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Thread: Multihulls

  1. #1
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    Default Multihulls

    I had the opportunity last summer to help build a trimaran in a course at WoodenBoat School. Our class built a Seaclipper 20 (see Designs, WB217) designed by Jim Brown and John Marples, who were the instructors. The boat went together really fast, and we got it in the water at the end of our two week class, but not sailing. It was my first experience with a multihull, and I look forward to sailing it soon. I'm eager to learn more about multihulls, and curious to learn about your experiences with them. What is your level of interest in multihulls, and what are your ideas for coverage of them?

    Robin Jettinghoff
    Assistant Editor

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I am very interested in multihulls, especially small trimarans and outriggers
    Elect a clown expect a circus

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    For what it is worth, my level of interest in multihulls is practically nil, notwithstanding that I'll be watching the America's Cup races run in multihulls this time around. They have their place if speed at any cost is the object, or if you want to have a ball on a Hobie Cat zipping around a relatively calm lake. Other than that, they aren't really taken all that seriously. Interest in them peaked in the late sixties.

    My point is that I think WB would be better advised to stick to the traditional or, at best, semi-traditional in content. I know there are a lot of people who buy the magazine and dream of building a "quick and dirty" boat, and see wood as the answer. Some even spend big bucks and lots of time building large strip planked hulls and so on. Encouraging this sort of approach to wooden boats doesn't do these folks, or wooden boats, any good. The builders, despite cost and effort, end up with a substandard vessel of low value and the overall reputation of "wooden boats" suffers when such examples exist. Elitist? (Blah, blah, blah...) Perhaps, but there are standards to be upheld.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post
    Other than that, they aren't really taken all that seriously.
    ??
    It is true that some people, yourself included perhaps, don't take multihulls seriously. I daresay that a lot of people do, though.

    And, multihulls seem to have their place in all sorts of aquatic venues and for all sorts of purposes - and they have hundreds of thousands of blue water miles to back that up.

    And . . . oh. Nice troll.

    As for me - more multihull articles, please! Thomas Firth Jones would be a great start.
    And more quick and dirty boatbuilding articles, too!!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I don't care for Multi-hulls. But thats a personal taste. I think they are a legitimate hull form, and deserve their place in our favorite publication.

    That said, I think that most subscribers, myself included, are into the traditional methods than more than the latest thing in race-boats. So, don't leave them out, but there should be a bias toward traditional methods and designs.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Some time ago there was an article in Yachting World interviewing many luminaries of the ocean racing scene spanning people such as Robin Knox Johnson, Grant Dalton, Ellen McArthur etc. etc. The last question was something like "what type of boat would you choose for the simple joy of sailing and taking the family crusing" - almost without exception they all plumped for a trimaran.

    In every area of sailing where performance matters both inshore and offshore multihulls are basically dominant. Hydrofoils and kite boards may have much to offer but as yet occupy fairly narrow niches.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    There is a bias towards traditional and semi-traditional (plywood and epoxy have been around long enough) methods at least in part because that's what home builders do. That's fine.

    The great thing about WoodenBoat Magazine is that it provides coverage regarding all aspects of woodenboats, 'traditional' or not. After all, what's now 'traditional' - like metal fastenings and especially metal rigging or internal combustion engines - was pretty non-traditional not so very long ago.

    It is good to keep alive some older technologies, like oil paints and such, but it's especially important to recognize that how much is happening may impact how it's happening. Like one guy in the early morning exercising the Sea Dog's Perogative over the lee rail won't hurt the creek. A few hundred make a nitrogen problem. Same with traditional bottom paints, as samples from a lot of harbor bottoms prove. As more of us do things, the more we need to change our methods. WoodenBoat Magazine has been sensitive to that all along and I expect that it will for the future.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    One of the most exciting WB covers you ever did had one of Dick Newick's tris on it. I think it was Rogue Wave. (A quick check of your index says it was Rogue Wave in #23) That and other coverage at the time piqued my interest. I'm now on my third multihull. (The first was wood - a Searunner - the next two made of that other stuff.)

    Covering the cutting edge of wooden boat design and construction was important and great reading back then, and it still is. I mentioned in another thread that I have more than 20 years of WBs in the basement, but I don't subscribe now because it's become too predictable, too repetitive.

    There's a proa thread running now that doesn't seem to want to quit. There seems to be a growing interest in making replica Polynesian multihulls, too. Traditional construction in other parts of the world don't get the coverage they used to. There's carbon fiber and then there's coconut fiber. Both interesting to learn about.

