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James Wharram: life and legacy of the iconic designer

Yachting World

  • January 29, 2024

Julien Girardot meets Hanneke Boon in Cornwall to discover the legend and legacy of pioneering catamaran designer James Wharram

wharram catamaran build

Falmouth, Cornwall, 1955: a legend is born along Customs House Quay. A smartly dressed young man with wild, curly hair has launched a 23ft catamaran, built in just a few months for the modest sum of £200 (the equivalent of around £6,500 today).

Rigged as a ketch with battened junk sails, the aptly named Tangaroa (meaning ‘God of the Sea’ in Polynesian) marked the beginning of the epic Wharram story.

At the time, catamarans were considered dangerous and eccentric, while yachting was a pastime largely reserved for high society. But sailing already has other visionaries. On the deck of Tangaroa, beside James, are two young women: Jutta Schulze-Rhonhof and Ruth Merseburger. In puritanical post-war England, setting off to cross the Atlantic with two young women – and German ones at that – was downright shocking! But these three young people care not a jot about conventional thinking. They dream of adventure and their enterprise is an act of defiance.

For years James Wharram has nurtured a passion for the history of sailing pioneers and the ethnic origins of the multihull. Devouring every book on the subject he could lay his hands on, he discovered the story of Joshua Slocum, the first solo circumnavigator (1895-1898), and the voyage of Kaimiloa by the Frenchman Eric de Bisschop. The tale, published in English in 1940, of de Bisschop’s attempt to prove the seaworthiness of double canoes by making a voyage from Hawaii to France on a catamaran he had built on the beach, became Wharram’s primary source of inspiration.

wharram catamaran build

Riding out the storm: James Wharram at the helm of Tangaroa in Biscay in 1955. Photo: Julien Girardot

Wharram disagreed with many assumptions of the time, and his first Atlantic crossing was an opportunity to refute Thor Heyerdahl’s theory on the settlement of the Pacific islands. Wharram contested the assertion of the Danish anthropologist who, after his voyage aboard the Kon-Tiki in 1947, affirmed that the boats used were simple rafts. Wharram was convinced that the boats were more akin to double canoes with sails, capable of going upwind and holding a course. These early multihulls, consisting of two hollowed-out tree trunks, were connected by crossbeams bound together with plant fibre. The sails were probably made from what is known as ‘tapa’ in Polynesia, hammered tree bark, which was also used to make clothes.

The three young adventurers left Falmouth on 27 September 1955 on a boat loaded with books, basic foods, and very little else. Despite a fraught passage, encountering storms in the Bay of Biscay and being suspected of being spies by Franco’s Guardia Civil, the trio successfully crossed the Atlantic and reached the island of Trinidad on 2 February 1957.

Without a penny to their name, they adopted a simple island life, and Jutta gave birth to her and James’ first child, Hannes. The unconventional polyamorous family lived aboard a raft inspired by the floating dwellings of the Pacific, nicknamed ‘the paradise island of the South Seas’. Tangaroa, now tired, was abandoned, as Wharram decided to build a new catamaran. By chance, two solo sailors came to anchor in the bay where the Wharram tribe lived afloat, and the legendary Bernard Moitessier and Henry Wakelam helped Wharram build his new design, Rongo.

wharram catamaran build

Wharram, Merseburger and Schulze-Rhonhof aboard Tangaroa in Falmouth, 1955, before their Atlantic crossing. Photo: Julien Girardot

Thanks to the experience of his first transatlantic voyage, as well as knowledge gathered from Wharram’s endless reading, Rongo was much more accomplished. While Tangaroa was flat-bottomed, Rongo has V-hulls. To prove the design’s seaworthy qualities, Wharram decided to tackle the North Atlantic, sailing from west to east with his two companions. This route was known to strike fear into the hearts of multihull sailors of the time, as the two previous attempts had tragically ended in two deaths.

The crew left La Martinique for New York on 16 April 1959, one year after Rongo’s construction began. The return voyage to Conwy in Wales took 50 days, but the gamble paid off, and Wharram’s new design was the first to achieve what many thought impossible. The curly-haired eccentric became something of a celebrity, and following his great Atlantic adventure, James published his first book, Two girls, Two Catamarans. The years that followed were Wharram’s golden age, with plans released to suit every budget and every dream. Soon there were Wharram designs all over the world, connected by a powerful community spirit.

Drawing a Wharram

My own journey to this remote corner of Cornwall began decades before. After 15 years of travelling the world, inventing and reinventing my life, including many years living in the Pacific islands, I felt the need to capture these experiences by creating the boat of my dreams.

wharram catamaran build

Illustrations inspired by a visit to the Wharram design office in Cornwall. Image: Benjamin Flao

While living in Tuamotu, I was involved in several incredible projects to build traditional sailing canoes under the directive of talented local Tahitian boatbuilder, Alexandre Genton (now chief of operations at Blue Composite shipyard in Tahiti). At first we launched small single-seat sailing canoes with two outrigger floats. These are the simplest way to sail: a sheet in one hand, a paddle in the other, which you plunge over the side of the canoe into the water, and it makes a perfect rudder. Then we built a larger version, Va’a Motu, for a hotel in Bora Bora, of splendid stripped kauri planking. Finally, we worked with the local population to build an ambitious 30ft Va’a Motu with a single ama, on the atoll of Fakarava in the Tuamotu archipelago.

Curiously, after many experimental trials at building and sailing canoes, my imagined ideal yacht turned out to be something very close to a Wharram design, which I learned as soon as I shared my first cautious sketches with friends. I realised I had to meet James Wharram.

In October 2021, I dialled the number of JW Designs. A woman answered; James’ long-term life and business partner Hanneke Boon. I tell her my ideas to build from one of their plans: the Islander 39. We began an email exchange and when I asked her what James thought of this model, in November 2021, less than a month before he died, she replied: “James is enthusiastic about your project. He’s now 93 years old and nearing the end of his life.

wharram catamaran build

The Pahi 63 Spirit of Gaia which Wharram and Boon sailed around the world. Image: Benjamin Flao

“He has been looking at the Islander 39 design for several years and often says, ‘I wish I had one myself.’ It’s the only Wharram design that has never been built, so your project is a wish come true for him.”

On 14 December 2021, James Wharram passed away. Out of respect for the bereavement, and due to Covid-related travel restrictions, we decided to postpone our meeting. Some months later on a beautiful spring afternoon, I landed in Plymouth with my friend and artist Benjamin Flao, himself the owner of a Wharram-designed Tiki 28, and headed for Devoran near Truro in Cornwall, the stronghold of the Wharram family.

Hanneke welcomes us into her office. It is a beautiful wooden cabin, warm and bright, overlooking the changing lights of Cornwall. The place looks like a museum telling the story of a life of travel and passion through yacht models, photographs and unusual objects. James is there, you can feel it. A glance at the shelves of the library shows an impressive array of rare and precious books, mostly dealing with navigation and shipbuilding in Oceania, and demonstrates the seriousness with which Wharram and Boon studied the history and technicality of ‘double canoes’.

“I’d like our boats to be called double canoes and not catamarans, which I think is a mistake,” Hanneke explains. The word catamaran, originally pronounced ‘catamaron’, comes from the Tamil dialect of katta ‘to bind’ and maram ‘wood’, as they were actually one-man rafts used to work on the outer hull of ships. The English pirate and adventurer William Dampier, in the 1690s, was the first to describe a two-hulled vessel as a catamaran, but although catamarans might be the commonly accepted word nowadays, it’s actually a mistake.

wharram catamaran build

oon unfolds the plans of the Islander 39, the only Wharram design that has never been built. Many plans were hand-drawn by Boon. Photo: Julien Girardot

Hanneke unfolds the Islander 39 plan on her drawing board. Like all Wharram plans for half a century, it has been marked with her signature. Despite this unique pencil stroke, she has remained in the shadow of Wharram’s mythology for 50 years. Since 1970, Boon has drawn the majority of the construction plans by hand. They’re works of art and the best way to imagine yourself aboard a Wharram. Without her, JW Designs would not be what it is.

