Wharram Builders and Friends

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One of the greatest attractions of a Wharram for me is the whole self-build and self maintainence aspect. But as we all know the more advanced technology you use in building your boat the more technology you'll need to maintain it. If the steering goes on my boat mid- passage I'd much rather it was low tech rope repair than try and mess around with hydraulics on the high seas. Not to mention sourcing the materials and the expense involved.

Therefore I'm seriously considering the low-tech traditional approach on everything, self made Calico Sails, self made blocks and Manila or Hemp running rigging and lashings. Dose anyone else have any considerations regarding going back to the natural materials?

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Hey Gemini,

Thanks for opening this topic up. A big, low-tech, traditionally outfitted Pahi 63 would sure be a sight to see. Those sails in the photo above are beautiful.

Good luck.

I will weigh in at the other end of the spectrum. The sails in the photo above are indeed pretty to look at. It ends there for me. I like to sail. I think sailing fast is more fun than sailing slow. I like the skill involved in trimming sails for maximum performance. It is, for most people, understood that Wharram catamarans don't go to weather very well. This has a lot to do with the under water shapes but is also strongly related to the fact that many Wharram sailors are not well skilled in sail trim and are using rigs and sails that are purchased with low cost as the primary factor. Bagged out sails will not take a boat to weather near as well as properly cut and trimmed sails will. Ball bearing blocks certainly cost more but allow for much less friction which allows for easier sail handling and trim.  Modern sail cloth holds its' shape much better than cotton or linen or flax ever could. A well made dacron sail will last longer than a cotton sail and provide much better performance than an organic sail throughout its' life. I also really like to trim sails that are made from hi-tech composite material. But the really high performance sails are very short lived because the sails are built so close to the edge in regards to strength/weight that they break down quickly. Manila or hemp rope are indeed cheaper. They also are not as strong, have higher friction, and will rot. If one really likes three strand rope there are synthetic alternatives. If one just plans to shove off and go where ever the wind blows them then it will be downwind and sail shape and trim is not so important. But I sail upwind a fair amount and really appreciate upwind performance. I really like Wharrams, have for 30some years. I also like a sailboat that sails well on all points of sail. Cheap and good are frequently not the same. Wharram lashings are really a cool thing.  I don't think that lashing a boat together with hemp will be a suitable long term solution. There will be more stretch, movement and the lines will rot away soon. Hemp lines will frequently rot from the inside out and degradation will not always be readily apparent.

I understand that some folks are building dreams, this I am really into. I guess my dreams are not of an ancient watercraft replica but more of a machine designed and built to perform a set of tasks.

Traditional cloth sails evidently stretch out rather quickly, from what I've heard. Sailing in a couple of good blows is enough to do it. My new dacron main and jib, on the other hand, should keep their shape for a long time to come.


As boatsmith intimates above, having good sails, the proper gear to shape them to conditions, and the knowledge to use that gear, will make all the difference in the world. The two gentlemen who went sailing with me to observe the wingsail in the wind had good things to say about it. One of them had many years ago either built or sailed on a classic Wharram design and was expecting (his words) "a pig-dog" of a boat. He was pleasantly surprised by the responsiveness of the tiki 26. The new sails, and the ability to trim them, had much to do with it. A clean bottom obviously integrates into the overall performance of the boat.


Different strokes for different folks! I'm not a racer, but I do like to extract all possible performance from the platform.

I have looked deeply into sailmaking, spent time with many sailmakers and I am farmilliar with the tools and machines of which I have used for covers etc. I am very eager to become more self-reliant by being able to make and repair my own sails but I'll not be starting with high price materials or a wardrobe for the Pahi 63. I'll have to learn to walk before I can run so I'll start with some inexpensive calico and set my sail design and sail making parameters for the smaller craft I have and see how it goes from there.

I concur with everything Boatsmith and Kim has said and I have that info on the tables of sailcloth and dacron is right in the middle as a safe sound cruising investment for someone who knows what they were doing, but for learning, I think I'll start with something where I know I can afford to make some mistakes. At the same time I want to learn the traditional methods, knowing this will make a good foundation for understanding modern developments.

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