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Eligabiff 04-18-2003 04:39 AM

Building a Multi Hull
My boyfriend and are looking for plans to be able to build a sailboat. We know we want a multihull boat with two hulls at least 30 feet long. The only plans we have been able to find online are about $1500 from James Wharram. We are interested in his Pahi design but wanted to find some cheaper plans to get the basic idea of what would go into every boat like that. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!!



Jeff_H 04-18-2003 03:21 PM

Building a Multi Hull
There is a lot more questions to your post than my first impression suggested. To begin with you really do not explain what you intend to do with this boat, or why you and your boyfriend have focused in on a 30 foot catamarran (a multihull with two hulls), or why you are interested in a Wharram design, so it is pretty hard to advise you on comparable designs.

One reason that I say this is that 30 feet is quite small for a catamarran. Cats need to be quite light to sail well and so it is hard to build a 30 foot cat that carries enough gear and supplies for even a couple to do limited cruising before the added weight becomes a real problem. It is for that reason that most small cats are designed as pretty barebones raceboats.

There are small cruising Cats but these typcially give up many if not most of the desirable traits that attract people to cats in the first place.

Trimarrans (three hulls) actually make more sense as cruisers in these kind of small lengths that you are considering.

Which brings us to Wharram. Another reason that I say that it is pretty hard to advise you on comparable designs is that Wharram''s work is pretty unique and quite out of the multihull mainstream, and evern further out of the sailing mainstream. His designs cleverly conceived to be easy to build and examples of his boats have done amazing voyages, but in practice these are really less than ideal sailing vessels offering the advantages of neither a multihull or a monohull and a whole range of unique disadvantages. I have sailed one of Wharram''s small cats (26 or so feet long). It was a miseable boat to sail in the confined waters that are typical of coastal cruising. The simple details that made these boats easy to build, also made them very high maintenance and not very durable. The quirkiness of the designs make them near impossible to sell. (The one I knew was sold for pennies on the dollar to a man who disliked the boat very quickly and ultimately built a 36 or so foot center hull and used the Wharram hulls as the outer hulls of this 36 foot trimarran.)

In terms of other designers, if I remember right Dudley Dix of South Africa used to have a neat little 34 foot or so Trimarran design which I don''t see on his site anymore. His prices should be pretty close to those of Wharram but his designs are a lot better suited for most people''s uses. Mr. Dix can be reached at

I have also liked Chris White''s work. He is a very pragmatic designer who produces very high quality designs. Although his web site seems to focus on big cats, I beleive that he had done some small multihulls years ago. I like his Juniper'' design but it may be too big for you.

Probably my favorite Multihull designer is Dick Newick. I have always loved his creativity and the beauty of his boats as well as their trendous sailing abilities.

Perhaps another (and better than Wharram) way to go if your goal is cruising would be to look at something like Jay Benford''s Dory series. This is a monohull. His 34 foot cruising dory is a ''go anywhere'' design that can probably be constructed more easily and for probably about the same costs as the Wharram that you are considering. This boat was featured in Anne Hill''s book ''Voyaging on a Small Income''. She did a Chinese Junk rig but the cutter rig (or even a sloop) has always looked very appealing to my eye. The price for these drawings are about a third of the cost of the Wharram plans and when you get done you will have a boat that you might be able to sell again some day. (Benford even has a set of very inexpensive ''bid plans'' which are just complete enough that you can develop an approximate construction estimate.)Jay Benford can be reached at

On the subject of the cost of the drawings, $1,500 is actually a pretty good deal. A custom set of drawings typically cost around 10% to 12% of the retail cost of constructing the boat. A boat like a 30 or so foot Wharram would probably cost something in the neighborhood of $60,000 to $100,000 without sails or instrumentation (the materials alone could easily run something approaching $40K) to have professionally built so $1,500 is a real bargain.

