|A few years ago I wrote an article for Duckworks called
Curious Boat for Questionable Adventures’,
about my conversion of a CLC Mill Creek kayak into a sailing
trimaran. Grayer and wiser now, I’ve revisited that
project and corrected a lot of the shortcomings of my first
boatbuilding experience. I took a break in between to build
another boat and to do a lot of reading and sitting at the
feet of small boat gurus. Now I’ve returned to the trimaran
project with a fresh perspective.
A word of clarification. If you follow that link and read
my first article you’ll probably send me email asking
“could your whole family really fit in that boat?”
The answer is yes, they COULD. Past tense. But it was cozy.
The kids are bigger now and it will never happen again,
but we did go paddling a number of times with all hands
wielding paddles. I will not deny that there was mayhem
and eye-gougings. But there’s still room for me and
a small mate plus all the gear we need for a few days of
One of the biggest modifications I made for the new configuration
was the addition of the Hobie Mirage pedal drive. I’d
like to go on record right now stating that the sail/pedal
combination may just be the holy grail of microcruiser propulsion.
More about that later.
Mirage Drive Installation
You can read about my Mirage installation
in another Duckworks article “It’s
all in the legs”. Let me insert one amendment
to that article. I stated that one of the few drawbacks
to the Mirage drive is that it has no reverse gear. My buddy
Chris Ostlind - boatbuilder, Duckworks contributor and Renaissance
Man – pointed out that since the drive is symmetrical,
you should be able to simply turn it around in its trunk
and pedal normally to make it drive you backwards. Brilliant.
The biggest drawback of the Mirage drive is that the trunk
takes up floor space right in the middle of the cockpit.
It’s hardly more than a nuisance for two people sitting
because it sits right between the helmsman’s feet
and just behind the forward seat, but my dreams of someday
sleeping in this boat are history. Hey, but with the stability
of a trimaran I could still sleep in a small tent ABOVE
the cockpit. A future project.
Additions besides the Mirage drive include: a new sail,
carbon mast, new outrigger crossbeams and attachments, a
new rudder mechanism and overall better karma.
Originally, I used an old multi-colored dinghy sail with
the words “TJ Taxi” prominently sewn onto it.
I bought the sail second hand from a snake oils salesman,
along with a mast that turned out to be about 4 feet too
short, so I jammed a 2 ½ inch oak dowel into the
bottom end to bring it up to the required length. Sheesh.
The new rig is a huge improvement. I was thrilled when
my friend Chris (mentioned above) donated a carbon mast
from his collection of factory seconds. I designed a full-battened
sail based on Hugh Horton’s and Meade Gougeon’s
sailing canoe rigs, but larger – 66 square feet. I
checked with Hugh to see if he minded my copycatting and
he gave me the thumbs up. He recommended master sailmaker
Stuart Hopkins of Dabbler Sails, who cut the sail from the
familiar red fabric. I have to say that the red sail is
a beautiful compliment to the mahogany boat. I had Stuart
put in two reef points. I’ve found that with the bendiness
of the mast I can take some pretty heavy wind with one reef
taken. I may never need the second reef but it’s comforting
to know that I have an additional safety valve if I ever
find myself in a truly heinous white-knuckle blow.
I made fiberglass mast hoops by epoxying several layers
of glass tape around a section of ABS pipe with a thin batten
taped along its length to create a flange for bolting the
hoops through the luff eyes. Then I sliced those into ½
inch sections to yield the final hoops.
The whole rig is amazingly light and strong.
It weighs in around 13 lbs according to the bathroom scale.
It’s a very fast and able rig. I was never once able
to pull the boat through a tack with the old rig without
throwing a couple of paddle strokes into the mix. I never
knew why. I was told “welcome to the world of ultralight
multihull sailing.” But the new rig tacks fine. I
still lose most of my forward speed but I seldom miss a
tack. Practice and technique. And if I do ever need to cheat
through a tack I can just give her a few quick pedals.
I squandered about $50 worth of beautiful mahogany the
first time around, making crossbeams that were too big and
way too heavy. I didn’t know then that plain old Douglas
Fir was ideal for such things. I also didn’t get my
outriggers high enough for the windward ama to clear the
waves while the leeward one was doing its work. And if that’s
not enough, my homespun lashing cleats dragged in the water
and took a long, long time to lash (12 lashings in all).
I still like the idea of lashing; it gives the boat a degree
of stress-relieving flex, which is why I still lash the
akas to the main hull.
This time I laminated the akas into a sweeping gull wing
shape that leaves the windward hull high and dry. I added
a reinforcing layer of glass tape too.
