Skin-on-frame Outrigger Canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN (2010)

Completed skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN
From my earliest days dabbling in boat design I have wanted to build to my own design. In 2010, the dream came alive in the form of my new boat AL DEMANY CHIMAN. Why this name? To salute her fused heritage: AL is “the” in Arabic, DEMANY is “sail” in Malagasy, and CHIMAN is “Canoe” in Algonkian. Below are some posts that highlight the process:
Sail plan for the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe

Browse the entire set of posts about AL DEMANY CHIMAN

  • Iteration on the leeboard bracket for AL DEMANY CHIMAN February 18, 2013

    The leeboard bracket is giving us a tough lesson in the physics of lateral resistance. My first attempts showed flaws in the bracket to clip the board to the single side gunnel. The second attempt, from late summer, is below. I followed the published models and build a bracket that clips to both gunnels.




    This system worked well enough at keeping the bracket in place, but I still had the end that meets the leeboard all wrong. I realized two things. First, the bolt was too thin – at 1/4″ it was being bent by the leeboard’s upward, outboard pressure on port tack and upward, inboard pressure on starboard tack. Second, the “face plate” provided too little bearing surface for the board (and the bolt on the outside was too small as well). There wasn’t enough to keep the board clamped in place.

    In the Fall, then, I enlarged the “face plate” and made a much bigger knob to clamp in the leeboard itself. The worked much better, but the “face plate” still came apart. In the face of these forces, then, I have now buckled a bit and, how shall we say it… screwed the snot out of it. I am still resisting loads of fiberglass cloth and big metal L joints, but there is more epoxy and bronze than before. I am hoping this will be enough. I find the bracket rather graceful as it is now (scrap white oak FTW!), and don’t want to have to revert to something clunky and ungainly. Physics may overpower, though.



  • Under sail again! Further tuning the sailing rig on AL DEMANY CHIMAN August 12, 2012

    It took longer than I had hoped to rebuild the lateen yard so that I could get my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN under sail again. Recently, though, I finally completed that task and yesterday morning life and the weather gave me an opening to get “the sail canoe” under sail for the second time.

    AL DEMANY CHIMAN rigged up

    Truthfully, the weather could have helped a bit more – the wind was fairly light and flukey. This said, I did have a nice little sail and made some progress towards having the sailing rig fully tuned and “done.” The new yard did well and the reworked main sheet arrangement was much better. I think I also have identified the right spot on the yard for the halyard.

    Left to do is to do some thinking on the leeboard. The boat definitely wants the lateral resistance to go upwind well, but there are two issues. First, the bracket I designed to clip the board to the gunnel just isn’t working. On port tack it was just about pulling up and over the rub rail. I think I am going to need to use a bracket the crosses the hull and clips under the inwale on both sides; this is the more common arrangement I have seen in Gary Dierkingand Todd Bradshaw‘s books.

    The other problem is that the board will still not reliably stay down, even after I added leather washers. Not sure what my next step is on this one.

    I’ll also be playing with the steer oar to try to improve it. Steering will be something I’ll be playing with further, I suspect.

  • Annnnndddd my 2012 boating season is underway at last – AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s keel wet again May 6, 2012

    We had a nice family paddle at our standby put-in of Mason Neck State Park. Mostly overcast, but warm and calm, good for trying out the rebuilt ama. I’ll have to test it more, but my initial observations are that we working the aft end SEEMS to make her a touch zippier (biased observation noted) and, as planned, water mostly stayed out of it. The main hull is also drier thanks to some touch-up of the skin seams at the bottom of the stems. And fun was had by all. Good to be underway again.

  • Completion of ama reworking for AL DEMANY CHIMAN April 30, 2012

    Last weekend I was also able to wrap up work on the refurbished ama for my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN. I had noted previous progress a bit ago, and I had stalled for a while because life took over. Work crises tamped down a bit and the weather improved, I brought the ama to the front lawn of 1 Chine bLog Place for some skinnin’.

    The process went smoothly and I was sorry I had put it off for so long. I was pleased I even felt comfortable enough to make some adjustments to approach midstream without fear of things going awry. Here are the results. In addition to the presumed enhancements to seaworthiness, I actually think the ama looks a good bit better too. Next step, we gotta get this boat in the water for the season…


    Aft end of new AL DEMANY CHIMAN ama Forward end of new AL DEMANY CHIMAN ama

  • Update on the rebuilding of the ama for my canoe, AL DEMANY CHIMAN March 4, 2012

    It seemed a good time to update you all on the status of our various winter projects on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, A DEMANY CHIMAN. When we last checked in, I was trying to figure out how to approach the redesign of the ama, especially with respect to the problem of it shipping lots of water. I have pursued the initial approach (despite good advice to the contrary) and am some way along.

    To review, I took the ama completely apart and gave everything a good sanding. I had found the bow piece in suspect shape, so I just rebuilt it. I then coated everything with the same polyurethane that coats the skin and lashed it all back together, but for the stringers. I then got some polystyrene and built blocks matching the dimensions of the four sections of the ama (including the stringers in the width) and then split those down the middle lengthwise. I filed / sanded them to shape so that they fit snugly and had the appropriate sectional shape. I am now 3/4 through the final step, which is carving out a channel for the stringers. Below is the starboard side, with one stringer just laid in.


    Now I have to do the port side. I’ll paint them all so they aren’t that horrid pink (yes, in its regular life, this foam would be insulating some house).


