The Montauk Catamaran Company Chronicles, 12/04/14: Paper

(The Montauk Catamaran Company Chronicles is an ongoing series of posts detailing the construction of Mon Tiki Largo, a James Wharram Designs Pahi 63 MkII. The author’s current boat is the catamaran Mon Tiki, a JWD Tiki 38, which he built in 2012 and currently operates as a day-sailing charter in Montauk NY. You can see all the posts in this series by clicking here.)


Measure twice, cut once.

As some of you already know, for most of my adult life I’ve worked in communications. Specifically I was a commercial photographer, then an industrial filmmaker, and ultimately an independent documentary producer and director.

One of the things I don’t miss about my former life is something that almost anyone who works in a creative field probably knows all too well — procrastination. I recall one time I got so stuck working on a film that I finally had to make a deal with myself: sit in front of your editing system for 30 minutes. It doesn’t matter whether or not you edit, but you have to sit there for 30 minutes.

And then once that got me out of my stuckness I had to make another deal with myself: you cannot edit for more than an hour, then two hours, then three and finally I trusted myself to be really “hungry” to edit and I was back to the 8-10 hours a day that was my normal habit when editing a film.

If 10-12 hours of highly focused work seems like a lot, it is. But that’s the way editing is. Editing is very rhythmic, and once you get in a zone it’s sort of self-sustaining. You can feel the film and you don’t want to lose that feeling so you just keep working and working. You’ve got to ride the wave while it carries you.

And that’s why I think it’s so easy to procrastinate. If you don’t feel it, it’s very hard to make yourself feel it. Trying to break out of it you can get off to a lot of false starts, chase down ideas that go no where, etc. And then you get paralyzed because you don’t want to waste time being counter productive. And then you get stuck. And then the above bargaining and deal-making.

And I don’t miss it. I miss that feeling of being in the zone, and a lot of other things about making movies. But I don’t miss the procrastinating-stuck-self bereavement-bargaining-deal making thing.

(There is a whole nuther level of fear of the work not being successful — creatively, financially — at the micro and/or macro level, that can also be paralyzing, but I’ll leave muttering that for another day.)

Building boats is different. You can’t chip away at a movie one cut at a time. Each cut interacts with the cut before it and after it, and each sequence of cuts interacts with the rest of the movie. But you can build a boat one piece at a time. If fact that’s exactly how you build a boat — one piece at a time. And that makes it very hard to get stuck. For example:

Today would have been a very nearly perfect day to lay up a triple course of 1×6 on another aka. In fact, I had already cut them out and dry fit the scarfs. But we were supposed to get Mon Tiki hauled for winter storage today. But the guy with the crane who was going to help us drop our masts got tied up and pushed it back to this afternoon. And then something else came up and then it was dark because December. And naturally all of this happened in a way that wouldn’t let me get started on the glueing.

But rather than being one of those days that never really got started, I got some more 1×6 cut and dry-fitted. In fact I got enough cut and fitted that I can finish off the akas we already have in process. And here’s the thing that’s great and non-procrastinatie about that.

As outlined above, when you try to pick away at a creative project a bit at a time it doesn’t work, not for me at least. But those boards I cut and dry-fit today? Now they’re just sitting there, a couple of hours prep work done, just waiting for when I have the 2 1/2 hours it will take for me and a helper to glue them up. They are not a dead end. I am not going to lose track of where I was going and have to start over. They are not going to warp or deform or rot, and then mock me for having started, but not finished. They are just there, work that’s in-the-bank. Work that means I only need 2 1/2 hours of fair weather to finish the next step, and not the 4 1/2 that it takes to go from start to finish.

So what does this have to do with paper? Nothing. But I’ll get to that, I promise.

A couple of days ago the Team Vestas’ Volvo Open 60 ’round the world race boat grounded on a reef a couple hundred miles east of Madagascar. Here’s cockpit video of the boat striking the reef:

This boat carries the most modern navigation equipment there is, had a crew of nine, and as the video shows, had a watch stander on deck at the time of the collision. So how did this happen?

The reason it happened is because the reef they collided with is in the middle of the ocean and it’s very small. But as small as it is, even on the grossest scale paper chart it would still be marked, even it it was just a dot.

But the Team Vestas boat wasn’t using paper charts, they were using electronic charts. And when you zoom out on an electronic chart they drop details without a thought how important the detail might be. Team Vestas never saw the reef on their charts because they were never zoomed in enough in the right place to have that (rather important) feature become visible. They thought they were in deep water, clear of hazards, because at the scale they were looking at there charts, that’s what they saw.

This winter past I had nearly the same thing happen to me near Cape Florida at the South end of Key Biscayne.

I had been running the coast, south-bound from Boca Inlet. In unfamiliar waters like to keep paper charts on deck with me, but it had been raining off and on, so I had stashed them below decks, and besides, the plotter showed plenty of water.

Then I notice the water color wasn’t right, and when I zoomed in I saw that I was in a reef field with plenty of spots more than shallow enough to ground Mon Tiki. What followed was a comedy of errors of me getting the sails down, fowling one of my props, anchoring, getting wedged in a very awkward spot because I hadn’t factored how thick I was when wearing a PFD, and all manner of other embarrassing mayhem. But not as embarrassing as what happened to Team Vestas.

Which is all a way of telling you, the story above, plus all the throat clearing above it, that the paper sheet of the new lines drawing arrived from Wales today. A most welcome addition to the .pdf of the same that arrived Thanksgiving morning.

Lastly, a twitter friend is going though some tough times. As I used to, he still works in the field of creativity. I was going to abandon the whole procrastination part of this post, but as I was about to hit the delete key an exchange on twitter made me think I should see it through. Chin up, friend. There will be better days ahead. I promise!

Lines for the Pahi 63MkII, straight from the mailbox and layed out on the driveway.


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5 thoughts on “The Montauk Catamaran Company Chronicles, 12/04/14: Paper

  1. Back before I joined my unit at Camp Pendleton, one of the LCACs at the unit was involved in a grounding on a reef. Which, when you think about it, seems like something that should be impossible. However, the LCAC rides on a cushion of air 4′ tall, and it was low tide, and the reef was jutting above the waves a good 6′-8′, and it was night, and the reef was not on the most recent (paper, this was before touch screen tablets) charts.

    The craftmaster saw it at the last second & turned a head on collision into a glancing blow (LCACs are quite agile things for their size), but the boat still had millions of dollars in damage on one side & three crew were sent to the hospital with significant injuries.


  2. Hi,
    You said in previous post the load capacity jumps from 4.5 tons to 8 tons !!! I’m impressed. How can it be possible ?
    According to my fingers on the screen the ratio L/l is 8 on the new design.


    • My very quick calculations for the increased displacement put it at an increase of about 120 cubic feet (60 cubic feet per hull). At 60lbs/cubic foot that’s an increased displacement of about 7,200lbs, which is pretty darn close to the 3.5 ton increase (on the same freeboard as the original design) that the designer says she achieved with the new lines.

      The length of all (LOA) is 63 feet, the beam of each hull is about 6.5 feet. But those aren’t the relevant measurement for the ratio vis-a-vis performance. For that you want LAW (length at waterline) and the beam at waterline. That’s more like 50′ and 4′, making the Pahi 63 a very slender and easily driven craft.


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