Outrigger "Short Dragon"
Tacking outrigger, launched August 2008
This canoe's vaka (main hull) is a one-piece hull, sharpie style, 16 ft. long, 22 in. wide at
gunwale amidships, 14 in. wide at bottom amidships, 24 in. depth amidships, about 3 in.
rocker. The ama (float) is 14 ft. long, v-hull style. Built heavily -- too much glass and
epoxy, and two sets of stringers (not including chine log and gunwale) at waterline and
thwart-level. Weight is ~200 pounds for vaka (canoe hull; with mods detailed below), 90
pounds for the ama (float hull), and 15 pounds total for akas (cross-beams).
Materials: Both hulls: exterior grade Fir plywood (gaps filled with syringe and epoxy)
glassed over exterior and inside bottom to waterline with 9 oz glass cloth; two layers on
bottom, final coating of epoxy-graphite on bottom. Stringers are pine strapping, uprights
and aka-stressed cross-thwarts are Douglas Fir. Akas are laminated from Douglas Fir
tongue-and-groove flooring (cheap, easy source of clear, dry material after the grooves are
sawn and planed out). Rudder and leeboard cut from strip-built glue-up pine
desk/shelf-top bought at Home Depot, planed to foil shape, and glassed with 9 oz cloth.
2010 modification: I decked in the boat at the thwart-stringer: the ends have isolated
compartments (accessed by 6 inch ports), the center section is now a large storage and
flotation chamber accessed with a 9x14 Bomar hatch, and the aft cockpit foot well and
space under seat is left open (under-seat area has shelf for chartbook, and under that a
shelf for emergency signalling gear and binoculars, and from there down I can stow a
cut-down plastic bucket for bailing and bodily functions). I also changed from a
quarter-rudder to a kick-up aluminum-plate stern rudder on a tiller linkage. 2012
Modification: Added 17 foot mast and square-topped (almost) battened 75 s.f. mainsail (I
shifted then to the 20 sf jibheaded mizzen). 2013 modification: I added an inflatable safety
ama to starboard to solve a capsize tendency after the taller rig was added.
Old Sailing Rig: It was a tacking boat (a cat-ketch with standing lug sails, 54 s.f. main,
37 s.f. mizzen standing lugs from The Wooden Boat Store), but its fore-aft symmetrical
hull could enable conversion into a shunting proa (as I had intended originally). With small
jib on bowsprit, 111 square feet.
I have also used: a 20 s.f. jib and 20. s.f. jibheaded mizzen, (the jib on a bowsprit is too
often buried in the steep chop I sail in around New Haven), and a 114 s.f. balanced lug (cat
rig), and recently purchased (as of Jan 2012 not yet used a 75 square foot battened
mainsail (14 foot luff, 6 foot bottom), to experiment with other possibilities for this boat.
Sail rig(s) Notes: This cat-ketch configuration is highly recommended as a versatile rig
(though not recommended for speedy windward sailing, where 55-60 degrees is the best
on-wind angle that gives acceptable speed; I can pinch up higher if I want to go 3 knots; I
do need a bigger leeboard with better foil shape).
The 91 square foot rig standing lug rig is good for all-around sailing, perhaps
underpowered for typical light New England winds. Used the jib on this rig only once
(thus 111 square feet) so I reserve opinion. Putting all that area and a bit more in the taller
balanced lug is interesting: a good light-air sail, but rather overpowering in 20 mph winds.
The 74 square foot rig (54 main, 20 foot jibheaded mizzen) works fairly well in 15-20 mph
winds. This was my Everglades Challenge 2011 rig, where it was good for the rough
conditions at first, then much too small for the zephyrs later.
Fall- Winter or Heavy Weather Sailing Rig: A 20 s.f. jib-headed mizzen and the 37 s.f.
standing lug used as the mainsail; balances well, enables relatively confident control in
nearly consistent 20 mph winds with 30 mph gusts.
Leeboard: The adjustable leeboard helps with rig reconfigurations (it moves fore and aft
about 40 inches). The leeboard needs to be bigger: right now its 2 square feet (free under
the boat) is not quite enough for 90 square feet of sail, and perhaps a bigger board with
better shape will help getting to windward better. I finished it 4/2012; NACA 0010, 5 feet
long, 14 inches wide, epoxy- graphite finish. It is rather heavy, and its length will add a lot
of strain on the rails. Update 2013: It works a bit better to ww but has strained the T6
rails to a permanent bend.