    A couple thoughts are in order. First, working with foam has been a highly unpleasant process. The mess is horrendous and shaping it does not have the same satisfying feeling wood gives. The stuff is obviously soft enough that it is easy to ding up and it snags much more easily than it seems it should. On the other hand, I think it will meet my objectives pretty well. By coating the pieces in polyurethane, waiting for a full set, and then lashing them, they behave like skin-on-frame construction should, but are protected form the inevitable water (yes, there may be wear and, over time, places water will get to the wood, but that will be down the line a decent bit). The stringers will show through and give the appearance they had, maintaining the same look. Finally, the water will mostly stay out, leaving me confident the ama will remain buoyant in a longer, choppy crossing. Perfect? No, but I think this will get me where I wanted to, even if the journey has been a pain.

  • Ideas welcome – beginning the redesign / rebuild of AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s ama November 24, 2011

    AL DEMANY CHIMANs ama in my shopAs I have noted before, one of the biggest issues I have found with the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN is that the ama isn’t working out. The shape is a bit off and it ships too much water. Having completed a number of smaller maintenance items since calling an end to the season, I have begin the winter’s major project: redesigning and rebuilding the ama.

    My first step was last night. I unscrewed the “sheer clamps” and the pulled off the skin. What I found was a bit distressing, if not wholly unexpected: there has been water trapped beneath the skin and the frame doing what water will do. Moisture in frame of AL DEMANY CHIMANs ama You can see that dark area where the oil I put on the bow piece didn’t help (or wasn’t enough). The part above that was quite wet, and that is from rain somehow getting in (or, forbid, leftover from a month ago – shudder). The line where the skin met the bow piece is distressingly evident, though this is more mildew. The bigger issue here is that the two planks that make up that piece have separated (note the slight hitch in the “sheerline”). The after end is better off, but has a few issues of it’s own. Bow of AL DEMANY CHIMANs ama without skin

    So this leaves me with the question of how to proceed from here, as I have to approach this project with an additional variable. Factors I am thinking about are:

    • I need to reconstruct the ama so that it does not ship water
    • I want to preserve the skin-on-frame look as much as possible
    • It is unlikely that, with the skin-on-frame medium, I can keep all water out
    • If I make the ama a good deal more watertight, but not 100% so, I’ll end up with more of the issues noted above
    • A new ama that is fully watertight and water-protected may not go as well with the rest of the boat

    A bit of a quandary, eh? My current thinking is to unlash the frame, coat every inside surface with the same two-part polyurethane that coats the skin, partially relash, add foam to fill the inside, and reskin the ama. My guess is that this approach leaves some vulnerability to water damage, but hopefully holds it off a good bit. Any other ideas or approaches you all would recommend? Please comment below. Many thanks,

  • A celebration of a boating season October 26, 2011

    On Sunday afternoon I took AL DEMANY CHIMAN out for probably the last time this season. It was a stunning Fall day and there were only a few other folks out with me on the Patuxent River. There were some birds about and a couple fish jumping, but, for the most part, things were quiet and autumnal. As I put the boat back on the car and drove home I reflected on what a great boating season it has been.

    The story of the season was obviously AL DEMANY CHIMAN. This was her first full season in existence and she gave me all I had hoped she would. From the first paddles in May, she continued to prove light and easy to transport. She took the whole family out and did fine (except for the part where we all leaned to starboard) and even carried my boss and colleagues. From there she carried me and five days gear around Muscongus Bay, ME in what will go down as one of my great voyages. This is the adventure she was built for, whether I had articulated it or not, and she served me fabulously.

    The heat of summer and my desire to complete the sailing rig slowed us some,but when September arrived, AL DEMANY CHIMAN became my social yacht. I had some great outings with friends and, a couple times, with friends and sons. She proved a great draw and a fun boat for talking or for fishing.

    Throughout all these interactions, I was thrilled with the reception AL DEMANY CHIMAN got. I have been so touched by the clearly sincere compliments she has received. People have been drawn to her and it has been thrilling to see and hear.

    It will now be a long wait for the Spring…

  • Sailing rig details for the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN October 25, 2011

    AL DEMANY CHIMAN, fully rigged

    As I work away on refinements to the sailing rig for my skin-on-frame outrigger sailing canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN, I wanted to show off a few more details of the rig as it is. I posted a variant of this view before, but I think this is a better picture. It gives a sense of the overall layout and the different rig elements.

    Here is the steer oar and its chalk. This set-up worked reasonably well, though I might eventually want to put some weight on blade end.

    AL DEMANY CHIMANs steer oar

    This view shows the hiking plank and mainsheet leads.

    AL DEMANY CHIMAN sailing rig

    Finally, some detail on the finished blocks, which I hand made from paduak.

    Hand-made block for AL DEMANY CHIMAN

    I can’t wait to get her going again next season.

  • Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN fully rigged October 1, 2011


    She’s all ready for show…

  • It’s official – the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN is a sailing canoe September 30, 2011

    For the next 24-odd hours Chine bLog is reporting LIVE from the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s, MD. As I type on my smart phone, a lovely folk trio is playing in the background while folks eat and mingle. A whole fleet of amazing boats is already here, and I’ll be sharing some in the AM.

    The biggest news, from our perspective, is that the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN finally got under sail today. That was the afternoon’s goal and we got it done. As you may recall, “DEMANY” means “sail”, so she has fully taken her name. Results? Well, winds were light, but we completed several tacks and had no catastrophic issues. That said, we have some work to do. The leeboard is not behaving well at all and was minimally useful. Design flaw there. The configuration of steering vs. sheet will also take some getting used to. All told, though, we’ll call it a success.

