The Solitaire 1520

We are currently building this semi-custom,
50' performance / cruising catamaran!


(Click the boat image to see our original concept model and spin it around)


Excellent Performance

We are building a Solitaire 1520, which is a 50' performance/cruising catamaran hybrid.  I based my concept off of a Schionning Designs Solitaire 1490 which Schionning claims will do 15-25 knots, but lets take that with a grain of salt.  First, with our standard non-rotating mast, we Schionning says we will do a maximum of 18 knots.  But once we load our semi-custom 1520 with 8,000 pounds of stuff we need for cruising around the world, we will be happy to get 8  to 12 knots, hoping to average about 9 knots over a Trade Wind passage.  This makes her quite a bit faster than the comfort production cats we were originally considering, which only typically sail at a maximum of 8.5 knots and average more like 6.5 knots on a Trade Wind passage.


More Comforts

S/V Lynx is a performance/cruising hybrid catamaran.  Unlike most performance models, our salon, cockpit, and helm are laid out more like a comfort catamaran. The cockpit is spacious, the salon is deeper, and there is a semi-raised helm with hard top and full enclosures.  So, though her hulls are narrow, like on a performance cat.  But S/V Lynx will be a more comfortable cruising boat for our long, double, circumnavigation of planet Earth than a pure performance model.  She will be faster than a comfort cat but slower than a performance model.  And she will be more comfortable than a performance cat, yet less than a comfort cat design.


Cool Customizations

This original Solitaire 1490 already came with a lot of our requirements, yet what that model did not already offer we have added by collaborating with Schionning Designs to customize the 1520 to our specifications.  The team at Schionning Designs worked hard to turn my concept model into our dream boat!  We made so many changes that Schionning Designs decided to call our semi-custom model the Solitaire 1520.  It is now available to purchase as a kit.  We even get a commission on the sale if you contact us before talking to Schionning Designs, so drop us an email and tell us why you are interested in building a 1520, or having one built.  I can even put you in contact with the right people at Schionning, answer questions, and recommend some builders if you don't want to do the labor yourself.


Great Price

If we purchased a boat from a production catamaran builder, a brand new 50' performance catamaran, fully fitted out for blue water cruising, would generally cost more than a million dollars, even as high as 2 or 3 million at some builders.  We are building this semi-custom, brand new, Solitaire 1520 performance catamaran, all set up to circumnavigate the globe with a combo hybrid propulsion system, all for around $550,000 (if we do the labor).  That's less than half the price of a production company performance 50' cat... or better!  If you went with a more standard version of this boat and diesel propulsion system, you could get the price down to around $460,000.  If you want it built for you in a place like Peru or Thailand, add about $150,000 to $250,000 to that price.

Now for is a deeper dive into these four categories:


Here is what makes our Solitaire 1520 a performance/cruising Cat

Narrow hulls

The 1490 came with long narrow hulls, and we kept the same design for our 1520 model.  Long and narrow hulls are part of the keys to performance.   And, the hulls only draft 1' 9" (daggerboards up)!  Therefore, they have less wetted surface, and the razor sharp bows cut through the bow wave and chop. 

Of course, there is a compromise, with narrow hulls you lose living space in the cabins.  However, the inner hulls on this catamaran use chamfer panels to flare out the hulls above the waterline (see inner angled section of hulls, image, right).  Similarly, on the outside of the hulls there are chines which also widen the hull above the waterline.  With chamfer panels and chines the living space  becomes wider;  yet, below the waterline, the hulls stay narrow and only draft 1' 9" (see area below the black stripe in concept model, right). 

Based on sea trails of the first Solitaire in the water (Escapade) we can expect to do about 2/3's of wind speed when on a good angle to the wind.

1500 Bow


Daggerboards add a lot of performance and other advantages to a catamaran.  Here is a list:

1)  The cat points higher into the wind with a daggerboard down. 
2) Daggerboards increase sailing speed by adding lift and less drag (see below).
3) They cause a lot less drag than mini-keels.  Often, you only need one in the water at a time, and while sailing down wind, you pull both partially or completely up. 
4) Once the daggerboards are raised, the boat has a very shallow draft. In the case of our 1520, just 1' 9".   
5) They make the cat less likely to capsize due to tripping in heavy gusts.  You pull the leeward board up and have the windward board only 1/4 down.  If the boat starts to 'tip' the short windward board will come free of the water and then the leeward hull will slide across the water since there is no keel or daggerboard.  (Note: If you have kick-up rudders, and we do, you can also set up the boat to raise the leeward rudder in bad conditions for the same purpose).

