15’ 3” CATAMARAN CAMP CRUISER
design by Jeff Gilbert
Townsend's project - Update1
Update3 - Update4
- Update5 - Update6
- Update7 - Update8
Chili is a strong plywood asymmetric catamaran which can be built
by anyone who can measure, cut and glue timber, can be towed by
anything on four wheels, can be afforded by anyone with a job,
and can be used anywhere with a foot of water. Chili can be sailed,
powered, or both; and can be sculled over the stern. She can be
camped on at anchor by 2 adults or a small family, or beached
to set up a campsite. Minimal extra build effort renders her unsinkable,
in standard form she will float swamped. Last but not least, Hot
Chili is both striking and unique.
Jeff Gilbert Design #092
Hull Beam @WL
0 deg ( ½ Dory hull)
3’ (sit over hull berth)
Typical Working Disp
10 hp/ 17 knots
Aux Power (O/B)
4 hp/ 10 knots
Amateur Build time
1 x 12v
The price will be 100 US dollars. Cost includes airmail. Australian
customers may wish to contact Jeff
Gilbert directly. You will receive a wad of drawings with
around 50 pages of text to help you understand and use them. Photographs
from the prototype build have been posted HERE.
I will put plan buyers in touch with all previous buyers who consent.
When sufficient numbers have developed I propose a Chili builders
web discussion group on Yahoo so myself & builders can help
each other along without repetition.
Is fast, the boat being semi-monocoque, with a chine log but no
stringers. The protoype is one third complete after 60 hours.
Time savings are inherent in the design’s conforming to
the material – the flat hull and cabin outer sides are cut
from two joined sheets of 9mm ply. The sides are linked by an
8ft square 2-sheet 12mm bridgedeck, to form a flattened “H”section,
and thus define the entire outer shape. The bulkheads are placed
inside this, trueing up the structure and preparing for planking
the curved inner sides. The upper and outer edges of bulkheads
are lofted in sheet corners, exploiting the accuracy of factory-cut
right angles. After planking they form a tunnel, angling from
45degrees at the stern to vertical at the 6” x 1”
laminated stem. The stem protrudes vertically to take the front
cross-beam if it is required for nets and/or a spinnaker prodder.
Once the narrowish dory bottoms are on, the boat receives a layer
of glass below the waterline, the only glass used on the boat
except for some taping around the stem and other areas of end-grain
TYPES OF CHILI
you have an 8ft square level viewing platform which floats in
ankle deep water and is easily driven. From here the possibilities
for personalising Hot Chili are so vast that I expect no two to
be the same. However there are two major themes for Hot Chili….
1. As a Sailboat with or without
The cheapest way to go about this is to build the bare 15’
3” hull of Hot Chili (refered to as HC throughout these
notes) and transfer the entire sailing rig and rudders from
an old beach cat. In this way an older person like me can trade
in his or her beach cat for a more stable and only slightly
slower yacht on which one can go camping, and sail all year
round, getting wet only when one wants to.
Unless you are intending to use
a prodder (bowsprit) to run assymetric spinnakers, you can build
the simpler wooden front crossbeam, use a beam from your old
cat, or have no front beam at all, though this sacrifices the
chance of a net/tramp. The hardware should transfer directly
though you may need to lengthen your tiller arms, and will need
to calculate your daggerboard position to match the rig. If
you email a dimensioned sail and mast profile to email@example.com
I will be happy to assist.
If you want an auxiliary motor,
use one you can carry easily, the smaller the better. If you
are buying new try to afford a four-stroke, they are kinder
on ears and fuel. The biggest I recommend is a 6HP, there are
now several (Suzuki, Nissan, Merc) long-shaft 4-strokes weighing
under 58lbs. A trolling motor would make a passable auxiliary
for limited use, position the battery bank as final trim and
you have power for a wonderful camping set-up. HC is an ideal
platform to experiment with bigger electric motors, outboard
or inboard, even in one hull. Imagine fishing a mountain lake
of a still evening, not a breath of wind and your campsite a
mile away. With an electric motor its an easy 12 minutes, barely
disturbing the scene.
