Designing and building a light, car-top-able outrigger sailing canoe [6/21/13/update]

Picture of Designing and building a light, car-top-able outrigger sailing canoe [6/21/13/update]
Short Dragon Aug 2012, new mainsail, leeboard, stays, and bowsprit, 6.JPG
(Comment on the Photos: Short Dragon is a good boat, but it started rather heavy and gained weight as I added new features such as watertight compartments.  He has undergone many revisions, but the revision to very light kayak-replacement and car-top-carried sailing canoe is impossible.)

There is an ancient saying: "You need a boat for everyday of the week."  I am not so sure about that anymore, because you can be spread thin, as in, too much bread, too little butter, sort of the way Frodo felt after carrying The One Ring for too long.  Apt metaphor. Our things can weigh us down and thin out our attention span.  Buddhism is good for that trouble.  But anyway, here I am thinking about another boat.

I have my reasons.  Now, I already have a trailerable outrigger sailing canoe (you have seen "Short Dragon" here on Instructables).  That will be retired as I build a longer one (a Gary Dierking design,  Tamanu), but I suddenly noted something: I was often driving by scenic locations on visit back home, where I have always wanted to launch a boat for a day -- but these places were not trailer-boat friendly, or at least trailer-friendly.  Therefore I needed a boat to go on the roof of my small car.

Don't you dare say "kayak."  I have one, they are OK, but they are too ubiquitous and limited.  I need something better -- which means of course, an outrigger canoe.  This new concept would replace my kayak because the new outrigger would be light and paddleable.  But what is a boat if it cannot raise sail?  It is nothing.  So now you get it: this is another chasing of the ideal of "the perfect boat."

Yes, it is an unattainable ideal, but I have figured out that if you have two or three "perfect boats" you have gotten as close as is feasible, unless you can sail in Plato's World of the Ideal Forms, and sadly, once there, you cannot move, because perfection implies that any movement in the Land of the Ideal is a movement away from perfection.  The wind would be forever fresh but held in stasis, so too the wave, and you and your thoughts.... That world is just plain static, gleaming like a variegated crystal, no doubt, but motionless just the same.  Good news!  Our sad, imperfect mortal world is the only place to get things done.

I intend to get a little done. This instructable will show the entire process, from rough sketches, to finished product.  I will be pissing off a few people because I will build this instructable in stages; my thought process and physical attainments will be posted bit by bit.  Viewers may even influence the process with thoughtful comments along the way.
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RaptorWing2 years ago
I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast with access to plenty of canoes for exploring inlets and floating the Colorado, Guadalupe, Blanco, and other central Texas rivers and my own Dolphin day sailer (very similar to the sunfish) for tooling about in Galveston Bay. It wasn't until much later in life that I first came across a sailing canoe and thought "DUH."

I haven't been to the EC site yet to look over regulations, but what about a catamaran rig sailing twin canoe hulls? Though I haven't tried it yet, it will be my next boat project, and as fantasy goes, as close to the Platonic Ideal form as I've been able to imagine.

I've read your comments on SOF building and agree with you concerns, but when I'm prototyping a new (insert finger quotes here) design (end fingerquotes), that's been the easiest way to make sure the hull actually matches what I've got drawn up. I tried building a self-designed micro tri-hull in the stitch and glue method once and abandoned the project about 1/2 way through construction when I realized it just wasn't enough boat for a growing family. The hull somewhat resembled my drawings, but was far from a perfect match.
Wade Tarzia (author)  RaptorWing2 years ago
Many catamarans have successfully completed the Everglades Challenge. They do not really fullfil my desire for a car-top outrigger. An outrigger canoe is indeed a canoe with a hull you can sit or lay down in, which is my goal. Catamarans are great for simple speed, and excitement, but I do not relish sprawling on a tramp net without back support. Add seats and now the catamaran simplicity is getting complexer-er, and then the simple outrigger sailing canoe is looking better for me particularly.

