'Shuttleworth 32': "Building a Dream"

If embarking yourself on building small cats is already a complicated endeavour, going for a 32' feet it's a huge challenge. William Pack was searching for a built Shuttleworth Cat ,  none was availble. He thought on  tercerizing construction but is always too expensive, so he decided to build it himself along his dad.

I can´t think of any other project that takes so much effort and time to be accomplished as transforming a plan to a sailing vessel, doing the project with your dad is definetely  ranks as the ultimate family project.

Below William tell us the full story on his own built 'Shuttleworth 32':
Building a Dream
"This story goes back a long time. My father had discovered the joy of sailing when he bought a J-24 that we raced on Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas in the early 80s. Her name was written from bow to stern and was called “Red Necks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer”. I learned everything there was to know about a sailboat when I was just a kid.
Fast forward to about 1988 when we had moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and loved the occasional excursion via bare-boat to the Bahamas. Dad had gone to a boat show to look for something he could potentially purchase and watched a couple buy a half million dollar boat that was no better than trying to sail a bathtub. So he went to researching.

What dad found next was in his mind one of the most brilliant designs in the world, a John Shuttleworth catamaran. From that day on, and for the next 20 years he talked about that boat. I remember one day in 1998 coming home for the summer break from my studies at the US Merchant Marine Academy and dad had laid out some wooden stakes in the back yard with pink ribbon strung between each. I said, “What the hell is this dad?” He quickly replied with a dead serious look on his face, “We could build a Shuttleworth Catamaran right here in our back yard.” I was convinced he had lost his mind.

For the next 10 years it had always been in the back of my mind that one day we should buy or build one of these designs. In about 2006 I really started thinking about it and had started researching the designs. I fell in love instantly and printed out a picture of the plan view and pinned it up at my desk at work. I looked at her every day for three years and left that job in 2009 to move back to Houston, Texas where I now currently reside.

Once back in Houston, some struggles with my professional career lit a fire inside. I made some phone calls and found out that there were no Shuttleworth boats available
for sale and no one builds them anymore. I called a builder who had built 15 and asked him why he stopped to which he replied “Well, I’m old”. I then contacted some builders in Europe and South Africa and was given a very overwhelming price tag on a custom build due to the low value of a US dollar at the time.

So there I was left with the thought that there is only one choice, we have to build it ourselves. I called dad and told him and he asked what we needed to do. I told him we have to buy the drawings first. He asked how much to which my answer was five thousand dollars. He then asked what happens if we decide we can’t build it and I said that I’ll split the cost and we will just have to risk it. Dad said OK, that was the quickest sale I’ve ever made!

It’s now about October of 2011, we bought the drawings for the Shuttle 32, started a LLC, rented a shop just barely big enough to build the boat and got started. We decided to use vacuum resin infusion for the best possible results and went and took a two day class to learn how. For the next two and a half years, I packed up my wife and kids and drove 3 hours each way to Austin, Texas every weekend to work with my Dad on building this boat.

As we built the first mold for the decks, we did dozens of vacuum tests of the laminate schedule and every single one was a complete disaster.
Most of the tests ended up looking like this and we were dumbfounded. We even sent samples to our vendors who also couldn’t get it to work either!

We couldn’t give up though because we had already built the first mold and she was beautiful.

In desperation we tried something a little radical, against the advice of nearly everyone we spoke with. Sure enough, it worked and we infused two perfect decks off of this mold.

Then we built the mold for the lower portion of each hull and this mold was beyond beautiful! Once we pulled two hulls off of that mold we went to work putting her all together. When the shop was clean enough, the kids would play on the boat.

Once we put her together, we were too far from the water and needed to disassemble our preassembled boat, do some finishing work and ship her down to Houston. Unfortunately, I had been laid off but was given a severance package that allowed me to spend the next six months doing the final assembly. This was when the true scale started to really show. I got a great pic that I was showing off to all my friends when I had parked my car almost entirely under the boat.

