Three Hulls: A Sailing Outrigger for Adventures Near and Far

I’ll let the multihull gurus fight over the question of whether this is a “trimaran” or an “outrigger.” I think of trimarans as boats that are optimized purely for sailing. An “outrigger sailing canoe,” on the other hand, is understood to have a wider variety of uses. A “variety of uses” is an understatement, perhaps. When handed the design brief last fall, I recall whistling and thinking: “Now THIS will be interesting.”

Billy and Sierra Swezey are among that marvelous cohort who have turned an ocean-cruising lifestyle into a full-time job. (Or is it the other way around?) It seems straightforward enough: Billy and Sierra entertain office-dwellers like myself with their compulsively watchable YouTube Channel, Tula’s Endless Summer, while they get to play in boats. 

It SOUNDS easy, sure, but these guys work looong days…and that’s before they start editing their video footage into watchable content. I fear that the popular YouTube channels have conditioned us always to expect nice video production. But count on 2 to 4 hours of editing per minute of video, and that’s if everything goes perfectly.

I digress. Billy and Sierra have leveraged their way up through several major cruising yacht restorations, and their next ride is going to be a medium-large cruising catamaran. Understanding better than most that we go to sea…to see new shorelines, the couple have calculated that carrying a capable coastal exploration vessel on the deck of the new catamaran will multiply the fun. 

Thus we get to that tricky design brief: An expedition machine that could store in a 12-foot by 4-foot rectangle on the mothership’s deck. Compared to the more usual monohull dinghy, Billy and Sierra perceived that once the mothership was swinging from two anchors in some snug harbor, they could go further, faster, and have more fun in a small multihull.

Multihulls always benefit from length, so early in the process it was resolved that if four feet of bow and stern could be unbolted, that would give us a 20-foot main hull, a length at which the performance gains become pronounced. The “amas” (the term of art for the “outriggers”) would be 12 feet long, enough for genuinely respectful upwind performance, if not fly-two-out-of-three-hulls-like-those-crazy-French-yachties performance.

Comment: Both the Everglades Challenge video and John Harris’ write up of the design have been up for months. I’m surprised I missed it until now. John and CLC have designed multihulls before in addition to their fleet of small boats. This is a pretty simple design reminiscent of larger Hawaiian outrigger canoes. The outriggers are carved from solid foam and encased in fiberglass and carbon fiber. I’ve never seen that in a CLC project before. I wonder how it will be done in the do-it-yourself kit. There is a short video covering design development that’s interesting along with some CLC boat building videos that should be good.

The Everglades Challenge video is very well done and very long. You can skip through it to get the gist of it, but I recommend setting aside the time to watch the whole thing. It’s healthier use of your time than watching non-ending snuff films from Gaza and Ukraine. I note they have a constant problem with cockpit swamping. A lot of that can be alleviated with the use of spray skirts. I’m quite familiar with the very effective spray skirts used on sea kayaks. They work well in the roughest seas. Since this outrigger canoe won’t be doing any Eskimo roles, a much lighter skirt would be sufficient. I have one on my kayak made of coated nylon with velcro closures. It works well in waves and big boat wakes. My younger son finally got one for his kayak and now shares the joy of paddling without a wet bunghole.


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6 Responses to Three Hulls: A Sailing Outrigger for Adventures Near and Far

  1. Rob Waddell says:

    Thanks TTG..
    Always good to see these great sailing adventure videos. This one has good audio, video and editing and I recommend thoroughly. Its good to see that they captured the wild beauty of southeast Florida so watch the whole thing.

    Me and Johnny Mac did this trip back in 2020 but my main memories are sailing in very windy conditions on the nose, sailing in very windy conditions in the dark and getting lost just before the finishing line; too many blinking lights and shore lighting (visual interference). This lucky duo had it pretty good..

    All the best.. RobW

    • TTG says:

      Rob Waddell,

      I figured you’d like it. It is very well done. These two do this for a living in addition to refurbishing ratty looking boats and reselling them. I still remember the write ups you and Johnny Mac did for your adventure. They were pretty damned good.

  2. English Outsider says:

    Yes, good to see there’s something else going on. I haven’t finished the video yet but saw the pair off to a good start. Though all this high tech stuff is a world removed from my old clinker built drop keel I used to repair with old fashioned materials bought mostly from the local ironmonger. Those materials no longer around nor, for at least the past decade, local ironmongers. They used to be able to go out back and find anything you wanted

    I still use yacht enamel, though no longer on boats. Diluted and then used neat, millions of coats, there’s nothing like it for sealing up end grain. And it looks good on finished surfaces without all the fuss of French polishing, though that’s still the ultimate if one can do it. I’ve never tried.

    Used to hear of people so dedicated to a perfect finish they’d anchor the boat well away from the shore, then swim out to it with the varnish and brushes balanced on a little float. Only way, they said, you could be sure there’d be no dust around. That pair would think nothing of doing that if they thought it was needed. The amount of work they must have put into preparing that craft was staggering. Glad it’s sailing OK.

    So far. I’ll have to finish the video to see if the rest went as smoothly. I want to know whether that craft would fare OK in choppy seas.

    • TTG says:


      The purpose made boat finishes here are extremely expensive. A step down is oil-based enamels and house paints. They’re not as ubiquitous as they once were. Latex and acrylics have taken over the shelves. Some use them for boat paint, not near as durable as the oil-based marine finishes, but now pretty damned good at a fraction of the cost.

      That Talulah outrigger did have some swamping problems in the cockpits that were handled with some judicious bailing. I suggested sprayskirts to fix that problem. I love them in kayaks. There are few things worse than a day or night of paddling/sailing with a wet bunghole.

  3. Mark Logan says:

    Two comments:

    At 40:15 they have a shot of Crazy Russian zipping along.

    I want to find out how they got the python out of their hull…

    • TTG says:

      Mark Logan,

      I did notice that shot of Crazy Russian and his shunting proa. It was cool to see and I know he finished the EC with time to spare.

      Pythons. That’s enough to keep me off the beaches. I chose to go to Winter Ranger School to avoid the gators and snakes. At least they didn’t have pythons back then. Raccoons I can deal with. I’ve been at campsites where you can hear them circling in closer and closer as the fire dies down. One was running off with my buddy’s jar of instant oatmeal with my buddy in hot pursuit. One night I woke up with one sitting on the side of my head, chewing a hole in my pack and helping himself to a good chunk of my Nestle’s Crunch bar. I feel back to sleep before he left.

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