The Solitaire places the daggerboards on the angled part of the outside hull (see image, right).  That location keeps them out of the way of the side deck for ease of passage (see image above, right).  Inside the boat, these casings are right up against the outside of the hulls so they take up very little room in the living space.   In our design, the casings are reinforced with basalt cloth so that they are stronger than the daggerboards, which are designed snap off in two places if a daggerboard hits an obstruction in the water.

1500 Angled

Fairly Light Weight

The Solitaire 1520 is build with PVC foam panels that have a pre-laminated fiberglass surface on both sides (the green in the image right).  This cuts down on weight.  We also plan to use basalt fiber below the water line (the white sections in image right) for added stiffness and increased impact resistance, yet they make the boat lighter because the basalt cloth can be a little thinner, requiring less epoxy to wet out.  Equal cloth in basalt fiber is around 20% stronger than E-glass, so we can go with a little less and still remain 5% stronger.  It makes a good compromise between increased strength and reduced weight.

Weight matters on a catamaran; the heavier the boat, the slower she will sail.  With the 1520 being built out of light foam panels, with some basalt layers, synthetic shrouds, and a hybrid propulsion system that is hundreds of pounds lighter than two typical diesel engines, this boat should be reasonably light so she will sail at about 2/3 of wind speed on a broad reach.  She will also be capable of sailing in lighter winds which means we will spend less time burning diesel fuel or using our electric motors since we will get to sail more often.

Now, at 27,000 pounds, dry weight, our cat isn't as light as a true performance catamaran, but that's OK, we're a performance/comfort hybrid design.  That means, faster than a comfort cat, but slower than a performance cat, more comfortable than a performance cat, but not as comfortable as a comfort cat.  We are right in the middle of speed and comfort.


Bridge Deck Clearance

There are a lot of opinions out there on how much bridge deck clearance (BDC) is best for a catamaran.  Too little and slamming increases, too much and you add windage to the boat.  One school of thought is that a cat over 40' in LOA needs 1.3" clearance per foot of beam.   Using this method of calculating BDC, at 1.3" per foot of beam, our Solitaire 1520 would need about 33" of clearance since she has 25' 10" beam.   Fortunately, as designed, she has 33" of clearance!

Bridge deck clearance

Combo Hybrid engine

I am putting this Combo engine system under 'performance'  because it gives us the best performance while under motor, as well as regeneration and fuel savings while also reducing weight.   To achieve all that, we are planning to put a parallel 80hp hybrid diesel with 25kw water cooled electric motor/generator on the same shaft in one hull and a second 25 kw, 48v water cooled electric motor in the other hull (see image right, the green elements are the electric drives).  And, both propulsion systems will use shaft drives for a much simpler boat to maintain.

For a deeper look at our Combination Parallel Hybrid Propulsion system, use the button below:

Combo system

Detailed Analysis

For our Patron Crew Members, we offer a detailed analysis of all the propulsion systems we considered for S/V Lynx.  

Use the 3 links (right) to either preview the Crew Only sections, become part of our Patron Crew, or, if you are already a Crew Member, go straight to the Crew Only entry page, where you may access a full analysis of the propulsion systems.


A Large Salon

This is the current layout for our salon. 
We'll go over the features in the Customizations area, below.  

In general, this is a large salon, deeper (front to back) than many performance catamaran models.  We designed in a central walkway, fore to aft.  At each end there is a 'T' intersection.  The forward side to side passage leads to stairs down into each hull.   At the stern, you may go from side-to-side, accessing the sugar scoops or the stern winches.  This makes for a good flow to moving through the boat.  


Cockpit Seating

The cockpit is large, with three seating areas that work together to create a nice social zone, as follows:

1) A long bench is located at the stern.
2) The L-shaped seating and table seats at least six crew members.  Just above that is a padded lounge or day bed. 
3) Opposite the table, there is a lounge seat to starboard that sits just below the semi-raised helm.  All total, there is room here to seat up to 13 people.
4) And as mentioned above, the rear side-to-side passage offers a quick unobstructed path between sugar scoops or the two stern winches.

Note: There is access the helm station from the protection of the cockpit via a short flight of stairs.

1490 Stern

Helm Station

Everyone has their idea of  the best location for a helm.  Some options are duel helms in the cockpit, duel helms outboard at the stern, bulkhead,  forward cockpit, interior, flybridge, and finally, a semi-raised helm position.   

