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In Search of Epicure (or more information)


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Greetings all,

Although I fear it to be a lost cause, I am searching for any more recent concrete reports on the fate of the cruising proa Epicure. I have done a lot of fishing around in the last couple of years and still have yet to find anything on what happened after she ran aground for the second time. Things I already know:
The brainchild of Daniel Charles, she was launched in 2010
Aluminium hulls with a stayed (main only?) rig
Charles was unhappy with her performance, specifically with regards to her rudder/board arrangement
He eventually ran out of money and had placed the boat on a mooring on the Blavet river with the mast down (presumably for bridge clearance) sometime in 2012?
He attempted to sell it (for a very small sum if I remember correctly) for a while but could not find a buyer
During that time, it broke its moorings twice and drifted downstream to rest on the rocky banks
Due to a lack of funds, Charles let the insurance lapse and as such had no way of recovering the stricken proa. I heard from a friend that she was pretty badly vandalized during her time on the river bank
I gather from another forum post that the builder had tried to gather funding to put the boat on the hard again in 2013, but I was unable to find any proof of this occurring nor any proof of its success
Since then, there have been one or two more posts about this boat, but nobody has had any other reliable information to offer. However, since it’s been a few years, I thought I would reach out on a variety of different forums to see if anyone has heard anything since then. Epicure is one of the few modern proas that was professionally built and one of the only ones made from aluminium. Presumably she is not still sitting on the river bank (recent satellite views show no sign of her where she was spotted previously nor further downstream) so what happened to her?
Was she towed and then cut up for scrap (a fate facing too many metal boats when their owners are unable to support them) or is she sitting in a field somewhere growing moss like that one Newick atlantic proa?
Anyways, if anyone knows anything other than what I have provided above, that would be greatly appreciated. It would be a shame if such an iconic vessel ended its life under a grinder, but given the amount of time it’s been since anyone has heard anything, I’m not hopeful.

Cheers
 

 

Epicure Sailing.jpg

Epicure Beached.jpg

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A LOAF OF BREAD AND PROA08 November 2010 
https://proafile.com/multihull-boats/article/a-loaf-of-bread-and-proa

EXCLUSIVE: EPICURE, 47’ CRUISING PROA by Daniel Charles, 04 April 2011 
https://proafile.com/multihull-boats/article/exclusive-epicure-47-cruising-proa

epicure_tender.jpg.76e9cfe3b96327d10e0ee980f85b74d6.jpg

 

Good luck.  It looks like a lot of care (and $$$?) went into this boat.  Is that big foil in the center of the beam a rudder?

epicure5.thumb.jpg.bde719f73ba6e77a8315b2d50a78f074.jpg

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Yes I believe those are the rudders. Big low aspect ratio foils suspended from the beams. From the pictures it looks like the lower pivot was anchored to the deck on one side and the lee hull on the other with large rods. In the picture you posted of the boat moored alongside a wall, you can see the steering gear protruding from the inside face of the beams. This system apparently gave Charles a great deal of trouble as he was unable to effectively lock the lazy rudder in place and because of the way they were mounted, he couldn't simply let it trail like some other systems. Probably could have been sorted, but lack of funds is an issue that seems to plague all proa projects.

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Oh but don't you love how interesting it gets? All of these like-minded yet diametrically opposed individuals giving their productive input on each other's work? ;)

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Ah so I am blind. Seems it has found a rather fitting resting place, although it has seemingly moved slightly from the Facebook post. I have been unable to get a proper date on when the satellite images were taken but I did get a street view captured in April of 2019 that shows her. In the satellite image you can also see the indentation where she was previously sitting, but no evidence of her dragging through the mud to get to the new position (although she has moved upstream somehow to rest alongside the other vessel, so that provides some semblence of hope. 

Epicure 2019.PNG

Epicure 2019 SV.PNG

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Quick addition as I found a fantastic picture of her from 2017. Seems like she has been resting there for quite a while. Second picture from 2018 is somewhat more disturbing. She is still there as of September 2021 as shown in the last photo. This community is always very helpful when it comes to things like this, despite all of the open hostility in the proa threads.

