Picture of Build a Short Dragon (16 foot 3-Board Outrigger Sailing Canoe)

NOTE: Version 4.0 May 12, 2011 -- Added step 7 about a brief trimaran conversion for the Everglades Challenge. I talk more about sailing (and other things)  at my blog, Tristram Shandy in the 21st Century, www.tristramshandy21st.blogspot.com --wt

According to the philosophy of "one boat for each day of the week," I built my Tuesday boat. The Monday boat was described in my instructable, Make Life Better with a Sailboat in a Closet.  This Tuesday boat reflects some lessons learned from the Monday boat, some changed situations (for context always has a finger in the things we build), as well as the usual misguided notions that exist to help us set benchmarks for all human values.

What it is    This boat is a tacking outrigger sailing canoe.  It is a 3-board canoe, which means, in Western boat-building tradition, the main hull (vaka, in Pacific boat-building tradition) is a sharpie-style hull.  However, the outrigger float (ama), is a two-board hull (Wharram style; more on that later). The sailing rig is a Western cat-ketch made from standing lugsails. 

    Youtube:  See it in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L4J5EKSwEc   This is the better of the videos so far, though a few more are posted under 'wadetarzia' 

Materials: 1/4 inch CDX plywood, common pine for stringers, laminated pine shelving/desktop materials for boards, oak and Douglas fir  for load-bearing struts, Douglas fir flooring planks laminated for akas/cross-beams, 6 oz. glass cloth, System Three epoxy, a few bronze ringnails, some stainless steel hardware, a few commercial blocks and cam-cleats, and low-stretch synthetic line for halyards, sheets, and downhauls.

Vaka/main hull: sharpie style, chine and epoxy construction, 16 feet length-overall, ~4 incnes rocker, 8 inch waterline at center with one person aboard, 24 inches main hull beam including gunwales, 14 inches beam at bottom, 23 inches depth of hull at center, ~19 inches depth at ends.  Main hull weight about 160 pounds (glass and epoxy over plywood, double layer on outside bottom, single layer on inside bottom up to waterline. Open hull with partial decks and foam flotation.

Ama/outrigger float-hull: 14 feet length overall, 14 inches beam at center, 14 inches depth at center, strong rocker, V-hull style. Decked and watertight with screw-hatch access/ventilation.  Weight about 70 pounds. Displacement: about 270 pounds.

Akas/crossbeams: Laminated from 4 strips of DF tongue-and-groove flooring planks (tongues & grooves adzed down), tapering to three strips toward ama-end, ~7 feet long (should be 8 feet but that's what I can scrape through my garage door). Weight about 15 pounds each.

Assembly: The parts are lashed together with 3/8 poly line (1/4 would be OK but use good quality marine low-stretch line) and tied off on plastic cleats.  I use half-inch oak locating pins to lock the relationships of the aka to the main hull, but the whole lashed boat is still quite flexible, which is good for an outrigger canoe. Total beam is 7 feet.

Not so Right, Not so Misguided    So you are wondering how this canoe represents a misguided notion?  I started building it from cheap materials (CDX plywood and Home Despot lumber) because I intended it to be practice for the larger outrigger I wanted to build and build properly.  Instead, each hour on the job, I invested more time, and more thought, and by the time I was done, I had so much time and money invested that it had transformed into THE BOAT.  His name is Short Dragon. 

Lessons are to be learned here, so do what you can.  Meanwhile, I will tell you how I made the boat.

And More!    Well, not yet. A few more things: Short Dragon has really pleased me.  He is a good performer.  If you are smarter than I am, you can build a better one easily by using better materials and having better skills.  You can build it lighter by using fewer stringers, less epoxy and glass, etc.  This boat weighs in fully rigged at around 280 pounds. But no matter. My economy car tows it just fine, in 5-10 knots of wind (reported from local airport weather probes, not known at sea-surface) he will cruise along at 5 to 7 knots.  I have often hit 10 knots, sometimes 12 knots, and in one blaze of glory hit 14 knots, although we were probably "pushing the envelope" (blah, blah) near disaster. 

