Structure & Layout Options

The first set of options that had to be finalized have to do with the construction materials for some of the structural elements of the boat and the interior furniture layout. Here’s what we decided:

STRUCTURE

The standard construction plan for the 5X is well defined and there aren’t many options available, which is fine, since Outremer and the architects (VPLP) have made what I consider to be very good choices. In catamarans of this size and performance level, you see two main approaches taken by builders. They either select full carbon fiber hulls, which are very light and very rigid, or they go with foam core GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic, AKA fiberglass). Foam core is not as light as carbon, but it is lighter than standard GRP laminate and is very strong.

It might seem that carbon fiber is the perfect solution to the strength vs weight equation, but it’s not. Carbon is very expensive, typically you double the cost of the boat when building in all carbon. Its also very thin, so it transmits a lot of water noise into the interior of the boat when underway, which can wear on your nerves, and it isn’t very resistant to impacts, so hitting a whale, tree trunk or submerged container will do more damage, and it’s complicated and expensive to repair, which is a particular concern when getting work done in remote locations.

Foam core is heavier, but it is still very strong and does not transmit noise like carbon. It is not very resistant to impact though.

What Outremer and VPLP have done is to use a hybrid system that is a compromise between safety, weight and comfort. They use a solid GRP laminate in the hulls below the waterline. This adds some weight, but provides maximum strength and impact resistance, and it’s easy to repair if damaged. They use foam core for everything above the waterline to reduce weight where impact resistance is not as important, and they offer the option of several carbon fiber internal structural sections to reduce weight while retaining strength.

The main carbon options available for the 5X are the two main bulkheads (fore and aft of the salon) the salon roof, the rudders and rudder shafts, and the dinghy davits. We chose the bulkheads and the salon roof to be made in carbon. These two options reduce the weight of the boat by about 250 kg (500 lbs).

We decided against the rudders and shafts in carbon, as I didn’t want carbon below the waterline due to risk of impact damage and difficulty of repairs. We also decided against the carbon davits because this was a very expensive option that didn’t save much weight vs. the standard aluminum davits.

INTERIOR LAYOUT

The interior layout options for the 5X can get pretty extensive. They will really work with you to design what you need, within reason, and will engage the designer (Frank Darnet) to work on the layout changes if needed. They also offer some standard options, for example having two cabins in the port hull instead of the owner’s suite and having a small “skipper’s cabin” in the forward sail locker compartment.

They offer different types of wood finishes and interior colors as well, and these have to be chosen early in the process as they take a while to manufacture. We really like the standard design selections for the interior finishes so we didn’t make any changes there.

We like the standard owner’s version design with the master suite in the port hull, and we don’t need a skipper’s cabin, but we do want to add a small office in the port companionway which gives us an extra workspace without taking over the dining table or nav station.

This is the standard port companionway with shelves and no office

This is the standard port companionway with shelves and no office. This photo also shows the standard colors and wood finishes that we selected.

This is the port companionway with the desk option fitted

This is the port companionway with the desk option fitted

Another view of the port companionway office. It has a fold out seat that doesn't take up much room

Another view of the port companionway office. It has a fold out seat that doesn’t take up much room

Other layout selections we made were the orientation of the beds in the aft cabins. These can be either longitudinal or transverse. We chose longitudinal, because we don’t want to have to clamber over each other when entering or leaving the bed.

This is the longitudinal bed orientation that we chose for the aft cabins.

This is the longitudinal bed orientation that we chose for the aft cabins.

The alternative is to have a transverse orientation, which we don't like as much.

The alternative is to have a transverse orientation, which we don’t like as much because there’s too much clambering required!

We had to decide on the fridge, freezer and TV set locations as these all impact the interior furniture  design and need to be determined well before the start of construction.

We chose a large, two drawer fridge in the salon, and a TV that slides out horizontally from behind the cupboards.

The drawers on the left side of the picture is where we are installing our large two drawer fridge.

The drawers on the left side of the picture is where we are installing our large two drawer fridge

We are moving the freezer down into the port companionway, opposite the desk to give us more storage in the salon

Because our fridge will take some of our storage, we are moving the freezer from the salon, to the port companionway opposite the desk. This will give us back some storage in the salon

The TV sill slide out from behind the cupboards. The panel attached to the left side of the TV in this picture will be a door that hinges open on Wildling

The TV will slide out from behind the cupboards like this. The panel attached to the left side of the TV in this picture will be a door that hinges open on Wildling

We also chose the option to have the dining table on telescopic legs with additional cushions so that the banquette can be converted into a double bed for guests.

The custom dining table option with telescopic legs so it can be lowered to make up a bed.