Epicure 2017.PNG

Epicure 2018.PNG

Epicure Sept 2021.PNG

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So...could she be rescued/ claimed?  What would the legal issues be?  A few years ago Hydropter was slated to be crushed here in Honolulu, and saved, partially, due to the action of some folks on this board.  There was some question about ownership there, but I think the Hawaii Division of Land and Natural Resources claimed her for unpaid mooring fees, and then auctioned her off.  I'm not really sure where you would stand if you were in California with a boat that Hawaii says belongs to you but France says belongs to someone else.  Lots of boats and cars here are destroyed here because the owner on title is gone, and there is no way for anybody else to take ownership.  But she is lovely (still), and it seems like a fun project for any interested in the wonderfully strange.

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This is the matter at hand now that she has been located. I have contacted Charles with just such a question and am awaiting a response as to whether or not he still has legal posession of the vessel. Things may be complicated by the fact that the mudflat where she sits is technically a park I think? However, it was a histocial dumping ground for derelict vessels until the practice was banned in 2001/2002 (from what I could find). Since Epicure washed up there of her own accord, she technically wasn't "dumped" but also is not technically allowed to be left there either. Seems like nobody really cares about it though. The specific area where she sits doesn't really see enough water to actually get her floating again from the looks of it, assuming the bottom is still intact and hasn't corroded too heavily (the barrier layer was probably worn/scraped away in some spots when she ran up on the rocks in the years before she landed there). The fact that Epicure arrived so far down the river and then managed to shift positions dramatically leads me to believe that the bottom was reasonably intact sometime around 2016. The interior made of balsa-cored ply will be completely destroyed as it looks like some of the deck hatches are gone, broken, or left open by vandals and/or curious members of the public or authorities so she may wekk be full of water and debris. The road to remediation would be long and difficult (or expensive if you pay someone else to do it), if possible at all. I do intend to take this into consideration but am still seriously interested in undertaking such a project, although hopefuly without comitting financial suicide. 

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22 hours ago, PIL66 - XL2 said:

Awesome.... a proa thread..... let's see how this goes

Hehehe...... Ah Pil,     I do like some humor in the morning with my coffee.

On a serious note - you must be getting pretty close to buying that Orma 60 ?

You know it is an absolute bargain, that you just can't pass up.  Think of all the races you could win.....:rolleyes:

And your feeble excuses about nowhere to put it ?

  Easy - on XL42's mooring.

Hellbent ;

Well done,  I hope it works out for you.   B)

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52 minutes ago, peterbike said:

Hehehe...... Ah Pil,     I do like some humor in the morning with my coffee.

On a serious note - you must be getting pretty close to buying that Orma 60 ?

You know it is an absolute bargain, that you just can't pass up.  Think of all the races you could win.....:rolleyes:

And your feeble excuses about nowhere to put it ?

  Easy - on XL42's mooring.

Hellbent ;

Well done,  I hope it works out for you.   B)

Apparently it sold...... phewwww... that was close

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Daniel Charles tried very hard to get aboard my first proa for the Tradewinds race in 1979 (I think), but the boat was so tiny that it couldn't hold 3 people. I felt bad, but what could I do? The upwind leg of that race was something like 350 miles and we finished 2 1/2 hours behind the leaders who were twice our length. What a race! We bailed out of the 3'rd leg because it was blowing like stink and had a leaking rudder trunk, but ended up partying for a couple of days on Vandredi Treize. Johnny Hallyday and a bunch of sleazy women were the charter guests, but the captain (Karin something) was so cool. We ran out of food and money on the way back to ST Croix. Seems like another life now. My boat was a total piece of shit, but it could go upwind.

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Russel Brown himself made it onto my own little proa thread. Of course I shouldn't be surprised given the rather limited number of people with any hands-on proa knowledge. Thanks for the story and I agree with Wayne about the book part B). On a more serious note, I have heard from Charles and it seems like the problem of current ownership may be a bigger deal than the physical recovery of the vessel. I am waiting to see what he gives me permission to add to the public record. 

Maybe, just maybe, we can have one proa thread without any infighting?

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Apologies Russell. I was only trying to close out my post full of wishful thinking about a boat with a bit of wishful thinking about the community it belongs to. I did not mean to poke fun at anyone nor offend those of you who have been seriously affected by the open hostility found here all too often. I'll not talk of it further and I would implore anyone else to avoid it as well. I don't want to be responsible for my first thread becoming hurtful (and uselessly off-track). 

Back to the topic at hand then. Charles does not believe, by his own admission, that Epicure is worth trying to resurrect. Apparently, aside from the the serious difficulties with the (now damaged) rudders while shunting, she was rather poorly constructed (some bad welds and she was over her design weight by something like 15%).

