Chili is a strong plywood asymmetric catamaran which can
be built by anyone who can measure, cut and glue timber,
can be towed by anything on four wheels, can be afforded
by anyone with a job, and can be used anywhere with a
foot of water. Chili can be sailed, powered, or both;
and can be sculled over the stern. She can be camped on
at anchor by 2 adults or a small family, or beached to
set up a campsite. Minimal extra build effort renders
her unsinkable, in standard form she will float swamped.
Last but not least, Hot Chili is both striking and unique.
Hull Beam @WL
0 deg ( ½
3’ (sit over
10 hp/ 17 knots
Aux Power (O/B)
4 hp/ 10 knots
Amateur Build time
1 x 12v
The price will be 100 US dollars. Cost includes airmail.
Australian customers may wish to contact Jeff
Gilbert directly. You will receive a wad of drawings
with around 50 pages of text to help you understand and
use them. Photographs from the prototype build have been
posted HERE (follow links at top of page). I will put
plan buyers in touch with all previous buyers who consent.
When sufficient numbers have developed I propose a Chili
builders web discussion group on Yahoo so myself &
builders can help each other along without repetition.
Is fast, the boat being semi-monocoque, with a chine log
but no stringers. The protoype is one third complete after
60 hours. Time savings are inherent in the design’s
conforming to the material – the flat hull and cabin
outer sides are cut from two joined sheets of 9mm ply.
The sides are linked by an 8ft square 2-sheet 12mm bridgedeck,
to form a flattened “H”section, and thus define
the entire outer shape. The bulkheads are placed inside
this, trueing up the structure and preparing for planking
the curved inner sides. The upper and outer edges of bulkheads
are lofted in sheet corners, exploiting the accuracy of
factory-cut right angles. After planking they form a tunnel,
angling from 45degrees at the stern to vertical at the
6” x 1” laminated stem. The stem protrudes
vertically to take the front cross-beam if it is required
for nets and/or a spinnaker prodder. Once the narrowish
dory bottoms are on, the boat receives a layer of glass
below the waterline, the only glass used on the boat except
for some taping around the stem and other areas of end-grain
TYPES OF CHILI
you have an 8ft square level viewing platform which floats
in ankle deep water and is easily driven. From here the
possibilities for personalising Hot Chili are so vast
that I expect no two to be the same. However there are
two major themes for Hot Chili….
1. As a Sailboat with
or without small Auxiliary:
The cheapest way to go about this is to build the bare
15’ 3” hull of Hot Chili (refered to as
HC throughout these notes) and transfer the entire sailing
rig and rudders from an old beach cat. In this way an
older person like me can trade in his or her beach cat
for a more stable and only slightly slower yacht on
which one can go camping, and sail all year round, getting
wet only when one wants to.
Unless you are intending
to use a prodder (bowsprit) to run assymetric spinnakers,
you can build the simpler wooden front crossbeam, use
a beam from your old cat, or have no front beam at all,
though this sacrifices the chance of a net/tramp. The
hardware should transfer directly though you may need
to lengthen your tiller arms, and will need to calculate
your daggerboard position to match the rig. If you email
a dimensioned sail and mast profile to email@example.com
I will be happy to assist.
If you want an auxiliary
motor, use one you can carry easily, the smaller the
better. If you are buying new try to afford a four-stroke,
they are kinder on ears and fuel. The biggest I recommend
is a 6HP, there are now several (Suzuki, Nissan, Merc)
long-shaft 4-strokes weighing under 58lbs. A trolling
motor would make a passable auxiliary for limited use,
position the battery bank as final trim and you have
power for a wonderful camping set-up. HC is an ideal
platform to experiment with bigger electric motors,
outboard or inboard, even in one hull. Imagine fishing
a mountain lake of a still evening, not a breath of
wind and your campsite a mile away. With an electric
motor its an easy 12 minutes, barely disturbing the
The plans do not yet
include a tabernacle as they need to be tailored to
the particular mast and rig. I will add a generalised
design for an unstayed mast of around 20 feet.
experienced and keen enough to experiment with their
own rig designs will have a ball. Single sheet “Easy
Rigs” of the Rob Denney (see Duckworks design
pages) persuasion are perfect for this boat with the
cabin peak to deck height offering adequate bury. Tabernacles
would also brace to the cabin roof peak, and offer an
opportunity to use the mast as a tent ridge pole. I
hope to find time to design HC a gaff rig for home building,
object being to complement the boats angular lines,
whilst maximising sail area on a low aspect rig. Some
say this will be slow upwind, I say if you are late
for dinner start the motor.