The plans do not yet include
a tabernacle as they need to be tailored to the particular mast
and rig. I will add a generalised design for an unstayed mast
of around 20 feet.
experienced and keen enough to experiment with their own rig
designs will have a ball. Single sheet “Easy Rigs”
of the Rob Denney (see Duckworks design pages) persuasion are
perfect for this boat with the cabin peak to deck height offering
adequate bury. Tabernacles would also brace to the cabin roof
peak, and offer an opportunity to use the mast as a tent ridge
pole. I hope to find time to design HC a gaff rig for home building,
object being to complement the boats angular lines, whilst maximising
sail area on a low aspect rig. Some say this will be slow upwind,
I say if you are late for dinner start the motor.
2. As a Motorboat.
With its an 18 inch underwing clearance higher than the few
comparable cats, HC will be quite at home in ocean, lake or
river. A 10HP motor provides close to 20 knots, so as a fishing
boat shes economical and swift enough to run for cover, and
beachable when she gets there. She can be winched up a beach,
or lifted bodily by 4 adults.
With her hull space available
for stowage, I see her best use as a weekend camper for two.
A standard tent can be adapted to fit her decks at anchor, she
can be beached to set up a campsite, and in extreme weather
one can retire to her dry bunks. She can carry 1200 lbs of people
and gear without complaint and only a couple of inches lower
in the water, but will performs better on her waterline, with
a third of this load. A 25 HP outboard will overpower HC unless
she is carefully trimmed for planing at over 25knots. I regard
15hp/20knots as a reasonable maximum, but would personally settle
for one of the many quiet and efficient 4-stroke long-shaft
9.9HP outboards available.
Chili was drawn by hand in 1999, aiming to be the most attainable
2-person performance pocket yacht to date. By attainable I mean
it can be swiftly built in a garage with the spare time and funds
from an average wage-earners job. The term performance includes
both on the water (easily driven and handled) and off (strength
Speed and ease of build have been considered in every aspect the
Many will claim that HC is sturdier
than strictly necessary & that it could be built lighter.
They are quite correct, and there would be some gains in launchability
& speed. There would also be big increases in both build time
and ability to capsize. What is the point in perusing those last
few ounces?? One can see at a glance this is not a racing boat,
it’s a fun camp-cruiser with a turn of speed. I’m
a big guy with big boots, & prefer boats strong. I’m
not a brilliant sailor, but love coastlines and sometimes sail
up rivers full of rocks, intermittently clouting them. Plus I
don’t like skittering 50metres sideways while I’m
fumbling with the daggerboard. You can tow the “heavy”
HC with 4 cylinders and the lightest of trailers, so build the
version that wont break if you make a mistake!
The abundance of right angles produced
by maximising use of factory cut ply sheets produced a tough-looking
design, yet one which calculated at less than one horsepower (HP)
for displacement hull–speed…Hot Chili could double
as a sheltered-water motorboat, or trailerable motorsailer. In
particular she looked useful as a river commuter, -at worst Hot
Chili would plane at six times sqrt(HP), so wouldn’t require
a big motor.
In 2002 I transferred the design
to computer to fine-tune and optimise the hulls for loadcarrying
& performance. The hull bottoms were broadened & inner
hull sides steepened from the original 45 degrees to facilitate
building, optimise Bridgedeck (Bdk) clearance, & make HC both
less tender and easier to lift onto a plane. This development
almost eliminated the original torturing around the bow –
the scarfed inner-side planking now just underwent a slight twist
along an easy curve. Flexiply was originally specified, its not
developments don’t alter the extremely short build-time
possible in HCs simplest iteration – nothing in the hulls,
an 8 x 7 deck with a cuddy offering both dry stowage & a double
berth open to the stars, or coverable with the huge hatch in case
of rain or cold. No forebeam, simply an inverted “Y”
forestay to both bows, and swept back sidestays to chainplates
at the cabin sides just behind the windows. No spinnaker, simply
the single-sail cat rig from such as a Paper Tiger, or the main
and blade jib from something along the lines of a Hobie 14, giving
100 to 150 sq ft.