As a quick tidbit, correct me if I'm wrong but from what I can find she may have been the only proa fitted with bow thrusters (not to mention a proper interior fit for long-term comfortable cruising). Overall a shame that such a nice boat should go the way that she did. 

I'm still looking into her current state, but not quite as actively as before. Daniel has given me a lot to think about. I've had experiences with bad aluminium welds on less critical components than the entire hull of the vessel that give me cause for concern. She would also need a completely redesigned steering system, probably involving cutting open the lee hull and welding in some trunks for dagger rudders. 

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My tone wasn't right. Sorry. Also sorry that Daniel doesn't think the boat is worth saving. Had it been rescued and finished before it went downhill, it could have been active all these years. It did seem like too much boat for it's length, but it could have been a good cruising boat.

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How about kickup rudders just grafted on either end?  Simple, anyway.  Never gonna be a performance beast, or, probably anything you would want to make a crossing in.  But will always be wonderfully strange, and plenty interesting.  Puttering around day sailing would just be a bonus.

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On 9/27/2021 at 1:30 PM, kruiter said:

How about kickup rudders just grafted on either end?  Simple, anyway.  Never gonna be a performance beast, or, probably anything you would want to make a crossing in.  But will always be wonderfully strange, and plenty interesting.  Puttering around day sailing would just be a bonus.

Kickups grafted on like you suggest would work, although would probably be a nightmare to link up (not to mention look at). I have yet to find or think up a way to effectively graft kick-up or retractable rudders to the extreme ends of a proa hull with plumb bows and not have them kick up a tremendous amount of spray, not to mention increase the resistance and loading when sailing into swell. The exception to the rule seems to be About Face, an Atlantic proa with more traditional bows that managed to make use of the slope to neatly retract the rudders and block them in place. The rudder head still seems to be a source of issue however. 

Epicure's designed rudders were free to rotate and controlled by trim tabs. This means that during a shunt, one would just center the wheel which would cause the tabs to align with the blade and the rudders would trail. The problem was that they would then just feather and become completely ineffective in controlling leeway during the maneuver and the boat, due to its high freeboard and shallow draft hulls, would drift sideways uncontrollably. Once power was brought back on and the boat set off in the new direction, the rudders would go back to working extremely well according to Daniel. In the unlikely case that the (hydraulic?) trim tab control system failed then the tops of the rudder shafts, which can be seen protruding slightly above the beams in some photos, could be fitted with tillers to directly control the rudder blades themselves. 

In my view, this problem could have been at least partially rectified through the use of an additional method of leeway prevention such as a daggerboard, but I'd be interested in hearing from those with more experience than myself as I could be totally wrong. I think this rudder system is quite interesting and solves a couple of common problems: Comparably large rudders can be used without creating excessive loads on the steering and the rudders can be conventional and efficient foils while also being self-shunting and could even be designed to kick up in a collision. Let me know what you think. I've included a wireframe drawing provided by Daniel which shows the trim tabs on the rudders quite well. 

Document11.pdf

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I am surprised that Epicure drifted sideways uncontrollably during shunts due to insufficient LRA. Fag packet overlays and calculations say that Epicure had an SA/LRA ratio of ~ 7.9. The ratios of a few other proas, including centreboards, if they have them: Bucket List: ~ 14.2, Sidecar (currently): ~ 12.1, Jester 2: ~ 8.2, Madness: ~ 7.7. I don’t think Epicure needs more lateral resistance.

I went through many permutations of rudders (and spacing), centreboards, skegs, chine runners, and bow boards, giving a range of SA/LRA ratios between 10.0 to 13.5. The most effective combination is what I have now, widely spaced balanced rudders and a chine runner, no centreboard at 12.1.

Hull windage wise, Epicure proportionally has a lot of windage, but it has ~ 23% of its overall profile area below the waterline. Sidecar proportionally has ~ 8%.

I struggle to see that there is enough benefit from trim tabs, for all the complication involved. For me, Epicures problems seems to stem principally from too closely spaced rudders and a single sail whose CE is way aft of centre. Sidecar can sail mainsail only at speed, but is a pig at slow speeds and almost impossible to shunt. If you are in irons, you will drift sideways. There are cats and monohulls (I had one) which behave similarly, it isn’t just a Proa problem. A second sail, whether it be a jib, a second (schooner) mainsail or a windward jib seems necessary if you don’t fancy going the traditional route. Aero rigs are iffy, because to get sufficient area up front, they are overbalanced, which causes a different set of problems.