Originally from the Netherlands, Boon grew up in a family of sailing enthusiasts. By the age of 14 she was already building small canoes and at the age of 20 she joined the Wharram team and quickly became his co-designer. They criss-crossed the Atlantic twice in quick succession aboard Tehini, the crab claw-rigged double canoe on which James and several women lived for 10 years. Since then, Hanneke has escaped from her office whenever she can to sail thousands of miles on all the seas of the world, always using a double canoe.

Those radical vessels included the Spirit of Gaia, also built on site, through a sliding door next to Hanneke’s office. It was aboard this 63ft Pahi, Wharram’s flagship, that the Wharrams sailed around the world from 1994 to 1998. James described Spirit of Gaia as “a beautifully shaped woman he was in love with”.

wharram catamaran build

Boon’s design office is adjacent to the Wharram HQ in Devoran and looks out over one of the River Fal’s many creeks. Photo: Julien Girardot

In Wharram’s wake

James and Hanneke’s home is a former veterinary surgery. The furnishings are basic, with only the essentials, but the doors close by themselves, thanks to an ingenious system of weights, ropes and pulleys. Benjamin and I offer to shop and cook, and in the living room, we put the dishes down and eat on the floor, like on the deck of a Wharram.

Jamie, James and Hanneke’s son, joins us for the meal with his partner Liz. “James has remained the icon of the business, but it’s really Hanneke who has been doing the job for the last 10 years. She is JW Designs,” confides Liz.

Jamie is at first more subdued, but talking to him you soon discover a true character. Given the world he grew up in, it’s surprising to learn that sailing is not really his thing: “I get bored quickly at sea and I’m sick most of the time! I prefer to be underwater. Above the line is not my thing.

wharram catamaran build

Evocative illustration of the Wharram workshop in Devoran, Cornwall. Image: Benjamin Flao

“I do like the calmness of the ocean though, that parenthesis effect, detached from our hectic lives on land. In fact, I think the best thing about sailing is remembering long voyages, not making them,” Jamie jokes.

But he is keen to preserve Wharram’s legacy and the couple are thinking ahead to when Hanneke can no longer hold the fort. “As long as Hanneke is alive, the business will be run in her own way. But it’s certain that something will be put in place to enable people to continue to acquire the building plans, at the very least, this service will remain guaranteed.”

Back in the office next door, Nicki John answers clients and sends plans around the world. She’s only been with JWD for a couple of years, but that’s long enough for her to fall in love with the company’s story.

“One of the things I loved about James was that he came in every day. He’d knock on the door and jokingly ask, ‘Do you have time for some gossip?’ And then he’d tell me all sorts of stories. His travels, the women he had shared his life with, it was fascinating. When he was 18, he hitchhiked to Europe, smuggling coffee on the black market to finance his adventures. James’ story is just phenomenal.

wharram catamaran build

Mana 24 is available as a CNC-cut self-build kit boat. Photo: Julien Girardot

“One day James came in, took out a plan, unfolded it as he sat down, and said, ‘Aren’t they beautiful?’ James was deeply convinced of Hanneke’s talent. He never stopped admiring her,” Nicki says fondly.

The community Wharram fosters is unique. Nicki shows us a photo that defines the ‘Wharram spirit’, of the hull of a Wharram being lifted out of the second floor window of a home in England. With no shed to build their Wharram design, they decided to use their living room as a boatyard. “This picture shows that if you really want to build a Wharram, you can do it anywhere,” says Nicki, “During Covid, we sold a lot more plans. Confined, people dreamed of freedom and took time to figure out how they wanted to live their lives.”

Now it’s Hanneke’s turn to shine as the head of JWD. In contrast to the technologically-led path that sailing often follows, James and Hanneke’s ‘low tech’ approach drives those who follow it to reconnect with past knowledge, practices, and philosophical approaches to our relationship with the world and the way we live in it.

Their love of minimalism is also at odds with many trends in modern yachting, but it brings its own luxury. The joy of not having too much of anything allows you to make room for the essentials, and for the beauty that surrounds you.

My dream of building Wharram’s unfulfilled plan, the Islander 39, remains. I’m in no hurry. Like the libertarian vision of James Wharram, it endures.

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James Wharram: Eight bells for the multihull pioneer

  • Katy Stickland
  • January 7, 2022

Tributes have been paid to pioneering multihull designer and sailor James Wharram, who has died aged 93

James Wharram dedicated his life to to proving the Polynesian double canoe was an ocean worthy craft. Credit: James Wharram Designs

James Wharram dedicated his life to to proving the Polynesian double canoe was an ocean worthy craft. Credit: James Wharram Designs

James Wharram, considered by many as the father of modern multihull cruising, has died, aged 93.

The free-spirited sailor and designer specialised in double-canoe style sailing catamarans, inspired by the Polynesian double canoe.

Born in Manchester in 1928, Wharram designed his first offshore cruising catamaran, Tangaroa in 1953 having read about Frenchman Éric de Bisschop’s 1937-1939 voyage from Hawaii to France in his double canoe.

Ruth Merseburger, later Ruth Wharram, was an early believer in James's designs and theories and helped build his first multihull, Tangaroa

Ruth Merseburger, later Ruth Wharram, was an early believer in James’s designs and theories and helped build his first multihull, Tangaroa . Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

Determined to prove the seagoing qualities of the double canoe, Wharram, accompanied by Ruth Merseburger, who later became Ruth Wharram, and Jutta Schultze-Rohnhof, sailed his 23ft 6 inch multihull from Falmouth across the Atlantic to Trinidad in 1956.

Wharram wrote about crossing the Bay of Biscay in Tangaroa for Yachting Monthly in 1956, going into details about the catamaran’s performance, easy motion and stability. This was in direct contrast to the then held opinion that a motion of a catamaran would be worse than on a keel yacht.

Three years later, having built the 40ft Rongo on a beach in Trinidad with the help of French sailor Bernard Moistessier, Wharram, Ruth and Jutta sailed to New York before crossing the North Atlantic – the first ever North Atlantic West-to-East crossing by multihull.

Onboard Rongo in the Atlantic with his son Hannes.

Onboard Rongo in the Atlantic with his son Hannes. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

James Wharram started designing for self-builders in 1965.

Along with his partners Ruth Wharram and Hanneke Boon, he created distinctive V-hull double-ended catamarans, from 13ft to over 60ft, selling more than 10,000 sets of plans.

Jutta Schultze-Rohnhof and Ruth Merseburger with James Wharram before they left Falmouth onboard Tangaroa. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

Jutta Schultze-Rohnhof and Ruth Merseburger with James Wharram before they left Falmouth onboard Tangaroa. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

Wharram believed in a ‘less is more’ approach to boat building, and all of his boats are of simple construction, aimed at amateur boat builders, including the Tiki 21, Cooking Fat , which became the smallest catamaran to sail around the world when skippered by Rory McDougall from 1991-1997.

In May 1992, Wharram launched the 63ft Pahi, Spirit of Gaia , from his home on Restronguet Creek in Cornwall, sailing 32,000 miles around the world from England to Greece via the Pacific.

Spirit of Gaia. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

Spirit of Gaia. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

The catamaran, which has a low freeboard and trademark Wharram Wingsail Rig, was conceived as a base ship for studying whales and dolphins at sea, able to accommodate 16 people offshore.

