A COASTAL CRUISING CATAMARAN
By Mickey Munoz
written in 1974
My ideas haven’t changed that much since its inception, which was about six years ago. There were a lot reasons why I started it. We were surfing Pacific Catamarans off of Dana Point on a really big swell, and one of the other boats end-o-ed on a wave, and the guy that owned it was in such shock that he barely got himself in, much less his boat. His boat kinda washed in on the rocks, and I ended up salvaging a bunch of stuff off of it.
And then I sort of started working on other boats and when a guy was going to throw something away. So I ended up with a hodge-podge of fittings and lines and wire and …goodies. And one day I looked at it all and I went “Hey! I’ve got enough stuff here to build a boat.” Which is, of course, a joke because I ended up using none of it.
But it kinda gave me the impetus to start. That isn’t the real reason, but it helped. You know I was influenced by Joe Quigg and Carter Pyle, of course. I worked for Carter building P Cats. And then I was around Joe a lot, who had built his own boat “Gusto,” which was really the original boat that came out of the mold that I used. Though I reshaped the hull that I have so that you can hardly recognize it as a daughter of Gusto.
Over the years I had sailed with different people, and usually they’re the ones that are making the decisions. If you’re on an owner’s boat cruising, you go where he wants to go. So I got the feeling that I wanted to make my own decisions and go where I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do. I had some ideas on how to make a boat go fast and still be comfortable .
t’s like building a surfboard. Like figuring out what kind of board to make. You know you want to go surfing, but you have to decide what you want to surf. What type of wave you want to surf. You know, you have a style and you want a board to fit it. If you’re really into surfing, you can get two or three boards and cover most situations. But a boat is so expensive, it’s such a financial lock-in and such a physical and mental lock-in, that usually you can only have one boat. So it has to be exactly what you want.
Because there is no perfect all-around boat, and there never will be. Just like the surfboard. And so what I tried to do was make a boat that would fit my style and needs. I first started off more on i hot side. More on a racing vein. I wanted a boat that would go very fast and be competitive. But as I got into it, I realized that to compete against all the money and the technology of the really into-it racers. I just wasn’t going to be able to compete on that level.
And then as I got into it more. I decided that I really didn’t want to compete on that level. I was more interested in a boat that I could use to continue whatever my life style was. Which is surfing. A boat that I would use to continue surfing the way it was 20 years ago, when you could cruise the coast in your car and it was like having a boat. Quote, unquote- Phil Edwards.That statement of Phil’s really got me thinking about it. And it really is true. And it’s really kinda the way the boat came about. The need to be able to get away. A vehicle that satified what our car did 20 years ago.
Building the boat went hand in hand with shaping surfboards. I’d been doing nothing but surfing, and I’d shaped a few boards and glassed. You know, I’d worked around the surfboard industry for a long time, but when I started building the boat is when I started shaping.
And that kinda went hand in hand, because to build the boat I had to learn more boat design, and in turn that helped my surfboard design and shaping helped in the end product. And really… everyone reacts that six years is a long time… but I really couldn’t of finished it any sooner. I could start the boats now finish it in a year because I know how to do it, but I didn’t know and it took me six years of learning just so I could get to the point I’m at now.
I have some drawings that Joe and I did six years ago or more when I started the boat. And I had pretty much the same basic concept. I didn’t know how I’d execute it. Let’s put it that way. And, of course, I have elaborated in some areas that I probably hadn’t considered at the time. I think I had pretty much the same concept. Two reinforced aluminum tubes holding it together for lightness and easy dismantling.
Little cutty cabins over each hull that you could get behind to protect against spray and wind while you were sailing, and you could crawl in and sleep at sea, and a trampoline in between the hulls. That was my original concept. So basically the concept is about the same.
Our original drawing that Quigg and I did was more like a sketch. I wasn’t till less than a year ago that I even did a drawing of the boat. So I carried it all in my head, and as I’ve grown with knowledge and ability, it just sort of came out. It’s always been there. It took me that long to execute it.
Catamarans are inherently dangerous boats because they will turn over. I mean if they’re sailed incorrectly or if you make a mistake, they can turn over, and if they over, they stay over. Where a keel boat has a weight at the bottom, and it’s like one of those toys you can’t knock over. It’ll right itself.
So for transocean crossings, catamarans are really not the safest boat. It can be done and they’re very fast; in fact their speed lends to their safety. Plus the speed makes them, in a way, a little more “sea kindly.” When you get a big, heavy, stiff object in the ocean, it gets battered around, where a catamaran’s more like a sea bird that’s and light and can flow with the element rather than oppose it.
