Instant Kite Boat




About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

We bought a pile of catamaran parts on craigslist,
tied it all together, and pulled it around SF Bay with a 21 meter kitesurfing kite. All in just a few short hours

hey- give me your old sailboat and windsurf junk to build into the next experiment. I'm in Emeryville, CA. Send email to robot(at)

Photos by Jyri Engestrom
Jyri's blog is at

Step 1: Shopping for Parts

Nick, Saul and Tim are out craigslist shopping.

No, I guess we won't buy the motorcycle.

Howabout we buy that pile of catamaran parts instead?
It looks like the remains of two hobie cats.


My God! what have we just done?

Step 2: Assembly

Looks like this part goes here, that part goes there...

Step 3: Lashing the Platform

The trampoline is missing. I guess we'll make a platform of sticks instead and lash them down with bicycle innertubes. Nick and Tim lashing away. Saul is off in the dune buggy with Jyri getting more innertubes. Can you believe we let the supply get low?

Step 4: More Lashing

Cross over on top, straight lines on the bottom, around and around a couple of times to bind it tight, and repeat for the next one.

Step 5: Almost Done

Let's see. 15 sticks this way times five sticks that way means 75 lashings. I guess we're almost done.

Step 6: Finished

and there it is.
Actually all the crossings need to be lashed or at least laced together or
the sticks will break one at a time. If they're tied together it's more like a basket
or an "e pluribus unum" which the Romans also called a "Fasces".

Step 7: Let's Go to the Beach.

It straddles the truck perfectly. Now if we could just get inside the truck somehow...

Step 8: Pump It Up

We just happened to have a 21 meter kitesurf kite handy.
Saul designs them for

Step 9: Ulla With the Kite

Step 10: Launching the Kite

The wind isn't too strong today, so it's a normal launch. will reveal what that is.
In stronger wind we'd hook the bar to the boat first,
cuz the kite would be oversized for a mere human.

Step 11: Sailing!

Blasting around on the bay.
One guy on the kite, one on the rudders, and one ballast monkey.
The kite's chickenloop is attached to the mast step of the catamaran with a wichard release. The kite's main safety line (5th or wingtip safety rig, your choice) passes through another wichard release and has a big ball on the end that's really easy to pull. (by accident, even)

Step 12: Landing

Pretty much like a regular kitesurf landing, but the board is heavier and there are three people on it. Actually this is a picture of two of us carrying the boat up the beach after the landing.

Step 13: Keys Locked In

The day wouldn't be complete without a mishap, and we've still got all our fingers, so...

Ulla left her keys in the trunk, so she called aaa to open it.
The guy pried the window open a bit with a wooden wedge and pulled the knob with a folded piece of fiberglass box strap. Amazing. That stuff really does have a use after all.

And a good time was had by all!



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    12 Discussions


    2 years ago

    How does the kite attach to the boat? Sounds like it's a 5 line SLE kite?


    10 years ago on Step 7

    Oh my god, that's hilarious! I've carried stuff like that on top of sedans and coupes, but with a truck it's even funnier, since it even makes the truck look small.


    13 years ago

    It would have been much quicker to use one of Eric's "sleeping bags" as a tramp no?

    5 replies

    Reply 13 years ago

    Ha! All those foil kites are precious to me -- even the broken ones! On second thought, a piece of fabric over the wooden-spar trampoline would have been a good idea. While leaning way over the rear to wrestle with the barely functioning rudders during kite-loop jibes, it was too easy to get my whole leg shoved in and stuck between spars. Falling off the boat at that moment would probably twist a knee pretty badly. Closer spar spacing would also do it.


    Reply 13 years ago

    I suggested the fabric covering idea, but we probably wouldn't have made it out that evening if we'd tried it. (Actually, I was guilty of expressing a severe lack of optimism about finishing that day -- and was happy to be proved wrong!) But about the fabric -- I'm no longer sure it would have would have been a total plus. Having lots of things to grab ahold of was pretty important, given the tiller force I was exerting and the amount of water swooshing around. Maybe weaving more innertubes among the spars ... I'm sure I've gone faster under sail -- in much bigger boats. But never in my life have I felt a sailboat accelerate under me as rapidly as that beat-to-sh*t old Hobie. Exhilarating!


    Reply 13 years ago

    Very cool all the same, I should get back on the cat project I started last year. Foils precious to me also, but cant fly the v19 anymore. After the winter winds its like going for a bike ride on vallium.


    11 years ago on Introduction


    My friend is developing a kite system with rigging for kite powered boats. He has some awesome videos on youtube.


    12 years ago

    WoW! that boat rocks! you should circumvavigate the earth on it.

    Leon Close

    13 years ago

    Sheer awsomeness. I've been wanting to do just this for ages but have been constrained by a severe kite deficiency. Nice job.