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Sad new's, I wonder whats happened. Alot of talk around the aero rig to blame but few facts.

Thankfully everyone survived

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I think this boat was featured on Scott Brown's Multihull Site some years ago as a build of a Pahi 52 in progress. It is not the official Pahi 52 licensed by JWD to Seascape but as far as I can see a pair of enlarged/stretched 42 hulls but as others have pointed out had only three beams and a huge deck structure.  

The fact is that the potential for people buying plans and modifying/altering the boat they build so it is not actually the vessel that the designer drew at all and should not fairly be called a Wharram catamaran at all.

Some designers licence their plans on the basis that the builder has no permission to build something from them that is not to design and specification.  Farrier was very particular I believe and has now withdrawn from the amateaur plans market altogether. Clearly imaginative alterations and artistry are part of the Wharram ethos now but equally this can give rise to ugly and dangerous creations. there are many stories of disasters happening to Wharram catamarans over the years which can be attributed to either builders failure to follow the plans or poor maintenance and poor seamanship. I was browsing the old Sailormsn mags on the PCA site recently and there was an article by JW about early sailing on Tehini where he warned of builders with little sailing experience taking on too much too soon and being put off for life when they realised how unpleasant it can be going to sea! One should add dangerous to that. If the boat lacks basic structural design integrity it can be fatal too.

There are pictures on the web of a Wharram that broke up on its first voyage due to incorrect beams, a new strip planked Tiki 38 destroyed on a beach etc and if you read the PCA mags there are many more examples eg a professional build Tehini with a large deckhouse breaking up mid atlantic, aPahi 63 abandoned on its maiden voyage and I recall a Tangaroa breaking its beam fittings mid atlantic, an old and rotten Oro broke its beams a few years back off Wales, and then there is the  World circling Piggy that broke its poorly built beam fixings too. 

The lesson seems to be that you change the structure from the plans at your peril and that poor building, bad plan changes and poor seamanship or inexperience will contribute to misadventure and harm reputations. 

But remember lots of boats break up and sink or are abandoned however built or designed or whatever the reputation of designer/builder or crew!  A highly publicized US production cat lost on it maiden voyage for example, other losses of European productions cats on delivery across the pond, mono hull losing their keels, and highly experienced and professional sailors making massive errors of seamanship. 

Then look at the unsung heroes who just go out there in home built boats and achieve safe and long cruises exhibiting high grade seamanship many of whom are reported in this forum.

Back to the boat in question, the modifications of a design outside the concept that JWD penned and created a vessel that looked to be beautifully built but failed the test of structural integrity.

I am inclined to ask why if anyone wants a different vessel they bother to buy JW plans at all. Some Tiki 46s are appearing with massive full headroom deck house structures and I wonder whether effect of such loading on the beams has been considered or if the designers have been asked to calculate the effects?  

All hail the achievements of boats like Peace IV built to plan!!


Well worded message Martin

As you imply, if there is any failure due to lack of maintenance or seamanship (actually one and the same thing) then the blame falls squarely on the owner or skipper.

Failure in the case of any design change from that of the original, by the same token, falls on the designe of the changed part. In this case there has been a major departure from Wharram ethos in area of design, so the failure surely has nothing to do with JWD.

Doing away with rigging for the reasons following aircraft industry practice may well be a trend appealing to those who wish to change basic seamanship, but this is not part of the Wharram ethos.

A personal conversation with James, besides his general written philosophy has revealed that traditional rigging is very much part of his design ethos.


What I see from looking at the pictures shows a random mixture of basic a Polynesian double canoe design along with an alien ‘aero’ concept.

If the designer wishes to get away from reliance on rigging to support the mast, I question the integrity in not carrying the principle to the entire structure.

I saw this boat when it was at Liberty Marina just south of Annapolis (where the pictures were taken) probably 5-10 years ago, and spent some time talking to John Eisner about it.

The boat was built from plans for the Pahi 42 stretched out ten feet, with a lot of modifications to the hull profile and cabin arrangements. I think there may have been some steel added to the beams or the cabin structure (possibly for supporting the Aero-rig), and much internal modification to customize the boat for John and his wife. I vaguely remember that the beams were not built to the standard plan either, but I'm not sure how they were different.

He said that he had discussed the modifications with James and Hanneke when the boat was being built, and they had sanctioned some of them (such as the stretching), but I gathered they were somewhat troubled by the number and scope of all of the changes he wanted to make. I also thought from his tone that at some point he had simply gone ahead with the modifications he wanted to make whether they were sanctioned or not, and I am virtually certain that James and Hanneke never saw the final package, or signed off on it.

The boat was very heavy from the Aero-rig and all of the systems aboard (among other things, I remember some talk about a washer/dryer). Some of the systems were quite unusual. He used wire rope for the anchor, which ran from the bow under the cabin to a large reel aft. I don't know if the weight or the modifications would be sufficient to cause the boat to break, but they would certainly have stressed the structure, and the structure had a number of new design features that had not been previously proven.

The boat sat at the marina for around two years. Initially John had sailed the boat up from Florida, but it had a number of on board system failures (I think mostly electronic/mechanical) and he was waiting for parts and people to get them fixed before continuing to New England. When I talked to him some months later, I gathered his wife didn't particularly like cruising and may not have been feeling well, and had gone back to Canada for awhile, so their cruising plans were on temporary hold. 

