Swing Cat - a Catamaran Odyssey
Ever since I was 15 I have wanted to build a yacht. Now that I am 60 it is now or never! The dream was kindled swinging on a mooring in the River Yar, Isle of Wight in my father's clinker-built motor-sailor called Doodle. Next to us was the famous Wanderer III owned by the legendary cruising couple, Eric & Susan Hiscock.
Back then I dreamed of a ferrocement monohull; imagine the result - heavy, slow and streaked with rust. Since then I have done some sailing and my ideas about a suitable craft have evolved. This website documents one man's obsession to build and sail a 10m ocean-going catamaran; it will document the what, why and how with a few cruising articles and poems thrown in for light relief. There is also a time-lapse "movie" of the build so far.
I have been inspired by the sailing and self-build websites of many people. Here, I strongly argue the benefits of catamarans and the self-build route for acquiring one. I hope this website will, in turn, inspire others who love "messing around in boats". I don't just mean catamarans; this website also contains details of the building of a tenderand of a widebeam narrow boat, called Cettia,to be used as a houseboat on the River Thames.
P.S. There are some wonderful ferrocement boats around, which have stood the test of time - check out Martin & Lorry's Severn Swan.
First update 1st January 2012: hulls-to-knucklenow finished; do not miss the picture of cute, curious kittens watching the boat building; Owenhas joined the boat builders. The time-lapse moviehas also been updated.
Second update 15th April: bulkheads, stringers and gunwalehave now been added to the hulls; the daggerboardsare almost finished; the time-lapse moviehas also been updated. The guestbook has fallen victim to a spam attack and has been temporalily removed - I will return it when fixed. We were fortunate to have Eclipse's designer and catamaran legend Richard Woodsvisit to inspect progress.
Third update 15th July: the hullsare now complete including home made portlights; the daggerboards and their casesare now finished and the cases fitted to the hulls; for real craftsmanship, don't miss the linkto Owen's guitar-building website; links to my favourite suppliers have been updated and a new category of useful information added. Finally, there is a new installment of the time-lapse movie.
Fourth update 2nd December: Adding decking, hatches & solar panels is well underway. The ruddershave now been built around the rudder stock. A new section on fitting-out the hullshas been added. Swing Cat will try and be self-sufficient in energy from renewable sources despite running a refrigerator and a freezer. My research behind my choice of refrigerationand behind my choice of solar panels and wind generator now available on this website. The tender came in useful during the floods of November 2012.Again, there is a new installment of the time-lapse movie.
Fifth update 2nd April 2013: The star of this update is the composting lavatory, soon to be trialled in the boat shed. Decking has been added and glassing it started: see "of camber, carlins, coamings and coachroofs". Both hulls have been wired up with DC and AC power: see "fitting out the hulls". In both hulls there is now panelling between the stringers: also in "fitting out the hulls". A new supporting document describes the electrical systemsadded to Swing Cat and includes wiring diagrams. There is, of course, a new installment of the time-lapse movie.
Sixth update 3rd September 2013: We are now two years into the project which has now consumed 4482 man-hours of effort. I had hoped to have finished the hulls by now, but there is still more to do! The hulls now sport rubbing strakes. The decks are finished, including home made hatches and dorade vents. The galley is now being constructed. The hulls have been sanded and painted which was a tremendous effort. Here is the new installment of the time-lapse movie.
Seventh update 22nd December 2013: The hulls are now finished - take a tourof the insides! They have been moved from the boat shed. Drawer unit design proportions are based upon Hambridge Rectangles. A grey water tank has been added in the heads and a gas supply has been fitted to the water heater and hob. A new supporting document describes the plumbing of water and gas systemsadded to Swing Cat. A new (to us) technique to bend acrylichas been used to create bunkside "tables". A very smart teak-effect covering has been added in areas such as the galley and steps. Our experiences of using a composting loo have been written up here,but don't look if you are squeamish!
Eighth update 18th April 2014: The bridgedeck coachroof has been built and all "bits" have been moved using a tractor and trailor by road to Sharpness Shipyard and Drydock. There are two new time-lapse movies: one showing the bridgedeck coachroof being constructed and one showing the moving of one of the hulls.Ninth update 19th August 2014: We are now three years into the build, having spent 6915 hours on it. I had hoped to be finished by now but it will be sometime next year before we can launch. Unfortunately, my first mate, Mac, fell of a step ladder and badly injured his back - we miss him and are making much slower progress without him.
The hulls are now joined and the coachroof is attached. Large anchor and gas lockers have been built. There is a new document on Akermann steering for catamarans, to help decide the optimum toe-in on the tillers for a given size of catamaran. Stanchions and lifelineshave been added and we now have a smart new trampoline net. It is the "silly season" so here is a bit of silliness: Swing Cat started crying, find out if it was a miracle.
Tenth update 21st December 2014: The cockpit has been constructed, with 7 lockers! A way of adding deck fittings while avoiding the risk of ingress of water into the deck's plywood core has been written up here. Want to know how much resin you will need for a particular job? Consult the same document. The boat building team has been beefed up (in more ways than one) by Ben. Admire the wood burning stove If you like nautical terminology, find out all about a "gull striker" here. Finally, we have now fitted out and stepped a mast. There is a new time-lapse movie showing the mast going up.
Eleventh update 10th June 2015: Sadly, not much progress has been made on Swing Cat since the last posting. What work has been done will be covered in the next update. The reason for the inactivity is that we have been distracted with another boat building project. Resources have been diverted to the building of a widebeam narrowboat called Cettia, to go on a London mooring near Kew Bridge, on the Thames. Cettia could not be more different from Swing Cat: made out of steel and destined to be mainly a houseboat. It has its own pageon this website, if you are interested.
Twelfth update 9th October 2015: Our widebeam narrowboat Cettia,is now finished and on its London mooring. It is being rented out as a very unusual holiday home on airbnb and tripadvisor. The fit out of Cettia took 7 months during which time only Mac and Richard continued to work on Swing Cat, with results which can be admired here. During this time Mac withdrew from the project to spend more time doing his own work; his careful craftsmanship, insights and design ideas will be much missed. Owen, Ben and myself are now back on Swing Cat and are busy building the outboard motor nacelle, rudder blocksand flooring and capping.
Thirteenth update 29th February 2016: We have now finished istallation of the rudders, rudder blocks, tillers and tiller bar. Now the rudders can be raised, it was safe to remove the cradles which have supported the hulls for so long. Swing Cat is now resting only on its beaching keels. The water tankshave now been built and the plumbingcompleted. The Airhead waterless lavatory has now been fitted to the Heads compartment.
Fourteenth update 30th December 2016: The autopilot is installed. Deck hardware has been installed on the foredeck and coachroof. The gas installationhas been completed. All electronic systemshave now been interconnected and commisioned. As the project's end came in sight, the very time consuming tasks of headlining and decorating had to be tackled. Finally, after over 5 years and 10,450 hours of effort, Swing Cat is launched. Check out the launch movie and go on a tourof the finished catamaran.
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