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How You Can Build An Inexpensive Kayak Trimaran

I received a question recently from a fellow asking, “What might be the lowest cost trimaran one can build that also offers relatively decent performance?” After thinking about it for a minute, my guess would be a “kayak trimaran.”

I’m sure there are several ways to approach this subject. So if you’re reading this and have another idea then I’d love hearing it. (The idea of getting the biggest bang for one’s buck is a top priority for many would-be sailors today).

With this in mind, here is one approach a budget-minded sailor might consider:

First, order a set of building plans for a stitch and glue plywood boat from someplace like Chesapeake Light Craft. There are many other places you can get boat plans from, of course, but let’s look at a couple of designs from Chesapeake Light Craft for this example.

Below is a kayak model CLC refers to as the Shearwater 17. The plans and building manual for this boat are $99. Click here to read more about this boat at CLC’s website.

And below is a picture of a model they call the Chesapeake 17 kayak. The building plans and manual for this boat are just $69. Click here to read more about this kayak from CLC.

The next step would be to acquire building plans for a sailing kit with outriggers — ones that will fit the kayak you’ve chosen — such as the one below. CLC offers Kayak/Canoe Sail Rig plans (with manual) for just $69 … click here to read more about it.

While you can purchase a sailing kit from Chesapeake Light Craft that contains all needed materials “pre-cut,” or simply buy one fully constructed from someplace like Balogh Sail Designs, the cost for this homemade kayak trimaran would go up significantly. (To satisfy curiosity, click here to see a couple videos that show the type of performance Balogh sailing rigs offer kayak and canoe sailors).

When it comes to wood, a kayak trimaran sailboat can be constructed using some inexpensive, 1/4-inch lauan plywood — made with WATERPROOF glue. (The waterproof glue part is a must). This will probably cost anywhere from $18-$24 for a 4′ X 8′ sheet … and only a few sheets will be required for a small boat like this.

The most expensive part of a building project like this will come from the epoxy. The money spent on a few gallons to complete this job will be higher or lower, depending upon what type and supplier is used.

After constructing the main kayak hull and outriggers, you could also call somebody like Dave Grey at PolySail and get a hold of a low-cost sail making kit in order to sew together durable and relatively efficient materials for a mainsail.

The bottom line is that if a guy (or gal) has the time, and is willing to roll up their sleeves and get a little dirty, then I’m willing to bet a nice performing kayak trimaran can be put together for about $500-$700 — depending upon the extent of the penny-pinching.


  1. Hey, don’t forget all those places you can more or less download free kayak plans, though you may also need to download a particular reader program to view them. You might also think about local area people who have a kayak for sail, and adding some old 4th hand catamaran hulls like from a Hobie 14 (?) plus sail rig. Total cost probably would be under $500 or so (just a guess here) and save you the time and expense of building a whole kayak and amas and sail rig. Galvanized stuff from Home Depot might let you connect amas to main hull and figure out a cheap way to rig the sail too. Make sure you get or make a rudder if you don’t or can’t steer using the sail(s) alone. Maybe try a Polynesian style steering oar off the side!

  2. I just built a sailing rig for a 12′ kingfish from mainstream kayaks. I had a lot of fun doing it also. If you want to check it out you can find me on youtube under “Brian Grahams Sailing Kayak”.

  3. Thanks, I am currently looking for something bigger and faster like a Prindle 19 or Hobie F18

  4. Hi Brian,
    You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding something akin to these here. There are several models that will fit the bill.

  5. I don’t have the time or resources to experiment with this idea, but perhaps someone else can run with it-

    seems to me that a large sailboard of the “floater” variety- usually beginner boards that are very thick (some up to 6″) and bouyant- could be split down the middle lengthwise and the two halves could then be used (after resealing the cut edge and adding mounting hardware) as amas for a small kayak or canoe based tri.

    Depending on the donor board and the performance aspects sought, the pieces could either be oriented flat for maximum flotation and righting moment at minimum heel angle, or could be oriented on edge so that the righting moment would progressively increase as the boat heeled….or they could be at some angle in between, maybe even adjustable.

    it may be wishful thinking, but it would also intuitively seem that orienting the board’s rocker so that the belly of the curve was away from the main hull centerline (towards the outside of the boat) might also help with ability to go to weather…I doubt that it would replace some type of board/keel entirely, but having the entire lee hull curved to weather on both sides (as opposed to Hobie’s asymmetrical hulls) might help in that regard if the board was oriented more or less on edge.

    At least that’s what runs through my mind when I see used sailboards of that type in the 9′-12′ range at some thrift store or yard sale, going for next to nothing because they are out of style or have no rig or boards…

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