Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Jester Class 32' Proa

This should be a winner.  At last a well designed minimal cruising proa design resulting from the collaborative efforts of Russell Brown and Paul Bieker.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Paddling Amas

The first time that you have to paddle your sailing canoe can be annoying because the large buoyant ama will sometimes seem to take over the steering unless you are well practised in anticipating it.
The optimum ama shape for paddling and sailing is very different.  The photo above shows a 45' Hawaiian racing canoe rigged for paddling only.  I've drawn in a dotted line along the waterline to show how very little of the ama is actually touching the water when in use. (Click the photo to enlarge)  The ama is also quite short in comparison to the length of the main hull.
An ama like this would not be a good performer under sail not only because of its lack of buoyancy but also how the entry is shaped when it is pushed down by a press of sail.

The above drawing shows the ama and main hull of the Va'a Motu.  The ama is stretched right up to the main hull bow to give the needed buoyancy to prevent a diagonal capsize.  The entry also has very little rocker to make it pierce waves rather than pitch over them.  Constant changes in pitch or "hobby-horsing" plays havoc with the flow over the sail and makes you go slower.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ama Switch

Dennis Bullen on the Manukau Harbor in New Zealand recently built a new ama for his stretched Ulua to the design I'm using on the Va'a Motu.  It has a high volume, a low wave piercing bow and plenty of rocker aft.  It should throw less spray that the banana shaped amas.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Last Sailing Canoe of Mokil

Mokil is a Micronesian island near Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia.  If you've got a big old tree in your backyard that you'd like to get rid of, this video will show you how to put it to good use.
I built a 30' power catamaran on Pohnpei back in the 70's and what I think of while I watched this video was the heat and humidity.  I also remember that with enough Micronesians, you can carry a 30' cat hull down a very steep slippery jungle trail to the water.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Canoe Surfing Hawaiian Style

Follow this Link for some great video and tips.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Wa'apas in Brazil

Felipe Monsanto's Wa'apa sailing in Rio.

Felipe used a Hobie hull for the ama.

Lashed seats.

João Rivera's Wa'apa.

João's building blog is here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

We Want Wave Clearance Clarence

This Hawaiian 45' racer built by Bill Rosehill in Hawaii illustrates a good way to get those crossbeams raised above the top of the waves.  This arrangement is commonly seen in Tahiti but not much in Hawaii except for the canoes converted to sailing.  Note the shimming to tune the ama height.
This 175 lb cedar strip/fiberglass hull would be hard to improve on even with a big pile of carbon and honeycomb.  Strip composite can result in a lighter hull than most plywood designs provided that your techniques are good.  As Burt Rutan used to say:  "That excess resin that you squeegeed on to the floor will do a lot more good there than on your airplane."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reef that Crab

Reto Brehm's P5 proa "Lili'Uokalani" with a shunting Oceanic lateen rig. 

There has never been a completely satisfying way to reef a crab claw sail.  If you just furl up some of the area along the boom, you still end up with the sail at full hoist, not the best place for the area when the wind is strong.  Reto rigged a ring or loop of beads that slides down over the halyard to lower the yard and yet keep it tight against the mast.  The control line is led out to the main shroud to give a new support point to the mast and prevent any excessive bending.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Ulua in Brazil

Remo Eckert from Peruyibe, Brazil has done a superb job on his Ulua project.  The iakos and ama are slightly different from the design plan but are very similar to Hawaiian designs in use today.

A clear finished stripper hull can be stunning, but I've always felt that having some painted sections make the varnished parts stand out even more.  Remo got the balance just right.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Recycled Rigs

One of the best ways to get a high performance rig at minimal cost is to buy an old racing dinghy that may be rotting away but still has several thousand dollars worth of stainless steel hardware, aluminium spars and a set of sails.  I got lucky and found the rig from a NZ/Aus  Javelin racing dinghy for $150.  The Javelin is a 14' development class, designed by John Spencer, that's been around since 1961.  It can do 25 knots with it's big gennaker.  I only got a main and jib, along with a 24' aluminium tapered mast, boom and a big bucket full of hardware.

 Racers don't usually have any way to reef, so the first job was to modify the sail for two big slab reefs.  The sail also had a boltrope along the luff that fed into a slot on the mast.  It's much easier to raise and lower the sail if it has slug slides that fit into the slot, so I put in grommets and slides.

After hoisting the sail for the first time, I was very pleased with the foil shape.  My sail is a little older than the one in the first photo and has less of a square head than the newer ones.