Continues below…

wharram catamaran build

Wharram cats launched to search for ancestors

Lapita voyage boats launched in Philippines

James Wharram with his crew, Jutta and Ruth, in Falmouth September 1955 aboard TANGAROA

60th anniversary of first Wharram catamaran to set sail from Falmouth

60 years ago, on the 27th September 1955, James Wharram set sail from Falmouth aboard a self-built 23ft 6in flat-bottomed

In 2008, Wharram’s career came full circle, when 50 years after his pioneering voyages, he sailed 4,000 miles on one of two 38ft double canoes along the island chains of the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea and the Solomons.

Sailing Spirit of Gaia

Sailing Spirit of Gaia. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

Known as the Lapita Voyage , the canoes were based on an ancient Polynesian canoe hull-form, and were powered by sail alone, using traditional Polynesian crab claw sails and steering paddles.

Paying tribute to her life partner, Hanneke Boon wrote: ‘ James was a trailblazer, a fighter with great determination and vision. From a young age he followed his passions – to roam the hills – for fair politics – for intelligent women – to sail the seas – to prove the Polynesian double canoe an ocean worthy craft – to become a Man of the Sea.

With his life partners, Ruth Wharram, who died in 2013 aged 92 and Hanneke Boon.

With his life partners, Ruth Wharram, who died in 2013 aged 92 and Hanneke Boon. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

‘These passions made him into a pioneer of catamaran sailing and a world-renowned designer of unique double-canoe catamarans that now sail the oceans.

‘He designed for people who wanted to break out of mundane lives, gave them boats they could build at an affordable cost and gave them the opportunity to become People of the Sea like himself.’

A man looking at a model of a boat

James Wharram preferred sailing to building and tried to make all of his design as simple as possible to build. Courtesy: James Wharram Designs

In the last few years of Wharram’s life he developed Alzheimer’s. He died on 14 December.

‘He could not face the prospect of further disintegration and made the very hard call to end it himself. It was with great courage that he lived his life and with great courage he decided it was the time to finish,’ wrote Hanneke

‘In this moment of great loss we should all remember the good and glorious times of a life fulfilled. This is not the end, I, we, all the Wharram World will keep his work alive.’

James Wharram 1928-2021

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Tiki 30 Catamaran: A Practical Sailor Boat Test

This wharram-designed coastal-cruising cat is a tempting diy boatbuilding project for those looking to get back to the basics..

wharram catamaran build

Photos by Ralph Naranjo

Part of the catamaran designer James Wharrams success story lies in the lifestyle he has been marketing along with his boats. For decades, like fellow cat-cult heroes Arthur Piver and Jim Brown, he has launched people as well as boats on voyages of discovery. He pitches the case for Spartan simplicity and self-reliance and backs it up with a forthright and savvy boatbuilding syllabus. His is the anathema of the ferro-cement craze, more of a “do with less” rather than “load her up” mindset. He sells his ideas as effectively as any self-help telemarketer, and his elixir to cure a mundane life ashore makes much more sense.

Those who drop in on Wharrams website www.wharram.com are encouraged to buy a pithy, 72-page book thats an unabashed advertisement for Wharrams boats, the practicality of his approach, and the need to shrug off shoreside claptrap and clutter when going to sea. This diehard pitch in support of adventure is infectious, and Wharram spells out how a handy, but not professionally trained, do-it-yourselfer can succeed with his designs.

The semi-hooked can order “study plans” of one or more of the Wharram lines, and the subject of this review-the Tiki 30-is part of the Coastal Trek series. These study plans afford greater specific detail about Wharram designs and spell out the materials needed. They also lead you through a materials tally that includes details about epoxy resin, plywood types, sails, hardware, lines, an outboard auxiliary, and other bits and pieces.

Once you have figured out where you can come up with an average of 900 hours of free time-Wharrams DIY labor estimate-you may be close to plunking down $1,000 for detailed building plans. Those who take the leap and create their boat from scratch say it was worth the investment. Those who also complete the voyage they dreamed about have even more good things to say about the “Wharram Way.”

“Living on the sea” is one of Wharrams favorite phrases, and in many ways, hes as much a cruising enabler as he is a boat designer. Like Brown, and his lure of “Seasteading,” Wharram dangles a mostly realistic getaway plan in front of potential clients. The price point is attractive, at least as long as one views the labor commitment as part of the recreational experience. But when all the glue and paint has finally cured, the bottom line is that the Tiki 30, and most of the other Wharram cats, are best suited to cruisers willing to slip away without huge battery banks, large-volume water tanks, and with less mechanical propulsion reliance. Theres little sense in fitting granite countertops and aiming for a monohull-like interior in the limited space available aboard these catamarans.

One Particular Tiki

Occasionally, we take a close look at a non-mainstream vessel, believing that the old adage “one size fits all” has less merit among sailors. And near the top of our “cult following” list of sailboats are the Wharram-designed fleet of catamarans that are built by dedicated do-it-yourselfers as well as professionals. When we heard that voyager/boatbuilder Dave Martin had just finished a Wharram Tiki 30, we knew that the timing was right for a look at a unique vessel, its crew, and the designer.

A Rare breed

Dave and Jaja Martin and their three children are among the rarest breed of family cruisers, a couple who have sailed and savored the razor-thin edge between high risk and even higher reward. Twenty-plus years ago, when Dave sailed off in his completely restructured and highly modified Cal 25 Direction , he found that single-handing held little appeal. So, after an Atlantic crossing and a Caribbean wedding, he and Jaja followed the tradewind route around the world. The singlehander was now part of a family of five that had outgrown their pocket cruiser. So with a Cal 25 circumnavigation astern, thoughts of a next boat began to take shape.

The curtain lifted on the second act with the Martins rebuilding a 20-year-old, 33-foot steel sloop, literally tearing out the interior and starting from scratch. After an 18-month refit, there came an Arctic adventure that would carry Driver and its crew to Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland, and the experience of living aboard during winters in which the rolling sea became as solid as granite. The Martins exemplify voyaging tenacity, but they earn even higher marks for their self-reliance. Theres no sponsorships for their adventures, or independent wealth to fuel a whim. They have taken very modest vessels and turned them into passage-making vehicles able to handle the task at hand. They worked their way around the world and met the locals as participants in their culture rather than as spectators.

Having first met Dave in the Bahamas in 1984 and coaxed him to come work in a boatyard that Practical Sailor Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo was running on Long Island Sound, Naranjo had the good fortune of seeing how seafaring goals and a shipwrights set of skills can set the stage for special cruising opportunities.

Tiki 30 Catamaran

except where noted

Act 3 in the Martin saga is like a symphony with a major change in cadence. This time, priorities such as heavy weather survivability, high-volume stowage capacity, and ice resistance were off the drawing board. In their place came priorities such as simplicity and sailing efficiency, along with the imperative that this will be a “from scratch” Dave-built boat. No mean feat in itself, this boat-building endeavor was all the more impressive because the top of the “honey-do list” was a cottage to live in, a shop to work from, and the building of Dave and Jajas dream house. For most of us, this would relegate the boat project to pipedream status, a project that would likely never be started. But for the Martins, in just over a half-dozen years, the trifecta was complete.

The tide has turned, and their family life proceeds with a shoreside cadence. Adolescents are becoming young adults, and the Maine woods rather than a blue horizon dominate the picture. But true to form, as soon as the house was finished, the table saw gathered no rust. Nor did the other tools in the woodshop, as Dave began cutting carefully scribed curves on Okume plywood. One-at-a-time the amas for a 30-foot Tiki filled the extended garage boat shop. The choice of a double- hulled canoe catamaran doesn’t surprise anyone who knows Dave and Jaja. As sailing adventurers, they have yet to sing the same song twice.

