Bits & pieces

Helming positions.

A frequently discussed topic on multihull forums is helming positions - fore or aft, port, starboard or both, sheltered or open? My usual helming position is on the sofa in the saloon, with my feet up, watching the boat's progress on OpenCpn or reading a book or a Kindle. The only times I steer by hand is approaching a dock or a mooring, choosing an anchoring place or driving up a winding river. Especially single-handed, I find the autopilot almost essential. I even use it if I need to use an engine to drive towards the anchor and I'm single-handed. It's almost always on. I'd hate to be without one, so I have three. The long tiller arm and swivel allows me to able able to steer from anywhere in the cockpit which is handy when you need to line the boat up with the dock, but out at sea? Steering? Why bother?



For me, parking has always been an important issue. I really dislike marinas, and the expense of them. In my two year circuit of the Altantic, I spent two regrettable nights in a marina in La Coruna, Spain, and a week in Flores in the Azores, where there are few sheltered anchoring possibilities and no moorings. Everywhere else, I anchored, for free.

Scrumpy's very shallow draft allowed for anchoring close to the beach. In places like Tortola, the only alternative to hanging on a mooring in a crowded harbour ($30/night) was to anchor, and the only place to anchor was in a couple of ffet of water, which suited us just fine.

Anchoring by the beach, Tortola
Anchoring by the beach, Tortola


The Mantus anchor, carried up the beach and planted.
The Mantus anchor, carried up the beach and planted, Tortola

One of the first modifications I did to Scrumpy was to add some 3-4 inch deep wooden mini-keels. I'd imagined deeper keels, but I discussed it with Richard Woods, and he assured me that keels of this depth would be best - there'd be little transverse stress. I made the mini-keels from layers of oak, and added a layer of epoxy/glass to the bottom, and stuck them onto the bottom of the hulls with Sikaflex. No bolts. I ensured that they stretched from one strong point to another. These mini-keels allow me to dry out the boat easily - of course where there are no rocks, and where no waves will bounce the boat as it settles on the bottom. This has allowed me to paint the boat between tides, go up rivers in Brittany and the Algarve and leave the boat safe and secure around the high tide mark. On returning to the UK, I found a place I could leave the boat like that for free, moored in soft mud, very sheltered and protected. The place is in fact pretty idyllic - rich people live around the bay and soon after my arrival, I'd met them all. They'd come down to the waterside to check me out. Good security I figured. I won't name the place, as such an asset is best kept quiet. However, anyone who buys the boat should be able to use this facility if the location suits them. Much better than the expense of a marina or a mooring!


Secure in the mud, river Dart, Devon
Secure in the mud, river Dart, Devon


The cockpit.

I designed the cockpit to contain fish boxes. The lockers and the floor are foam sandwich, which keeps it light. There is an enormous capacity for storage - too much if you fill it with heavy stuff. I was thinking I'd have to change the cockpit arrangement to make it suitable for cruising, but I got to like it as it is.

Access to the boom is readily available along the whole length, which makes reefing and putting on the mainsail cover easy.

Going from one side of the cockpit to the other (a long way!) is easy as you don't have to step up and down to do it.

Waterproof storage: the lids aren't waterproof - that's hard to do and maintain, and there are no hinges. The lids just fit onto the lockers loosely and have never come close to sliding off. So for storing tools etc. that need to keep dry, I use plastic boxes with overlapping lids. Tools, epoxy and glass and various other things have been stored that way for years without a problem. One locker I have often kept for storing sawdust (or hay, or dry seaweed bits from the beach, or pine needles) for the compost toilet. That's bulky stuff, but light, and no problem with this amount of locker space.

On short trips, I might carry a dinghy on the aft platform, but for rough weather that arrangement is too exposed and the weight is too far aft, so I carry the dinghy upside down in the middle of the cockpit on the lockers.