Given the major investment in time and money to build a boat, I cannot recommend too strongly that you take your time and pick a design very carefully. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched someone spend years and years of thier lives building a boat, only to find that it is really not even close to an ideal design for their purposes.

Lastly, unless you have your hearts set on building a boat, which of course is a valid reason to build one, you can often find a used boat of a similar design for far less than the cost of building one new, and rarely will you see a dime at resale toward the value of your time.


Eligabiff 04-19-2003 09:11 AM

Building a Multi Hull
Thank you very much for the additional websites.

When we first began to research this Wharram was the name that kept coming up. He has been mentioned in several books and shows up on just about every online search that we have done. We certainly don''t have our heart set on this particular designer.

Our ultimate goal with this boat would be to circumnavigate the world. However, we would be doing this pretty barebones. We don''t really intend to have much in the way of ammenities.

We are basically looking for a design that would be able to handle that kind of travel but still be relatively light, simple and capable of a shallow draft. In your opinion, what would be the best design to meet these needs?

Jeff_H 04-19-2003 01:41 PM

Building a Multi Hull
If you are really thinking of a circumnavigation then the 34 foot Benford ''Badger'' would be a far more ideal way to go than the Wharrams. If I were thinking of a circumnavigation I would build the Badger with the cutter rig. The Badgers are really well thought out design that have a proven track record and yet are extremely easy to build. I do suggest that you buy a copy of Anne Hill''s book, ''Voyaging on a Small Income'' although I am not a fan of the Chinese style Junk rig that they chose. Here is a link to the Benford sailing dory site

A 30 foot Wharram would be very close to the bottom of my list for a circumnavigation.

If you don''t mind me asking, how experienced are you both as sailors and where will you be building this boat? All too often people focus on what appear to be simple to build solutions to building a boat without realizing that the hull is but one small component of what it takes to build a boat. While the Badgers are a really neat design, it may actually make sense to spend just a little more time and build a slightly more sophisticated boat that will have proportionately more resale value.


Eligabiff 04-20-2003 08:18 AM

Building a Multi Hull
We took your suggestion and bought a copy of Voyaging on a Small Income. Have you read Self Sufficient Sailor? I saw that book on when I was purchasing the first.

We have several reason''s for being attracted to the catamaran. First, we are in Indiana and we hope to be able to sail the boat down the Wabash River to the Gulf of Mexico. Second, we have limited garage space so the idea of being able to build each hull separately and then assembling it later as a whole is very appealing. Third, we also like the idea of being able to pull the boat up onto a beach.

Thanks for your comments! It''s good to hear other comments when trying to make these decision''s.


Jeff_H 04-20-2003 06:19 PM

Building a Multi Hull
I figured that the draft issue might be partially what is driving your decision toward a multihull but I had not even remotely considered that the possibility of sailing the boat down the Wabash River to the Gulf of Mexico as an element shaping your decision.

While I have no idea what the draft of the Wabash is, I would suggest that the key element of your goal to sail around the world is toughness and seaworthiness. While there certainly are catamarans that can do the Missippi part, and there might be cats that can do the circumnavigation part, and there are cats that you can build yourself pretty cheaply, I would suggest that for the kind of dollars that you are talking about, even if only for materials (maybe , it is unlikely that you can find a cat that can do all three.

In the big picture, given the sheer amount of money that it would cost to build a boat like even a small Wharram cat (something approaching $40 K I would guess), you would be far better off either buying a used monohull that is of a suitable design and spending a little time and money putting it in shape or else building a more suitable mono-hull even if it means trucking it to the Missippi and then commissioning it there.

Even if you decide to do a Wharram, the likelihood is that you will be predominantly motoring down the Wabash and Missippi. Wharrams are not very good boats to sail in close quarters being unreliable to tack and manuever. If you really want to do a multi-hull I think that you would do better with a small Trimarran rather than a cat. I would note that any multihull capable of going offshore with a couple on board is unlikely to be suitable for pulling up on a beach.


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