Friday, June 26, 2020

Dedication 27ft Sportfisherman Launched

COVID-19 has prevented the normal fanfare that goes along with the launch of a new boat, fanfare that is particularly nice to have when it is the prototype of a new design. So it is with the beautifully-executed build of the 27ft sportfisherman of Kevin Agee's. We slipped her quietly into the water last month to mark flotation ahead of painting her anti-fouling bottom paint. As it was she floated perfectly as expected but it is always nice to get confirmation when that can be done.

On that first wetting he motor was started but no sea trials. She came back out of the water on her trailer and went home for painting.
"Dedication" gets wet for the first time, ahead of receiving bottom paint. The jumble of aluminium tubes forward of the console is the tower, folded down to pass under cables and bridges.
Two weeks later she went back into the water with her bottom painted, this time to run in the motor and do some early trials.
The 300hp Suzuki 4-stroke motor is very smooth and suits her well. The water in the river was smooth but it is all no-wake zone, so we idled alog the channel. Once out into the mouth of the river the water lumped up quickly from the strong winds in the bay. While running in the motor she did 18 knots with the maximum 3000rpm permitted. After her running in was completed Kevin took the motor up to 4000rpm and 26 knots. With short 1-2ft wind chop she has a soft and dry ride, upwind and downwind.

Last weekend we went fishing, with the opportunity for more trials on flat water. She shows predictable handling, cruises comfortably at 25+ knots and tops out at close to 40 knots.
On the tower, Kevin Agee on the left, me (Dudley Dix) on the right.
View of the foredeck from the tower. The toerail is sapele, part of my work in the build.
Large open cockpit, plenty of space for fishing.
 The weather was good but the fish weren't keen to come aboard. We landed one red drum of about 40lb, which is a protected specie. It graced us with a photo opportunity, then went back to where it came from.
A protected red drum, first catch on the new boat.
Overall, "Dedication" performed to expectation, with no unwanted surprises. Owner/builder/skipper Kevin is very happy with handling, performance and fuel consumption. She is attracting attention wherever she goes, as well as good comments.

I will build a web page for this design in the next week or so, as time permits. Until then, see our other designs on our main website or mobile website.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Didi 40cr2 Kit from Exocetus Marine

Exocetus Marine in UK develops and supplies kits for our radius chine plywood catamarans, with kits produced for the Dix 470 and DH550 cats. A kit is currently in development for the new Dix 430 catamaran. The kits are very comprehensive and can be customized to each customer's needs, from basic bulkhead kits through to inclusion of whatever equipment and materials the particular builder would like to be delivered in the shipping container with the pre-cut plywood and other timber.

I have written about the Exocetus Marine kits in earlier posts on this blog, from when development first started in 2012. They have come a long way since then, under the expert hand of owner Kevin Bream.

CNC Kits for 47ft Plywood Catamaran
Dix 470 Catamaran Kit Build in UK
Kit-build Dix 470 Plywood Catamaran
Plywood Catamaran Kits
More About Plywood Catamaran Kits
DH550 Kit Shipped to Southern Africa
Dix 430 Catamaran

The DH550 catamaran "Valerie", built in Durban, South Africa, and in charter service in the Seychelles, was built from a very comprehensive kit supplied by Exocetus Marine, which included solid timbers, epoxies, engines, hardware, electronics, porthole frames etc.
DH550 charter catamaran "Valerie".
The Dix 470 catamaran "Marram", being built in Australia, is a big amateur project. The components have all been cut from CNC cutting files developed and supplied by Exocetus Marine.
Dix 470 "Marram", a husband and wife amateur project.
Exocetus Marine is now expanding their range in a new direction. This harkens back to my origins in radius chine plywood designs with my Didi 38 prototype "Black Cat", which has spawned a large and expanding range of designs from 15ft to 55ft, spanning both monohulls and multihulls. The Didi 38 design itself expanded to the Didi 40cr and, most recently, the Didi 40cr2. It is the Didi 40cr2 that is the newest project by Exocetus Marine.
"Passion X", prototype of the Didi 40cr2 design, built as an amateur project in Australia.
As with their catamaran kits, Exocetus is developing a very comprehensive kit for this first expedition into monohulls. In doing so they have transformed my CAD drawings into a complete 3D model before extracting the components for cutting by CNC then testing for accuracy of build. In doing this they are building the boat as well, enabling preparation of complete building instructions to guide those who will follow to build the Didi 40cr2 for themselves.