    I know these subjects haven't gone entirely unnoticed in the magazine. (Mbuli a nice case in point) But if you want to win this reader back, this is one area that needs more attention. And not just design and construction. I'd like to hear from someone who's covered some distance in a traditional proa.

    (If you should ask about interest in square rigger history, construction and maintenance, I may have an opinion on that, too.)

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I could cope with an entire issue of the magazine being dedicated to Newick and his boats, they must rank as some of the most beautiful and fit for purpose sailing machines ever created.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I like quick-and-dirty as much as the next person, but one of the things I like about WBM is it's focus on wooden boats made (and used) with care, insight, creativity and craftsmanship. That applies to avant garde or traditional, single hull or multihull, race or cruise, motor or sail, cheap or expensive.

    Teach me something interesting. Show me something I haven't seen before. As long as it's linked by some combination of care, insight, creativity or craftmanship it's a pretty sure bet I'll be interested.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Quote Originally Posted by coucal View Post
    I like quick-and-dirty as much as the next person, but one of the things I like about WBM is it's focus on wooden boats made (and used) with care, insight, creativity and craftsmanship. That applies to avant garde or traditional, single hull or multihull, race or cruise, motor or sail, cheap or expensive.

    Teach me something interesting. Show me something I haven't seen before. As long as it's linked by some combination of care, insight, creativity or craftmanship it's a pretty sure bet I'll be interested.
    Well said.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Multihulls

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post
    For what it is worth, my level of interest in multihulls is practically nil, notwithstanding that I'll be watching the America's Cup races run in multihulls this time around. They have their place if speed at any cost is the object, or if you want to have a ball on a Hobie Cat zipping around a relatively calm lake. Other than that, they aren't really taken all that seriously. Interest in them peaked in the late sixties.
    Really? I wonder why it is then, that the only fairly healthy segment of the boatbuilding industry is the multihull sector? Or why it is that multihulls hold their value better than monohulls in the used market?

    I think that the reasons that multihulls continue to be the fastest-growing segment of the sailboat market is that they are not only faster than monohulls (which is nice, I guess) they are also more comfortable and safer than monohulls. No doubt I'll get argued at for saying so, but I have good reasons for thinking this way.

    They are more expensive, probably. But I think you get more for your money.

    I hope that WB will devote more coverage to multis, especially the smaller and less glitzy kinds. And I approve of the esthetic standards that WB tries to enforce. All things being equal, a beautiful boat is more likely to prove lovable than an ugly boat.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I thank all of you for your comments. I see in just a dozen replies, you've hit on AC racing, cruising multihulls, quick-and-dirty vs classic craft, multihull vs monohull safety, and multihulls being the fastest growing segment of the market. What a great range of ideas to explore! I'd like to hear about personal experiences you may have had with wooden multihulls.

    Appreciate your input. BTW, you probably won't hear back from me until Monday. I shall head home through the snow soon and have no email there. But I look forward to reading your comments on Monday.

    Robin

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I imagine sailing in waves in unprotected waters and then I see the AC hulls digging in their bows and pitch-poling. Is this common in multihulls, or just a function of sailing on the edge?

  15. #15

    Default Re: Multihulls

    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    I imagine sailing in waves in unprotected waters and then I see the AC hulls digging in their bows and pitch-poling. Is this common in multihulls, or just a function of sailing on the edge?
    Sailing on the edge.

    The price of racing is accidents, which you can see at any NASCAR track. In the case of racing multis, it's flirting with disaster in at least 2 ways. Of course, the boat is being pushed to the edge of destruction by the sailors aboard, and the designer and builder have attempted to make the boat as light as possible without having the boat so weak that it fails on the course.

    But a cruising multi is something else entirely. A largish cat will probably never see conditions that can capsize it, given reasonable prudence on the part of the crew.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I imagine sailing in waves in unprotected waters and then I see the AC hulls digging in their bows and pitch-poling. Is this common in multihulls, or just a function of sailing on the edge?
    In cruising multihulls, that happens less often than monohulls springing a leak and sinking into Davey Jones' locker.

    To limit comments to my wooden trimaran experience, I bought a worn-out but solidly built Brown Searunner quite a few years ago. I spent about 18 months totally rebuilding and refinishing it, and then the next 7 years sailing it in the Chesapeake and parts of the NE coast up to Cape Cod.

    What I found was a boat that was both fun and lively and extremely secure. I had no problems handing the tiller over to kids. They really could do no wrong. The stability was so great that turning the boat the wrong way would just mean that it would stall out. No scary angles of heel, nothing threatening to break.

