In 2003, my brother Jan and I began talking
about building a motorboat. This would be a
first for the brothers, who up to this point
have focused all our efforts on sailboats. Just
a few years ago, it would have been inconceivable
that we would ever take up power
boating. But time and circumstances change
one's views, especially as we enter our senior
years. We have always regretted that major
parts of our home waters, the Saginaw Bay
of Lake Huron, Michigan, have been too
shallow for our sailboats. Some of the most
attractive parts of the Bay with the best wildlife
have been off limits to boats that draw
more than 18 inches.
Then we both acquired winter residences on
St. Joseph's Sound, which extends from
Clearwater Beach north 12 miles to Tarpon
Springs on the west side of Florida. This
shallow body of water features a series of
protective barrier islands that are uninhabited
with sandy beaches and abundant wildlife,
some out as far as five miles. The islands
are popular destination points, but we
needed the proper craft that could transport
a crowd of people over these shallow waters
and land them safely on the beaches.
We were also attracted to potential cruising.
Much of the west coast of Florida is off limits
to larger powerboats with normal draft, as
they must stay within the dredged inland waterway
that runs from Tarpon Springs down
to Marco Island, where the Everglades begin.
Most sailing is done out into the Gulf. If one
wants to really explore the west coast of
Florida including the Everglades, the shallowest
possible draft would be necessary.
With our minds focused on both our summer
and winter waters, we began to establish a
set of design criteria for our new craft. These
can be summarized as follows:
- Achieve lowest possible draft.
- Use the best high-tech sailboat technology
to build the lightest weight structure possible.
- Build for maximum seaworthiness to withstand
higher winds and waves encountered
in coastal waters.
- Build the largest boat possible that can be
practically trailered behind a Honda Odyssey™ van, with all up boat and trailer
weighing no more than 3,000 lb.
- Achieve high efficiency with maximum
mileage per gallon of petrol. Speed would
be secondary to efficiency, with lowest
noise and vibration from the engine. Incorporate
fuel tanks to support a reasonable
- Carry a load of up to 2,000 lb at reasonable
- Develop a "landing craft" type of front
end that can be lowered for easy passenger
- With the addition of auxiliary live bait
well and rod holders, provide a first-rate
- Have a stand-up enclosed head.
|The Gougmarans under construction. Meade's Gougmaran is in the foreground; Jan's Magic Carpet is above.|
|Magic Carpet before the bows are covered. The hulls are connected with an 8'6" wide composite deck built of 1½ honeycomb core sandwiched between 3-ply
okoume plywood. The flat deck curves up at the bow to form an anti-dive/wave deflector.|
Based on our earlier success with the
Gougeon 32 sailing catamaran, we quickly
decided on a two-hulled catamaran configuration
of about 32' length with a trailering capable
width. The project got a time-saving
boost when we discovered that some ideal
hulls that could fit our needs already existed.
Famed multihull designer Dick Newick had
designed some 32' hulls for Still Water Marine
that were incorporated into a powered
catamaran configuration to function as chase
boats for rowing shells. The design goal had
been for a craft that could follow an 8-man
rowing shell at speeds up to 15 mph with
minimum wake. We knew that low wake
equates to high efficiency, so we called Dick,
a long-time friend with whom we have collaborated
on many projects. Dick sent us designs
details, which showed hulls with a high
prismatic coefficient together with low wetted
surface, further suggesting high efficiency.
Of equal importance was the fact that
each hull was capable of supporting 2,000 lb
at a little over 11" of draft. This was perfect
for our needs of a fully loaded craft at 3,500
to 4,000 lb with less draft than we initially
believed would be possible.
We quickly struck a deal with Dick Perelli,
president of Still Water Design, to build us
four hulls in his existing molds to our specifications
using our Pro-Set® Resins and the
vacuum bagged laminate schedule that we
had developed for our G-32 sailboats some
years before. We took delivery of these hulls
in February 2004 and were delighted when
they weighed in at slightly less than 200 lb
each. We were off to a good start and only
needed to get the rest of the construction
right to reach our goals.
We began by building a large, mostly flat,
deck mold that had a pronounced curve forward.
This would be the front of our
anti-dive/wave deflector for safe handling in
a rough seaway, especially downwind. The
mold was constructed of simple plywood
over frames and stringers made airtight so
that a vacuum bag could be utilized for compaction.
The deck laminate measured about
22'x8'6" and was to be made in one piece in
a gentle curve that fit the gracefully curved
sheer line of the hulls. The laminate itself
was composed of two pre-scarfed panels of
3-ply okoume plywood. The upper panel
was 5 mm and the lower panel was 4 mm
with a 1½" honeycomb core separating the
two completed panels. This laminate was the
largest and heaviest part of the structure.
|Gougmaran's bow showing the wave deflectors and the walk-on ramp in the down position.|
With appropriate framework and beams incorporated
within, it was estimated to weigh
close to 350 lb when completed.
