Home > Jims Column > 2012 > Visit to Boatsmith, Florida

Visit to Boatsmith, Florida

By James Wharram

On May 15th, my 84th Birthday, instead of having an ‘I have survived’ birthday party, I was cramped up on a Virgin Airline seat flying to Miami, America (I am certain airlines are reducing the distances between seats year by year).

David Halladay of ‘Boatsmith’, our American franchised builder wanted us to come over to see and discuss the first set of composite GRP hulls of the new ARIKI 47 just off the mould. To encourage us to fly over he arranged to have our visit coincide with the Wharram Rendezvous (‘Wharram Hui’) organised by Dan Kunz in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

May 16th David took us to his huge new building shed. WHOW!!

Many years ago, in Norway I was taken to the ‘Vikingship Halle’ in Oslo that holds the Gokstad and Oseberg ships. I can still remember the gut feeling of awe on seeing those ships. I had exactly the same feeling when I saw the two basic ARIKI 47 hulls alongside each other in the Boatsmith ‘Hall’.

The V-eed cross-sections are gently curved. The flat stem will still be fitted with a fairing.

My first reaction, on seeing these hulls is “I want one!” Then I was quickly reminded that I already own a serviceable (well, after a refit) Pahi 63.

What concerns me is that ‘custom craftsmen boatyards’ can have problems that the big production yards don’t have. If you provide a series-built yacht, the customer goes to the showrooms and sees a finished boat; though minor additions are possible, it is a take it or leave it situation.

With custom boatbuilders it is far easier for the owners to request considerable design changes during the building. This over the years has led many good builders to go bankrupt, or designers to take to drink or hanging themselves ;-). The builder and the designer need to be tough and not allow changes that detract from the design ethos.

Fortunately David is a tough character, and I did meet the owners (father and son) of this first ARIKI 47, who have done extensive cruising in the Caribbean and have a similar approach to the design as David and myself.

Ariki 47 hull in workshop
ARIKI 47 hull with cabin plug in place.
James, Hanneke, David and the owners in interior seating
Discussions with the owner in the mock-up of the interior seating.

What I visualised in the two hulls fresh off the plug was a craft that had the simplicity in sailrig, fittings and interior, of a Classic sailing boat of the 1930s. Boats that have in recent years, at vast cost, been rebuilt for connoisseur owners and re-rigged in their original form and are featured regularly in yacht magazines like Classic Boat. With her sleek, slim hulls, low freeboard with streamlined cabins, clear decks and Wharram Wingsail Rig, the ARIKI 47 will cruise, easy sailing, at 12 knots. Start ‘Sailing’ hard and you will be up to 15 knots plus. With her 3ft draft (with no extra appendages) you can sail off the beach with swimming parties of 10, more if you can stand the noise; or cruise down to the Caribbean with a crew of 2 to 6 (more if you can stand the cooking and dishwashing).

Party in the workshop
Opening party for the new Boatsmith workshop and the new ARIKI 47 design.
Birthed Tiki 8m
One of the Tiki 8m berthed in the marina at Marco Island.

The ARIKI 47 entranced me, so much so that I will brave the torture seats of Virgin Airways again to fly out to the next Miami Boatshow in February where David hopes to exhibit a fully finished ARIKI 47. I think there is a huge potential for a boat like the ARIKI 47, there is nothing quite like it on the market.

As I write this ‘Markets’ are in freefall, boats for people who ‘need to sail’ but lack borrowing facilities, will be 30ft and under. The Tiki 8m falls in this market.

Later in the week David drove us through the Everglades to the West coast of Florida to Marco Island to see the two GRP Tiki 8m built by Boatsmith for beach charter by the Marriot Hotel. These boats were built off moulds built by us in the UK, with some modifications requested by the Marriot hotel for their specific use.

Interior of the Tiki 8m.

The two boats looked clean decked and inviting and were ideal for the day charter work they were used for. Their quite buoyant bows can take several people lying on the bow trampoline and the roomy cockpit can easily seat 8 people. We took one of them on a trial sail.

Tom Williams, the skipper of the boats, loved them. He was able to steer the boats easily backwards out of the marina berths under motor. The boats did not use the standard Wharram Wingsail rig, as when they were built the hotel still had the rigs of the previous catamarans they used. Tom however much preferred the new Tiki 8m as a sailing boat.

James and David in cockpit of Tiki 8m
The wide spacious cockpit can easily seat 8 people.
James on the bow trampoline
The buoyant bows can support several people lounging on the trampoline.
James and David with beached Tiki 8m
The shallow draft V-eed hulls with no centreboards can be beached safely.

The Tiki 8m was designed as a trailer/sailer, intended for coastal work. We were again reminded how seaworthy the smaller Tikis are when last week we were visited by a Frenchman in Tiki 28 Nr.1, professionally built in 1989 here in Devoran by ‘Wharram Built’. He recorded these facts about her performance when caught in a following gale from Plymouth to Falmouth, wind 35-38kn with gusts of 45kn and large following waves. Under tiny storm jib speeds through the water were around 12kn, his GPS recorded a top speed of 17kn (surfing), there were no signs of bow burying and he felt very safe.

- James Wharram