    And I also found that people (SWMBO included) who get very nervous in light monohulls felt perfectly comfortable in this very light trimaran.

    What else? Being light, it was easy to trailer. And being shoal draft, it was easy to launch and retrieve.

    Speed? Yes, but that was not the biggest attraction, just an added bonus. And when I sold it, I came pretty close to getting what I'd put into it.

    (FYI - Not wood, but last year some friends and I sold a 35' catamaran we had co-owned for 5 years. It sold for 87% of what we paid for it. And this is not extraordinary in the multihull market.)

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I liked Chris Whites' "Cruising Mulithulls" www.chriswhitedesugns.com

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I got so excited about a catamaran I read about today that I've posted it on "My Wooden Boat of the Week," at http://boats.woodenboat.com

    It's the Oppikat from Dudley Dix. Dudley designed her for kids.

    I'd love to hear (read) what you think.

    Thanks, Carl

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Looks like a ton of fun. That point about being able to trailer it on top of, say, a Hobie 16 hull, is the deal maker. How great would it be to have mom & dad tagging along on the bigger cat as junior learned to manage the baby boat. I'd expect it to perform a lot like the little Hobie cats, which are also a pleasure to sail and great for kids, but even the little Bravo costs well over $3,000.

    I am surprised he designed it with a jib. I'd have opted for a single sail plan.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I really like Dudley's little Optikat for kids. The comparison with the Optimus pram is interesting, but compares apples to missles. The multihull bugaboo is cost, and the Optikat's sophisticated sail would make it somewhat more expensive than the pram. But at even twice the cost-to-build, the performance difference would be more like triple, which is what is needed these day to get kids interested.

    Great choice, Carl.

    Jim

  21. #21

    Default Re: Multihulls

    Jim, welcome to the forum! I'll watch for your posts-- I would expect them to be as inspirational as your books have been.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Hi Jim, Welcome to the forum. That Oppicat looks like a whole lot of fun. I wonder if Dudley will bring one to the WoodenBoat Show at Mystic in June. He usually brings his Paper Jet, and those look like a rush to sail, too. All of these posts make me eager to sail on a multihull. How many of you have cruised aboard a multihull--wood or otherwise?

    Robin

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    This fine thread includes an early post suggesting that multihulls are “not taken seriously.” As a long-time multihull proponent, this seems a good joke on those who, like me, see multihulls as an absolute sea change in marine architecture.

    After all, the nautical heritage and skills we preserve so passionately today surely must descend from the most advanced marine technology of yesterday, and aren’t multihulls foremost on that cutting edge right now?

    Here’s hoping we can use this thread to explore why multihulls should -- and/or should not – be taken seriously. Or is that too serious? Like, I too may be simply uninformed, another of those aging boat nuts who passionately prefers wooden multihulls.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Hi Robin, I cruised through the Moluccas (Ambon, Banda, Ceram, Babar) in my teens on a ply Piver Nimble tri. Our home port was Darwin, in the Northern Territory (Aus).

    I can't imagine a better boat for that sort of cruising than a multi. The deck space (often too hot to go below), shallow draft (I remember gingerly picking our way through WWII anti-landing craft obstructions to a favourite landing on Mica Beach on the Cox Peninsula) and appropriate-tech (repairs were sometimes rough-and ready) of the Piver was brilliant. Our speed was never anything special, but every now and then you could get the old girl to kick her heels and fly a hull - in our heads we might as well have been racing Randy Smyth on a Formula 40.

    I grew up thinking that tris and cats were 'normal' boats, and the Appledores, Bluenoses and Ticonderogas we read about in WBM were interesting, beautiful cultural artefacts from a different, distant world (no criticism). We took our tri as seriously as any boat-mad teenage boys take any boat seriously.

    I love Mr Brown's boats. I love Kingston lobster boats and no-mans land boats and couta boats, too. It's a broad church.

    Jack.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Nothing to add, really, I just want to keep this thread going.

    Hey, how about an old photo? Here's me with my sister and wife (seated) aboard the Searunner 25, circa 1990 up in Cape Cod. I must say, sometimes when photos such as this are taken, you don't fully realize how much you'll enjoy recalling the times. But there was hardly a single sail on this boat that I didn't know for fact was a keeper of a memory. Maybe not racy or all varnished up, but just a comfortable, friendly kind of boat to be aboard.


