Copyright 2024 - Woods Designs, 16 King St, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL11 2AT UK
  • production Strider 24

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran

Ric Caselli built one of the first Mirages launched and answered a prospective builders questions with the following:


It is very nice to hear about your plans. All in all, it is very similar to what we started with, since we also were looking at the Maine Cat 30 as a concept. Now, I believe the Mirage to be a much better boat. I guess we'll find out a lot when we finally get to sail her, but we have been using her as a powerboat for a year and a half now, and I feel that she's as solid as she should be.

Richard has been more than helpful, always ready to set me straight within days even from the farthest locations. He is very very knowledgeable in theory and, more important, in practice and you know it because on the boat everything works. The last thing you want is to find out at the end that something works only on paper. On Libe, the layout is very very efficient and structurally I have full confidence. When we take her out in a good swell she feels absolutely solid.

You and I feel the same way in regards as the "fufu" stuff. We plan to use Libe as a vacation cruiser (a week, maybe 10 days max at a time). My wife Rashida and I dream of retiring on board one day, but for now it's mostly weekends with the kids. We like to snorkel and kayak around. We find Libe very comfortable. The staterooms are roomy and airy. One thing I love, I raised the head sole a little (we're on the short side) and it drains straight out. No pumps, wiring, sumps, etc.

Same as you, I wouldn't sail her to cold latitudes (why?) but she's spacious and the bridgedeck is so nice. Sometimes we go out with friends and people gather in different places, the kids on the nets, the ladies in the cockpit and me and a buddy or two on the hard top. BTW we discovered the Coleman Water Heater and we love it.

As for the building process, I had never built a boat before, not even a dinghy. I spent a couple of years trying to learn as much as I could before I started. I don't think I could have built a boat from scratch before the Internet to tell you the truth. But nowadays, all the answers are there, you just have to look.

Timewise, it took 4 years. I can't tell how many hours though, I lost count. I kept a full time job while building, but I definitely put in at least 40 hours a week on average. If I had to do it again, it would definitely take less time because some things you figure out the fast way to do it after the third or fourth time.

I had a good helper for most of the project, at least 20 hours a week. I would definitely recommend that. I built Libe in 3 sections in a 1500 sq. ft. warehouse in Opa locka FL where I found the cheapest rent, about 700 a month. The faster way to build is to pre-build (scarph or butt join) the largest panels you can handle.

The single best suggestion I can give you is to get a warehouse and rig all sort of lifting hardware overhead. If you can lift, move and position accurately a 20'x5' panel at a time you might cut the build time in half. You will save a lot of fairing too. We installed the decks and deck sides that way and it was FAST! I wish we did it for the hulls. You need at least two people to do that though, because you have to set it in place before the epoxy on bulkheads and stringers kicks (say 25 minutes). It's not for the faint of heart but it works.

We prefinished the inboard side of the panels with 2 coats of west system (use 207!!), since doing it on the flat is MUCH easier to do than vertical. If you that, the inside is practically finished when you are done. Major, Major saving. Fairing the outside is a piece of cake in comparison to fairing and coating the inside. Also glassing the outside of the hull is much easier and faster than the inside.

If I had to do it again I would look for a warehouse in Fort Lauderdale where the local boat suppliers are. I spent MANY days driving around looking for stuff. You should really come down and take a look at the boat. It will make the process much clearer. Plus you should try to know all the location of backing pads and such in advance. You are welcome to come look and take any pictures you wish.

As for finding a builder, I have no idea. If you do, my best advice is to have them build in foam-glass. I wouldn't let anybody but myself build in plywood. It is a great material but I feel that any production guy would try to save time and you don't want that. The bog has to be just right, not too hard and not too runny. The hardware has to be installed correctly and that takes time.

The epoxy has to be the right one for the temperature, etc. That's why they don't build boats in wood anymore, everything has to be done just right or it will fail over time. I believe wood-epoxy is the best way to build a one-off boat for strength versus weight and especially fatigue resistance but it can take a whole day to install a cleat (4 bolts). Nobody works like that in a production environment.

The bridge deck we built with Nida-core. If I remember correctly it was 12'x10' before fitting. It must have been 10' wide actually because I special ordered 5x10 sheets of plywood for that. I will measure it when I have a chance.

So, about a suitable building location: You can build inside any structure protected from the elements. If it's a soft-structure, like a large shed or a hangar, I recommend that you build a very strong lifting system inside. You want to be able to lift a whole hull with someone inside, maybe 100Kgs/2000lbs plus a good margin. If the temperature drops below 60F, you will need heating (for epoxy to work).

Most important, make sure that it's very close to suppliers, hardware store, contractors (welding, etc). I didn't have a door large enough to get the whole boat out, but it would have been nice. Make sure the floor is not too fancy, otherwise you will want to cover it all with some fiberboard or such (you will have TONS of epoxy drippings at the end).

Good locations in Florida would be Ft. Lauderdale, Stuart or the Tampa area. Make sure there's a lot of boat builders around, the more the better. The Carolinas are another good spot, plus I heard it got really slow there, maybe you can find a great deal for a warehouse. I am not familiar with locations up north, but I would look in Professional Boatbuilder Magazine (you can get a free subscription).

Resources and reading: - The West System book (you have to have it, read it all before beginning) - Reuel Parker Cold Molding book - I found a lot of useful stuff on Good Old Boat and Woodenboat (the last issue has a great article on G10 garolite, I have been using it for years. - Gerr's The Nature of Boats

With your experience, you should be able to a better boat than mine!!

Photos of Ric's boat below