Catamaran History – The Early Days

Wildcat-Tango-Edit

OK history buffs, a stroll through memory lane is in order. We’ve heard from so many SetSail visitors about our multihull notes that we thought some really early stuff might be of interest, mainly triggered by a box of early photos recently discovered.

That is a 17 foot Wildcat above, one of the first two production cats on this side of the Atlantic (Tiger cats were built on the East Coast and Cougar Cats were built in the UK at the same time). We got our first ride on one in Newport Beach, CA, in 1958, and ordered number four. This photo was taken in Marina del Rey about 1962. Note the build out in the marina.

Racing in those days was primarily between the Wildcats, the 18 foot Malibu Outriggers (designed by Warren Seaman) and a few of the early Rudy Choy designed cats.

Malibu-outrigger-Edit

The Malibu outriggers were very quick in light airs, but in anything over ten knots of breeze the Wildcat was the victor.

One of Rudy’s earliest designs was the 24 foot long by ten foot wide Foamy class. Frank Hoykiss had the first one of these which he and Dick Sutton sailed to Acapulco alongside the official leadmine fleet. This was quite a switch for Frank and Dick as they had previously been first to finish in Transpac with the 83 foot M-boat Barlovento.

Foamy was berthed at a house we rented in Newport Beach for the summer, around 1957. We were racing a Thistle dinghy in those days. Dick Sutton was doing the NOSA 14 Mile Bank race with Foamy and needed crew. The weekend breezes looked light. Carter Pyle was our forward hand on the Thistle. He was a big guy, and we were happy to get rid of his weight when Dick asked to borrow him for the day. That was Carter’s first ride on a cat, and arguably was the genesis for his P-Cats that came along a few years later.

aikane-with-house

The 46 foot Aikane was our favorite Rudy Choy design. We liked her even better when Ken Murphy, her owner, removed the dog house. Although the asymmetric hulls Rudy drew were inherently slow, Aikane gave good account of herself, especially with Ken and Warren Seaman aboard.

Steve’s Dad, Stan, was also taken with catamarans and commissioned Rudy to design a 58 foot cruising cat, the Huka Makani . She was 20 feet wide and very heavy, so heavy in fact that she was over a foot (30cm) down on her lines at launching.

Hu-Ka-Makani Family

That’s the Dashew family on launch day. Tony (da Judge) is on the left, Rita (mom) next, then Stan, baby sister Lesley, and Steve on the right.

The weight debacle may account for our somewhat pathological behavior as adults toward weight and balance.

Hukamaglarphous

She felt fast, but reality was brought home when we raced the 66 foot Galatea from Avalon back to LA Harbor and lost to her on a reach. To make matters worse, there was an all girl crew aboard the opposition and we had wagered a case of beer on the outcome (although the pain was mitigated by an invite to share their lucre). Huka Makani had a lovely interior with a huge area in the deck house shown above.

Dan Sanderson and Roy Hickoc, the Wildcat builders, were soon engaged in a horsepower war with Carter Pyle and his P-cats.

MM-Pcat

One of the P cats is shown above surfing ashore at Malibu.

The prototype Wildcat and P cat rigs kept getting bigger, soon over 300 square feet (from 235). These over rigged boats were quick in the light, but once the breeze came up we could beat them both with our smaller rig.

We used to have great fun reaching across the Newport Harbor turning basin in our Wildcat. Occasionally Phil Edwards would be out with El Gato (initially with a Star class rig). Wildcat #4 holds the distinction of having received the first speeding ticket given to a sailboat by the Newport Harbor Patrol.

Olden-day-cats-Edit

Cats started to become accepted into the establishment and by the early 1960s Rudy, Warren Seaman, and Al Kumalii were hot. Their biggest coup was selling a 58 footer, Sea Smoke (above), to TV star Jim Arness. In those days all the multihulls raced together.

We were racing in the Midwinter Regatta on our Wildcat with Sea Smoke . Somehow we found ourselves ahead at the leeward mark. Warren Seaman was driving Sea Smoke and on the reach in from the sea buoy in the process of demonstrating the advantages of a 58 footer compared to a 17 footer, sucked us down onto his topsides ahead of his main mast. Seasmoke as to leeward and not clear of our mast abeam position, and their obligation was to keep clear. The LA Yacht Club was forced to disqualify Sea Smoke . Rudy, et. al. were not pleased. We thought it was cool.

The second CSK coup was convincing actor Buddy Ebsen to develop his cruising cat ideas with them. Buddy’s Polynesian Concept was CSK’s first symmetrical hull design. We’d raced against Buddy in the Thistle fleet and when he noticed our switch to the Wildcat he became curious. We took him for his first cat ride. It was a windy day and he was hooked.

Enterprise0002-Edit

The C-cat class was starting to heat up and Enterprise, above, was our first stab at it. Seymour Paul, who had drawn the Wildcat, designed our hulls, while we did the rig and structure.

Enterprise-Edit

The hulls were epoxy and fiberglass cloth (no core), left clear to save weight, and built in our shop in Venice. The rig and tubes were built by Mark Coholan at Sparcraft, one of his first projects after completing Kialoa for Jim Kilroy.

The rig had an elliptical tip. The mast extrusion top was cut and welded into this curved shape, a difficult process to say the least. The goal was to reduce induced drag (from tip bleed) and to promote twist for wind sheer. However, we could not control the sail cloth distortion so had twist from the mast and cloth. This was not a fast combination.

Enterprise0001-Edit

Going for the first sail here. Within two minutes we knew we’d made a big mistake (which is probably why there are no sailing photos).