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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Appreciate your comments about your experiences aboard multihulls. Once you learn about multihulls they seem to make so much sense in terms of being able to shallow water cruise, beach easily, lots of room on deck, comfortable to sail, yet still fast. They sound so practical, and they seem to be a logical answer to the yacht designer's dilemma of how to balance speed, comfort, and seakeeping abilities. If you build your own, then costs perhaps can be made manageable as well. It all makes a lot of sense. No wonder their popularity seems to be growing.

    But there must be more of you out there who have an opinion about multihulls. What do you think?

    Robin

  27. #27

    Default Re: Multihulls

    Since Wox has so kindly bumped this thread, I think I'll pitch Jim Brown's work a little-- he's been a great inspiration to me. I bought his book, The Case for the Cruising Trimaran, when I was a fairly young man, and it's still well worth reading today. In recent years, he's started publishing his memoirs. I reviewed the first volume for Living Aboard magazine, and I'm trying to figure out how to get my editor to let me do the second one, too. They provide fascinating details of a memorable life. I have to say, Jim is a very smart guy, but he's been very lucky as well, which is even better.

    Jim has also been a prolific writer for the periodicals. In fact, he's partly to blame for the creation of my little open cruising cat Slider. He wrote a piece for Cruising World a few years back in which he was pitching the idea of small trimarans-- he saw them as a breed of boat that was about to hit big. He was right, of course. In addition to the Windriders he had a hand in designing, the Hobie Adventure Island is rapidly coming to dominate the multihull fleet of events like the Everglades Challenge, at least in terms of numbers entered. However, it was a remark he tossed off in that article that helped me clarify my thinking about a new kind of boat I wanted to have. He said, "Speaking subjectively again, it is your reporter’s personal opinion that small catamarans don’t quite qualify as cruisers, because squatting on a trampoline does not provide the sailor any protection from the elements while under way.” Well, I agreed with this sentiment, but I couldn't really see any reason why it had to be this way. Sure, most small cats are beach cats. But did they have to be?



    It turns out that they don't have to be uncomfortable at all.

    I have to admit that Slider is a big heavy 16 foot cat that isn't very fast, at least compared to beach cats, or to performance-oriented small tris. But she'll still run away from almost any 16 foot monohull beachcruiser, and be a lot more comfortable while doing it. I've sold an astonishing number of plans, for an amateur designer, and I expect that someday there will be hundreds of sisterships sailing around the world.

    Anyway, my point is that Jim is still inspiring new movements in the multihull world. It's great to see him here on the forum, and here's hoping the WB has more coverage of small wood multihulls in the future.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    The coolest thing about multihulls to me is that they accomplished the greatest sea voyages of all time, one that is never mentioned: the populating of the South Pacific
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Quote Originally Posted by wbrobin View Post
    Appreciate your comments about your experiences aboard multihulls. Once you learn about multihulls they seem to make so much sense in terms of being able to shallow water cruise, beach easily, lots of room on deck, comfortable to sail, yet still fast. They sound so practical, and they seem to be a logical answer to the yacht designer's dilemma of how to balance speed, comfort, and seakeeping abilities. If you build your own, then costs perhaps can be made manageable as well. It all makes a lot of sense. No wonder their popularity seems to be growing.

    But there must be more of you out there who have an opinion about multihulls. What do you think?

    Robin
    I'm coming to the discussion late, as I have not visited this section much yet. However, I'm mad about boats and multihulls in particular. Bob Cleek's opinion is way off base with being "taken seriously". Many of the best and brightest designers are currently in this narrow field of marine design. How about going round the world in less time than a motor boat? 26 knots on average? Sure it's not wooden, but there have been some amazing boats built of wood. Piver, Brown, Wharram, Marples, White, and many other designers have a range of designs from beachcats to huge cruisers. While Ply and epoxy seem to dominate the build styles, it is represented by literally all styles. Today's blog post by small outrigger designer Gary Dierking (I've built two of his designs--fantastic!) illustrates the traditional side of a multihull--just not the tradition many from Eruope and America are familiar with. Check out the video at
    There's also boats strip built, cold moulded, ply, and even plank on frame. It's a facinating group of craft that are linked by having more than one hull. Cats, tris, outriggers, and proas are all of great interest to me.

    I'm glad the magazine is looking at what the readership is interested in. I let my subscription lapse after I thought the focus swung too much in the direction of the elite classics. Beautiful, but not something I'll ever own. Instead, I was reenergized by the Small Craft Advisor and the Small Boats issue. I'd subscribe to a monthly of that description. I do read and occasionally buy WB still, but MAIB and SCA have stolen a bit of WB's thunder.

