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Choosing a Design

What Do You Really Want?

Read the Wharram Design Book

Having looked at all the Wharram designs, you may immediately have identified with one of them as the boat for you. But it is possible you are more confused than before you started looking!

Wharram Design Book

To help you, we have made a table of the basic requirements one has to consider when choosing a boat. Put a tick in every section you think applies to you, to clear the brain of dreams and bring it down to facts. Compare these facts with the data sheets of those designs that had your interest initially and see which one, from a practical point of view, is going to suit you best.

Table of Basic Requirements
No. of people to regularly sleep aboard None 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 Over
Time spent on board Day sailing Weekend sailing (sleeping) Holidays (Several weeks) 3 months per year 6 months per year All year round
Type of sailing Inland lakes, rivers Trailer/sailing Coastal Short sea crossing Ocean passages Racing
Preferred style of accommodation Functional interior Flexi-space Luxury
Building time schedule 3 months 6 months 1 year 1.5 years 2 years 3-4 years
Available finance £2000 £5000 £8000 £12,000 £20,000 £40,000+
Volunteers working on Pahi 63 Gaia

Building Time

The building times (shown in design data of the boat building plans) are based on Hanneke's estimations, supported by letters from builders.

They are by the nature of human vagaries only an approximation, a rough average. Some builders treat each piece of wood in a caressing loving fashion and end up, after a long time, with a boat that is also a piece of wood sculpture. Others throw pieces of wood together and end up with a quickly built, rough sailing ship. People are free to do as they wish, I personally like to take the middle way.

The building site and tools available also affect construction time. If you have a good covered shelter with power lines for hand-held power tools, you will build considerably faster than if you build the boat some distance away from your living base, in the open or under the simplest of polythene shelters, without power, using only hand tools.

I built Rongo and Tehini in the open with only minimal shelter and hand tools. It can be done but the phrase to describe it is "Character Forming"!!

Building Time
Hours Full time at 40 hours per week Part time at 15 hours per week
150 1 month 3 months
300-500 3 months 6 months
700-1000 5-6 months 1-1.5 years
1500-2000 9-12 months 2-2.5 years
3000 18 months 4 years
Wharram Cats sailing side by side
Gaia's helm

Building Methods

The Classic Designs were developed before epoxy glues and are built in a simple, traditional manner. They are male-orientated in building method, i.e. to get a well-built boat, skill is required with sharp edged tools, usually a training skill given only to males.

Built roughly, Classic designs may leak, leading to rot. Unfortunately, some Classic designs have been built roughly, but the surplus of timber in their construction give a strength safety margin allowing rough builders in the first years of ownership to successfully sail long distances before rot develops. (Beware of such boats on the secondhand market)!

The PAHI construction is a stage between the Classic and the TIKI designs, though still requiring wood working skills. The application of glass cloth has become an essential part of the construction.

The TIKI designs use female and male skills equally. Epoxy requires the same kind of attitude to care and cleanliness most women display in the kitchen. Also women are more used to handling fabrics, i.e fibreglass cloth, than men. In general, the TIKIs are getting built faster with a better finish than the Classic designs, because they utilise fully and equally male and female energies.

Partially completed Wharram hull
Partially completed Wharram hull
Partially completed Wharram hulls

Building Cost

With the constantly rising cost of materials we can only give a rough estimate, based on actual costs of boats built over the years, with an added factor for inflation. We will try to update this list whenever we receive actual building costs from our builders. If you are a builder and have kept careful accounts, please write to us and this information can then help other builders.

Boat costs will vary from builder to builder and also depend on which country you are building in. Some builders love to put top quality plywood and expensive hard woods into their boats, others get as much pleasure recycling old wood, hunting around scrap-yards and going to boat jumbles.

Builders' attitudes towards their choice of paint, chandlery, winches, hatches/portholes and other fittings can make a considerable difference in cost from the standard average shown in the table. Whatever you do, do not try cheap non-brand epoxy and incompatible glass cloths!

The following table give the approximate materials cost of building our various designs using simple, adequate materials as specified in the Plans. All costs are in GB Pounds and are exclusive of VAT. Costs include wooden masts and working rig, as well as basic interior fittings as shown on the Plans, but do not include navigation equipment, electrics, ground tackle, dinghy or engine(s), as these are a very personal choice and can vary greatly in cost.

Note that the Ethnic designs are costed using home made crabclaw sails (except Amatasi, which has a gaff/sprit rig made by a sail maker). The cost of the Ethnic designs is much lower as all fittings are self-made, they use grown saplings for beams and spars, and rope standing rigging.

All Study Plans include a full materials list, which enables you to cost out materials with suppliers in your area.

Materials Costs 2012
Classic Designs GBP (£)
Maui 3,000
Hinemoa 6,000
Tanenui (Ply) 11,000
Tangaroa Mk IV 31,000
Raka 27,000
Narai Mk I/Mk II 43,000
Narai Mk IV 44,000
Ariki 44,000
Tehini 50,000
Coastal Trek/Tiki Designs GBP (£)
Hitia 14 2,000
Hitia 17 3,000
Tiki 21 5,500
Tiki 26 9,000
Tiki 30 13,000
Tiki 31 15,000
Tiki 38 35,000
Tiki 46 52,000
Pahi Designs GBP (£)
Pahi 26 (Tikiroa) 9,000
Pahi 31 (Areoi) 16,000
Pahi 42 (Captain Cook) 44,000
Pahi 63 (Spirit of Gaia) 65,000
Ethnic Designs GBP (£)
Melanesia (16') 300
Tahiti Wayfarer (21') 2,000
Amatasi (27') 4,000
Tama Moana (38') 15,000

Final Choice

Having done careful thinking and consideration, then there is always the "joke" or irrational factor. You may think that construction time and money available should lead you, via Hanneke's table, to the boat best suited to your needs and comfort - it won't. I will explain... a few years ago using common sense logic and data from a table, I was planning my next boat to be either a TIKI 31 or a new PAHI 39 design (using the Coastal Trek construction system). Then we were commissioned to design the PAHI 63, and I just fell in love with this design. Against all logic and common sense I decided to build one.

I know that other people looking over the brochure will also be tempted against common sense into boats bigger and more expensive than they either need or had planned for. My excuse put forward to the women at James Wharram Designs, who control the purse strings, was that I would use the PAHI 63 as a charter ship to pay for its construction costs. This after considerable debate, they accepted.

I advise any male carried away with visions of grandeur to put his choice of design under the more logical eyes of his female partner(s), for one thing I've noticed is that, though it is usually the man who chooses and starts the design, it is the woman partner who has the slogging, staying power to get the boat finished.

Arial view of 5 Wharram boats by the shore