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Dan's 21' Ulua

Page history last edited by TdeM 15 years, 3 months ago
 Adventures with Outriggers
By Dan St. Gean - Chicago, Illinois - USA
I wrote an article for Duckworks Magazine a while back outlining a multipurpose sailing and paddling boat that I thought would work for me. The objective was to build a 21’ outrigger canoe as a paddle craft with a single outrigger. Part two of the article was to make a sailing trimaran with a second set of crossbeams with a second float.
The final part of the plan I never completed was to make a catamaran for cruising with friends.  See Two Dierking Tamanu Canoes for that story.  I bought plans from Gary Dierking for his 18’ Ulua. This boat also has the ability to scale up nicely all the way to 27’ long if desired. He also included plans for a trimaran style of crossbeam. This is where I got off track.
I regularly use my father-in-law’s Hobie Wave. It is just over 13’ long and sports 98 square feet of sail. I thought my new outrigger should have more than that. I had a sail maker draw up and cut a 128 square foot sail. The foot of the sail is 11’ in length (bottom of the sail) to clear the long cockpit. It is a leg o’ mutton style with generous roach and a big reef point. It is also tanbark in color and beautiful!
This is NOT the sail that Gary Dierking specified. Can you see trouble over the horizon? Designers, believe it or not, actually have some reasons why they specify what they draw. I knew that. I also thought I knew better. For example, Holopuni is a production Hawaiian sailing canoe. Holopuni models use a 100 square feet of sail. The same sail area is used by the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association on their racing canoes.
I scaled up the amas to an 8” diameter at their largest point and made them longer at 16’. Hopefully, they would stand up to my bigger sail without turning into submarines. I got the crossbeam dimensions from DGS Watersports, who build racing canoes. Cool stuff and helpful guys.
I didn’t ask DGS about the float volume—big mistake. Another mistake was the mast I made ended up way too heavy. One error was picking up an aluminum tube that was double the wall thickness of what it was supposed to be. The one I got was 12’x .250” instead of either .156” or .188” max wall thickness. I also used bird’s mouth construction for the upper section using ¾” thick Douglas Fir. I did taper the staves on the table saw, which is a potentially dangerous and scary operation since the staves were 14’ long. Long story short—the mast is too heavy for easy stepping. The mast must be 40-50 lbs.
When all that weight was piled onto the canoe with an 18” overall beam and an 18’ waterline, my freeboard quickly disappeared. Two 200+ pound guys aboard didn’t help either. Both floats weren’t planted in the water, but it was close.
I found that the freestanding mast was plenty capable of supporting the 128 square feet of sail, but the hull wasn’t designed for that much torque and twisted a bunch in gusts. Stepping the heavier mast was a back breaker too. The lake where I usually sail has a rocky shoreline. I need to step the mast while afloat or standing on the dock with the bow jammed under it. Not a good time to have passing powerboats creating wakes! After nearly killing both myself and the boat, stepping that mast, I found I was looking into carbon fiber masts.  Too expensive for me, but windsurfing mast fit the bill.
(click image to enlarge)
Additionally, the larger floats weren’t large enough. They tended to bury once the boat was just starting to get going the speeds multihulls are capable of running. This is especially true on the wind when flipping forces are highest. Running was much better. Keeping a course paddle steering Hawaiian style was a huge challenge with my inexperience and regular canoe paddle. Experienced Hawaiian steersman use huge, oversized, and massively strong paddles. Now I know why. The S shaped wake we would leave behind from the occasional, accidental jibe was pretty funny looking. On top of that, I couldn’t hike out to counter the burying of the floats since I was paddle steering and confined to the aft seat “poking” the steering paddle.
It all added up to a boat that looked quite beautiful and functional, but did not perform as hoped. Designers, experienced sailors, and folks with a bit of common sense shake their heads and mutter. I realized changes must be made. The canoe’s low freeboard was first on the list of things to fix. It tended to swamp when slicing through boat wakes with the typical load aboard. Bailing and paddle steering aren’t a good mix.
I contacted Gary Dierking about possible solutions.  He did suggest some solutions that would work. Adding the raised cockpit would work to eliminate the swamping tendency. Larger floats would eliminate the submarine impersonations by my first floats. I remembered how hard it was to get fair floats with the surfboard construction style. This made me seriously think about sailing reefed all the time and call it good.
About this time, Gary was writing a book about building canoes. He asked for some pictures of the Ulua canoe I had built. I was happy to agree to it. He sent some pictures of other canoes that had been built to the design. I completely changed my thinking once I saw those images. I was not going to butcher the beautiful lines of Gary’s Ulua design by adding a box on top! Instead, I was going to go back to the design as intended. Designers, experienced sailors, and folks with a bit of common sense nod their heads and sigh with relief.
Instead of building an addition (more weight) to the canoe, I would build light crossbeams and use just one float that I had already. This is how the Hawaiians intended it anyhow. I might even have a sail built to Gary’s design and use a carbon windsurfer mast to keep things light. Basically I’m going to convert the boat back to the original Ulua stretched to 21’. That modification actually carried the designer’s go ahead.
So, this question loomed large… What should I do with all those carefully crafted parts and pieces from the trimaran attempt?  of the story.
Dan St. Gean