Gravitating toward a new mode of cruising, they embraced the theme of light displacement, efficiency under sail, and simplicity. Spartan minimalism is the common thread in this and the other boats of the Martins two exemplary voyages. The elegance in each of these vessels has little to do with opulence, and everything to do with how the boats have fit the job at hand. Simplicity, functionality, and cost effectiveness abound, defining the approach Dave brings to boatbuilding. He still alludes to a down-the-road, larger monohull project for more oceanic adventure, but for now, its all about quick getaways, coastal cruises, light-air sailing, and shoal-draft exploration.

Design Details

The Wharram Tiki design was a natural choice for Dave because the designer has always approached his work from a builder/sailor perspective, rather than as an independent exercise in naval architecture. Simplicity and practicality rule, and in many ways these boats are the extreme opposite of whats displayed at boat shows across the country. Instead of a living room afloat, the Tiki 30 offers wood-grained camp-style accommodations that are enough for a weekend outing, or two-week summer cruises for hardy souls, but will hold little appeal to those looking for a vacation home afloat.

The real genius in this boat comes more from whats not present than whats found on board. No lead, no liners, and no inboard engine adds up to, or more specifically diminishes down to, a displacement that is so light that a low-tech, no-boom small sail plan can provide enough drive to make way, even when the sea surface is mirror smooth. In light zephyrs, this agile cat will tack and make progress to windward. Behaving like a waterbug skittering across the water, the boat reminds the person handling the butter-smooth tiller bar how important efficiency under sail can be.

Like all multihulls, the issue of initial stability is handled by placing the source of buoyancy well away from the centerline of the vessel without creating the skin drag found in a monohull with massive beam. The combination of a high length-to-beam ratio associated with each ama, and ultralight displacement, the Tiki 30 is a thoroughbred when it comes to efficiency and agility.

Tiki 30 Catamaran

Thanks to this ultralight displacement status, the Tiki doesn’t need a cloud of sail to deliver light-air efficiency, and Wharram further reduces the need for a tall spar by leveraging aspect ratio through the use of a simple gaff-rigged mainsail. On one hand, the complication of hoisting both a peak and throat halyard adds some extra complexity, but the result is a higher center of effort (CE) with a lower masthead height, and when it comes to building a simple timber spar, it all makes sense. Yes, a carbon spar and PBO rigging would do a better job, but the cost would be more than a DIY builder spends on all of the materials used to build the rest of the boat.

Every multihull designer is concerned about racking or twisting loads induced in a structure as the heeling force and righting moment interplay on rolling sea. Some use massive bridgedeck structures to transfer rig loads from ama to ama. The Tiki 30 incorporates three well-engineered triangular beam structures and a modern rendition of the Polynesian art of lashing canoe hulls together. Care must be taken during construction to make sure that each beam has a flush fit with a well-reinforced portion of the ama deck, and that the polyester double-braid line used for the lashing is tensioned to designer specifications. These rigidly held athwartship supports may creak in a rolling seaway, but the connection between hulls is rugged and long lasting.


Under sail, the Tiki is an agile and responsive performer. It balances well, and its V-shaped sections and long shallow keel plus outboard rudders provide good directional stability and responsive steering. The underbody configuration allows the cat to be safely beached, and the complexity of dagger boards is eliminated. The lack of daggerboards has its drawback: Theres less windward capability, but the V-shaped hulls and long run of shallow keel does pretty well to windward without them.

Perhaps the most rigid design characteristic that can’t be circumvented is the importance of keeping its payload in check. This is a boat designed to stay on its lines not bog down and suffer the consequences of excess drag. Its long, lean amas knife through the sea, but their ability to put up with excess weight is minimal. More weight necessitates additional buoyancy, and as the V-shaped sections are submerged, significant increases in skin drag occur along with a loss of vital freeboard. This runs contrary to the design attributes of the vessel and results in performance setbacks and poor sea-keeping ability.

These fast, nimble, cost-effective cats garner a following among do-it-yourself builders because they are efficient to build. Wharrams streamlined approach to construction is a comprehensive blend of materials and hull-shape development that results in a strong, light structure. The expedited build process is free of finicky labor-intensive work and costly esoteric materials. In essence, Wharrams approach uses a minimal strong back, a stitch-and-glue joining process, and lines that allow large scarf-joined panels of high-quality marine plywood to be bent into the shape of a double-canoe catamaran. Bulkheads act as the athwartship formers, and as Wharram puts it, the builder uses a thickened epoxy filleting compound to “weld” the wood together.

The Tiki 30 is well-tailored for Spartan coastal cruising but a bit gossamer for ocean passagemaking, despite the fact that many have done so. Its ability to tuck into tight places, to perform admirably under power with only a 9.9-horsepower long-shaft, four-stroke kicker and its ability under sail give it high marks in our book. For many, camper/cruiser comfort is enough, and with the easy unfurling of a full cockpit awning, the boat becomes spacious enough at anchor to fulfill the dreams of a vacation cruise.

The Tiki is indeed a versatile platform, a pleasure to sail, and a project worth tackling if youre not too worried about dollars and cents. Wharram boats backyard-built pedigrees and their fringe appeal make them a tough sell on the used boat market, so if you plan to build one, you had better plan to sail it.

  • Interior Notes Tiki 30
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Tiki 30 Catamaran: A Practical Sailor Boat Test


Hi and hope all is well!

In the attached pictures you can see what has been done and where I am at this point (60% complete)… I live in Connecticut and in a perfect world, I would like someone to take it over- either with me or partnered or to just buy me out outright… The boat is amazingly special and needs to be finished and/or needs the right home… Any suggestions? 860-573-1154 -Johnny

It’s Wharram Tiki 30 BTW – Johnny

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Professionally Built Wharrams

A parallel stream of development.

Most of you know us as the producers of quality Polynesian Catamaran designs for the self-builder. We are still very much developing and improving our designs for those who want to self-build their own boat. Over the years however, we have had numerous requests for James Wharram Designs to branch out into producing boats for those of you who want to buy a quality finished boat from a professional builder, rather than build one yourself.

Our franchised builders can build any of our self-build design range, but there now are several special Wharram designs that are only available professionally built - these are exclusive to each builder.

The move into "professionally built" designs required a philosophical analysis on our part, as in the past we have always focused on the Self Builder . We knew that some would accuse us of "moving away from our traditional market" or perhaps "abandoning our principles". Even so, after much soul searching, we decided to proceed. We see it as opening up a parallel stream of development, rather than shutting off our current one. Having a range of professionally built Wharram designs will, we believe, enhance the reputation and value of all our well built designs.

We believe that it is important to have a range of professionally built Wharram catamarans to support the continued development of this type of craft in an increasingly restrictive and bureaucratic building and sailing environment. In so doing, the issue of enforcing high building standards became paramount, so that clients of professional boat builders would be delivered the same quality Wharram boat, or better, as we established with the Tiki 28 and 36 in our professional "Wharram Built" yard in Cornwall in 1987-1992.

Blue Tiki 8m sailed by two people, trees in background

The TIKI 8m, built by BoatSmith in the USA, is an updated, composite fiberglass version of the popular ply-epoxy Tiki 26. With its spacious cockpit and simple, functional interior layout, this versatile, trailable, seaworthy boat is perfect for day sailing, overnight adventures or several weeks of Coastal Trekking. It also makes a good beach charter boat. Can be car trailed.

The Tiki 8m is built in GRP, so cannot be self-built as it requires moulds. BoatSmith have the exclusive rights to build this design.

Tama Moana sailing past a smoking volcano

The 38ft (11.5m) Tama Moana - Child of The Sea is a pure Ethnic Design . Although available for the self-builder, we have included it in this list as its simplicity makes it a very economical boat to have ready-built.

Two Tama Moana designs sailed the Lapita Voyage from the Philippines to Tikopia and Anuta in 2008-9, where they were donated to the island populations who are now using them as their autonomous transport.

Andy Smith Boatworks of the Philippines has the exclusive rights for the building of Tama Moana - Child of the Sea.

