Why a Catamaran?

Curly    The hardest decision you ever make is when it comes to changing your pride and joy for something better.  I have sailed my Caprice Mk. IV 'Valkyrie' all over the Hebrides during the last twelve years and although it is a tough seaworthy craft, I am getting to an age where a slog to windward in a bilge keeler with all the noise and flying spray is not desirable.  Neither is the cramped accommodation ideal for a cruise.  I 'single-hand' mostly but with no artificial aids my range in the Islands is restricted to about ten hours sailing a day; under fifty miles on a good day and fast asleep the next to recover.  Most of my sailing is in reasonably sheltered water apart from the odd trip down to the small isles and across the Minch.  I would usually weekend and have one good trip in the summer for two or three weeks.  I decided that what I was looking for was something a bit faster to increase the range, and for more comfort including decent headroom.

One restriction on my choice of boat is my mooring.  I have probably the best mooring in Stornoway because although it dries out to soft mud at the Springs, it is surrounded by land or rocks on three sides and the Inner Harbour on the fourth.  This eliminates any swell except in a south-easterly at the highest tide.  I certainly do not want to give it up.  The other problem is the nearness of other boats, which limits the length that any acquisition could be and still stay on the same mooring.  Naturally, the last consideration, but probably the most important, is the cost.  I wanted a faster boat that would take the ground, not touch the neighbours, have enough room for me to get dressed standing and not bring a tear to my Bank Manager's eye.

Have you ever considered how you scan the lists of boats for sale in the adverts?  In the classified ads listed alphabetically, you tend to look for a name that you recognise and then look at the price.  In the brokerage ads, listed by price, you look down the list until your budget figure is reached and then look across at what sort of boat you can afford.  On a limited budget, it can be depressing to see that what you can afford and what you would like are so far apart.

    I had not seriously considered a catamaran until I saw an article on the Woods Designs creation, 'The Wizard'.  I noted the six bunks, the headroom, the speed, the loo (I'm still a Bucket 'n' Chuckit). The length at 22 feet was only two more than the Caprice and it would take my muddy berth. Not only that, but with only drawing 12 inches, I would be able to leave my mooring almost at will.  Perfect.

The next decision was a toughie.  The Wizard had to be built.  You don't just pop down to your local 'Wizard Shop', chequebook in hand.  At least, that was the case when I started planning this venture.  I telephoned Woods Designs to speak to someone.  I was put through to the man himself, Richard Woods, who seemed quite unconcerned at having to answer a stream of half-baked queries from the Outer Hebrides.  He was a real help.  The decision I made was straightforward; I have always wanted to build a boat, I couldn't afford to buy a new boat of any size and I wouldn't need a bigger boat in years to come.  It was now or never.  I decided that this was the thing for me.

The two aspects of this that I considered the most was how long it was going to take to build? And could I do it on my own?  I had a variety of estimates, which varied between 800 hours and 1000 hours.  This meant that to get the thing built, if I did an average of an hour a day it would take between two and three years.  Now, an hour a day doesn't seem like much but I decided that if I wanted a life as well as building a boat, it was enough.  The other aspect of this was that I couldn't work on the boat on Sundays, not in the Isle of Lewis.  As for doing it on my own, I felt that I was confident enough in my woodworking skills and I hoped that I knew enough about boats to muddle through the rest.  I bought a book on epoxy resin, by the Gougeon Brothers, which gave me a lead for the fibre-glassing.

From now on the learning curve was going to be astonishingly steep.  If you are about to attempt the equivalent of your own personal 'Everest', and like me you have probably never done anything even remotely like building a boat, now is the time to panic. You will find that once you are several thousand pounds into the project it is too late, anyway.  Having got that out of the way, just get your head down and go for it.  Being sensible doesn't really come in to it because no one in their right mind would attempt this.First coat of resin on the hull

I was asked part way through if I would do this again and the answer was a very definite 'NO'.  I was also asked if I wished I hadn't started and the answer was a rather more hesitant 'YES'.  I have found that working all on your own on a project of this size is a massive undertaking and the amount of time you have to commit is a serious drain on your personal resources. 

There are naturally problems with self-motivation when you work on your own on something that is over and above your normal work.  After the initial burst of enthusiasm and working until silly times at night you settle down into more of a routine.  Once you hit the dull jobs such as sanding what feels like acres of hull, it gets harder and harder to get out of the front door.  Also, when things go wrong, and they will, you can get a bad dose of depression because it's just one more straw on the poor camel's back.  It may be better to find someone else that wants to build and build two together.  The motivation that you get just from someone else being there is huge.  I found that if there was someone around me, even a plumber doing something else, I just got my head down and worked so it would pay you to have a colleague just because it increases your own output substantially.  Alternatively, you could share a workshop with someone doing a completely different project and still gain the motivation from someone else being present.  I certainly found this in the Community Workshop, building the pod.

I would certainly recommend making a temporary shed in the garden big enough to do the whole project because having to load up all the tools and then drive in to town is a big demoraliser.   It also stops you just popping out for an hour to do a little bit more.  My polytunnel was excellent for that but it was too small.  The other side of it was that in the polytunnel, if Christine wanted me for anything, I was just outside.  In the workshop in town I was seven miles away, I usually had the car and there was no phone.  You have to appreciate that for up to three years you will be spending some time each day working on a project that will seem never ending.  Once you have grasped that concept and are prepared for the tedium, then decide if you really do want to build your own boat.

Having said all that, the sense of achievement as you progress through the project gives an enormous satisfaction.  Also the look on the faces of your sailing buddies when they know that they would never dare to tackle something like this!  I'm building in a very public place so there is a stream of visitors that do relieve the tedium of some of the more boring jobs, which does help a lot, especially the look on their faces when they perceive what it is that you are building.  You could do what I did and buy a second hand Topper dinghy - a bit of wet bum sailing in a good strong breeze every now and then lifts the spirits no end.

Naturally, when you start getting nearer the end of the project and suddenly realise that it is all coming together the surge of motivation you get is enormous and suddenly you are back to working silly hours and the wife doesn't recognise you any more.  Don't let it carry you away, there is still a lot to do before you are sailing again.  Certainly, if you are like me and have a partner that is not interested in sailing, they will get to grudge the time you are not there; sweets and flowers are not enough! 

The way I built was affected by the nights when I had to stay at home, hence some of the parts getting cut out well in advance of need.  This proved useful because when it came to the assembly of the bridgedeck and cabin I needed less space. I would also seriously consider buying the hulls in.  They took up a substantial time in the building and it was a nerve-wracking experience at times although it was never really difficult and saved a lot of money.  I decided that because of the way my finances were organised, building the hulls myself would slow down the rot.  Some hope!  You have to pay for the wood et cetera. up front.  If I did it again (after the divorce that would follow the announcement of another project) I would certainly have them built for me.  A professional would take less time, would know what he was doing and be able to give you a quality job.  Also the build time would tumble from 1400 hours to probably 300 hours, making it a much more realistic project.