These photos are a few from the build record to date.
Bulkhead example, with jigsaw joints, doublers fitted around stringer slots.
All parts are referenced for identification and assembly instructions.
Bulkheads set up on the building stocks.
Cockpit structure installed, bracing the whole structure.
Backbone with bevels and scarphs pre-cut.
Pre-cut opening for propeller shaft log.
Laminated keel floors.
Keel floors installed through backbone structure.
Stringers being installed. This is a tangent stringer, with a doubler on the outer face for joining the radiused skin above the stringer to the flat skin below.
Hull side panels jigsaw-jointed at ends of sheets.
Example from the interactive building manual for the DH550 catamaran. A similar manual will be supplied with the Didi 40cr2 kit.
Check back to this blog occasionally. I will update here on progress of the kit development and the construction of their boat.

For more information on our designs go to our main website or our mobile website.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Adventures of the Dix 38 Pilot "Spailpin"

In December last year I wrote about the voyage that was being undertaken by Barry Kennedy in his Dix 38 Pilot "Spailpin" to Antarctica, their second in a year. Read that post here. Since then a lot has happened. If you think that you have had it tough on land through the COVID-19 pandemic, you may change your mind after hearing Barry's story.

The photos below show some of the incredible scenery that they visited. Barry was not alone, he had two crew with him. Together they visited places and had experiences that very few people in the world will ever appreciate. It takes much hard work and dedication to get to these places and very few boats manage to receive permits to even go there.

This time the weather was much more mild than the previous year. But it is a very dangerous place and the weather can turn very fast, changing an apparently safe anchorage into a deathtrap. That is when an able boat and capable crew combine to bring all involved back to safety. Always being aware of every aspect of the surroundings, i.e. terrain both above and below water, ice and weather is imperative to certainty of completing the cruise plans and getting home again.

Even the most carefully laid plans can go wrong, for totally unexpected reasons. It was on the voyage back from Antarctica that exactly that unexpected situation dumped itself on, not only "Spailpin" and her crew, but on the entire world. They sailed from Antarctica to Tierra del Fuego, then to South Georgia. From there the next stop was to be Tristan da Cunha, approx. 1450 nautical miles away. They arrived there to find that COVID-19 was hammering the world and everything was shutting down. That included Tristan da Cunha and they were not permitted to land, despite having been at sea in the most extreme of self-quarantine conditions for a month, with zero chance of having contracted the virus.

So, they headed back out to sea, target Cape Town, South Africa, another 1500 miles away. But two days after leaving Tristan South Africa closed down, shutting off that option. They changed course for Jamestown on the island of St Helena. After being in the Southern Ocean for more than a year this leg can be a bit of a doddle through or around the South Atlantic High but 1300 more miles to get to a destination that they did not want.

They arrived off Jamestown to another closed port. One of the crew needed to return to Cape Town and was allowed to go ashore on St Helena through diplomatic intervention. He was to fly to Cape Town while "Spailpin" voyaged further, next stop Georgetown, Ascension Island. This was to be a relatively short hop of 700 miles but ended the same way. Barry was able to go get fuel before they coninued on their way, now headed for USVI in the Caribbean.

By then Barry was urgently needing to get back to work, so flew off to take care of that while his crew sailed "Spailpin" from the Caribbean to Chesapeake Bay, where she is now in Annapolis, MD.

Barry needed to move up to a larger boat for his future voyaging and contacted me before this recent voyage to ask if I knew of a suitable candidate built to one of my designs. No suitable boat was available but he has found a boat from another designer and bought it. That brings "Spailpin onto the market at a very attractive price for a quick sale. There can be no doubt that this boat is well-proven for voyaging to the harshest oceans on our planet. If you are interested in buying her, contact me by email so that I can put you in contact with Barry.

To see our range of designs go to our main website or mobile website.

Monday, March 30, 2020

We Are Open For Business

I didn't realise that it is more than two months since my last post. Time flies when you are having fun, or busy. I am working on a 71ft aluminium cruiser, with the detailing taking a lot of time.

Our lives are being disrupted by the COVID-19 virus that is bringing the world to a standstill. Here in Virginia we are not yet in a lock-down situation but that is probably in our future before long. For now we are social distancing, chatting to neighbours at a distance and keeping contact with faraway family by Skype and WhatsApp.

I work from home, with my wife Dehlia as my only co-worker. We are able to work on as before despite the restrictions.

Many people are taking a break from their normal work, some enforced by authorities and others by choice, to ensure isolation from potential infection sources. We all hope that the situation will return to normal within a few weeks but that looks more and more unlikely.

