ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – Many have had the dream of building their own boat and sailing it across the ocean.  Few have deigned to try.  Time, material and money are the usual reasons these dreams seldom come true.  But for one Atlantic Highlands man his dream is closer to reality.

Newly built catamaran launched at Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor.

Jacques Pierret, a 55-year old Frenchman, lost his job as a computer programmer a few years ago and decided to fulfill a life-long dream to build his own boat.  As a young boy he would go to the seashore with his father and uncle and watch as they built and raced dinghies.  He emigrated to the U.S. in 1996 and became involved with Catamaran racing – first in Florida, then at the Atlantic Highlands Catamaran Club.  He served as an officer of the club and helped organize sailing schools and races, including the Statue of Liberty race.



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He has owned three catamarans.  “But commercial catamarans are expensive – some $500,000 or more – and they are not very nice.  They don’t look good.  They are very heavy,” Pierret said with a thick French accent.

In 2005, Pierret purchased plans for $2500 for a 38′ James Wharram-designed double-hulled ocean-going catamaran and began building the boat at All Woods Farm on Kings Highway in Middletown.  The property is owned by the Azzolina family.  He said there was ample room and he was able to use some wood from the farm.  He started by making the backbone, or keel, and the v-shaped bottom hulls while the boat was upside down.  He then turned it upright and built the top hulls and decking.   “The designer has a philosophy,” said Pierret. “The boat should be cheap, light, simple, and can be built by somebody that does not know boatbuilding.”  The details in the design plan are specific at the beginning stages and lead to freer design choices as progress is made.


Pierret built the boat using 100 sheets of Canadian plywood and about 70 gallons of epoxy.  He purchased a sail from Thailand.  Hardware, wenches, kleets, block and portholes came from a wrecked boat that was on the farm.  “The deck takes time. And the systems, steering and rudder,” he said.  “A project like this brings people together,” Pierret said, noting that he had help from his brother, Christoph, who would visit 2 weeks a year from France, and other friends including Dave Ham of the AH Catamaran Club.

Pierret and his family, including his parents, and friends launched the boat, “Pilgram” at the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor on June 15, 2010.  Everywhere, people cheered and waved origami figures created by family members for the event as champagne was poured to toast the successful launch.  It’s maiden voyage into Sandy Hook Bay was a big success according to Pierret.

“There is a big difference when you sail a boat that you’ve built yourself,” said Pierret.  “Traveling to other ports, you get respect for building your own boat instead of cruising up in a luxury yacht.”

Pierret has returned to his native France for a job.  Before he departed, he sailed the boat to Mantaloking for storage.  He will return in May to prepare the boat for a three-week Atlantic Ocean crossing to Marseille, France next summer.  Among the crew will be his brother, Christoph, his son, Alex and two friends, Julian Legall of France and Sune Storebjerg of Denmark.


Boat Specs:

38′ Length

22′ Beam

2′ 6″ draft

Sleep – 2DB – 2 Single

Build time: approximately 5000 hrs.

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Avatar of Allan Dean

Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...