No cat is FREE but we'll try for CHEAP!


 complete step by step building log,

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 From daydream to vague concept to rough sketches and eventually to finished plans and building log, this is the "BareBones" project. A modern high performance catamaran pared back to an essential version for ease of build and low cost.

These pages will be updated to reflect all the triumphs, problems and embarrassing stuff that happens when the old fart editor attempts "the dream"...

 This is not to show the ultimate process or to advise of best method or whatever... . It is merely a report of how the aesthetic portion of the design evolved and how the actual project is going for me. Use this report to satisfy your curiosity, for pure entertainment, or to fashion a plan for yourself, using my mistakes and successes to help you shape your own attack should you decide you can take a project like this on.... surely if I can....

 How it all came about..

  It first started as a realisation that I was talking myself into a plan that I was meant to be researching for others. In TCP # 13 I did an article “The Multi Eye for the Mono Guy”. The piece was a great success and since I posted it to the web site (see technical articles) has been a steady download for tens of thousands of readers. At that time two things had become apparent, first was that TCP was definitely not going to go away, my little hobby had gone wrong and I was no longer a happily retired person, aspiring to peaceful old fart status and.. it was becoming just as clear that our beloved old “WhiteBird” was exactly the wrong kind of boat for this now uncontrollable life style. Big thundering, high maintenance steely with not quite enough room to fit the gear for publishing TCP. A great boat for our original purpose, blue water with a circumnav up my sleeve, but a total encumbrance for our new reality, coastal cruising and workaboard. Besides, (incidentally of course) I had been on a few fast multis and I liked it!

So, what is the perfect solution? First on my list of required attributes was low maintenance. That means plastic. Now before I start WWIII with the fans of alloy or other materials, I grant there is some subjectivity in the choice but overall a glass fibre composite fits the bill best. It’s also light... which means (incidentally of course) that the boat might be fast.

The new boat would have to have room for the computers and printers used to publish TCP and still be comfortable for long term liveaboard. A catamaran of about 40 feet would have the accommodation space in a bridge deck configuration to allow this. Also the publishing rig would be light relative to more common types of stuff so wouldn't burden a weight sensitive craft too much.

The chosen boat would have to be affordable... BUGGER!! It was easy up till now. A new or good condition second hand cat of that size and construction is in the $350 to $500K range even for our modest fitout requirements. This kind of expense just couldn't be justified. The only way out is to build her, sweat equity.

I would have to look at a more utilitarian approach or I would take an unacceptably long time to complete her. I needed a design that would make a virtue (as much as possible) out of simplicity. Graceful curves would have to be substituted for lines and flat panels.

Anyway.. with sketch book in hand and with pictures of several boats in front of me, a shape took form while sitting in the shed. This was Oram’s kind of thing and I was heading that way on a property search anyway, so I took my sketches and ideas and drove from Bowen down to Hervey Bay.

I found myself sitting with Bob Oram in front of his powerful modern computer working on a program right out of the DOS dark ages. “Plyboat” is something you can download for about the cost of a slab of beer. It does work on hulls but is very limited for decks, cabin and other parts. We did have some exciting times arguing about sheer. Bob’s first version was quite flat like the 44C but I liked the effect from his 38 Mango II design. A halfway point was printed out and that is what I have now. With the objective of simplicity, a cabin top was drawn as well and though I wasn’t thrilled with my own idea (3) it seemed good enough to leave there until a better idea came along. The hulls are the big thing, the cabin design can be changed almost on a whim.

Another trip south with a cabin sketch I had drawn and a few other ideas and questions... and a boat I call the Eleven99, has taken shape. . I am proud to have contributed to the look and the philosophy but required the services of a pro to make it work. (Update... knowing what I know now I would have paid the $30 and bought the program, done the homework and drawn her myself or paid the money to buy a Schionning set of plans that are more reliably drawn and complete.)

Size; I wanted a boat that I felt Kay and I could handle and as stated earlier, would be big enough for the gear. About 40 feet seemed right but... many marinas are getting touchy about berth sizes and their insurance companies won’t allow fudging on the numbers. As we will not be able to avoid marinas because of the paper and the fact I don’t mind the communities found in the better marinas, and because many marinas use 12 metres as a break point in price... 11.99 metre is perfect (thus the name, eleven99) rather than the 40 foot= 12.2 metre length. That extra 8” could cost a lot of money over time.

