What’s been keeping us from blogging – Chine bLog’s skin-on-frame outrigger canoe

Our loyal readers – yes, both of you – may recall a hint of sorts we dropped a few months back regarding thinking about building a new boat. Things are now at a point where I am able to share more, as I have things underway, if at a pace that is in line with many a home-built project.

As I mentioned, I have been fascinated for some time with the skin-on-frame building style. I love that it is so closely tied to tradition – even using nylon skin. I also love the idea of using trunnels and lashing – such elegant simplicity. So that was one theme in my mind. Another long-time interest has been outrigger canoes. Love ’em – have for years. The look, the history – they have been the object of much of my recent doodles. Then there is the longest-held desire of all: to build to my own design. Well, I got to thinking and I got to drawing… and the result is a marriage of these themes. I am designing and building a skin-on-frame outrigger canoe.

A few thoughts may jump to your minds, like, “gee, do you have any experience with either skin-on-frame or outrigger canoes?” And the answer is, in both cases, no. I have read a bunch, but the fact is that this is a grand experiment. The results could be sub-par, but I have aimed to keep things reasonably simple and will get the boat in paddling shape before investing in rigging for sail. I can always bail (no pun intended) if I don’t think the end results merit going farther. And of course, I have you all to give me feedback before I get much farther (I am working on the ama first because it’s smaller and could be done very cheaply).

So without first ado, here are some incredibly lousy reproductions of my drawings (I’ll try to replace with better versions). She is 18′ long, for those trying to get a sense of scale. The aren’t complete because I wanted to get myself building. I have lofted parts separately and may post those along the way. Click on the image to see bigger versions.

SOF Outrigger

SOF Outrigger - Construction Plan

You may note that I have consciously blended traditions in a sort of nautical mash-up. The sailing outrigger is Indo-Pacific, of course, though I grabbed an ama connection approach that is from the African extreme of outrigger territory. The ends then hail from Central Canadian birch-bark tradition while the rig is decidedly Anglo-American. Some will call this a hash; I call it a gorgeous mosaic of cultures. I like fusion in food and music; why not boats too?

Now, let’s remember that I am taking a flyer here and this is my first time putting my wood where my pencil is, if you will. So let us review how to put comments in a positive light:

  • If you think she won’t sail well, you can say “I bet she’ll be a champ going downwind and downcurrent”
  • If you think she might be unsound, you might try “that’s a great boat for shoals – I wouldn’t bother taking her anywhere else!”
  • If you think she’s ugly, I suggest “what a fine boat for cruising the harbor in the dead of night”
  • And so on – you get the drift ;^)

Seriously – I want feedback, but be gentle!

One might also ask: whither the boat I just built a couple years ago? Well, there have been two related problems with PEACE OF THE PUZZLE. One, it is heavy enough that my wife struggles to lift it, diminishing opportunities for and interest in use. Second, given the weight, I can’t take it out myself with one or two kids, which I would have more opportunity to do, given schedules. I expect a skin-on-frame boat, especially one that disassembles a bit, will be much lighter and, at least, give my wife a break.

9 Comments for “What’s been keeping us from blogging – Chine bLog’s skin-on-frame outrigger canoe”


I worry that spritsail might be abit difficult to control given it’s very high aspect ratio… Could you use a rig with masts further apart and a more convetional sail shape?



Hi Gav-

Thanks for the comment. Discuss further, if you would. You are thinking that there would be too much twist or that it would generally be unruly? I think the sheeting angle works out because it is fare enough forward and sheets to about the max beam.

My thinking with the rig was to keep it low, first and foremost, that is why I spread it across two sails. I chose the sprit for the power, given wanting to keep it low. I also thought it looked best. In addition to finding that it looked funny, putting the mainsail in the next reasonable spot forward put a lot of weight quite far forward, which seemed wrong.

Thanks again,




You may be aware but the fellows at Cape Falcon Kayak built a skin on frame outrigger canoe. They found that the bow was too fine and as such it tended to dig into the waves.

