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by Frank B. Smoot - AKA "The DIY-Tri Guy" - Florida - USA

I blame it all on a fish - a Sunfish, to be exact. And not one that I was even sailing. It was a beautiful summer day in 2009, and I was paddling my Wilderness Pungo 140 kayak in the Gulf of Mexico. I spied a small sailboat about a block or so away, and I thought, "Hey, I'll just paddle on over to where he is a take a closer look.

So I started paddling flat out (about 6 mph), which couldn't even sustain for a block. Meanwhile, he was doing absolutely nothing that I could see - and pulling farther away from me by the second Long story short, I never got anywhere near him. That torqued me a bit! But it also lit the very first spark that ultimately became my obsession with sailing (and sailing way faster than 6 mph!).

Yep, I wanted a sailboat in the WORST way. Problem was, I had NO spare money to put toward one. So what did I do? Well, my wife, Laura, happened to have a kayak identical to mine. So I got the brilliant idea to somehow lash them together to form a catamaran, then add some kind of a sail, some kind of a rudder, and some kind of a board for lateral resistance. Of course, I didn't have a clue where any of those "sailboat" bits should go in relation to each other. But a lack of knowledge has never kept me from doing something that was fun!

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So here above are a few shots of my very first sailboat. No, it sure wasn't much to look at. I'm even a bit embarrassed to show it to you. But you know what? It went faster than I could paddle - a lot faster! And every boat I've built since that has been quicker still - and now they're even quicker than that ol' Sunfish! Zipping effortlessly across the lovely blue waters on a beautiful breezy summer day. Really, now, does it get any better than that?

So how did I go for Trimarans?

1. They go fast - faster than comparable monohull sailboats. No, speed isn't everything. But a recent quote I read said, "Nobody has ever tried to convince me that sailing slow is more fun than sailing fast.

2. They sail flat. I don't know about you, but every time I'm in a monohull sailboat that tips over precariously whenever the wind blows, I feel like there ought to be a better way to sail. Well guess what -- there is a better way!

3. They are very stable, and stable = safe! My wife Laura and I had bought an old Laser II dinghy a few year ago. We wanted to see if we really liked sailing. Unfortunately, we dumped it first time out. The mast sticking in the bottom mud of Lake Manatee was about all the "clues" we needed that this boat wasn't for us. Next stop: a multihull!

4. You sit comfortably on an actual seat, facing forward -- "armchair sailing," as legendary trimaran designer Jim Brown so eloquently puts it. And because you steer with your feet and can put the mainsheet in a cam cleat, both hands are free! That's how my wife Laura was able to shoot that YouTube video.

5. They turn and tack better than catamarans, and if done right, just as well as monohulls. This may not seem important until you really, really need to turn quickly in fairly close quarters. I have to confess that my catamatans were really bad at turning in a hurry, which is yet another reason I love tris!

6. They can sail well in extremely shallow water. Mine will sail in just 5 inches, and Laura's in even less! Now, this may not be a big deal where you live. But here on Florida's Sunshine Coast, the bays can get REALLY shallow, especially at low tide. But if I simply pivot up the leeboard(s) and let the rudder kick up, I can sail right up onto the first foot or two of sand!

Why Homemade?

1. D-I-Y is much cheaper. My tri, No Commotion, cost me less than $1000. You could possibly do it for even less. The wood costs under $100. The most expensive parts are the sail and mast, which will probably run you $300-500, depending on what you get. But a commercial tri of similar size and capabilities starts at about $5000 -- and goes way up from there!

2. Building is lots of fun. Of course, I have always been building…something. I was a building contractor for much of my working life. But even today, nothing seem to make the clock disappear like an engaging building project.

3. If it breaks, you can fix it! This I know from personal experience. Yep, lots of stuff I made in the early days broke -- mostly to do with the rudders. I build things lots sturdier now, but even so, if it breaks, I can fix it!

4. You get great sense of accomplishment. Building anything with your own hands is rewarding. But believe me, a trimaran is MUCH more rewarding to build than a coffee table. And the feeling of being out on the water in something you built yourself is just amazing.

5. Building keeps you off the streets and out of trouble. Well, it does that for me. Of course, if your spouse feels neglected because you spend so much time in the garage or shop, see if you can get them involved one way or another in the construction.

6. They cost so little to make that you can build two, and sail with a friend! That's what I did, and now my wife Laura is my very contented sailing partner - and an incredibly competent sailor as well. (And that video of me going 12 mph in No Commotion? Laura is the one who shot it:).

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