Material; Bob Oram and I had much discussion about this. Whilst Bob Oram was in favour of duflex panels because of the speed of build, FGI had a very attractive price on foam as this was being worked out. I figured out the costs and it seemed that foam and vinylester resin and glass would come out to roughly half of the cost of the balsa core Duflex panels from ATL. I had talked to designer/builder, Bob Burgess earlier who had described how to use that stuff for a flat panel boat. He suggested lofting up a full length panel of foam on a flat surface and have two guys working laying the glass. One mixing resin and spreading and the other wetting the clothe in, then trimming edges with a Stanley knife whilst green. Even so it would take more time than the few days it took us to glue ATL panels together and there would also be the problem of fumes. Big time! The location of build would have to be deep within a toxic industrial site. But then the epoxy used on the ATL panels runs a risk too. I know people that have almost killed themselves with epoxy poisoning building a boat. It’s an acquired toxic reaction. Some get it and some can swim in the stuff with impunity. You can get halfway done and find yourself a mess... and some have worked on anyway, not willing to abandon the project in spite of the risks. I considered the options carefully and hope I made the right choice. As of this writing, I might advice a person contemplating this or a similar project to consider foam in some sections. (update... the problems I have encountered with the Duflex panels has entirely wiped out any gain in assembly speed though the high cost remains! I now consider any of the alternatives superior to this product and will be finishing my boat with something.. anything else.)

Keels or Boards; This is one area I opted for what could be more complexity. Boards will probably increase build time over keels and take up some hull space and be another thing to have a line attached to BUT... with our kick up rudders and extra skin on the keel panel will allow us to beach the boat with near impunity.. and with boards down will allow her to point sky high... and, (are you ready for it?) reduce wetted area on a run to make her fast!

Auxiliary power; For cost, simplicity, and weight, the twin 4 stroke outboard option is right for us. Besides, with motors up and no drag... she could be fast! (update... electric propulsion has really gained appeal lately and expect this to be showing up on new boats more as the year progresses.)

Cabin; The first sketches showed a very simple thing that was intended for the easiest construction. Flat panel sides with an overhanging roof, something like a garden shed frankly. That later was modified after I thought about how panels could be curved with relative ease to enhance aesthetics considerably. While Bob and I were at the computer it occurred to me that reducing the angle of the forward part of the structure would carry it over the two forward cabins... why not? This gives more head room, ventilation and light to them and every ‘wall’ removed simplifies the boat that much more and satisfies my sense of ‘open space’ in the bargain. My ideal house would have a wall around the WC and that's about it. Privacy screens can take care of those odd times we have guests aboard.

Fitout; Our experience fitting out WhiteBird gives confidence that this can go quicker and cheaper than you might think. The number one tool is to use the least skin and ginger bread possible. Well placed small bits of fine timber and white surfaces can be amazingly effective and tidy looking and we won’t need a 30” flat screen TV to pop up from the bar... We equate comfort with a lack of clutter... so we plan to live in extreme luxury.

What About the Money; Saved the best for last! OK, here is the scoop as best I can in short hand. The kit of panels has cost $32K AUD so far including what ATL Composites thinks should be all the necessary ingredients to put the thing together (glues, epoxy resins, tape and clothe etc). This is for the hulls, most bulkheads, bridgedeck floor and hopefully decks (but I could be short there). The full kit including bridgedeck cabin top should come in at about $50K but that still doesn't include materials for boards and temporary frames and forebeam etc... Figure another $8000. If I can get an assembled shell to lock up for $65K, I've won. I’ve allowed a budget of $150K total but I hope we will beat that. I won’t jinx it by over-speculating and it will depend on the accessories we want, like a screacher and furler. ... or...

The end goal then is a cat reduced to an elemental concept and construction, A “Bare Bones” approach to the boat.... “Bare Bones” hmmm ‘Hey Kay, what do you think of the description of the project as “Bare Bones”’? “Yeah, she said, I like that,” she repeats the phrase a couple times, “that's a good boat name”. Boat name? hmmm... I mumble it to myself a few times, why not?

Bob Norson is to blame for all this....