Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

I had to hurry the finish a bit, because time for my vacation was running out, but it finally got finished. I loaded the truck with dogs, kids, and kayak and drove to the CA coast where some family live. Wife and kids took the ferry to Avalon and my older son dropped me off at Cabrillo beach where I set up.

There was no wind really for quite some time the morning I left and the tide was not in my favor. I made slow paddling through the NW shipping lanes at 1 - 1.5 knots before I hit good wind. Had 6 and occassionally 7ft swells from the NW, 2-4ft swells from the SW and a current running south. Broke my lee board in the mix after heading a bit more southerly off the island. Occasionally surfed the swells at 8 knots according to the GPS. Honestly I was comfortable and happy to have the wind finally. The outbound trip took 9 hours because of the slow going for so long. John's words to me "Reef early, reef often" were often heeded.

After a few days, the wind was projected to be as good as it was going to get before dying down for days, so I took off with a perfect tide that due to the moon phase squished the two high tides together to give me basically a power assist until 6pm when it would max and turn direction. Now paddling to Newport beach I made 3 knots.

Still no wind though in the morning when I left. I ended up paddling through the shipping lanes that run east-west before hitting wind.

I had the strangest experience while resting after the shipping lanes. I started hearing long low moans that sounded like old steel doors were being forced open. Also some chirping sounds. I was scared that some giant tanker was bearing down on me but nothing in sight. No birds either. With the 3rd long low moan the kayak litterally shook with harmonic vibration. I really mean that. That was amazing. Whether or not it was blue whales, I do not know. I later discovered they are the loudest animals on the planet. The CA coast was crazy with whales (this was 2 weeks ago) because of the krill that the NW current was bringing to the coast. I only saw Minke whales on the trip though a lot of sailors I spoke to saw blue whales that week. But now I wonder if I built a sea violin that goes into harmonic vibration when whales make noises.

After that it was pretty smooth sailing into Newport harbor. One man stood on his moored sailboat and gave me a standing ovation. I figured I'd brag a bit and simply yelled "Avalon!". To which he replied "I know!" Wat?!

The return trip took 9 hours because I had to paddle so much. Overall the GPS recorded each leg at about 32 nmi.

I have posted some pictures here in case you would like to see a few of them. I am really happy with the design and John and his team did a great job of dealing with my questions all the time. I reinforced a few additional areas of the boat and I am glad I did (heck I call myself "What could go wrong" here so that is some indication of my tendencies, right?). I can share that data if anyone is interested. Thanks for letting share the experience with you.

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RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

Very cool! And it is quite the accopmplishment. I've taken the ferry out there and it is a lot of blue! Also been on a couple of whale watches out of SB, seen lots of species but never got to see a blue. Don't know that I'd want to see one from your vantage point! What's next, Hawaii?

George K

RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

Nice work on your build. I think you will have many more experiences with her - may she carry you to places you have only dreamed of. Do you think that if you stretched a long Bass String along your boat and used a rosin bow you could sing with the whales? Thanks for this delightful story.

RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

Thank you George and Robert.

I think my next adventure in CA will be the "Run for the Border" race next July. Not sure how I would do and not sure I really measure the required 18ft. I have to look into it. Another option is the race series in Florida that I think CLC put a boat in this year. It is called Everglades Challenge and part of the Water Tribe series. I live in Colorado so Florida in March sounds good.

Robert I literally thought of a few things like what you suggested! Seriously it might be a huge oceanic cello! But I fear those big animals and probably should not be tempting fate. I might be strumming a mating call!

RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

I used to live in Southern California and there were many times I'd be standing in the hills and looking out over the sea to the Channel Islands (contrary to all the smog stories, there were many days with 100 mile+ visibility). The idea of you being out in that is very impressive.

As far as the sea cello idea goes, the CH17 is about the same length as a 450 HZ soundwave in water. Blue's navigational calls are in the teens and 20's and can get up to 90Hz, so it's unlikely that that's what you were hearing. However, their "up" calls (shorter range communications signals) peak near 150 Hz and are the loudest calss that they make. It's a pretty good chance that you were hearing the 3rd harmonic resonating your hull. I remember reading 19th-century whalers' accounts that mentioned them hearing the whales' calls through the ship's hull.

I was snorkeling in Maui once and at 20 or 30 feet down could hear the whales singing and feel when one of their sonar beams hit me (strange sensation in the head). Feeling them through the boat would be cool, too.



RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

Thanks for the VERY cool tale!  

I went whale watching off the Maine coast in Aug. and I can def say, I would not want to be anywhere nearby when a Blue breaches.  We had 6 Blues that day all breaching & splashing around.  It was later reported as the most active day of the Summer.

RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island



I enjoyed your MKIII account.  Im in the final stages of converting my MKII back to a trimaran - I did the tacking proa thing and while it had some good points you simpoly cant enjoy a proa rig safely without hiking out and thats not possible in all practicality.


I checked out your picks. Toothpick looks great and Avalon looks like Eden on the water.  Really nice place - what a locale.  Whats a little alarming to me however is you losing your leeboard.  I recall another sailor [of a MKI] using a plastic leeboard cracked in half.  Like your experience, his too was  in steep water with the bow often submarining.  Im surprised though that the CLC designed leeboard would fail like that. Ive got a few questions to that end if you dont mind...

