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Professional Building In Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines

By James Wharram

I begin this Web letter with two pictures. Look at them. This single hull boat shown is a traditional 'Friendship' sloop. The man who is sailing it understands practical sailing, the ability to use rope and every scrap of 'canvas' to get maximum speed in light sailing winds. He is a 'Sailor'.

Good boat builders build good boats; good sailing boat builders build even better boats. I am pleased to write, that the owner and sailor of the 'Friendship' sloop is Guenther Nutt, the owner of the 'Seascape' Company who is building Wharram TIKIs and PAHI 52s (and possibly PAHI 60s) in Phuket, Thailand.

Monohull friendship sloop
Guenther's Friendship Sloop.
Catamaran on the beach
Nigel's Oro 'Kochick'.

Hanneke and I have just spent 7 days at Guenther's yard in Phuket and did not wish to leave in spite of Flu epidemics in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as the beginning of the war in Iraq.

Our stay in Phuket had the excitement and friendship of the early years of our design life. This was partly due to Nigel Hartford who in the 1960s with 3 friends built one of the first 46ft. ORO designs in 9 months. Then, without an engine and minimal sailing experience, learnt to sail (without an engine, they had to), jaw biting wild sails off the Essex coast of Britain. In the 1960s you could do things like that. For one reason, rivers and mooring sites were then empty of yachts. So, any out of control damage was to yourself.

The first secretary of the 'Polynesian Catamaran Association' (PCA) was a very attractive, mini skirted, thigh booted girl, called Veronica Twist. (The 1960s were the Golden Years). Nigel soon swept her off her feet, out of her boots, and married her. After a few of Nigel's wild sails, she said: "I never want to sail on a boat again."

Nigel then became a respectable business man, an air charter specialist and with Vrony raised a family. His dream and agreement with Vrony of 30 years was that one day, he could have time for a boat of his dreams.

Pahi 52 hull in workshop
Pahi 52 hull in workshop
Nigel's Pahi 52.

Over the years, Nigel chartered various yachts and catamarans, but at the back of his mind was his exciting youth experience with his ORO. So, about 18 months ago, when conditions were right, he contacted us again and we met at the 2002 London Boat Show.

In the pleasure of meeting each other after so many years, Nigel and I soon went into an alcoholic daze. Hanneke looked after us, and some time on that evening, we contracted with Nigel to build at Guenther's yard, 'Seascape' in Phuket one of my new dream designs, the PAHI 52.

You, the reader, can look at the photos of the part built PAHI 52. To some people an unfinished boat does not register, but to me, on my first and many later viewings, it filled me with awe. It was hard to believe that I/we had designed it. It seemed as if it had always been there, a shape that had always existed and had just been waiting to come into existence!!

In addition to Nigel at Guenther's yard was another visitor, George (Gritsis), a former Greek Naval Officer, a crew member of the replica of the Greek Trireme of a few years ago and a twice around the world sailor; the first time on a 24ft. plywood sailing boat, the second time through the Magellan Straight with a 26ft. Sailing Boat, both built by himself. If you read Greek sailing books you will know of him.

George and James on a boat in workshop
George Gritsis and James in discussion.
People having drinks in a bar
Paul, Mel and Nicholas in the nearby bar.

George had heard of the PAHI 52. It was ideal for his Greek Charter Business. So, he was in Phuket with Nicholas, another Greek who is the SE Asian representative of one of the 'Notified Bodies' to see if the PAHI 52 could be fully classed under the new RCD (Recreational Craft Directive) regulations. Well, apart from discussions on the fitting of lifelines on 'fenceposts' instead of our much safer and higher lifelines fixed to the rigging and an ongoing discussion over escape hatches in the hull sides in the event of capsize, the boat is well within the new RCD regulations, in fact, to a higher standard than many.

Also visiting the yard during this week were Mel and Paul. They own a Seascape built TIKI 30 (www.angelfire.com/space/tiki30) and are hoping to charter their boat out to a French company, who runs 'Eco Non-Engine' holidays and dream of building up a TIKI 30 Charter Feet.

Last October on our first visit to Seascape we sailed on the first Tiki 46 built by Guenther and met up with Mel and Paul's Tiki 30 on Koh Samui.

Finally, in the yard - too busy to talk to anyone - was Maxim Juergens, taking delivery of the first of two TIKI 30s, developed for charter. www.sailing-charter-thailand.com

Tiki 30 on the water, people on deck
Paul and Mel's Tiki 30 'Nok Talay'.
Tiki 30 hulls in workshop
The first of two TIKI 30s for Maxim Juergens is leaving the yard.

It was a week of fantastic boat conversations by people who know the history of sailing boats, can handle and build them. Also Mel was one of the few people who could feel the archaic psychic aspects of our designs.

Handling the nitty-gritty office work, looking after all of us was 'Letty', Guenther's wife, a jewel of a woman, like Ruth Wharram.

From Phuket we flew to Surabaya, Java, Indonesia, for another visit to P.T.PAL at the ex-Naval Dockyard, a totally different experience to be featured further another time. Still, the ISLANDER 55 being built there is in progress.

Sadly, we could not get to the Philippines to meet the other leg of the SE Asian building 'Stool', where Andy Smith has now established an authorised building yard for Tiki 30s and Tiki 38s. The photos show Andy Smith when he worked here in Devoran as 'Wharram Built' from 1987 till 1992 building the TIKI 28 and 36. For the latest designs which he is building in the Philippines, see his website. (www.andy-smith-boatworks.com).

Recently, it was suggested that in my joy of getting boats speedily built by professional builders I had forgotten my self builders. This is not true. The 'CHILD OF THE SEA' is being drawn, one of our 'Ethnic' designs. (We have been encouraged to design this boat by Glenn Tieman, a past trans-Pacific PAHI 26 sailor). Hanneke is now hard at work producing the drawings for the first time builders. The Study Plan is now available in the shop.

Already Mel and Paul of the TIKI 30 see possibilities for some form of charter use of this Ethnic Design, the 'TAMA MOANA'.

- James Wharram