DIY Outrigger Canoe: A Seafaring Adventure

By Stuart Reid

Imagine gliding through crystal clear waters, exploring coral reefs, and embarking on exciting adventures. This can become a reality with your own outrigger canoe. Inspired by the Pacific Waka Ama, a unique vessel that combines stability and speed, you can create your very own DIY outrigger canoe. Let’s dive into the process of building this remarkable craft.

Discovering the Perfect Craft

While vacationing in Aitutaki, my wife and I couldn’t resist the temptation of exploring the lagoon. Borrowing a plastic canoe initially, we quickly realized it wasn’t providing us with the experience we desired. However, our luck turned when we stumbled upon a rough plywood canoe with an outrigger. Its remarkable stability and agility captured our attention, giving us the opportunity to explore the lagoon effortlessly. We knew then that we had discovered the perfect vessel—a “waka ama” or canoe with an outrigger.

Embracing the Challenge

With our holiday retreat in Karitane, north of Dunedin, we craved an outrigger canoe that would be suited for the tidal estuary. Cost-effectiveness and easy assembly were top priorities. Drawing inspiration from waka ama advocates, who emphasized the use of locally available materials, we embarked on building our own canoe. By repurposing old house-framing timber and using construction ply, we kept costs under control, spending less than $200. The design was straightforward, with a basic box shape strengthened by seats at each end.

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Building the Hull

To construct the hull, we utilized straight-cut strips of ply. The sides were 400 mm deep, while the bottom measured 300 mm wide, leaving a 400 mm space across the top for easy access. Shaped stringers were used to join the sides and bottom, providing stability. Although we chose stringers for their classic appearance, stitching and taping could also be utilized. Temporary frames secured the box shape while seats, spreaders, and ends were installed. The beauty of this design is that the canoe is identical on both ends, allowing for seamless paddling in either direction.

Defining the Bow

The cunning part of the hull lies in the bow. By cutting 400 mm-wide strips in half at the 1200 mm mark with a 45-degree angle, we shaped the bow to our preference. We opted for a classic sloping bow, giving our canoe a sleek appearance. The bow pieces were securely fastened using glue and screws, and the hull shape was further defined by installing the bottom panels at the bow and stern. This ensured perfect alignment and a sturdy structure.

Adding the Finishing Touches

With the hull taking shape, we turned our attention to the finishing touches. Wooden strips measuring 12 mm x 12 mm were glued around the top of the hull, both inside and out, to form a coaming. This not only provided a clean finish but also added stability. Plastic rubbing strakes were attached to the chine and bow, providing extra protection and enhancing the canoe’s sleek lines. Bulkheads were omitted to allow easy drainage of bilge water, ensuring a stable multihull design. Finally, handles and other small attachments were installed, while leaving ample space in the hull for storing the outriggers.

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Outrigger Canoe

Attaching the Outrigger

The outrigger, consisting of beams or spars, provides stability and balance to the canoe. We used knot-free timber measuring 50 mm x 50 mm and secured them to the hull using hooks. For the float or ama, we repurposed a second-hand plastic sewer pipe, saturating it with bleach for added durability. The outrigger beams were expertly attached to the ama, ensuring a secure and reliable connection.

Exploration Awaits

With the construction complete, it’s time to embark on a seafaring adventure in your very own outrigger canoe. Craft paddles from the leftover plywood, with the captain using a larger paddle for steering and the forward motion paddle slightly smaller. Paint your canoe in vibrant colors, making it a true reflection of your adventurous spirit. Always remember to wear a life jacket and keep the load under 200 kilos for optimal stability. Get ready to be the envy of onlookers as you gracefully navigate the water.

East Coast Paddle Sports

If you’re interested in exploring more watersports and finding quality equipment, check out East Coast Paddle Sports for an exceptional range of gear and expert advice. They offer everything you need to enhance your outdoor experiences.

So, set sail on your DIY outrigger canoe and create memories that will last a lifetime. The open waters await, and adventure beckons. Happy paddling!

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