Shark-Love-at-first-sight-GS-Edit

We were away from the multihull scene for a couple of years tending to a growing business. Then we got a call from a friend who knew where there was a deal on a Shark catamaran. We bought it on the phone based on its designer, MacAlpine Downey, and dimensions (20 feet X 10 feet, with 300 square feet of sail). The first time we launched the boat an old P Cat competitor came by to disparage the Shark, and generally give us a bad time. We knew the boat would be quick once a decent set of sails were aboard.

At the same time we were reading an early translation of the epic poem Beowulf (in middle English no less). Beowulf, the greatest dragon slayer of his era, was at first dissed like our new boat and we thought what a perfect name for the Shark. It stuck through seven generations (six cats and our last leadmine).

The first time we raced against the P-Cats was from LA Harbor to Point Fermin and return. It was a frontal day, blowing hard with a big sea running at the breakwater opening. Only Bob Paker, t he hard man of the P Cat class, followed us out. We were so far ahead by the Point Fermin buoy we could not see the next boat. So much for P-Cats being faster than Sharks.

The photo above has major family significance. It was taken at Catalina, Labor Day weekend in 1965. This is the weekend the two of us met (it was love at first sight), and was the first of many hundreds of thousand of miles cruising and racing together.

Olden-day-cats-Edit-3

Another milestone, this the Bob Reese designed Wildwind. She was the first big cat held together with aluminum extrusions – a simple, strong, and efficient approach to structure. She had symmetrical hulls, was 32 feet long and 16 feet wide, and carried 500 square feet of sail in her main and jib. Bob Reese sold her to Norm Riise and Harry Bourgoise who are sailing her here.

It was immediately apparent that Wildwind had breakaway speed in all conditions and was much faster than the CSK cats.This threatened the whole CSK concept of plywood boats with asymmetric hulls. Their livelihood and the value of the existing fleet was under attack, or so they thought. The result was the formation of the Ocean Racing Catamaran Organization which worked to ban interlopers like Wildwind.

Shark-Nationals0001-Edit-2

Dick Gibbs talked us into a new all fiberglass Shark for the US Shark Class nationals in Charleston, South Carolina in 1966. Linda is on the wire. She was such a good crew that competitors starting asking about her background. As a joke, Steve indicated he had picked her up hitchhiking. The fact that this unmarried couple were sharing a room (to save money of course) added to the scandal. We ended up winning the regatta.

Shortly after this we decided to do another C-Cat to try and compete with Wildwind for first to finish.

Beowulf-lll-big-rig-Edit

Bob Noble built Beowulf lll for us from Bob Reese designed hulls. We quickly learned that the 300 square foot C-class rig would not do the job and we upped the power to over 400 square feet. If the breeze was less than ten knots we won. If it was over 12, Wildwind would power away. In between it was a cat fight

PMA-World-Championships0001-Edit

A photo of your authors in younger days (around 1968) receiving the one of five “World” Multihull Championship trophies (it was a small “world” in those days). This was the first regatta in Hobie Alter debuted his Hobie 14. The contestants had a good laugh at this funny little beach cat sans daggerboards. “It will never sell” was the consensus.

PMA-Regatta-start-Edit

An early regatta start at Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club. There is a mix of C-cats, a few Hobies, some of the early Tornado cats, and a few strays.

Malia

Mickey Munoz’s Malia often came up from the beach at San Juan Capistrano to play.

El-Gato-Edit

As did Phil Edward’s El Gato. Malia and El Gato were much heavier builds than the other boats as they had to deal with the surf when launching or going ashore. Both boats also saw considerable cruising time at the offshore California islands of Catalina, San Clamente, and Santa Cruz.

We all raced on the PMA (Pacific Multihull Association) handicap which was based on Norm Riise’s VPP work. The top three boats were usually within a minute on handicap after an hour of racing. We knew we’d win if we were in phase on the shifts (up and down wind), had a good start and clean mark roundings. But one mistake and we’d get hammered.

Chuck-Tobias--Argosy-Edit

Speaking of mistakes, a favorite photo of our good friend and ardent competitor, Chuck Tobias. Chuck bought Wildwind from Norm and Harry (who continued to race with him) and he hated to loose. In those days Long Beach Yacht Club held a race to Newport on Saturday and then back Sunday, with a party in between. On the return leg we were neck and neck with Wildwind until about five miles from the finish when she disappeared into the fog waterlining us in the building sea breeze. When we arrived to an empty LBYC dock we assumed Chuck had elected to sail back to Marina del Rey where he was based. We were eating lunch when Wildwind sailed in. They had missed the finish line in the fog and erred many miles north before discovering their mistake. Chuck was not pleased.

Beowulf-lV-Chicago-Edit

We’ve previously shown you photos of Beowulf lV sailing. This was taken of her end in Lake Michigan after a pitchpole. We eventually lost the rig, ending up essentially with a garage full of bits which lead to Beowulf V.

This Yachting One-Of-A-Kind regatta sticks in our memory for several other reasons. It was the first major exposure in the national press for Hobie and his little daysailor. In the race which followed our pitchpole only Wildwind and Hobie finished. Hobie survived with extraordinary seamanship (the conditions were terrible). He was rewarded with a full page photo in Life Magazine with his Hobie 14 totally airborne. That was the start of the Hobie Cat era.

Now lets back up. The 38 foot A-scow was known as the hottest boat afloat. It had conquered all comers over the years and was considered the fastest thing on unfrozen water. Most competitors were on hand a few days before to get a feel for local conditions. Sunday night, just before racing was to start on Monday, in comes the A-scow on its trailer. It was huge, formidable looking, and we were all intimidated. The crew proceeded to launch, step the mast, and retire to the bar. They seemed like they had just come to pick up their trophy.