I sat on the design over 3 years
before finding a builder who would endure further simultaneous
development during the build! Thus these plans have the considerable
building and sailing experience of Jim Townsend seeded throughout.
Thank you, Jim.
Hot Chili offers beach catamaran
sailors the chance to stay dry and sail all year round, albiet
at a slightly reduced pace. Simply build your beach cat straight
over onto a Hot Chili hull, using everything, rig, rudders and
even the net out front and daggerboards if you wish. On a reasonable
wage one can afford both the time and money to do this over a
winter lay-up, losing no sailing time. If you don’t have
a beach cat, buy one cheaply in winter, if possible from a place
that’s cold in winter (sails less worn, boat cheaper). Its
good to buy from racing types who usually have lots of sails,
look after their gear, and are realistic about value. In Australia
you wouldn’t pay more than a thousand (550 US) dollars.
Huge possibilies open up for finding old garaged Pringles, Sol-Cats
and the like. You could be lucky and find a cheap one, say with
a damaged hull. Try your Yacht Club, Ebay, the newspaper. If you
don’t mind building rudders, you might go for a dinghy,
a Mirror or a Laser with its pop-in unstayed mast might suit.
Beware of ultra-high aspect rigs that are difficult to step, although
with a lighter person standing on the cabin you will be OK.
You can now have a dry boat you can camp overnight on, and can
take mates sailing all year round without handing them a dose
of hypothermia. You can also take Chili wherever you go behind
any 4 cylinder vehicle.
ALL UP COST
This depends on so many factors, not the least of which is your
enthusiasm which comes in finite and difficult to guage quantities,
and can run out before you cut a panel. For this reason you should
save time by using basic power tools, router, saw, sander &
drill. If you live in the Boondocks beg, borrow, steal, buy or
rent a small Generator.
If you are doing the most basic package referred to above, converting
a beach cat, double the cost of your ply and add the cost of your
There are about 16 sheets depending
on your lofting skills.
A full material list is being prepared.
The plans provide for so many options that no two HC’s need
The most complex Hot Chili would take twice the build time of
the simplest, yet may not be what you want. Look at the optional
items one by one and your Hot Chili will take shape.
Alloy Forebeam was conceived
to carry the Prodder for a Screecher (Assymetric Spinaker/Reacher)
This high performance sail was a requested addition.
The standard design plan
consists of building over a beach cat rig. If these have a
jib at all, it is likely to have an inverted “Y”
harness to fix the forestay to the bows (SS eyes thru stems),
and carry about 50sq ft of blade jib.
sail plans from a suitable (similar length) beach cat, one
only NEEDS a front cross beam to carry a net/trampoline. I’d
use the 3 x 2” timber beam sketched at the top of Drawing
5 , and sheath it in 6mm ply to hold a small upward curve
and help the bond to the stem stubs. I’d mount a tramp
to cut spray.
No front beam at all is
quite OK, especially for calm water use where spray is not
an issue. Many owners, especially of unrigged motoring Chilis,
will never venture forrd of the cockpit.
Hull Berths, two at 80 x
Rear seat (increasing Berth
Footwells, mostly used sitting
on the rear beam which can be up to 14” wide over the
Fold-up side decks.
My choice would be a wooden front beam, no prodder and
an assymetric cockpit. This means a seat one side with the attendant
larger hull berth having the larger permanent access opening
which would be covered by the hatch when in motion. A single
footwell in the diagonally opposite corner would complete the
“high seat/low seat” cockpit. The secondary hull
berth would have a flush-fitting hinged lid where the outboard
could be locked to secure the yacht.
boat is designed imperial for Australian and American ply in
8 by 4 ft sheets. I’m not going to convert plan dimensions
to metric and here’s why. If I do, someone will go goody,
rush out and buy 2400 x 1200 ply, and start building in metric
with these undersized sheets. If one converts the dimensions
directly by the usual 1foot equals 304.8mm then starts building
with 2400 x 1200 its only a matter of time before you get into
an insurmountable mess. At best the last things you create will
be cumulatively undersize, at worst things wont fit at all.
