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Some observations.

I notice that the classics have a bulwark that looks be around 6"-150mm and that the newer designs have just a toerail.

I have also seen modifications that substitute the bulwark for headroom.

Very few Wharrams have lifelines.

I've seen stories about repairing rot in and around bulwarks which maybe due to the older pre-epoxy build methods.

So.... my question is, on the classic designs is the substantial bulwarks a good thing or not ? Would you prefer the headroom or are they a highly desirable(safety) feature ?

Context. I'm looking at used Wharrams or possibly building a Tanenui.

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All of the Classics still have bulwarks in the plans. MKIVs have the least bulwark. Everything on a Wharram is subject to rot, especially anywhere water can sit or get trapped (bulwarks, beam troughs, hatch coamings, etc.)

I like the idea of bulwarks. If there are no guard rails I don't feel safe with just a toe rail, so I put them in the highly desirable category. The counter argument is that for no more weight one could have more interior space and they could hold a lot of water before draining in extreme weather. (Plenty of large scuppers needed).  Conscious of the rot issue, on my Hinemoa build I have epoxied the bulwarks on and put a fillet around the bulwark/deck joint to make 100% sure no water gets in. It also has the effect of strengthening the deck/hull joint. If you are going to fit guard rails, then a toe rail is fine and you might as well have the internal volume.

Ok on my Narai mk4 over 30% of Bulwarks have rot and to remove them and rebuild them would be a hellish amount of work as they are glued (epoxy) on to the hull so i think i will cut them off. bummer as i did like the look,

Sorry to hear about your bulwark rot problem If there is that much rot in the bulwarks, maybe you should have a good look at the beam mountings too. My Hinemoa is brand new (launch held up by Covid 19 lockdown) and all made from marine ply so I am hopeful of a good few years use before I get the dreaded rot problems.......

PS I did my Day Skipper qualification on a Narai Mk 1, superb sailing machine, we saw16 knots in a F6 in the Irish Sea.

So if you could choose would you keep them or take the headroom ?

On my Hinemoa I have bulwarks, since I won't be doing long voyages and space is not an issue. So safety rules. If like T F Jones I was going on long voyages in a Hinemoa and space was at a premium then I would certainly build up the centre section to bulwark height, enlarge the cabin and possibly (like he did) build up the ends too. Although, in truth, if I planned long voyages then I would have built a Tanenui (or Tangaroa) not a Hinemoa and kept the fore and aft bulwarks.

So for me, bulwarks rule. For those who want more space they can always build a Tiki.

PS I have done reasonably long voyages (e.g. round Britain, Canary Islands), but then I had an Athena 38 with all the benefits (H&C pressure water, showers, fridge freezer, standing headroom, etc.) of a modern large(ish) cruising cat. It was also very seaworthy (at least in F8s and F9s), but not particularly fast compared to a large Wharram. My Hinamoa is for less adventurous sailing.

Richard Flegg said:

On my Hinemoa I have bulwarks, since I won't be doing long voyages and space is not an issue. So safety rules. If like T F Jones I was going on long voyages in a Hinemoa and space was at a premium then I would certainly build up the centre section to bulwark height, enlarge the cabin and possibly (like he did) build up the ends too. Although, in truth, if I planned long voyages then I would have built a Tanenui (or Tangaroa) not a Hinemoa and kept the fore and aft bulwarks.

So for me, bulwarks rule. For those who want more space they can always build a Tiki.

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