This assembly phase was a very interesting parts of the journey. A couple years before we ever started the assembly, Dad had made a phone call to a place in Highlands, Texas called Anne’s Tugboat Marina or something similar. He had asked them if we could assemble our boat on their property and launch it into the San Jacinto River to float down to the Gulf of Mexico. They weren’t really a Marina though. It was a local bar and just as they were about to hang up on the old man a gentleman who lived next door named Brad Christensen was visiting the bar. He overheard the conversation and asked the bar tender to give him the phone. Dad gave him a two minute summary of our idea and Brad said, “bring it on”. So we went and showed him the drawings and sat down on his back porch for a couple beers and Brad said, “You can build it here, I won’t charge you, this is an amazing story.” A couple years later, when we were ready, we called him back and he said, “It’s about damn time!”

Dad and I spent the summer of 2014 assembling all of our prefabricated pieces in Brad’s lawn in the Houston humidity. Once we were done, Brad being an industrial engineer helped us figure out how to launch the boat with an old tractor, some hay bales and a rented trailer. Launch day was one hell of an exciting day because we had to jack the entire boat up about 2 feet to back the trailer underneath, stack the hay bales under the main and aft beams and then lower the boat onto the trailer. As I was jacking the boat up, I lowered the starboard aft jack too much and the port forward hull lifted about a foot off of its jack. Brad was watching intently and sarcastically said, “I guess you built those beams right”.

It must have looked absolutely ridiculous of us backing such a large boat down a boat ramp with a decade’s old little tractor. But it sure as hell worked! That was December 7th, 2014 and a week later we motored her down to Seabrook to get a local yacht yard to do some finishing work. Shortly after, I bought Brad some really nice filet knives as a Christmas present. He was home recovering from a knee replacement surgery when I took them over to him. He seemed fine when I saw him, just maybe a little lethargic from the medicine. The next day, Brad was gone. He had passed away from complications from the surgery. Brad was an amazing, smart and compassionate man, we miss him dearly and have shed many tears since that day.

Final Phase: Finishing and Rigging
Talk about getting thrown in to the sharks. We drove the boat down to Seabrook where one yacht yard vendors promised to help do some minor finishing work while I went back to work to help pay for it. Thousands of dollars and several months later we were still sitting there waiting to get the work done with little progress. I begged and pleaded with anyone I could to get her finished up but to no avail. The boat was too wide for the travel lift and the yard would not volunteer their “cherry picker” crane to lift her out for a final paint job. Not too long after, the shipyard told us to leave because they don’t like people working on their own boats. I told them, “I don’t want to work on my boat, I want to pay you but you’re not doing anything.” Their response, “It’s not our fault you brought us an empty shell.”

It was a harrowing experience for me, being the naïve first time boat builder trying to get contractors to finish what we started. Brad had warned me multiple times about this exact scenario, but we had no choice. There was also no way in hell we were going to give up. Finally our friends at Stix N Rign brought in Laramie Crane who lifted her out of the water so that a gentleman named Ben Miller at BM Boat Works could put an amazing paint job on her. That’s when my stress finally ended, she was GORGEOUS and I knew at that point that we were finally there!

Kevin, Brian and Jesse at Stix N Rign have been amazing. They have taken care of 100% of the specification, purchasing and stepping of the mast. I was in over my head and they stepped up. They also helped me work with other contractors to get her finished up. I am very grateful for working with Stix, the mast is a beautiful 49 foot tall Selden aluminum rig. Stix is now working with Quantum sails to measure, construct and deliver the sails. Stix obtained a 2.1 meter carbon bow sprit and they have also built us a custom carbon radar mast and will not only be helping us with sea trials, but will be filming it with a drone! How cool is that? The drone filmed the launch after our beautiful paint job and you can find the video on my Packsail youtube channel. Shortly after you read this, I’m sure you’ll be able to find the sea trial footage there as well.

Where we are now:
November 2015, almost exactly 4 years after we started we are finishing the interior and awaiting the sails which have been ordered. As soon as the sails arrive we will begin sea trials. Based on the fact that she weighs very little (less than 6000 pounds), is 32 feet long and 22.5 feet wide, I think she’s going to fly! Most importantly, the kids still enjoy playing on her. I love my family dearly and have given my children a lifetime of wisdom by showing them that you can accomplish absolutely anything that you set your mind to.

To this day, friends and family ask me after all of the stress and difficulties if I’m interested in building another boat. My answer to them, “You’re damn right I am”.

For more info on the project contact William Pack at : William Pack
william (at) packsail (dot) com
(303) 999-6701

Building Proccess Photos: 

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