Monday, September 1, 2014


Rigging for a sail on a light air day -  
Michael Kuharski and his canoe trimaran.
Jackson Harbor, Washington Island -

While getting ourselves ready for our first trip on the Karfi a couple of weeks ago, we watched Michael Kuharski of Madison prepare for a sail from Jackson Harbor's launching ramp.

Michael's rig is a one-of-a-kind, which he says was an idea that came about over time, modified through experimentation, and he's never through with tinkering to improve its performance.  The center hull is a Mad River canoe, and he obtained the pods for the outriggers from a company out of Minnesota that made a proa-type sailing boat. From all appearances, these were made to match.

The first time I observed Michael getting his gear in order on the beach was last year.  With his portable drill in hand, I observed from a distance as he fastened the struts together - struts that held the pontoon pods in place.

Like many other onlookers, I'm sure, I expected very shortly to see a show once he nosed into the bay and experienced that first, strong gust of wind.  It was blowing fresh from the NW, and there were 2-3 foot waves with whitecaps.  Michael didn't disappoint me in terms of putting on a show - but it was a clinic, and not a show, as it turned out.  He tacked back and forth to Rock Island effortlessly, multiple times, having great fun in winds I thought would overpower him, a breeze somewhere between 15-20 mph.   He often stood up on the decks, or in his canoe, to balance his craft and to maneuver more easily.  At no time did he ever appear to be "out of control," or was his craft put in a precarious position.  When he got in a tight corner near shore and needed an extra boost to come through the wind to tack, he stroked a few times with his paddle to help bring it around.

His sail has a Sailfish insignia on it, and along with a small foresail, this is sail area aplenty.  He handles it well, as he does his craft, screaming along on reaches with little-to-no wetted surface to slow him down.  The day before I took these photos, he told me that he sailed in winds at least 25 mph, and he had fun doing it.

He spoke of his experimentation in reducing wake by the accidental adjustment of his outrigger pontoon, and centerboard position, partly the happy result of an accident in which one strut broke.  His repairs improved performance.  He's a confident sailor, enjoying what he's built, and I would add that he's also quite fit, scampering about on his craft with the agility of a youngster (I'd guess he's mid-60s).

It shows what fun one can have messing around in a small boat, and in this case, Michael's trimaran is one I would label a "high-performance" craft.  

Nutshell Pram

My Karfi partner and crew many days this summer was Tony Woodruff, a sailor who enjoys recreational sailing about as much as anyone I've known.  He often often rigs his catboat for a sail after work hours, or on his days off.

Last week, as crew member Carl and I prepared for our last trip to Rock Island, Tony (who had that day off) was preparing to launch his home made Nutshell Pram, a Joel White design.  He said that it took him a few years to put together, but the result is a stunning little craft.  Neat as a pin is an apt description of this boat, which Tony proceeded to row out to his mooring and tie off to the stern cleat of his catboat, where he put up sail.

I spent quite a bit of time at an earlier age, when I existed in much smaller dimensions, learning to sail in an Optimist Pram, 7-footers owned by the Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club for the purpose of teaching sailing.   These were rather poor boats to sail, with hard chines, flat bottoms (notorious for leaks along the seams), an inefficient gaff-sprit rigs, outboard rudders and  centerboards that could be quickly adjusted by hand.   Not especially good on the wind, they were still fun when in company of a dozen other boats, all headed for the same mark at about the same time.  Lots of pushing off one another, taking advantage of chances to steal one another's wind, these were tactics employed when we needed to get to the finish line first.

Tony, about to get underway in his Nutshell.
I alternated between that sailing activity and a 19-foot family sailboat, and running around the bay in a 12-foot, wooden Shell Lake motorboat powered by a 7.5 hp Evinrude.

I couldn't have been happier on the water, and I often think I could still be happy playing around in such a small boats…its just that it's much harder to maneuver today in a boat that has a beam of not much more than three feet.

-  Dick Purinton

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