The year 2004 has for the Wharrams been a chaotic year. At this moment there are 3 major rebuilds going on. The first is Ruth Wharram's knees, maybe it was the skiing she did before she met me, maybe, just maybe, it was the 50 years of boatlife with me, but she needs complete new knee joints. One has already been fitted last March, the other has just been done successfully while I am writing this column.
Hanneke! Well, she had a big heart operation at the age of 6. It now turns out her Aortic heart valve was also faulty (at birth) and now has stiffened, so on the 1st Dec. she goes into hospital for a new heart valve. Her main concern, which she has already discussed with the surgeon is the scar this operation will leave (it will run N to S on the chest) she pointed out to the Chinese Malaysian surgeon, who is considered one of the best in his field, that in the Mediterranean sailing women usually sail topless. She was asking for best quality stitching, being Hanneke she would like to do the job herself, but it is not possible (probably union problems).
The third "rebuild" is the house we live in. For the 23 years we have owned it has had, due to subsidence, slowly widening cracks in the gable end wall. In Cornwall we do have regular winter gales with occasional gusts of 100 Mph, having seen daylight through the cracks and on TV the effects of 100Mph winds in the Caribbean and Florida, to repair this gable end became at long last a matter of urgency.
It is interesting how as Seapeople we view things. The Gaia, now 12 years old, just needs anti fouling, a check of the lashings (they were checked last year) the mast lifted out and standing rigging and masthead checked, then she is ready to face ocean storms again. The house by comparison has been totally neglected. Anyhow, several men are here and the walls are being strengthened. My father, a master builder, (his father was a builder too) had wanted me to become an architect, so the name Wharram would head a main building firm. Instead I took up ocean sailing and yacht design, something he never fully approved of, still it has been interesting to for a while think as a house architect instead of a boat architect.
A major distraction this year from creatively designing catamarans, has been the ever increasing infiltration of the European Recreational Craft Directive by the type of secretive, bureaucratic individuals who eagerly supported and worked for the Fascist and Communist regimes of Europe in my youth. I wrote my expos‚ of how and where they come from in my newsletter.
In the editorial of the excellent British yacht magazine "Watercraft" (www.watercraft-magazine.com) Nov/Dec 2004, editor Peter Greenfield, writes on how the small volume boat builder is financially penalized by the RCD to protect the interests of the mass produced GRP boats. This editorial gives the "flavour" of the real reasons of the RCD imposition in 1998.
Likewise in the editorial of "Yachting Monthly" (www.ybw.com) Oct 2004, editor Paul Gelder is horrified at the dictatorial attitudes of the RCD bureaucrats. Within the same issue is an article by a sailor who bought a "proven" 30ft design of the Pacific coast of Canada (designed by Robert Perry of Seattle) built to Lloyds standards in 1979 in Taiwan. The owner, Ian Lavell, sailed her 15,000 miles back to the UK via Panama, encountering on the way a Force 11 gale in the Gulfstream. On arrival in Britain he was expected to pay (in addition to VAT) up to 5000 to get his boat stability checked (and all the rest) to conform to the RCD. As a conclusion to the article Paul Gelder writes that after much "checking" Ian Lavall's yacht would not fit the Bureaucrat's computer profile of an ocean-going boat. So the cheapest and easiest way to class this design was as category D, i.e. only suitable for sheltered inland waters! It makes you wonder what the RCD is for!
Perhaps non-European readers will feel a little smug on reading the problems with European RCD bureaucrats. Don't ! Just be warned, some Americans are trying to push SAME regulations along the same bureaucratic lines, for the same advantage for the few. South Africa, Australia and New Zealand also seem to be getting infected. This bureaucratic disease infecting sailboats must spread like SARS by aeroplane travel.
Sailing freedoms, choice at a reasonable price, of what the Yachting Monthly refers to as "character boats" (i.e. non mass production boats), can only be protected by strong protests by sailing yachtsmen to "leave us alone". And if there are to be some regulations then they can only become acceptable after full, open, democratic discussions.
Come on, yachtsmen, MOBILISE, write letters to your yacht magazines, lobby the politicians that are supposed to represent you, use your number power!
Meantime, Hanneke and I, at our own expense, have been involved with weeks of work relative to RCD/ ISO multihull stability calculations, mostly showing them how "they" got it wrong. Well we have had grudging admittance that we do exist, that our design files on catamaran stability going back to the 1960s do exist. At the moment that is all we can say, except to verify that there is a paid committee, who they are, or their experience, we do not know, who have been discussing this subject for 10 years!!!
Now for some good news. Ann and Nev Clement, after building their Tiki 46 in Bristol, UK, have been sailing her up and down the American East coast for 2 years (See their Letters from Peace IV). They love their boat. They say she is fast, seaworthy and looks after them. Ann, a mature American lady, has all the males around her terrified, me included. Today she informed me by telephone that what is needed is a smaller, simpler to build Tiki, say a Tiki 42. As Ann is organising Wharram Cat meets up and down the US coast and expresses her ideas strongly, please, please give us a chance to recover from the present chaos before we design Ann's request.
The first professional Pahi 52 (see webletter) built by Wharram Builder SeaScape in Thailand for Nigel Hartford is sailing (it is interesting, Ann Clement doesn't like the Pahi hull shape). Nigel reports: "Have now put about 600 miles under White Seal's keels. .... She sails with negligible leeway and with the wind on the beam does 55-60% of the true wind in speed through the water. Have not had a wind over 20 knots yet so don't know how she will be in stronger airs. Hard on the wind she does 50% of true wind speed and sails at 45 degrees to the true wind with maybe 3 degrees leeway." Nigel as an ex-pilot is very precise in his reporting, he is planning to do charter in Thailand in Pattaya.
The second Pahi 52 building by SeaScape called "Hecate" for Georges Gritsis has a finishing date at the end of December, to be sailed back to Greece for the coming summer charter season. Georges, a Greek ex-naval officer, has twice sailed around the world on small self-built plywood boats, once on a 26 boat through the Magellan Straights. "Hecate" will be chartering (link to our Charters Page Archipel Club entry) in the Aegean, we will report on how she handles in possible bad weather on her way through the Red Sea to Greece.
The first Tiki 8m off the moulds is outside this office almost ready for sailing, but held up by Hanneke's heart repairs. She is planning to make the dodger and tent for this first boat herself, to get precise patterns for future ones. We hope to have her sailing in early Spring.
Finally "my" dreamboat, the Child of the Sea. The first one is now built in the Philippines by the professional Wharram Builder Andy Smith. Her shape is beautiful, the Swiss owner has so far sailed her briefly in light winds, we will await more detailed reports.
We have an invitation to attend a Nautical Archaeological Conference in New Delhi, India in March and perhaps give a paper there on the performance of Indo-Pacific Canoeform craft. If Hanneke is sufficiently recovered we shall first go to the Philippines, test sail the Child of the Sea with its crabclaw sails, making her performance the subject base of the paper. I have a feeling that the Child of the Sea design is going to be very important in my/our design history, indeed in the history of all modern catamarans.
I will finish by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
- James Wharram