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Here are four videos showing the build, the launch, the maiden voyage and the relaunch after a winter layup of Spidercat, a 30 foot wooden composite sailing catamaran designed by Roger Simpson.

The background to building this boat is that thirteen years ago I decided to take up a new sport, sailing. A few days later, standing in the newsagent leafing through the yachting magazines and feeling particularly uninspired by the multitude of lookalike monohulls, I came across an advertisement for James Wharram Catamarans. I was transfixed by the simple line drawing of the advert, and the subtle promise of an alternative lifestyle that this held out. I paid my money, and rushed home, and within hours had decided to build a large catamaran. So what if these boats were meant to take thousands of hours to build. I was sure I could do it in less. No boat could take more than a year to build could it? Luckily sense prevailed and I sent away to James Wharram Designs for the plans to a Hitia 14, a small beach cat of relatively simple construction.

After 18 months and a few hundred hours of boatbuilding, during which time the build took over the garden and the dining room, much to the delight of my family, I had a beautiful boat. The Hitia 14 is designed to be taken to the water on the top of your car, and assembled there. The system works really well and after quite a steep learning curve I got the hang of her. My friend Al, who is a surfer and hobie cat owner, showed me the ropes, and gave me the confidence to enjoy sailing this beautiful little boat, for which many thanks. Although Dazy, as we named her, started off as 'my' boat, she soon became a family boat. Everybody loved sailing her, and the beauty of being car-toppable meant that we could take her wherever we liked. So far we have sailed off many south coast beaches, and have taken her to Southern France and to Holland to sail on inland lakes.

hitia 14

Dazy on the beach in South Western France. This was a great try-out for the big boat, both in regards to building and sailing.

She has rewarded the energy put into building her many times over, and despite being dragged in and out of garages, up and down beaches, and on and off car tops, has proved strong, reliable and largely maintenance-free. All in all a real success. Thank you James Wharram! Also thank you Polynesian Catamaran Society, an association of Wharram builders which, through its' magazine and meetings, provides support, encouragement, and inspiration to amateur boatbuilders world-wide.

Two years later I started to get the hankering to build a larger boat. Something we could travel on. At the time there wasn't a great deal of information on the Internet, so I sent away for a bunch of design catalogues and read all the available books. By now I had realised that large self-built boats do take years to build, and I was struck by a piece of advice in the introduction to Australian designer Roger Simpson's catalogue, to build the smallest boat you felt you needed rather than the biggest boat you felt was possible. This seemed to make good sense to me, and Roger's boats looked very nice.

I was determined to build my next boat in strip cedar planking to produce a really curvy boat. I decided on the 9m Ground Effect design, and sent off to Roger Simpson for the plans. These arrived a few weeks later, thirty blueprints and a 'How to' book to help. I pored over the plans but couldn't get started. I couldn't really visualise the boat, so I wrote to Roger asking if he could direct me to a good example of this model, thinking there may be one on the South Coast or Cornwall. Roger's brief reply was "There's a nice one, Two Headed Love Child, in Brisbane harbour mate. Cheers - Rog". Not quite what I'd expected, but I got my credit card out and a week later was in Oz. No sign of Roger nor the boat, but after asking around in the local boatyards, I got the phone number for Dave , the owner and builder of Two Headed Love Child. He was really helpful and a few days later we drove north to Tin Can Bay where the boat was moored.

 

She was everything and more that I had dreamed of: A beautifully shaped boat with plenty of room inside, and all the potential to prove myself as a builder. I took plenty of photos, quizzed Dave exhaustively over a huge meal of steak and beers in the shrimp fisherman's pub nearby, and a few days later returned to the UK confident that I had made the right choice. This was 1999 and I went back to work with renewed energy determined to make some money to get the boatbuild going.

One of the golden rules of boatbuilding maintains you should "Build near where you live so that you don't spend all the time travelling." Easier said than done finding a workshop affordable, accessible, and big enough in London to build a large catamaran. However In late January 2000, I found an advertisement that looked promising for a workshop near my home. I went to see the owner. This was my lucky day to meet Eddy, ex-punk rock guitarist and now South London landlord. Finding out that I was also a musician he made me an offer I couldn't refuse, and I moved in the next day. Our contract was open ended but I assured Eddy that I would be pretty near finished in a year. I'm not sure whether he believed me. I'm not sure if I believed me! Anyway this felt like a really good way to start the new millennium and I decided to put work on the back-burner for a few months and get a really good start. We had already constructed the temporary frames in the garden shed and now set them up on a strongback made of large straight timbers in the new workshop.

[Click on pictures]



Making hull frames

More hull frames

strongback

centre pod


Centre pod complete, we set about planking the first hull. Approx. 1 Kilometre of cedar planking per hull! In 30 foot lengths that behaved like spaghetti! Nobody said it was going to be easy! The timber was supplied by Robbins of Bristol who have been very helpful throughout.( Many thanks to Phil, Gordon and Mark). The basic wood ingredients of this boat are Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir and Marine Ply. I used Robbin's Elite Marine Ply which is light, attractive, and built to British Standard 1088.


Stem detail

Planking

slender hull-form

Steady progress

After a few months I had a basic hull shape complete. Next came sanding, sanding, sanding! Some with power tools but mostly by hand with long boards. The smell of cedar pervaded the workshop. 



Long board sanding 1

power sanding

long board sanding 2


Hull sanded


Having achieved a fair hull shape the next stage was to apply Epoxy resin, fibreglass and filler. Marineware in Southampton have supplied all my epoxy materials. Thanks to Dean and the team for all their help. Epoxying is not quite so pleasant a task and is generally messy, but at least it wasn't in my dining room this time!


Applying epoxy


Centrepod undercoated


Filler applied on hullside next


Hullside completely glassed


After a coat of undercoat on Hull #1, I sat back for a few minutes, basked in the sense of achievement, and then realised I'd got to do it all again! I set up the frames on the strongback again and started to plank hull #2.



Hull #1 undercoated

Frames set up again

Hull #2 Planking

Hull #2 Planked!


Same process again: sanding ad nauseam, and then this hull was fibreglassed. Now it was time to turn the hulls over. There are certain key moments in a boatbuild and turning the hulls over is one of them. I had been pondering the problem ever since I had moved into the workshop, but it was my landlord Eddy who came up with the solution. We fixed beams across the ceiling and put straps around these and under the hulls. We tightened them up and then, with the help of a few friends, the hulls went over easily.

Having glassed the inside of the hulls to produce the sandwich of glass / wood / glass that is so light and strong, it was now time to start fitting the bulkheads. At first this is a bit daunting; everything is curved, but using a traditional boatbuilders tool, the joggle stick, makes this task possible.



Bulkheads installed 1

Bulkheads installed 2


Followed by the cabin and deck superstructure:


ddsdsdf

Superstructure 1


Superstructure 2


Superstructure 3


ddsdsdf

Hull #2 Superstructure



Hull #2

Underdeck



Hull #2 developing

Shortly afterwards (only 4 years after starting the build - Cheers Eddy!),the two hulls were complete and ready for transport to the boatyard.

THE GREAT BOAT MOVE - VIDEO

 

The next stage was to join the two hulls.

.Ground Effect self build catamaran

The top coat followed and then the deck gear, plumbing and electrics inside a temporary shelter. Finally she was ready to launch in August 2009. (See videos at top of page.)

Ground Effect Catamaran Self Build

 



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