By Dan St. Gean - Chicago, Illinois - USA

After a tremendous summer of fun with the Gary Dierking designed Ulua outrigger, I thought an update of sorts would be fun for those who are interested in messing about. Last time I wrote an article, I had planned some modifications to my Ulua named Anhinga. I had build Anhinga to be a two person paddle craft with a single ama, a trimaran with a big freestanding mast, and the possibility of adding a second hull to make a camp cruising catamaran with a large capacity. I ended up after the first summer being dissatisfied with the way everything worked together since I had made so many changes to a great design. More sail, bigger amas, longer hull, and the trimaran option added too much weight. I had too little freeboard to avoid getting swamped by the frequent powerboat wakes on the lakes at my in-law’s cabin. I always find it interesting that powerboat drivers will often slow down off a plane and drag their biggest possible wake thinking they are doing you a favor by their reduced speed. Anyhow, the lightening program began in earnest last winter.

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I ended up seeing a picture of R. Coehn’s Ulua pulled up on the beach...

... and another of Ulua tied up at the dock and that cinched it for me.

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After seeing the images I decided to make the second set of iakos that would hold a single ama. I would reuse the port ama since the Hawaiian traditionally rig it up that way. Additionally, I dedicated myself to finishing the outboard bracket, rudder, and leeboard as shown in Gary’s excellent plans. Finally, I wanted to switch to a lighter rig. Gary emailed me photos of his Wa’apa that uses a stub mast rig allowing a full height windsurfing rig to set the most possible sail. In my case, however, that is at the first reef point at 85 square feet rather than the full hoist of 128 square feet. I had previously found some alarming twist in the hull paddle steering with my oversized sail. The new rig and the reef took care of that problem.

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Here’s a shot of me paddle steering solo. Not a great idea since I can’t release the sheet. That’s the old rig at full hoist, trimaran beams, and no tramps.

Here is a shot of the Ulua with tramps and second passenger. The low slung look is sweet if it were decked to avoid swamping.

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Also adding insult to injury was the fact that paddle steering necessitates one to sit aft. When single handing it also made releasing the sheet to ease wind pressure an iffy proposition since paddle steering requires two hands. So the conversion to a rudder was welcome. I ended up buying an old mahogany dingy rudder with an aluminum rudder head and a nice tiller and tiller extension. Once mounted on the new iako set, however, the blade had little area in the water. I resolved to err on the big side and went to work in the woodshop at school. I made a 0009 blade out of a glued up blank of red oak (not a good wood choice) and a 0012 leeboard out of two pieces of red oak glued face to face to eliminate some of the inherent warpage. I was so keen to use them that I launched without finishing them or varnishing the wood. Major warpage while wet was the result, but the grin on my face was worth the added trouble since these items had transformed the boat completely for me. I just ripped the super thin trailing edge off and varnished them.

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This photo shows the single outrigger, the new iakos, the motor mount, and the new rudder. I need to add weight to the rudder to keep it down or use a line (shown) that will allow kicking up (not figured out yet). The line isn’t too easy to rig since the rudder is on the motor mount. I should probably skip the aluminum rudder head and go with Gary’s design—but I’ve got a bit of cash tied up in it and would like to make it work as is. Any ideas?

The result of using the rudder rather than paddle steering for me was huge. I can now sit in the middle of the boat and center my weight—critical in narrow canoes. I can beat to weather quite effectively thanks to these two foils. Additionally thanks to the tiller extension, I can sit either on the tramp or on the opposite gunwale to add a bit of hiking power.

Sailing port and starboard tack using tiller extension to sit hiked out.

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Note the additional freeboard!

