After the success with my first try at sewing up an asymmetrical spinnaker for the Prairie Mermaid, I thought it would be fun to give sail-making another go. The cat ketch rig on the Mana presents a possibility that intrigued me the first time I saw photos of a similar rig sporting a mizzen staysail. Once again I went to the good folks at SailRite for their assistance. Sailmaker Jeff Frank came back with a mizzen staysail custom designed for the Mana 24.

After fall had turned into winter, I again took over a large part of the basement and set to sewing up the kit.

SailRite provides excellent instructions with their sail kits. In addition, they are a phone call away to answer questions and I took advantage of the service to get some clarification from Jeff on one issue that arose.

Sewing up the panels is quite straight forward. A double zig zag stitch is used and soon the sail has been produced. The detailing requires hand stitching. Clearly drawn diagrams make it easy for a rookie sail-maker like me to end up with a professional looking product.

Clew with D-ring sewn in
Thimbles are sliced onto each end of the bolt rope – first time for splicing 3 stranded rope for me – great fun.
Tack with boltrope and thimble sewn into place
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Leather protection added to the three corners of the sail
The SailRite logo

The project was soon completed. The sail (and sailor) wait until sailing season for the first trial. Stay tuned.

Spinnakers. Those big beautiful, brightly coloured sails puffed out in front of sailboats as they ghost their way down the lake… Yes, the image conjures up in my mind the ultimate in sailing experience and so of course, I was determined to add an asymmetrical spinnaker to the sail locker of my Mana 24, “Prairie Mermaid”.

I wanted to play a part in creating the sail but I do not have the necessary design skills. I turned to SailRite for their design expertise. Their sail maker, Jeff Frank presented me with a lay-out and asked me for my choice of colours. After considering the various choices and combinations, I chose red and yellow and placed my order. The kit soon arrived.

Instructions were very easy to understand. With my partner’s trusty old Kenmore, quickly I was assembling the first of three sections of the sail. Once each one had been completed, they in turn were sewn together. After hand sewing leather to protect the corners, I had a finished sail.

In addition to the sail, I had ordered a launching sock kit. The sock required a bit more thought and measuring but it also came together well.

The sail went into a bag and then waited until June for the its first trial.

My sailing friend, Rick, joined me for the day. We were blessed with light winds perfect for the task at hand. Things went very well and I was very pleased with the result. Check out the video account of the day.

Following examples I had found online, this is the equipment I used to fly the sail. Tack lines run to blocks attached with soft shackles to both port and starboard bows, allowing the sail to be moved from side to side to suit wind directions. These lines are tied off to cleats installed on the forward cabin tops. Sheets lead from the clew to blocks attached to stern posts with soft shackles and tie off to cleats installed on aft cabin tops.

In spite of my inexperience but with a successful initial trial under my belt, I began our annual weeklong camping/sailing event, the Elbow Run 2019, flying the asymmetrical within the first half hour of the start. My crew mate, Russell, came aboard as a rookie sailor and by the end of the Run, the two of us were taking turns setting and adjusting the new sail as if we both knew what we were doing!

During the Run, the spinnaker proved to be an invaluable asset to the boat. There were four WindRider 17 trimarans in our group. On the days when winds were light, the WindRiders, being much lighter, were able to move ahead of us until we hoisted the spinnaker and then we took over the lead. Brent was the exception on his WR17 – he was also sporting a spinnaker. Brent is a very talented sailor and he was consistently impossible to catch.

Final assessment? Unlike my experiment with the deck tent, the asymmetrical spinnaker is a great success. The sock makes launching it stress free. The sail turns a light wind day into a pleasurable time. I am very happy with the addition.

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 Not all ideas are manifest to be successful. Ideas drawn out on a piece of paper, no matter how carefully they may have been drawn to scale become something quite different when reproduced in reality. These are two truths that I learned this past year.

My Mana 24 catamaran has a large and very open deck which is ideal for sailing but provides no shelter when camping on board. Last winter I set about to design and sew a tent which would fulfill that limitation. I was partially successful, but my design was deficient in one important aspect. More on that later.

The tent project followed the completion of a sewing ‘first’ for me – a new sail for the boat, an asymmetrical spinnaker and launching chute (another post coming soon). There was an incentive for a new sewing project – the acquisition of my mother’s 1956 Singer Model 191B sewing machine.

The tent design attempted to address the desire for shelter on the deck while being still being able to access the hull cabins. I wanted to be able to easily open the hatches without impediment from the tent and so I came up with the idea of an arched roof, suspended between the two masts and formed by flexible tent poles. My scale drawing called for a height of 96 inches in order for the hatch to clear the tent wall.

Two ingredients were required – tent material and tent poles. A search on the internet came up with willing suppliers. Ripstop By the Roll have an extensive selection of materials available and from them I ordered 35 yards of 1.9 ounce white rip-stop nylon plus 8 yards of 2.2 ounce ripstop nylon in racing red. From another accommodating supplier, Tent Pole Technologies came four tent poles, each 129.5 inches long. Time to get to work.

Of course, when I was doing the drawing and ordering the material, I really had no clear sense of just how big the tent would be or how much material it would involve. It was only after starting to cut and piece and sew it together did I fully appreciate the undertaking. I was soon sewing 24 foot long seams to join panels forming the top and walls of the tent. Mom’s old Singer machine was not nearly so phased by that as I was.