I don't know what the subsequent history of the boat was, but it wasn't being actively sailed in Annapolis, and that is always harder on boats. They don't get the attention to detail that they need to stay healthy, so it's also possible that hidden deterioration may also have played some part in the failure. 

Apparently weather was not a factor. Would like to hear more.

My heart goes out to the family that lost the boat.


First, let me say that that is a very sad story. It is unfortunate that their dream had to end in such a manner.

Those of us who build, own, and sail Wharram Catamarans, know the safety factors built into the designs, which is likely part of the reason we are drawn to them. I think this story proves that when you disregard the safety factors when making modifications, the results can be catastrophic.

The removal of beam three, combined with the 20% lengthening of the hulls, combined with the 18% increase in overall beam, and the addition of the center section and rig proved fatal when just a single beam failed. Let this be a lesson to us all, and I wish fair winds to the Meads.

One question. Why did a wooden boat, which should be neutrally buoyant, sink? Sure they had a lot of gear on board, but if the normally designed water tight compartments existed, the pieces should have remained near the surface, one would think.

This is a tragic story, but here we are grateful the people were saved and thinking that perhaps there is something to learn here.  We have friends building a boat in Canada and they asked a professional boat builder to come in periodically to assist them in their home build of a Narai.  The professional gave them what I think is really good advice and he was so adamant about it he made a sign that said something to the effect that one should not go playing around with boat design as if they were marine architects and also one must always remember that lives will depend on the structural integrity of the finished boat. 

As Martin Phillips says above, Peace IV was built to plans and actually some of the plans were drawn up during conference with Wharrams either at their house or in our shed when they visited us monthly during the ongoing process of the build.  We both felt that although Nev had lots of  boat building experience, this was the first time he had used epoxy/ply/glass the way Wharrams do.  His previous boats were more traditional and he used Aerolite glue (hope I spelled that correctly).  I had never built much of anything before and had to be taught such basic things as how to use a screw driver properly!

Because I had already had over 25,000 miles of ocean sailing in my old 28 foot monohull sail boat including a solo trans Atlantic and another trans Atlantic with Nev aboard, we were experienced enough to be humble about the massive strength of the ocean and the never ending stresses from even small waves when they repeatedly and continuously jostle a boat thousands and millions of times over the normal course of an active cruising live aboard life style.

We knew that James and Ruth and Jutta had a hard passage in the first catamaran they built and sailed across the Atlantic and they nearly lost that boat.  That was a hard school of marine architecture that James attended and it could so easily have cost them all their lives. The next boat he built was a whole lot better and looks in the pics a whole lot like modern day Wharrams. Ever since then, his designs have always been built very much in consideration of what the ocean will demand rather than what inexperienced land people want to buy.  Safety is central to Wharrams.  Next comes affordability.  Then they have that good sense to allow form to be dictated by function.  And finally Wharrams are all graceful boats because James, Ruth, Hanneke, and all the other members of the design team have an eye for such things.  If you look after your Wharram, you can bet your Wharram will look after you.  But let it be a Wharram and do not change basic structural components.

There were some problems in the first year that we sailed Peace IV and Wharrams worked with us to sort them out.  Peace IV was the very first Tiki 46 and it did not surprise us at all that there were two design flaws that had to be sorted out. We launched and within days started on a trans Atlantic voyage. A better plan would have been to sail coastally on weekends the first year and sort out all the problems in a more relaxed way. But having built a Wharram, one knows a whole lot about boat building so we had materials with us and we did all the repair work on our boat then and up to present time. 

Now 50,000 miles later, Peace IV is strong and ready to go still.  She needs a fresh coat of paint, but the epoxy coating on every stick of wood that went into the build is protecting the boat still.  We followed the build instructions and we asked Wharrams zillions of questions and they visited us monthly during our build.  They saw and approved our changes and put many of them into the plans right away. 

I think the main thing is not to be arrogant.  Be humble before the ocean.  Know your place with Mother Nature.  Know that you do not know as much as Wharrams who have sailed their designs way more than you and have learned from their builders way more than you will ever know.  Just stick to the plan.  When that big and unexpected storm comes ( we had a Force 10 offshore in our first year ), you will be so glad you stuck to the plans.  We inspected Peace morning and night during that storm and the weather buoy we passed recorded waves above 32 feet and wind above 55 knots for two and a half days.  It was noisy and we were afraid at first, but the only damage was a cereal box tipped over and a tray tilted that was leaning against the fawcet in the head.  Both were set right in ten minutes.  Nothing broken, both of us were tired but perfectly well and uninjured.  And when we got to Martinique, we were glad to have Bertran Fercot's help to tighten the beam lashings.  Most of those same beam lashings are still in place but I did replace two that were chafed by a boat tied alongside several years later.  The rudder lashings are still original too!

We also looked at that Aero Rig, but I could not see that it would ever work on a catamaran.  We stuck with the Wharram rig.  Eventually we altered the sail to use rope lacing and we added booms and we like those modifications but the boat can still be returned to design specs easily and completely.

Be safe out there.  All the best to all of you.  Ann and Nev

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