I've added some photos which aren't necessarily in order.  I built the hull at 21' with the trimaran/double outrigger akas first and found that I didn't like some of the double outrigger handling characteristics. 

  • It was tough to paddle straight
  • flopped back and forth from ama to ama in motorboat chop creating splashes from the amas. 
  • The amas were a bit undersized for the big rig as well. 

I saw a Holopuni up close and realized their 14' amas are huge!  My crossbeams are up to the challenge, but the amas need to be bigger for the big rig.  Going to the single outrigger even with the same floats really helped.  I built the akas lighter with 4 of the 7 laminations out of WRC instead of Doug fir.  Plus they were 8' instead of 14'.  I like the way it sails and paddles now, but with two paddlers and cruising gear I was still skeptical if it was up to the Texas 200 challenge.  I took a Hobie 18 instead.  I did realize though that the H 18 was the wettest possible machine and am now looking to make a cruising catamaran using that rig.  At this point I'm considering another Ulua but with greater freeboard and decked over like Gary's Tamanu and altering mine to match, or just build a pair of Tamanu hulls.  It's hard to have too many outrigger canoes you know.


Either way, I'm finding that a pair of outrigger hulls could work with a single ama, or be paired together with for a cat/double canoe cruiser.  That really appeals to me, and Gary's Tamanu design has those options thought out.



I've started building a pair of Tamanu hulls for the double canoe/cat approach.  Two Dierking Tamanu Canoes  Rather than cut up my Ulua to make a better double canoe hull style and build a second one to match, I'm beginning a pair of Tamanu hulls with my crew Brian.  Right now I have the stringers scarfed and bulkheads built for one, and I am currently working with Brian to get the stringers scarfed and bulkheads built for the second canoe.  I have a couple rigs I have at my disposal to try with the cat including a Hobie 18 rig I can grab off my cat I did the Texas 200 with, the 128 sf rig off the Ulua, and sunfish sails.


I found the H18 to be really wet on the T200.  The bows never dug in at all upwind or down even in 2-3' waves.  However the stern is substantially lower than the bow and the 11" overall height made it constantly wet.  In the double canoe of the Tamanu, I'm hoping the 24" height throughout makes the boat dryer and shallower draft.  If I notice the boat pounding too much, I can always add a false bottom that is circular or eliptical--but that would be for next year.  


Here's another article that I wrote up for Duckworks.



A Boat for the Texas 200

By Dan St. Gean - Chicago, Illinois - USA

I have two sailboats and a very limited boating budget.  My Ulua is home built and my Hobie 18 is a Craigslist steal at 600 bucks.  I love taking camping trips each summer and have usually taken kayak trips with my wife or my buddies Brian and Jason.  I read about the Texas 200 and convinced Brian to join me even though his sailing experience was limited to renting a Hobie Wave and sailing my H18 once before we took the trip to South Texas.  I thought about bringing my Ulua, but was worried that it wouldn’t take the weight of two guys, camping equipment, and fresh water. 


As you can see it’s got about 12” of freeboard with just me aboard.  Add camping gear, food, water, and a passenger, and it wouldn’t have been the right boat.

click images to enlarge

I had built Dierking's Ulua at 21' because it's versatile and beautiful. Mine is in his book as a tri, but currently rigged as a single outrigger with a different set of beams. I also have his plans for Tamanu. Cool boats! I also like cats, and I would love to have a cruiser at 21-22'. I thought about making a second Ulua on the same moulds, but the 18" freeboard is a bit short. I could raise it to 24" and deck the boat, but then it's not a Ulua or a Hawaiian outrigger canoe. His Tamanu design fits the bill with a higher freeboard, decked hull, and self-bailing footwells.  Qualities I want in my next sailboat include being easily reefable, having a hard deck, comfortable seating, huge tent on deck when shore looks unappealing, etc.  The additional length over the Hobie 18 is for fine hulls that can still take the weight I'm looking to carry (4 adults plus lunch or 2 plus cruising gear). Think about 1000# at the upper end without dragging the transoms. With a canoe stern like Tamanu's I suppose the draggy stern issue goes away, but it does limit where the deck goes. I'd like to add my two horse Merc to the mix as paddling a bigger double canoe is best done for short distances or with larger crews.