Now I have to see if I can keep it right-side up!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Va'a iti

Some very elegant and seaworthy looking canoes (va'a) being built in Tahiti.
More on the Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Very Cool Proa Fleet

It appears that the Proa capitol of the world may have shifted from Micronesia to...Poland.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ulua offshore in Western Australia

Jeremy Eagleton recently took his stretch Ulua on a 20 kilometre offshore passage to Rottnest Island in Western Australia.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buy This Book!

Few people are more qualified to write this book than Russell Brown.  If you want your epoxy glue joints, fillets, and sheathing to reach a professional level, these tips will help to get you there.  This E-book is a bargain at $5.99 and you can order it here:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jake in a Boat

Jakob Burbach has a very detailed blog of his Wa'apa building project.  Visit it here:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ulua getting Slammed

From Dennis Bullen on the Manukau Harbor in New Zealand:
"Found some photographs hiding in the waterproof camera. Here we are (the Cabin Boy and Der Kapitian) beating our way up the Manukau Harbour, its windy rough and a bit wild. After a while we saw three big ones with nasty white caps heading our way.These shots show the waka sliding down the back of the first wave, the second wave hitting. We had plenty of good wind and speed up, the wave crashed over, the ama just disappeared then the canoe; we flew out and slammed down then slipped over the next one and sailed on. The perfect day."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Maui Ulua

William Manual in Maui is almost ready for a test sail in his new Ulua.  William added some extra curvasiousness to the iako along with a safety ama.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Perfect Foils

Proper foil shapes will have a strong influence on the performance of your sailing canoe.  It is especially evident when you decide to test your speed against a class racer with an experienced sailor driving.  Craig Walsh, one of my Ulua builders in Canada, shows a way to get that perfect shape:

"Attached are the pictures of the router jig for making foils that I recently mentioned.  In my experience as a woodworking teacher, there are people who prefer not to make jigs, feeling that any time spent not directly working on a project is wasted. I'm of the other camp; if I can break roughly even on the labour I prefer to make a jig. It's all gravy after that."
This router jig makes a NACA 0009 foil with a two point contact router base.
Router base
Setup ready to go
First side of foil with uncut strips to hold the blank level for cutting the other side.
Second side cut.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tune that Ama

Fitting shims between the iako (crossbeam) and the top of the gunwale allows
you to change the attitude of the ama.  If you use the aft seat with no other
crew on board, you may notice the stern of the ama dragging.  A shim at point "A"
will lift the stern of the ama.  A shim at point "B" will lower it.  A shim at "C"
will lift the bow of the ama and one at "D" will lower the bow.  Experiment
with these settings to get the best from your canoe.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tamanu in Hawaii

Jon Gardner in Hawaii has constructed a very fine 20' (6M) Tamanu.

Nice re-curve on the iakos.  Full length self bailing cockpit.  Quarter rudder.

 You gotta be jealous when your backyard looks like this.

Jon used the hollow plywood ama.  A solid foam ama is an option in the plans.
Note the stub mast.

You can get to this point very quickly.
The cockpit floor which makes the canoe self bailing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

T2 in Oz

Peter Richardson is just getting started on his stretched T2 in Australia.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ulua Safety Ama Crossbeam Design

Here is a design for the Ulua crossbeams that extends out
enough to strap on a safety ama.  It also curves up to keep
the safety ama above the wave tops.  Having the crossbeams
extending out on the non-ama side also allows you to have
a hiking seat on that side which improves performance when
the ama is to leeward.  Download the PDF here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Big Paraw

I've been a long time fan of the double outrigger Philippine paraw.
A project has begun in Palawan, to build a seventy two footer.  Follow
the building blog here:

It will be interesting to see how things scale up from the
spidery structure of the more common size of paraw.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tamanu for Sale

A partially built Tamanu is for sale in the North Island of New Zealand.  Contact me at:
gary.dierking (at) and I will put you in contact with the builder.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Va'a Motu plans at last

After a long delay due to a different project, I've been going full steam ahead on the plan drawings and construction manual for the 20' (6M) Va'a Motu.
The plans are now finished and ready to ship out
I've taken a better approach this time including over 150 construction photos with accompanying explanations. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Canoes of the Marshall Islands

Wa Kuk Wa Jimor - Marshallese Canoes Today from Rachel Miller on Vimeo.

A fine one hour video about the importance of the canoe building tradition
in Marshallese society.  Marshallese canoes are among the very best designs
that exist in the Pacific. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wa'apa by Vernon Clive

Vernon Clive in the UK recently launched his 16' Wa'apa.