Wharram Hitia 17 hulls floating after one month build

Shortly after Thomas and I decided to register team Sea Runners for the Race to Alaska (R2AK), we decided we should honor our boat-building experience — as well as James Wharram himself — by using the Wharram Hitia 17 design as the foundation of our race boat.  Since Thomas is an architect and we both have built Wharrams (he a Tiki 26; me a Tiki 21), we hardly looked at the plans after laying out the hull sides and bulkheads.  In fact, we’ve made a lot of modifications to keep the boat light and otherwise adapted to being powered by humans and the wind, rather than a motor.  (The key rule of the R2AK = no motors!)

This post documents our 1-month build of the hulls — from plans to floating…  First we present a fun build video that my son, Liam, put together during a “Tiki Tuesday” in a matter of mere minutes.

Below you’ll find a gallery of selected stills followed by the day-by-day build log.  Enjoy!

This was a fun, fast build for us that made us feel confident that deciding to build a Wharram design with which we were familiar was a good strategy.  We didn’t clock our hours exactly, but estimate it took us about at most 250 hours (42 days x 6 hours) the build time for the Hitia 17 advertised on the Wharram web site.  (This confirms our suspicion that the build times and boat weights listed on the Wharram site are pretty ideal — maybe pie-in-the-sky.  For non-expert builders, we advise multiplication by 1.5 for a more accurate estimates…)

Here’s a calendar of the build.

Tue 10/14 Build started with the ceremony of the long tables & the death of a flagon of Pyrat (Thanks to our helpers Tim King and Erik Hvalsoe)
Wed 10/15 T drafts and cuts out bulkheads and hull side panels
Thu 10/16 T cuts out stem, stern, rudder, lashing backing plates
Fri 10/17 S cuts out butt blocks; T glues up hull sides with butt blocks
Sun 10/19 am: Thomas rips stringers, keel; late eve: Thomas staples outer scarfed stringers to hulls; S&T glue scarfed keels
Mon 10/20 Hulls zip tied and stood up with bulkheads in place.
Tue 10/21 T,S,&K align and glue hull B
Thu 10/23 T&S align and glue hull A
10/27/2014 Keel fillets, End foaming, aft storage locker and diagonals added
11/1/2014 Decks made and undersides coated. First spar mock up glued up.
11/3/2014 Glued in bunk stringers on hulls and at bulkheads
11/4/2014 Glued on cabin sides
11/5/2014 Kennewick/paper day
11/6/2014 Made bunk cross-stringers, sanded holds
11/7/2014 Fitting bunks, painting holds, filling holes and coating bunks.
11/8/2014 Glued on decks and fixed bunk boards (with Kevin after Kenmore ride/dip)
11/9/2014 Cleaned up fillets, made and fit cabin side stringers and aft coaming pieces
11/10/2014 Glued in cabin side stringers and aft coaming pieces; trimmed decks
11/11/2014 Make deck and coaming pieces. broke rear seat B loose (do we need glass tape at stress points?)
11/12/2014 Coat cabin deck pieces/sand decks/make rudder and handle doublers
11/13/2014 Glue up coaming to cabin deck
11/14/2014 Fillet underside of coaming. Later glue cabin deck to cabin
11/15/2014 Sand decks/cabins, flip to sand hulls, fair stem/stern, shape keel
11/16/2014 T&S stay up late to glass cabin ends & rudders
11/17/2014 T&S glass decks
Tue 11/18 T glasses cabin sides during day; T&S sand hulls, glass 1st side of hulls
Wed 11/19 S fills 1st side hulls and rudder weave w/epoxy coat #2
Th 11/20 T & S sand and glass 2nd side of hulls; discuss lash pads & doublers; fill 2nd side rudders
Fri 11/21 T trims hull glass; S cleans up stringer for fillet, forms doublers & pads
Sat 11/22 S buys hardware for pads; T&S glue pads, kevlar bow, carbon fiber skeg, fillet stringer, glass keel.
Sun 11/23 First assembly!
Mon 11/24 Launch, paddle/flip/right/bail. We got it wet in 42 days (42×6 hours = 252hrs!)

