Monday, December 28, 2009

What I've been doing lately

What do you do with a bargain basement priced 35 year old Tornado sailing catamaran when its sailing days are past? I had a couple of choices. I could restore and reinforce the hulls, buy new sails and rigging, and sail it like the designer intended, but somehow I could not see myself righting that 27' rig after a capsize. I could have used the two hulls as amas and built a longer center hull to make a small cruising trimaran. This has been successfully done by others.
Or I could make it into an outboard powered fishing and day cruising boat. The last choice seemed the easiest because not only do I already have a yard full of sailing canoes but I had a 9.9 hp Honda outboard and was interested to see how fast I could drive these hulls.

I tried to keep everything as light as possible while still spending the minimum amount of money. There are four hollow plywood girders bridging between the two original aluminum crossbeams. The deck is 9mm (3/8") Meranti ply. The sides and seats are all 6mm (1/4") ply.
I had to do some test runs to get the motor height just right. You can lose a lot of speed if the prop is too deep and it will ventilate if it is too shallow.
My GPS read a maximum speed of 13.8 knots (25.5 km/h).
Future work will involve reducing the spray from the engine that hits the aft crossbeam and possibly fitting a dodger/awning for sun and wind protection.
And in true outrigger style, the entire platform is lashed to the crossbeams with polyester line.
I have to admit that I was partially inspired to do this by Russell Brown's "Skeeter", although his is designed for rougher conditions than mine.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mbuli, a Pacific proa design

This is the "Squid" a Mbuli class proa designed by John Harris of CLC boats, and built by David Howie of New Zealand. It's a fast powerful design and was impressive at the recent New Zealand Proa Congress. Read more about this project at the Wikiproa.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

James Brett's "Free Radical"

James Brett's 16' "Free Radical" with a next generation junk rig performed well at the 2009 New Zealand proa congress. You can find out more at his website.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vanuatu Outrigger Sailing Races

Here are a couple of sailing outriggers from Lelepa Island racing in a cultural festival held recently in Vanuatu. I did not know that sprit rigs were in use there. Note the low attachment point of the sprit which prevents any chance of reefing the sail by lowering the sprit. The alternative is to remove the sprit altogether and fold the top half of the sail down and around the mast.
Thanks to Francis Hickey for taking the photos and Don Miller for sending them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NZ Proa Congress 2009

Here's some video clips of shunting and tacking outrigger canoes romping off Arkle's Beach in the North Island of New Zealand.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Real Thing

I spent a few days in Suva, the capitol of Fiji, and hunted down any sailing outriggers I could find. The first is the "Laisenia" found stored at the Arts Council. The Laisenia is a thamakau and is smaller than the larger ndrua battleships.

The Laisenia appeared to still be restorable. Many of the smaller poles and spars were rotted but the hull appeared to be mostly sound.

Note the extra intermediate diagonal struts connecting the ama to a fore and aft pole lashed to the main crossbeams.

The bows of Fijian canoes are slightly different at each end although the canoe uses a shunting rig and sails in either direction.

This is another thamakau mounted on the wall of the Fiji Museum. It looked to be 25-30 feet long. Note the rail along the leeward side to allow the yard to slide smoothly along it during a shunt.

This a a small ndrua, maybe 40 feet or so. The ama on a ndrua is larger than a thamakau and is actually a small hollow hull. The high platform amidships prevents the rig from falling over if the sail is set aback. The steering oars are quite large and provide the only lateral resistance in a very round bottomed hull.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tamanu video

This video was shot from the beach showing the sprit rig in light wind and the small sail in 25 knots of wind.
The best sailing videos are shot from a chase boat but unfortunately I didn't have one. Shooting from onboard with any conventional lens gives a narrow field of view and misses the best times because your hands are full when things really get going.
For these reasons I have just ordered a Go-Pro Hi definition waterproof head cam that can be mounted on the canoe. A 170 degree field of view should make a remarkable improvement. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sail Power