During the first race, in lighter conditions than when we had our little problem, we had the A-scow on our hip on a leeward end favored start line (we were both reaching for the pin). Slap slap was all we heard off their bow and we worried they’d roll us after the gun once the fleet went hard on the wind. Two minutes into the race we realized we could no longer hear them. They finished fifth in that race, behind us, Wildwind, a Tornado cat, and a svelte trimaran built by Meade and Jan Gougeon. It did not get any better for them.

Beowulf-V-reacher-Edit

We’ve previously talked about Beowulf V . She has just celebrated her 40th birthday and Peter O’Driscoll, her owner, has recently finished a four year upgrade.

DSCF1286

Beowulf V now sports a fat head mainsail, small permanent jib, and a prod for a big reacher.

DSCF1287

She still has deck sealing mainsail, now with a batten (our original rig had a wishbone boom with a strut and was unwieldy). Peter reports the decks and mast are carbon fiber, so she has probably maintained or lowered her 702 pound displacement.

Beowulf-V-Peter-O'Driscoll-106-Edit

Peter and Beowulf V at play above. Makes us both yearn for the good old days of wooden ships and iron men.

Beowulf-V-Peter-O'Driscoll-105

Peter and crew demonstrate the advantage of going fast. It helps to keep your foul weather gear clean.

What amazes us about Beowulf V is the 3/16″ thick (4.5mm) tortured plywood hulls are still here! The plywood was custom made from aircraft grade Sitka spruce for us by a company called Gordon Plywood. Good stuff.

Beowulf-VI-Construction-Edit-5

Since we are talking about boat construction perhaps a few blurry images of Beowulf VI are in order. Our goal was light and strong, with the ability to withstand water incursion from damage without catastrophic failure. What we are looking at above is the stern of an upturned hull. We started with a plywood box which represented the hull from the load waterline to the deck. The deck, mid height girder, and bottom were identical in shape. Topsides were vertical. All from 1/4″ plywood.

The bottom was cut from four inch thick sheets of foam and glued on to the plywood base. Mickey Munoz then faired the foam.

Beowulf-VI-Construction-Edit-4

This photo is of the daggerboard trunk insert.

Beowulf-VI-Construction-Edit-2

The two hulls are turned right side up here. The triangular timber girder shown forward of the daggerboard trunk is to take bow toe in loading. There were watertight bulkheads at two foot (60cm) centers. The entire exterior was covered in six ounce fiberglass cloth, two layers over the bottom and one on the topsides. All very low tech except for some early G-10-like epoxy and S glass laminate we used as a spar in the daggerboards and rudders.

We think this approach still makes sense. Those 38 foot hulls weighed just 375 pounds each when new.

Beowulf-Vl-daysail-trim-Edit

The final photograph of our catting around days. This is the 1976 Ensenada race in day sailing trim, with new owners on board. As ORCA had kicked us out, and the new owners did not want to deal with the politics, they decided to have a nice cruise to Mexico. We were, of course, first to finish (unofficial though it may have been).

Note on photo credits: Mickey Munoz sent us the photos of the P-cat, Malia, and El Gato. Peter O”Driscoll sent the later Beowulf V photos (Thanks guys).


Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 8, 2010)




42 Responses to “Catamaran History – The Early Days”

  1. Maui Catamaran Sailing | Boating and Sailing Videos Says:

    […] SetSail » Blog Archive » Catamaran History – The Early Days […]


  2. Wind Generator Cloth Sails | Says:

    […] SetSail » Blog Archive » Catamaran History – The Early Days […]


  3. Jared Eaton Says:

    Excellent archival pictures and many good memories. You have always been a good and kind friend and I enjoyed crewing for you on many harrowing competitions. You have an interesting family and I feel privileged to be be accepted as part part of it. Thanks for all the good memories.
    Your old ship mate, Jared Eaton

    Dolph Gabeler Reply:

    I know where Mahitibel is in Long beach. She is restored and looks great. Dolph


  4. Gary Young Says:

    Hi Steve & Linda, Thanks for the great archival photos of your early days of catamaran sailing!looks like you guys had some great times!Helps me get motivated & inspired on the restoration process again, of Beowulf VI and hopefully get her back in the water and race the Newport Ensenada again.I would like to get a sponsor to cover costs.Hope to get the hulls repaired,glassed & painted this year! I need the aluminum cross bars & mast connection,tramp,tiller assembly as well as a few other parts.Thanks to Jared Eaton I was able to get in touch. I also have talked to Mickey Munoz at a few Surfing events.I’ll try and send some photos.Take care,Gary

    mark Reply:

    Hi Gary
    I have reserected a 60’s cat
    Talked to Micky he knows boat
    As Bud Plattons cat Mahitabel
    See it on yacht world as 30′ hobie
    Not really eager ti sell,
    Some have questioned herauthenticity
    I need to get ahold of Phil Edwards
    If your in contact oass this email
    Meanwhile your welcome to seeher
    In Oceanside
    Good luck with your project so we can
    Enter the classics in next years ensanadarace
    Later mark pasquale


  5. mark pasquale Says:

    Nice archives
    just boughtva classic designed by norm risse and Built. By bud platten
    she is 28/by 12 beam fiberglass reinforced w Kevlar
    550 feet of sail area
    does anyone know of this vessel???

    Chuck Reply:

    Hi Mark,

    Do you have documentation on Platten’s direct involvement?
    Where are the Kevlar reinforcements? I assume they were added later on, after the original built, since there wasn’t any Kevlar yet in the early 1960’s.
    How does she sail?

