Eight Bells: James Wharram

Published on December 22nd, 2021

James Wharram, known for his unique double-canoe style sailing catamaran designs, passed away on December 14 in Cornwall, UK. He was 93 years of age.

James was a trailblazer, a fighter with great determination and vision. From a young age he followed his passions – to roam the hills – for fair politics – for intelligent women – to sail the seas – to prove the Polynesian double canoe an ocean worthy craft – to become a Man of the Sea.

These passions made him into a pioneer of catamaran sailing and a world-renowned designer of unique double-canoe catamarans that now sail the oceans. He designed for people who wanted to break out of mundane lives, gave them boats they could build at an affordable cost and gave them the opportunity to become People of the Sea like himself.

His chosen life was never easy, he would always fight convention and conventional thinking head on. His passionate and multi-faceted personality was very attractive to strong, independent women who helped him in his pursuits, starting with the steadfast Ruth, without whom he would never have reached his goals. Young Jutta joined them on their pioneering ocean voyages and was the mother of his first son. Sadly, she died very young from mental illness as a result of her traumatic WWII childhood experiences.

James lived his entire life openly with more than one woman at the same time, as many as five in his prime in the 1970s, with whom he built and sailed his boats. Alongside Ruth, who died eight years ago at the age of 92, Hanneke Boon was his other life partner and soul mate.

“I first met James when he was in the full flow of designing his range of Classic Designs in the 1960s, which led to him becoming a cult figure in the alternative society of 1970s,” explained Boon. “In time I became his design partner and together with Ruth we were an unbreakable unit. I gave birth to his second son and together we gave birth to many new double canoe designs.”

James achieved everything he set out to do in this lifetime, but only received public recognition from the establishment in more recent years. The final project was his autobiography, published a year ago as ‘People of the Sea‘, on which he worked for many years, as he was very critical of his own writing. We worked together to complete it and to get it published.

People would refer to James as the great James Wharram, the living Legend, but he didn’t see himself as such. He was aware it was his large following of builders and sailors, their beautiful boats and great voyages that created the famous Wharram World. He saw them as the real heroes.

In the last few years James’ brain, which he always talked about as a separate entity, started to fail him due to Alzheimers. He was very distressed by losing his mental abilities, and struggled with his diminished existence.

He could not face the prospect of further disintegration and made the very hard call to end it himself. It was with great courage that he lived his life and with great courage he decided it was the time to finish. James joins Ruth, Jutta, and his many close friends that departed before him.

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