I had long wanted to gain experience with the sprit rig and to find out how adaptable it would be for outrigger sailing canoes. I had brought two sails with me to Fiji; an 89 Sq Ft sprit sail cut out of an old beach catamaran sail and a small 46 Sq Ft triangular sail for high wind sailing. The bigger sprit sail had a row of reef points that allowed it to be reduced to 63 Sq Ft. All three sizes were used quite a lot. It is possible to reef the big sail at sea, but it is a precarious undertaking because you do have to stand up on the foredeck to lower the sprit to the new position. Fortunately there was always a small island nearby that allowed this to be done more easily on the beach. No doubt with a few more tracks and blocks etc, it could all be done without standing up on the deck, but I was trying to keep it all as simple as possible.
Once the sail is reefed down, it is possible to reduce the area even more by removing the sprit all together and pulling the peak down and wrapping it around the mast. This only seems to work well when the peak is pulled to the leeward side and means that you have to change it if you tack. With this in mind I decided to have a dedicated high wind sail and with the frequent 25+ knot days, I think it was a good decision.

My first main sheet arrangement used a cam cleat mounted on the block. These are nice because they take all the strain off your hand and only need a lift and a jerk to release them. I guess I'm a slow learner because I've capsized in the past because of these things. The 1.5 seconds that it takes to release the sheet is still not as quick as an outrigger can put his ama well up into the air. I didn't capsize this time but came close enough to say " this is enough" or "I'm too old for this sh*t".

You used to be able to find "snubbing winches" in marine hardware catalogs, but I haven't seen them lately. So I made a "snubbing cleat" and mounted it on the aft crossbeam. It's carved from 2" wood and allows a single or double wrap of sheet line around its base. With a single wrap, it will slip when you release it, but relieves the strain on your sheet hand while you're holding it. I had no more close calls after this was installed and will only be using cam cleats for less critical tasks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The four day wonder

Having completed my Tamanu in Fiji, and my neighbor John Caldeira having completed his two latest kayaks, we decided to help a local Peace Corps volunteer, John Leonard, build a 16' paddling Wa'apa.

Between the three of us, it was ready for paint after four days. A few details like the stems were changed to the simpler method that I use on the Tamanu. The sheer at the ends was also lowered slightly to make it easier to paddle in the strong winds encountered in the area.
The side panels are 4mm ply and the bottom and deck are 6mm. There is no fiberglass or epoxy used in the structure. Polyurethane glue with bronze boat nails hold the panels together.
The ama is bamboo with forked sticks providing the connection with the iakos.

Outrigger canoes are easily moved around on the beach with one set of wheels provided you tip it up on its side.

John is paddling from the aft seat but you may want to change to the middle seat when paddling into a strong wind.
John and John held a planned capsize drill immediately after launching. With a low buoyancy ama like this one, you right the canoe by sinking the ama. This helps to empty most of the water from the hull as it is rolling back upright.

The extra bamboo above the ama provides secondary buoyancy if the ama is pushed under the water.

The deck hatches are made from the tops of square plastic containers with snap on lids.
John reports that the canoe has already caught many fish and is a definite chick magnet.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back to reality or back from reality?

