Building a sailing catamaran.

Where do I to start?

Where do I start?

Looking at this page is an indication of how serious you may be. A few key decisions that may sound obvious but are a little more complex than first thought, may be causing the barrage of questions or excited-confusion and include: What type of yacht to build.

This is very dependent on the budget. One cannot have a AUD500,000 yacht with a AUD100,000 budget...period.

It is all relative and the money spent will heavily influence the type of fitout too. For those with a budget of say AUD250,000; many of the composite designs are well within reach with a average fitout.

Why do you want to build a yacht? Is it because you would like to tackle a project this size and have no interest in the sailing? This approach normally brings with it its own set of challenges unless you are familiar with large catamaran sailing or have previously built a catamaran.

Yacht Plans

Are you looking for the cheapest (or even free plans)? The Yachts plan price is often reflected in the plans content. If you are a person who requires all information to be methodically laid out for you and you then follow a prescribed documented process, this type of yacht building project will not be for you. Those types of plans (and projects) are available, but come at a much higher price and normally in a Kit-Form.

Many of the cheaper yacht plan projects require a certain amount of self-judgement and initiative. You will be required to do your own research and resulting build/install of some non-structral components. Hoping to be 'spoon-fed' from a cheap plan is not an option.

Is it because you want an affordable cruising catamaran? If it is, the type of plans we used may be up your alley. There are many catamaran yacht plans, that when finished allow you to comfortably cruise between the 5-12 knots. When you consider that many round-the-world cruisers average 4-6 knots, 5-12 knots is pretty good.

Above this speed, we have found that the cruising-comfort-factor goes out the window.

Are you after a performance catamaran? Research needs to be done here, as performance and cruising (together) come at a price due to the size and hull design. Here too, look closely at the comfort factor, our results found that yacht size and weight became key factors for the sake of improved performance.

Is the yacht to be built for private use? Or is it to be built to Survey standard? The latter costing much more due to the additional regulatory requirements. Is it mandatory - no, is it preferred - yes.

Picking a Designer

There are many very good catamaran or multihull designers around.

Remember though, they are selling a product and you need to see through the 'bells and whistles':

  1. If they speak down about other similar Designers - read onto this,
  2. If they have everything in CAD drawings...thats all nice, but is that what you want? - unless its 1/2 million dollar yacht and a budget to suit, you may be able to save money here,
  3. "Its faster and better than..." - unless you are after performance and not 'cruising', this could also present savings for the more budget conscious,
  4. "Theirs is pitchy" or "I have been told that..." - possible excuses, as we found out when searching for ours,
  5. Bells and whistles are just that...'bells and whistles' and they don't make it easier, they make more work.

This can prove critical in those difficult times when you really need a pick-me-up.

While there are some brilliant boatbuilding technique books around, they are not mandatory. They will however help those who choose to build in style.

The key suggestion we make if it is your first build, is pick a Designer that is easy to contact and you feel you can talk too freely.

What budget do you have ?

For those with a budget around AUD100,000, there are a few designs well within reach. However, the bigger you go (i.e. greater than 11-12m in length) - the more you have to outlay and the less one has for the fitout.

We fitted within this bracket and discuss this in the A Sailing Catamaran Building Project. This budget region will cover most glass over plywood designs.

We started with a AUD100,000 budget which we soon realised was not enough for the fitout we wanted.

Our budget was spread over a five year period, making the pain more bearable.

While it came in 'drips-and-drabs' and we managed fine. One needs to be very realistic too, money does not grow on trees (or on our trees anyway).

The decision in the type and size of yacht you finally build, is so important. Many half-finished examples sit idle in building sheds haunting those who started building them as they were not realistic in this initial decision process.

The 'wish-list items' from all of the projected crewmembers, need to be carefully analysed and a cost apportioned. Its here too that the realisation of what you really need, hits home.

Do you really need a 110/240vAC hair dryer? If yes, you have complicated a simple electrical system (and associated costs) with the tick of a pen.

At a glance, plotting all your wishlist items onto a spreadsheet, soon gives you an idea of what electrical needs are required. Add this to the items found in the various electrical boating books and it will surprise you how the list grows.

We developed a spreadsheet called 'The Power Requirement Generator' which comes in super handy in this area.

Who to listen too

Decipher the 'armchair waffle' from the important information. 'Armchair critics' will babble all the wish-list items that they consider mandatory without applying a practical angle to their thoughts.

We recently provided data on a Building Forum, the Moderator (of all people) chose to respond, his response being very critical and negative toward our safety input.

We were later advised privately that he had a catamaran on his wish-list only, sadly out of touch with catamaran/multihull design and safety requirements not only in the EU, but throughout the world.

And its this type of information that sadly clouds the thought processes and one ends up not knowing who to believe.

It is important to join a good Forum where you can feel free to ask a question without being ridiculed or made felt a foolish. However, you will only get out what you put in, if you limit your input - others will limit their responses and are only as active as the participants make them.

After all the feedback you may still not like their responses, but they will provide food-for-thought and more avenues that may help justify the expense or build-change.

There are some fantastic books around that help in all the areas discussed here, the classics being 'Devlins Boatbuilding', 'Buehlers Backyard Boatbuilding' or even 'Building with Plywood'. While they may be a few years old, the principles will not change.

This information is priceless and well worth the investment.

There are also some very good well-written books and free videos if one needs to convince the family, especially a partner.

If there is still a partner to be won over, track down our cruising article called 'The seven deadly sins'. If they are offside from the beginning, you will struggle with a project of this size and worse still, getting them onside when the yacht is on the water.

"If they are offside from the beginning, you will struggle with a project of this size and worse still, getting them onside when the yacht is on the water"

One must have a plan

We are not talking a boat plan or yacht plans, rather a 'big picture' plan on how to move forward. It must include:

  • Various small goals,
  • Key objectives and
  • Your proposed outcomes.

It does not need to be fancy, complicated or even complex. Consider what we have done and log your building journey with a few lines each day, there are many who want to know how it was done and what we did.

We are still today being harassed to sell Pure Majek - a sign how we tackled this area and the positive influence that can be made. We discuss this in our Yacht Building Project and give some other great ideas that may have been overlooked during this important decision stage.

Don't join the 'Lemming Squad'

They say that many a dream is lost, because few take the bull-by-the-horns in fear of failure, the gamble being too much or the job being perceived as too hard.

Having said that, the idea of a large sailing Catamaran was lightly bounced on some of our friends and work colleagues, who all joined the 'Lemming Squad'. Lemmings being little rodents that have a habit of being followers. If one runs - they all run, if one jumps of a cliff - they all jump.

We have proved that it can be done and you do not have to be wealthy or a professional builder either. Having a family of four and very little sailing experience, we took the plunge to fulfill what many only dream.

It was time for a change and a move to another State as well as a new job, that gave us this opportunity.