John Marples, Multihull Pioneer
John Marples was born in Heswall, England in 1944 during WW II. After immigrating to the US, he resided in N. New Jersey for his grade school years and then the family moved to S. California. Since then he has lived in N. California (twice), Washington state, Florida, and most recently, Maine in 2012.
Shortly after earning a Mechanical Engineering degree from California State Polytechnic University in 1967, he built the Searunner 37 sailing trimaran, BACCHANAL, in which he won the 1972 Multihull Transpac and then cruised the South Pacific for two years. Under the mentorship of Jim Brown, he published his first plywood designs for backyard builders in 1975. Today, his portfolio includes dozens of wood-epoxy composite sailing and power multihulls to 65 feet. He has over 30 US Coast Guard certified commercial vessels in service. In 2005, Marples’ designs won both the OSTAR under 35-foot category (CC37 trimaran) and the West Marine Hampton to Bermuda Trawler Trek (CrossWater 49 power catamaran).
(Below) John’s “Bacchanal”, in which he won the 1972 Multihull Transpac, still sailing 40 years later when this photo was taken. She is an awesome testament to the longevity of wooden multihulls when properly built, and of course a testament to John’s craftsmanship and attention to detail.
His own boat building experience includes not only the Searunner 37 but a Constant Camber 26 folding trimaran, a Cyclone 23 folding trimaran, numerous dinghies of various types, an 18’ experimental Constant Camber canoe, the Fumar 19 trailerable trimaran prototype (which he designed) and two USCG certified catamaran power boats; the Admiral Pete, a 50’ 82 passenger fast ferry and a 40’ catamaran, 49 passenger tour boat for an existing cabin structure. Both power cats were built for Kipsap Harbor Tours in Bremerton (Seattle area) Washington. Both are still in operation.
In 1995 Marples finished and flew the first of 3 aircraft he built. It was a kit plane, RV-6A with 180 horsepower Lycoming engine, and fully aerobatic. During the 10 years he owned the aircraft, he added speed modifications to increase cruise speed from 190 MPH to over 200. He subsequently finished (but did not fly) a second RV-6A for a friend. Later in 2011, he built a CX-4, all aluminum light sport aircraft from plans, using a VW engine that he hand-built. The plane achieved the 125 MPH limiting speed for LS aircraft and performed very well. He flew the plane for the first few hours but had to sell it to move to Maine.
In 2007 Marples accepted a construction project to build a Flettner Rotor powered trimaran prototype for Impossible Pictures, a London based film company under contract with the Discovery TV channel. The project was eventually called Brighter Earth and published in the Project Earth series, produced for TV. Working with Dr. Stephen Salter, Professor emeritus of Glasgow University, Mechanical Engineering, he designed and built (2) Flettnor rotors (4 ½ feet diameter x 31 feet tall) and installed them on a Searunner 34 trimaran for demonstration. The project was to show how cloud albedo (sunlight reflectivity) could reduce ocean temperatures to pre-industrial levels to stop climate change. It proposed a fleet of drone trimarans, sailing the oceans, spraying sub-micron sized droplets of seawater into the air to create clouds. John designed and built two rotors in foam core and carbon fiber using vacuum bagging techniques and installed them on a used vessel that was purchased for the project. The rotors were supported by ball bearings on aluminum pipe stub masts in the boat. The rotors were driven to rotational speeds up to about 350 RPM by electric golf cart motors using batteries on board. On demonstration day, the boat achieved 6 knots under rotors alone, in 6 knots wind, and was the only demonstration of all the projects in the series to show success.
Marples has two current boat projects underway as this is written. The first is a 21’ day sailing trailerable trimaran of revolutionary swing-wing design started in 2017. Construction so far has produced the amas and some related rigging. The second is a 110’ aluminum power catamaran design for a previous client. It is an expedition vessel, capable of 20 knots with a 3000 mile range, carrying a 26’ twin outboard catamaran tender and R44 helicopter. It has accommodations for 6 guests and a crew of 4. The owner expects to cruise the NW passage and the tropics.
John operates a part-time design and engineering office in Penobscot, Maine. John can be contacted for consulting, marine design, marine surveyor work, and advisory projects at [email protected] : remove the SPAM!