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Tiki 38

Tiki 38 photo.

(For photos of Razzle Dazzle, please see our Tiki Photo Gallery.)

Razzle Dazzle is a "Tiki 38", a 38 foot, gaff-rigged, catamaran schooner, built to a design by James Wharram and Hanneke Boon.

We think that the Tiki 38 is a great boat. It is a very safe and simple design. It is relatively inexpensive to build, and easy to maintain. It is, however, smaller than it appears, with very narrow hulls to make it easy to drive through the water, and with no bridgedeck accomodation, reducing windage.

For us, it was to be the perfect boat to use as our magic carpet to see the world.

The Tiki 38 uses a sail design that Wharram describes as a soft wing sail. The luff of the sail is a large fabric pocket which surrounds the mast and shapes itself to the flow of the wind. This reduces the turbulence which is otherwise created by the mast, and increases the power of the sail. This allows for smaller sails which can be handled by a couple of old, retired people — like us.

Tiki photo. Razzle Dazzle was built mostly to the plans, with very few modifications. We did not change any of the structure of the boat, although we did add a number of additional storage lockers both inside and on deck. We replaced the aft netting with a platform carrying three large solar panels to provide us with most of our electrical supply. We also carried a towed generator to produce electricity while underway, and a wind generator for overcast days when the solar panels don't work. Here is a complete inventory of the equipment we installed on the boat.

Razzle Dazzle was constructed in the Philippines by Andy Smith of Junction Boatworks. Andy started construction in August, 1999. We launched Razzle Dazzle on September 19, 2002. After just 2 years of living aboard, we decided to sell our dream boat and move on to other adventures on land. With very mixed feelings, we sold the boat in November, 2004.

Buc-buc —

Unfortunately, it wasn't long after the launch when we learned that Razzle Dazzle was seriously infested with a local wood-boring beetle. After we discovered the beetles, other sailors told us many sad stories about other wooden boats that had been built in the tropics that suffered the same fate. As for the beetles, we don't know their scientific name. The Visayan name is buc-buc. We learned from the local people that the beetle eggs were probably in the trees before they were cut down, then in the plywood, and finally in our boat as it was built. It is essentially impossible to tell where the beetle eggs are located within the plywood. We believe that it might have been possible to treat the wood to kill the insect eggs before the boat was built. However, it would be difficult to kill them after the boat is built, as they are well protected inside the epoxy covered wood.

At some point in their life cycle, the beetles hatch and begin burrowing through the wood. They then cut a tiny hole through the epoxy coating and expel small balls of wood fiber residue. Whenever we found these piles, we would search for the nearly invisible small hole, Jim would enlarge the hole with a sailmaker's needle, and then inject pesticide into the hole with a hypodermic syringe. At first, the beetles were only appearing in interior partitions and cabinetry. We hoped that our pesticide treatments would kill the insects and stop the problem. But, they kept appearing in new places, far from the initial infestation. Eventually, they started showing up in the hulls and deck beams, and we realized that killing the ones we found was not enough to solve the problem. They could make their hole in the outside surface of the hull, and we would never see the little balls of wood fiber falling into the water.

Although we did not decide to sell the boat because of the buc-buc (we would have sold anyway) we did suffer a huge financial loss because of the damage. We could not in good conscience sell the boat without telling the new buyer about the hull damage, and we sold for the value of the rigging, sails, electronics, anchors, etc. (We received $US 25,000 for the boat in November, 2004.)

The biggest problem with the buc-buc, from our point of view, is that it is almost impossible to know for sure where all of the damage is. The beetles tunnel through the wood between the epoxy layers so you can't tell where they have been, and the little holes they make are very hard to see. Even if you could reliably kill the remaining insects, or if all the eggs hatched and the beetles flew away, you would never know where the hull might be weakened. The hull sides are only about 3/8" thick plywood. Being struck in one of those weakened spots by a large wave could be enough to hole the boat. We would hate to think that someone might lose their life because Razzle Dazzle failed them at sea.

From our experience, we would not build (or buy) another wooden boat that was built in the tropics. That said, the Tiki 38 was a very nice boat in many ways. It sailed well, needed only a light touch on the helm for steering (on most points of sail, it would hold a course for half a minute or more with no hands on the wheel), it was stable, and it was fast. We overloaded the boat badly, had it 6 inches too deep in the water, and it still did 11 knots with a reef in each sail. Jim took a second reef and we were still doing 8-9 knots. All of this on a beam reach in about 15 knot winds.

In her present condition, Razzle Dazzle would probably be fine for day sailing in good weather and within sight of shore. We would not trust the hulls to go any further than that. We enjoyed living on Razzle Dazzle very much, and it saddens us that she has been reduced to her present state of disability.