Blue and white Pahi 52 gleaming in the sunshine against a backdrop of steep rocks

Many discerning sailors want the PAHI style, 'flexi space' interior layout in a larger craft as well as the comfort of toilets, showers, a deck steering shelter and a galley sufficient for 6-8 people. So, for them we designed the PAHI 52. The Pahi 52 has also been specially adapted as a luxury skippered charter boat for Archipel Club .

From 2014 this design is only available professionally built by Andy Smith Boatworks in the Philippines.

Islander 39

Islander 39 3D drawing

Eco charter catamaran.

A sailor of a certain age will know that with wooden hull(s), canvas sails, natural fibre ropes, at one time, all sailboats were ‘Eco Craft’. Sailors of that era adapted themselves to sailing and living aboard their simple boats.

The Islander 39 is designed to encourage Modern sailors to personally adapt themselves to sailing a simple boat, rather than using large amounts of Energy to adapt the boat to the ‘needs’ of affluent Urban Man.

This design is only available professionally built by Andy Smith Boatworks .

Islander 55

Islander 55 at the beach

The Islander 55 is a smaller version of the islander 65 and is eminently suitable for charter use or as a large ocean cruiser. Her interior can again be simple flexispace, or she can have up to 5 separate double charter cabins.

The Pahi 52 and the Islander 55 and 65 are large designs and we have found from experience that these are frequently too large to self-build within an acceptable timescale. Their sheer size also makes it difficult for just one or two people to tackle the building. For this reason these designs are for professional building only.

Andy Smith Boatworks are the exclusive builders of the Islander 55 design.

Islander 65

Rear view of Islander 65, wind in the sails, blue and cloudy sky

The Islander 65 'Vaka Motu' was originally designed in 2000 as an island-hopping cargo/passenger/trading vessel. With her 10 ton load carrying ability, she is also a very suitable vessel for expedition work, charter or as a dive boat.

Her interior can be either simple flexispace with cargo holds, keeping the cost of the vessel down, or with various options of cabin accommodation. With a waterline hull beam/length ratio of 12:1 (11:1 deeply loaded), she will move through the water with minimum wave drag at speeds of 1.50 x vWLL plus, giving easy 24 hours averages of 150 to 200 miles (more if driven in ideal sailing conditions).

Andy Smith Boatworks are the exclusive builders of the Islander 65 design.

Our Professional Builders

We now have two established James Wharram Designs ‘franchised professional builders’ that meet our standards for excellence: Andy Smith Boatworks in the Philippines and Boatsmith, Inc in the U.S.A.

Our professional builders have a close relationship with James Wharram Designs, where we will assist the Wharram boat customer with their choice of design and handle any design queries or modifications. It is seen as a three-way relationship between Designers, Yard and Customer where at the end of the day all three parties are proud of the boat built.

NB. Only Wharram franchised yards have the rights to build Wharram catamarans for the open market. All self-build Plans give the owner/amateur builder the rights to self-build the design and cannot be used by a yard to sell Wharram catamarans without a franchise agreement with James Wharram Designs.

Please note that the franchise agreement for Seascape (Phuket, Thailand) to build Wharram catamarans has now ended. Seascape is therefore not currently endorsed to build Wharram catamarans as part of the JWD professional builder family.

Andy Smith Boatworks

The Andy Smith Boatworks crew, posing for a photo under two large catamaran hulls

Andy Smith has a long standing relationship with James Wharram Designs, beginning as a JWD apprentice in the 1980s and later becoming manager of the ‘Wharram Built’ Yard in Cornwall (1989), building the Tiki 28 and Tiki 36 designs. Andy has exclusive rights for the professional building of the Ethnic design the Tama Moana (this design is however also available for self-building). The yard also has the exclusive building rights for the Islander 55 and Islander 65 designs, which are only available professionally built.

Andy Smith specializes in ply-epoxy-glass, strip-plank and double-diagonal ply construction methods.

Boatsmith, Inc, Florida, USA

Beached blue Tiki, two people aboard, houses and trees in background

Boatsmith is the newest member of the JWD professional builder family, joining the ranks of franchised builders in 2008 after James and Hanneke met Boatsmith’ owner David Halladay at the 2008 Wooden Boat Show in Mystic Connecticut and were able to personally inspect “Abaco”, Boatsmith’s outstanding example of a Tiki 30 .

In 2009 Boatsmith received the moulds and exclusive building rights for the GRP Tiki 8 Meter .

In 2012 Boatsmith started building moulds for the new Ariki 47. The Ariki 47 is a totally updated version of the Ariki design, built in GRP. Her lines have been redrawn, cabin layout improved and she will have the Wharram Wingsail Rig. A thoroughly modern, fast, sleek catamaran, ideal for Caribbean cruising.

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WHARRAM PAHI 42: A Polynesian Catamaran

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The catamaran designs that British multihull pioneer James Wharram first created for amateur boatbuilders in the mid-1960s were influenced by the boats he built and voyaged upon during the 1950s. These “Classic” designs, as Wharram termed them, feature slab-sided, double-ended, V-bottomed plywood hulls with very flat sheerlines and simple triangular sections. The hulls are joined together by solid wood beams and crude slat-planked open bridgedecks.

Wharram’s second-generation “Pahi” designs, which he started developing in the mid-1970s, still feature double-ended V-bottomed hulls, but the sections are slightly rounder and the sheerlines rise at either end in dramatically up-swept prows and sterns. The most successful of these in terms of number of boats built–and also probably the most successful of any of Wharram’s larger designs–is the Pahi 42. It is an excellent example of a no-frills do-it-yourself cruising catamaran with enough space for a family to live aboard long term.

First introduced in 1980, the Pahi 42, a.k.a. the “Captain Cook,” was the first Wharram design to include accommodations space on the bridgedeck in the form of a small low-profile pod containing a berth and/or (in some variations) a nav station. Unlike the Classic designs, which have no underwater foils other than rudders, the Pahis also have daggerboards, though these are quite shallow and are set far forward in each hull. The rudders are inboard, rather than transom-hung, set in V-shaped wells behind the aft cross-beam.

As on the Classic designs, the cross-beams are flexibly mounted to the hulls, but are lashed with rope rather than bolted on with large rubber bushings. Hull construction likewise is very simple, all in plywood, and explicitly conceived to facilitate home-building by amateurs. The frames consist of a series of flat bulkhead panels fastened to a long centerline backbone with longitudinal stringers running down either side to support the plywood skin panels. Through the main central area of each hull the bulkheads all have large cutouts in their midsections to allow room for interior accommodations space. To increase moisture and abrasion resistance the hull exteriors are sheathed in fiberglass cloth and epoxy.

As designed the Pahi 42 has a single mast and flies a loose-footed mainsail with a wishbone boom. There is also a staysail on a wishbone boom and a conventional genoa flying on a bridle over the forward beam. Many owner-builders have substituted other rigs, including Wharram’s unique gaff “wingsail” rig, where the main has a luff sleeve enveloping the mast, but conventional Marconi rigs are probably the most common. The original design also calls for a single outboard engine mounted on the stern deck to serve as auxiliary power, but many owners have engineered other arrangements, including inboard diesel engines and even electric drives.

As its light-ship D/L and SA/D ratios attest, the Pahi 42 has the potential to be a very fast performance cruiser. Wharram claims top speeds in the neighborhood of 18 knots with average cruising speeds of 9 to 12 knots. In reality, however, it probably takes an unusually attentive, disciplined sailor to achieve anything like this. The Pahi seems to be more weight sensitive than most cats and typical owners, who carry lots of stuff on their boats, report average speeds more on the order of 5 to 8 knots.