I designed and built a nesting dinghy that fitted here nicely. I made it as big as would easily fit - which was too big. The dinghy was worn out at the end of the Caribbean trip - too much dragging it up beaches and so on, so there's no dinghy with the boat. You can use my design and build something similar (I'd recommend a bit smaller - it was always bigger than necessary even with 4 people and luggage aboard) or find an inflatable that will fit there.

Another useful aspect of the giant lockers is that on long passages, I was able to lift the outboards out of their wells and store them (supported on lumps of polystyrene) under cover, completely sheltered from splashes from waves (I've yet to see a catamaran outboard arrangement that always keeps engines dry).

Having said all that, if you decide to remove the fishboxes, they can be cut away with a grinder or reciprocating saw in an hour or two, and what's left can be made to look reasonable with a couple of days of work.

Aft platform.

This is extra to the original design, but I like it a lot. It adds some weight to the ends of the boat where you don't want it, but not much. I made it from curved laminated larch and foam sandwich. At sea, I'd often have the kayak there (which makes an excellent man overboard rescue device!) but on long passages, I'd put the kayak onto one of the hulls, to reduce weight at the ends. I was afraid of what might happen if a big wave landed on the platform - but I have rarely seen any water except spray on it. Occasionally in rough weather, a wave might wash just enough water over it to clean it, and rinse away any little item you accidentally left there.

In port, it's great. It makes getting in and out of the dinghy easy, and simplifies handling shopping and jugs of water. We usually kept a bucket of water there too, so that after a trip to the beach we could rinse the sand off our feet.


It's a good place to clean fish too - easy to rinse clean afterwards.

A good out of the way place too to prop up the solar panels when the sun is over the stern.

And plenty of room for parking when you have visitors:

A gathering in Bermuda.

There's a bit of carpet glued over the edge of the aft platform. Good carpet, a piece of Axminster, but a little worn now. I put that there instead of a brass chafing bar or a roller. At night, I'd pull the dinghy into the cockpit across the top of the carpet. Stops any banging about if the wind changes, stops thieves nicking it, and dead easy to do with a bit of Axminster to slide the dinghy over.



I discovered some really excellent epoxy hi-build paint that is cheap. Leigh's Epigrip L524 (now renamed, MacroPoxy L524 - doesn't sound right though does it?). It's used to paint ships' hulls, steel pilings and so on. It's easy to use, goes on nice and smooth and pretty thick, has no overcoating limitations and is very hard wearing indeed. I've had ropes chafing the deck that have chewed through the top paint in no time, but the Epigrip just gets polished a little. It's not perfect though. It only comes in one colour. No-one in the yard calls it Epigrip. They refer to it as baby-shit. Nevertheless, since I found a 25 litre can going cheap I painted everything in it. Excellent move!


I tried Coppercoat and was initially pleased with it, but the boat was covered in grass by the time I got to the Caribbean. Cleaning the hulls required scrubbing underwater once a week, which was fine for the first few weeks, but after that, a bit of a bore. When the hull started blistering, the Coppercoat went the same place as the gel coat - in a skip in a boat yard in Antigua.

Since then I've been using EU-45. Cheaper than most, and the most effective anti-foul I've found so far (not available in the Caribbean - I shipped some EU-45 out along with my rolls of glass and tropical epoxy).


Laugh if you like, but I use Dulux gloss. Far cheaper than marine paint and it lasts just as long - that is, until some joker selling coconuts comes alongside with no fenders and drags ride down the side of the hull. But with Dulux, a quick sand and wash down makes it ready for another coat, and since I've just painted on another coat, I can tell you it takes one man less than two hours to paint both hulls. Also, with Dulux, you can have it any colour you like.


In the interests of economy, I tried water-based textured house wall paint. Water based is really quick and easy to slap on. It was fine. Stained fairly easily (petrol, beetroot, and a couple of unidentifiable things) and scuffed off a bit, but was easy to paint like new again. Once I got to the tropics though, the paint started to chalk on the surface, and it was getting into the rain water we were collecting, turning it milky. So we got some proper expensive deck paint for the saloon roof, and that has worked fine. Expensive though!


