very good fractional rig on the boat, which allowed it to be a good bit more weatherly than a lot of Wharrams of the era.
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  11. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    I gotta bite, David:

    You build Wharrams for a profit. If I'm not mistaken, you have that red one on the market after having built it to sell it, right? Do Wharrams really take that many less hours than, say, one of Richard Woods' boats?

    My thinking is this:

    I'm going to assume you are buying similar amounts of wood and epoxy for the Wharram as you would for a Woods boat. Of course, there is a deckhouse on a Woods boat, but for now... let's ignore that.

    If it takes you 3000 man hours to build that Wharram pictured, and it takes you 3000 man hours to build a Woods, wouldn't it be a better business decision to build a boat that is worth more on the market when you are done building it?

    Said another way, if the time/materials are mostly the same putting together a Wharram or a Woods, and the Woods is worth more at the sale, why would you build a Wharram as a business rather than a Woods?

    Said yet another way: Why wouldn't you just build a Chris White Atlantic 42 or something so you could *really* make a profit?
  12. david@boatsmith
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    david@boatsmith Senior Member

    As a business, you can't build what you can't sell. I believe that there is a market for well built Wharrams. When you build a spec boat , you had better like it, you might have it for a while. We have sold two boats and have several people thinking about having us build them one. But we are just boatbuilders. We can and will build almost anything a client may want, assuming I will be proud of it when done. Why aren't you building an Atlantic 42 Sully? There are lots of folks out there building cats that cost several hundred thousand dollars. If you bring your budget down to under 200k then the market thins out quite bit. Bring it down to 100k and there are very few options. Look around for a new catamaran at 100k and I believe that you might decide that our Tiki 30 is a very good value. I have been on Richard Woods Romany and while it was a fairly rough build I was very impressed with a number of features about the boat. There were also features that imo could be improved upon. There is no perfect boat. Yachts are not practical. if they don't give you wood they aint no good. David
  13. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    Thanks, David. I was mostly just curious about the business model. Now I see that you believe there is more of a market for Wharrams (which are at a lower price point), so why compete with Gunboat? I can see how a catamaran that falls in that magic $100K area will lead you to more sales in the same way you can sell more volume in Toyotas than Rolls Royces, even though margins might be lower. Makes sense. Thanks for clarifying.

    To answer your question: I am building a 45' catamaran. The Atlantic 42 was my primary personal choice, but it is not set up in a way that's conducive to term charters (no large cockpit for guests to dine in and enjoy themselves).

    The difference in cost of materials between the boat I'm building and the Atlantic 42 is only $20K.

    In fact, this speaks again to my point about a private person building a Wharram: All boats of a similar class, built with similar materials, cost about the same to build. Therefore, it only makes sense (when building for yourself) to build a boat that has a good market value. Otherwise, you are making a bad financial move.

    That was really my main point.
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  14. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    A valid point. However, I am inclined to agree with Wharram's take on the scaling issue: he spins this exact same argument in the opposite direction, using the slim, light hull as the baseline and describing common production boats as trying to squeeze that same accommodation (and freeboard, rig, etc.) into a shorter length. In other words, the production 24' is a badly shrunken relative of the 30' Wharram, rather than the Wharram being a comically stretched version of a "conventional" production model. Displacement and interior volume are the true measures of a cat's size, and given the choice, I would prefer to put that volume towards longer hulls for the same accommodation and displacement, rather than bulking up the middle of a short boat. (Having said that, I don't care for Wharram's hull shapes, but the overall proportions of the boats are, IMHO, preferable to what is commonly seen in production cats of comparable displacement and volume).

    Agreed. There is no point using inferior materials for the hull; the premium for high quality materials is only a very small percentage of the total build cost, but the increase in safety and resale value (and the decrease in maintenance cost) more than make up the difference.
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  15. Alex.A
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    Alex.A Senior Member

    BUT..... $100k is nearly a MILLION in my (worthless) currency!!!!!!!!
    For that i can buy decent(ish) secondhand cat. I am aiming/hoping to be able to do it for a bit/lot less.....
    So building my own- even if making the money as i go is still the best option and with a minimalist boat has to be way cheaper.
    Back to square 1.
    The Hulls being 20-30% of the build cost - it it on the finishes and exra's that the savings must be made.
    I dont think i'm the only 1 in this boat - so 10 yrs of sailing might be worth the worse boat, with little or no resale value?
    Minimum cost. Minimum size.......
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