We prefer the semi-raised helm option (as shown, right).   We like the connection to the crew in the cockpit yet the semi-raised position also gives us an unobstructed 360 degree view around the boat.  It will feature a hardtop for sun shade with roll up side enclosures that will protect us in inclement weather.  There will be a hard window in front that may be swung up under the helm hardtop when we want air flow from the bow.  All this makes the helm a safe, warm, dry, and comfortable place to stand your watch or steer the boat.  NOTE: We are installing a second set of throttle controls to port for docking on that side with an unobstructed view of the port side of the boat.  For a starboard dock, the throttle controls are out where you may stand on the side deck and see along the side of the boat (see image right).

Top View Helm


Even though our Solitaire 1520 is a performance cat, she offers a lot of storage and, approximately, 8,400 pounds of load carrying capacity, which is an Increase of 700 pounds from the stock version. 

We achieved this additional LCC by reducing the weight of the propulsion system which shed several hundred pounds by changing from two diesels to our combo parallel hybrid system.  We also saved even more weight by switching from stainless steel to lighter synthetic shrouds.  And, finally, we reduced a little weight in the hull construction going with basalt cloth.  

Here are some of the storage areas:

Forward Lockers

Forward, exterior:

There are 3 large storage lockers in the forward deck area and 2 bow storage areas in the  forepeaks.  The center deck storage will house our rainwater filtration system.  The two side areas will use their lower portions to house our diesel fuel tanks.  The windlass has its own locker at the back of the bow prodder (not shown).  

Cockpit storage

Cockpit, exterior:

There are storage lockers under all the benches plus a large bike garage under the helm (with room for four fold-up bikes).  There are also two dive lockers in the sugar scoops which hold scuba tanks and dive gear.  There are two hatches just in front of the sugar scoops that lead down into very large compartments.  (Read 'Work Compartments', far right).

Hull Storage

Hulls, interior:

The hallways have ample lockers and there are large storage areas under the forward births.  Those births also have large cabinets forward.  The stern births feature cabinets along the inboard side of the bed. And all cabins have a hanging locker.

Salon Storage

Salon, interior:

Both table seating areas (red) have storage beneath the benches.  The galley has a cupboard under the sink and two sets of drawers, one on either side (green).  There are additional storage areas under the floor (Cyan), and a drawer under the refrigerator (yellow).  There are cabinets at the nav station (orange).  And cupboards by the standup  refrigerator (blue).

Work Compartments

Storage compartments:

Towards the stern, there are two good size storage compartments accessed through hatches.  The port compartment will house our electric dive compressor and some dive suit storage and other sporting gear while the starboard side will have two water makers.

Layout & Customization

Below are a some of the changes we made when we customize our boat to make the new Solitaire 1520.

Solitaire 1520 Customized

New Salon Layout

We want our salon to have many uses, as a large, up galley, a navigation station and desk, and two seating areas that convert to a queen and signal bunk.



This gives you a look at the galley in the salon. The u-shaped galley has a large farm style sink with good counter space and plenty of storage beneath and to the sides. The two openings above and to the right are for a microwave and electric oven.  There is no permanent stove since we are going with electric induction heating pads that can be put out when needed.  

To the right of that, there is a large, vertical, gray rectangle, representing a large, stand-up refrigerator/freezer/ice maker.
Opposite from the sink area is a counter arm. There are two white rectangles shown. The one toward the end has a top loading refrigerator/freezer with two compartments that may be a freezer or refrigerator with 2.55 cu. ft. of space, (1.275 cu. ft per compartment).  Toward the cockpit is a second freezer, this one is a large  4.5 cu. ft. ,single compartment modelAll three of these may be switched to a freezer or refrigerator, depending on our needs at the moment.


Nav. Station and Seating/Convertible Bunks

To starboard, you may see a view of the forward facing navigation station (upper right).  This acts as a nav. station, desk, chart area, and video editing bay.  There is also storage under both side parts of that desk.

To port, there is the forward seating area that converts into a single bunk.   This is adds seating when we have a larger crew compliment, or works well for lounging when converted to a single bunk, without compromising the main seating table.

To port stern is our main u-shaped table which also converts to a queen bed.  It sits across from a 42" flat screen TV embedder in the galley counter arm.  To the right of the TV, above, is the electrical panel, while below that is a counter.  Underneath that counter is a pantry storage area. 

New Cockpit Layout

We are making a few modifications here as well for the Solitaire 1520.  The most obvious change is the larger helm station (see below).  We are also expanding the L-shaped table because we eliminated the stern table to make room for the larger helm area and bike storage locker.


