Ethnic Designs

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Traditional Pacific Sailing Craft

The Ethnic designs have been a new development at James Wharram Designs since James and Hanneke sailed extensively in the Pacific. With everything self-made these boats are lower cost to build.

Ethnic Designs cater for those who want a "traditional" Pacific sailing craft, built using appropriate modern materials and methods, but without trying to Westernise them. These designs arose after requests from Pacific Island peoples for James to design craft to overcome shortages of "traditional" building materials, but which closely reflect the cultural and ethnic origins of these craft.

James Wharram Ethnic Designs Building Plans

About Ethnic Design Building Plans

The Ethnic Designs Building Plans follow the same format as the Tiki Plans. They consist of a number of large detailed drawings of all the plywood parts and overall construction details, drawn to scale. Some parts are given full size, to be copied on the plywood. These scale drawings are accompanied by an A3 size sketchbook, which leads the builder step by step through the build with beautiful detailed sketches and numbered sequence of construction. They are all hand drawn by Hanneke, who has years of hands-on experience of building and designing Wharram catamarans. All our practical expertise, with a focus on keeping things simple, has gone into these drawings.

In addition to showing you how to build the boat hulls out of ply and epoxy (strip planking for the Tama Moana design), they also give precise details of how to make spars and beams out of grown timber, how to make lashings and how to carve deadeye blocks out of hardwood. They even show you how to sew your own crabclaw sails.

See information about building costs.


Red Melanesia outrigger canoe with crabclaw sail being carried by two towards the water
Building Method: Ply/Glass/Epoxy Stitch & Glue
Length Overall: 16' 4.90 m
Length of Float: 12' 3.65 m
Weight of Hull: 46 lbs 21 kg
Overall Weight (sailing version): 110 lbs 50 kg
Overall Weight (paddling version): 75 lbs 34 kg
Sail area: 58 sqft 5.35 sqm
Building Time Estimate: 115 hrs

The Melanesians have been building outrigger canoes for thousands of years. The 16ft Wharram MELANESIA design is a very simple and economical to build outrigger canoe, based on the original Pacific canoes. It was designed in 1997 for a small island in Vanuatu where trees for the native dugout canoes were getting scarce.

The main canoe hull is built from just two sheets of plywood, stitched and glued together with epoxy and glass tape. All other parts are constructed from naturally grown saplings/timber. She is steered with a steering paddle and uses a traditional hand made 'crabclaw' sail.

The paddling version uses a more curved laminated float and two shorter laminated crossbeams.

The plans contain drawings for both sailing and paddling versions.

Study Plans are not available for this design.

Tahiti Wayfarer

A man sailing a Tahiti wayfarer on a misty creek
Building Method: Ply/Glass/Epoxy Stitch & Glue
Length Overall: 21' 6.40 m
Beam overall: 10' 3.00 m
Waterline length: 17' 9" 5.40 m
Draft: 8" 0.20 m
Weight (Double Canoe): 485 lbs 220 kg
Weight (Outrigger Canoe): 330 lbs 150 kg
Loading capacity (Double Canoe): 790 lbs 360 kg
Loading capacity (Outrigger Canoe): 395 lbs 180 kg
Sail area (Small): 84 sqft 7.6 sqm
Sail area (Big): 143 sqft 13 sqm
Building Time Estimate: 300 hours

The Tahiti Wayfarer hull shape is derived from traditional dug-out canoes from Tahiti and Samoa, but built in stitch & glue ply/epoxy. All other components of the boat are constructed from materials found in nature. Crossbeams and spars are made from small trees and saplings with natural forks for jaws, stripped of bark and sculpturally finished, all parts are lashed together.

As she is likely to be used in the open sea she has a self-draining floor (large enough to sleep on) and watertight bow and stern compartments. This hull shape has only 8" - 20cm draft; her lateral resistance comes from a fine forefoot combined with the area of the steering-paddle/side-rudder.

She can be built as a Double Canoe with two same-sized hulls and a platform big enough to erect a two man tent on, or as an Outrigger Canoe using just one hull and a light weight log as outrigger float. She is rigged with a crab claw sail, using rope standing rigging. Tahiti Wayfarer with her very shallow draft is a perfect boat for exploring, a great boat for use by scouts and youth groups or to be taken on a ‘Raid’. Auxiliary propulsion is by paddle, oars or Yuloh.

By self-making everything: natural spars, sails and even hand carved deadeye blocks, her building cost is very low (the Plans give all details). This is a boat that needs NO hardware! The aim of the Wharram new Ethnic Design range is to study and understand by practical experience aspects of the design of canoe form craft from the ancient sailing world.


People inspecting Amatasi on land
Building Method: Ply/Glass/Epoxy/Laminate
Length Overall: 27' 7" 8.4 m
Beam overall: 13' 10" 4.2 m
Waterline length: 23' 4" 7.1 m
Draft (Max): 1' 2" 0.36 m
Weight (Approx): 990 lbs 450 kg
Loading capacity: 1540 lbs 700 kg
Sail area: 242 sqft 22 sqm
Building Time Estimate: 650 hours

Winner of Classic Boat Design Competition 2010. Amatasi was designed for the 2010 Design Competition in Classic Boat magazine for a Fishing boat under 30ft/10m that would not need a licence for fishing under sail or oar. She won First Prize!

The design is modelled on the hullshape of fishing canoes of Samoa, but built in ply/epoxy/glass stitch & glue construction. Beams and spars are constructed from naturally grown roundwood. Hulls, beams and platform are all lashed together in Ethnic fashion. Running rigging uses hand carved dead-eye blocks. The Plans explain how to make all these components in detail.

The hulls of Amatasi can be open-topped and self-draining, or can be fitted with a lift-off cuddy (on one hull or on both hulls). The large planked platform between the hulls easily fits a standard camping tent to give extra sleeping accommodation for 2-3 people.

Amatasi has a Cat Yawl rig, with a gaff mainsail and small spritsail mizzen. Without a jib the standing rigging can be rope. The small mizzen is used for manoeuvring and tacking. She has Indonesian style side rudders.

By self-making almost everything, including natural spars and hand carved deadeye blocks, her building cost is low. This is a boat that needs NO expensive yachting hardware!

In 2011 we built the prototype, which we test sailed in Cornwall and in the Traditional Boat festivals in Brest and Douarnenez in 2012. She fulfilled all our expectations.

Amatasi is an ideal boat for youth groups, Raids and Coastal Trekking.

Tama Moana

Tama Moana sailing past a smoking volcano
Building Method: Strip Plank/Epoxy/Glass
Length Overall: 37' 9" 11.5 m
Beam overall: 14' 11" 4.55 m
Waterline length: 28' 5" 8.65 m
Draft: 1' 9" 0.53 m
Weight: 3500 lbs 1600 kg
Loading capacity: 3300 lbs 1500 kg
Sail area: 395 sqft 36 sqm
Building Time Estimate: 1600 hours

The Tama Moana (Child of the Sea) has the traditional hullshape of the islands of Tikopia and Anuta. She is built in strip planking over plywood backbone and bulkheads. Her rig is traditional crabclaw and she is steered with steering paddles/side rudders.

Ethnic Designs as Canoe Craft have a basic design principle of maximum boat for minimum cost. Building and sailing one you can be a research participant in a major attempt to recover and preserve the practical, design, handling aspects of Man's first offshore sailing vessels.

Two Tama Moana designs sailed the Lapita Voyage from the Philippines to Tikopia and Anuta in 2008-9, where they were donated to the island populations who are now using them as their autonomous transport.

Due to its simplicity this design is also a very economical boat to have ready-built.

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