A Homebuilt CLC Mill Creek Trimaran

Chesapeake Light Craft offers boatbuilding kits for many kinds of small boats. One of their models is called the Mill Creek Kayak, which comes in a couple of sizes. But another thing they offer is an additional kit called the “CLC SailRig.” This rig can effectively turn one of their kayaks into a sailing kayak-trimaran.

Small trimaran enthusiast Kellan Hatch used CLC’s Mill Creek design as a working model in order to create his own unique sailboat. Kellan offered to share a little about this boat with SmallTrimaran.com readers and answer a few questions that I sent to him. So below are my Q’s and his A’s (many thanks Kellan!), along with a link to one of his in-depth articles at Duckworks Magazine about this sailboat.

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Can you tell us a little about how you got into sailing?

I live in the Salt Lake City area, in the middle of the desert, far from any ocean. I had seen sailboats in a marina on the Great Salt Lake when I was a kid but had never known anyone who sailed. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that, on a whim, I rented a 14-foot catamaran on a local lake.

After floundering for 15 or 20 minutes a light bulb went on in my head and I suddenly understood how everything worked. It was like a dormant Viking gene switched on somewhere deep in my Norwegian DNA and I was immediately hooked. Since then continued to learn through trial and error. Well, mostly error, but I’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

How did you get into wanting to design/build small trimarans?

My first boat was a West Wight Potter 19. It was a great family boat but I wanted something smaller, more portable. Someone on the Potter Yahoo group suggested that I look into canoe sailing. The idea of canoes with sails sounded kinda silly to me at first, but as soon as I saw a John Bull canoe with outriggers I knew I had found what I was looking for. It soon became obvious to me that the kind of boat I was obsessing about couldn’t be bought; I’d have to become a boat builder.

Can you tell me specifically about how your modified “CLC Mill Creek kayak” came about? (Is this your official “name” for the design, or do you have another name that you use for it? And also, are plans available for sale if somebody else wanted to get them from you so they could build one?).

I named my Mill Creek design, “Curious” … at least that’s the name I used in both of my Duckworks articles about it. (I have a lot of trouble selecting just one name for a boat.} And no design on paper – it’s an ongoing learning project for me. When I started I had never met anyone who had built, let alone designed a boat. I had intended to build a John Bull design, but when I had trouble obtaining plans I started looking around for other designs that had the characteristics I was looking for, and something that was reasonable for a first timer.

CLC’s Mill Creek seemed like a good starting place. When I was ready to start on the outriggers CLC was kind enough to cut the panels for me. I worked on the Mill Creek for several years: building, sailing, making modifications, sailing some more and learning a lot along the way. There was never really a master plan; it was a very organic learning experience. I did everything at least twice: akas, sail rigs, rudder, leeboard, etc. At first I used only lashings to hold everything together. It worked great but was very time-consuming to set up and break down, so I ended up using a combination of bolts and lashings.

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CLC’s current sail rig, very similar to mine, can be built from plans or a kit. At first my aka design and CLC’s were very different from each other, and different from what we both ended up with in the end. Over the years I changed mine and they changed theirs and now, when I look at pictures on their website, it seems to me like we both ended up with a very similar design.

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Thanks to the Internet I got a lot of great advice along the way from some of the most knowledgeable folks out there: Hugh Horton, John Bull, Mark Balogh and many others. Hugh hooked me up with his sailmaker Stuart Hopkins, who has sewn several excellent sails for me over the years. Eventually I became good friends with Chris Ostlind, one of the best trimaran innovators out there, who it turned out lived only a few miles away from me. He has been a good friend and an excellent resource.

In your opinion, what are the biggest advantages of this sailboat? Is it the mimicked “Hobie drive” and others?

I’d say the two biggest advantages are portability and the pedal drive.

CLC-Mill-Creek-Trimaran-2

For storage, I hang the boat from my garage ceiling on a lightweight transport dolly that I built for it from 1×3 pine. When I want to cartop the boat I just lower it down on its pulley system and walk it, wheelbarrow-style, to my truck. Then I wheel it in the same way from the truck to the water.

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I used a stock Hobie Mirage drive, which was designed for a sit-on-top kayak, so my first problem was figuring out how to put it into a standard displacement hull. It occurred to me that it was a similar problem to installing a centerboard or dagger board, so I built a well into my cockpit that is basically an extra-wide centerboard trunk.

The sail/Mirage combination is a truly wonderful symbiosis. You can sail and pedal in any combination and at any time without any sort of reconfiguring. If you’re headed toward a rocky point and don’t really want to tack around it you just add a little leg muscle to cheat your angle a bit higher. It gives you tons of versatility and control of your situation in tight spots and you have the advantage of using the largest muscles in your body when there’s not enough wind to sail.
Shortly after I added the Mirage drive to my Mill Creek, Hobie announced the Adventure Island trimaran, which is more or less a one-seat production version of what I was trying to do.

Does the boat have nice speed in a stiff breeze? (It sure looks like it can move along nicely in the water).

I don’t often carry a GPS when I’m sailing, but when I have I’ve seen speeds around 8mph in a fresh breeze. I’m sure I could get more speed by hiking out and sailing aggressively, but my reason for building trimarans has more to do with stability (I sail in some pretty cold water) than speed.

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Anything I should have asked you that I didn’t?

My advice to anyone interested in marching to the beat of a different drummer (e.g. building a small trimaran) is JUST DO IT. Dive in and get your hands dirty. Try new things and don’t be afraid to redo it if it doesn’t work out the first time around. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the experts. People who share your passion will also be willing to share their experience.

You might want to ask me about my ultimate fantasy boat. I’m brewing a design in the back of my skull for what I would consider the ultimate one-man cartopper for my needs. I plan to build an ultra-lightweight trimaran, probably along the lines of Chris Ostlind’s Solo14. I will make it from carbon or Kevlar, so it will be extremely lightweight; I’d like to try to keep the total weight under 50 pounds. It will have a Mirage Drive and most likely some kind of roller reefing. I would love to be able to sleep aboard in a pinch, but I’m not sure if I can figure out a good way to do that with a Mirage drive trunk in a boat of that size; It will be just large enough to carry me and a week’s backpacking gear and supplies.

To read even more about Kellan’s modified CLC Mill Creek Kayak Trimaran visit his article at Duckworks by clicking here.

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2 Responses to “A Homebuilt CLC Mill Creek Trimaran”

  1. Eric Says:

    I am interested in a little more detail on your bolted connection between the akas/cross pieces and the hull. I bought the plans for a CLC sailing rig to put on my CLC Chesapeake Double but adapted/scaled the amas up to 15 feet long from their plan length of 10 feet. I also wanted use bolts (actually was thinking of turn buckles) to hold the akas in place on the hull. At the CLC shop “John” the CLC designer told me bolts would transfer too much shock to the connection in the hull. The lashings are intended to provide some shock absorber function. Claim was I would break my kayak hull if I made a direct connection – so am interested seeing both how you made the connection to the hull, and your experience with stress on the connection point

  2. Stefano Says:

    Point loads can be somewhat reduced by interposing rubber washers – I use plumbing or tire-cut washers – in significant number so to make a little rubber pad perhaps adding up to one inch thickness, and of course by strengthening the hull beneath attachment points.

    Be aware you have greater volume amas menaing greater stresses… This said, I leash my amas to the akas: it’s fast, forgiving, colourful, will not foul, plenty strength.

    Some kind of downward tie to some reinforced point, to keep the akas from pulling up too much on a shock load (i.e. when at speed maybe you find the wake of a powerboat) will avoid stress failures, just as much as keeping the sail within reasonable limits.

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