DIY Homemade Catamaran Sailboat from PVC pipe

RebelCat 3 - Driftwood Becomes a Sailboat

From Illinois, where I recycled parts of RebelCat 2, I went to New Zealand for four months, and on the south island I decided to turn the abundant driftwood into another catamaran. However, I soon realized that the wood was still full of water, so I would need more than two pontoons.

Begin RebelCat 3 on the beach in New Zealand

Another humble beginning. A beach on the south island of New Zealand was littered with driftwood, so I picked out some 'pontoons' that looked good.

The cat becomes a trimaran

The logs were so small in diameter and heavy with water that I added a third, technically making it a trimaran, but as you'll soon see, three was not to be.

The pole standing where the mast will go was a little bent, so I opted for bamboo. That would prove to be a poor decision, favoring beauty over strength.

 Adding rudder and tiller to the trimaran

The curse of the perfectionist. Why put a swing-up rudder on a driftwood sailboat? Well, because the boat has to be dragged across the sand to the water. If the rudder is on, it will snap off. There were so few amenities here that the idea of making a rudder that could be added after the boat is in the water was not feasible. So this crude sailboat has a swing-up rudder. I was pleased that the rudder was not what failed.

After testing for flotation it's clear that more wood is needed

I dragged the boat to the water for a flotation test - it failed! So I dragged it back to add yet more wood. The wood, it turned out, was full of water and afforded little flotation. So the catamaran-turned-trimaran now becomes a raft. Actually, catamaran means 'bound logs', so this version may come closer to the real thing than two or three hulls. With all those logs pointing forward, I decided a keel was not needed. A keel or daggerboard, as it would soon become clear, was not what this boat lacked.

Making sails from plastic sheeting

Locating a large scrap of discarded plastic sheet, I got on with the task of sailmaking. Not just a mainsail, it had to have a jib. I figured one sail might not move all of that heavy wood.

Adjusting mainsheet on finished boat

Ready for action. I rigged the stays to hold the mast up and the sheets (ropes) to control the sails. Now all we need is some wind and a volunteer to join me in this insanity.

Front view of boat ready to sail

Wind on this beach was hardly ever a problem, except when it blew you away. Sailing this floating campfire would need lots of it.

Side view of boat ready to sail

Yes, it really does look like a sailboat. The fatal flaw has still not been revealed to me.

Closeup of kick-up rudder and controls

The rudder can be raised and lowered with two control ropes. Such sophistication on a crude raft may appear odd, but this part of the boat actually performed well.

 Launch from beach, two aboard, mast broken

And there is the flaw - a thin mast. By the time this pic was taken, the mast tip had already snapped under strain from two large sails in a good breeze.

I can't blame the wind, any more than a good sailor can thank the wind one minute and curse it the next. My choice of bamboo was at fault.

The bent and not-so-perfect branch I found first probably would have held up, although it was shorter. But both sails would have worked better, even with less area. What amazed me was that the this raft sailed anyway.

Sailing out with one in the water guiding

Flotation, even with a dozen small logs, was barely adequate to keep both of us out of the water. But we had a great time, even when we realized that we had little control over the boat and the current was pulling us out into the strong flow coming from a nearby river mouth.

Sailing now with two aboard out to the waves

I had neglected to make oars, so we paddled frantically with our hands and somehow managed to avoid getting sucked into the muddy current heading out to sea.

Arriving back with the boat

We dragged the boat, now quite watterlogged, back to shore.

We were cheered by onlookers. They thought we did great. The boat was recycled back to the beach from where it came. A great time was had by all.

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