    Stay tuned…

    [UPDATE] The sailing rig did not fair so well during the blustery next day. While still on land showing off her rig, the yard snapped (building flaw) and the mast partner lashing failed (design flaw). Neither was catastrophic, but we’ll need to deal with these issues before we get back on the water under sail. A guy who was next to the rig when it broke looked at me like my brother just died and said a sincere “I’m sorry.” It was a bummer, yes, but I regard the whole boat as an experiment and a learning experience, particularly the sailing rig. I will learn from this and fix the issues and we will be back. This boat CAN sail – we proved that.

  • Big step toward getting AL DEMANY CHIMAN under sail September 22, 2011


    I finished up the spars for the sailing rig on my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, AL DEMANY CHIMAN today. That meant setting the sail for the first time. Some kinks to work out, but good progress.

  • Progress on the sailing rig for the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, AL DEMANY CHIMAN September 1, 2011

    So much for being more active with Chine bLog this year… but again, my absence often means there is interesting content. I have, indeed, delved into the sailing rig for my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, AL DEMANY CHIMAN, and have made good progress in recent weeks after stalling for a while. A tour of recent work, if I may:

    Leeboard with bracket I have finished sanding the leeboard (which I showed a few months ago) and am in a good place on the bracket (seen here together). The bracket is my own design, and I hope it works. Leeboard bracket Leeboard bracket, disassembled It clamps onto the gunwale with the board itself on a bolt so it can pivot. I will put leather around the inside faces and will pin the pieces together with some brass rod (under current plan). It is made from laminated offcuts of the white oak ribs. Lord, my Scottish New Englander ancestors must be proud.

    Steer oar bracket Steer oar The same oak offcuts went into making the bracket for the steer oar, which will be lashed to a peg on the aft bulkhead. This is about good to go. I like how it came out, although, for its size, it is easily the heaviest thing on the boat. The oar itself is a bit farther out, though I did get assembled at a macro level. Deep Chine bLog fans may recognize the blades as leftovers from my kayak paddle.

    Finally. there is the sail itself. I have the spars a good way along, and for kicks – and measurement – I laid everything out on the front lawn the other day. This shot from an upstairs window gives a sense of what it will look like ( if one was a fish 5 feet to port and 10 feet under water behind a screen window). All things considered, I am pretty happy with the recent work and feel optimistic again about getting a sail in before the season closes. Up next, building my own blocks… Sail

  • Final impressions of Muscongus Bay, ME camp cruise in AL DEMANY CHIMAN July 16, 2011

    This is a continuation of the story of my 2011 camp cruise in my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN (the introductory post and map is here).

    There were a few items I thought it would be useful to touch upon in summary.

    Muscongus Bay
    Let me start with the area I picked. Simply put, I am not sure why I had never discovered Muscongus Bay before, but it is a total gem. Beautiful islands and waterways, a mix of open and protected passages, and numerous lovely islands. It is a stunning spot. It was some compelling, in its own right, that when I got to Port Clyde and realized I could probably achieve my earlier plan of entering Penobscot Bay and exploring the Mussel Ridge Channel, I decided I’d rather stay in Muscongus and do it better. And I don’t regret that for a moment.

    This leads me to muse, however: where was everyone?! It was the week of the Fourth of July, weather was amazing, and I ran into three other sets of campers (two on the first night, on a different island, and two using motor boats). I didn’t even see many cruising sailboats! How can people be missing this spot?! It makes no sense. People are missing out!

    The Maine Island Trail
    I want to call out the Maine Island Trail Association again. This organization has created an absolutely first class resource and, in my limited experience, the standard by which water trails should be judged. There are many camp sites reflecting a variety of needs / desires of a party. Those I saw were well-maintained and well-chosen for convenience to the water. Better yet, they are generally spaced well-enough to ensure one can travel a long length of coast or explore an area deeply, without having to get far off the water. There is also a guide book and web site with detailed information on sites and an array of background and safety information.

    Look, I am clearly not an expert in water trials, but they do fascinate me and I have done some research on some which are closer to home here in DC. The characteristics above seem like what you need in a true water trail: camping all along the trail, a long and/or deep possible voyage, and excellent resources for planning a trip and using the trail. I haven’t seen that elsewhere. The Patuxent Water Trail is close by and certainly covers a lovely stretch of water, but it offers only about three camping spots and those are all in one general area. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail [gasp for breath] is really a collection of sites, with a few local trails, none of which have the same kind of water-convenient camping. I was able to find similar smatterings of not-really connected, not really camp-friendly trails in North Carolina. I know it isn’t easy to get trails done like MITA has, especially here in a more developed area. My point is not to criticize these other efforts as much as it is to hold up MITA’s stunning achievement as an example others should try to emulate. We need more trails like Maine’s and there are plenty of other waterways with strong potential.

    In the meantime, get out on the Maine Island Trail and support MITA!

    AL DEMANY CHIMAN as a camp cruiser
    So, you may ask, how’d the boat do through all this? Overall, I’d say well. In her first heavy use, AL DEMANY CHIMAN proved a good boat for this purpose, though she was not without issues.

