Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Malama Honua - Voyaging Catamarans And Some Advice On Seaworthiness

Being interested in the sea and sailing is a good reason for living in Whangarei - there is always a changing parade of interesting craft visiting the local harbour. These two visiting Polynesian catamarans are on a five year voyage around the world. The voyage is promoted by the 'Polynesian Voyaging Society' and sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines (more information at HOKULEA.COM).
Both the catamarans the 'Hikianalia' and the Hokule'a are a mixture of traditional design and modern materials and technology.
The Hokule'a has the more traditional looking hull and is carrying the more traditional sailing rig.
Both these catamarans make an exotic and interesting sight amongst the more contemporary designs within the inner harbour.
A calm and sunny day in Whangarei as the catamarans lie peacefully to a floating pontoon.
This display was set up in the band rotunda on the wharf. It shows a compass rose with the different points of the compass named with Hawaiian words on the coloured pieces of cardboard.
One concern I have with these sorts of enterprises is that I think the level of risk is far greater with these kinds of yachts than with other types. I wouldn't like to be aboard either of these catamarans during one of the ferocious storms that can form in the Tasman Sea. 

There are many very unsafe traditional craft still sailing. Unfortunately many of them are used as sail training ships. The problem with them is that they don't have ultimate stability. If they get laid down onto their beams end they capsize and sink which is unlike the more traditional yacht designs that have heavy lead keels that can pop them upright again if they are unfortunate enough to get bowled by a huge sea. Examples of what I am talking about happened many years ago around the Hauraki Gulf here in New Zealand where at that time there were many 'traditional' shallow draft sailing 'Scows' that carried timber and livestock and just about anything else along the coast. Many of these were capsized when over canvassed in strong winds, many with loss of life.

There are also many tales of the old square rigged ships that have been over whelmed solely by the wind when carrying too much sail aloft (often caught unawares by a sudden rise of wind, especially at night). If these old time square riggers or fore and aft ships had had ultimate stability in the form of a deep keel with outside ballast they would have righted themselves if they had been capsized by such a wind or by huge seas.

Despite my worries about these  catamarans, even though their hull forms are problematic enough in very stormy conditions they are in fact safer than the old traditional sailing boats in that if they capsize they will at least float upside down.

So shipmates, don't put too much faith in the romance of old ships that won't self right if capsized, they can be death traps.

..... And good luck to these wandering, adventuring catamaran sailors, I wish them well and all the good luck and fair winds in the world.

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