The boat also does not sail well to windward, as its daggerboards are not large enough and are not positioned properly to generate much lift. Instead they act more like trim boards and help balance the helm while sailing. They also make it difficult to tack. Most owner-builders therefore consider the boards more trouble than they’re worth and don’t install them, preferring instead to retain the extra space below for storage and accommodations. With only its V-shaped hulls to resist leeway the Pahi reportedly sails closehauled at a 60 degree angle to the wind, though performance-oriented owners who keep their boats light claim they can make progress upwind faster than other boats sailing tighter angles. A few builders have also put long fin keels on their boats and these reportedly improve windward performance to some extent.

As for its accommodations plan, the Pahi 42 has much in common with other open-bridgedeck catamarans. Except for the small pod on deck all sheltered living space is contained within the narrow hulls, which have a maximum beam of just 6 feet. The standard layout puts double berths at both ends of each hull, though many may regard the aft “doubles” as wide singles. The central part of the port hull contains a small dinette table and a large galley; the center of the starboard hull is given over to a long chart table or work bench, plus a head.

Naturally, many owner-builders have fiddled the design a bit to suit their own tastes. The most significant changes involve the deck pod. Those who crave more living space tend to enlarge it; in at least one case it has blossomed into something approaching a full-on bridgedeck saloon, which must hurt sailing performance. In other instances, in an effort to save weight and improve performance, builders have omitted the pod entirely.

The great advantage of a Pahi 42, or any Wharram cat for that matter, is its relatively low cost compared to other cats in the same size range. To obtain one new, however, you normally must build it yourself. Wharram estimates this takes between 2,500 to 3,000 hours of effort. The alternative is to buy one used, which now normally costs less than building one.

There is an active brokerage market with boats listed for sale all over the world. The best sources for listings are Wharram himself and another Brit, Scott Brown , who operates mostly online. Because Wharrams are built of plywood, even if sheathed with epoxy and glass, the most important defect to look for is simple rot. This, however, is not hard to detect and, because the boats are structurally so simple, is also not hard to repair.


Beam: 22’0”

–Boards up: 2’1”

–Boards down: 3’6”


–Light ship: 7,840 lbs.

–Maximum load: 14,560 lbs.

–Working sail: 640 sq.ft.

–Maximum sail: 1,000 sq.ft.

Fuel: Variable

Water: Variable

–Light ship: 89

–Maximum load: 165

–Working sail: 25.91 (light ship); 17.14 (max. load)

–Maximum sail: 40.48 (light ship); 26.78 (max. load)

Nominal hull speed

–Light ship: 11.9 knots

–Maximum load: 9.8 knots

Build cost: $70K – $120K

Typical asking prices: $40K – 100K

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HANSTAIGER X1: The Trimaran To End All Trimarans

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please more info and prices for this model!

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Response to Goran below: I recommend you follow the link above to Scott Brown’s website. Lots of boats and prices there!

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Boat Profile

A Wharram catamaran

From Issue   March 2018

J ames Wharram is a multihull pioneer who has been sailing and designing exceptionally seaworthy catamarans since the 1950s. For his first voyage, he built, TANGAROA, a 23’ catamaran and sailed her from the U.K. to the Caribbean with Jutta Schulze-Rhonhof and Ruth Merseburger, both from Germany. While in the Caribbean he became a father, and the boat mothered a growing colony of teredo worms. With a strong desire to sail home, Wharram built a 40-footer and did the first North Atlantic crossing by catamaran. His designs are based on firsthand experience, regularly updated and improved, and have a safety record that is hard to beat.

I built his Tiki 21, which is designed as an easily built, trailerable coastal cruiser for adventurous folks who don’t mind bearing a small amount of discomfort to be rewarded with a boat which is in harmony with the sea. The plans are highly detailed and provide illustrations for almost every step of the process. The plans include a materials list, down to the last fitting, and an epoxy technique manual depicting everything from laminating to fairing. The plans call for 18 sheets of 1/4″ marine plywood and one sheet of 3/4″. My Tiki 21, BETO, took around 10 or 12 gallons of epoxy and a good helping of mahogany and Douglas-fir.

While the Tiki's main is designed to be sailed without a boom, the author finds an easily mounted aluminum sprit boom provides improved performance in light air.

While the Tiki’s main is designed to be sailed with a loose foot, the author finds an easily mounted, aluminum sprit boom provides improved performance in light air.

The hulls are built using the stitch-and-glue method, making it a fairly quick build, even for the first-time builder, though practicing with some scraps of plywood and epoxy is recommended for beginners.

Construction starts with forming the hull panels and stitching them together, then moves on to installing bulkheads and bunks and fitting the decks and cabintops. After the hulls are complete, just three beams, two tillers and rudders, and a wooden mast remain as the last major projects. For BETO, I chose an aluminum mast—a 22′ length of 4″ aluminum tubing with a 1/8″ wall thickness, as recommended in the plans. I chose aluminum over wood in hopes of a lighter mast that would require less maintenance and be easier to raise when rigging.

The Tiki 21’s most controversial feature is, perhaps, the use of lashings, rather than conventional marine hardware, to hold the amas and akas (hulls and cross beams) together. Wharram believes that the lashings allow for shock absorption and decrease shock loads at the joints. Each wrap of the five loops has a 2,800-lb breaking strength. The lashings are frapped so tightly that small movements between structural members are unnoticeable. The lashing system is proven by both Wharram cats and the well-traveled Polynesian voyaging canoes of the Pacific.

The Tiki 21 plans include a motor mount set within the deck. The pod added to this boat frees up deck space and includes a place for the gas tank. The cross beams, or akas, are stitch-and-glue I-beams.

The Tiki 21 plans include a motor mount set within the perimeter of the deck. The pod added to this boat frees up deck space and includes a place for the gas tank. The cross beams, or akas, are stitch-and-glue I-beams.

The Tiki 21 was designed to be assembled on a beach at low tide and to float away when the sea returns. It has a 14″ draft, and each hull weighs in right under 200 lbs when completed. For our negligible tidal range and for freshwater sailing, I chose to build a trailer with telescoping sides that allow the hulls to be expanded outward for boat assembly before being backed down the ramp. We currently sail BETO on a small lake, so it rests on the trailer between outings.

When we want a taste of salt water, we unlash the beams and slide the hulls together for a package that is a little wider than my small Toyota truck. I can assemble the boat by myself in two hours and disassemble it in an hour. This is pretty fast to be on the water, and a helper could easily bring this time down as the lashings and frappings are the most time-consuming tasks. Some Tiki sailors have had good luck with ratchet straps and nylon webbing when trailering to daysail. I wouldn’t recommend ratchets in lieu of lashings for venturing offshore, however.

The Tiki 21 was designed with cruising accommodations for two, but there is room for more on deck and a carrying capacity of a half ton.

The Tiki 21 was designed with cruising accommodations for two, but there is room for more on deck. The catamaran has a carrying capacity of a half ton.

So how does the Tiki 21 sail? I’m a former racing catamaran sailor whose friends all sail go-fast boats, and I think it sails like a dream! The rig is a Wharram “Wing” sail that keeps the center of gravity low and the power high. The sail is modeled after a high-aspect Dutch gaff rig, using a short gaff at the peak and an elongated luff pocket that envelops the mast and minimizes turbulent airflow. This unique arrangement offers performance similar to modern rotating masts and square-top mainsails without all of the moving parts.

The mainsail is sewn with a luff sleeve for a smother flow of air around the mast. The jib and main halyards run along the mast inside the sleeve. This Tiki 21 was built by Rick Hueschen of North Carolina.

The mainsail is sewn with a luff sleeve for a smother flow of air around the mast. The jib and main halyards run along the mast inside the sleeve. This Tiki 21 was built by Rick Hueschen of North Carolina.

Unlike older Wharram designs, the Tiki 21 has a power-to-weight ratio that can get one in trouble if the wind pipes up. In light air, however, it is slightly undercanvased, and a drifter works wonders. The deep-V hulls have hardly any noticeable leeway if sails are trimmed correctly, and can tack in light and heavy air even sailing just the main.