The end panels came with their own challenge, with 8 foot zippers sewn in just off-centre to allow access from from both the bow and the stern of the boat. The basement seemed at times to be filled with rip-stop nylon!

The big test came in July during our annual camping/sailing event, the Elbow Run 2019, on Lake Diefenbaker, with seven sailboats and ten sailors gathered. The new tent looked rather impressive that first night, and the guys teased me about the size, suggesting that it was large enough to be a dance hall, or better yet, a floating conference room.

My crew mate and cousin, Russell, and I set about making our living quarters comfortable and cooking our evening meal on board while others were resigned to cooking in the open beside their tents. Life was good.

Things were not so congenial however when the wind started to blow later in the week, as you can see in the following photos.

Yes, things did get a bit wild, and on two separate nights we decided we would fare better in the wind without the tent!! The big sidewalls, having nothing to support them, could not hold their shape. There were other issues also. I had not taken into account that the main sail would prevent closure of the bow entrance to the tent, and so half of that end wall flapped continuously in the wind.

BUT, the sewing did not come unravelled. AND the rip-stop nylon proved that it could easily handle the wind. AND most importantly, the tent proved the worthiness of a shelter when camping on an open deck catamaran. So, its back to the drawing board and Mom’s old Singer machine this winter to come up with Mana Deck Tent Mark II.

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What are the necessary ingredients for a boat building workshop? For starters, adequate space is an essential element, and it was clear when I began building the Mana 24 our garage was not long enough for two 23 1/2 foot hulls to be constructed at the same time.

Even with only one hull set diagonally in the garage, the stem and stern posts could not be added. Fortunately, my quest for a better option was successful and a new place became available just a block from home – a heated two car garage, inside dimensions 23 feet x 23 feet, leaving space for two hulls to be constructed at the same time when placed diagonally. The garage is well lit, with cupboards, pegboard and counter on one wall for tools and supplies. It also features graphics that would gladden the hearts of professional sports fans in this part of the world – check these out:

Yes, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Oilers have a solid fan base here. I do hope they are not offended to learn that I have no interest in professional sports – I just want to build a sailboat and go sailing!

Still, the new workspace is pretty fancy and I consider myself greatly blessed to have found it. With the help from a good sailing buddy, I have moved in and set up shop. As they say in the cartoons, on with the show, this is it!

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One of my favourite stories from my summertime job in a Vancouver Island sawmill in 1967 was the joke that workers liked to pull on naive newbies to the mill. They would tell the unsuspecting victim that a certain pile of lumber had been cut too short and would then send him in search for the “lumber stretcher” to remedy the problem. The unfortunate victim would go from one area of the mill to another, asking for the device, only to be told that he should try in yet another place, until he had covered most of the mill and someone would relent and let him in on the joke. Fortunately for me, the mill workers thought that a farm boy from the prairies would have too much common sense to be caught by such a prank and they didn’t pick on me!

Boat building does have a similar problem to that posed by the mill workers – how to make short boards into longer ones in order to build boats beyond the length of available lumber. Various methods have evolved in the history of boat construction, including the scarf joint (which we will encounter in a future post). The advent of CNC directed routers, able to cut out patterns with great precision, has enabled one modern version of “lumber stretching” that the Mana “cat kit” incorporates – the jigsaw puzzle joint.

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On the Tiki 21 that I built in the 90’s and on most of the modern designs from James Wharram Designs, plywood panels are joined, end for end, in a butt joint with a piece of plywood epoxied over top of the joint. This method is effective and requires no specialized scarfing equipment or expertise but it does not leave a smooth panel on the interior of the hull. The jigsaw joint used on Mana 24  gets around that limitation – a 100mm strip of fibreglass tape reinforces the joint instead of a piece of plywood.

The puzzle joint ensures that the joined panels line up correctly. I followed the advice from JWD and placed MDF board above and below the joint along with plastic sheeting, weighed things down overnight while epoxy cured, and the results were a nice smooth, 23 foot long panel.

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Every project must have a starting point. With some rough lumber sized to specifications at hand, work in the Mana 24 began. The pre-cut plywood pieces enabled me to go straight to preparatory assembly, adding bearers cut from the planed Douglas Fir to bulkheads, six bulkheads for each hull.

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Most of the plywood used for bulkheads has its first coat of epoxy already applied, allowing work to proceed quickly.

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The forward section of the keels also has doublers, which were added, and once that was completed, I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to try a dry-fit with bulkheads 2, 3 and 4 set in place on keel. It is starting to take shape, don’t you think?

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Remember the clear Douglas Fir that I sourced in Edmonton? As lovely as it was when I bought it, it still wasn’t the size that is specified for the Mana 24. The 1 inch rough boards had to be cut down. The two sizes most commonly used in constructing the Mana are 15mm x 40mm and 20mm x 40mm. What was required was some power tools – a barely used Bosch table saw and an on-sale MasterCraft thickness planer were acquired. Slowly my shop has transformed from bicycle building with welder and grinders to boat building, with wood working tools that are much more to my liking!

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And the results? Yes, smooth, clear Canadian Douglas Fir ready to become part of a double canoe in the Polynesian tradition!

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