Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wharram Catamaran Featured in Novel

As many of you know, I've been writing books for years and now have seven nonfiction titles published, all of them related in some way to the subjects of boats or survival or both.  I have now written a novel, which has been published by Ulysses Press, of Berkeley, California, and has been released in print form this week (the Kindle and other E-book formats will be available on or before July 10).

I wanted to mention this here for those of you who may not visit my other sites, as this novel is a post-Apocalypitc tale in which a 36-foot Wharram catamaran is featured in much of the action.  Here's a look at the cover:

While part of the story takes place in New Orleans and later in the river swamps of south Mississippi, as  this cover image suggests, the other part begins in the Caribbean, where Artie Drager, one of the main protagonists is on an offshore passage with his brother, who is a yacht delivery skipper.  While they are still far from land between Martinique and St. Thomas, a series of powerful solar flares shuts down GPS satellites and all other communications, and destroys practically all complex electronic circuitry.  Artie, who was just visiting the islands on a short vacation, is now cut off from his only daughter, who is a college student at Tulane University, in New Orleans, and is frantic to get back to the mainland and find her after the pulse event.

They continue on to St. Thomas, where they discover that the power grid shutdown is widespread and complete, and leave the yacht there as Artie's brother, Larry, has contracted to do.  In his spare time between delivery jobs, Larry has been building a Wharram Tiki 36 catamaran as his own personal boat, and they make their way to the build site on Culebra to quickly ready it for launch, despite the fact that it is still in primer and most systems are uninstalled.  The big, shallow-draft Wharram cat will have many advantages in this new world of chaos and uncertainty, and confident they can reach New Orleans and find Artie's daughter, they sail for Florida and the Gulf beyond.  Here's a description from the press release from my publisher:

A Compelling Novel of Surviving the Collapse of the Grid
When an intense electromagnetic pulse instantly destroys the power grid throughout North America, there's no guarantee of survival.  And that's what Tulane University student Casey Drager quickly realizes as desperate citizens panic and anarchy descends.  Surrounded by chaos, Casey must save herself from the havoc in the streets of New Orleans.  
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, her father, Artie, finds himself warding off pirate attacks and tackling storms on his Caribbean sailing vacation-turned-nightmare.  Using the stars to guide him toward the states, he wonders if he'll ever be able to find his daughter.  

The first novel from best-selling survivalist author Scott B. Williams, The Pulse is a thrilling narrative of survival amid the violence and disorder following the catastrophic destruction of America's power grid.  "The Pulse reveals what it would take to survive in a world lit only by firelight," Williams explains. "Where all the rules have changed and each person must fend for himself."

I've been wanting to write a novel with lots of sailing action for as long as I've been writing, and now I've finally gotten around to it.  If you decide to check it out, I hope you enjoy it and that you will give me your feedback.  There will likely be a sequel as the ending opens the door for the next part of the story to continue.  Here's a review that was posted this morning on Boat Bits, one of my favorite sailing blogs, which is written by a full-time liveaboard cruiser and former Wharram owner: http://boatbits.blogspot.com/2012/06/pretty-good-book.html

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Deck Hardware

I'm at the point now where I've got to start spending money on hardware and fittings, as the cockpit is the last big construction project on the build and it's now done except for fairing and painting.  Before painting though, I want to build in mountings port and starboard inboard of the seat for the sheet winches.  A trip to the coast was required last Friday to pick up these Harken self-tailers, along with bow and stern deck cleats and a pair of line chocks to mount on the front crossbeam.  I was able to get the winches at a wholesale discount and the cleats I found at a lock commercial fishing supply house that carries a lot of items not found in the regular marine discount stores:

Winches are not absolutely necessary on a Tiki 26, but I wanted to avoid the two-part jib sheets using blocks on short strops attached to the clew of the jib, as those can crack a skull when the sail is out of control and they involve a lot more line in the cockpit to deal with on every tack.  The self-tailers are a luxury, but they eliminate the need for jib sheet cleats and make everything easier when single-handing.  These winches can handle up to a 1/2" line, so they could come in handy for kedging off the beach as well, which is why they must be mounted to solid platforms.

I was specifically looking for well-made deck cleats with a  two-hole pattern instead of the more common Herreshoff style, as the mounting bolts will go directly through the center of the deck beams laminated under the decks.  They will be mounted on these raised teak pads that are epoxied to the decks, and of course will have heavy backing plates under the deck beams.

The bow and stern deck cleats will mainly be used for tying up at the dock.  For anchoring, I will carry the two ends of a bridle to cleats I had already mounted on the outboard corners of the cabin tops.  This way it will be easier to adjust the scope of the rode without going all the way to the bows.  I set up a bridle in the yard to check for the best position to mount the chocks on the forward beam.  These will help keep the bridle centered and prevent chafe where the rode crosses the top of this beam.