Why race? And in what?

On a fateful “Tiki Tuesday” — September 23, 2015 — we decided to take the plunge and enter the Race to Alaska.  What a great chance to challenge ourselves in some of the most beautiful seascapes known to sailors!  Add the intrigue of finding a design that would be optimal for human and/or wind power in the complex marine environment of the British Columbian coast, and we were hooked.  Plus, the process of getting ready to race would definitely get us both more physically fit!  Maybe we would get really hardened by the training and end up reversing the feats of The Sea Runners — those hearty Scandinavian canoeists who made it from Baranof Island to Astoria back in the mid-19th-century?!

For the first week we thought a lot about whether it should or could be done in a Hobie 16′ or 18′.  We were pretty inspired by Matt Sornson’s video about Minor Threat — their 2013 bid to win the Everglades Challenge by sailing and paddling a Hobie 16′ — especially the part where Sailor Jerry boosts morale (3:02).

We tried sailing a Hobie 16′ out at Sail Sandpoint and quickly had a lot of questions:

  • Where are we going to put 10~days worth of  stuff (gear, food, water)?!
  • Could we really take turns sleeping in some sort of “salmon roll” on deck, or would we need to stop to sleep?
  • How wet do you want to be, and for how long?
  • What are the risks of capsizing [multiple times?] on the outer coast of British Columbia (vs in the Gulf of Mexico)?

So we dried off and thought about what fundamental goals we had for our R2AK boat.  We settled in on 2 key ideas:

  1. Play to our strengths in building and sailing Wharrams.  Thomas wrote at the time: “We are experienced Wharram sailers and should not discount the years of experience we have building and sailing them.  We know how well they move and how well they keep their crew. With a little Nielsen project management we will have a well built JWD H17 built in months.  Plus I don’t see them as slugs.  I think the performance will impress.”  And a final motivation sealed the deal: James is in his 90’s and deserves a little more glory before he sails off into the sunset.   How cool would it be to win it in a Wharram?!
  2. Just keep swimming.  We both agreed with some of the R2AK introductory panel members who asserted that the winning boat will be the one that keeps moving — both in calm and windy weather.  [See 0:50 in the video below…  “The boat must look after the crew so they do not have to go ashore. If you can keep one person resting and the other working efficiently, the boat won’t be the fastest, but it will get there first.”]  The penultimate speaker reiterated this by saying (at 5:54) he would want to “keep the crew on the boat and keep the boat going all the time.”

This led us down to the UW/WAC yard to visit the Tiki 21′ (Scott’s first Wharram) where we considered whether we could reduce its weight and windage sufficiently by replacing the rigid cockpit platform with a net like Rory did on Cooking Fat, and maybe by cutting its cabins off flush with the decks.  Even with such changes, though, we realized it would a big boat for 2 and would still weigh a few hundred kilos unloaded.  Could a different Wharram offer just enough shelter for a two-person crew and be much less massive, enabling meaningful movement by a single person?

Then we saw this photo of a Wharram Hitia 14 which weighs in (unloaded) at only 86 kilos.

Hitia 14 zipping right along.

It has awesome sailing speed and displacement, but looks just about as wet and unaccommodating as the Hobie 16′.

At last, we learned that the Hitia 17′ is plenty fast (15 knots, or 28 km/hr, steady on a reach in SF Bay) and has little holds or lazarettes in each hull.  Most people use these holds for storage and sit on top of their hatch covers while sailing, but others were innovators and got down inside the holds themselves:

French kids are revolutionary!
French kids are revolutionary!

This helped us realize that the bulkheads forward and abaft of these holds were just about as far apart as we are tall.  Perhaps with some modification of the central bulkhead (#4), the Hitia 17 could accommodate a sleeping human?

2014-10-09 22.16.53 2014-10-15 16.38.10 2014-11-18 22.05.48

And thus, the dream of Manu-o-Ku was born…

Fledgling manu o kuWharram logo