Historical Small Trimarans I Have Met (Part 1)
I received the following from small trimaran enthusiast Frank Starkweather last week. Frank once worked for the Gougeon Brothers. As you’re about to see, he’s enjoyed many sailing adventures, and has known a few tris over the years.
He was kind enough to share with me a few of his experiences (in print). I asked if I could share this with others in our small trimaran community, and he generously said, “Yes.” There was so much material that I decided his info should have a “part 1″ and a “part 2.” (Many Thanks again Frank!) …
Historical Small Trimarans I Have Met (Part 1) By Frank Starkweather
The Gougeon Brothers are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the founding of their business in August. I met half the multihull world when I was their first Director of Marketing 30 years ago or so.
Jan G. is building a huge “two-hulled” trimaran, and he’ll probably have to push it out in the yard to make room for the people. I call it a two-hulled trimaran because it is a catamaran with a full-accommodations hull suspended between the two floats, that does not touch the water!
I have a pair of Hobie 14′s on the shore of Saginaw Bay (it is the great body of sailing water, which separates the Thumb from the Mitten of Michigan (you can see it on a map. Bay City is at the south end.)
My 16 year old son is getting very frustrated with trying to tack the little cats, and he has about given up, which is opposite to the reaction I had intended. I felt they would be a great introduction to multihulls, and now he hardly wants to sail them. He has had lots of luck sailing single-hull dinghies, which tack on a dime of course, but these little cats are no longer fun to him. What he really needs is a small trimaran. Which reminded me of my first boat, which was a Piver 17.
I was living outside Ann Arbor at the time (late 1960′s) and a good-sized inland lake with lots of small boat sailing was about ten miles away. We could go from one end of the lake to the other pretty easily in that little boat. It had a main and jib, fixed decks, fiberglass hulls, and chunks of foam in the outriggers, which were breaking down, and could soak up water. They were supposed to be there for floatation but the reverse happened. The bottoms were rounded Vee’s. The outriggers were too close to the main hull, not wide enough to give much buoyancy until you got healed over a bit too much. I was tempted to cut them off, and move them out about 2 feet and then it would have worked better.
After a while I moved back to Bay City and tried sailing it in the chop we get here. When the boat was sailed parallel to the waves, or when turning through, the main hull was on top of a wave, the outriggers could fall into the trough, where the next-coming wave would break on the decks, and then you were in big trouble. I finally concluded that it was for waveless inland lakes and river sailing only and sold it.
My next boat was a Lock Crowther Buccaneer 24, which I bought from a guy who lived near Port Huron, where Lake Huron dumps into the St Clair River headed towards Detroit. He had built it in Ann Arbor, in the second floor of his apartment in an old Victorian House. Passed the outriggers through the bedroom window — he and his buddies did — with the help of a keg of beer, the story goes.
He glued the thing together with West System Epoxy, but DID NOT coat all of the pieces of wood, in the Gougeon fashion, something which turned it into a nightmare for me down the road. Little by little things began to delaminate and dry rot. Each summer I would spend from May (outside between rainstorms) through July (work stopped about 8 PM every night when the mosquitoes came out in clouds). Getting it launched before August was always a big thing. Then I’d sail it nearly every day, just to get the fun out of it.
Saginaw Bay is shallow. We like to coast along the shore a few hundred yards offshore looking at the lovely waterfront homes, and returning to the beach miles up-shore where we grew up as summer kids. Sand bars all over the place. Many of them are unexpectedly far from shore. Even though they are soft, when you hit one of them at 7-10 knots with your dagger board, you have a big cut torn up the belly of your main hull. Had to remove the dagger board and build a kick-up centerboard, which worked like a charm. Same for a kick-up rudder. Then I could sail it up to the beach (18″ draft) and jump off the bow onto dry sand.
Lock’s design was way ahead of its time. Light weight, lots of sail area, very nimble, terrific in light airs (It was the only boat in the fleet that could keep up with Jan Gougeon’s tri in light airs. Meade’s tri, Adagio, 36′, one of the most revolutionary boats ever built, and at age 36 still winning races, could be caught by no one. Today, maybe the 60′ tri around Port Huron could probably pull away.) It probably doesn’t weigh 1500 lbs. It is the first boat I have ever seen sail faster than the wind, and it does it in light airs when nothing else can move! When it starts to blow 20, Meade comes off the lake, because it is a lightly built. The hulls are 5/16 ply! You can take a good look at her if you come out.
When the wind blew, the Buc 24 went “like stink” (a frequently used term around here). I hardly ever took it out without going 10. 12 and 15 were common. I’ve had it over 20 knots, going downwind in a storm with the spinnaker up. Drove thru the fleet like they were parked. Ever seen a small tri pull water skiers? Fabulous. It would heel with great safety, and only once, when hiking out did I see the centerboard cavitating, whereby I slowed her down a little. It did have enough buoyancy in one outrigger to lift the main hull though.
There was a little cabin, which became a pain in the ass. Low headroom, narrow cramped bunks. I could stow sails, cooler, porta-potti (necessary if you are going to take out the girls and drink beer all at the same time). There were seats for four behind it, but it put so much weight back there that it hurt the performance, so I assigned people spaces out on the nets and the outriggers, which made it much better. I figured out that, if I cut the roof off, I could have people seated more forward, for better balance. Never did it though.
It was very easy to sail, and many a new sailor was handed the tiller first off, after I got the sails up, so I could hang out from the shrouds. The round tube mast carried the outriggers, and tied everything together nicely, but I would have preferred a stable platform, so that I could have put a rotating wing mast on it, like the G. Bros. had on their boats. Then I would have been competitive with them.
A towing accident and the continual battle with dry rot from not having been coated with epoxy properly, finally did it in. As I cut it apart for the burn pile, I took the cabin off to see how it would look with a big open cockpit, and a cuddy for storage forward of the mast step. Perfect! As I look at designs today, I want the open cockpit. I like day sailing. I don’t cruise. If I wanted to, I’d sail to a shore, get off and pitch a tent. Kurt Hughes has a 20′ tri and a 23′ design that catches my eye. I learned about them from your book. Thanks to you.
All I have left of the Buc 24 are some pictures and a lot of fond memories. It was a hell of a boat. I had the pleasure to spend some time with Lock when he came to Bay City. He was a thoughtful, educated gentleman.
I have a lot more to tell you, but this is running long. I want to tell you about my trip to Denmark to cover the 1979 Multihull Gathering for Multihull Magazine at Bogense, on the island of Fynn. I became friends with Ib Pors-Nielsen, designer of many great tris, including the Supernova 15, Pinta, and my favorite, the Flueret, which I got to sail on. Ib insisted I go to Copenhagen with him, so I stayed at his home, with his family, and he took me to the Supernova factory, where I took many slides.
I also have the original factory issue literature — this in German. Also met Bjorg Quorning (trimaran builder), Lars Oudrop (catamaran builder), and Pia Elvstrom, photographer and manager of the Danish
504 sailing team, just back from South Africa. We dropped her off at her house, and briefly I saw her father, Paul Elvstrom, the renowned Olympic medal winner. In a sailing nation like Denmark, he has a stature similar to say, Muhammad Ali in America.
Bay City, Michigan