You might have noticed the slatted catwalk in the photo above that is now taking the place of the cypress foredeck I built previously.  I decided that for my purposes, the lighter catwalk with tramps or netting on either side would be better than the weight of the deck.  The time and materials that went into it were not wasted, as the Tiki 26 owner that I am building beams, rudders and a mast for also wanted me to build an identical deck for his boat, and so has purchased the original now that I won't be using it.  Here is a better view of the catwalk.  This was much quicker and easier to build than the deck. It is also made of cypress and will match the stern boarding ladder:

Here is another shot from the bow showing the overall deck and cockpit layout.  The aft most rails that extend to the aft net beam will also support the ladder that will raise and lower between them, as well a provide a place to mount a solar panel out of the shade of the sails.

Here's an overview from astern.  The perspective is a bit distorted because of the wide angle lens I used to get everything in the frame:

The weather is good for boat work right now and I have lots of projects going simultaneously.  The top priorities are finishing the cockpit and getting it painted, building the stern ladder, making trampolines or fitting nets (I haven't made a final decision on those yet), installing the rudders, making the tillers and tiller bar, and assembling the new aluminum mast from 6061 tubing, as well as building the gaff.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Cockpit Seats Fitted

Today was one of those pivotal points in building a boat, like turning a hull or first connecting together the two hulls of a catamaran. The big deal today was that I was able to actually sit in the cockpit for the first time, which makes it actually feel like a boat, rather than a collection of parts.  My friend and long time canoeing buddy, Ernest Herndon came over for the afternoon, and I enlisted his help in moving the cockpit around to the boat and lifting it into place on the beams.  Then we had a couple beers on board while I made some measurements and marked things that needed marking while all this was temporarily assembled.  One thing I checked was the bimini frame that I salvaged off my old boat, Intensity.  Much to my delight, I discovered that it will work with some modifications and widening of the bows by use of splines.  This will save me several hundred dollars and with my Sailrite sewing machine, I should be able to duplicate the old cover in whatever new color of Sunbrella I choose for Element II.  No photos of the bimini, as we were too busy holding it up to use the camera, but here I'm testing out the helmsman's seat to starboard.

Ernest is more a river person than an ocean sailor, and didn't care for sailing on my rolling monohull when I had it, but did like the Hitia 17.  He seemed to approve of all the deck space on Element II and I'm sure he will like the smoother motion.

Before I could test fit the new seats/hatch covers, I had to fabricate and install the hinges that attach them to the side flanges I made to span the gap between the cockpit and the hulls.  I wanted to use the lashing method, just like the rudders, so I made the vertical parts out of teak and the horizontal parts right in the plywood, using epoxy inserts just as I did on the rudders.  Here is a shot showing the teak parts being glued down to the flanges.  The lashing will be removed for finishing and painting:

These rope hinges are really slick.  The are rock-solid, quiet in operation, and look really cool:

This aft compartment to starboard will house the ship's batteries.  You can see the large PVC outlet that will carry the wiring into the starboard hull to the circuit panels.

On the port side of the cockpit, the aft locker will hold the fuel tanks for the outboard.  I've bulkheaded this one off from the forward locker to port so there is no wiring inside the fuel locker.  The locker will also be properly vented and is fitted with a drain, unlike the other three.  Here you can see how the fuel line is routed through the PVC tube glassed into the aft end of the cockpit, to get it to the outboard well and keep it from underfoot.  This locker will hold three of the standard 3-gallon Nissan fuel tanks:

I didn't want to have to do it, but while Ernest was here to help, we removed the cockpit again and moved it back to the carport where I will do the final fairing and painting.  The seats have to be glassed as well, then once they are painted they will be rejoined to the side flanges with lashings.  These side flange assemblies work great, and will allow me to remove the seat covers in one unit per side and stow them in the cabins when the boat is trailered for launch, reducing the weight of the cockpit.

Monday, June 04, 2012

A Few Photos from the Florida Rendezvous

I wouldn't have missed the 2012 Spring Wharram Rendezvous in Islamorada, Florida this year for anything. This was the best one yet, as James Wharram and Hanneke Boon were there to answer questions, talk about the Wharram cats in attendance, and sign copies of their design book and Two Girls, Two Catamarans.  Their visit was made possible by David Halladay, of Boatsmith, who hosted their trip to Florida and gave them a tour of his new shop as well as a day of sailing on one of the Tiki 8-Meter cats he built for a charter operation in Marco Island.  The rendezvous itself, of course, was put together once again by Tangaroa Mark IV owner and Islamorada resident, Dan Kunz, who works tirelessly to make these events the best they can be.