Sailing not Paddling (Mostly)    He would not be the best paddling craft, of course, with his boxy hull and heavy outrigger, but often I have had to paddle home after the dusk wind dropped me a mile or two from the ramp.  In flat water you can paddle at 3 knots fairly easily for an hour (and I am not a paddling athlete).

A Main Point    But my main point is, you would enjoy such a boat, I think.  In medium air it will provide some fun, in light air it can take a passenger, but I recommend it as a solo boat unless you deck over the canoe hull almost completely, watertight).  In light air.... you yourself can recall various bumpersticker proverbs concerning " is better than a good day at work..."

No Plans, Sorry    As with my Monday boat, this boat had no plans nor was it "designed" except for some rough sketches and rough cardboard model making. I went by some commonsense, some constraints dictated by physics, and by what I thought looked right (having looked at a lot of sailing craft over the years).  Some experience with the first proa, and many conversations with knowing and kindly people on internet boating groups helped out. 

A small boat ought to be well designed, I agree, but other factors have powerful influences on the way a small boat behaves -- for example, where you sit, six inches here, six inches there, will alter trim and forces on the hull enough to change handling characteristicsw.   By all means, do great design work, but if you don't have the skills, don't let that prevent you from trying. 

But let's grind some French Roast, brew a pot, and have a look. 

Dr.Bill2 years ago
You have a Bangka too.
My Outrigger.JPG
Wade Tarzia (author)  Dr.Bill2 years ago
Those bangkas are handsome. The Phillipines is trimaran heaven.
You any relation to Nick Tarzia down in Stamford, CT. ?
Wade Tarzia (author)  Dr.Bill2 years ago
Not immediately, but no doubt we are distant cousins within the last century or two.
I plan to have one built for me so I can live on it in Hawai'i.
So sick of paying rent to slum lords.
i have one issue with this. boats are traditionally always female, but you refer to this one as a 'he.' otherwise a great project.
Wade Tarzia (author)  deceasedparrot2 years ago
This boat was inspired by my readings about Micronesian proas and culture, and there they call boats "he." This may be because the society is matrilineal (men marry into wife's family and move there), so the women own the land, and the men own the canoes and the canoe-house.
mrcasual7772 years ago
Can I ask how much this costs to build?
Wade Tarzia (author)  mrcasual7772 years ago
Hi -- I did not keep a strict account. My costs included tools purchased, wasted materials, and some over-use of very expensive epoxy. Also, CDX plywood vs. Marine Plywood makes a big difference. I purchased a variety of sails for the boat, and masts. I did total my costs for ~10 years of my hobby, which included a trailer, two trailer hitches, a Honda outboard I have not yet used, clothing and safety gear, and that came out to $10,000, or $1,000/year (that includes this boat and the prior one). Now, realistically, the boat you see before you should not cost more than $1,000 in materials if you buy all the wood at big-box stores; epoxy and fiberglass are pricey but you can use them wisely. Then add the sails. I bought the two you see here for about $600 total. Add some for good lines (good idea; low-stretch yachting braid). Then add a trailer and trailer hitch, and reasonable personal gear for comfort and safety. I am thinking under $3,000, but not much under. You could buy a small used boat with worn out sails for less, probably. Lots of Hobie Cats out there? I needed to build my own -- it started off cheap, anyway! The first boat described in the instructable "Make Life Better with a Sailboat-in-a-Closet was built for about $400 using the cheapest materials and methods and no commercial sails, and no trailer -- well worth it, absolutely!
station4204 years ago
Nice contrast! Great looking vessel!
Aye captain. Nice Ible....
thewetturd5 years ago
Simply amazing! You sir are an artist. What is the name of the green color that you chose for the inside? I really like it. Very visible but not glaring on the eye.
Wade Tarzia (author)  thewetturd5 years ago
Well, here's the problem. I bought exterior latex semi-gloss paint from Home Depot. For that version of the boat, I chose a color (see below), had it mixed, and it came out very nice! I forget the name of the color, but is was "something green" :-) . I thought it was "Tahiti Green" but I guess not now (but you cannot greatly trust how colors come out between mixes when you buy at the big-box stores). This summer I revamped the cockpit to add watertight chambers, then I needed to repaint. I went to Home Depot with a chip of paint to match to their color cards, and so I got a quart of Behr paint's "Shoreline Green." When I painted, it came out a slightly different shade than before-- not bad, I can live with it, but a tad more bright than what I had wanted. But it is a good color: does not glare in your eyes in the sun, does not get too hot in the sun. Originally I chose that color because way back in '84 I had Lowell's Boat Shop (the famed historic dory shop in Amesbury, Mass.) build me a little dory, and its interior was the perfect green! I tried to match that color for both of the outriggers I built later, and because I am a man of ritual, I will always paint my boat interiors as close to that as I can. Maybe contact Lowells Boat Shjop and ask about the colors they have used. They were using Petit Paints I think. Not sure if they mixed their own color or used a stock color.
Thanks for the response and again, great build. Hats off to you sir.
Sweet. All you need are cannons and a pirate flag and you can take that schooner down.
MiKOTRON5 years ago
Wade, I think what you have here is absolutely fantastic! If anyone's interested in building a boat like I am, then they will look everywhere for information on how it's done, like I am doing. You take little bits of info from how this guy did it and how that other one did his and what's in that library book and in those magazines. Before you know it you have a knowledge base to pull from when you build your own boat. We're not baking a cake here, I don't think we need to follow a recipe. We just need a methodology so that we can be creative with our own design. I plan on documenting my build so that I can add another building block of information for amature boatbuilders to pull from. So yeah, I love it. Thank you for sharing with us.
dooley15 years ago
well i feel it's very hard to be "nice" in comments when instructables like this are posted. but i'll try my best. if photo's can't be posted at least showing the methodology used in the construction and design process then there is always low-tech thing called pencil and paper - make a sketch with (relevant points of reference and details of measurments) information to explain how and why certain decisions were made rather than being vague or ambiguous about important factors that might affect sea-worthynesss IE safety considerations. it might seem a bit irrelevant to you but if you can't give instructions - then what are you giving, and why are you giving it?

