Tim Mann, Sailing Fish Boat Pioneer
Instead of going on to college as all my friends did, I graduated a year early from high school in 1969, and spent my senior year building a 25-foot trimaran in a friend’s driveway. When my friends were having their graduation night party, I was 20 miles off Point Sur (near Monterey) headed south around the world in that boat, with $100 in my pocket.
(Below) Later in my boatbuilding career, this is me with friends on Abiang Island in Kiribati in 1987, where I’d recently delivered a 40-foot sailing catamaran “island bus” of my design that my boatshop in the Marshall Islands had built. My shop built three of those cats; this one for Abaiang Island, one for the Tuvalu Islands, and one for the people of Rongelap (one of the islands the US military did the A-bomb tests on in the 1950’s).
That first 25-footer of mine was improbably small out on the ocean. In addition, it was wet, cold, and miserable, and I found that $100 wasn’t quite enough money to make it around the world. I stopped in Santa Barbara, sold that boat, and built a 37-foot version of the same boat. This was a SeaRunner 37 trimaran named “Spice“, designed by the renowned multihull designer Jim Brown.
And oh man; what a difference! Big comfortable DRY bunks, a big galley with a stove, sink, and real cupboards (kitchen to you land-bound types) and a real bathroom with a SHOWER!
(Below) My SeaRunner 37 Spice, in 1976, with the Big Island in the background.
I had Spice for 6 years, and sailed her from California to the Marquesas (near Tahiti), then singlehanded her from the Marquesas to Hawaii, nearly getting run down by a 120-foot steel Korean flagline vessel during that passage. I then spent a year cruising the Hawaiian Islands before settling down on the Big Island of Hawaii and selling Spice.
In 1976, my brain was on fire with the idea of a sailing fishing boat that lived off the wind, that I could make a living with out on the ocean. This was because I’d gone through the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, the lines at the gas pumps, and the wild increases in gas prices. I thought the world could really use a fishing boat that didn’t need fuel to catch fish, and so started work on my big project of the next 10 years.
I couldn’t find a practical sailing fishing boat design in the size and type of vessel he wanted, so ended up designing the 56-foot sailing fishing trimaran Tropic Bird, then building her myself in 1977-1978.
(Below) My 56-foot sailing fishing boat Tropic Bird, trolling on the way to the fishing grounds off the Hilo Coast of the Big Island in 1984.
I never had much money. That 56-footer needed sails, a diesel engine, a hydraulic system, a refrigeration system, and electronics. As a result, I learned sailmaking, diesel mechanics, hydraulic system design and installation, refrigeration system design and installation, and electronics and marine wiring design and installation.
I sailed and fished that boat, Tropic Bird, in Hawaii and nearby Pacific islands, for 17 years before selling her in 1995 to come ashore and start a family. I am currently married to my best friend in the world, Susanne Friend (no joke!), the kids are all HUGE now (22, 16, 14-1/2, and 12) and all SIX of us are doing the New Age Of Sail’s Splash project together.