    The good

    • Head-turning quotient – Oh let me have this one. The fact is that people all along the route took notice of AL DEMANY CHIMAN and we got many compliments. I definitely felt proud paddling around Muscongus Bay in this boat.
    • Stability – AL DEMANY CHIMAN proved plenty stable for my needs. With just me and my stuff, she showed no signs of capsize, even when encountering large wakes.
    • Dryness – In the whole trip there was only one case where AL DEMANY CHIMAN took water over side, and that was in a close hit by a pretty big lobster boat wake. She rode up over waves, as a skin-on-frame boat should.
    • Tracking in calm – The boat has a rocker, so it is not going to track spectacularly, but it wasn’t a problem when it was calm.
    • Capacity – I was able to load up the boat with five dry bags, and anchor bag, and bunch of water and still be plenty comfortable. If there had been two along it might have been tighter, but I still think it would have been doable.
    • Weight – This skin-on-frame boat definitely lived up to its weight advantages. In general I had to break the boat down (take off the iakos and ama) each night, but I could manage the main canoe hull (wa’a) alone, even on rocky beaches.
    • Durability – The skin took a few scratches from shells on the beaches, but none was remotely catastrophic.
    • Ease of paddling – See more on my speed below, but, overall, I was able to cover a good deal of ground, er, water, without working abnormally hard.

    The bad

    • The ama – As I referenced in the introductory post, the ama needs a redo. The biggest issue was that, even after some judicious caulking, it still shipped a fair bit of water in any kind of chop, necessitating a trip to shallows for a dump-out. I could not go for any lengthy stretch without a shallow-water bail-out option. The fact is that it is hollow but uses the skin-on-frame medium, which creates a great many ways for water to get in (unlike, say, a strip-planked one). I am going to have to redesign the ama to be either solid (e.g., with foam) or watertight (e.g., with gobs of epoxy). I am leaning to the former. A re-working is also necessary because…
    • Tracking in a wind – When the breeze comes up, the boat tends to want to pivot such that it is not-quite broadside to the wind. Obviously this makes such passages a bit hard. I believe a good bit of the issue is that the ama rides with its aft end digging into the water too much. I need to re-do the aft iako connection and re-work the aft end of the ama.

    My speed
    I kept a log of the trip and thus have a record of time and distance. I think my speed was fine. I think the boat has good characteristics in the regard, but with a single paddle, only so much driving force is possible. What was interesting is the consistency across days and distances, pretty much always two-and-change knots:

    Overall, I am extremely pleased with the boat and the trip!

  • Quick update from the wooden boats of Chine bLog April 26, 2011

    Spring is springing here in metro-Washington, DC and the waters will soon be calling the fleet to them. I have been focused on the sailing rig for AL DEMANY CHIMAN, the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe. I gave a hint of this in a prior post. Since then, the sail arrived (yeah!) and it looks great. Its arrival forced me to get going on the spars, which I have done. I have ensured my mast is nice and straight and rounded it off [editor’s note: is there a better entry in the “boatbuilding phrases that sound dirty but aren’t?” category? Didn’t think so. Moving on…] and the boom is glued up and ready for similar treatment. I have built a chock for the steer-oar as well, which I will be fitting soon, I hope. Good progress, all told. Pictures soon.

    I spent some of Easter afternoon painting the Peace Canoe, PEACE OF THE PUZZLE. I’ll be putting her on the market in short order. If anyone wants a hand-built, 18′ canoe, please let me know.

  • Update on AL DEMANY CHIMAN – sail plan and leeboard March 1, 2011

    For those of you that have been following the progress of my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, AL DEMANY CHIMAN, I thought I’d provide an update. I have gotten a sail-plan more or less in place, working with Todd Bradshaw of “Canoe Rig” fame.

    Sail plan for AL DEMANY CHIMAN

    I have added a boom from the original conception. It is now an Arabian lateen with a boom; please don’t call it a balanced lug. ;^) Unlike the drawing, the sail will not be laced to the boom. I hope it will be faux tanbark.

    I have also begun work on building pieces of the sailing rig. I have a roughed out take on the leeboard, which I a proud to say uses a bunch of scrap wood I’d been itching to use. I expect it will still look great once sanded.

    Leeboard, pre-sanding

  • Video: modern dhow racing in Dubai February 22, 2011

    I had not been aware that in the Persian Gulf region they sail modern racing dhows. Imagine a sandbagger crossed with a traditional lateen rig crossed with modern construction and rigging. These look fun fun fun! Fusion of Tradition-y too.

    Thanks to WoodenBoat‘s My Wooden Boat of the Week blog for the link and back story.

  • Leather – where can one get it? January 30, 2011

    High boat peeps. I am having a hard time tracking down leather for use in anti-chaffing capacities on AL DEMANY CHIMAN. I have found oar leather kits, but I need it less pre-prepared than that. Anyone have any good sources?

  • Starting part II of the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project – AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s sails December 21, 2010

    I have started inquiring about sailmakers for AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s rig. I have much less comfort with this process, so I am looking forward to working it through with someone. My inquiries turned up a consistent recommendation in this area: Dabbler Sails, on Virginia’s Northern Neck. I have an email in to proprietor Stuart Hopkins, so no idea if this will work out, but, based on his site, I certainly hope it does. Check out his portfolio. Good odds I am in the right place!

  • Spectacular paddle in AL DEMANY CHIMAN – and highly successful all family outing October 26, 2010

    One of the questions people have had in looking at the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN under construction was “will it hold more than just you?” I confidently said “I certainly hope it will take the whole family.” From the design, I was pretty confident she would be fine with us all aboard, and when I launched her and noted plenty of available freeboard with just me aboard I felt even better. A week ago Sunday, however, the theory got put to the test and the results were perfect.

