Why would anyone want to own or build a proa. That’s a great question. There are literally thousands of 20 to 50 year old monohulls available in the US, often for free or just above their scrap value. Bob over at http://boatbits.blogspot.com has spent years retelling this story with wit and wisdom. Fatty Goodlander has a few excellent books on the subject too. I dare to say that anyone who can read, has some common sense, and is somewhat handy cold go cruising in the Caribbean for under $5000 US all day long. So I ask again, why a Proa? Does the market need yet another obscene toy for the rich to obsessively find ways to burn through as much money as possible as a “trophy” to their greatness, or more likely an affirmation to the skewed nature of favoritism and inequality that befalls so many “cultures” around the world. My answer to this is an unrepentant NO, in every way. There are already enough channels for those with undeserving privilege to flaunt their ill gained wealth. The entire “marine” industry is designed around delivering low performance monohulls and multihulls designed as floating condominiums and playhouses. Ask any marine engineer worth the paper their self-printed diplomacy’s are printed on if short fat light displacement boats make a lot of sense and you will see someone squirm in their own seat. They all know these types of hulls have everything to do with the “market” and delivering “luxury” and really nothing to do with seaworthiness. Look at literally ANY ad for a new boat, mono or cat and the first paragraph will focus entirely on interior “features” space and luxury. Safety and actual performance as an oceangoing home is rarely mentioned or brought up because every one of these boats are ill equipped to go offshore without tens of thousands of additional equipment added because these “features” are literally not included. To be blunt, there is nothing “offshore” about most “offshore” boats being manufactured today. In addition to the basic gear needed to live and travel on these boats, pay certain attention to the rudders and keels. News stories of monos losing rudders, keels, or cats getting their windows blown in from the factory are as common as a daily shower on Maui in the summertime. Just last year there was an interesting story about a brand new catamaran floundering on its very first outing in far less than hurricane conditions. The three experienced seamen aboard a “new” boat and it became unsailable in barely a storm.
So what does any of this have to do with answering the original question of “Why a proa”. There are many answers but one at the top of the list could just be that current designs of monos and cats are generally designed for the pleasure of the marine industry and really have nothing to do with serving the actual “customer”. Not that these customers aren’t happy with their purchases, because many of them are very much so. The idea that the boat once purchased is just the start of a massive and long list of nonstop “features” that will require constant care and maintenance is just “part of the game”. The marine industry knows full well what the game is and promotes this type of “promotion” nonstop. The problem I personally have with this is that the rich doing these things is just never impressive. When you can buy your way out of almost every problem, what skill, bravery, or intelligence have you shown anybody. Where is the actual adventure when you pay for it to “happen”. This really had nothing to do with “Proas” and more with the state of the marine industry, still stuck in the dark ages, still producing boats designed by marketing teams and still pretending that they have the “state of the art”.
Don’t believe anything I have to say however. You only have to look at persons like Russel Brown and his now 30 plus year old wooden Jezerro that is capable of outsailing million plus dollar catamarans with ease on any point of sail. Russ’s boat has never had fancy racing sails, it’s not built of carbon fiber in a cleanroom, nor is it even a “racing” boat. It’s just a plain old cruiser, equipped with a woodstove, and second hand sails. So why would anyone want a proa? I think the far better question is why a 30 plus year old wooden boat can easily outsail virtually every million dollar multihull made and do it with grace and comfort? Yes, it does not have 4 queen sized beds, two bedrooms, and a wide screen TV. But if you want all that stuff, why even leave your home? Was not the original plan to stay as young as you are able and to embrace our mother nature to live as full a life as possible? What is the real goal here? If a dockside trophy is what you are looking for, then a proa is nothing more than a waste of time and an oddity. If you are looking for the very best sailing machine to explore mother earth, then the proa might just be the ticket. I intend to find out!