We returned from three months in Fiji a couple of days ago. Coming from balmy trade wind breezes to a late winter cold spell in NZ is quite a shock. I have a funny tan on my feet from wearing Crocs out in the canoe; brown dots on the top of my feet.
The whole project went very well with the 20 foot Tamanu hull completed in about two weeks. A few more days for the 2x4 crossbeams and PVC pipe ama and we were able to at least go fishing with the 2 hp Yamaha motor. Meanwhile I made the spars, rudder, and leeboard from Fijian Kauri (Dakua).
Of course I made a few changes from the prototype that I had built two years ago. I tried to optimize the hull for subsistence fishing with eight feet of the mid hull undecked (for throwing fish into) and I recessed the fore and aft decks 4" to allow storage of rods, gaff, etc to be stored there without falling overboard. There was still six feet of water tight storage at each end. I used plastic barrel tops for hatches and I can't praise them too much. Industrial strength and a big enough hole to throw an anchor through.
I had always wanted to gain experience with the sprit rig along with the fact that it was one of the first European style rigs to be adopted in Oceania. I brought an 89 Sq Ft sail cut down from a beach cat sail. It had reef points that reduced it to 70 Sq Ft. I also brought a 50 Sq Ft triangular sail for the high winds I was expecting at this time of the year. I wasn't disappointed as the wind was frequently around 30 knots or more. My old sailing gloves will never recover. The small sail was used quite a lot and 12 knots of boat speed was easily reached.
I was very impressed by the performance of the sprit sail. It was certainly excellent to weather. Reefing it can be tricky standing on a very narrow canoe but fortunately there was always a beach nearby where it can be done more easily. The mast for this rig is unstayed and rotates. This is especially useful when approaching the shore downwind because you can sheet out until the sail is luffing out over the bow.
My wife Rose is an addicted fisherman (fisherwoman?) and a lure or two was always trailing behind us. I've never eaten so much fish in my life. The drill that we developed when we had a strike usually just involved luffing the sail and passing the rod around the mainsheet if the fish was coming in from the wrong side. I was the gaff man and greatly enjoyed swinging them up and into the bilge. When it was a Barracuda my feet stayed up on the gunwale until it was killed.
Over the next weeks I'll cover some of the lessons learned and some other experiences we had in Rakiraki, Fiji.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sailing in Fiji

The new sprit rig is efficient and 89 sq ft seems enough.

The same 2x4 that passes through the hull supports the outboard motor on the port side and the rudder on the starboard side. A quarter rudder is close to the helmsman and requires no control lines.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Painted at last

After two weeks of work I've got the main hull finished and most of the ama done. Luckily the foam/glass nosecone I made fitted the Fiji drain pipes. The marine ply is good quality and very cheap at roughly US$30 for 5 ply 1/4".
For stringers and crossbeams, I used the local "Dakua" or Fijian Kauri. This is one of the finest general purpose boatbuilding woods that I have ever used. I found several 12" x 1" x 20' planks. I haven't seen one of those since I was a kid. So no scarfing was necessary.
I'm using a polyurethane glue made by Sika, so I suspect it will work as advertised.
We're away on a side trip to Savusavu now for a week, so that will give my very sore wrist time to recover. The 12 hour ferry ride from Suva was very smooth.

The 12" diameter hatches fore and aft are cut from the tops of plastic barrels and are very much industrial strength.
I hadn't anticipated painting teeth on the bow, but the striping was just asking for it.
Needless to say I'm having a ball.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fiji time

I'm here in Fiji now and it's good to back in a tropical climate. I've made a good start on the new Tamanu I'm building. The side panels are finished; the bulkheads are almost ready and I should be able to fold it up in the next day or so. As usual, it's hard to find tools and materials that we normally take for granted and I'm glad that I brought as much as I did.
The connection is very slow here so the photos will be minimal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Texas 200

Earlier this month, Dan St Gean and Brian Rugg entered the second annual Texas 200 (cruise/raid/race/survival course?). Their entry was a marriage between two Tamanu hulls and the frame and rig from an aging Hobie 18. You can read the story of the hulls construction here.

Many adventures ensued and you can read a full account here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ulua with safety ama

Martijn van Nugteren in the Netherlands has his stretched Ulua ripping along in fine style. This foam composite Ulua is rigged like the Hawaiian racers with a safety ama that doesn't touch the water until the canoe is heeled as much as you see in the above photo.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A nose cone for a PVC pipe ama

Two years ago when I built my first PVC pipe ama in Fiji, I made the nose fairing out of a solid piece of fence post. I shaped it with a cane knife and a block plane. It performed well enough and didn't leak, but I didn't like the weight of it out on the tip of the ama.
This time I have prefabricated a foam and fiberglass nose cone that I will carry in my luggage.

The nose cone is built in the same way as a complete foam and fiberglass ama with a central plywood web and foam blocks glued to both sides with polyurethane glue. You can use either ESP beaded white foam or the blue or pink Styrofoam sold for insulation.

I did the rough shaping with a handsaw and electric hand plane. The final shaping is done with a sanding block.