Here Gary and his wife come back to shore after a productive day fishing in Fiji.  Note the additional freeboard.  It also comes in a decked version.

I could alternately cut the decks off of a P19 or similar and add freeboard while either reducing sail (from the foot too to give some headroom under the boom) or add an easily reefed rig to control speed and add safety.

Building from scratch might be the best alternative, as Mike Lenenman has designed the exact boat I’m looking for in the Beachcat 22.

Here’s a rendering of Mike Lenenman’s Beach cruiser 22.  It has most of what I would want in a quick to launch beach cruiser.

However, I couldn’t build either boat on my limited budget and even more limited time table prior to going.  I had about 6 months, but these things take longer than expected.  I was thinking of using the new to me H 18 but was unsure about how it would perform.  A seasoned beachcat sailor (Thanks Buzz!) emailed me and told me to take it exactly as it was after inspecting it and making any needed repairs. 


That said the H 18 worked well for the Texas 200. We were first to get to the sites most days or nearly so on elapsed sailing time. The sailing was fun if a bit wetter than I would want to be for any sustained period of time. The boat carried the weight, but not well. The reefing was accomplished by roller furling jib and a serious twist in the head of the sail. We carried all camping equipment needed for the five day event + food and water.

Brian helming. Nice roostertails but note the 6" of freeboard aft
Here’s the H 18 on Paul’s Mott camp site.  

Refining the boat choice would be a personal thing, but for me would include:

  1. More length--more carrying capacity
  2. More hull width--same reason
  3. Greater freeboard--dryer ride and less slapping of the deck or tramp.
  4. Hard deck to camp on at places like Camp 1 rather than slog through the mud--but the site was awesome once there!
  5. Slab reefing. Roller furling the jib results in weather helm. Duh. Just when you need a neutral helm with wind and waves up, you get to pull even harder!
  6. Bigger hatches. We stuck stuff through the 5" ports and lashed stuff to the front crossbar. Low and secure is better. Easily accessed is better still.
  7. More comfortable seating. Camp seats for 4+ hours a day is not as fun as it looks zooming by at 10 knots. Getting my heels below my butt even a little would make a huge improvement as would using a cushion with a bit more give--and one that is attached to the boat. I lost both camp chairs that week.
  8. A bimini might be cool literally as well, but long pants, a long sleeve shirt, a hat, and sunscreen worked for me.
  9. Keep the speed and stability advantage of catamarans without the ragged edge performance of a beachcat.  A more sensible SA/D is a good place to start.

Even without the ideal boat for me, the T200 was a fantastic experience and helped me clarify what kind of boat is best for my family and me.  I love being able to sail at a moment’s notice and long setup times at the ramp are not ideal for anyone.  My father in law has a Hobie Wave that I can assemble in about 30 minutes, but even that is more than I would like to spend.  That eliminates trimarans for me even though they are a really slick ride.  Mike Leneman’s L7, smaller Beach Tri 22, and Chris Ostlind’s tri’s are close, but the time at the ramp is critical for me. That leaves catamarans for my preferred sailing style.  At 21-22’ the ideal beam might be something approaching 11.5’—but trailering something like that might be a bit of a challenge.  Rather than go with the ideal ratio for cats, making the rig less powerful and of a legally trailerable beam seems like a better alternative than making the assembly time any longer than stepping the rig and raising sail.  This length will fit in the garage, trailer within legal limits without special permits, and still make a sizable platform for daysailing with 4 and cruising with 2.  Nothing has begun at this point, but refining my desires and nailing down the design goals are the first steps.

I’ve been corresponding with Chris Ostlind ever since trying to go with a more powerful rig on my Ulua.  He came up with a great solution in the Cardiff 21 that allowed me to reuse beams, tramps, and mainsail.  It’s beautiful and nearly perfect except for time at the ramp.  This has become an overriding consideration for me as is speedy cruising.  Getting the Hobie 18 also changed what I wanted as well.  Correcting its shortcomings will allow a neat little cat daysailor and cruiser.  Chris has created a few renderings that really get the idea.

This rendering gives a size idea of just how big the Neo is compared to the H 18.




Well Brian and I decided to go with Tamanu as I already had the plans and it's a simpler build.  He wanted to have an outrigger of his own, so we went that direction.  Check out that page about the Tamanu build at Two Dierking Tamanu Canoes





Comments (1)

Radian said

at 5:18 pm on Jan 12, 2010

great site guys
love what your doing
im,e currently building something whacky !! myself


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