I won't do a full report of the rendezvous here, as I just completed an article for Southwinds magazine that will run in the July issue.  When it is published I will post the link here.  But I did want to share a few photos for those of you who couldn't be there.

This was the scene on the beach at the Lorelei Restaurant, where there were four cruising Wharram cats pulled right up the the shore, from left to right: Tiki 30, Tiki 26, Tanenui, and Tiki 31.

Two schooner-rigged Wharrams: Vince Cameron's Tanenui to the left and Thom delForge's Tiki 31.  I was excited to examine these boats up close, as the Tanenui and Tiki 31 are two Wharram designs I had never seen in person before.

Both of them were really beautiful boats:

There was also an exceptional Tiki 30 present: Ray Barkley's Mahiya, which he built in the Philippines at Andy Smith's yard.  This boat had lots of really nice touches that could be incorporated into other designs such as the Tiki 26.  I took lots of close-up photos of some of the more interesting details, but here is a shot showing how well-appointed this vessel is:

Shown here in front of Ray's boat is Gene Perry's Tiki 26 Inseparable. Gene, who sailed down from Hobe Sound at the age of 87, is a truly inspirational Wharram sailor.  He is without doubt James Wharram's biggest fan and supporter in Florida, having been an enthusiast since he built the first Tiki 21 in the U.S. right after the design won a Cruising World magazine award in 1982.

Gene was clearly having a great weekend hanging out with James Wharram:

I signed a few of my own books as one of the speaking authors on Saturday afternoon, but for me the highlight of the evening was getting new copies of both The Wharram Design Book and Two Girls, Two Catamarans, and having them signed by James Wharram and Hanneke Boon.

Below is the rendezvous organizer, Islamorada resident, Dan Kunz, with Hanneke Boon and James Wharram:

I first met James and Hanneke the Thursday afternoon before the rendezvous, at David Halladay's new shop, where he hosted a grand opening party that evening.  The most interesting project he has going at the moment is the construction of the first foam-core fiberglass composite Ariki 47, an improved version of the classic Ariki.  James and Hanneke were inspecting the work and pointing out small nuances of the design that make their hulls so functional.

This Ariki is a big boat.  Here David is showing James and Hanneke the galley mock-up.  The owner will complete the boat after the Boatsmith crew gets it to a certain point.  But I spoke with David earlier today and he told me they just started on the second Ariki they've contracted to build for another customer.  He's certainly got the space to do it in the new shop.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

More Cockpit Details

My focus for the past week has been on getting the structure of the cockpit finished so I can fit the seats/hatch covers for the storage compartments and finish the glassing and fairing of the interior of it.  One important consideration in the cockpit is working out the boat's electrical system and providing for wiring between the two hulls and to the mast.  The house batteries will be mounted in the starboard stern cockpit locker, adjacent the navigation station in the starboard hull, where there will be a 12-volt switch panel to control all circuits on board.  To get the wiring from the cockpit into the hulls while still keeping the boat demountable, I'm using David Halladay's method of PVC pipe stubs glassed into the cockpit compartments and hull sides, with rubber inner tubes and hose clamps sealing out the water.  More on those connections later.  First, I had to work out getting the necessary circuits from the starboard side of the cockpit to the port side, as well as to the mast foot for those wires that have to go to the masthead.  Here is the sawn 2-inch PVC pipe I'm using for that, glassed into the joint at the top of the slope on the forward end of the cockpit:

You can see the hole going into the port side cockpit compartment, and the cut-out at the bottom that will be the exit point for the masthead wiring.   Here, I've held it in place with pressure from a couple of 2 x 4s clamped in place while the fillets dry:

All the PVC wire runs will be glassed over, faired into the adjacent surfaces and painted, but after gluing this one in, I had to move the cockpit to the boat to check some other dimensions.

The slot in the bottom of this wire run will be further protected from water entering by the addition of this compass housing I've built to mount my lighted steering compass.  This compass was salvaged off the wreck of my destroyed monohull, Intensity, and somehow came through Hurricane Katrina unscathed.  It will be a nice addition to Element II:

While I had the cockpit in place hanging from the beams, I went ahead and made four teak locating/hold-down blocks for the four corners of the cockpit.  You can't see them completely here, but each block is L-shaped, so that it not only locks down the cockpit to prevent it from lifting, but all locks the sides to prevent lateral movement:

The next step is building the coamings for the cockpit compartments and finishing the side deck pieces that span the gap between the cockpit sides and the hulls.  Here you can see the starboard side deck in place:

These side deck pieces will be removable for installation of the cockpit when the boat is assembled.  I've worked out a design for the compartment lids/seats, in which they will be permanently hinged to these side decks, reducing the weight of the cockpit for transportation and facilitating a faster assembly time.  More on the details of this when I get them farther along:

Here's a overview of the cockpit with all these various additions.  Looking forward:

And looking aft.  Note also the two rails that span the gap between the aft beam and the net beam.  A boarding ladder will swing down between these, and trampolines will fill in the gaps on either side:

Here's another view of those ladder rails from astern:

The cockpit is now back off the boat and I've finished fitting and gluing in the coamings for the hatches over the storage compartments:

Here are those side deck pieces again, temporarily clamped in place.  They will fasten to the outer coamings like this in actual assembly, the outboard edges resting on the support rails glassed on the inboard cabin sides of the hulls:

Cockpit and Motor Mount Measurements and Details

A reader and fellow Tiki 26 builder wrote the other day to request some measurements on my cockpit clearance above the waterline and the depth of the prop of the Nissan Extra-Long Shaft 6hp outboard.  Because the cockpit is slightly deeper than the 9 inches shown on the plans, he was concerned about wave tops slamming the bottom, and also wanted to make sure the prop was deep enough to avoid cavitation in a chop.  I had to reinstall the cockpit the other day to make some other measurements anyway, so I shot these photos showing the requested dimensions.  I made up for the two-inch extra cockpit depth somewhat by making my beam mounting blocks on the deck thicker by almost that amount.   I don't think clearance will be an issue, and with the extra-long 25-inch shaft, the motor can be mounted high in the cockpit to protect it, yet it will still reach deep enough so that it will almost touch bottom if the keels of the hulls do.  This first shot shows the depth of the cockpit hanging below the aft crossbeam:

Here you can see can see the depth of the prop, again measured from the bottom of the aft crossbeam:

The bottom edge of this piece of 2 x 4 lumber is in line with the bottoms of the keels adjacent to the motor.  As you can see, the prop can't hit bottom before the boat runs aground, as the deepest part of the keels are slightly forward anyway, in the midships portion of the hulls:

This last shot shows the 2 x 4 at the approximate average load waterline.  The bottom paint is probably 3-inches above the true waterline to allow for heavy loading at the start of a voyage.  As you can see, with the extra-long shaft, the prop is unlikely to come out of the water in anything but the worst conditions:

Sunday, May 06, 2012


I'm in the process of painting various parts at the moment.  Here are a few photos of the crossbeams.  This first shot shows the aft beam and the additional net beam.  You can see the holes that have been drilled in the trampoline rails for the two rear tramps.  I've also worked out the details on the aft ladder and have just finished building and glassing the ladder support rails.  The two small blocks you see near the center of each of these aft beams are chocks to lock these support rails in position.

The other beams have been pained as well.  In addition to my own beams, in the shed next to the boat I have another complete set that I am glassing and fairing.  I built these on contract for a friend who has a Tiki 26, along with new rudders.  I'll post photos of those parts soon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Test-fitting the Cockpit with Seat Box Additions

I finished fiberglassing the exterior of the cockpit box yesterday, so it was rigid enough to move it back around to the boat today to hang it from the beams and check the fit.  This was necessary to measure for the hatch coamings in the under-seat compartments and for the flanges on either side where the cockpit will mate to the hulls.

Even with the added seat boxes, the cockpit is not too heavy for me to handle single-handed.  It is awkward because of its size and shape though: 8 feet long by 6 feet, 3 inches wide.  I tipped it off the saw horses where I'd been working on it and moved it with a dolly to the backyard.  There I was able to pull it over the grass to position it between the hulls and fit the forward edge to the mast beam:

I got it up to the lip on the mast beam by lifting it from the front with a rope and reaching over the beam with a ladder to pull it into place:

Then I lifted the stern end up high enough to put a small saw horse under it:

With it in this position, I could then set the rear beam in place, tilt the beam back while reaching over it with one hand to grab the top of the motor opening, and lift it up high enough to lock the beam back in place.  I really like the way the cockpit is captured by the beam flanges.  It's a simple and secure design.  In this photo you can see the two 1.5-inch scupper holes I drilled in the aft end of the cockpit for drainage.

Here's a view from above showing the new compartments. There will be lots of storage space in these.

Looking forward, the board on the starboard side is just a scrap used to test the seating position.  The gap between the cockpit edges and the hull sides is just a few inches.  Today I came up with a simple and elegant solution to sealing this off in a way that will allow for dry storage compartments  under the seats and no spray shooting up from the bottom when going to weather in rough conditions.  I'll begin work on that tomorrow and will post when I have new photos.