Practical ways to get on the water

None of the shots below are exactly how it will be – they just have conceptual elements I’m incorporating.   This one for the low-aspect sailplan and double-ended hull, plus the cabin:

There are certain brutal realities in yacht design and building and one cannot escape them. Physics is cruel.

For example, a catamaran cannot really be a classic hull design with overhang because the whole idea is to maximize the LWL*    There are designs which look good and work well when doing their job, e.g. the trimaran but the stories of cruising tris at rest in harbour are not good. Monos require lead ballast so they’re out.

If I, in my financial position, am desperate to be on the water, then there is only one option – the catamaran – and not only that but one both short [cost of materials means no longer than 24 feet] and with sufficient beam and headroom seated without looking boxy – the design challenges are immense.

Epoxied ply is the only way to go but as three-eighth ply is unbendable, it might have to be two lots of quarter inch laid one across the other in six inch strips. As ply comes in 8′ x 4′, then the freeboard* would only be a tad over 2′ if the ply was laid longitudinally – I laid out a frame last evening and measured it.

Everything must be kept simple – fair curves [not chines], no scarfing, no multiple changes to the lines – all graduated stem to stern, low aspect rig, leeboards [old centreboards bought and planed down to asymmetric and so on. Everything tied and glued but not nailed, screwed or bolted as far as possible.

Once the drawings are redone, I’ll go to the library and scan and save to show you on the blog. You’ll note that even though this is cutprice, it doesn’t have to look overly cutprice – it can be designed quite attractively and jauntily whilst at the same time being kept ultra-simple.

Low-aspect sailplan and bowsprit*:

Vinyl tarp for sails for now but that would be kept in one big tarp at the start to cover the boat being built in the yard – then the sails cut from it, with carpet tape and grommets edging them.

Four small sails – yankee, jib, main and mizzen to allow no more than 4:1 purchase on any sail and low loads on the rig. Cost of those sails is a tad above 95 pounds. Amazing. No sail above 100 sq ft. Therefore 24 feet would be max length anyway.

Sailmakers will say they’ll be s*ite. They would be if it was a Bermudan* rig but if it’s a gaff*, then it needs no camber – natural sag and freefooted boom would do the job.   Any upwind camber would come from the foresails – not an overly rapid way to go but it is a cat and wouldn’t be wallowing about.

This small individual sail area also allows me to make my own wooden blocks* or buy cheapo non-nautical blocks which can be replaced as they rust.

24 feet is not an oceangoing craft, no matter how close the frames and how stiff the hull. 24 x 2, i.e. a cat, is better but still not good for more than coastal passages. Therefore any crossings would have to be at certain times of year and with good weather reports.

A cat like this would average 10-12 knots in good winds [max around 15] so the time window is less of a problem for short passages. It would need to be because there is limited food and water storage space, let alone the weight. Money would always be a problem.

Double-ended Archer style, sailplan, though I’d use a bumpkin*:

I thought of compactable [foldable] but as well as complicating things, I couldn’t afford marina stowage anyway so this would have to be very carefully thought out – there are simply places we could not go and at certain times of year. Much of the food would need to be dried or tinned and stored near the keel. Good thing with a cruising cat is that both hulls are always in the water.

The Achilles heel with the cat and the only one I can see is the capsize.    No matter what precautions are taken and I include running bare poles* when bad weather is known to be coming, boats get knocked down/over.   Therefore, with a cat, there is only one solution – a ship’s dinghy with small outboard and lines.    Not an expense I can afford early and so, for the first year or so, no passages would be made out of sheltered waters.

By the way, all the more reason to keep the length to 24 feet and the rig easily dropped.

Where the money would really be sunk though is in good cold weather gear – jackets, trousers, wellies, sleeping bags, lifejackets etc. Radio is a vital one.    I’ve costed all this and it becomes even more obvious that a year in sheltered waters is needed, both for financial reasons and to work the boat in and become familiarized.

I’ve costed it, as I say and know where to get the materials in the area, I have somewhere to build it and will have to hire the tools at the time they’re needed, using handsaws etc. at other times.    It’s doable once the warm weather starts again.

In the meantime, I have to get the frames calibrated to the mm and that’s going to take cardboard templates [local supermarkets], stringers and much patience in the living room.     I know I have the skills, having built before – I just lack the tools.   Tool hire is the way to go unless someone gives a limited timeframe loan at some points along the way, in exchange for days away on the water.

It does look doable and so I’m going to do it.

Sailplan, double-ended, bowsprit:


LWL: length waterline
Freeboard: height from the waterline to the gunwhale
Gunwhale: the top edge of the boat [minus the cabin]
Blocks: pulleys
Bare poles: all sails down and stowed
Bermudan: modern sailplan with a large pointy main and small pointy jib
Gaff: old sailplan with four corners and a “yard” above from which the sail hangs
Bowsprit:  that bit of wood sticking out the front
Bumpkin:  that bit of woood sticking out the back


1.  I’m getting on.
2.  There is still some money.
3.  Soon the economy and society will crash or be reconstituted.
4.  I’m happiest on water.
5.  I need a getaway plan.

For the cabins [one in each hull]:

4 comments for “Practical ways to get on the water

  1. del
    September 24, 2012 at 20:34

    James, stick with the mono hull, you made the classic mistake of space, over something that is sea worthy ……I understand the problem, thought about this many times. For me something like this 😉

  2. del
    September 24, 2012 at 22:09

    A good read that, I love cats, used to race a Inter 20, very fast boat, but sold it when I moved from the uk. At the moment looking for 16 ft cat, something that can be sailed single handed. Still like the idea of the 25ft Tradewind…..have to convince ” she who must be obeyed ”……..I can only dream Eh !

  3. Andrew Duffin
    September 25, 2012 at 13:30

    That first one pictured is beautiful, it looks a lot like a design my son (a boatbuilder) is thinking of building for himself, though he plans to use epoxy strip-planking because it’s cheap and very strong. May we know the designer and name of this one?

    And that third one is not just Archer-style, it surely is the real thing, is it not? A proper Colin Archer sailing rescue boat, no? Is this one double-skinned and built of oak like a brick what-not? Do tell.

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