Building Hitia 14 'Neuro'

Home Wharram World Building Hitia 14 'Neuro'
Kamila Mookanai
Three people gathered around a hull, black and white photo

In 2012, I first met Giovanni, a chemical engineer like me, when I had just moved to Italy from India for work. By then, he was already a sailing aficionado although he had discovered his love for sailing only a year before, when he had first sailed. Since then he has been swept into the sailing world with a penchant for all things sailing: devouring books written by sailors and sailing whenever possible.

One morning at work, Giovanni announced that he had decided to build a sailboat; the previous night having just finished reading Bernard Moitessier’s The Tamata and the Alliance, he'd dreamt that he converted a fishing boat into a sailboat by adding a mast and sails.

I, on the other hand, knew nothing about sailing and had never even been on a sailboat before. But Giovanni’s passion for his dream was so strong that I knew I had to be a part of it and so I offered to help him build his boat.

In his search for the apt boat, Giovanni stumbled upon Wharram's website and chose Hitia 14. Giovanni was building it to cure himself of his craze for sailing and hence decided to name it ‘Neuro’ which in Italian means a neurological clinic.

Work began in July 2013 with the delivery of the plywood and timber: Okoume marine plywood and two large planks of Mahogany. We worked on Neuro during the weekends and during our free time after work on weekdays. We only had few machinery so we did most of the work by hand. It was the most satisfying experience to see Neuro take shape as we progressed. The house Giovanni was renting at that time had a small backyard and a garage. But it was a particularly rainy period in Milan that time and consequently a lot of work had to be done inside the house, and so Neuro was home-built, literally. It must’ve been a funny sight for our neighbours, to see a hull move in and out of the house’s window every now and then, especially for a house in the outskirts of Milan!

We learnt a lot during the build and as it was our first time, we also faced many challenges. The mast proved to be a bit of a struggle, not just for shaping it, given the hardness of Mahogany, but also for finishing it. We wanted to saturate the pores in the wood before using a varnish and so had used linseed oil. But the varnish failed to dry for weeks, we had to sand it off completely. We then used a wood sealer followed by a mono component varnish and we really liked the result but during our third coat, we accidentally used the bi-component thinner instead of the mono-component one, and had to sand it back to wood and start over again. And the long rainy period did not help as we had to wait longer between coats of painting.

In the meantime, Giovanni was also studying sail making. He wanted to design and sew the sails by himself. He started making the sails in July 2014 and Neuro was completed (including its sails) in November 2014. And while we were building Neuro, we also fell in love with each other and we’ve been together ever since.

We launched Neuro in June 2015 in Liguria, Italy. Neuro sails beautifully: once we set its route and leave the tiller at its neutral position, it maintains its route to an absolute precision as if there were a wind vane steering system. We’ve been sailing her in the Elba Island every year since we first launched her. Although, this project began as a cure for Giovanni’s obsession, it has now become our shared passion. Together, we hope to build more boats together, sail more often and meet people who share our passion.