Cockpit Seating

The L-shaped seating area has been increased in width to accommodate a larger table and seating for up to six.  We modified the back bench as well, adding angled backrests in case two people want to lounge at either end.  We kept the lounge seat opposite the table (to starboard), but moved this area inboard to make room for the expanded helm and bike garage.   

We made a flat space for a bar-b-que and food prep area (white shape, top right).  The bike locker is huge and located underneath the helm station, accessed from the passage by the stern bench.

The window between the main salon table and the cockpit table can be raised up to the ceiling in the cockpit, connecting the two tables socially (as shown in the image, above).



We moved the semi-raised helm seat back to make space for a winch station in front of the new helm pedestal.  We prefer this because two people have room to work, and if someone needs to access the side deck from the cockpit, they have unobstructed access past the seated helmsman. 

The helm has a nice pedestal for the wheel with an instrument panel above the wheel height so that access to the chartplotters is unhindered by the wheel moving on autopilot control.  Three people may sit on the long seat a the helm  

Almost all lines run to the main winches at the line handling station forward of the helm.   the only exceptions are the screecher, parasailor, and daggerboard lines that run to the two rear winches, which we relocated outboard for less tripping hazards.

New Salon Windows

For the Solitaire 1520, we decided to change the salon roof and windows completely.  We explain why, below.

Original Windows

Original Windows: Solitaire 1490

This was an aerodynamic configuration, but just does not work for our crew height when standing in the forward portion of the salon due to the way it slopes downward (see '1490', above). 

The roof extensions down to the deck on each side are purely aesthetic features which make the boat look nice from the side, but they do take up some deck space for seating on the port and starboard foreword deck and they block some of the view from inside the salon.  

Therefore, for practical vs aesthetic reasons, we removed these features.

New Windows

New Windows: Solitaire 1520

We changed to taller, wrap around windows to give us better interior height for our tall crew members.  A side benefit is that we will also get great views from inside the salon with these taller windows.  And, we removed the roof extensions.

The salon roof has is a slight 'brow' extending out over the windows to create shade on the windows.
There are four large opening hatches, one in each of the forward  facing windows to allow a huge air flow into and through the salon to the stern cockpit when the flip up window between the salon and cockpit is raised.

New Stern

We are also modifying the stern significantly.  Here are the main alterations and why we made these changes to our design of the Solitaire 1520.

Original Stern

Original Stern: Solitaire 1490

This is the original stern design of the Solitaire 1490.  Notice the original cockpit extended stern shape with davits. 
On this boat, they kept the sugar scoop entrance quite wide.  
They also used angled stair boards as steps to reach the side decks. 
The cockpit hardtop extends over the davit area slightly.  

1520 Stern

New Stern: Solitaire 1520

We modified the aft wall, behind the cockpit, making it flat and much wider.  This may not seem as sexy at first glance, but in our belief, function is sexy.  This new design has lots of functionality.  Firstly, on top we get flat spaces to either side for a barbeque on one side and a battery charging station and sink on the other.  There are also two dive lockers, one on each hull, on the inside of the sugar scoops.  This configuration gives us room for our slide gates.  We also switched to a much higher and more useful gantry tender lift.   The cockpit roof is shortened to allow us to add our solar arch (see below).

Starboard Sugar Scoop

We pushed the cupboard in the sugar scoop further outboard to add more space for dive equipment and to add a flat place above for a barbeque and work space. 

Notice the half-open gate in the image, right.  This gate can be slid closed, all the way into a socket in the locker area, or slid open to block off the passage to the sugar scoop.  This gate is braced from the back by the top stair and both vertical edges while in use.  This way, if the cat is pooped, the water will be kept out of the cockpit.  It also acts as a safety barrier while on passage and keeps unwanted guests, like seals, from easily coming into the cockpit. 

Also notice the temporary fish cleaning table that can be stowed against the dive locker, stern side.  It has a drain pipe and there will be a hose with running water available inside the locker. 

Slide Gate Open

Gates and doors closed

Here is the same port side sugar scoop with the fish cleaning table stowed away, the access gate in use, and the dive locker closed.  This is how these will typically be while under passage.

Also notice the winch which we moved to an outboard position so that lines coming back from the daggerboards, parasail, and screecher run along the outside of the hull and do not cross the walkway.  There is room to stand there and work the winch between the stairs and closed gate.

There will be a shower head attached to the bottom of the starboard side of the solar arch, allowing crew members to stand on the sugar scoop for an outdoor shower.  This will have hot and cold running water.

