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 Passage People by edition

 Passage People by boat names

 From The Coastal Passage, issue #29


 Whilst this project occupies the editors time Passage People may have to be restricted to pics and stories of those who stop by to help! Want your pic on the back page? Bring sandpaper!
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 faster boats 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.
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.
The 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 $300K 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. But another problem is time.. or the shortness of it. To simplify, graceful curves would have to be substituted for lines and flat panels but there just wasn’t a design on the market that suited the narrow criteria perfectly. This was Bob Oram’s kind of thing and I was heading that way on a property search anyway, so I took my crude sketches and cruder 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 but the thing worked for designing the hulls. We did have some 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 but it still looked flat to me until Bob advised to take the paper and hold it somewhat edgewise toward my face and look ‘down’ the sheer and he was right. Bob then pointed out the similarity in hull profile to “Dog on Cat”, a boat he drew several years ago. A boat I had seen and admired. With the objective of simplicity, a cabin top was drawn as well but has since been replaced and may be modified again. The hulls are the big thing, the cabin design can be changed almost on a whim with this style of construction.
Another trip south with a cabin sketch and a few other ideas and questions... and the “39C” took shape. With Bob’s guidance the lines were refined and improved. I am proud to have contributed to the look and marketing philosophy (I believe this boat suits a lot of potential builders, amateur and professional) but there is no way I would commit this kind of money and effort into something that didn’t have professional experience behind it. Bob actually made her into a boat that should work well and I believe address’s a vacuum in the market.
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 because many marinas use 12 metres as a break point in price... 11.98 metre (39’ 4”) is perfect. I won’t have to lie to the marina office! (Like I used to!)
Material: Bob Oram and I had much discussion about this. Whilst Bob was in favour of Duflex panels from the start because of the speed of build and stiffness, FGI had a very attractive price on foam at the time. I figured out the costs and it seemed that foam and vinylester resin and glass would come out to just over half of the cost of the balsa core Duflex panels from ATL. I had talked to designer/builder, Bob Burgess earlier who had advised 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 cloth 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. But then the epoxy like that used on the ATL panels runs a risk too. I know people that claim they 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. On the positive side of the panels is that the bulk of the epoxy work is done at the factory. I considered the options carefully and decided to go with the Duflex panels from ATL but I ordered only the materials to the sheer. The decks, cabin and numerous other bits can be done with a variety of other materials, foam sandwich, strip plank, plywood, and polypropylene honeycomb for example, or finish the lot with Duflex.
Keels or Boards: This is one area I opted for what could be more complexity. Boards may increase build time over keels and take up some hull space BUT... they should permit a higher point of sail and less wetted area, not to mention a ridiculously skinny draft.
Auxiliary power: For cost, simplicity, and weight, the twin 4 stroke outboard option is right for us.
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. While Bob and I were at the computer it occurred to us that reducing the angle of the forward part of the structure would carry it over the two forward cabins... not conventional, but why not? At least for now it sounds like a good idea but could be adjusted later.
Fitout: Our experience fitting out WhiteBird gives confidence that this can go quicker and cheaper than you might think. Except for the galley and main cabin it might be little more than a coat of house paint. No fairing except to clean a stuff up perhaps. Well placed small bits of fine timber and white surfaces can work wonders. We equate comfort with a lack of clutter... so we plan to live in luxury. I noticed Bob drew in a holding tank but I told him we already have a bucket! He insisted....
What About the Money? Here is the scoop so far. The partial kit of duflex panels with accessories for gluing and taping has cost $32K AUD. The full kit including bridgedeck cabin top would come in at about $52K but that still doesn't include materials for boards and temporary frames and forebeam etc... Firgure 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. It will depend on the accessories we want, like a screacher and furler. ... or...
How have we gone so far...? Whilst ATL have a reasonable reputation our luck wasn’t good. Maybe it was because our parcel was shipped out on the eve of the holiday season before they closed for several weeks. Whatever the case we have some quality control faults that I don’t think should have been allowed to ship and I don’t yet know how to quantify. Hopefully this won’t slow the project much but it was a disappointing way to start. The TCP web site has details of our problems and progress with a continuing log with photo gallery and comments along the way.