A Homebuilt Kevlar Trimaran Sailing Canoe
Sailor Rex Gilfillan, who hails from New Zealand, shares about his one-of-a-kind Kevlar trimaran sailing canoe in this post. As you’ll see, he has created a boat uniquely suited for the type of coastal adventures he engages in.
What impressed me about this particular craft is its light weight. Combining the toughness of Kevlar with light weight is quite impressive. (I’d love to see a video of how he made this boat, step-by-step :-)
Anyhow, Rex writes about his Kevlar trimaran sailing canoe below … and thanks for sharing this with us Rex!
I was brought up in Auckland and never sailed as a kid – I spent all my holidays fishing. I first learned to sail small racing boats on Lac d’Aix les Bains when I was staying in France.
Later on (still young and foolish), I spent 3 months sailing a 1913 50 ft yawl from Panama to San Diego (including through a cyclone, which broke 2 of the 3 stays on the mast) so lucky to be here.
Much later, back in Auckland, I bought several canoes for fishing on the Hauraki Gulf, but found them a bit dangerous if a blow came up and I had to get back from the island I was stuck on. I also had a Farrier 6.8, then a 14-metre racing catamaran, which could sail at 24 knots. But I liked the places I could go potholing in a canoe without the worry of ending up with a lot of money on the rocks.
The first canoe I made was a Polynesian single outrigger with a lateen rig (also in Kevlar and Carbon). It was made from an interest in Polynesian voyaging, but after trials decided a double outrigger would enable me to stay out in choppy seas with much less worry of tipping over (which it was prone to).
The design for this boat was set by the weight. It had to be very light so I could lift the main hull on to the top of my VW camper van I had at the time, yet big enough for overnighting on the islands for 2. And of course, it had to be safe on the water. The flat aft hull design was influenced by a chat with Peter Blake, when the big red trimaran Steinlager 3 was sitting on the hard in Auckland.
The main hull was carved by eye from a single block of 2′ x 2′ x 16 ‘ polystyrene — using a hot wire on a handheld bow along ply cutouts fixed to the sides of the block. The hull then sanded to final shape using sandpaper stretched on a 1 metre ply bow to get fair lines (a very useful technique). All fabric – Kevlar carbon and glass – precut, then wet out on a table and applied to the Gladwrapped hull in one day. Polystyrene form then hotwired out from inside, leaving a perfect finish due to the Gladwrap.
One of the great kicks is sailing fast in a blow straight onto – and up – the beach to end up sitting high and dry on the sand. Just have to remember to let the sheet fly as soon as it stops.
It also fun sailing paddling around rocks, reefs and shoals where other boats dare not go – the Kevlar hull bounces off rocks quite well.
One time it planed for about 4-5 nautical miles (probably about 10 knots) all the way up from the mouth of the Mahurangi Harbour in a 20-knot southerly. Great fun until I ran out of water, hit the mud, and the mast folded in half. It was a long way back on the outboard into 20 knots in the middle of winter!
Normally, with one person light, I can paddle at about 3 knots. Two with gear for a weekend camping, 3 to 4 knots under chopped, and leaned 2hp Suzuki in cruise mode – with the float bowl tweaked for a leaner mix, a litre of gas lasts the average day with a blend of paddling and sailing.
Sailing in a following sea is great fun as it planes down the wave front on its flat tail. Reefing is easy at any time- just let go the sheet and pull the furling line around the base of the mast. I’ve had more fun out of this little boat than any other!