    Chuck

    mark Reply:

    Hi chuck
    Im told by Micky Munoz
    That he has a picture of Bud drinking
    A beer on her, im told Phil would know more
    Pass this email along
    Photo on Yachtworld under 30′ hobie
    Later
    Mark

    Mark Reply:

    I have some old doc’s and diagrams
    And also talked to the infamous Micky Munoz
    Who has a pic of Bud sailing Mahitabel
    She sails stable and solid, kinda tricky to
    Come about for a green like me,
    My first success at this was shocking how
    Instantaneous she picked up speed and
    A herd of dolphins quickly went flying in
    Front of the hull at warp speed, It kinda
    Surprised me and them as well!
    Mark

    Dolph Reply:

    Hi Mark, do you have any more information on Mahitabel? I have a client that just bought her and would appreciate any info to search with. Thanks, and Three Cheers, Dolph


  6. Charles Crockett Says:

    Harry Bourgeois, my great uncle, at 93 years young, is moving in with his son Geoff in Oregon. I have been helping a bit with the move and am grateful to receive a large picture of Wildwind, with a 2nd reef, and reaching in very windy conditions! According to Geoff, some eastern Canadians challenged Wildwind to a race, which Harry accepted. The picture is of them on the east coast, in about 40 knots of wind, and no Canadians to be seen, apparently too windy! Geoff says they were paced by a powerboat going 40 knots and set an unofficial sailing speed record! I love the story and wonder if you can lend any credence to it.
    Loved your history lesson as i’m from a mono family!
    Thanks

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    Hi Charles:
    I know the photo and Wildwind was in a race on the East Coast. Not sure about the details, but 25 knots is a more realistic claim. Perhaps one Norm Riise’s sons will notice and co mment (Norm was Harry’s partner).


  7. Leah Says:

    Thanks for the great history lesson. I used to sail on Sea Smoke back in the 70’s on an all girl crew out of LA harbor. It was a grand experience and one that I have always treasured!


  8. Norman Cook Says:

    Wow! great photos….I was on the East coast running with Dave Hubbard, Bob Harris, P-cats B-lions, DC-14 and on and on Do you have more photos of P-cats or any of Catalina Cats
    thanks


  9. Gary Young Says:

    Hi Steve,Great to see the early years & photos for inspiration! I still have one of your 38 ft.Cats in my backyard in the restoration process.I hope to have it complete and sailing one day!I have seen and talked with Mickey Munoz about it and any advice he may have.I’ll try and send some pictures of the restoration.Aloha,Gary

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    Please keep us up to date.


  10. Christopher Cotton Says:

    Looking for Shark Catamarans. Fleet #1 in Canandaigua, NY is having the Shark Nationals in Put-In-Bay in Ohio in August. We are looking for more boats to come and compete with us.

    Chris


  11. Gary Young Says:

    Hi Steve, Great photos! looks like the last one is Beowulf VI ? Did you run across any more photos specifically of her, to help in my restoration project? Thanks,Gary

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    Hi Gary:

    We are away from AZ in Maine, so no access right now. I think I sent you what I have.


  12. Mike Buckley Says:

    I would like to find the design plans for one of the old 60’sbeach cats Rudy Choy did for taking tourist out off Waikiki?

    Any suggestions?

    Mahalo, Mike


  13. John Riise Says:

    John Riise here, Norm’s oldest. Great to refresh my memory with Steve’s poignant look in the rear view mirror. As a kid I sometimes crewed with Dad and Harry (and later Dad and Chuck) on some of those epic battles aboard Wildwind with Steve’s ever-changing quiver of new C cats. I recall that Beowulf IV (shown pitchpoled on Lake Michigan) had two mains going up two separate tracks on the rear of the mast, eliminating the ‘gap’ between the back of the mast and the beginning of the luff and effectively making a “solid” foil. Thought that was a great idea, but it had its glitches. I remember Steve losing a halyard or something and the only way we could get it back was to tip the boat on its side in the water, and — very carefully — stick the tip of the mast through the open windows into the top floor of the Chicago Yacht Club. Needless to say, that cemented many midwestern minds that Californians truly were crazy.

    I also recall during that 1968 event (I co-piloted the tow car to haul Wildwind there and back with Dad) when Hobie arrived with a new, bright yellow Hobie 14 right off the assembly line. I even remember the number on the sail: 886. It was strapped onto racks atop his old Chevy Nova station wagon and we helped him lift it off and set it up — which of course took only a few minutes compared to the hours of the other boats that arrived for the event (which was due in part to the fact that it was a pretty good drop from the parking lot to the water; I’m thinking maybe 6-8 feet). Then Hobie says, “I need some guys to help me throw this in the water.” This at about the time when we were putting Wildwind together in the weirdest way ever. Instead of “building” the boat on the fold-out trailer wings, like usual, we had to do it one hull at a time because the hoist arm was not wide enough to get to the center of the boat. So we stuck the tubes in one hull and got that down into the water, then (somehow, I don’t remember exactly how), manhandled the other hull over and got the tubes through it. Then hoisted that hull down.

    Hobie didn’t need to do that. He got three or four guys to help him and we just carried the 14 over and “1, 2, 3 . . .” literally tossed it off the top of the seawall into the water. It landed with a big splash and Hobie dove in to retrieve it and pull it back to the dock. (Maybe those Californians really WERE crazy!) As Steve said, Hobie was an incredible waterman. When the wind piped up and some of the more fragile craft elected not to go out, Hobie would go out anyway and power through it all. There was so much spray that that sometimes that’s all you could see: Just this sail and Hobie’s head sticking out of the froth. I remember someone asking him how he could breathe without a snorkel. He flipped countless times but always got it back on its feet very quickly. Ashore, he always had the famous 100-watt grin, willing to help anybody do anything to their boat. As I recall when he left, he just gave or donated the boat to the Club, or somebody at the club.

