Friday, May 6, 2011

The Centre Deck Crisis

It started when we were working on the beams. One of the steps is to glue in blocks for attaching various structures to the deck: the boarding ramp, deck pod, and engine boxes. I (Robbie) was laying out the locations for the engine box blocks, and everything felt wrong.

We are using the design improvements package based on the Tiki 38. On the Tiki 38, the engine boxes sit on the deck like big deck lockers, giving easy access to the two engines and storage for fuel, but they, along with the deck pod, also frame in a portion of the centre deck, making a cockpit-like space. The open deck between them is not huge, but it's enough for people to move around, and there's a much larger open space forward, so the deck space still feels generous. 
On the Narai, the beam locations are different. The centre deck portion is significantly longer, and the foredeck shorter, than on the Tiki 38. Also, the Narai beams are a little shorter and the hulls are wider, which results in the centre deck being narrower than the Tiki's. These differences didn’t seem significant when we were first looking at the plans. But when I laid out the engine box locations on the beams, the space left between them was obviously going to be very small, less than two feet, nothing more than a foot well between the engine boxes. 
The big open centre deck of a catamaran is one of the most attractive things about it. It's the natural place for groups of people to gather. It's a place to sleep in fine weather. It should have a hatch so you can easily haul up a bucket of water. It's the place to take a shower. And, as on the Tiki 38 and the Pahi 63, it can have a fire pit. The fire pit is part of the Pahi 63 plans, and it’s an option on the Tiki 38. The versatility of a fire pit on a cruising boat is appealing, especially for cruising in our chilly climate, but we certainly weren't going to put a fire pit in a foot well between our gasoline lockers! 
This caused us to look more closely at the deck pod as well. Here, too, it wasn't going to work as neatly as it did on the Tiki. The cabin hatches don't line up with the pod on the Narai, and the narrower deck means that there's no space to walk past the pod on either side, or else you have to make it so narrow that the watch bunk is too short to stretch out on.
So we rejected both the deck pod and the engine boxes. We're going to steer from a cockpit as was done on the original Narai design. So far, so good, but what about engines? 
On the original Narai there was an engine in a deck locker on, you guessed it, the centre deck. We didn't like that idea, but what else could be done? What, we asked ourselves, did we want an engine for? Our answer turned out to be, manoeuvring in a crowded harbour and getting out of trouble, not for getting somewhere when there's no wind. Other people have managed these things without engines. On James Wharram's own video of his Tehini, there's a clip of it being rowed. The Ariki "Piggy" circumnavigated without engines, propelling herself at times by pushing with the outboard-powered dinghy. People have been moving huge, heavy junks around harbours with a single sculling oar for thousands of years. Couldn't we be that resourceful? Yes, we could. We took a deep breath, and rejected engines altogether.
We're still not one hundred percent confident in that decision, but we're sure we want to keep our centre decks clear and open, whatever else we decide.


  1. Good call on keeping the deck clear. You can do this. We went engine-less on Mukluk for many years. You will get really good with your ground tackle and have lots of chances to practice patience and being-in-the-moment.

    I wonder if Tiger will be a Gulf Island boat or if she will travel? The summer light air there can be tough if your lifestyle still has schedules.

    One thought...wharram probably drew the engine layout for big enough engines to drive the boat in all conditions. As a compromise I bet you could mount one small outboard somewhere just to get the boat moving in a glass calm, it wouldn't take very much of an engine at all to drive the cat, take less space, and could get you that last mile or two in when the wind is gone.

    You'd know that in wind you are still essentially an engineless boat and have to rely on sailing. And you'd have to be careful to not get in trouble with current. (Nice to have one lighter anchor with super long rode for anchoring in weird places when you're becalmed and caught in current.)

    When lifestyle allowed you could easily make the aesthetic choice to get rid of the engine entirely..

    Sorry, you know all this anyway, can you tell that i miss sailing terribly??? good luck!

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Murray! It's encouraging to hear.

    We're going off to visit Piggy at some point in the near future, since she dwells in Ladysmith Harbour. The attached dinghy is an appealing thought.

    Tiger will begin as a Gulf/Strait boat... and life is long. No plans, but no no-plans either...