2. As a Motorboat.
With its an 18 inch underwing clearance higher than
the few comparable cats, HC will be quite at home in
ocean, lake or river. A 10HP motor provides close to
20 knots, so as a fishing boat shes economical and swift
enough to run for cover, and beachable when she gets
there. She can be winched up a beach, or lifted bodily
by 4 adults.
With her hull space available
for stowage, I see her best use as a weekend camper
for two. A standard tent can be adapted to fit her decks
at anchor, she can be beached to set up a campsite,
and in extreme weather one can retire to her dry bunks.
She can carry 1200 lbs of people and gear without complaint
and only a couple of inches lower in the water, but
will performs better on her waterline, with a third
of this load. A 25 HP outboard will overpower HC unless
she is carefully trimmed for planing at over 25knots.
I regard 15hp/20knots as a reasonable maximum, but would
personally settle for one of the many quiet and efficient
4-stroke long-shaft 9.9HP outboards available.
Chili was drawn by hand in 1999, aiming to be the most
attainable 2-person performance pocket yacht to date.
By attainable I mean it can be swiftly built in a garage
with the spare time and funds from an average wage-earners
job. The term performance includes both on the water (easily
driven and handled) and off (strength & longevity).
Speed and ease of build have been considered in every
aspect the design.
Many will claim that HC
is sturdier than strictly necessary & that it could
be built lighter. They are quite correct, and there would
be some gains in launchability & speed. There would
also be big increases in both build time and ability to
capsize. What is the point in perusing those last few
ounces?? One can see at a glance this is not a racing
boat, it’s a fun camp-cruiser with a turn of speed.
I’m a big guy with big boots, & prefer boats
strong. I’m not a brilliant sailor, but love coastlines
and sometimes sail up rivers full of rocks, intermittently
clouting them. Plus I don’t like skittering 50metres
sideways while I’m fumbling with the daggerboard.
You can tow the “heavy” HC with 4 cylinders
and the lightest of trailers, so build the version that
wont break if you make a mistake!
The abundance of right
angles produced by maximising use of factory cut ply sheets
produced a tough-looking design, yet one which calculated
at less than one horsepower (HP) for displacement hull–speed…Hot
Chili could double as a sheltered-water motorboat, or
trailerable motorsailer. In particular she looked useful
as a river commuter, -at worst Hot Chili would plane at
six times sqrt(HP), so wouldn’t require a big motor.
In 2002 I transferred the
design to computer to fine-tune and optimise the hulls
for loadcarrying & performance. The hull bottoms were
broadened & inner hull sides steepened from the original
45 degrees to facilitate building, optimise Bridgedeck
(Bdk) clearance, & make HC both less tender and easier
to lift onto a plane. This development almost eliminated
the original torturing around the bow – the scarfed
inner-side planking now just underwent a slight twist
along an easy curve. Flexiply was originally specified,
its not needed now.
developments don’t alter the extremely short build-time
possible in HCs simplest iteration – nothing in
the hulls, an 8 x 7 deck with a cuddy offering both dry
stowage & a double berth open to the stars, or coverable
with the huge hatch in case of rain or cold. No forebeam,
simply an inverted “Y” forestay to both bows,
and swept back sidestays to chainplates at the cabin sides
just behind the windows. No spinnaker, simply the single-sail
cat rig from such as a Paper Tiger, or the main and blade
jib from something along the lines of a Hobie 14, giving
100 to 150 sq ft.
