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by Frank Smoot - Florida - USA -

12 Reasons Why I Believe Small, Homemade Trimarans Are The Very Best Way To Go Sailing!


Why A Small Trimaran? – 6 Good Reasons

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."

And the newer ones do ever better. In fact, all of my current tris have hit 14 mph (a bit over 12 kts).

2. They sail virtually flat. I don't know about you, but every time I’ve been in a monohull sailboat that tips over precariously when the wind gets up, I feel like there ought to be a better way to sail. Well guess what - there is a better way! And you never have to hike out to keep the thing from falling over!

3. They are very stable, and stable = safe!  When we first got interested in sailing back in 2010, my wife Laura and I bought an old Laser II dinghy 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 all the "clue" we needed that this boat wasn't for us. Time for something more stable!

4. You sit comfortably on an actual seat, facing forward -- "armchair sailing," as legendary trimaran designer Jim Brown 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 the above YouTube video “hands free” from her own trimaran. And as you can see, she was going almost as fast as I was!

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 catamarans were really bad at turning in a hurry, especially is the wind was really up - which is yet another reason I love these little 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 take off – even upwind - in as little as 6” of water!


Why A Homemade Boat? – 6 Good Reasons

1. D-I-Y is much cheaper. My first “real” trimaran, 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! Plus, you can build “ultralight.” My 16’ tris, fully rigged, weigh just 160 lbs!

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. And what’s more engaging to build than a boat?

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. Wife Laura is an ace epoxy mixer, and also trims the overlaps at stem and transom whenever I fiberglass a hull!

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 :)

Bottom line: Building your own small trimaran simply gives you the most bang for the buck!

Added Note: I Am Now (Finally) Able To Offer Building Plans!

Since this article was first sent to Duckworks, plans have been completed for  Slingshot 16, an improved version of Laura’s Boat, as seen on my web site ( After not being able to fulfill the many requests for plans for Laura’s Boat, I teamed up with CAD whiz Andrew Walters and am now proud to offer what I believe to be some truly first-class building plans.

If you have any interest in building a quick and nimble small trimaran, you can get full plans for Slingshot 16 here at Duckworks. And if you’d like FREE study plans for Slingshot 16, simply send me an email here with “FREE Study Plans” in the subject line, and I’ll get them right out to you! Here’s a video of one of my first small tris, No Commotion.

Happy sailing,

“Trimaran” Frank

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