Solution If you
can only get 2400 x 1200 ply, build in mm and scale down the
whole boat as you convert the imperial dimensions. This is as
easy as falling off a log. The design requires 8-foot sheets,
you have 2400mm sheets. Convert the plans at 1 foot = 300mm
and 1 inch = 25mm. Voila. (Your boat is 1.6 percent smaller
than the design, bad luck, you live in a country that makes
GET WOOD !
Start stockpiling timber now! Grab odd bits of scrap ply
and pine offcuts, there are skips fiull at building sites headed
for the dump. Grab bits of oregon and hardwood,, you only need
a 2ft 6 ins of 6 x 1 for your stem. Youll need an assortment
of sizes for bracing, temporary struts, measuring (a stick and
a pencil dont transpose figures) and padding clamps (collect
clamps too). If you don’t have a ute, put it in your boot,
tie it on the roofrack. Boatbuilders cars should be sacrificial
The main structure of Hot Chili depends
on the manufactured ply being true, try to buy it all together
from the same firm or preferably run, so its all the same. If
you want a boat with incipient cancer, buy the cheapest ply.
Use the best you can find, at least BS1088 Boat Building Standard
ply. This might seem expensive, if check out Duflex panels or
foam core FG and see the price of getting covered in toxic crap.
(They will tell you its easy, fast and fun, but you wont care
what they say, because you will already be too frightened by
the price). Go back and buy the marine ply. You still need a
bucket of epoxy and 10sq m of 290g/sq m glass cloth, but only
a tenth fraction of foam core or full FG layup.
if its further and dearer, a lumberyard which knows boats will
save many tears, and you’ll feel confident about your
purchases. If you are in a multipurpose hyperbarn with a zillion
grinning idiots with uniforms and nametags, buy some cheap sandpaper
and leave. You are looking for a yard where they consider your
project, have the time and knowledge to tell you what you are
getting, and will help selecting your own straight grained lumber
and knot free ply. This last is probably superfluous, marine
standard ply has at least one good face, waterproof glue in
the right amounts and no hollows.
Speed and economy of build
are the prime objectives of the boat, and take precedence
over looks, comfort and performance in most decisions. Nevertheless
the boat won’t obviously suffer in any of these secondary
areas. All but a few design dilemmas were solved by answering
the question:- “Which option is the easiest to build?”
An exception to #1 above
is the 1.5” bend towards the centreline of the cabin
top, making the inside width of the roof 7.75feet to the bridgedecks
eight. This is done to prevent leakage & possible delamination
at the top of the cabin sides (the cabin roof can now cross
this exposed end-grain) , to aesthetically relieve the constant
right angles, to make it easier to work the daggerboards without
grazing knuckles, and to provide more width for crew on the
optional hinged fold-down side-decks.
Side-decks may either complement
or replace the hinged roof as a means of forrd access. They
should hang from light (possibly plastic) chains & hooks
(thus making their angle adjustable) and sit at a slight up
angle of about 80deg to the cabin side, ie 100deg to the hull.
At this angle they will make effective buffers. A long notch
or slot in the side-deck edge where it hinges to the boat
side replaces the upper positioning rung of the daggerboard
, implying that the corresponding side-deck must be down for
a board to be used. Side decks should be just wide enough
for crew to “sit out’ and balance the boat on
a fast reach. They can be used for a spot of mild hiking –you’ll
need to build some timber hand-rails along the cabin-tops
at a comfortable distance between the edge and hatch.
Despite absorbing a foot
of accommodation length, the integration of the Bdk with both
crossbeams is literally a design strongpoint. Additionally,
there is far less work in setting up and building the beams,
they are ideally spaced at half boat length, and there remains
enough space (83.5” x 48”) for a couple to sleep
longitudinally. Some crew find the motion of multihulls makes
sleeping athwartships uncomfortable. The answer is to beach
the boat, it’s designed for it.