    We took the boat out to my favorite launching spot on Jug Bay on the Patuxent River, in Maryland. Its a spectacular spot – extensive wetland / forest preserve and not too heavily traveled. It was a stunning day, but the river was close to empty. We all go in Al DEMANY CHIMAN and she rode nice and high in the water. We set off upriver and she tracked well and moved along easily. The kids (8 1/2 and 6) played in the water and seemed comfortable in the center section while my wife manned the bow and I the stern. As we moved up-river multiple Vs of geese flew over and a water snake popped up to check us out before darting back underwater. When we got back to the ramp some kayakers were in and Al DEMANY CHIMAN got some nice compliments. It was a wonderful outing. I am really going to like this boat.

  • More on Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival 2010… and AL DEMANY CHIMAN October 9, 2010

    Skin -on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN with me at the helm
    Our friend Tom over at 70.8 took a nice set of pictures at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, including this one of yours truly at the helm of AL DEMANY CHIMAN. We actually met face-to-face for the first time, which was a hoot. You get a good feel for some of the other nice boats there.

  • AL DEMANY CHIMAN launch weekend part 2 – Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival 2010 October 6, 2010

    While the launch of my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN was marked by kind of unpleasant weather, the following day was gorgeous. This day, October 2nd, was the core day of this year’s Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. For a long time this had been a key date on my calendar. I wanted to bring the new boat there and exhibit it. It was driving the work. By launching the day before (which I thought was wise), I just made it!

    I got going at dawn and drove into the sunrise [cue some appropriate music] out to St. Michael’s, MD. I set up AL DEMANY CHIMAN for judging and began looking around. Again, there was a stunning collection of boats. I think anyone can see the Museum’s collection of pictures on Facebook. Some of my favorites included some Swampscott dory variants, a CLC Chesapeake 17 tricked out as a trimaran (the only other multihull), a sweet Delaware Ducker, some nice Melonseed Skiffs, and the native log canoes. But that really scratches the surface. In addition to the Museum’s pictures, you should check out the full collection from the blog “Eye in Hand”, to which a couple of the links above point.

    Periodically I checked in with AL DEMANY CHIMAN and was thrilled to hear many compliments, some quite enthusiastic. What was hilarious was the reaction of people to the skin. Almost everyone asked what the material was and this was usually preceded by them touching it gently and tenuously like it was rice paper. It happened time and again and made me chuckle inside each time.

    After an early lunch I got out on the water again in AL DEMANY CHIMAN. Light wind, bright sun, and pretty boats all around. The boat was a ton more fun in a more typical wind. She moves nicely and I got a bit better fell for her stability. Soon the sailboats came out for their race and just immersed myself in the fleet. Everywhere I looked there were gorgeous boats. After they started and headed off on a reach, I headed upwind, sat down on the floorboards, and just chilled out. It was wonderful.

    On somewhat of a whim, I entered the rowing / paddling race. AL DEMANY’ and I got our butts whooped by the kayakers and sliding seat rowers, but that was to be expected. It was fun, nonetheless.

    So – a great day. There was a cherry on this sundae, though. The judges gave AL DEMANY CHIMAN second place in the paddling division. Obviously with this and the compliments I am feeling psyched with the reaction to my creation. Now I’ve got to make the most of the last of the season…

  • Introducing AL DEMANY CHIMAN – the launch of the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe October 3, 2010

    Friday, October 1, dawned overcast and blustery and remained so as I put the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe on top of the car and headed to a protected spot for a quick launch. Or saw I thought. I arrived at the small beach at Pohick Bay Regional Park to find that there was PLENTY of fetch over the marsh at the head of the bay for the gusty Nor’wester to build up a head of steam. Undeterred, and leaning on an interested passerby, I put the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe together on the beach and christened her AL DEMANY CHIMAN (“al” is “The” in Arabic; “demany” is “sail” in Malagasy; “chiman” is “canoe” in Algonkian). Let the record show that the sun was nowhere near the yardarm and I had to work later in the day. I christened her with orange seltzer.

    Completed skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN

    He had a generally successful first voyage, though the wind made paddling a challenge. Light boat + high freeboard + solo paddler + some rocker in the keel = directional instability. But I am getting to know my new creation, and we’ll work out the kinks over time (the second and third voyages were a great success, but that’s another post…).

    Thanks to the many who helped bring phase 1 of this project to a successful completion. I have already mentioned Robert Morris’s book “Building Skin-on-Frame Boats,” which provided the backbone of the knowledge for the project . Corey Freedman at provided numerous bits of advice and the key skin materials. Gary Dierking’s “Building Outrigger Sailing Canoes” provided help with design guidance. Joe Youcha at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation provided some key thoughts on lumber. Several readers chipped in with encouragement and advice, which was great. Finally, I’ll single out Dan Sutherland and Rich Scofield at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum provided a wealth of skills and inspiration through their Apprentice for a Day program. I doubt I would have gone through with the project without the experiences I got there. Many thanks all.

  • Close to the end of phase 1: the skin-on-frame outrigger gets its skin September 27, 2010

    Bow of skin-on-frame outrigger, with skin on
    Just a few quick pictures to show the the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe with its skin on. The process went well, overall, though I had to tighten the skin a couple times (and it still gets loose when cold).

    Your host, applying polyurethane

    Here is your host, applying polyurethane. This was a bit of annoying process, all things considered. Very hard to control, at least on my hull. Of course being pressed for time didn’t help. Below are the end results.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, nearly complete

  • [Triumphant horns] The frame of the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe is D-O-N-E!!! September 16, 2010

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, with floorboards and thwarts in
    And then the drill went silent, the sawdust settled, and there, before us, lay a completed frame for the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe.