And so herein lies the safet ally of a catamaran. But it means that the operators must be on all the time. It’s like surfing. As soon as you break concentration, you fall off. Or you get nailed by the wave. And so sailing is surfing. It’s surfing in every sense of the word. And it’s not only surfing ocean waves, it’s surfing wind waves. And it’s flying, and it’s sailing, so it encompasses all of the feelings of getting a ride on the natural element.
So Malia (the name of the Mickey’s catamaran) is basically a coastal cruiser that comes apart and can be shipped anywhere in the world. That’s what I designed it for and that’s what I’ll end up using it for. I would like to make an ocean crossing sometime, and the obvious one is the one to Hawaii. It’s a well traveled route. And it’s a good one for a catamaran, and it gets you into warm water pretty fast, and warm climate. And it gets you into nice place. I think I’d like to try that. Sometime. If the boat proves worthy of that. But basically I’m going to use it for… well, exploring the Channel Islands and the coast of Mexico. Using it like we used our cars. To get into diving, and surfing, and virgin areas that couldn’t get to in any other way.
The boat is foam sandwich construction, which is light and strong. Very rigid in the sense that it does not need structural bulkheads and stringers and frames that a normally constructed boat needs. Because of the lack of inner structural parts, I essentially have big hollow tubes that lend themselves to a lot of dry-storage area.
Naturally, foam is unsinkable. I have sub deck compartmented into three separate watertight areas, and two of them are filled with floatation foam and the third, in the center of each hull, is on one side a 20-gallon water tank, and on the other side a 20-gallon gas tank. So the space above the sub deck is all living area and storage area. And it’s virtually unsinkable. Then the hulls are held together with two tubes and a tramp in between which is light and strong, and the tramp fabric is porous enough to allow wind to go through it, because when a catamaran is flying a hull, if it has a solid wing, it’s like literally a wing of an airplane. It tends to lift and tends to want to help tip it over.
Well, the material I used for the trampoline is porous enough to spill a certain amount of wind, so there’s a safety factor there. And then I built a little “cutty cabin” over each hull, which protects that from solid water, and it keeps your inside hull very dry. There are no exposed hatches, which in big seas and a lot of wind normally take on water. I don’t think these will at all. I’ve got dagger boards which retract straight up. A very simple, straightforward approach, so that they can be retracted for beaching.
I have spade rudders again that fit in a foam-fit trunk that retract for beaching. So the whole boat ends up weighing less than 1800 pounds, which is manageable. With rollers, if you had to beach it, you could. It’s really a little big. It’s not like a Hobie Cat. You just don’t run it up on the beach everyday if there’s surf. If there’s no surf, there’s no reason why you can’t put it on the beach. You know, far enough up to step off on dry sand, and be able to push it off yourself.
And then I unrigged it, which means it’s generally a single sail without a jib that allows for ease of sailing. It’s still very powerful, a very fast boat. But it’s possible for one man to sail her alone. The way you would live on the boat or around the boat is kind of unique, it’s not a boat full of plush conveniences. Doesn’t have a head, doesn’t have a galley, doesn’t have a shower, doesn’t have that type of thing. It’s made for a kind of Spartan, very direct, relationship with the ocean, with the elements that you put yourself into with the boat.
It’s low to the water so you don’t need a ladder to pull yourself out when you’re diving. The only time you’d ever sleep in the hulls is at sea underway. And that would be rare, unless it’s trans-ocean or a race, or unless you had to sail at night… other than for just pure pleasure. I intend to be anchored at night, tucked into little coves, into places most people wouldn’t take a keel boat. Or couldn’t.
And then, for living, I’ll have a boom tent that will give adequate wind protection. And I have a big semicircle table that fits on the back tube. I’ll do most of my cooking there with a hibachi, eating fresh fish and food from the sea. I’d rather live that way anyway. Anybody can live in a plush camper. Why take your house? It’s not meant to be house. It’s something else. It’s another way of living.
So I’ll be cruising relatively unexplored coastal areas or normally inaccessible coastal areas. And diving and surfing, taking pictures. Just living. Living.
Mickey Munoz carrying a balsa pig model shaped by Dale Velzy and was ridden at Waimea Bay in November of 1957 along with Greg Noll, Pat Curren, Bing Copeland, Mike Stange, Del Cannon and Bob Burnell. A very tall feat to be the first to takeoff and surf Waimea Bay.