MOD - i hope this place doesn't turn into a "look what i made" forum rather than a "look how i made this" forum, because this is one forum i love visiting often. in fact i believe this place is exactly why the internet is as valuable as it is today. plz dont let this place degen into a brag board.
Wade Tarzia (author)  dooley15 years ago
Well, I can't win between the people who say I write too much in depth and the one who says I didn't write enough ;-)  Anyway, if Instructables replaces professional books on the topics, then too much overlap occurs -- especially on the more complex projects. Feel free to buy great books ont he subject such as Gary Dierking's "Building Outrigger Sailing Canoes," which will cost a few dollars as opposed to being free, but what the hell!  You get what you pay for (sometimes). 

Also, I don't see Instructables as necessarily having to provide complete details -- then it is not quite DIY, is it?  Building should imply some personal creativity and exploration, else, why bother?  I make exceptions for aircraft, rockets, nuclear reactors, and ejection seats, all of which should be built to spec.  :-)   On the contrary, I see no problem with a project write-up being strongly contextualized as "inspiration" to "copy with variation" or "copy with imporvement" or "take off from a new perspective after inspiration." 
beafdog5 years ago
great writeup! I don't think you need to break up anything- it's written clearly and the information is all germane to the project and the process of living with it.  Just because it doesn't look like a lot of other instructables doesn't mean you should change it.
Wade Tarzia (author)  beafdog5 years ago
Thanks! But to be fair to Kiteman, I think he saw an early version which I had not yet broken up entirely into steps. I had posted a preliminary version not knowing when I would have time to get back, but it ended up I pretty much finished it a week later. I still have some work to do in steps 4 and 5, but now the semester is rolling and I am weighed down by piles of essays and tests to look at  :-( 
Kiteman5 years ago
A thought on the project write-up: you need to break up the huge blocks of text into separate steps.
Wade Tarzia (author)  Kiteman5 years ago
OK, thanks, in progress.
Doctor What5 years ago
 Nice!  It is a little.......  too in depth?