Review of Top 4 Catamaran Designers for Home Builders
There are many catamaran designers but how do you find the best ones. If you have carefully reviewed our "9
Essential Features for the Cruising Catamaran" you are now armed with
the things to look for.
Our evaluation of the designers and their designs is from the point of view
of the home builder. This means we are looking at the boats that can be readily
built by an individual or husband/wife team. As Richard Woods says in his literature,
"Boats of over 40 feet should not be built by the solo home builder because
they just take too long. Life is too short," and I would agree. The boatyards
and backyards of the world are littered with uncompleted boats which have simply
overwhelmed their builders.
The comments that follow may be a little candid but they are based on our boat-
building experience. All the boats described below, if built properly, are ocean-going
boats. Our ratings of these designers are not an evaluation on whether their
designs are good or bad, but more on their suitability for you building the
design as a solo home builder. Some of their larger designs may also be good
projects only if you are going to have the boat custom built for you or if you
have hired help assisting you in your project.
is based in the UK and is a well established catamaran designer. One thing that
separates Richard from some of the other designers is that he has built many
of his boats. I believe he is built over a dozen. His latest his the Eclipse
32 pictured on the right. That's a lot of boat building. I think this coupled
with his extensive sailing experience is why his boats are so practical. These
are boats he wants to sail. As you know from reading other parts of our website,
in 1997 we decided on Richard's 28.5 foot Gypsy design. He had just built his
own. He said, "this design incorporates all that we have learnt about cruising,
living on board, and sailing boats in over 60,000 miles of sailing." Click
here for a full description of the Gypsy design used in the creation in
We are probably a little biased towards Richard's design's but that is because
we are so happy with the package of features our boat has. He had many smaller
designs in the 20 to 25 foot range, but the Gypsy is the smallest boat that
he considered to be a minimum ocean cruiser.
Some people will say that 28.5 feet is just too small a boat for ocean cruising.
We would disagree and so does Richard who specifies that "the Gypsy is
good for trade wind ocean voyaging but not for going around Cape Horn"
(so Carllie constantly reminds me.)
What you have to remember is that most cruising boats are "manned"
by a husband and wife team. Half the time under watch the boat will be operated
by the smallest crew member which usually is the wife. On our boat Carllie can
only operate the entire boat without my help. There are two easy to use 2-speed
Andersen self-tailers. She can even haul up our main 22 lb Delta anchor by hand
(even when Garett, The Windlass is too tired). Last summer, we met some people
who had chartered a Lagoon 42 up in Desolation Sound. They invited us aboard
their boat for a little tour. It was beautiful, enormous, and very very comfortable;
but, and that is a big "but", there is no
way that boat could be handled by my wife, Carllie, on her own, and
it may even be difficult for me. If the wife/partner/mate cannot handle the
boat alone she is forced to wake up her husband on his off-watch. All this can
be quite exhausting on a passage. What happens if the husband gets hurt or they
get into heavy weather?
Richard builds his own boats, he, like you, wants to build the boat as fast
as possible. The Gypsy and the 34-foot Romany (same bridge deck as Gypsy but
longer hulls) use flat panel construction.
Thus type of construction uses a flat mold which is quickly put together in
about a day. You then lay up the fiberglass foam hull panels, 4 sides and 2
bottoms. The panels are then laid over the bulkheads. You might think that this
might make the boat look boxy or home made but again Multihulls Magazine used
a picture of Light Wave for its September 2002 cover
so it can't be that bad.
Using this method, we made our two hulls in about 6 weeks. As well, the outside
of the hulls come out almost perfectly fair, which saved us several hundred
hours of back-breaking fairing and sanding.
If we had the choice we would have built the 34-foot Romany (if the design
had been available back in 1997 ....) with its longer hulls with their load
capacity. Load capacity is the only thing we have to watch for on the Gypsy
28. He also has the 32 foot Eclipse as well as, the 38-foot Transat.
Richard's personal support during the building process was excellent in the
many overseas telephone calls I placed to him. The only negative comment I would
have would be relative to the level of detail on his plans. All the key items
are there to build the basic structure but there are gaps relative to executing
some of the interior and finishing details. This wasn't really a problem as
it allowed some creativity and some improved ideas ( i.e. sliding hatches into
the hulls, cockpit seat backs, higher cuddy bridgedeck floor, etc.) .
Even with this small drawback, we would highly Richard's designs as they are
specifically made for the home builder. Our top choice in terms of design is
the Romany 34. I would estimate the construction time as 3,500
to 4,000 hours.
Link to Richard Woods Designs
Shionning is a catamaran designer from Australia, and though some of his designs
are built by commercial builders, most are built by people just like you with
One of his real innovations is the Wilderness series which goes from 9 meter
up to 17 meter. These boat are built from prefab epoxy duracor/ balsa cored
panels. These panels are made under very controlled conditions. Using CAD technology
and cutting the programs, the pieces are cut by computer controlled milling
machines and then glued and joined by the builder. This is one step ahead of
the flat panel method that Richard Woods uses because these prfab panels are
made out of epoxy and the resin to glass resin is very controlled which leads
to very light and strong panels and consequently as very light, strong, and
epoxy only boat.
They sell the panels pre marked and ready to cut and join. Based on the launching
notices they publish on their web site, there are lot of people completing their
projects through Jeff.
Another of one of his innovations is to use outboard motors in vertical wells
at the end of each hull. You get the weight advantage of the new breed of 4
stroke Hondas and Yamahas as well as quicker installation, easier maintenance,
lower weight. He uses the outboard option on even his bigger boats of 15 meter.
We seriously looked at the Wilderness 1100 (11 meter) as our next boat about
2 years ago. It may still be our next boat but we will wait until we get back
from our 18 month cruise in our current boat starting in July 2006. I would
estimate the build time as around 4,000 hours because of the time saving panel
So our top recommendation here is the Wilderness 1100.
Link to Jeff Schionning Designs
White's book, The Cruising Multihull is the book that got me going on multihulls
about 10 years ago.
Chris has built many of his own designs. His own boat (as of a couple of years
ago) was a 55 foot trimaran of his design called Juniper that he built himself.
He has also several smaller trimaran designs for the racer /cruiser.
In the catamaran area, his trademark boat is the Atlantic 42. As mentioned
on our "Building a Cat" page, this was one of our top three choices.
In the end it seemed that it was to big for us and possible cost too much
main innovation is the cockpit which is in front of the pilothouse.
This design feature has been copied / incorporated into a few other mega catamaran
such as the Gunboat 62 and the big Gold Coast catamaran.
We recently had an Atlantic 42 in our marina that was for sale. We got to spend
some time on it and the layout really works. The steering view from the protected
pilothouse is fantastic. It is nice and warm and out of the weather. When you
do have to do some sail handling, you open the front door and go to the central
cockpit where all the sail handling is located. You are completely protected
in this sunken cockpit and you are a good 8 feet from the edge of the boat.