    As for Chuck Crockett’s comment on the photo of Wildwind all reefed down in a, ahem, wild wind back east, Dad has one of those on his wall, too. I wasn’t there for that one, but they’d gone back for some kind of “World Multihull Championship” and as Geoff remembers, racing was cancelled that day and Dad and Harry accepted a challenge to race another boat. The way I recall the story is that the other boat decided it was too windy before the match race even started, or once they saw Wildwind on a tear they just turned back. Either way, they weren’t a factor and it wasn’t really a race. Both Dad and Harry maintained that the 40 knots was legitimate. I remember the source as being the Merchant Marine Academy, which was nearby where they were sailing. When they got back in, some folks from there came to them and said they’d clocked the boat at 40 knots. There was talk of record books of course but when Dad or Harry researched it, they were told that a single run was not sufficient. There had to be back-to-back runs within a certain time limit, the timers had to be certified with some organization . . . I don’t remember all the reasons, but the record was never “official”. If you have better archival skills than me, there was an article about it in, I think, the NY Times that also ran the photo – which I kinda remember was actually taken by someone from the Merchant Marine Academy facility. Again, no promises on these facts, but that’s what I remember being told.

    Am glad to hear Harry is still kicking, and Geoff. When they weren’t racing Wildwind, Harry and Dad would just sail her for fun. And even ‘cruised’. They always managed to spend a week or so every summer they owned the boat with us kids (Geoff, me and my brother) at Santa Cruz or one of the other channel islands. Those were the days…

    Also glad to report that my father, Norm, is still with us and in relatively good physical health at 97. Unfortunately, I can’t rely on his once brilliant mind or memory anymore, as he suffers from dementia. He still lives in his own house (with a caregiver) and has dinner with us every night, enjoys his granddaughters, and he still has a great sense of humor and the super-positive outlook on everything that he’s always had.

    Great memories! Thanks for putting them down, Steve, and best to Linda.

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    John, wonderful to hear from you and that your Dad is still with us. I look at his photo on Beowulf V’s tramp in the YOOAK in Newport every day, and was recently telling the story of how he developed the first VPP codes, and the hull design software which we used for Beowulf V and the Hobie 18 hulls. Please give your Dad our very best regards.

    mark depasquale Reply:

    Hi mr Reese,
    Just wondering if you recall the boat that bud platten built in the early 60’s
    Im told Mr. Norm Reese had helped with the design which is truly awesome.
    take a look of
    Photos on san diego craigslist under 30′ catamaran
    And. If your near Oceanside, come out for a sail
    Mahitabel is truly a remarkable vessel but unfortunately
    She is up for sale. Contact me at anydaypest@att.net
    Thanks, mark depasquale


  14. Dave Swart Says:

    Hi Steve-
    I am doing a history project on the Hawaiian line of cats from Woody Brown’s beach cats through Rudy Choy and CSK, or basically from Manu Kai to Aikane X-5. My father, Jack Swart, took a tourist ride on Manu Kai in 1948 and was hooked on catamarans. He first crewed on Ken Murphy’s Aikane in the 1959 Trans-Pac, and quickly became part of the “inner circle” of CSK, crewing on several then owning and racing 3 different boats over 25 years.
    I am well aware of some issues that were selectively left out of Rudy’s Book “Catamarans Offshore,” but I had never heard the story of Huka Makani until I read this blog. In fact, your dad’s boat is the second boat I’ve uncovered that Rudy and Warren never seemed to mention, the other being 27′ “Scat.” I can now see why Rudy was sweating bullets at all the earlier launchings I attended as a kid. (I grew up in Newport and also got a ticket for sailing too fast on a P-Cat.)
    I would like to find out more about Huka Makani, like who was the lead builder, what boat yard, when and where was she launched, where is she now and who had her after your family. What happened after the disappointing launch, how did Rudy and Warren handle the issues? Anything you can recall will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance…
    Aloha,
    -Dave

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    Hi Dave:
    Knew your Dad. In my opinion Aikane was the best of Rudy’s boats, especially after Ken stripped her down. HuKaMakani was Rudy and Warren’s first cruising cat. Rudy was working as an illustrator at the time. She came after Aikane, and the 24’foamy, which he did for Frank Hoykas. The next boat after her was a 27 footer called Patty Cat (legal for offshore and Ensenada as a daysailor – before Wild Wind came along and ORCA was formed).
    Between the client (my Dad) adding systems and interior, and CSK optimism (being kind here) she was so far off her lines it was embarrassing. A contributing factor was Rudy’s narrowing of the hulls from the preliminary design to try and make her go faster.
    My Dad leased space at San Pedro boat works, and she was built there with a crew he assembled. The systems were complex for the era, and very heavy (this was not Rudy’s fault).
    We suspected there was a problem so launched her quietly to see where she floated, then did the bootstripe. This was about 1958 or 59. She was in the family until around 1980, after which she went to the Boy Scouts.
    She was slow, but commodious for the era, and OK for local work, or carefully taken up and down the coast. She banged her wing section, and of course dropped her rig as did most of Rudy’s boats. We had many good times aboard as a family at Catalina and the Channel Islands.
    But neither my Dad nor I had any illusions about her sea-going ability.
    Now as to your last question, Warren was always forthright and straightforward. He called it as he saw it, and if there was a problem in my experience he was first on the scene to sort it out. Rudy was more of the head in the sand type, did not want to admit anything, and was only concerned with the boat’s speed, and its impact on his career. The HuKaMakani could have been a huge boost for cats in general and Rudy’s brand had he been more honest with his client. As it was, my Dad felt Rudy messed up, stiffed him, and would not support his efforts. Warren, on the other hand, remained a good friend for many years, albeit a fierce competitor when he and I raced each other.
    Remind me to tell the story about the Mid-winter regatta and Sea Smoke some day…