In general, though, many sailing canoes, monohull or outrigger, are proving to be the ultimately capable and affordable afternoon boat AND adventure boat. Read the blogs of the canoe sailors who do the EC and similar types of cruises. Look at the youtube videos. Check out Tim Anderson's adventures on outriggers (his old MIT website and some Instructables here). The development of the cruising and sailing canoe at the end of the 19th century was the creation of the true "poor person's yacht."

Many people demonstrate this in EC-like events when they take proven designs such as the Krueger Cruiser (admitted, an expensive canoem made of Kevlar) , then add sails and inflatable outriggers on them (two guys won the race in 2003 with one of these) -- the possibilities are astounding mostly because people are not in the habit of thinking like -- it is not that the money and physics are working hard to prevent anything like this :-)

I like your idea about using SOF as a kind of prototyping method. Cool! I would not have thought of that.
Gyvven2 years ago
I love the idea of a car top boat that can also compete in something like your EC. I wish we had something similar up here.

I've always liked the AMF Sunfish with it's hard chines and simple rigging. Using a foam core construction you can probably make it much lighter, narrow it up for a bit of speed and easier paddling.

I can't wait to see your next installment.
Wade Tarzia (author)  Gyvven2 years ago
I wonder if any Sunfish were ever entered in an EC? The main problem would be keeping track of your gear, but the stand-up paddleboard guys just lashed their waterproof baggage to their SUPs. My design needs only about 7 feet of free length in the "cockpit area." That leaves most (some loss at the ends and where the masts will go) of 9 feet of 19 inch wide by 15 inch tall space for waterproof bags that are out of the wind and spray and securely centered in the hull (though at a minimum must be clipped to the hull).
Hello Wade,
I guess you heard of Tom Yosts Falco folding kayak technique (glued PVC and plywood sides+evt. bulkheads) - I wonder if it could be used to build a both ama and vaka with bulkheads. You might even fix foam noodles under the bottom of the vaka for flotation and protection. Would be light and simple but perhaps too flimsy for you.
Wade Tarzia (author)  RasmusMoller2 years ago
Yes, I have seen them. Skin-on-frame boats are not for me, though they have done some amazing things. I prefer a solid hull that keeps its lines, does not need upkeep of tensioning, and has solid in-built safety features. Pool noodles would work, as would other things. Yes, I tried inflatable amas on Short Dragon as a rather expensive way to lighten and safety-ize Short Dragon for the 2011 Everglades Challenge. They seem pretty rugged. I loved their shape and performance. Fixing holes can be done but is a little problematic. And I shudder at the thought of what a random thug could do to those $1700 investments, with a pocketknife. I would rather use inflatables or skin-on-frame methods for a nonessential part of the boat. The safety-ama mode I have been using since last summer is an excellent application for an inflatable or skin-on-frame -- the safety ama is carried above the water and comes into play as the outrigger starts to be knocked down on the port tack. It delays catastrophe, but you could sail without it (and just be a little more aware). My philosophy toward inflatables and skin-on-frame may well have some attendant illogic, I admit, but not everything has to make sense :-)
espdp22 years ago
Aargh, Wade! :-)
Ok, consider this (from the mind of a sailing neophyte): something like a surfboard or sit on top kayak, powered by a kite. Little to no rigid structure, just fabric and lines. Very minimal. I don't know what an Everglades challenge is or if that meets any requirements for such, but it would easily go from car top to water and back.
Wade Tarzia (author)  espdp22 years ago
That would make a good boat for an afternoon, if you want to play with kites. Kites seem a bit of a bother unless one has a lot of room, practise time, and one that will survive a wander landing and can relaunch from the water. You still need propulsion for more clsoed in areas such as near-shore sailing, rivers, and crowded harbors. The boat itself need to let you sleep on it, and carry about to 70 pounds of gear for camp cruising or an expedition race like the Everglades Challenge. It must be comfortable for a at least two straight days of living aboard. I think my initial design suits these needs minimally. The structure of the bottom is a little like surfboard construction, though.