Paddling and Sailing Trimarans


 Catch-a-Canoe’s forty-year rental history (20 with canoes and then 20 with outriggers) shows that multihulls with crisp steering are a nice paddling experience. People come back in a very good mood, even in adverse conditions. All multihulls are expensive and a storage problem and a bit hard to rent to people who just see themselves in a kayak. But the boats have a lot of what stays in peoples’ memories. Visitors are always grateful to have been prodded towards this new (and comfortable) way to paddle.

 Slender hulls, no more than hip width. Quite high seats, a natural sitting position. A steering method that uses both feet at once, push-pull, and holds you snugly in the boat. Above all the stability to completely forget stability, to turn around, change places, stand up and look around.

 A single blade paddle is somewhat less efficient than a kayak paddle and a lot less efficient than a modern foot-powered drive. Our idea is that the single blade is more interesting and satisfying than either, when combined with the best foot-steering.

  The outriggers at Catch-a-Canoe are a good test of the concept, with diverse shapes and sizes continually battered by sun and waves at the dock and tested by diverse sizes of people. They are redwood/fiberglass boats, some of which have stood this test for 20 years (with significant yearly maintenance, done by us).

  The oldest and most numerous is a two seat trimaran, with a single crossarm that is 12 inches front to back and ten feet wide. This is a lot of useful space, for extra seating, for embarking with dry feet, for reclining (it’s padded). Floats nestle in its curves for transport as an aerodynamic unit and assemble more surely than two-crossarm designs. There is a legend that children have been conceived on this crossarm in the remote shady headwaters of Big River.

 There are several proas in the fleet, single outriggers with 2-4 seats, not especially successful. Their claim of distinction is a main hull that inclines toward the float, giving great resistance to flipping to the offside, allowing a lightweight float. An interesting sliding scarf joins the crossarms.

 A very successful proa is a 9 seat 32 footer used for guided trips. All 9 can paddle. The guide is in a very small canoe which serves as the single float and he steers from there, so he has an unimpeded view ahead.  He can make himself heard clearly by everyone in the big canoe to his left. This boat has 2 spacious padded crossarms that provide seating that is a little on the diagonal, so that 4 people can paddle and still converse with others beside and behind them without turning. The guide can walk to any point on the main canoe. Paddlers can enter the big canoe while it is securely against a dock; the guide will then push it away until his own canoe also floats and hop in. This boat is sometimes used for bioluminescence tours on the pitch dark estuary, thanks to GPS. I have seen the ghostly face of a seal, lit only by luminescence, just a couple of feet away.

  Several of the boats are catamarans with slender arching crossarms in the stems and 2-8 seats. There is just enough space between the hulls to prevent paddle interference (about five feet). The boat feels rock solid and very social. It provides the most seats for the money and lowest maintenance. It’s a good platform for the clamshell sail described below.

 Two of the oldest boats are 29 foot trimarans which have five seats and room for more on the wide crossarm. They are fast and useful but somewhat unsocial (all seats in a line), more expensive than a cat per seat and more difficult to maintain.

 The most versatile and popular boat at this time is a 23 foot tri with 2 slender crossarms. It will serve well for 2 in seats near the stems but the real virtue is 7 feet of space in the center for 2 optional seats or pets.

  A set of sails hinge on the front crossarm and lie flat and calm and out of the way when paddling upwind. With the wind at any point behind, a flick of a paddle sends them up into position. The whole perimeter of the sail is mast, so they never flog, are immune from pushy gusts from the side, and will lie flat on their own if hit from ahead. People with no sailing or paddling experience have enjoyed this boat in strong, squirrelly winds.

Building for the rental trade has not been our favorite thing.
We are one wide step removed from the actual customer. The narrow confines of the rental space lead to unnecessary trashing. Boats that would be good looking for several generations if covered are hurt by the sun. But they have been very successful. By what people say when they return from renting, the outriggers have pushed kayaks and canoes from the docks. Catch a Canoe has been at the heart of this exploration into outriggers for rent. A lot of bad ideas have been given their chance to fail, and s ome good ones have given a lot of people great pleasure. Catch a Canoe has boldly risked a lot on untested expensive boats, just from love I believe.