    It’s hard to believe that a) its been about 10 months in the making to complete the main hull frame and b) that I thought I’d be done in June! It has been the floorboards that slowed things down (in addition to the lousy DC summer weather). They proved laborious to fit. The undersides had to be planned in individual ways to match the subtle variations in the ribs beneath them. Those farther outboard overlay the stringer lashing, and so I had to chisel in mortises to ensure there wouldn’t be chafe; in some cases the stringer itself lay right where I wanted to sink a dowel. It was quite picky work. All in place, however, and all oiled, they look quite handsome. I am loving the choice of Spanish cedar. It is working great as an accent to the light spruce that is the main frame material.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, with floorboards and mast step in

    I also had to do some figuring to get the bow thwart risers in as the aft end had to land on the forward frame. I now know that the frame construction need to include this feature; creating it after the fact involved a great deal of standing-on-my-head-using-a-chisel-at-awkward-angles work. But wi did it and managed not to butcher too much in the process.

    I chose black walnut for the mast step (sailing rig will come later) both for another accent and for a nice, tough block. I think it came out well.

    The final step involved some treatments to fill out the stemhead (the “manu”, I believe, in Polynesian terms). My methods were quick and dirty, I admit, but this is just decoration and gets fully covered.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe stemhead treatment

  • The first true look – fitting together the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe August 29, 2010

    It was a nice day, I had the whole morning, and, frankly, it was time. Today I put the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe together for the first time: wa’a, iakos, and ama – the whole shebang.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe put together

    My assessment is that things fit pretty well, though I need to sand down the pegs at the end of the iakos. Frankly it is wild to see it come this far. I walked around it a bunch, reviewing it from all angles, but I confess it was more being stuck in awe than doing any true analysis.

    You can see that the center section floorboards are now in (the darker one has oil on it) as is the center thwart. The aft floorboards started going in this morning and I finished the flotation.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe - floorboards

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe - put together

  • We weathered the storm – the Del Ray microburst of 2010 August 6, 2010

    We got a good scare yesterday here in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA. A front was coming through and we were expecting our usual summer thunderstorms. Instead, we now have firsthand knowledge of what a microburst is (sudden series of very strong gusts downward from a storm and then, at ground level, outward). The local high school clocked a 70+ MPH gust. Trees and limbs are down everywhere and there is a great deal of damage. Here are some photos from immediately around our house.

    Thankfully our family and house are fine.

    The scare extended to the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project, which readers will know to be going on outside, on the west side of the house. Of course the burst came from… the west. My wife called me at the office and said “I have to break it to you – your boat is all over the yard.” Ooooppphhhh. I walked home, imagining what I would find and ponder strategies to salvage various cases. What I found was this:

    Our boatyard, post storm

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, after the storm“Oh,” I thought, “that doesn’t look too bad.” And it wasn’t. In fact, I have yet to see ANY signs of damage to the skin-on-frame boat (I have found an inconsequential nick on the ama). That this is so is truly amazing. The big, heavy Peace Canoe, PEACE OF THE PUZZLE, was right up against the fence on saw horses, upside down, bow to the back of the yard. I found it upright, 10 feet further into the yard, bow to the front. As best I can figure, I went end-over-end through the air (it only has minor damage). Patting myself on the back for its construction! In doing so, it missed the skin-on-frame boat, which was right next to it, and which somehow ended up farther towards the fence. They somehow crossed paths and didn’t hit, nor did the light skin-on-frame frame go flying into the house and shatter, as my wife led me to think (the tarp on it may have secured it just enough). Bullet = dodged.

    Thank goodness I have made as much progress as I have on the boat. I fear of the ribs had still been clamped to the outwales or if the stems weren’t fully attached to the longitudinals I might have had a mess. Instead, my boat has weathered her first storm and done so proudly. I think this success comes down to the skin-on-frame medium itself. Heck, I am a novice with it, and I have constructed a partial frame that has the flexibility to withstand being tossed around who knows how much. That “give” in the structure is an amazing innovation from centuries ago. I am excited to be carrying it on in this age where we try to build things rigid enough to beat down the sea as opposed flexing with it. Now I am REALLY eager to get this boat out in a swell and see how it works in its true element.

  • Update on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project – structure coming along nicely July 5, 2010

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe frame

    Once again vacation (kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing at Cuttyhunk Island), our building project, and, alas, life have overtaken blogging. Well, Chine bLog is back. The good news is that the design and building project – the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe – is progressing well.

    As you can see, the stringers are mostly on and the ribs trimmed. The ribs are trimmed because they are all pegged to the outwale, keeping them in position. We are now some ways into lashing the inwale in, creating a nice, secure sandwich. The inwales are also tied and pegged into the forward breasthook. In short, she’s getting more and more solid.

    It took a little while to figure out the lashing around the frame / inwale / outwale joint. I am pleased with how this first one turned out. The extra piece creates a better surface on which the iakos will bear. The lashing is easier at each rib, but cutting all the notches to recess the line (done with a round file) makes things somewhat time-consuming.

    Port-forward inwale-outwale-frame joint

    Inwale-outwale-rib lashing

    Speaking of the iakos, Continue reading →

  • The skin-on-frame outrigger canoe gets her ribs! May 26, 2010

    Steaming set-up We took the deep plunge into the world of steam-bending and came out of it… with ribs! Ribs that look pretty good! Ribs that seem to be pretty fair! Woot!

    We finally got a spell of great weather and I was able to grab two days of staycation to buckle down on this step. Some before and after is worth a look. Here is my set-up, minus the heat source (an electronic hot-plate / portable range, $20 from Target. My wife informs me that the kettle is Felix the Cat, though I am not fully convinced this isn’t further evidence of this being a Mickey Mouse operation.