I sat on the design over
3 years before finding a builder who would endure further
simultaneous development during the build! Thus these
plans have the considerable building and sailing experience
of Jim Townsend seeded throughout. Thank you, Jim.
Hot Chili offers beach
catamaran sailors the chance to stay dry and sail all
year round, albiet at a slightly reduced pace. Simply
build your beach cat straight over onto a Hot Chili hull,
using everything, rig, rudders and even the net out front
and daggerboards if you wish. On a reasonable wage one
can afford both the time and money to do this over a winter
lay-up, losing no sailing time. If you don’t have
a beach cat, buy one cheaply in winter, if possible from
a place that’s cold in winter (sails less worn,
boat cheaper). Its good to buy from racing types who usually
have lots of sails, look after their gear, and are realistic
about value. In Australia you wouldn’t pay more
than a thousand (550 US) dollars. Huge possibilies open
up for finding old garaged Pringles, Sol-Cats and the
like. You could be lucky and find a cheap one, say with
a damaged hull. Try your Yacht Club, Ebay, the newspaper.
If you don’t mind building rudders, you might go
for a dinghy, a Mirror or a Laser with its pop-in unstayed
mast might suit. Beware of ultra-high aspect rigs that
are difficult to step, although with a lighter person
standing on the cabin you will be OK.
You can now have a dry boat you can camp overnight on,
and can take mates sailing all year round without handing
them a dose of hypothermia. You can also take Chili wherever
you go behind any 4 cylinder vehicle.
ALL UP COST
This depends on so many factors, not the least of which
is your enthusiasm which comes in finite and difficult
to guage quantities, and can run out before you cut a
panel. For this reason you should save time by using basic
power tools, router, saw, sander & drill. If you live
in the Boondocks beg, borrow, steal, buy or rent a small
If you are doing the most basic package referred to above,
converting a beach cat, double the cost of your ply and
add the cost of your beach cat.
There are about 16 sheets
depending on your lofting skills.
A full material list is being prepared.
The plans provide for so many options that no two HC’s
need be alike.
The most complex Hot Chili would take twice the build
time of the simplest, yet may not be what you want. Look
at the optional items one by one and your Hot Chili will
Alloy Forebeam was
conceived to carry the Prodder for a Screecher (Assymetric
Spinaker/Reacher) This high performance sail was a
The standard design
plan consists of building over a beach cat rig. If
these have a jib at all, it is likely to have an inverted
“Y” harness to fix the forestay to the
bows (SS eyes thru stems), and carry about 50sq ft
of blade jib.
sail plans from a suitable (similar length) beach
cat, one only NEEDS a front cross beam to carry a
net/trampoline. I’d use the 3 x 2” timber
beam sketched at the top of Drawing 5 , and sheath
it in 6mm ply to hold a small upward curve and help
the bond to the stem stubs. I’d mount a tramp
to cut spray.
No front beam at
all is quite OK, especially for calm water use where
spray is not an issue. Many owners, especially of
unrigged motoring Chilis, will never venture forrd
of the cockpit.
Hull Berths, two
at 80 x 21”.
Rear seat (increasing
used sitting on the rear beam which can be up to 14”
wide over the hulls.
Fold-up side decks.
My choice would be a wooden front beam, no prodder
and an assymetric cockpit. This means a seat one side
with the attendant larger hull berth having the larger
permanent access opening which would be covered by the
hatch when in motion. A single footwell in the diagonally
opposite corner would complete the “high seat/low
seat” cockpit. The secondary hull berth would
have a flush-fitting hinged lid where the outboard could
be locked to secure the yacht.
boat is designed imperial for Australian and American
ply in 8 by 4 ft sheets. I’m not going to convert
plan dimensions to metric and here’s why. If I
do, someone will go goody, rush out and buy 2400 x 1200
ply, and start building in metric with these undersized
sheets. If one converts the dimensions directly by the
usual 1foot equals 304.8mm then starts building with
2400 x 1200 its only a matter of time before you get
into an insurmountable mess. At best the last things
you create will be cumulatively undersize, at worst
things wont fit at all.