When stuck at home, staying productive helps to fill the days and lift the spirits. A big enough project can involve most or all of the family, racking up quality time and keeping minds off wanting to be elsewhere. Making something worthwhile with our own hands is very satisfying and can provide the balance needed to keep us sane, reducing cabin fever.

If that something worthwhile that you build is a boat then you will have a new family toy when summer comes or when we can get to the water again. Some of my happiest times as a child were those spent sailing or fishing with my dad. As a teenager those prized memories were made on the water, rowing our family dinghies and, especially, sailing my own boat.

If you are already building one of our boats then nothing changes. Our personal backup, included in the price of our plans, continues as usual and we can advise when needed. If you are considering building, we will do all that we can to help you. We have offered study packs and dinghy plans for delivery as PDF files by email as an alternative to traditional paper prints. We will now expand this to include construction plans, under our normal terms of sale.

In the past most customers have been happy with paper plans sent by first class mail, transported by the airlines and delivered by the postal services in the destination country. There have been massive cutbacks in air travel, so most of the aircraft that would have carried the packages to faraway places are grounded. With so few planes, airmail services are under pressure and have slowed considerably, aggravated by slower delivery in the destination country due to restrictions in movement of people. The alternative of courier service speeds up delivery but is costly. Receiving the plans as PDF files may be a viable option for some builders.

PDF files do have drawbacks, related to the size of the drawings that you will be using. Most of them were drawn to A1 size of 491x841mm (23.4x33.1"). These are way too big to print on a standard A4 or letter size printer but you can view them on-screen and zoom in to see details. You may be able to print sections of a drawing or your printer may have a nesting feature to print in sections for taping together into a single sheet. The best option is to take the files to a print shop for printing on a large format inkjet printer.

Here are samples of drawings to show what you will receive for two different types of designs. Click on the links to see them online, which will have limited clarity. Download into your computer and view in a PDF Reader program. Zoom in to appreciate the greater clarity that is available.
Sample PDF file of a CAD drawing, applicable to most of our designs drawn since 1995.
Sample PDF file of a hand-drawn drawing, applicable to most of our designs before 1995.

Some of our designs include full-size patterns, which we normally print on 36" Mylar roll media. Some of them are as long as 16ft, totally impractical to print in small sections with an expectation of accuracy. These must be printed on a wide format printer. You can print on paper instead of Mylar if you store them in a sealed plastic sleeve and use them within a few weeks. Delaying their use risks dimensional change due to variations in humidity.

Whichever delivery method you choose, we can supply any design from our pricelist, except for the Trika 540. This was drawn by a colleague and is only supplied as paper prints, shipped from Germany.

We wish all of our supporters and families continued good health through this worldwide crisis.                                                                                                                  

Friday, January 24, 2020

Memories of a Trans-Atlantic Race

This week I was sent a photo that brought back good memories, 24-year old memories of our first Cape to Rio Race on "Black Cat", in 1996. It was sent to me by Gavin Muller, who was the youngest in our 5-man crew. He took it on the last night of our race, as we were sailing between our Brazilian landfall of Cabo Frio and the finish line off Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro.
From left, Adrian Pearson, Brian Cole, Dudley Dix and Sean Collins. Sadly, two are no longer with us, the others are scattered around the world.
The Cape to Rio Race is 3500 miles of tradewind ocean racing, starting in Cape Town and finishing in Rio de Janeiro. A race like this breeds friendships that last a lifetime. Most of us were good friends before the race and the three weeks in close quarters in the middle of nowhere, in company of seabirds and the occasional fish or whale, cemented those friendships forever. Gavin was the odd-man-out at the start of the race, being much younger than the rest of us, but he too became a friend for life.
Gavin Muller repairing our light spinnaker.
Adrian Pearson (RIP) was my partner in "Black Cat". Brian Cole introduced us while I was building our boat for the race, bringing him in as crew. Later he joined me to co-finance the project.

Brian Cole (RIP) was the oldest in our crew, at 60. He was a director of North Sails Cape Town and a regular on the crew of my previous boat, "Concept Won". He joined us on this race as navigator for his first and only ocean-crossing voyage. His wife, Marion, was co-skipper with Judy Provoyeur of the all-lady crew of the Schumacher 41 "Kelly Girl", our closest handicap competition in the race. On handicap, they had to reach Rio more than 20 minutes ahead of "Black Cat" to beat us.

Sean Collins was a client many years ago for a rig redesign on his cruiser. He became a friend, sailing with me for many, many miles on "Concept Won". We raced together uncountable times in fully-crewed and double-handed races around the buoys and around the coasts of the Cape of Good Hope, quite justly also named "Cape of Storms". We had much experience sailing in mild weather and in those storms.