Water-based kitchen/bathroom paint. Easy to apply. I've just repainted 2/3 of the interior in less than a couple of hours. It's washable and mould and condensation resistant, so it lasts a good while. Surprisingly hard wearing. This was the first repaint in a couple of years or more. And cheap, and any colour you'd want an interior wall. Nothing to dislike there!



I'm not sure what the original design was for the kick-up rudders. But when I bought the boat, the rudders could kick up, but only so far, before the tiller bar hit the deck. It was an unfinished job, so I did some fabricating and finished the job.

My first boat was a trimaran with a kick-up rudder. Sometimes, at high speed, it would kick-up. I hated that! On Scrumpy, I wanted to he certain that when the boat is haring down the front of a wave face, a rudder will stay down, not kick-up. To get the rudders up, you need to remove a bolt from each and lift them a little. That worked fine for us. If you're sneaking across thin water, you can take the bolt out in case you catch the bottom, but out at sea, it won't pop up unless you insist. Oh, and I added a joint in each tiller so that the bar no longer hits the deck when the rudders come up. This had the unintended but pleasing consequence that at anchor, you can leave the rudders down and lift the tiller bar out of the cockpit. It pivots over the aft platform and comes to rest at a convenient height to form a rail along the back of the platform, which is handy for tying dinghies to, keeping your balance getting in and out of dinghies, as you can see in the image above. And it has one other feature - it locks the rudders in the fore and aft position, so there's no need to tie the tiller to prevent the rudders flapping about, making a noise and wearing the bearings.


The laminate

I've seen more of the laminate than I wanted to. When I first got the boat under cover and stripped away all the paint on the topsides, the caked anti-foul and the broken and cracking gel-coat non-skid, it would have been a small further step to strip the gel coat from the underwater part of the hulls (the topsides never were gel-coated, which is good). But my moisture meter readings showed very little sign of moisture - in the bows where there was a sacrificial column of foam that had filled with water and a couple of spots on the topsides. So I left the gel coat and even Coppercoated it (at a cost of £700!). I was very disappointed to find the hulls blistering underwater once I reached St Lucia. Small blisters mostly, but once it started it spread rapidly. Quite a common occurrence apparently, when taking a boat from cold water to warm. I dealt with the story of getting rid of the gel coat and dealing with the osmosis here.

In most places, I saw that this boat has been well built, but in other areas, jobs were so shoddily done that it looked like two people had been at it - one suitably skilled, and the other making it up as he went along. It would be the second guy that kept using mild steel screws that just rusted out of course. I think he fitted the rub rail too that I disposed of (it didn't look neat at all, and it meant there was a screw through the topsides every 6 inches). I wondered too if he might have been on hand when the get coat was painted onto the surface of the moulds - it was so uneven, and in places was 8-10mm thick. The laminate beneath the gel coat was fine, and I'm sure all the rinsing and drying, the epoxying, filling and sanding and finally the addition of a further thin laminate under the water line using epoxy, and several coats of epoxy on top of that will ensure there'll be no more blistering. I just wish I'd weighed all that gel coat - I took sacks of the stuff down the yard to the skip. A hundred kilos? More? 150?


Whales and dolphins really like to play around between the hulls.


There is room on the aft platform to store a dinghy for day sailing. For longer trips, I've put the dinghy upside down in the middle of the cockpit, where it also functions as a lookout seat. I made a nesting dinghy to my own design, which worked well for the Atlantic circuit. It rowed easily, but was a bit too big. A slightly smaller version would be easy enough to build. Currently I have a RIB. I don't have an outboard specifically for this dinghy. I row short distances, but if I have a few miles to cover, then I use one of the Tohatsu's. You have to use an extension on the tiller and sit forward to counteract the force of the long shaft, but it works OK, almost 12 knots flat out, and 6-7 knots on 1/3 throttle.