Laminating the crossbeams
Originally, one crossbeam (aka) went right
across the middle of the cockpit where I’ve since
mounted the Mirage drive, so I had to move the akas farther
fore and aft to get them out on the decks. The new ones
are much lighter and sleeker. They hug the decks and are
quicker to attach. At the pontoon (ama) ends they bolt onto
bulkhead flanges that poke up through the decks, similar
to the scheme CLC uses now with their MKII sail rig.
I didn’t want to tear the amas apart so I had to
figure out how to retrofit new bulkheads into the existing
amas through ½ inch slots. That was a head-scratcher.
I wanted them to lock into place underneath the sheer clamps,
which meant the bulkheads had to be able to fit through
holes narrower than themselves. I did it by making them
in three pieces that I dropped into the slots and then wedged
into place. Here’s how it worked:
Rudder and Leeboard
I totally redesigned the rudder mount and kick-up gear,
which required chopping a couple of inches off the stern
so I could bolt on some sturdy gudgeons.
My old leeboard was OK except that the handle I cut out
of it dipped below water level and caused unnecessary drag.
I filled in the handle slot and cut a new one higher up.
For now the leeboard is mounted on a movable thwart. For
my first trial run I took a guess about where to position
it and it turned out to be just right – just a bit
of weather helm – so eventually I’ll move it
to a permanent pivot on the hull.
The first day I took her to the lake I had a whole day
just to sail and fiddle about (minus a couple of hours to
drive back into town and rebuild a poorly conceived gooseneck).
I was fortunate enough to start the day with a nice, light
breeze while I checked everything out. Over the course of
the day I experienced typical Rocky Mountains weather -
everything from dead-air to wave-shredding gale. This is
a great little boat. I was very pleased at how well she
took the wind; very weatherly and the sail seems very efficient
even with a reef taken. My family showed up later and Lily
and both boys took rides. Each one commented that this was
the most fun of my boats so far, mostly because of the speed.
The boys are already looking forward to their promised camp-cruises.
First day on the water
Transport and Storage
I’ve also eliminated a lot of time that was spent
loading, unloading and storing the boat. I built a simple
dolly for the boat and all its gear. That’s how I
move it around and also how I store it; hoisted up into
the rafters of my garage.
Hangin’ it from the garage ceiling
I can get it down from the garage ceiling
and onto my roof rack in a couple of minutes. I use the
same dolly for launch and recovery too, kind of like a long,
skinny wheelbarrow. When I get home from a day’s sailing,
the boat is already stowed on the dolly and all I have to
do is hoist it back up in the garage, dolly and all. This
has proven to be a huge time saver. I promised Chuck an
article about it, so I’ll skip the details for now.
A neat package for cartopping
Messing About at Lake Powell
This September I’ll be attending the
first Lake Powell Messabout. It’s the brainchild of
another friend and Duckworks contributor, David Hahn. Chuck’s
driving all the way from Texas to attend. Glen Maxwell is
towing his Paradox
up from Florida. I’m pretty stoked. If you’re
not familiar with it, Lake Powell is an amazing place. The
second largest man-made lake in the US, it has more coastline
than the west coast of the United States (at least when
it’s full - we’re currently experiencing a multi-year
drought). Lots of breathtaking, meandering red rock canyons,
crevices, buttes, spires and other natural wonders.
Check out the Lake
Powell Messabout group on Yahoo if you
think there’s any chance you might be able to make
it to the Utah/Arizona border the weekend of September 10-12,
2004. Or drop me a line
and I’ll add you to the LPM email list.
Anyway, I just took my first multi-day cruise under sail
and pedal power with my 11-year old, Evan. We disguised
it as a scouting trip for the messabout. I was keen to see
how my boat would take to exploring the winding slickrock
Imagine tacking up a long, narrow, serpentine canyon, 100
feet wide with a 90 to 180 degree turn every hundred yards
or so. Add random wind coming and going from all directions.
Could be a nightmare, but it was a complete delight with
this boat. I never had to think about whether I was in sailing
mode or pedaling mode. When the wind was right, I sailed.
When the wind wasn’t right, I pedaled. I was pedal-sailing.
It was a very natural thing to do. And I didn’t have
to stop to take pictures or grab a Pepsi from the cooler.
My legs, which used to be just ballast, were now doing the
real work on autopilot, leaving my hands free for important
stuff like scratching and swatting flies.
This is an ideal arrangement for exploring the weird and
wonderful nooks and crannies of our world.
Pedal-sailing in Lake Powell’s
Oh, by the way, after three Duckworks articles
and several years of tinkering, I’ve finally settled
on a name for the boat: Curious
First Mate awaits call for shore leave