The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














by Jeff Gilbert

Hot Chili Camping Cat

As the plans for this boat have been around for some time, and more than a dozen sold while we await the first launching, I thought I'd better write a little more about this little catamaran.

Hot Chili was conceived to fill a need for a simple robust home-buildable ply catamaran which could be used for camp cruising in a little more comfort than a beach cat, but without spoiling the lines by attempting to put full accommodations on a hulls just 15ft 3 inches long. Hence the 8 foot x 8-foot (2400mm square) solid bridgedeck which forms a build table of just two uncut factory sheets – this keeps the boat fair and hulls aligned without any measuring, hence vastly speeding construction.

This bridgedeck is divided into half cuddy and half cockpit, enabling a couple to sleep inside, outside or a bit of both. In addition there is a ‘swing in” berth in each hull which is large enough once you are in, having suiting headroom over.

Some folks will decide that being able to build the sides from a single sheet width is not a huge advantage, and raise the low cuddy but its not really necessary as there is a large hatch and besides, if one pitches a standard 2-person tent over the cockpit the cuddy roof makes a good table, as can be seen from the model.

Note the cuddy wall can be larger with a sealable hatch if the boat is intended for use in a more boisterous setting in colder waters, where it is desired to keep the cuddy dry. In this situation one uses perspex windows over ply with small cut-outs to preserve cabin strength, in the model the windows are open and the hull berths are not shown. Note also that as much curve as is desired can be thrown into the cuddy roof by the rear wall, within the torture limits of the single sheet of ply forming the roof.

This little ship is built from 22 sheets of ply, and is strong enough to be left on a mooring with its small 2-5 HP outboard locked in sealable hull berth. Any outboard of appropriate size can be mounted thru the rear beam without special nacelle construction. She is also hefty enough to give a comfortable ride without beach-cat capsize risk, although obviously any yacht can be put in danger of knockdown by carrying extreme sail on a high-wind reach. She can be loaded up for a camping holiday without problem.

Chili can utilize the rig from almost any beach cat of roughly equivalent size, as her daggerboards are totally tunable fore and aft. They achieve this by being mounted outboard behind rungs- these rungs not only act as spray rails and tie-up points, but the system prevents any damage if you hit bottom or a floating object. As much leeway is prevented by the flat outers Chili doesn’t need excessive dagger area to send her simple dory hulls upwind. Again you can poach daggers and rudders from almost any beach cat, so buying an old wooden catamaran with broken or rotted hulls can save most of the construction price supplying rig and appendages.

The original boat being constructed by Jim Townsend was put on ice for some time as Jim was tied up in both his business and the Australian J24 championships. However he assured me he has recommenced construction.

Why don’t I build one since they take only a few hundred hours? The answer is simple. The plans take much longer. Apart from working full time as a programmer and building a house on my holidays, I’m doing sets of plans for Alleycat (20-foot mini-live aboard cat), Roonio (15ft adventure cat), Cartaphylla (23foot traveling schooner) and Gumboots (28-foot Minimal Trans-Oceanic Catamaran.) Two of which are in build, one about to commence and Gumboots …well there are all sorts of people waiting. So instead of building one I’m offering a refund on plans for the first Hot Chili to hit the water… Jims “prototype” isn’t eligible. Plans are 100 American dollars – I cant charge less as I’ve already been informed that this sort of price makes it hard for professionals to make a living in the Industry. I know that’s true – only 60 people on the planet survive by recreational boat design and many of them would starve without other interests. Plans are still far and away the best value part of the boat, worth less than the material that’s thrown away in off cuts – in fact plans often save people the price of building as its not till you buy a set you get a true sense of what’s involved, and your place in it. People often write saying the 50-page book of instructions with Chili is too long, but it’s for reference and includes options -many don’t need to read much of it. You only need read it fully if you’ve never built a thing before, and if that’s you, you can still build this boat. Its hulls are dories, the simplest effective chine form that can be devised. Further more every part of the boat has a right angle in it, so can be lofted on factory sheet corners to fit together perfectly. The design fits the material, the material is not forced laboriously into the design.

As George Beuhler says boat building is a matter of joining one piece of timber to another. The trick is to keep doing it without stopping for a substantial period, if you do, you must wind up with a boat. Hot Chili is truly designed to make this so, it’s a build that can be done in a season, and it provides a ply-epoxy boat that can not only outlast its owner, but can take you sailing, fishing, or on a inland adventure. It’s a pocket cruiser, a little small and wet for hefty offshore use but stronger than most offshore boats anyhow.

Good luck and may all your dreams have boats in them!

Jeff Gilbert