Meanwhile, the hulls were prepared for final
assembly into a catamaran configuration.
Fore and aft main bulkheads and robust
sheer clamps with maximum gluing area
were installed. The hulls were then set in
their proper location for joining, and a trial
dry fit with the deck took place. When a
proper fit was assured, we did a massive
one-shot gluing operation with our slowest
setting Pro-Set® Adhesive.
When the cure was completed, after several
days, the joined hulls proved to be incredibly
rigid with the deck laminate serving as a giant
torque box. At this point, we estimated
our beginning catamaran structure at around
800 lb; we were right on our target for an all
up weight of 1,500 lb for the finished craft.
We then joined a second set of hulls and
deck for brother Jan's boat. These benefited
from the learning curve, being a little lighter.
Other than that, they were an exact duplicate
of the first.
|With their shallow draft and efficient displacement hulls, the Gougmarans leave very little wake, even at top speed.||The hull allowed for a step=down, stand-up, enclosed head, a useful feature given the boat's cruising range and capacity for passengers.|
From this basic platform, Jan and I had different
ideas as to what to build to suit our individual
tastes and needs. I wanted a protected
steering station that could keep one
out of the sun and weather with a permanent
top to which we could lash canoes or
windsurfers. I also envisioned a framework
which could support an awning and a large
tent for cruising. This all came at the expense
of weight and windage. Thus, Jan favored a
smaller steering station with a windshield
and traditional fold-down bimini. Jan also
wanted permanent side panels for looks and
to keep the beer cans from blowing away. Because
of the extra weight of my steering station
and upper structure, I opted to use a
weight-saving traditional sailboat lifeline system
around the boat perimeter; this has worked surprisingly well.
Weight placement, we learned long ago on
our sailboats, is all important to maximize
the efficiency of displacement hulls. We began
by placing the engines forward of the
transoms by 4'6". The steering station, fuel
tank, battery, and storage were also placed
well forward, and the anticipated weight was
carefully balanced over Newick's designed
waterline. We chose an 18 gallon tank to give
us reasonable cruising range. Fully fueled, it
weighed just under 200 lb.
The chosen engine was a three cylinder 30
hp Yamaha™ 4 stroke. This high torque, low
rpm engine turns a large 12" diameter prop
with a 9" pitch. It has proved to be a good
marriage with Newick's displacement hull
design. Both engine and hull seem perfectly
tuned at 12 to 15 mph, dependent on wind
and wave direction. At this speed, the engines
are unusually quiet and smooth and the
hulls seem to be in their maximum efficiency
zone. Dependent on wind, waves, and load,
the miles per gallon at this pace seem to
range between 8-12. Maximum performance
has been recorded in calm waters at 19 mph,
but gas mileage drops precipitously.
Prop depth of the engine is adjustable with
the use of a hydraulic jack plate that can raise
the engine straight up 8" so that the 12" prop
just breaks the surface. If run at idle speed, the
prop in this position will power the
Gougmaran forward at 4 to 5 mph without
cavitating. Thus, the crowning achievement for
the Gougmaran is that it can function with
good efficiency in waters as shallow as 12"-14".
|Meade's Gougmaran fully rigged, with the tents up and the canoes stowed on top.|
The Gougmarans were launched in 2005 and
performed their intended functions well for
the first two seasons; several modifications
and tweaks were made to both boats. Both
have been fitted with centerboards located
well forward to improve handling in tight areas.
Meade also installed a flip-up rudder in
hopes of utilizing a "kite sail" in the future.
|Meade's Gougmaran is prepared for her first trip to Florida. The fold-down roof is in the lowered position for travel.|
The real test of the Gougmaran concept
came this spring with a trip down the west
coast of Florida from Tarpon Springs to the
Florida Everglades. This two-hundred mile
plus venture south had been in the planning
stages for the past year with myself, brother
Jan, and sailing canoe guru, Hugh Horton.
The basic plan was to take the inland waterway
down through the Marco River to the
10,000 Island regions of the Everglades. We
would then cruise the Everglades with both
Meade's Gougmaran and the sailing canoes.
Finally, we would return home going outside,
along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline.
This trip would challenge the flexibility concept
of turning a day boat into a live-aboard
cruiser that could also take along 3 fully
rigged sailing canoes together with enough
supplies, gear, and fuel for an extended trip.
Altogether, this collection added about 1,300
lb to the normal day boat weight. With crew,
this pushed our 2,000 lb maximum payload
The trip began on March 25, 2007, with a
launching at Marino's Marina at our home
port of Ozona, Florida, on St. Joseph's
Sound. The first day's run on the inland passage
to Sarasota was uneventful with smooth
waters and moderate beam winds. After a
pleasant overnight stay at the Sarasota Sailing
Squadron, courtesy of our friend and
noted local sailor, Charlie Ball, we motored
south to our first gas stop. We were delighted
when we topped off the tank with just 7 gallons.
