Expedition Trimaran
by Kellan Hatch - Salt Lake City, Utah - USA

Part 1: Genesis

click to enlarge

The XCR, designed by Chris Ostlind

I showed up at Chris’ shop hefting a pair of huge Granato’s mozzarella and tomato sandwiches, the staple for our boat-centric lunch meetings, but I couldn’t let myself sit and eat. I was too excited to get another look at the hull of what I had just learned would be my next boat. To my relief, it was just as I remembered it; surprisingly huge compared to my Mill Creek.

When my boys were small I could actually fit my entire family of four into the 8-foot cockpit of my 16 ½ foot Mill Creek kayak-cum-trimaran with reasonable comfort. But those days are long gone and The Guys are now 12 and 14 years old. The XCR, even though it’s only two feet longer than the Mill Creek, is built around a high-capacity expedition canoe hull that will be spacious by comparison, especially when anchoring out and sleeping, either by myself or with one of my boys along stretched end-to-end. On family outings the kids can lounge out on the trampolines. Boy, did they perk up when I mentioned trampolines. They had visions of themselves bouncing along and performing all kinds of aerial acrobatics as we sailed off to the horizon.

I’ve been thinking more about trailering since my spine started trying to tell me that it’s time to lower my expectations for cartopping. I swear the boat hanging from my garage ceiling gains 20 pounds every year. If I’m going to use a trailer anyway, I might as well go for a bigger boat. Not BIG, mind you, just bigger. Now that I’ve built half a dozen or so small boats I’ve learned a lot about what I like and don’t like, so the time seemed ripe to start thinking about a new boat with a lot of the things from the “I like” list. For starters, I’m an unabashed trimaran geek, so there was no question about how many hulls it would have.

Because of storage concerns, my next boat and its trailer would have to fit through a 55-inch wide gate and store in a 20-footish long space. Even though it will live on a trailer, I still wanted it to be light, so I can move it around my yard and launch it either with a vehicle or by hand. I wanted it to be bullet-proof-sturdy, I wanted it to be fast, and I wanted it to be a Chris Ostlind trimaran.

click to enlarge

Click thumbnails for larger views

About Chris

I always have at least one of Chris Ostlind’s designs taped up on the wall in my shop. I really want to build one myself, but I just don’t have the time to dive into a big project right now. I told Chris what I was looking for and asked him if there might be a chance I could get him to build me a boat, or at least some of the major components, and before you know it I’m handing over the down payment for the XCR that’s already gestating in his shop.

click to enlarge

Chris lays up the cockpit coaming on a form that he carved from rigid foam

Chris, besides being a good friend, is an all-around impressive guy and a modern renaissance man of sorts. He’s also one of the most prolific, versatile and observant boat designers around. What a treat to have the designer actually build this boat for me, especially when he’s a craftsman of Chris’ caliber. A nod of gratitude to whatever weird chain of events brought Chris to the high deserts of Utah, an unlikely home for a gifted boat designer, indeed.


The XCR is an ideal expedition boat. With a main hull inspired by Verlen Kruger’s Cruiser canoe, it’s a sturdy craft that’s designed to stand up to journeys of thousands of miles. It has a deep, voluminous cockpit with a high carbon composite coaming and tubular thwarts, also of carbon fiber, that double as sleeves for the outrigger beams (akas, for those who prefer the Polynesian names for things). And nothing gives me more peace-of-mind in cold water than a pair of large, buoyant outrigger hulls (amas).

The construction is sturdy and lightweight. Impressively so. The main hull, which only weights sixty-something pounds, is made of 4mm Okoume marine ply, layered with 6 oz. fiberglass cloth set in epoxy inside and out. The joints are filleted and reinforced with additional 2” strips of bias-cut fiberglass. The side decks are reinforced with rows of heavy-duty hanging knees, which are set closer together at the thwarts to better distribute the loads from the outriggers. Sturdy fore and aft decks are reinforced with carbon fiber. It’s a marvel of strength and weight economy. Here’s what Chris has to say about it:

“The use of carbon fiber in this boat is because of a personal decision to build a light, but very strong craft for Kellan.. The carbon is used in localized application zones where loadings are potentially high and a high strength to weight ratio specific to the material is beneficial. You see it on this boat in the aka beams, thwart tubes and coaming which are all subject to potential high loadings from the sailing application of this design.

“Let's face it, carbon also has a very high coolness factor. All three of these load path areas on the boat could just as easily be addressed with a glass, or wood and glass coaming, along with aluminum akas and aluminum or glass thwart tubes. The under deck areas around the thwart tubes are re-enforced with an extra layer of 6 oz. glass and additional red cedar knees to spread the loads of the aka mounting points.”