About four inches of the cone is recessed to fit inside of the PVC pipe. Both the recessed area and the rest of the cone is shaped down to allow for the thickness of the fiberglass and fairing compound. I allowed about 1/8" or less for this.

Here the foam is fitted inside of a short section of 6" PVC drain pipe to check the fit.

The 9 oz cloth fiberglass is applied (with epoxy resin only!) from two sides allowing a double thickness overlap along the top and bottom. I used small round patches of fiberglass on the very tip where it is difficult to get the fiberglass to stay tight against the foam.

After the epoxy has cured, I applied fairing compound with a putty knife.

After final sanding of the fairing compound, the nose cone is ready for installation into the end of the PVC pipe. It will be held in place with a flexible adhesive sealant like Sikaflex or 3M 5200. Silicone will work if you cannot get the polyurethane sealant.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fiji here we come

Two years ago my wife and I stayed in Fiji for a little over two months. I built the first of my Tamanu designs there and we had the time of our lives, sailing, fishing, and exploring.
Two days ago I shipped a 2 HP Yamaha outboard and a folding anchor to Fiji to be waiting for us when we arrive in early July for a three month stay. Since the original Tamanu was sold, I'll be building another on a different island. It takes about two weeks, if all goes well, to get the hull and ama finished. Excellent marine plywood is manufactured there, but my suitcase will be full of fasteners, polyurethane glue, hardware, and sails. I won't be using any fiberglass or epoxy resin. I'm trying to use as many locally available materials as possible. Cheap Chinese power tools are locally available and will last at least as long as the project.

I'll be building the same basic hull shape this time with some differences only with the deck and bulkhead layout. The ama will again be 6" (150mm) PVC pipe with a foam/fiberglass nose cone that will be in my luggage. The Rakiraki area where we will be staying is known for its high winds and is a favorite kite/wind surfing location. I'll be trying a traditional sprit rig this time because it is more easily reefable than the stub mast rig I used last time. I have a smaller triangular sail for really windy conditions.
The photo below shows the sprit rig I used this past summer on my 24' Wa'apa.
Hopefully I will be able to update this blog occasionally during our stay.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wa'apa in France

Phil Shapiro recently launched his new Wa'apa in France. Phil finished his canoe in two months of weekends, constructing it in his kitchen and living room.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Isle of Pines Ndrua

In the mid 19th century, a 30 meter Tongan ndrua visited the Isle of Pines at the very Southern tip of New Caledonia. One of the crew settled there and passed on the techniques of building what is possibly the best and most famous Oceanic warship design.
As late as 1855 a fleet of 40 ndrua carrying 10,000 warriors set sail in an internal power struggle in Fiji. Those struggles go on to this day but without the elegance of the ndrua.

On the 16th of May, 2009, the 15 meter (50 ') Meryemana will be launched by builder and owner Phillippe Renaud at the Bay of Toro, New Caledonia. It will even have a traditional woven pandanus sail.
A ndrua uses a shunting rig and reverses direction on each tack. The hollow ama is larger than a normal outrigger canoe and is only slightly smaller than the main hull.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Tahitian sprit sail

Certainly one of the most intriguing rigs to be observed during early European contact was the sprit sail used by the Tahitians and in a less radical form by the Hawaiians. It has a very high aspect ratio and a very interesting top shape. (Tip vortex reduction?)
It was not convenient to use and had to be tipped up fully rigged like a windsurfer sail. There does not seem to be a way to reef it. It is possible that the sail could be brailed up against the mast if the boom were removed.
Painting by Herb Kane.

I built a small version of this rig for my Ulua some years ago. Instead of a sprit along the leech to support the head, I used some fiberglass rod battens in curved pockets to support the head. While very efficient it still could not be lowered out on the water or reefed.

I came up with another version of this rig for a 27' Tahitian tipairua (catamaran) that I built for a client. This is actually a cross between a sliding gunter rig and the Tahitian rig. It had full length battens throughout and could be reefed while underway. I used a sprit boom to reduce the twist from a very high aspect sail like this. It goes very well to windward.

Friday, April 24, 2009