Proa inspiration

Many things have inspired my love of Proas and multihulls in general.  Out of absolute pure ignorance I was lucky enough to cruise in a boat quite non typical of the vast majority of boats cruisers start out with.  Most people by a mono-hull and sailing, upgrading along the way until finally reaching whatever size vessel they think is ideal.  This is a well worn path to sailing and I have absolutely no qualms with this approach.  There is however a completely different way to sail and I was just lucky to fall into this.  The prospective I gained however colors virtually every way I look at sailing, boats and the marine industry.

I started out my cruising on a funky homemade plywood catamaran named Romany.  She was designed by the world famous catamaran designer and racer Richard Woods.  Little did I know at the time, but sailing a lightweight cat like this was a completely different animal than the standard four plus foot draft mono weighting tens of thousands of pounds.   We had one 9.9HP outboard motor as out only engine and could reasonably get moving in just a  few knots of wind when many boats would not even start moving until the teens.   Our “below” if you could even say we had one never smelled of diesel fuel because every engine or fuel related bit on the boat was completely outside with no egress into any of the three main cabins.  Groundings were common and controlled.  It was no cause for alarm to let the boat ground out on a low tide to better scrub the bottom and to just let the boat sit still for a spell.   Out total engine and hardware associated with it all weighted under 125lbs.  On most mono’s this is what just the propeller, shaft and stuffing box weight.  Lets not even start with the 500lb plus pound motor, hundreds of pounds of cooling hoses, and exhaust gear and I have not even touched the starting and charging equipment and circuitry.  Beyond that you must carry very heavy, heavy duty tools, and lots of toxic fluids and many expensive filters because diesels are so finicky about the fuel and oil purity.   Google diesel “reconditioning” on a boat for an entire subculture of the efforts needed just to keep your fuel clean.  Our “major” engine failure we had one reaching the Bahamas in 2009 cost us possibly $500 dollars.  This consisted of a few weeks at a rickety dock at Black Sound (and what a great time we had there!).  The engine part took a few weeks to get, but only due to the local Yamaha “dealer” being close to completely incompetent.  and there were some mooring ball expenses.  The point is that out “major” engine failure costs less than a typical maintenance tuneup on a diesel.  Our entire engine could have been replaced with a new one at top prices in the Bahamas for under $3000.  That’s less that you will pay for even a minor overhaul of a diesel, and you don’t have to keep the extra ton of gear on the side as “spares”

Beyond the engine and all the problems that you embrace when taking the well worn path another issue is draft.  While our mono friends were typically bouncing around in rolly anchorages to make sure their keels stayed well away from the bottom, we could anchor just a hundred feet or so off many places.  This multiplied the places we could safety hide and ride out bad weather.  One cannot dis-include this as a massive bit of extra safety you obtain from having a shoal draft vessel.  This single feature along doubles, triples, or more the options you have when the conditions get tight or people are racing around to find storms anchorages.   Unless you have lived it, you have not idea how much better it makes life.  Knowing that a grounding will in no possible way cause your boat to potentially pound itself to bits during a tidal change is huge.  What could be a life threatening or at least boat risking event on a typical mono-hull is often a non event and reason for a cup of tea in a multi-hull.  I could actually go on and on about this subject because the differences are so massive but for now I’ll just close things up by saying I am no an anti mono-hull guy!  I have two other boats, both monos which I love to sail.


  1. Robert Goad Reply

    Good to find your blog. I have seriously entertained a 48X4 barge proa build myself. We’ve built wooden boats up to 37 feet (motor shorey) and lived on both a leadmine standard (retrofitted to junk rig) and two sharpies (one a AS31 and also junk rigged). Your point about grounding in a shoal boat is spot-on. A severe grounding in our lead mine would have been a piece of cake in our sharpie. The lead mine grounding was a traumatic affair with a steep wind chop hip-hopping (and pounding) us further into the shoals. Just this is reason to go shoal but you point out a lot more. Chris Morejohn did a good on extolling shoal virtues in a few posts on his 2 great sites. Look forward to seeing where your blog goes and appreciate your efforts and thoughts on proas.

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