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Florida HUI Wharram 2017 - Event Report

By Bonnie Fern

Bonnie Fern was so kind to organize this report on this years Hui Wharram. I especially like to thank all that attended coming near and far to our gathering (Oops I mean 'Hui') of Wharram Polynesian Catamarans and 'other' craft. A very special thank you to Hanneke Boon for traveling from Cornwall, UK to be a part of our little party.


“Do we have to wait a whole year to do this again?” This was the plaintiff refrain heard throughout the Hui Wharram this past May. The weather throughout the weekend of May 19-21, 2017 favored the sailors and the seas with sunshine, light winds, and warm evenings. The gathering of Wharram catamarans, known more precisely by the Hawaiian Hui-o-waa-Kaulua-Wharram, included cats of other styles and even an ocean sailing canoe. This annual event brings together Wharramites, fellow sailors, and other multihull devotees for the sharing of skills and resources (and the telling of tall tales of travel) and other musings. Everyone is welcome (fair warning – the Wharram spirit is contagious!).

Among those called by the Wharram spirit were boats from as close as Panama City, Pine Island, and Ft. Myers in Florida and from as far away as South Africa, North Carolina, Texas, and Alabama. Wharrams are typically owner built using plans from the Wharram Design firm based in Cornwall, England, under the direction these 40+ years by the 89-year-old indefatigable James Wharram. They are light, fast, sturdy, stable and efficient to sail. With a variety of design options, potential owners find plans suitable to their purpose, whether its day sailing or circumnavigation.

Attendees were treated to a special guest. Hanneke Boon is the co-designer at Wharram Designs. The Dutch born Boon grew up in a sailing family and has been an integral part of the design team since the age of 20. A gifted artist/graphic designer/craftworker, Hanneke has sailed thousands of ocean miles including round the world on “Spirit of Gaia” (1994-98) and the Lapita Voyage (2008-09) when she skippered “Lapita Anuta”. She shared her vast knowledge and experience with the group, sailing with each of the attendees offering guidance and encouragement.

Saturday night, the banquet at the Three Fishermen brought everyone together to share stories of the weekend, tales of voyages past, and plans for future voyages. A portion of the evening was devoted to Hanneke’s remarks, followed by the presentation of awards. Ranging from the sincere (Andy Preston – Wharram Spirit Award) to the silly (Stuart Coates – Long Walk Off a Short Pier – yes, he did earn this one), the awards pay tribute to the camaraderie which develops among the group throughout a Hui. Brent Crawshaw (the closest we came to an actual Polynesian) led the group in a song originating in the Polynesian tradition. Come join us next time – experience this for yourself.

The group welcomed James Wharram himself via a Sunday morning Skype. From his home in Cornwall, England James answered questions and offered advice to the group. Personifying the Wharram philosophy of “Sea People”, James’ presence conveyed upon the group a sense of group identity uncommon to the generally independent and self-reliant Wharram-type sailors. Perhaps in part because of this, the event scheduled to end on Sunday didn’t see the last boat depart until Tuesday.

The success of this annual event is due in no small part to the venue. The Best Western Waterfront hotel makes a block of rooms available at the special “Hui” rate for those who don’t wish to remain aboard. The new (and free) docks make ideal anchorage unaffected by the tide, convenient to the North Ft. Myers Beach Park and, of note, to the Three Fishermen Seafood Restaurant from whence great food and beverages flowed. The venue location is accessed via the Gulf, the Intercoastal Waterway, and the Okeechobee Waterway (and for a good number, via the Ft. Myers Int’l Airport). The city of Ft. Myers is beautiful by water and land, and offers a music walk which coincides with the Hui, providing an evening’s entertainment.

Next year’s dates: May 18-20, 2018. And as of this publication date, no – you don’t have to wait a whole year to do this again. You are invited – you are welcome. Contact chief organizer and Cat wrangler Thom DelForge (huiwharram@gmail.com) for questions and to get on our email list to receive notice of future Huis. Find us on Facebook: Hui Wharram Polynesian Catamarans & Friends.

Footnote from Hanneke Boon: The Florida Wharram Hui was a great event, we at Wharram Designs are most concerned about the well-being of all the wonderful people Hanneke met at the Hui and their wonderful boats. We sincerely hope they will survive this extreme ordeal.