    Dave Swart Reply:

    Steve – thanks for being so candid with all that great information. You mentioned Patty Cat (the first), and I’d like to share some fun trivia about 3 famous people associated with her during her short life: 1. She was built in 1960 at Lido Shipyard in Newport by legendary surfboard shaper and innovator, Joe Quigg. 2. By 1962, the regular crew of 4 included my dad and iconic sailor/movie star Gardner McKay (immortalized in song by Jimmy Buffett). 3. On Easter Sunday, 1963 she was streaking across the bay in Palm Beach, Florida when President John F. Kennedy flagged her down and took “the most thrilling sailboat ride of (his) life.” A few weeks later Patty Cat hit a coral reef and was totaled. My dad always considered Warren the best all-around sailor he ever knew, and his son Roy the best helmsman on the planet. Son Gary rounded-out the Seaman clan as the top shaper of the original Windsurfers.

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    Agree on all accounts, Dave:
    Gary Seamen was also foiling pioneer, and was out racing with us on his foiling pipes in the late 1960s and early 70s. I think Warren Miller’s film “Hot Boats and Cold Water” (or something like that) has footage of Gary Seaman on his pipe. In fact, we have been looking for a video of Warren’s epic for years as it has some excellent footage of Beowulf V. If anyone knows where we might fiind a copy, we’d love to know.
    Is Joe Quigg still around? How about Ken Murphy? We saw Warren a few years ago and he was looking pretty good for an old fellow.


  15. John Riise Says:

    FWIW, the mention of Scat brought back memories. That was Dad’s (Norm Riise’s) first multihull. To back up a bit, after the war, Dad and Mom moved from Ohio to SoCal, and Dad attended classes at Cal Tech. When he was done, he’d added a degree in Aeronautical Engineering to his Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue. For fun, he and a few other engineers joined the San Onofre Surfing Club, and I remember many weekends spent on the beach where we’d “circle the wagons” (our family car was a ’47 Lincoln with a flathead V-12 that Dad had rebuilt) and camp out overnight. I was really little then, but remember this group of raggedy teenagers who used to sleep on the beach. They’d come by sometimes, and of course Mom would feed them all. Later I realized that Hobie Alter was one of the guys, and Phil Edwards. Anyway, Dad got interested in sailing through Alex Irving. By now he was working at JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) up in Pasadena on the early, unmanned spacecraft programs. On summer weekends we’d head to the beach. Alex had a beautiful self-built double-ended keelboat named Sparkle that he kept at the Balboa YC. As Dad got more and more interested in sailing, he pretty much stopped surfing. I believe his first ever boat was a Metcalf, a 15-ish foot open dinghy. I don’t remember how he got interested in cats, but he liked to go fast, so it seemed a natural progression. Again, sorry for the sketchy memory, but he eventually ordered plans from Rudy Choy for Scat and Gil Yamamoto at Coast Catamaran in Costa Mesa did the main construction, with Dad helping out on weekends. I remember taking sails on the boat, in particular when we dismasted off Newport. I vaguely remember he was disappointed with aspects of the boat, but don’t recall specifics. After he sold the boat, he sailed with a lot of different people on different boats before buying Wildwind with Harry Bourgeois. As I type this I realize the main thing I remember about Wildwind is that Dad converted what was left of the box-section spruce mast into the most super-duper bird feeder you ever saw. It was always a key element on our back patio as I was growing up. He even put a new coat of glass-smooth varnish on it every summer until they sold that house in the early ’70s. For all I know, it’s still there. Thanks for the memories.

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    Hi John:
    Your comments bring back a lot of memories for us too. Phil Edwards reaching across the turning basin in Newport in El Gato (with the spindly star rig), Alex Kosloff and Bob Noble and the C-Cats in the early days. And your Dad and Harry doing horizon jbs on everyone (before Beowulf lV,V, and Vl). And as many times as we hung out with, and sailed against Alex, never had a clue that he was involved with Sparkle. But mostly racing with your Dad on after Chuck Tobias sold Wildwind.
    For those of you who have not had the privelege of knowing him, Norm was quiet, strong as a bull, and amazingly quick. Occasionally he would be occupied and we’d sail with some strapping young guy and the the youngsters could never trim the main or drifter even half as fast as this old guy (old being a relative term). More than racing with your Dad, we loved moving the boat with him because we have time to talk. He’d tell us about the early supersonic wind tunnels and some of his experiences in the Pacific during WWll. One story still stands out. I think it was Guadalcanal and he was flying close air support for our ground troops. At the end of a strafing run he went to pull up and the stick was stuck. Very calmy he said “I just rolled and pushed and as I was climbing out inverted the signaling lamp dropped clear from where it had been jamming the controls.”
    I did not fully appreciate the flying skill and instant judgement this required until I began a bit of aerobatic glider competition several decades later.
    Most of all, it is the letters your Dad sent us when we were cruising through the New Hebrides, Solomons, and New Guinea, about his world war two that stand out. As a fighter director in the Iron Bottom SOund battles he was right in the midst of it all.
    I hope your Dad is enjoying the AC 72s.