Rudder(s): The Indonesian-style quarter-rudder I started with worked OK but was too
floppy in its lashings; it went through iterations but I wasn't entirely happy with it so
changed to a stern rudder with a tiller linkage. This works OK though the linkage to get
around the mizzen mast is awkward; I capsized it with a push-pull-pole and went back to
the linkage. Still not happy, and am planning a better quarter-rudder or a return to the
push-pull pole but with a longer (~24 inches) yoke to increase leverage and reduce rate (to
Speed: The boat in a close-reach: 2.5 knots in zephyrs, 3-5 knots in light winds, 6-7 knots
in 10-15 mph winds, often some faster runs of 8-9 knots at the 15-20 range, and it has hit
some 12 knot peaks during 15-20 mph winds in flat water (all GPS measured) -- but those
peaks were under perfect moments, very iffy (safety-wise), and cannot be sustained long
(my outrigger float, or ama, is buried at those speeds and disaster seems near). I often sail
in rough New Haven coastal water with its frequent 2 foot (and higher chop) -- the narrow
hull permits a sustained 6 knots on a close reach even through this chop, which makes a
Modifications: (1) I used Watertribe's (Watertribe.com) 16 foot inflatable amas for a
trimaran conversion for the 2011 Everglades challenge. The 10 foot curved box-beam
akas were to allow the boat through the bridge-filters of this race but still provide
comfortable stability for good sailing performance. They worked very well; my need to
abort the race had nothing to do with the configuration (lost my rudder blade). This mode
could have stood up to a LOT more sail area, but I rigged conservatively, expecting the
worse, but the worse turned out to be light air!. The trimaran as built is too wide to store
in my garage or carry on my trailer, but it was a great safety factor for a sailor exhausted
after a 22 hour day and sailing in unfamiliar water in potentially hard weather. I loved it
but would need to design a folding aka system (perhaps similar to a Brown/Marples
Seaclipper system) to use it. (2) In 2012 I am trying yet another rig change; click on the
"2012 sail and needed adaptations for it" at left. (3) Added safety ama summer 2013.
Summary: The boat was hastily designed and intended to be a practice boat to hone
building skills for a "real" boat" (20 foot outrigger), but I put so much into it that he
became "the boat." I love Short Dragon and sailed him enough to back up love with
experience. If only I had built lighter, and if only the windward performance were better,
but apparently that is a generic challenge for cat-ketches with low-aspect-ratio sails. See
my other sites: www.wikiproa.com, www.instructables.com ("Build a Short Dragon"),
and some basic videos on YOUTUBE (search 'wadetarzia' or 'short dragon' for several
videos of this boat sailing).
Photo #1: A nice day chasing a
schooner sailing out of New
Haven, Connecticut (photo
courtesy of sailor Chris Seluga
who e-mailed it to me and of
his mother who shot the photo
while babysitting Chris's child
on shore as he sailed his Nacra)
Photo #2: interior structure
before the 2010 modifications,
which added bulkheads, decks,
and a hatch..
Photo #3: The boat resting at
Bantam Lake, Connecticut,
ready for its first test.
Photo #4: 2010 mods, decks,
hatches, bulkheads. The
varnished board is my side-seat
when sailing in brisk wind with
the ama to windward. On the
"trimaran tack" I sit comfortable
(and dry!) on the orange
cushion, facing forward.
Photo #5: 94 square feet of sail
in a new arrangement, tried out
2010 (Bradshaw jib and
mizzen); for this to work well I
need the leeboard to move
forward another 6 inches at
least, and I got lazy this summer
and just focused on sailing. I
put back the 37 s.f. lug mizzen
which is enough to balance the
jib with the current leeboard
See also the current
project for this
canoe. Click on the
Configuration as of
September 2013: 95
square feet of rig (75/20)
and an inlatable safety
making the boat into a
Brief experiment in 2010: OK, but a
crowded skinny cockpit with the extra
lines and rigging, and the bowsprit is
constantly diving into the sharp chop
of coastal Long Island Sound. Fine
hull cut waves more than rides over
Late Fall 2013 I built the solid
wood safety ama but had a
chance to only sail on it twice
before the snow and ice set in.
The safety ama (starboard)
detaches and slides in for road
transport. The ama is held about
a foot or more above flat water,
so in any coastal chop it would
often be in the water on the port
tack and essentially the boat is
now a trimaran. Though heavier
than the inflatable ama, this one
looks better and cannot be