FWIW, an overlay of Sidecar on a rescaled Epicure. Apologies for the image quality. And if you find it really hard to see Epicure’s leeward hull, coincidentally, it has an almost identical profile (rounded at the bows) to Sidecar’s.

EPICURE profile overlay.pdf

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I think that some of the problems may have stemmed from the fact that Epicure was never, at least to my knowledge, fully loaded and always floated very high on her lines in every photo I can find. She was built as a long-term cruiser and therefore built to sail with a lot of extra weight on board that was never actually there in any of the tests, so with long and narrow hulls there was substantially less boat in the water than was designed. 

I do agree, at least based on my general knowledge of the concept, that the rudders seem a bit closely spaced. Epicure steered using the forward rudder in a canard configuration, leaving the aft one to trail behind with no direct control and no way to lock it in place, so it didn't work as leeway prevention. I'll agree that trim tabs do add a great deal of complexity in engineering the foils and steering system, but they have all of their advantage in ease of use. There was no lifting and lowering of boards or switching tillers around to align the rudders with the new direction of travel. Because they are (presumably) controlled hydraulically, it would also be very easy to integrate an autopilot into the system. With some clever routing, you might even be able to use just one brain to control both rudders on their respective tacks. Of course, their effectiveness decreases the slower you go, so docking and close quarters maneuvering might be a struggle. I also worry about what would happen if you had to back down hard or heaven forbid, make a multi-point turn in tight quarters. 

The rig was designed to be inexpensive to build and easy to operate, but it turns out that giant 90+ sqm mainsails are hard to control during maneuvers without a proper purchase. Epicure's primary winch was an oversized electric affair, so large that it can be clearly seen protruding above the pod combing in pretty much every picture. This was needed to handle the massive loads created by such a huge sail. Epicure did have provisions for a flying jib which could be set in lighter conditions.

Sort of going to haijack my own thread a bit here so forgive me: 

Interesting that Sidecar and Epicure have very similar profiles despite being very different configurations. I must confess that I still don't really understand the intricacies of Sidecar's rig. The way the booms (and especially the main boom) are mounted on struts kind of messes with my head a bit. I'm sure it makes more sense in person, but I can't seem to get my head around how you would control that setup and how the stay that the main runs up is secured to the mast head, presumably from one end of the boom, but still remains in tension when shunting (or does it not?). Also I noticed that your A-sail appears to be rigged on the windward (jib) boom which is an interesting solution. I imagine that this feature creates some interesting quirks of its own. For example, if you are running nearly dead down wind, can you fly the spinnaker over the beams and between the other sails. Can you still fly all three sails at once in lighter air? Appoligies but your rig is very unique and your boat is also very nice to look at, so I spend quite a bit of time doing so and pondering. 

This has been another long post, so I'll leave off with a couple of videos of Epicure. Unfortunately nothing seems to exist of her sailing.

Maybe I'll still be stupid enough to try what Daniel thinks is impossible.

Cheers

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One of the main benefits of having two “operating” rudders is the versatility. In lighter conditions, I prefer to lock off the aft one, with a little AoA, so that it becomes an aft gybed centreboard and steer with the front one. Beyond about 6 knots boat speed, I can steer with the aft one, and let the forward one feather and find its own way through the water. I could lift it, and maybe go faster still, but so far haven’t bothered, preferring to have reserve ability to use both rudders for big sudden wind shifts, especially knocks.  Inability to use the aft rudder in this way is a major Epicure weakness.

If Epicure floated high on its lines, and that has contributed to the lateral resistance problem (I doubt it), they could always have put lead or sand bags in. I carried over 80 kilos of lead for a while to get Sidecar near to design lateral resistance. It also helped with prop depth on the motor. The shaft is on the short side.

I have PM’d you with the answers to your Sidecar questions.

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9 hours ago, SeaGul said:

...a proa tread always delivers... colorful... with twists and turns... 

I am hoping, for the sake of everyone involved, that this one stays sutably dull and on-topic (with the exception of the one bit of drift I created).

On a side note, the videos I embedded in my previous post appear to be broken for me, so here are the links for any future visitors who may be interested in watching them:

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xe1u34

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xek8r4

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On 10/5/2021 at 12:27 PM, Hell-Bent said:

Maybe I'll still be stupid enough to try what Daniel thinks is impossible.