    Dave Swart Reply:

    Hi Steve AND John, just as I was going to respond to Steve’s last reply, I received John’s new post, so I’d like to comment to both of you in this one reply. First to Steve: Joe and Aggie Quigg were spotted by Barry Choy at Costco in Hawaii Kai as recently as one year ago, looking well. Joe appears in the 2006 Woody Brown documentary “Of Wind and Waves,” looking sharp and healthy (Daughter Katy Quigg was in my class all through school in Newport). Warren and Nancy Seaman are still with us, in their Topanga Canyon home (son Roy has the old family house on Latigo Shore Dr.) Otherwise, there are only two others of the original 1960s CSK guys remaining – Vic Stern (Imi Loa) and Tom Sauter (Toru), all the others have “sailed West.” The Warren Miller movie is called “Hot Yachts and Cold Water.” I’ll be looking for it on eBay and Amazon, but as of today, no copies are listed. Finally Steve, in the June 6, 1960 weekly edition of Sports Illustrated, there’s an article on catamarans that mentions that Stanley Dashew’s 58 ft. “aircraft carrier” was nearing completion, with cutaway drawings on pgs. 46 and 47. PattyCat’s first race was Ensenada, May 1960. Now to John: Let’s not forget that James Arness was a charter member of the San-O Surf Club too! I was the epitome of the early 60’s “gremmie” surfer, and none of my friends believed me when I told them that I met Phil Edwards in my own house. I can recall my dad mentioning Norm Riise and Harry Bourgeois as being tough sailing competitors, although the terms “bamboo bombers” and “hot-rodders” were usually closely associated. Dad’s first boat was Lido-14 #62 in 1958, and then a (MacAlpine/Downey?) Shark around ’61 or ‘62. But after crewing on Aikane in the ’59 Trans-Pac, he really wanted something more seaworthy and cruise-able to Catalina – so 36 ft. Imua! was launched in Jan. ’63, and we were first-to-finish overall Ensenada ’63 and ’64 and pretty much everything else in So Cal those first couple years, until PattyCat II came along. So John, you mentioned “Scat” – amazing! Scat and Hu Ka Makani (Dashew’s 58’er) were the only 2 Rudy Choy boats I knew nothing about. I recently found an article in the Dec. 1958 journal of the Amateur Yacht Research Society (AYRS, British) written by Fred Gunther of Altadena Calif. He said that he was in a 3-family partnership which built a 27 ft. Rudy Choy design which they named Scat. He describes her handling, pointing, and speed characteristics racing inside and outside Newport Harbor against 2 smaller cats, Walt Hall on a Shearwater III and a 16 footer called “Black Cat.” The photo of Scat which accompanies the article has a big number 1 on the sail, and “Scat” clearly painted on the stern. In a recent Gil Iwamoto obituary/article it mentions Gil building a Rudy Choy design in 1958. Question – was Norm Riise a partner with Fred Gunther, or was there a second Scat?

    Steve Dashew Reply:

    The shark was indeed a Rod MacAlpine Downey creation (now there was a catamaran designer). Linda and I sailed a Shark in the mid 1960s before we got back into the C-Cat class. Rudy was one great promoter and that article in SI did wonders. Jim Arness was a coupe that started with SI. Speaking of actors, I gave Buddy Ebsen his first cat ride on my Wildcat (circa 1858). We had raced against each other in the Thistle class. WHich brings to mind Carter Pyle who crewed for me in the Thistle. One 14-mile Bank race weekend he was going to crew and Dick Sutton was racing the 24-foot Foamy in the “offshore” race and needed crew. Carter was heavy, the breeze was predicted light, so Dick asked if he could borrow him. I was tickled to get rid of the weight and Carter got his first catamaran ride. The rest, as they say, is history. When we started sailing the Shark there was a lot of ribbing from the P-Cat fleet about this English dog we were sailing. It only took one race – a breezy Point Firmin course – for us to silence that noise. In those days Aikane (stripped down) and Wildwind were the quickest – with t he Shark following at a resepctful distance.


  16. John Riise Says:

    Dave,
    First, apologies for incorrectly identifying Gil IWAMOTO (not Yamamoto; that was the Japanese Admiral, right?).
    Secondly, yes, Dad was partners with Fred Gunther on Scat. If you threw out of bunch of names of sailors he knew then, I could probably pick the third partner’s name out of the mix, but it escapes me at the moment. I’ve plugged a few of the logical names into the databank and not had any hits. I’m kind of thinking that an old surfing buddy, Harris “Bud” Schurmeier, might have been the third guy. But not sure. Whoever it was, I don’t recall him being as active a partner in the sailing of the boat as Fred and Dad.

    Fred was certainly the wild man of the trio, tho. He was always interested in going fast on land or water and owned a series of muscle cars. I remember we were in a hurry once and Fred stomped on the gas before I was all the way in his GTO and the door slammed on my leg. LOL.

    Again, apologies for my memory. But in 1958, I was 8. And I don’t recall that Dad and the partners kept the boat very long. I have wondered from time to time whatever happened to Scat. Dad put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into her.
    John

    Dave Swart Reply:

    Hey John, well, I was only 7 in 1958, so surely you remember more than me – Ha. Thanks for helping sort out Scat. There’s only one name I’d like to try for the third partner, and that’s Lorin “Whitey” Harrison, founding member of the San-O Surf Club, and later crewed on CSK cats. What say you?
    -Dave


