New Adventures in a Classic Sailbird Trimaran
Aquadyne Sailbird Trimarans haven’t been manufactured in years. A small line of these production trimarans were produced back in the 1970s. But Sailbird Trimaran owners are still sharing their current experiences with these boats.
Mike & Sue Barnett are one such couple. Their Sailbird even participated in this year’s Everglades Challenge. I discovered Mike’s Sailbird Trimaran blog, http://claritysailingadventures.wordpress.com, from Tom Raidna, at www.buildboats.com.
Mike generously shares the following about his sailing background and experience with this particular model in this post … along with some recent photos. As you’ll see, he is enthusiastic about his craft!
When I was three, my dad bought a 7′ Sport-Yak dinghy with leeboards and a lateen sail. I learned to sail in that, and then, when I was seven, I actually won a 14′ Bonito daysailor in a Jaycees raffle. I was hooked at an early age.
I was looking to upsize from the Bonito, and, at around 14 or so, saw an ad for a Piver tri (probably a Frolic). We went to look at it, but it was too rough to consider buying. It DID, however, give me the multihull bug in a big way!
I first saw a Sailbird in a stack of old Multihulls Magazines that someone gave to me … it was the Winter 1977 issue, and the look of the boat really drew me in. More than 30 years later, while driving home, I saw our Sailbird sitting in a consignment yard 6 blocks from home! I called my girlfriend and quickly described the tri, and my particular passion for it. We bought it, and began restoring it while simultaneously planning our wedding.
I think she handles very well, although she’s quite wet at speed. The hull will carry a lot of load without complaining, due to the large rocker and round sections, which also contribute to her gentle handling attributes. The amas are a bit low on flotation, and she’s a bit narrower than might be drawn today, but overall, she’s a nice, conservative design with good speed potential.
In this boat, I prefer to be out on the water in anywhere from 5 to 35 knots of wind. Mind you, I have a slightly lower rig with a square topped main that I cut out of an old Trac 16 mainsail, so my center of effort is a few feet lower than standard … so my Sailbird may take the winds in a bit safer manner. The trade-off is light air performance, although it doesn’t seem to be a big loss — certainly less than the 24 sq. ft. difference in sail size would lead you to believe, anyway.
What piece of advice would I offer to anyone else that would like to sail a Sailbird? Check the aka tubes and hinges diligently for damage. The hinges were custom castings, and the tubes were made of 2.50″ SCH 10 T 6061T6, which I could not locate.
My hinges were fine, but I had to use SCH 40 tube to replace my old akas, which added 7 lbs to the boat. Check the amas for soft spots, and look over all the chainplates. And make use of the Yahoo owners group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sailbirds/. There’s a lot of good Sailbird info to be found there.
These boats are approaching 40 years of age, so watch the fiberglass. Decks start getting soft, gelcoat gets problematic, and fittings have had decades to weaken the holes they are mounted in.
Also, the boats are open front to rear, so you may want to consider watertight bulkheads, as we did for the Everglades Challenge. They are wet boats at speed, so be sure to have a GOOD bailer and a bucket. The transom is a little fine, so if the skipper’s transom isn’t. He’ll need to watch that his ballast is kept a bit forward.
Also, the rudder is an aluminum plate affair, which apparently is supposed to kick up and fall back under it’s own weight. I push mine around with a boat hook, but will be building a better replacement this year. Other than that, if you find one, get it! They are sweet sailing, elegant little trimarans, with no pretensions at all.
The 2011 Everglades Challenge*, without a doubt, was my best adventure associated with this boat. Hitting eleven and a half knots off of Gasparilla Island was a hoot. And going thru the big boilers in Boca Grande Pass was amazing. Although the close second was our initial launch of the boat, it it’s rough and as-acquired state … just the feel of her wanting to take off and fly was inspirational. I knew she was everything I hoped she would be within 30 seconds of trimming the main.
During the EC*, we were out in heavy seas, with small craft advisories posted, and the Sailbird handled all with aplomb… with many seas beating six feet. Our only issues were the one I created, and the large open cockpit.
I had converted my boat to a daggerboard for more efficiency, and I under-engineered the secondary bond between the trunk and the hull. We sprung a small leak, and retired two days later as I was not able to completely seal the leak, and we had a 90 mile leg of the race coming up that put us in total wilderness. As far as the cockpit, for the next EC*, it will be completely covered with a flush deck, thus giving us all of our storage in the center of the boat, and no place for water to collect.
For this event, I made our daggerboard out of cheap and weak luan plywood just in case we had a hard grounding … and we did. The board snapped off, as intended, and didn’t damage the trunk any further than the damage caused by the weak bind at the forward end did. My problem was that, due to time constraints, I hadn’t made either the planned backup board, or the shallow water board that we had planned to carry along with the primary board, so we were left with about a 5″ stub under the hull (see photo below). This also contributed to our decision to retire from the 2011 Everglades Challenge, as the next 100 miles was a great breezy slog to windward!
*It must be noted that the Everglades Challenge is an extreme and dangerous event. I would never suggest going out in small craft advisory conditions, and would not do so myself, except to train and/or participate in an event like the Challenge, and with the proper safety gear, including dry suits, PFD’s, harnesses, hypothermia protection and recovery equipment, and survival gear.
If I could own a fleet of Sailbirds, I would. In fact, I’m given to understand that the molds still exist…. and I’m having some nice carbon fiber dreams!
The (above) pics are from the EC trip (I have very few due to no proper camera). And (below) a pic of me and Sue that was used in an interview we gave the Tampa Tribune.