Editorial October 1, 2004 Issue

Multi Mania

As of late, I've been considering the various joys and certain pitfalls that lie in my future, now having purchased a new boat—sight unseen. Though I've often counseled friends and readers never to buy a boat without the benefit of a test sail, here I am preparing to drive 1,100 miles—all the way to central Texas—to retrieve a vessel I've only seen in photographs. As my wife so delicately put it, I've "got some explaining to do."

For about two years now I've been hunting around for a proper family daysailer. The more I've considered just what constitutes the right boat, the longer my list of criteria has grown. Essentially, I crave a suitable platform for introducing my children not just to sailing, but to the enduring satisfaction of being on the water, powered by the wind, free yet saddled with certain responsibilities that, if attended to in the right fashion, can yield unequaled rewards.

The criteria begin with geography. The Carolina Low Country where we live is a shoal-water region and exploring the infinite estuaries nearby means restricting oneself to a draft of no more than three feet. Anything deeper and there are too many places you just can't visit under sail.

After that you have to consider the tide-driven currents around here, which can easily overwhelm a sluggish boat. I wanted a craft that would at least give me some hope of outsailing the tides so that I could get back to the boat landing before the next deadline.

And why a boat landing? Well, another criterion involves economics—I don't intend to keep this boat at a marina, but on a trailer where the monthly dockage is significantly less expensive.

Finally, I wanted something with a reasonably well protected cockpit that would put young sailors at ease and allow them to enjoy rather than fear the experience as well as their surroundings. So that's why I'm headed to Texas.

Somehow, I stumbled upon a listing for a trailerable trimaran designed by Kurt Hughes—the Trikala 19. Based in Seattle, Hughes specializes in multihulls and sells plans for his many designs, including the Trikala. This boat, however, was built as part of a production run by a company called Brudimar, which is located in Spain.

My interest was galvanized by a bow-on photo of the boat looking particularly sleek, even at rest in a marina. I soon envisioned myself riding this steed across the harbor at double-digit speeds with the family tucked safely in the cockpit. Images like that enabled me to get beyond a number of drawbacks. I mean, it was half a continent away, I had no idea what condition the sails were in (let alone the boat), and no one I knew had ever been aboard one of these before.

Still, this vessel appeared to satisfy those elemental requirements I'd established. And, after years as a monohuller, the thought of indoctrinating myself into the realm of multihulls was refreshing. Hughes' boat seemed like a good place to start. The designer espouses a simple philosophy that runs roughly parallel to beliefs that have been preached in these pages for years, starting with an emphasis on safety through superior performance.

"Good pointing and tacking ability," writes Hughes on his website, "is not just for racers. Your survival may depend on being able to clear that cape or actually being able to short-tack bareheaded up a rocky channel, or even to claw off a lee shore in a blow."

Aside from imparting important lessons to young sailors, the Trikala will also serve as an interesting platform for some of the testing we do. But first I'm going to have to rev up the truck and do a little traveling.

-Dan Dickison

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