  17. Richard Catley Says:

    Hi: Really enjoying this blog, wish it existed twenty years ago.I have the 37’6″ loa Rudy Choy cat, built originally for Murray McEachern. she was drawn up as a Rudy Choy 36′ in 1958, and finally completed and launched from (San Pedro/Long Beach ?) in 1961. there were too many construction changes,so the plans were “representative” of the finished boat. She has an enlarged foam and epoxy house, which Rudy did not approve of, and enough “owner” changes to the cabin that Rudy (by his own admission)walked off the build in disgust. She was not included in Rudy’s “Catamarans Offshore” for the same reason, according to Rudy (in a 1993 phone call). Rudy said he had lost track of Murray’s boat in about 1968, he also apologized for walking off the project.I believe that Warren and Gil actually finished her, but Alfred may not have been involved at that time. Warren Seaman (in another phone call)said the boat was best known for an outrageously loud stereo system and wild,loud, late night parties in the 60’s. Huh, they must have been sailors!!:-)…Warren also told me that the cat was overweight and not fast, but she had been analyzed by someone from the Rand institute as being overbuilt for strength by a factor of 2 to 3. I never found out her original name. By the time I owned her she had been dis-masted at least once, and completely capsized close to Miami, possibly in Biscayne Bay. She was no longer Coast Guard registered, and had a Florida title. I knew what she was the in the very first second I saw her, even though she was in very sad repair, and sporting a rusty four cylinder Chevy engine mounted in her cockpit. I was an avid Hobie 14, and Nacra sailor, and repairing “mega-yachts” for a living, her repairs took about a year before she was mildly seaworthy. I named her “Ka Loke Po’ele” and sailed her around the keys, and the Southeast, until she was damaged by hurricane. I never had a real turn of speed from her but frequently saw 12 and 13 knots reaching in about 18 to 19 true. Definitely experienced slapping and hobbyhorsing in chop, had a panel in the port forward hull punched out by a wave while going to weather, took on water a couple of times, but never felt in danger while sailing her. Did think I was going to be run over by a carrier off Savannah,Ga! Dolphins just absolutely flocked to her! All in all I enjoyed her immensely, even for all her faults, sailed her cautiously,coastally, and conservatively, lived on her. Best of all I got to tell Rudy and Warren, just how much I enjoyed her. Sadly,due to my health problems,she now sits forlornly, waiting for another total refit, or dismantling, as I am afraid rot has finally set in,and, seaworthy could easily exceed fifty thousand dollars now.

    Richard Catley Reply:

    Hi all: A little more about my (1961?) Rudy Choy cat, and a warm nod to Wayne and Susan Iwamoto. Thanks in large part to your father Gil, we were able to have many enjoyable hours on “Ka Loke Po’ele”.
    She was originally the Yacht “Mehitabel”, built for Murray McEachern and named after “Archie and Mehitabel”. Murray had a tune called “Archie and Mehitabel” based on a cartoon of the same name. She was C.G.documented in California as “Mehitabel”. I believe the documentation was allowed to lapse after she had been sold on a few times, and definitely by her early 1980s rebuild. I have recently found traces of “Mehitabel’s” name and number on the forward face, of the rear bulkhead, of the starboard double “cabin”. I didn’t do a trace of the documentation,as she had been a Florida registered boat for years before I bought her, and re-documentation is prohibitively expensive
    My rebuild took place in the early 1990s, in Ft Lauderdale. We replaced the rotted wooden boom with an aluminum extrusion and maintained the original length, and put a new Ulmer 4 batten main on. Unfortunately / or fortunately (being an avid beach cat sailor) I had the main cut too flat. “Ka Loke Po’ele” would barely ghost in very light air, then suddenly accelerate once the wind got to about 9 or 10 knots. We refitted the standing, and all the running rigging, and put a very slightly worn 170% genoa on a new roller furling system. Sadly both main decks were rotted through under the genoa tracks, as the flat decks were unable to shed the torrential,and daily,South Florida summer rains. So, before doing anything else I replaced both port and starboard decks from the front of the doghouse to the aft end of the cockpit coamings, and in the process gave us full 6’3′ headroom in the hulls. I copied the raised decks from later Rudy Choy cats and gave them some much needed water shedding camber as well I also had to replace the entire rudder system with the exception of the crossbar. If I can find any photos of her, I will eventually post them.


  18. Gary Young Says:

    Hi Steve, Hobie Alter 80 yrs. will be celebrating Dec. 7th at the http://www.surfingheritage.org in San Clemente with a new book release of his great history! Hope you can make it!


  19. Susan Iwamoto Says:

    Gilbert (Gil) Iwamoto was a very talented Masterbuilder. He was originally from Hawaii, but with $300 bucks and a wife and five yr old son Wayne in tow…Gil came to California and started Gil’s Catamaran in 1955. Almost 60 years later, Gil and Wayne are credited with building numerous legendary vessels, recognized for their performance and quality craftmanship. Today, Wayne Iwamoto continues the legacy at the same location on 16th Street in Costa Mesa.

    Gil and Wayne documented nearly every build on 8mm and 16mm film – In 2014 these archives will be prepared in digital format to honor Gil and the love he had for the craft. Wayne looks forward to sharing them with others at http://www.GilsCatamaran.com in 2014.


  20. SetSail» Blog Archive » Catamaran History – Early Days Updated Says:

    […] There is an earlier post on the subject of multihull history, and if you have not read it yet you might want to click here. […]


  21. BobBill Says:

    Love the history memory trip.

    I am finally crafting a modern version of the venerable Malibu Outrigger, intentionally recycling castoff hulls (Hobie 18 and s’bd 16, and many castoff hardware parts. It will be loosely similar with 175’s sail, carbon yard and boom, and will carry a job sail on short sprit…expect it to be quite the boat and will be some 50 lbs lighter than orig (350 min) and carry 2 HP outboard for harbor input etc.

    Would we could do this with Rod MacAlpine-Downey’s beautiful Shark…


  22. D Randy West Says:

    Being à Caribbean Cat kind of character, I grew up on Peter Spronk designed catamarans. I however did do my time in Hawaii and even took a personnel letter out to Woodbridge Brown from Pet and hand delved it to him at his home in Maui. while the I sailed the


  23. D Randy West Says:

    60′ Paradise Cove for a couple of years and became acquainted with Mikey Munoz as well as the CSK boats of the early eighties. so thank you for the history above and keep it coming.