The last action before painting the upturned boat is to add
some sacrificial 1 x ½” hardwood laths to the
bottom and optional rear fin. These could be capped with metal
channel or stripping, held on by a bedding material such as
waterproof glue is perectly adequate for build joins, and less
messy than epoxy which can be reserved for filletting and filling.
Save your fine sawdust, or wood flour as it is sometimes called
by boatbuilders with aspirations to Chefdom. This is great for
thickening epoxy for filling and filleting (more cooking imagery).
Don’t epoxy anything except joins,
and areas that are about to become inaccessable, until the boat
is complete, or you’ll exhaust yourself and blunten your
tools working with material which you’ve just converted
to virtual steel. An argument rageth on the web, time penalties
for this approach are being debated at 7 times.
Without FibreGlass Hot Chili wont necessarily
leak. To be certain fiberglass the bottom below the waterline,
and better still from outside WL to outside WL right across
the bottom of the bridgedeck, which is only 10 square meters
maximum. One layer of 290grams/sq m. will do, we want a water
barrier not structural strength of which we have plenty.
Any start-points for delamination should be covered with FG
tape other key areas such as the stem, around transoms and anywhere
that a ply edge is exposed –these are lethal. Several
coats of epoxy on such edges is likely to prevent delamination,
glass taping will.
ACCOMODATION & USE
HC accomodations were designed at Bridgedeck level for simplicity
and flexibility. There is plenty of hull stowage, and the 41½”
x 23” flat hatch cover stows upside down under one side
deck. This has no impact at all on the resultant enlarged day-sailing
deck which also provides access to the mast. Moving forrd is
rarely necessary, but good for cooling off on the net/tramp.
It’s simply a matter of stepping over the windscreen,
or sitting on the roof peak and swinging your legs over.
Though it makes the build more complex, those
who wish may incorporate hull berths between BH1 and BH4. These
have myriad advantages, not the least of which is one can get
up in the night without disturbing the other. Hull shape &
size dictates feet-forrd, & theres not much room under the
crossbeam. Entry is tight, but easy with the hatch off, simply
swinging under from a grip on the hatch coaming. Once installed,
you will be really comfy, and well supported in a seaway. All
but the biggest sailors can fit the berth low enough in the
hull to provide sitting headroom, even with HC’s low cuddy.
Hull berths would be a real boon to serious coastal cruisers,
who wished to eat up some overnight miles with helm watches
interspersed by ballast duty in the windward berth! The shakedown
cruise for Hot Chili is to be a 400 mile reach on the Australian
coast, returning by road. Hot Chili will lap it up!
The large stowable roof hatch essentially
removes all but the windscreen and strength-providing roof peak
across the boat. This setup lends itself to mosquito netting
& a various standard tents. A standard 8’x 6’
A-frame would fit around the coaming/cabin edges. A poleless
igloo 8 x 8 would go over cabin and all, secured around the
sidedecks and XBeams. If the boom were lashed out of the way
or hoisted, one could attach the peak of such a tent to the
With a calm sea and 10 HP, Hot Chili will
happily bowl along on half throttle at 12 knots, and hit at
least 17 flat out. Builders with motoring in mind may wish to
raise the cuddy design against spray, and either eliminate the
rig, or rationalise it by removing the prodder and installing
a mast tabernacle. To optimise this dual role, the designer
is researching a source of telescoping 20ft alloy masts.
Hot Chili is a real solution for those who
think they are doomed to save forever for “a decent boat.”
You can savour the feeling of sailing a boat you built yourself,
and you wont be exhausted or broke by launch day. You will sail
past boats costing 50 times as much, and can take your boat
on holiday without making the drive a nightmare. You can spend
200 hours building and 2000 sailing, instead of vice versa.
Your boat will be the focal point at Messabouts and Wooden Boat
Festivals. Hot Chili is enviromnmentally sound. Hot Chili is
heaps of fun. Can you think of a better way to go?
Jeff Gilbert 2003.