I guess a lot depends on crew placement and additionally if the vessel is to be launched through a breaking surf as they did! As to your boat, my 2 cents worth is that the board and foremast should be further forward additionally I would put the outrigger bow parallel with the main hull bow as per traditional craft. I did that on mine and am happy with the placement.

By the way, I looked and looked but could not find your contact email address. I do not have facebook to contact through that.


Hi Peter-

Thanks for finding this and for sharing your thoughts. I have seen the Cape Falcon one and communicated briefly with the designer / builder. Here in the Northeastern part of the U.S. we have ample harbors and launching into the surf is not an issue. Doubly so in the tidal Chesapeake region where I live.

Allow me to probe further on your comments. In terms of the ama being all the way forward, I have seen many “designs” with that characteristic and many where its stem is a bit aft. I know you don’t want to have the ama stem very far aft for fear of it burying and things getting ugly. Is your comment based on preference or are there additional considerations in play here?

You and Gav both seem to want the mainsail farther forward. I am going to have to look at that. I am aware that the board is farther aft than ideal, but, given it not be fixed, I figured I could move it back as needed. Plus the steering oar does move the CLR farther aft. Am I wrong on this? My other tension is how to move the mast forward. It would have to move all the way forward or clobber the forward seat. I would like the boat to be such that the forward seat would be available for paddling with the masts in place. Appreciate any follow-up thoughts here.

Many thanks (and BTW, I’ll add your site to my blogroll)



If you look here, (my website)
http://www.tacking-outrigger.com, you can see 21 tacking outriggers. As a generalization they tend to have their outriggers a little more forward than you have them. Please do not get me wrong, I am not trying to knock your work, just pass on a little comment.

The Samoans traditionally have tacking outriggers, and these had the outrigger very far forward. Peter Mirow who has one, and he told me he kept adjusting his outrigger further forward over time.

Maybe bow level with bow is a bit extreme. My comments are not based on science or theory…. mostly it is mere opinion (not gosphel), and in part just by looking at what other people do.

As to the board aft. That reminds me of the Malibu outrigger, according to Tim Anderson’s website that craft goes to windward very poorly. I am not exactly sure why, maybe it is the sail is too far aft, maybe board is placed wrongly, maybe too much hull wiindage. Time will tell about the board and foremast. My thoughts on that are just my guesses… and I am a dedicated non-expert. Gary Dierking would be the best person to ask, but he is sailing in Fiji right now.

Beyond what I have on my website here are a couple of others


this one has traditional craft and the outrigger is very far forward (line diagram 2/3 of way down)

I cant comment on steering oars, have not used them. In the photo I have attached they are using a big one. There is a yahoo group called proa_file. Many people with actual proas and actual tacking outriggers post there. Please note, I am not asserting that there is not a lot of useless posts as well.

My main point in contacting you is to provide you with information on what others do, so you can make your choices with your eyes open. I am not suggesting for a minute what you should or should not do.

If you know Bryan from Cape Falcon kayak, he emailed me a ew years ago to say that he found the canoe heavy for him (he is used to skin on frame kayaks!) additionally he commented that the bow on his craft was too fine for getting out through breaking surf. It is just a thought. Perhaps Bryan had his crew too far forward, if there was less weight in the bow maybe it would be more inclined to raise when going into a really big wave. It is a balancing act .. not easy to get the ideal shape.

I know that my boat did not go well is chop, it did not cut through enough, instead it went up and down and pounded badly..

Please find attached a scaled down image (smaller file size) thats all for now…. I hope what I have written above is not all bad

N Peter Evans


Hi Tim,
I like the looks of her, cultural melange and all. Check this source for good discussion of rig options: Building Outrigger Sailing Canoes, by Gary Dierking (International Marine, 2007) http://www.amazon.com/Building-Outrigger-Sailing-Canoes-Construction/dp/0071487913/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1250077542&sr=1-1


Hi Bob-

Thanks. There are 3-5 books that hang out on my workbench during the project because they are oft referenced. Gary’s is one of them. Very useful.



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