Gavin Muller, at 21, was not long out of college. His math teacher, an acquaintance and also a boat owner at Royal Cape Yacht Club, had asked me if I had a crew slot available for Gavin, who had previously sailed a Cape to Rio Race with him while still a school boy. Another friend of mine had to withdraw from the crew and Gavin slid into his spot.
Another of Gavin's photos. This one shows me in the bosun's chair working on the headstay foil, damaged by the spinnaker pole. The big cat watches over me.
"Black Cat" is the prototype of my Didi 38 radius chine plywood design. I designed her primarily for this race, starting to formulate the concept while racing to Rio in 1993 as navigator and sailing master on the Shearwater 39 "Ukelele Lady". I built her in my garden in Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town. The build took 2 years with help from my wife Dehlia, Sean Collins and another friend, Nigel Watkins, who didn't join us for the race.

Part-way through that race, with the nearest land (the Brazilian island of Trinidade) about 500 miles away, we had a close call with a boat of about 40ft that was sailing unlit on a moonless night. I was in my berth under the cockpit, dozing with my brain on alert as usual. Brian and Adrian were in the cockpit and I heard a discussion start, trying to identify something ahead of us in the dark. We were under spinnaker, averaging about 10 knots, so closing pretty fast. I joined them in the cockpit to see that we were on course to T-bone this wooden boat. Two wooden boats colliding in mid-ocean would not have been pretty. The skipper of the other boat suddenly appeared on deck, shining a flashlight on his mainsail. Within another 15 seconds we would have been past him and would have made much noise to advise him that he had missed out on the action of unidentified ships passing in the night. I suspect that he still holds those images in his head of our big cat spinnaker bearing down on him fast.

We figured from his course and position that he was possibly en-route from Cape Horn to Europe. Next morning on the daily fleet report I told of our near-miss. The story appeared in the Cape Town newspaper next day, although not entirely accurately reported. We were also the subject of the daily cartoon, the original of which now hangs proudly on my wall at home.
The cartoon drawn by Grogan for the Cape Argus newspaper.
We had not seen our competition "Kelly Girl" since the start but they were always close behind in the handicap race. We hadn't seen another boat for many days although the position reports showed that there were always others somewhere over the horizon. Trinidade was a mark of the course and, as we approached the island toward sunset one day, we saw "Kelly Girl" behind us on the horizon. After that we saw each other at least once a day.

A few days after rounding Trinidade we were sailing in 5000m of inky blue water that suddenly turned brown and murkey. We hadn't seen a seabird for a few days and had hooked nothing on our fishing lure, trailed for many days. At the same time the sky was full of birds and our lure hooked a long-fin tuna. Within 5 minutes we had three of them aboard before deciding to keep the lure aboard rather than have nature think us greedy. The truth is that, with one fish for dinner that night and the other two in the freezer, we could not cope with any more. Within an hour we were back into inky blue water and 5000m of water, having completed our crossing of the 60m depth of the Almirante Saldanha Sea Mount. In another million years or so maybe this will be another island in the Atlantic.

Meanwhile our race-within-a-race carried on with us sometimes ahead and other times "Kelly Girl" appearing out of a thunder storm ahead of us. Cabo Frio was our first landfall in mainland Brazil and we rounded that promontory abeam of each other and 100 yards apart. We finished about 3am that night, about an hour ahead of "Kelly Girl", with the 20 minute handicap advantage in hand as well. Another 4 years on, in the 2000 Cape to Rio Race that same boat was skippered by circumnavigator Anthony Steward, who finished about 20 minutes ahead of us. These two boats are very closely matched for ocean racing.
Relaxing in the Bay of Islands after the race.
Since that 2000 Rio Race "Black Cat" has crossed this ocean twice more, to total six Atlantic crossings. She has also raced the 1700 mile Governor's Cup Race from Cape Town to St Helena Island twice, including line- and handicap-honours in the 2014/15 race.

It is now 24 years that "Black Cat" has been sailing. She has nearly 100 sisters on the water or in build. She has also spawned another 16 performance designs in sizes from 15 to 55ft for a wide range of concepts. These range from monohull dinghies to trailer-sailers and large catamarans, even fast little gaffers. More than 500 boats are on the water or being built to this range of designs. Most are amateur projects, with builders producing impressive quality.
Didi 29 Retro, a gaffer with a great turn of speed.
DH550, a very comfortable and eye-catching cruising cat.
Both of the boats above, as different as they may appear, are derivatives of the Didi 38 design. To see our other plywood designs go to Or to see our full range of designs of all types and materials, go to our main website or our mobile website.