Slide gate closed

Port Sugar Scoop

Like the Starboard side, we pushed the cupboard in the sugar scoop the same distance further out to add more space for another dive locker.  We used the same flat space above it for a second Stainless Steel box that matches the barbeque on the other side.  However, this box will house all the charge equipment and NMC batteries for small items like cell phones, dive lights, cameras, etc.  NMC chemistry is volatile so we want these fire hazards kept outside when charging within a fire proof box.

You can also see the deep swim ladder in its up, stowed, position.  Notice how it is behind the stern wall, out of the the way of travel from the cockpit to the sugar scoop. 

Swim Ladder Up

Port Swim Ladder

Here you can see the swim ladder in the down position.  Notice how deep the steps go, this makes it easier for people to climb up out of the water.  There are two hand rail arches with another grab rail higher up, attached to the side of the dive locker.  This is to give the crew a handhold once they are out of the water or standing on the sugar scoop. 

Also notice that the slide gate is all the way open in this image allowing free movement to or from the sugar scoop.  You can also see the stairs that continue on up to the side deck from the cockpit platform level.  There will be a rectangular hatch below those stairs for access to the work room on the port side and the dive compressor room on the starboard side.

Even with the extended dive lockers, you can see that there is still plenty of width to access the sugar scoops from the cockpit.

Swim Ladder Down

Gantry Dinghy lift up

The main reason we flattened out the stern wall is to allow for a gantry style tender lift system.   We prefer this over davits for several reasons.  The hoisting arm will have a dedicated electric winch so that we have push button raising and lowering of the tender.  This gantry system also allows us to raise the tender higher if we are in large seas to keep it from getting pooped.  In nicer conditions, we can lower the tender down to keep the view unobstructed (as shown).  

Gantry Up

Gantry Dinghy lift down

When returning in the tender, the bar acts as a nice grab hold to use to move the tender to a sugar scoop for passenger or cargo loading or unloading.  Also notice that, while the gantry is down, the tender is kept further away from the stern of the boat.  That will help to keep it and the outboard from banging into the sugar scoops, especially when launching or retrieving the dinghy in choppy conditions.

Gantry Down

Head & Cabins

There are a couple of head layouts available for the 1490 from Schionning Designs.  For our 1520, we decided to opt for the three chambers version which has  a central shower.  This way, both forward and rear cabins have access to their own ensuite head from inside their closed cabin.  These heads each have a sink and toilet.   This configuration allows us to have dry heads since there is a single shared shower between the heads, accessed from doors on either side (as shown, right).   

Solitaire 1520 Heads

There are six doors per hull (as shown, above).  Each cabin has a door to close it off from the hallway, and a door into the head.  And each head has one door leading into the shared shower.  All doors may be swung wide up against a bulkhead or locker to get them out of the way when open.   In the image, above, you can see which way each of the doors opens.

There is a queen size bed in each cabin, as shown.  Also, each hull has a wall mount washer/dryer in the hallway, inset into the wall.

The dark rectangular space in each cabin is a standing locker.  The dark rectangular space outboard, by the shower, is the space for the daggerboard casing.


How much will this amazing semi-custom Solitaire 1520 catamaran cost to build?


That is the currently estimated total price for the Solitaire 1520, fully fitted for blue water cruising.   This includes EVERYTHING we need to sail around the world, to just get to sail ready, the price would be around $54,000 less (not including labor). 

Note that this price will keep changing slightly as we get firm quotes or purchase  each item on our build list but we set out trying to stay under $550,000.   The closer we get to finished, the more accurate the total will become.   Right now, we have purchased about 4/5ths of the boat and systems, so the price is getting fairly accurate.

The biggest unknown at this point is how much we will spend on consumables, but we have budgeted $7,125 for those (sand paper, acetone, spatulas, stir sticks, measuring cups, wood, etc.)  But we think that will go over quite a bit (a few thousand).

To get access to the full breakdown of all the up-to-date  costs, read below.

Performance Boat

Full Cost Breakdown

Just for our Patrons, we offer a full breakdown of all the individual costs it will take to build S/V Lynx. This information is in the 'Crew Only' part of the website.  From the buttons (left) you may preview the Crew Only Menu, become one of our Patron Crew, or current crew many go straight to the Crew Only entry page for a detailed look at what it is costing us to build S/V Lynx.

Want to know more about S/V Lynx? 

For more information on our semi-custom Solitaire 1520, here are three pages on these subjects:

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