The change in rig was the best part of the conversion for me. I adopted Gary’s stub mast rig and left the 23’ rig in the garage. My father in law had an old but perfect windsurfer with a fiberglass mast and universal joint sitting around unused. Coupled with a cedar 4x4 turned into a round stub mast, I had my new rig! I used the same sprit boom as previously—obviously too long before, but now a bit ridiculous in the reefed position. All told the cost of the new rig was nothing. Stepping the old rig solo was a life endangering proposition. Stepping the new one was a piece of cake, and the whole mess weighed 10-15#. Since muluay first mast pictured below had mast track, I laced the sail to the windsurfing mast using parachute cord and a windsurfing cup for the top of the mast. No halyard is needed since there is no reef point left on this shorter mast.

Here’s a shot of the first mast. It was tough to step even with two! However, one can see the universal joint on the beam just aft of the mast. This was the future.

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Here is the stub mast with the windsurfer rig lashed to it.

I haven’t finished rigging it quite yet as Gary likes the windsurfing mast to be drawn up tight to the stub mast, through a bee hole or dumb sheave, out to the bow, and back to a cleat. That way the entire rig can be struck in a moment. In my case since I started with a fully battened sail, it is of little help to drop the sail since the mast and sprit boom make the sail cover both the canoe and the tramp. The designed sail would be better here as the battenless sail would collapse neatly into a bundle allowing it to be lashed to the tramp and totally out of the way. I may convert to that sail style eventually since it really makes it so convenient to store, raise, and strike. If I can convince myself to live with a bit less sail area, I saw a lateen pirate sail for 200 bucks…

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Lateen pirate sail

So essentially I have changed the boat from a trimaran to a tacking outrigger while adding a rudder and a leeboard. The switch to the windsurfer mast was also hugely beneficial although I can no longer set the full sail. Not seeing the twist in the hull makes me glad to sail with a reef as a broken hull would ruin my day. Incidentally, that was the way the boat was drawn up. Gary did anticipate the triamaran option, however, I had failed to execute it very well.

In the interim, I had these extra trimaran iakos, tramps, and so forth. I contacted Chris Ostlind for a custom design that would add true trimaran performance while making use of my (for me) big investment in a nice custom sail and trampolines. He designed the Cardiff 21 that appeared in SCA a couple of issues ago and looks like this.

Chris designs and builds some really nice sailing canoes. He is a creative guy.

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Adding to my desire for a truly capable boat, Gary Dierking released plans for his Wa’apa in his book. Additionally, he designed and built a new three board canoe called Easy Rider in some 60 hours. He is coming out with a plan set soon for this canoe as well, and it is to feature full decking and self bailing footwells. These two items are especially appealing to me since my Ulua’s 11’ open cockpit is a bit concerning on rough water days and the impetus for the conversion back to the traditional outrigger. Even swamped it would stay afloat, but self rescue would be challenging. I think the end result, while still up in the air between the Cardiff 21 and Gary’s Easy Rider, will end up siding with Gary’s Easy Rider in the short term especially since I need only to construct the main hull. In addition, I could use the Easy Rider hull as a catamaran hull, something I wanted to do since my first foray into canoe building.

See "Boats Can Be Crazy Things"

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Here’s a shot of Gary and his wife paddling back to shore in Easy Rider. Note the freeboard

This photo is of Gary’s sectional Wa’apa at 24’

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Gary has also designed an Easy rider for me that uses a fully decked canoe hull with self bailing cockpits. This would address the problems I’ve had with the Ulua and give me an opportunity to build a second canoe which fulfills my original design idea. The sketch below is what I will also be giving serious thought to doing.

Easy Rider - click to enlarge

After rereading the first article, I realized that the concept of a versatile boat that can be used sans rig as a paddling craft, a sailing outrigger canoe, a trimaran, and a catamaran is not all that farfetched after all. I definitely strayed from the original path that Gary designed for the Ulua, but after rereading his book, the ability to mix and match components goes way back. The Ho’omo idea is still a possibility for costal cruising and the quick construction makes for a boat house full of outriggers! This winter will likely see Gary’s Easy rider under construction in my shop and possibly some new amas as well. The idea of some costal camping with my growing family also gets my wheels turning and makes me think of the Ho’omo made from three board canoes!

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Traditional double canoes were lashed together and often had platforms for a deck.

Dan St. Gean


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