The custom dining table option with telescopic legs so it can be lowered to make up a bed.

The final decision we made for the interior design was the location of the watermaker. Some owners have installed it under the master bunk with a control panel inside the companionway closet. I don’t like this as it means I have to pull the bed apart to service the watermaker. Instead I asked for it to be installed in the port engine room. Since the control panel has to be within 2 meters of the watermaker, we are installing the panel in the side of the transom just above the top step. There will be a watertight door that we can open to access the watermaker controls.

Those are the big decisions that we had to make last week to keep things on schedule. There are plenty more decisions to be made, and I’ll post more details about them as we go along.

4 Comments on “Structure & Layout Options

  1. I would go with the longitude berth too, it’s also nice to have the side of the hulls to lay against when thing get nasty. In the companion way there looks like there could be quite a bit of room for book shelves and storage for things that don’t require deep shelves,such as spare parts, tools, sailing hardware, blocks, shackles, winch handles also back up pantry, can goods. It is in the middle of the boat so anything that could be heavy it’s a good place for it to keep it out of the ends of the boat.
    I always try to think about where I load the boat with weight and what a great advantag you have to be able to plan this in advance, I am envious.
    Have fun,Eric.

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  2. Hi Eric,
    Good point about the additional safety of the longitudinal beds when conditions get “sporty” we found ourselves making use of that a time or two in Zangezi! It’s also a good idea about the shelves. There’s a lot less storage in the 5X compared to the Catana 471, which in a way is good, because it means we won’t be able to load as much “stuff” on the boat, but it does make it a bit more challenging to figure out where to locate things. I’ll need to think more about this.
    Cheers,
    Doug

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  3. Hi Doug. Looks like you have a beautiful boat – congrats. I have enjoyed watching your videos and reading your blog. I am at the early stages of buying a cat and have a couple of questions about config choices.

    I understand the desire to keep weight low, but I was surprised that you didn’t go for a generator (which you mentioned you had done with your previous boat). My view so far has been that I would rather run a generator for a couple of hours a day to make water and heat water than put hours on the engine. I would love to hear your perspective on this.

    Also, until now I have been considering a washing machine as I plan to sail the south pacific and want to be fairly self-reliant as regards that. Do you think this is bad logic?

    Finally, any advice about how to deal with boat builders regarding contract/pricing would be very welcome. This will be the first boat I have bought, so it’s new to me. I am currently looking at the Outremer 45, Catana 47 and the Slyder 47. My current view is that the Catana is heavy and unjustifiably more expensive (based on list prices).

    All advice gratefull received.

    Hamish

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    • Hi Hamish,

      It’s really a personal choice regarding the generator. Most folks choose to install one, so you would certainly be opting for the most common configuration if you get the generator. We had one on our last boat, and it worked fine, but we were very dependent on it, so when it broke we had real problems making water and keeping the batteries charged. I spent quite a lot of time maintaining it and fixing the various AC systems associated with it, and the extra 350kg of weight penalty was a big concern, plus they are noisy, hot, smelly and add background vibration to the boat when running. Not very pleasant at anchor (although the same issues are present using the engines to charge batteries). Our cruising friends on a 56 foot cat had no generator, were able to sail faster, with less hassle, and it didn’t cause them any issues at all, so I wanted to see if we could accomplish the same on our 5X. So far I would say we don’t miss the generator at all. Our solar panels and the hydro gen provide for our energy requirements most of the time, with only occasional need to charge batteries via the engines. Regarding the engine hours, I estimate we should get around 8,000 to 10,000 hours of operating life out of our engines, so running them a bit extra to charge batteries is worth it to me in order to avoid the negatives of having a generator.

      As for the clothes washer, we had one of those on our last boat too, but we hardly ever used it. It was always easier to do washing (or have it done) at any of the ports or anchorages we arrived at. Marine clothes washers aren’t very big, so you can’t wash very many clothes at a time, and they use a lot of fresh water, plus they take up storage space and add weight. And they will break at some point, so you will have one more thing to add to your list of things to repair.

      I don’t really have too much advice regarding the boat builders in terms of pricing, although I recommend you find out how they treat their owners after the sale. I didn’t have very good experience with Catana when I owned our 47, whereas Outremer has been excellent. I agree with your assessment of the Catana also, they have become too heavy, and I don’t like the interior designs on the new models. Slyder looks better than Catana to me, but I don’t like their helm station locations. I have sailed an Outremer 45 and I quite liked it. There is less space inside than the Catana, but it’s easier and more fun to sail. Knowing what I know now, if I was buying my first cat I would go for the Outremer 45.

      Cheers,
      Doug

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