Wednesday, March 10, 2010


At Boulogne

‘Twinstar’ was a James Wharram 22’ HIna catamaran. She was designed for fast coastal and estuary cruising with a crew of two. The original Bermudan sloop sail plan showed a box mast constructed with plywood supported by an internal framework. After the mast was shattered when I was racing the catamaran, I replaced it with a Bowman kit metal spar. Likewise I exchanged the wooden boom for a metal one. Instead of using lanyards to set up the rig I fitted bottle screws. Back in the 70s James Wharram preferred the use of low-tech materials that could be found locally; this philosophy came about as a result of his study of native Polynesian multihulls. Therefore the wisdom of me ignoring his rigging plan for the Hina was open to question. In 1972 when I owned ‘Twinstar’, I didn’t give it a thought. I believed I was right, and that the boat would perform better, particularly to windward. I had not appreciated the inbuilt flexibility of the original rig.

River Crouch

I was always looking for adventure, therefore I cruised my Hina from Burnham-on-Crouch to Calais and Boulogne. I remember one hair-raising moment when I was rounding Cap Gris Nez. The wind was about force 6, and breaking waves covered the whole boat, including my trusty Seagull outboard motor! I’m convinced the weight of the water trapped on the decks between the raised bulwarks stabilized the vessel, making her less likely to capsize. The fact that she was fully loaded with cruising gear could also have played a part, but the situation was entirely different when I raced her a few weeks later on the River Crouch. I stripped her of unnecessary gear to make her light for the race, but that may have been my undoing, because she turned turtle during a squall. The story is best told by the following excerpt taken from an article written by me for one of the Up River Yacht Club’s quarterly bulletins.

South Goodwin Lightvessel

“Once clear of the Fambridge trots we settled down to what we thought would be a hard beat in a steady force 3, but by the eight knot buoy it all happened. She was on the starboard tack, lee-bowing the fast-flowing ebb, when the fatal coup de grace occurred. A very strong squall hit us fair and square on the beam as the sails were pinned in tightly for windward sailing. We had no time to ease the sheets, and she was over in a flash! Well, in fact the flip took about 2 to 3 seconds.

“I was sat to leeward, so that I was gently tipped into the cold water, but my brother on the windward hull flew over my head and he was unceremoniously thrown into the water. A sense of self-preservation soon had me sat on the upturned hull from where I anxiously scanned the surface for signs of my brother. Moments passed and I was just contemplating diving in to look for him, when he bobbed up, complete with specs in place and his woollen hat perched on the top of his head. Thereupon he started swimming around the boat in an effort to retrieve paddles, hatches, cushions and other bits and pieces that had been jettisoned. I persuaded him that his life was more important than saving flotsam and that he should immediately climb aboard the inverted catamaran.

Benfleet Creek

Well, ‘Twinstar’ was not entirely inverted, because the mast was stuck in mud, so that one hull was raised from the water. Eventually we were rescued by members of the Club who thought it would be a good thing to do. I’m grateful they did, but by that time we were suffering from hypothermia. The following day at high water, with the help of the Fambridge boatman I managed to right the boat. The only damage she had sustained was a nick in the bulwark where a rope sliced into it when the launch hauled her upright.

Of the boats that I’ve owned, ‘Twinstar’ was the only multihull, but I must say I was impressed with her performance when reaching and running. There were times when she would achieve twelve knots on a broad reach. Advantages over a monohull with a deep keel were several: she could sail in shoal water, sail upright, had a very spacious deck and she could take the ground without fear of toppling over. Her disadvantages were: restricted accommodation, lack of headroom, wet in a seaway and her crew was exposed to the elements. Additionally, instead of one hull to maintain, she had two.


Wotablog said...

Bill. I remember the incident well! In fact i don't think I could ever forget it! Especially finding myself one moment enjoying an exhiliarating race (we were up front) the next flying through the air and unceremoniously dumped into very cold water.
Your brother

William Serjeant said...

I note that you are a survivor! Watch the next blog; you may feature in it....... ?