    White oak ribsHere are the ribs. I went with the tried and true white oak. Ribs lined up on boat

    Here is the whole business running. It was tricky – definitely on the outside end of the heat tolerance for some parts.

    And now… the results! Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe with ribs

    I’m pretty happy with it, at this point. Now, on to final fairing and lashing…
    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe with ribs

  • Milestone reached on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe – outwales on! April 18, 2010

    Great news out of our little boatyard here at Chine bLog headquarters: the main hull – wa’a – of the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe now has outwales and thus shows her shape. There is still a little to do in the stern with the port outwale needing a little more coaxing to get into shape. The bow breasthook also is awaiting installation. With that and some touch-up, though, we are ready for ribs!

    I set her up on the lawn to mock-up the finished boat. Obviously the iakos are placeholders (though this was not obvious to my wife, who tried to gently express concern that 5/8″ square spruce sticks would not be effective cross-members). Here she is, with non-iakos and an ama that didn’t want to be upright.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe mock setup

    The current boatyard is in the background. That is PEACE OF THE PUZZLE under the tarp.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe mock-up end-on

  • Significant progress on skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project – the pieces are coming together April 8, 2010

    The skin-on-frame outrigger canoe has been coming together in the last week or so. The pieces I formed over the winter months were ready for the keel, which got all its rib mortises. With a first coat of linseed oil on, I began tying the major structural elements together. The arrival of spring is clearly another factor. As you can see, operations have moved outside for some glorious post-kid’s-bedtime building in the spring air.

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe getting put together

    Skin-on-frame outrigger canoe - looking aft
    At the time I took these, I was still relying on clamps more than I need to now. The frames, stems, and “bulkhead” pieces just inboard from the stems are fully on. As I write the outwales are now being coaxed into shape. I suspect this will be a tricky process. These images at least give a sense of what the main wa’a will look like.

  • Skin-on-frame outrigger frames, take 2: I am proud of these March 16, 2010

    Thanks to the help of a friend in the neighborhood (he owns a nice table-saw), I was able to mill some much better stock for laminating the frames. You may recall I had taken a whack and not been happy with the results. Aft frame of skin-on-frame outrigger canoeWell, better stock and a little practice brought great results the second time around. The lamination was pretty clean and the form dead-on. After a bunch of clean-up – spokeshave, block plane, rasp, and 100-grit sandpaper – the frames look great.

    As orientation, in case it isn’t clear, the mortise in the bottom is for the keel and the ones at the top are for the inwales.

    I have one of the waes done (the cross-pieces that form the attachment points for the iako – outrigger – itself) and another on the way. In the course of some badly-needed shop-reorg I turned up a couple nice pieces of cherry that were perfectly sized for the waes. Bingo – done and done. I think the contrast will be great and the cherry will be a good fit for the job.
    Both frames and waes - in progress - for skin-on-frame outrigger canoe
    Next up I’ll be finishing the second wae, oiling these parts, and starting to tie these pieces together. I am also 1/4 done with the rib mortises in the keel. With those done, I’ll be able to glue the keel scarf and tie the frames and stems on it. And then, my friends, we will have us some progress!

  • Need some advice – managing a wide board February 22, 2010

    Friends, I need a bit of quick advice. I bought a nice Spanish Cedar board for the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, but it is about 10″ wide and seems like it is cleaned-up flitch-sawn – the grain runs in a nice wide arc through it. I have two pieces that will come out of it that are 9″ and 9 1/2″ wide. Should I split it length-wise and re-glue so that the grain runs against itself a bit (i.e., in a subtle s-curve)? Or, given it is kiln-dried, should I just let it be because it won’t cup much more. I am thinking the former, but wanted to see if anyone could comment. Many thanks,

  • The skin-on-frame outrigger comes along, as best it can, indoors February 18, 2010

    I believe I have mentioned that I work in sub-optimal conditions for a boat-builder, even one focusing on small craft. Our house is modest and my workshop is in the basement, overrun by stuff in storage. I count on being able to work outside, but this gloriously snowy winter (yes, I said “gloriously” – snow is fun too) has wiped that out. I plus along in the space I have, and thus you see pieces below laid out across living space.

    So here are some signs of progress, albeit slow. As with the keel of the ama, I cut the first few feet and relaminated it to give it rocker. Here is that task, in progress.

    Keel rocker

    I took a whack at laminating one of the frames. I have subsequently decided to junk this one. There were two issues. First, I am still figuring out my new bandsaw, and the strips were pretty lumpy (even after some planing). They didn’t lay together well. Compounding this, I also messed up the glue up and I wasn’t confident in the piece’s strength. Lots of learning there. Too many strips, too short working time, and too little glue (using Titebond III).

    Aft frame

    I decided to use the frame to further test and cut out some of the mortises. The keel scarf is not yet glued, but I was able to mock things up by means of some clamps: one frame, the full keel, and two stems. Great to see.

    Frame on keel, looking aft

    Here’s the same set-up looking forward (excuse the living room). You can see the bow stem is cocked to starboard. Seems there is a little twist in the keel. I have to see if I can pull it straight with the gunwales.

    Aft frame on keel, looking forward

  • After a drawing-board and holiday hiatus, we are making sawdust again on the skin-on-frame outrigger project January 19, 2010

    So we went back to the drawing board for a bit on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project, as we noted last month. It was a productive venture – we made some improvements, got a lot of problems solved, and got some useful planning in. We confess, though, that we were eager to get back into the building phase, and around the holidays, we were finally able to do so. First step: stems.

