Curiouser & Curiouser
by Kellan Hatch

Editor's note: Kellan recently did some reconnoitering at Lake Powell in southern Utah for an upcoming messabout. Be sure to read about that at the end of this article.
A few years ago I wrote an article for Duckworks called ‘A 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 camping.

Pedal Power

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.

Sail rig

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.

Mast Hoop

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:

Retrofitting bulkheads

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.

Rudder Mount


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

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 canyons.

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 Moki Canyon

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