The rudders are lashed to the sternposts and skegs and do not extend below beneath them, so the Tiki can’t turn on a dime in tight quarters. However, when sailing, it tracks like it is on rails. I sail upwind all the time in up to 20 knots with just a bungee crossed over the tiller. The Tiki is superbly well balanced and will sail along happily with proper trim. To windward we have seen 7 knots with the wind at 50 degrees true, falling down to around 5 knots at 40 degrees true. Off the wind, BETO has clocked 15 knots while power-reaching with no noticeable lifting of the windward hull (check my video ). For normal cruising, we reef the main and jib in 15 knots to keep dry on deck and fully in control while still making 8 to 10 knots on a reach. For sails, we carry a main with three reefs, a jib with one reef, a nylon drifter, an asymmetric spinnaker, and a storm jib. I have an outboard, but I learned to sail on a 22’ engineless racing sloop, so I have plenty of patience when the wind dies, preferring not to deal with a nasty outboard and volatile gasoline. Using a stand-up paddle, I can move the Tiki all day at 3 knots in flat water, and with a second paddler it’s even faster.

Each hull provides room for a narrow berth. The deck provides for more spacious accommodations when equipped with a canopy or a free-standing tent.

While each hull provides room for a narrow berth, the deck provides more spacious accommodations when equipped with a canopy or a free-standing tent.

For coastal cruising on a small catamaran, one can really not find a better-suited vessel than the Tiki 21. The accommodations inside each hull provide a 12′-long bunk that is 2′ wide; the hulls span 3-1/2′ at the sheer. Our sleeping accommodations are often a two-person tent set on deck, or my girlfriend and I can get cuddly and sleep in one hull if needed. All of the bunks are above the waterline, and under them are the bilges, which provide loads of storage. The load capacity is listed as 1,000 lbs. The bows and sterns all have watertight flotation chambers. The anchor locker doubles as another flotation chamber. The Tiki 21 has six bulkheads in each small hull, making it a strong little boat. Resting between the akas is a plywood deck measuring 6′ x 7′ that never moves far from level when under sail. For my own preference I built a slatted cedar deck instead of a solid plywood one, and it has since been approved by the Wharram Design team.

Rory McDougall sailed his modified Tiki 21, COOKING FAT, around the world in the early 1990s, and until just recently he held the record for sailing the smallest catamaran in a circumnavigation. He experienced gales pushing waves up to 30′, and his boat suffered little damage. In 2010, McDougall sailed in the Jester Challenge, a single-handed transatlantic race for boats between 20′ and 30′, and came in second after 34 days under way, just a few hours after a larger monohull. When in storms, McDougall goes on his sea anchor and reports that the Tiki rides very happily and calmly. In his first gale on sea anchor, he even felt so relaxed that he tied a jibsheet around himself and jumped overboard to swim the swells!

Brad Ingram lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and enjoys sailing, running ultramarathons, and climbing. He spent eight years in 20th Special Forces Group on a small Intelligence team, and he’s now going to nursing school as a civilian. He plans to travel while working as a nurse, making it easy to spend a significant amount of the year traveling in the mountains or at sea. Among all of his recreational pursuits, sailing occupies the lion’s share of his enthusiasm and interest. He mostly enjoys small boat cruises and small, raid-type multihulls. He has a passion for simple, traditional vessels and enjoys sailing sport boats as well. 

Tiki 21 Particulars

Waterline length/18′6″

Weight/790 lbs

Load Capacity/1000 lbs

sail area/208 sq ft

wharram catamaran build

Study plans (£19.00) and full sets of plans (£505.00) are available from James Wharram Designs .

Is there a boat you’d like to know more about? Have you built one that you think other Small Boats Monthly readers would enjoy? Please email us!

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Comments (9)

For anyone interested in seeing more Wharrams up close, there will be a Hui Wharram Sail-In in Fort Meyers on May 18 through 20th. I think SV BETO will be there as well. Details here .

Is the Hui sail-in still held in Ft Meyers? I live close to there and would love to see some homebuilt catamarans!

The book is also available as a Kindle edition . Editor

Merci pour toute ces informations sur Tiki 21.

(Thanks for all this information about the Tiki 21.)

Thank you for the article. Isn’t there a second pair of shrouds in the design? Why do you bother with an engine and all the paraphernalia attached to it, starting with the pod? Do you feel a stand-up paddle is faster than sculling a sweep? I am planning to use a sweep on my Tiki 26. I used to move my 35′ engineless steel cutter up to ¾ to 1 knot with a self-made 16′ oar. I never had an engine on my Shark 24. Do you think a ply platform might be structural and reduces the torsion leading to a slacker stay? I am planning to test the Tiki 26 without a platform, only netting, à la Cookie.

Sorry to just get back to you. The white boat is not mine. BETO is the green one with no motor. The platform is in no way structural, and I just like the SUP paddle as it goes right into action and I do a lot of paddling with the same motion for exercise.

I really like your engine mount. I’m almost finished building my Tiki 21 and don’t like the idea of stinking old engine sitting up in the middle of the deck and sleeping/lounging area. So I think I’ll copy you. Anything I need to be aware of? Could you send other photos that explain your system more clearly. Many thanks, Tom

How wide are the hulls ???

Does anyone know of a Tiki 21 in the NW US? Washington, Idaho, Oregon? I have built kayaks, sailed small boats, and really like what I see in the Tiki 21 but would like to sail one, or at least see one in person, before committing to a year of building. Thank you!

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What is a Wharram Catamaran? (An In-depth Look)

wharram catamaran build

Have you ever wondered what a Wharram Catamaran is? A catamaran is a type of sailboat that is unique in its design, stability, and overall performance.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the Wharram Catamaran, from its history and design features to its popularity, benefits of owning, constructing, and maintenance.

We will also explore the joys of sailing a Wharram Catamaran.

Whether youre an experienced sailor or just starting out, learning about the Wharram Catamaran can be a great way to expand your sailing knowledge.

So, lets take a closer look at the Wharram Catamaran and find out why its so popular among sailors.

Table of Contents

Short Answer

A Wharram catamaran is a type of sailboat designed by British naval architect James Wharram.

It is a double-hulled sailing vessel, with two equal-sized hulls connected by a central platform.

Wharram catamarans are renowned for their seaworthiness and ease of construction, and are popular with amateur and professional sailors alike.

They are often used for leisure sailing and racing, as well as for chartering and cruising.

History of the Wharram Catamaran

The Wharram catamaran is a type of sailboat designed by husband and wife James and Anne Wharram in the 1950s.

The design was developed over many years, and soon gained popularity among amateur boat builders due to its simple construction and low maintenance requirements.

The hulls of the Wharram catamaran are typically made of plywood, but can also be made with more durable materials such as fiberglass.

The Wharram catamaran is renowned for its stability and speed, making it an ideal recreational vessel.

It is also a popular choice for long-distance sailing, as it provides plenty of storage space and can easily accommodate multiple passengers.

The design is also well-suited to short trip cruising, allowing it to be used for day sailing and weekend trips.

The Wharram catamaran design has been popular throughout the world, and has been used for recreational sailing, ocean racing, and even long-distance voyages.

The catamarans have been used to cross the Atlantic Ocean, sail around the world, and even circumnavigate the globe.

The Wharram catamaran design has stood the test of time, and is still popular today.

It is a great choice for novice and experienced sailors alike, offering a stable and reliable platform for enjoying the ocean.

Design Features of the Wharram Catamaran

wharram catamaran build

The Wharram catamaran is a special type of sailing vessel designed by the legendary boat-building couple, James and Anne Wharram.

It is a two-hulled vessel, typically made of plywood, which makes it both lightweight and strong.