Up to that point, we had motored
about 6 hours and come about 70 miles-ten
miles per gallon at a little over a gallon an
hour burn. We were overjoyed, but this good
news was not going to last. By early afternoon,
a building southeast wind began
gusting up into the high 20s right on our
nose. We reduced our speed, but our tent
was acting like a big sail. It seemed to be taking
a terrible beating, but it was holding up.
We had discussed this potential problem with
Rob Kolb, our tent builder, and he said not
to worry because most of the covers and side
curtains he makes are for boats that go way
faster than ours. Over the next three days as
the wind continued to blow hard right on
the nose, we gained confidence in our tent
structure and finished the trip with our tent
intact after an unusually windy 8-day voyage.
|After launching at Marino's Marina in our home port of Ozona, Florida, on St. Joseph's Sound.|
Head winds also impacted our gas mileage.
The burn rate increased to 1.5 gallons per
hour with speeds down to 10-11 miles per
hour. This equated to a drop to 7 miles per
gallon, which was understandable but disappointing.
However, our return trip outside in the Gulf
balanced this out. With a following wind and
waves, we were able to make a return passage
of 145 miles in slightly less than 10
hours with a burn of 14 gallons. This put us
back in the 10 mpg category, which could
have been better had we slowed down to
wave speed. At 15 mph, we were continually
powering up the backside of waves that were
going much slower.
Over the entire trip, we traveled about 490
miles, using 61 gallons of gas in 47 hours of
motoring. Thus, we averaged a little over 8
mpg in less than ideal conditions with strong
winds over most of the 8-day trip. In more
ideal conditions, we think an average closer
to 10 mpg is possible. We also want to experiment
with different pitch props for any refinements
in applying power that could help.
Overall, this trip proved that the biggest success
of the Gougmaran was simply its shallow
water prowess. At one point, we went
hard aground on a gravel bar that was not
visible because of muddy water. We all
stepped off into the water not much over our
ankles and were able to shove the
Gougmaran off the bar and into deeper water
with relative ease. We were drawing
about 10" of water in the loaded condition.
With the jack stand up to max, the 12" prop
just broke the surface, allowing us to go just
about anywhere we wanted to with reasonable
confidence. We did carry an extra prop
and 2 hp Nissan™outboard as a backup.
|The three sailing canoes are stowed on racks mounted to the roof.|
|One of the sailing canoes beached near the Gougmaran. The Gougmaran's fold-down ramp allows for easy access to the beach and launch of the canoes.|
As we got down into the heart of the Everglade
National Park and explored the interior
passages, we came out into the Gulf to
Turtle Key where we found a protected anchorage
with a nice beach to serve as an ideal
site to launch the canoes and hang out for a
few days. At night, we would strategically anchor
the Gougmaran upwind of the island to
avoid mosquitoes and no-see-ums. We successfully
avoided these pests with our floating
movable campsite approach for the entire
trip. This is no small victory since this
scourge is the only downside to an otherwise
unspoiled wilderness where one can wander
for days in total peace.
The tent approach worked very well
with Hugh and Meade sleeping in
the main tent and Jan in his portable
tent/cot that was lashed to the front
deck and then easily dismantled and
stored each morning. All cooking
and food handling took place in the
|The main tent where Hugh and Meade slept and all of the cooking and food handling took place.||Jan setting up his portable tent/cot on the front deck.|
Overall Jan and I are pleased with
the performance and versatility of
the Gougmaran on this first cruise.
The learning curve was steep, and
some changes in the Gougmaran will
be made before the next voyage. But
they are all minor. The basic architecture
of the boat for its intended
purpose seems at this point to be
right on. Keeping the concept flexible
for a multitude of uses with
pieces and parts that can be added or
deleted is still paramount. The next
goal is to outfit the Gougmaran so
that it can become a first-rate fishing
platform that can support 4 to 6 anglers
in a variety of fishing venues.
This will also be a new challenge as
neither of us has had much time to
fish these past 40 years, but we are
eager to engage in this new activity
that we can enjoy well into our
senior years with friends and family.
There has been a lot of interest in
the Gougmaran concept with some
outright offers to buy our boats. Jan
and I are both too old to get back in
the boat business, but we are happy
to keep experimenting with the concept
and sharing our knowledge
with others who are interested. At
this point, the Newick hulls can be
special ordered from Dick Pereli of
Still Water Design for those who
would like to build their own boat.
As this concept matures, we suspect
that some semi-custom builders will
respond to whatever demand
Formore information about the Newick
hulls, contact Dick Pereli at StillWater Design,
781-608-3079, or visit