That might fit your username but spare yourself some hell and leave it alone.  Heed the original designer/owner's advice.  I see nothing but misery down that road.

The videos you embedded on Tuesday look fine to me.

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On 9/23/2021 at 8:57 PM, Russell Brown said:

Daniel Charles tried very hard to get aboard my first proa for the Tradewinds race in 1979 (I think), but the boat was so tiny that it couldn't hold 3 people. I felt bad, but what could I do? The upwind leg of that race was something like 350 miles and we finished 2 1/2 hours behind the leaders who were twice our length. What a race! We bailed out of the 3'rd leg because it was blowing like stink and had a leaking rudder trunk, but ended up partying for a couple of days on Vandredi Treize. Johnny Hallyday and a bunch of sleazy women were the charter guests, but the captain (Karin something) was so cool. We ran out of food and money on the way back to ST Croix. Seems like another life now. My boat was a total piece of shit, but it could go upwind.

Hi Russ,

    I would love to hear the Tradewinds race tale, that race was one of the prime motivators that led to me leaving New Orleans for the VI. Do you remember the little proa that Roger Hatfield (Gold Coast) but from the plywood cutoffs and excess epoxy from the daycharter cats that Gold Coast was building? Sort of a Beer:30 afterwork project but I think that they did do the Tradewinds race on it. It was named SCRAPS (what else?) and had two Hobie Cat 16 rigs on it and was surprisingly fast but really didn't inspire for a 600+ mile race. Years later SCRAPS got dusted off and they raced in in a St Thomas to St Croix race as a feeder to the St Croix International Regatta. It was howling that day and had the easterlies had pumped up a BIG swell from the east. I was racing a Supercat 17 and I remember the reaching start in the lee of Christmas Cove in which scraps came just whistling by the Tornados, Prindle 18's and all the fastest beachcats. The crew were just barely hanging on and telling link Banshees and I was right in their wake when we all blasted out of the wind shadow of the small island and hit the real wind line and the swell. John Holmberg had his Prindle 18 just fold in on itself when the lee hull hinged itself at the main beam and then SCRAPS sort of pitchpoled ahead of us and I felt like a NASCAR racer dodging boat pieces and bodies. We had a pretty good race against the Tornado but about halfway across a big daycharter cat VAROA KANE came smoking past us with the sleazy St Croix girls you mention above on board flashing us at 25+ knots. I think VAROA did the crossing in 2hr and 30 minutes that day! 

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This is how I remember it: The proa you were thinking of with the twin rigs was actually a 30' cat called "Bits & Pieces" and built at Spronk's yard (Dougie Brooks?). It was fairly fast in flat water but suffered in waves. We beat her to Martenique by a day or so, but I think they actually did the last leg, which we didn't do. My 30' proa was the biggest piece of shit, but people  warned others to never challenge it to an upwind race. The floozies were French and possibly paid to be there.

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1 hour ago, Russell Brown said:

This is how I remember it: The proa you were thinking of with the twin rigs was actually a 30' cat called "Bits & Pieces" and built at Spronk's yard (Dougie Brooks?). It was fairly fast in flat water but suffered in waves. We beat her to Martenique by a day or so, but I think they actually did the last leg, which we didn't do. My 30' proa was the biggest piece of shit, but people  warned others to never challenge it to an upwind race. The floozies were French and possibly paid to be there.

I got the scoop guys! I think Bit's and Pieces was the inspiration for SCRAP, I'll have to check my sources. I had many an adventure racing STM to Nevis and Back and think that race was what was left of the Tradewinds Race. Fought tooth and nail with Dougie's EAGLE and Roger Spronk on whatever boat he could hustle at the time and then would have those guys drink me under the table after the races. Llewelyn from St Croix and the the Turner Brothers with their old Newick if you ever turned you back on those sly foxes. That was a really special era and I am so grateful for having stumbled upon it when I did.

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6 hours ago, ProaSailor said:

That might fit your username but spare yourself some hell and leave it alone.  Heed the original designer/owner's advice.  I see nothing but misery down that road.

The videos you embedded on Tuesday look fine to me.

Probably good advice. I know in my heart (not to mention my head) that it is not to be, but I have an unfortunate and rather unhealthy obsession with this boat. I have no doubt that it will fade with time (and maybe with exposure to other proas). 

Videos look fine to me now as well. Funny that they weren't working at all for me earlier.

 

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