This design is popular among amateur boat builders because it is relatively easy to construct and maintain compared to other sailboats.

It is also renowned for its stability and speed, making it an ideal recreational vessel.

The Wharram catamaran was designed with a number of features that make it an excellent choice for long-distance sailing.

It has a wide beam, allowing for plenty of storage space and easy accommodation for multiple passengers.

It also has a shallow draft, which helps it move quickly and efficiently through the water.

Additionally, its two-hulled design helps to reduce the amount of drag while sailing, allowing it to move more quickly through the water.

The Wharram catamaran also features a self-bailing deck, which helps to keep the interior of the boat dry during rough seas.

Furthermore, its two-hulled design also helps it to be more resistant to waves, making it a safer choice for sailing in choppy waters.

Additionally, the Wharram catamaran is also equipped with a large sail area, which helps it to move quickly and efficiently through the water.

Overall, the Wharram catamaran is an excellent choice for sailing, whether you are an amateur or an experienced sailor.

Its design features make it both lightweight and strong, and its stability and speed make it an ideal recreational vessel.

It is also a great choice for long-distance sailing due to its large storage space and ability to accommodate multiple passengers.

Popularity of the Wharram Catamaran

The Wharram catamaran has long been a popular choice for recreational sailing and long-distance cruising.

The design is renowned for its stability and speed, making it an ideal vessel for both novice and experienced sailors.

The two-hull design, made of lightweight yet strong plywood, makes it easy to construct and maintain, making it particularly attractive to amateur boat builders.

The Wharram catamaran has also become popular among long-distance cruisers due to its spacious interior and ease of maneuverability.

The large storage capacity, combined with a shallow draft and a wide beam that allows it to ride over waves with ease, makes it ideal for extended voyages.

The catamaran’s two hulls also provide a stable platform that allows passengers to move around freely without fear of capsizing.

The Wharram catamaran is also a popular choice for competitive sailing.

The shallow draft and wide beam make it easy to maneuver, while the two hulls provide excellent stability and speed.

The lightweight build of the Wharram catamaran also makes it easier to transport and store, making it a popular choice for competitive racers.

In addition to recreational sailing and competitive racing, the Wharram catamaran is also a popular choice for chartering.

The spacious interior, combined with the shallow draft and wide beam, makes it easy to navigate in shallow waters and provides plenty of space for passengers and crew.

The stability of the two hulls also makes it an ideal vessel for fishing, diving, and other water-based activities.

Overall, the Wharram catamaran is an attractive choice for a variety of water-based activities.

Its lightweight build, combined with its stability and speed, makes it ideal for recreational sailing, competitive racing, and long-distance cruising.

Its design also makes it easy to construct and maintain, making it a popular choice for amateur boat builders.

With its spacious interior and shallow draft, the Wharram catamaran is an excellent choice for a variety of water-based activities.

Benefits of Owning a Wharram Catamaran

wharram catamaran build

Owning a Wharram catamaran has many advantages.

The most significant is that the design is relatively easy to construct and maintain, making it a great option for amateur boat builders.

It is also lightweight yet strong, making it an ideal choice for long-distance sailing.

The two-hulled design also makes the vessel incredibly stable, allowing it to handle any type of water conditions.

Additionally, the Wharram catamaran has plenty of storage space, enabling it to accommodate multiple passengers and their gear.

Its speed and agility make it an ideal recreational vessel, and it is renowned for its performance in both calm and rough waters.

The Wharram design also has excellent fuel efficiency, making it an economical choice for those looking to save money on fuel costs.

Finally, the boat is incredibly durable, allowing it to withstand wear and tear over time without any major repairs.

Constructing a Wharram Catamaran

Constructing a Wharram catamaran is a great way to get into boatbuilding and sailing.

The design of this type of vessel is relatively simple, and it can be constructed with a few basic tools and supplies.

The most common material used for a Wharram catamaran is plywood, which is both lightweight and strong.

Plywood is also relatively inexpensive and easy to work with, making it a great option for amateur boatbuilders.

The typical Wharram catamaran is constructed with three main parts: the hulls, the deck, and the rig. The two hulls are made from plywood and are connected by beams, which provide stability and strength. The deck is then attached to the hulls and the rig is attached to the deck. The rig, which consists of a mast, sails, and rigging, is what propels the boat.

When constructing a Wharram catamaran, it is important to follow the instructions carefully and use the proper techniques.

This type of vessel requires a certain amount of precision in order to ensure that it is seaworthy and safe.

Once the construction is complete, it is important to properly maintain the vessel to ensure that it is in good condition and ready for use.

Maintenance of a Wharram Catamaran

wharram catamaran build

When it comes to maintaining a Wharram Catamaran, it is important to remember that these vessels are made of plywood, making them lightweight yet strong.

This means that regular inspection and maintenance is vital in order to keep the vessel in good condition and to ensure its longevity.

The most important aspect of maintenance is to inspect the hulls regularly for any signs of wear and tear.

This includes checking for any cracks, splits, or damage to the hulls and ensuring that any repairs are made as soon as possible.

It is also important to check the hulls for signs of moisture, as this can lead to rot and other issues if left unchecked.

The rig should also be checked regularly for any signs of wear and tear.

This includes checking the sails for any tears, checking the rigging for any fraying, and ensuring that all of the lines are in good condition.

It is also important to inspect the deck for any signs of damage or wear, as this is one of the most vulnerable parts of the vessel.

In addition to regular inspections and maintenance, it is important to ensure that the catamaran is stored properly when not in use.

This means keeping it in a dry place and out of direct sunlight, as this can cause damage to the hulls.

It is also important to ensure that the vessel is secured properly when not in use, as this can help to prevent theft or damage.

By following these simple maintenance tips, it is possible to ensure that your Wharram Catamaran remains in good condition for years to come.

Regular inspections and maintenance will help to ensure that the vessel is ready to go whenever you need it, allowing you to enjoy it for many years to come.

Sailing a Wharram Catamaran

Sailing a Wharram Catamaran can be a thrilling and exciting experience.

The vessels two-hulled design and lightweight construction make it incredibly stable and fast, allowing for a smooth and enjoyable ride.

The Wharram design is especially popular among amateur boat builders as it is relatively easy to construct and maintain.

Wharram catamarans also provide plenty of storage space and can easily accommodate multiple passengers, making them a popular choice for long-distance sailing.

This is especially true for smaller catamarans, which are capable of reaching speeds of up to 20 knots and making them great for weekend cruises or extended trips.

When sailing a Wharram Catamaran the most important thing to remember is to maintain balance between the hulls and to keep the center of gravity low.

This will help keep the vessel stable and ensure that it is able to handle any rough seas.

Additionally, the catamaran should be fitted with the appropriate safety equipment, such as life jackets, flares, and a first aid kit, to ensure that everyone onboard is safe and prepared in case of an emergency.

Overall, sailing a Wharram Catamaran can be a rewarding experience.

With its lightweight construction and stability, it is an ideal vessel for both recreational and long-distance sailing.

With the proper safety equipment and preparations, sailing a Wharram Catamaran can be a fun and safe way to explore the open waters.

Final Thoughts

The Wharram catamaran is an incredible vessel that offers unparalleled stability, speed, and storage space.

It is a favorite among amateur builders because of its ease of construction and maintenance, and can easily accommodate multiple passengers for long-distance sailing.

Whether you are looking for a recreational vessel or an ocean-going adventure, a Wharram catamaran is a great choice.

If you are considering building one yourself, the Wharram website provides helpful resources such as design guides, plans, and instructions.

With the right knowledge and resources, you can set sail in a beautiful and reliable sailing vessel of your own.

James Frami

At the age of 15, he and four other friends from his neighborhood constructed their first boat. He has been sailing for almost 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge that he wants to share with others.

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