I have always had a dream of building my own boat. Boats have great shapes, great personality. And as soon as you set off in your boat, wherever you are, you get a terrific feeling of independence. You leave the land behind, and head out, and it’s a wilderness. Your wilderness!
In 1995 I decided I needed a boat, and set out to try to build one. I had no idea if I could achieve this when I started, and no experience, and I hadn’t sailed in a boat since I was 10 years old, but it just seemed like a good idea at the time.
DAZY – Wharram 14′ Cat
The plans said the construction would take 150 hours, (that’s a month I thought) but, as I now know, what this really meant was, if you have been building boats for at least 25 years you might with a great deal of luck (and a fair wind) be able to build this boat in around 150-300 hours.
Mine took a year and half in the end, but was eventually complete. We named her Dazy, after a favourite family pet, and we sailed her most weeks in the summer, mainly off the Kent coast. It became something I did with friends and family. A really fun new sport with plenty of challenges.
The boat was a 14 foot, James Wharram-designed sailing catamaran, built out of wood, which could be transported on a car roof, assembled on a beach, and sailed into the surf. Here she is on a beach in Western France, ready for action. (Out of shot is a group of elderly beret-wearing disbelieving Frenchmen who had just watched me put the boat together on the beach.)
Piling into our estate car, (2 adults, 2 kids, 2 tents+, and 2 hulls and 2 masts on top!), we took her all over Europe. Great summer holidaying.
And for three years that was enough.
And then I had to own up to my family that really I wanted to build a much bigger boat. Something we could travel on.
SPIDERCAT – Simpson 9m Catamaran
And so on February 1st 2001, family on board, I took a year off work and started to build a bigger boat. The plans indicated this should be enough!
In fact it took me 8 years!
And here, in the length of a song (the demo of In Another World from Everybody Powwow!), is the compressed boat-build.
So 8 years later, Spidercat, is ready for launch. Even this turned out to be an 8 hour marathon! Here it is in 3 minutes.
You can see from these videos that I didn’t do this on my own. I had help at all the right moments from a great team of family, friends and volunteers, for which I am eternally grateful.
After launching, and a few weeks in the water at South Dock Marina, at dawn on a fine day, Spidercat was ready to make her maiden voyage. A day’s trip down the Thames to Queenborough Harbour, first under motor, and then, hopefully, under sail. Leaving the harbour was always going to be a tense affair as there was only to be 6 inches to spare on either side as we passed through the lock gates in to the Thames. But all went well. We had a great skipper, (thank you Cap’n Gary) who gave us a magical journey on a Thames whose surface was like a mill-pond. Here’s the video:
And after a few weeks trialling in the Thames estuary we headed to Ramsgate, and then across to the River Orwell in Suffolk to our home port, Suffolk Yacht Harbour.
As well as being a friendly place with a very good boat crew, SYH also has a crane big enough to take Spidercat.
Here is the boat crew and the crane in action putting us back in the water for season 2.
Spidercat has proved to be a very strong design (thank you Roger Simpson!) and it has been a real joy getting to know her. Each year we develop more confidence in her, and in our abilities, and each year new challenges are thrown up for us to deal with.
That was the whole idea!