HISTORY: [Part 1] / [Part 2]


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REALIZING THE DREAM

Kurt had already designed a 36 foot catamaran whose hull shapes I liked a great deal. That afternoon at lunch we all agreed to modify his basic design to work with my CAT2FOLD system. I’d previously applied for and received a patent for the CAT2FOLD system but adapting it to an actual boat design presented several serious challenges, not the least of which was working with another person. I’d always worked alone with my computer and in my shop, but suddenly there were hundreds of drawings from this other person sailing across cyberspace as Kurt delved deeper and deeper into the designs and criteria I had sent him. I found myself being forced to re-consider every bolt, every screw, every beam I had drawn. Kurt’s professionalism was a revelation to me and with his insights, we made many improvements in my original designs.
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After a couple of months of intense design work and some very long night sessions, Kurt announced that we now needed a structural engineer to confirm his calculations regarding the strength of the beams and the durability of the CAT2FOLD system. He recommended Matthew Malkin, P.E. in Washington state who had been doing this type of work for a decade. Matt performed all the structural analysis beam tests and with some minor adjustments pronounced our designs sound and our calculations correct. Kurt and I were delighted and elated. But it was Heidi who looked at me and said, “That’s all well and good but I can’t go sailing on those two hundred pieces of paper.” She was right as usual, and I knew we had reached another watershed.
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We had designed a new boat. A catamaran that was light, fast, and had many unique characteristics. It could fold simply and quickly while on the water, and then hauled on to a trailer, it would meet all the width restrictions for road-trailering anywhere we wished to drive. Furthermore, being able to fit into a standard width slip meant those dock end-tie surcharges (assuming you CAN find an end tie in Southern California!) would not be greatly missed. I even revived my long held desire of sailing in the thin waters of the Keys and the Bahamas knowing that I could trailer out of harm’s way should a hurricane threaten!
Although the 45’ mast would stay in place while folding and unfolding, it could be raised and lowered by one individual. The folding deckhouse sat over the hard deck between the aft portion of the hulls, while the forward deck had the usual trampoline webbing. The beams are of carbon fiber and the self integrating beam locks secure the hulls in either an open or closed position and use NO nuts or bolts to hold it all together. The rudders are transom hung and the dagger board housings are integral to the structural rigidity of the hulls. Interior living space is a whopping 6’5” headroom for all of us normal sized people. The bow sports a retractable bowsprit for flying either a screecher or a spinnaker and of course, the jib is self tending. All in all, it is exactly what Heidi and I have dreamed of for years. Now, the only thing left to do, was to build it!

We sent off basic plans to builders in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. We knew building our prototype would not be inexpensive but finding the right builder who could deal with the uncertainties that always arise in custom construction was a critical decision for us. In addition, I like to work closely with the builder to solve issues that naturally come up. The builder’s ego would have to be able to accept my help and suggestions in spite of my lack of formal naval design training.
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In the end we chose Greg Martell of Composite Boats Ltd, in New Zealand for several reasons. His estimated price was very competitive and moreover, he was straight forward and honest about the unknowns. He grasped immediately what we were trying to do and got as excited as we were. Additionally, Greg had the foresight and a bigger picture in mind when he inquired about the possibility of using the CAT2FOLD design in other sized cats. He WANTED to be in on what he saw as a ground floor for an entirely new type of catamaran. We agreed, signed the papers, gave him a bunch of money and he went to work. Since then we have been continually impressed not only with the quality of his craftsmanship, but also his consistent effort to keep us informed of the progress through email photos of every aspect of the work from laying up of the glass in stress areas to minute close-ups of bolt and pin installations. We all know that boat construction with modern methods and space age materials is just as much art and technique as old wooden boat building. Gregg and his crew have shown a mastery of the skills necessary. It has been a pleasure to work with him and his company and we are exceedingly confident of his efforts even though we’re 12,000 ocean miles away.
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Now, as we are tackling the myriad of complexities of turning computer images and paper plans into carbon fiber and fiberglass, the dream is slowly turning into reality. As we enter the final stages of construction, we are approaching the realization of our dream quest. Every day brings us closer. NO, I am not yet on the deck admiring star shine in Caleta de San Juanico, Baja Sur, … but I AM checking the tire pressures on my trailer!

RAFI AND HEIDI FRANCKE

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