To tell you the truth, I feel kind of lazy, being the client and not doing any of the work myself, but on the other hand it’s really a great ride, kicking back and watching Chris work his magic at things that would leave me scratching my head.

click to enlarge

The oak bow handle is a nice design flair

This will be a fun boat for day sailing to be sure, but it will also be a sturdy vehicle for serious minimalist adventuring on the Great Salt Lake and some of my other favorite haunts, like cruising the shores of Jackson Lake in the shadows of the Tetons and gliding though the majestic canyons of Lake Powell. But for this boat I’m also thinking of adventures farther from home. For starters, I have my eyes set on the San Juan Islands and The Sea of Cortez.

click to enlarge

The XCR main hull nears completion. Chris built these handy cradles to support the boat and move it easily around on castors

Why a Tri?

Every now and then a monohull vs. multihull thread pops up on one of the Yahoo groups and often builds to a near-religious fervor. You get the impression that any day these folks, monomen and multigeeks alike, are likely to haul their tiny plywood boats down the seashore and head off for the Roaring Forties, and that their survival depends entirely on how many hulls they have in the water. Anyone in the opposing camp is surely headed for certain disaster.

For me it mostly down to this:

First, if the water is 40 degrees, especially if my kids are aboard, a ten-foot beam brings me a lot of peace of mind about the possibility of anyone ending up in the drink. Remember what I said about learning what I like and don’t like about boats? Well, I like small, lightweight boats but I DON’T like capsizing. Yes, you can capsize a trimaran –you see it in those dramatic racing videos - but a cruising tri sailed conservatively on protected waters is very hard to get upside down. And a trimaran, since it still has a real boat hull in the middle, gives you a place to hunker down out of the weather.

Second, a multihull can be built tough yet remain extremely lightweight. No ballast needed. The XCR is just the right size that it can be launched anywhere you can get to water. I’ll use a ramp when I can, but if there’s no proper ramp I’ll wheel the trailer to the water by hand. And when even that isn’t an option, I can carry the hulls and rigs down to the shore and assemble them on the beach.

Third, and I consider this a bonus, if it will do 12 to 15 knots I have a better chance of getting to safety ahead of the storm.

The XCR also has some interesting hull configuration options. The akas are built in sections that snap together easily with the same kind of spring buttons that are used for adjustable tent poles. For storage and transportation you take the center section out of each aka and reattach the amas close to the main hull. Clean and simple.

click to enlarge

The XCR in trailering/Storage configuration

Alternate Propulsion

On it’s own, the XCR’s main hull is a superb expedition canoe, so it glides along very well with a couple of single blade canoe paddles. When I want to use the XCR as a motorboat, I’ll simply leave it in the narrower trailering configuration and clamp on the outboard for a very light but stable craft that will skim along quite impressively on only 2 horses.

click to enlarge

The XCR gets its first paddling test in the icy water of the Great Salt Lake marina


We had to decide on the sail plan pretty early in the build because the mast locations would dictate where Chris would place the thwarts/aka tubes, since they would also double as mast partners. Chris was very patient as I waffled, hemmed and hawed, and considered just about everything from high-tech roller-reefers to classic gunters rigs. In the end we settled on a cat ketch plan with a pair of identical, fully-battened high-aspect sails slotted into unstayed aluminum masts. These can be used in tandem as a cat ketch rig, or one sail can be stowed and the other moved to a central mast step. In addition, both sails will have two sets of reef points. This combination of sail configurations will give me all kinds of options for dealing with any kind of weather.

click to enlarge

One rig stowed as a simple way of reducing canvas

You can also transfer one of these same rigs to several some of Chris’ smaller designs, so when I get around to building an ultralight solo boat one of these days (I’m thinking of Chris’ Solo14), I can use one of my XCR rigs for that as well.

Once the sail plan was locked down I ordered the sails from Stuart Hopkins of Dabbler Sails. Chris placed an order for the mast components and moved onto his next task, which was to epoxy the thwart tubes in place and reinforce them.

click to enlarge

The thwarts tubes are installed. These double as mounting sleeves for the outriggers

Once that was done we had a finished canoe on our hands and Chris thought it would be a shame to not take her out for a paddle, despite the fact that it was the middle of January in the Rocky Mountains. So, one cryogenic Saturday afternoon we headed out to the Great Salt Lake marina - where the water was still liquid - and plopped her into the lake without much ceremony. Chris’ wife Lorrie was kind enough come along and snap pictures. She did jumping jacks to keep warm while we launched and climbed aboard. The air temperature was 25 degrees F and the water was a balmy 26. That’s colder than the water at the poles, mind you, due to the high salt content. It was a strange, hazy day and the water and sky blended into a uniform horizonless void that gave us the sensation of paddling off into some kind of ethereal Twilight Zone. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

It was a short trip; we hugged the shore for a while and then headed out into the lake and took a turn around the nearest buoy before turning back for the marina. Chris gave me the willies for a moment when he half-stood to switch from a kneeling to as sitting position, but the XCR proved plenty stable. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing that the quarter-inch shell between you and a 26 degree plunge is solid and reliable. I’m looking forward to a long and intimate friendship with this boat.

click to enlarge

Paddling the XCR into the void

In the next article we’ll see the XCR blossom into a trimaran and get her wings.

XCR Plans available from Duckworks

Other Articles by Kellan Hatch:

Chippy's Clip