"Short Dragon" trimaran conversion
For the Everglades Challenge 2011 I decided to convert my single outrigger into
a trimaran with inflatable 16 foot amas from Watertribe Inc. The beam was 10
feet to get through the narrow bridges (otherwise I would have opted for a wider
The first straight akas (crossbeams) held the amas some inches too high,
though I was not certain about the extra sinkage of the hull once an expedition
load was stuffed in the compartment. This boat has about 8 inches of waterline
depth for day sailing. The amas are 12 inches in diameter at the forward aka
and 7" dia. at the aft aka.
In November 2010 I sailed it in this first version; it went well, but the amas were
too high, I felt: the boat leaned just a bot too much. I asked an experienced
Watertriber (SOS), who had built a successful small trimaran, to look at my
Youtube video, and he confirmed my feeling. So, onward to a new set of akas.
I built curved box-beam akas that were lighter and dropped the amas 5 inches.
However, by the time I was done, there was 3 feet of snow on the ground and I
could not test them before the race; what an interesting situation that was,
showing up to a gruelling event with sort-of-an-untested boat.
But the new configuration was great. We all launched into a small craft advisory
that morning and had a rough first day, from a vigorous start, to long doldrums,
and some sudden squall-like weather Sunday morning. Record numbers of
boats dropped out the first day, including me -- around 2AM Sunday morning, as
I paddled against a current into Venice inlet, my rudder blade fell off (in the
chaos and sleep deprivation of start morning I had forgotten to safety-wire the
nut!). I anchored outside and tried to continue, but the next day started with
wind in the teeth and huge waves. I steered for a while by playing the two sails,
and used the emergency steering oar to ditch on Venice Beach, where I decided
to abort the race given that stormy weather might be ahead, and a rudder is
Yet the trimaran mode was wonderful: the light, buoyant, nicely shaped
inflatables got me through 4 foot steep white-capping and breaking waves on
that squally morning -- the whole set-up gave me comfort and confidence for the
27 hours I was in that canoe.
I regret that I had no taller, bigger rig to match that stability. Seventy-four
square feet of sail divided between two masts was much too small for light air.
One person felt I could have doubled it -- well, maybe. I have had 114 s.f. on in
a single lug sail, and it was pretty good in light air.
I need a boat to be 7 feet or under in beam to store it in my garage (no real yard
for a boat), so I cannot practically use these amas now. I have since cut them
down to try them as akas for a safety ama, just as the Hawaiian ocean-going
canoes usually have (will use one of my inflatable amas). I will also be using a
taller battened mainsail for season 2012, so I hope the safety ama will provide
that extra safety margin needed for Short Dragon's rather narrow beam.
Go to YOUTUBE to see some EC sailing videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yekOVd3oJmI
The first experiment in November
2010. I got in an hour and a half
before the snow started piling up.
The boat went well but was tipped
too far over with the straight akas
The new curved box-beams
being built with helpful
suggestions from Gary Dierking,
an outrigger canoe designer
(buy his book, Building Outrigger
Sailing Canoes). You can see
the blocks screwed down to the
table to form the bending jig.
The trimaran conversion at last on the beach at Fort DeSoto State Park at the
start of the 2011 Everglades Challenge race. I lost my rudder early in the
second day after ~23 hours of sailing and paddling, but the boat passed the
test of sailing through rough weather during that tough first day; I was very
happy with it!
Sailing off the west coast of Florida during the calm after the
rough weather. The sail ahead of us is "Oaracle," another
contender. I That cleat is my 'nomad cleat' which has served
many functions over the years, one of my useful inventions.