If you can only get 2400 x 1200 ply, build in mm and
scale down the whole boat as you convert the imperial
dimensions. This is as easy as falling off a log. The
design requires 8-foot sheets, you have 2400mm sheets.
Convert the plans at 1 foot = 300mm and 1 inch = 25mm.
Voila. (Your boat is 1.6 percent smaller than the design,
bad luck, you live in a country that makes undersize
GET WOOD !
Start stockpiling timber now! Grab odd bits of scrap
ply and pine offcuts, there are skips fiull at building
sites headed for the dump. Grab bits of oregon and hardwood,,
you only need a 2ft 6 ins of 6 x 1 for your stem. Youll
need an assortment of sizes for bracing, temporary struts,
measuring (a stick and a pencil dont transpose figures)
and padding clamps (collect clamps too). If you don’t
have a ute, put it in your boot, tie it on the roofrack.
Boatbuilders cars should be sacrificial items.
The main structure of Hot Chili
depends on the manufactured ply being true, try to buy
it all together from the same firm or preferably run,
so its all the same. If you want a boat with incipient
cancer, buy the cheapest ply. Use the best you can find,
at least BS1088 Boat Building Standard ply. This might
seem expensive, if check out Duflex panels or foam core
FG and see the price of getting covered in toxic crap.
(They will tell you its easy, fast and fun, but you
wont care what they say, because you will already be
too frightened by the price). Go back and buy the marine
ply. You still need a bucket of epoxy and 10sq m of
290g/sq m glass cloth, but only a tenth fraction of
foam core or full FG layup.
if its further and dearer, a lumberyard which knows
boats will save many tears, and you’ll feel confident
about your purchases. If you are in a multipurpose hyperbarn
with a zillion grinning idiots with uniforms and nametags,
buy some cheap sandpaper and leave. You are looking
for a yard where they consider your project, have the
time and knowledge to tell you what you are getting,
and will help selecting your own straight grained lumber
and knot free ply. This last is probably superfluous,
marine standard ply has at least one good face, waterproof
glue in the right amounts and no hollows.
Speed and economy
of build are the prime objectives of the boat, and
take precedence over looks, comfort and performance
in most decisions. Nevertheless the boat won’t
obviously suffer in any of these secondary areas.
All but a few design dilemmas were solved by answering
the question:- “Which option is the easiest
An exception to
#1 above is the 1.5” bend towards the centreline
of the cabin top, making the inside width of the roof
7.75feet to the bridgedecks eight. This is done to
prevent leakage & possible delamination at the
top of the cabin sides (the cabin roof can now cross
this exposed end-grain) , to aesthetically relieve
the constant right angles, to make it easier to work
the daggerboards without grazing knuckles, and to
provide more width for crew on the optional hinged
Side-decks may either
complement or replace the hinged roof as a means of
forrd access. They should hang from light (possibly
plastic) chains & hooks (thus making their angle
adjustable) and sit at a slight up angle of about
80deg to the cabin side, ie 100deg to the hull. At
this angle they will make effective buffers. A long
notch or slot in the side-deck edge where it hinges
to the boat side replaces the upper positioning rung
of the daggerboard , implying that the corresponding
side-deck must be down for a board to be used. Side
decks should be just wide enough for crew to “sit
out’ and balance the boat on a fast reach. They
can be used for a spot of mild hiking –you’ll
need to build some timber hand-rails along the cabin-tops
at a comfortable distance between the edge and hatch.
a foot of accommodation length, the integration of
the Bdk with both crossbeams is literally a design
strongpoint. Additionally, there is far less work
in setting up and building the beams, they are ideally
spaced at half boat length, and there remains enough
space (83.5” x 48”) for a couple to sleep
longitudinally. Some crew find the motion of multihulls
makes sleeping athwartships uncomfortable. The answer
is to beach the boat, it’s designed for it.