    Rikon 10" BandsawI decided to do sawn stems, which I think has worked out well. I got the components glued up and then waited for my Christmas present to come in: a band saw. To be clear, I barely have room for such a toy, but gosh – is it wonderful! I put it through its paces cutting the shape of the stems and then cutting the bevel on them. It will literally make this project possible. I also splurged on a new dust-collection system: $19.00 on a small shop-vac form Target. Oh yeah, we are gettin’ faaannnn-cy.

    Stems - bow and sternSo here are the results, minus sanding and some seam-filling. I am pretty happy with the results and am getting psyched to pull the keel together. I have the scarf cut and am ready to put the rocker in next. I’m getting giddy…

  • Design details on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe December 23, 2009

    One of the aspects to designing and building my own boat is the noodling on very specific problems – how would X work, how do I need to construct Y, how big does Z need to be, etc. To think through these issues I have done some mini-lofting – full-sized drawings of pieces of the frame. I thought I’d share some of these drawings so you can see what is difficult to tell in my lousy reproductions.

    I had a rough idea of how to do the inwale / outwale construction from my reading, but I had to think through a number of details when it came to the two laminated frames that are the key structural elements amidships.

    inwale / outwale detail

    Somewhat less complicated, but still worth some thought, was Continue reading →

  • Design tweaks getting there on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe December 19, 2009

    It was thrilling to hear an inquiry from our friend Bob Holtzman over at Indigenous Boats on the status of the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project. Our last update showed off a completed ama frame, and, truthfully, for various reasons, there hasn’t been any building progress since then.

    What I have done is go back to the drawing board to make a few design adjustments based on earlier feedback. I nudged the ama forward and adjusted the internal layout a bit accordingly. I also adjusted the sheer and keel lines a bit to ease construction. The biggest difference, though, is that the split rig is gone in favor of a single lateen sail. I couldn’t make balance work right otherwise. I am eager to try the rig and I think it fits well – it gives it more of a Southwest Indian Ocean flavor (e.g., Madagascar).


    Construction hasn’t changed much, but I have figured out a few more details.


  • Milestone reached in the skin-on-frame ourigger canoe project – framing for the ama is done! September 30, 2009

    We are thrilled to report a major milestone reached in our latest boatbuilding project: the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe. The frame for the ama is all done and, while there a few things I can quibble with – namely the lines around the bow – on the whole I am pretty pleased with it.

    Fully framed ama

    Fully framed ama - bow

    Left to be seen, of course, is how the stern works when skinned. Hopefully the shape made by the “high heeled shoe” piece comes through OK.

    Stern view of ama

    Bow-on view of ama

    The lashing was fun to figure out. Among the learnings was that I really didn’t think through putting all those holes in the three main frames – the cut-outs were fine, especially if I created a strategic notch.

    Detail of lashing on ama framing

    Finally there is the scarf joints I did for the two lower stringers. There isn’t a lot of stress on these, but I am pretty proud of these. Two dowels and a slightly modified simple whipping technique and I feel better about these than ones with glue. OK, maybe that is too much, but they feel solid.

    Scarf in stringer

  • Its starting to look like an ama – the latest on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project September 10, 2009

    I know many of you have been waiting with bated breath for an updated on my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project. OK, by “many” I mean “three, max” and by “bated breath” I mean “vague curiosity.” But this boat is starting to take shape and, by the powers granted me by the good people behind WordPress and the blogosphere in general, I declare an update is overdue. It so happens that I hit a nice milestone last night, so here we are (complete with background views of our playroom).

    I have assembled the keel, the three frames, the deck, the iako connection pieces (partially), and (partially) the bow piece.

    Ama - with keel and deck in place

    Just the “transom” piece to go, along with the stringers. Continue reading →

  • Progress on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe – an ama slowly takes shape August 23, 2009

    I have been making progress on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe [note to self: you have to name this thing] on two fronts: a) updating the design a bit and b) building the ama. I hope to have the design updates done soon. I nudged the ama forward as much as I could (maybe six inches), but this was the easier task. The harder problem was reconfiguring the rig. I won’t go into the gorey detail of it, but suffice it to say that, in an effort to get the CE forward, I tried a number of rig configurations, none of them satisfactory. In the end I decided to abandon the two sails approach. Results to follow.

    Now – the tangible stuff. I decided to start with the ama because it let me try the techniques of skin-on-frame building in a lower risk project within a project. I am using cheap, generic “white wood” from the local big box as well as some scrap form other efforts. I have built the three sawn frames, and below you can see the results of my first real effort at lashing. I expect those holes will not get used.

    Ama - midship frame

    The keel has some rocker in it. Continue reading →

  • What’s been keeping us from blogging – Chine bLog’s skin-on-frame outrigger canoe August 6, 2009

    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.

  • – a great resource for skin-on-frame boatbuilding April 21, 2009

    OK – its best I admit it. They say that is the first step. I am thinking about a new boat already. I want to build to my own design. I have some ideas coming together – I’ll share more when there is more to share. The key point is that every time I see a skin-on-frame boat I feel incredibly drawn to them. I think it has to do with the rawness of the medium – the boats go together by feel with pegs and lashing. Its gorgeously primal.

    In the course of noodling on this idea I came across the site, which consists of The Skin Boat School and Spirit Line’s Skin Boat Store. The former, as it sounds, is the educational resource area, though there are some good nuggets online. The latter piece seems to be a great source for materials. I found proprietor Corey Freedman extremely willing to chat about this topic, giving me a number of ideas that I didn’t directly solicit. This is one worth keeping close at hand for the skin-on-frame medium.

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