    That said, any and all articles on anything multihull are of tremendous interest ranging from: designer profiles, specific boat features, interesting cultural designs, trip reports, and build logs.

    Dan

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I suffer from Cleekism and just love traditional wooden boats, usually British designs from the 30s and 50s, Harrison Butler's boat are close to perfection for me BUT I also love the opposite end of the spectrum, James Wharram's simple and utilitarian cats. They have a simple beauty, especially the larger "traditional" series.They sail well and have a truly admirable safety record, definitely the Volkswagens of the sea. I wouldn't be surprised if I were told that there are more of Wharram cats sailing than any other designer's output.

    I find almost anything about multihulls of interest with the exception of those huge over size bloated plastic things !
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I'm with you there Peter. I enjoy the older craft as well. I just think there room in the magazine for boats of all stripes from dingy to megayacht (even if those spendy yachts hold little interest personally), rough workboat finish to gold plater, and mono and multis too.
    Last edited by Dan St Gean; 01-21-2012 at 11:10 AM.

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    Nice to hear how many of us there are who have fallen in love with traditional classics, yet also can see the beauty and merits of a multi-hull. A pair of gracefully curving gull-winged akas lends a is a different kind of beauty, but IMHO can also take your breath away. The more I learn about multihulls, the more I like them. Can any of you tell me about your first experience sailing on a multihull?

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    I have mixed feelings about multihulls. If I were 50 years younger I would probably be racing a Hobie 16, made out of that other stuff, as I did once. Small multihulls are blazingly fast (fast is fun), beachable, and rightable if capsized. Not so rightable, large multihulls, but large multihulls usually have much less sail area to weight ratio, unless they are one of those scary racing machines.

    The problem with wood multihulls is the ventilation and maintenance inside the hull. I guess on a large one you can get to all places inside, but not the little ones. That is why I favor the other construction material.

    Now I am still slowly building a WOOD 19 ft sharpie, which I hope is fun, moderately fast, beachable, trailerable, and rightable. We have a lot of shallow water around here and a lot of deep draft yachts at the marina which don't seem to go anywhere.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Multihulls

    It is kinda funny how little use the boats in the marina get relative to their cost. Most of them are ill suited to their environment as the deep draft restricts access to lots of places immediately adjacent to where they are moored. Following a marked channel for miles to get to decent sailing depths doesn't sound as fun as sailing wherever you please as long as there's a foot or two of water. I think of Florida and the Chesapeake in particular, but lots of locations like the Bahamas are similarly shallow.

    Additionally, many of those idle yachts have huge amenity options--essentially waterfront property--yet are vacant much of the time. That said, for most including myself, it the dream of that day on the water that is the pull to get through a busy work week or long winter. Even an idle yacht might be vey real and active in the mind of the owner. I wonder why more shared boat ownerships don't happen given the average use of a boat.

    Although I would love to have a big boat, having several small boats scratches the itch in so many pleasant ways: paddleboarding with my wife, kayaking with my kids, going on the Texas 200 with my buddy Brian, planning on daysails in Florida, etc all make for a day on the water. I like the Hawaiian term waterman where they mean someone who can excell in any of the various water related craft--or just bodysurfing!

    While a moored Val has tremendous appeal, Frank's little homebuilt tri that sets up on one minute sounds pretty good. Evidently he's right since the Hobie AI seems to have garnered lots of followers when you look at the number of forum posts over there and the number of entries in events like the Everglades Challenge.

    Although I love my Tamanu hulled H18 mashup, I am also inspred to do something like Frank's Tri mixed with a little Gary Dierking. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of plan sets out there for small multis--something I'm calling solo + (room for a week's gear or a second person). So yeah, additional coverage of multihulls would be valuable to a guy like me.

    Dan

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    Default Re: Multihulls

    First multihull experience? The family was visiting friends who had a place on a lake in New Hampshire. Roughly 1965. They had an old canvas covered canoe - a pretty big one - that someone had added crossbeams, floats and an old wooden dinghy rig to. A Snipe sort of a rig. And it had one or two leeboards clamped in place.

    So we clambered on in at the dock and pushed off. It was not a particularly windy day. But that boat just took off. Did she ever scoot. I was amazed. We were easily going twice as fast as any other sailboat on the lake. And this trimaran was just bodged together with odds and ends. I haven't forgotten a bit of it all these years later.

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