The last action before painting the upturned boat
is to add some sacrificial 1 x ½” hardwood
laths to the bottom and optional rear fin. These could
be capped with metal channel or stripping, held on
by a bedding material such as Sikaflex.
waterproof glue is perectly adequate for build joins,
and less messy than epoxy which can be reserved for
filletting and filling. Save your fine sawdust, or wood
flour as it is sometimes called by boatbuilders with
aspirations to Chefdom. This is great for thickening
epoxy for filling and filleting (more cooking imagery).
Don’t epoxy anything
except joins, and areas that are about to become inaccessable,
until the boat is complete, or you’ll exhaust
yourself and blunten your tools working with material
which you’ve just converted to virtual steel.
An argument rageth on the web, time penalties for this
approach are being debated at 7 times.
Without FibreGlass Hot Chili wont
necessarily leak. To be certain fiberglass the bottom
below the waterline, and better still from outside WL
to outside WL right across the bottom of the bridgedeck,
which is only 10 square meters maximum. One layer of
290grams/sq m. will do, we want a water barrier not
structural strength of which we have plenty.
Any start-points for delamination should be covered
with FG tape other key areas such as the stem, around
transoms and anywhere that a ply edge is exposed –these
are lethal. Several coats of epoxy on such edges is
likely to prevent delamination, glass taping will.
ACCOMODATION & USE
HC accomodations were designed at Bridgedeck level for
simplicity and flexibility. There is plenty of hull
stowage, and the 41½” x 23” flat
hatch cover stows upside down under one side deck. This
has no impact at all on the resultant enlarged day-sailing
deck which also provides access to the mast. Moving
forrd is rarely necessary, but good for cooling off
on the net/tramp. It’s simply a matter of stepping
over the windscreen, or sitting on the roof peak and
swinging your legs over.
Though it makes the build more complex,
those who wish may incorporate hull berths between BH1
and BH4. These have myriad advantages, not the least
of which is one can get up in the night without disturbing
the other. Hull shape & size dictates feet-forrd,
& theres not much room under the crossbeam. Entry
is tight, but easy with the hatch off, simply swinging
under from a grip on the hatch coaming. Once installed,
you will be really comfy, and well supported in a seaway.
All but the biggest sailors can fit the berth low enough
in the hull to provide sitting headroom, even with HC’s
low cuddy. Hull berths would be a real boon to serious
coastal cruisers, who wished to eat up some overnight
miles with helm watches interspersed by ballast duty
in the windward berth! The shakedown cruise for Hot
Chili is to be a 400 mile reach on the Australian coast,
returning by road. Hot Chili will lap it up!
The large stowable roof hatch essentially
removes all but the windscreen and strength-providing
roof peak across the boat. This setup lends itself to
mosquito netting & a various standard tents. A standard
8’x 6’ A-frame would fit around the coaming/cabin
edges. A poleless igloo 8 x 8 would go over cabin and
all, secured around the sidedecks and XBeams. If the
boom were lashed out of the way or hoisted, one could
attach the peak of such a tent to the halyard.
With a calm sea and 10 HP, Hot Chili
will happily bowl along on half throttle at 12 knots,
and hit at least 17 flat out. Builders with motoring
in mind may wish to raise the cuddy design against spray,
and either eliminate the rig, or rationalise it by removing
the prodder and installing a mast tabernacle. To optimise
this dual role, the designer is researching a source
of telescoping 20ft alloy masts.
Hot Chili is a real solution for those
who think they are doomed to save forever for “a
decent boat.” You can savour the feeling of sailing
a boat you built yourself, and you wont be exhausted
or broke by launch day. You will sail past boats costing
50 times as much, and can take your boat on holiday
without making the drive a nightmare. You can spend
200 hours building and 2000 sailing, instead of vice
versa. Your boat will be the focal point at Messabouts
and Wooden Boat Festivals. Hot Chili is enviromnmentally
sound. Hot Chili is heaps of fun. Can you think of a
better way to go?
Jeff Gilbert 2003.