1.  where exactly did it break? Did it look like there wasnt enough purchase or surface area at the leeboard bracket.  Does the bracket need to cover more of the top of the leeboard to better spread out the stress load?

2.  Did it snap in half mid board?

3.  What revisions would you consider to prevent this in the future?


In fairness, this is the only time Im hearing of a CLC leeboard snapping but if it can be avoided Id go the extra distance to reinforce it. A leeboard is a lousy thing to be without - though not as bad as the rudder that failed me [my own design :( ]


Im sorry you had low wind.  These craft are particularly excellent with low wind efficiency, but when you have to paddle, they arent particularly fleet.


I look forward to your accounts in the future, particularly in a good stiff breeze.  Shooting vids via iphone makes for good youtube movies as well.



RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

I just looked through your pictures of the trip again.  Fantastic. The view from the highlands of Catalina overlaooking the harbor [and I spotted your craft!] was particularly awesome. That and ofcourse, the classic CLC sailrig shot of a vista overlooking an ama.  Great stuff and what looks like an awesome trip.  On a day with a good 15 or 20 knots wind itd be beyond spectacular.

This trip reminds me of Kayakerbob on youtube who sailed his Hobie Tandem Islander from the big island to Maui.  All told 75 miles one way and in steep seas that he described as 'friendly" compared to how it can be.  Its a fairly long vid for youtube, with lots and lots of wave smashing and a submarining ama taking the worst beating Ive ever seen a sailrig of any kind take. In the end he had broken pins and an aka that began to collapse from the abuse. He made a pitstop to a hardware store [lol where in a crossing like this I have no idea]  and continured on still making a good clip till the sky began to grow dark and then the lights of Maui are seen on the horizon along with the silohette of the land mass.  Its one of the best sailrig vids Ive seen if only because the trip looked so torurous .  Its worth a gander.

All that said for some pearls I thought Id share that the CLC MKII and III and for thsat matter, MKI have over that craft. If you look often enough of youtube at sailrig vids to see what other folks are doing it becomes apparent that the achillies heel of this craft are its akas.  Two folks bent them beyond the point of no return.  Theres the guy in Maui and then theres another where the guy was beaching his Hobie and the port ama caught the sand and levered the kayak over it irreversibly bending the aka.  They are nicely designed and fold to the sides for transport and such but when it comes to robustness, they have NOTHING on the laminates of the clc sailrigs - be it any model.  By the time a wave comes along thats capable of snapping those things, there'd be so much else wrong with the situation the loss would be an after thought.  I really do treasure the robustness of the CLC MKII sailrig.  Theres a lot to be said for confidence when you are far enough offshore.  And there are no pins to fail either.  Wood isnt just attractive, in proper design like the sailrig its a mighty craft too.

Again Im looking forward to your accounts and pics.  Ill be posting my own this month.



RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

Lazlo you are a wealth of information. Thank you for chiming in.

Sailrig Enth, the lee board broke right at the lee board mount. And it broke right across the face of the lee board mount. Like as if you put your foot on a paint stir stick and pulled the other end up. I don't know what mods I would make to the mount right now. Maybe simply add a carbon fiber sheath next time or layers of fiberglass (since it has some flexability) over the lee board - WWLD? What would Lazlo do?

The kayak was beefed up as follows. This I believe was critical:

  • Added additional layer of Ocume to the bulk heads above the ama deck.
  • Big fillets at the bulheads on the amas.
  • Fiberglassed the amas entirely.
  • Added a cross brace in the ama at the widest point inside the ama below the ama deck.
  • I received 18 layers of aka strips and used 9 for each aka.
  • Laid down carbon fiber - Ocume - carbon fiber across the entire width of the hull floor and mashed into place for conforming to the hull while drying with a small scissor jack. Did that where the mast step would be mounted. And it is probably 14 inches long and however wide the bottom of the hull is. A big rectangle.
  • Flipped the kayak and laid a layer of Ocume - and 2 layers of 9 ounce fiberglass across the underside of the deck. Again, a big rectangle. Used the scissor jack to make it conform to the deck curve. Did that before drilling the mast hole.
  • I used 2 more pieces of ocume to make the mast partner thicker.
  • I used some spanish cedar (because I messed up the supplied cedar) and additional Ocume to make the aka spacers almost as wide as the akas. I also took an idea from Lazlo and made the aka spacers longer and drilled straight through them and through the deck and use long SS bolts to mount the akas on the deck - not the rope tie method in the instructions.
  • Where the SS bolts that hold the akas pierce the deck, I added 3/4 inch spanish cedar blocks under the deck (hatch area for the back aka) and I use 2" washers to spread the load from the wing nuts bolting the akas.
  • I took the mast step and added 4 legs, one off each side. They are about 3 or 4 inches long and 1' wide. I glued them to the sides of the mast step with silica and epoxy. THen I laid a bed of fiberglass to make the flat bottom of the step fit the curved hull (on top of the carbon fiber). Then I fiberglassed over the legs and the mast step as best I could. Then I turned over the kayak and screwed 6 large screws into the legs. I might have actually hit the mast step and that is good too, but I have 2 screws in each north-south legs and one in each of the east-west legs. Then I laid a strip of carbon fiber across the east-west legs and the mast step. Then when that was dry, cut out the mast step hole.
  • Added an emergency tiller attachment to the SmartTrack rudder assembly so I could actually almost steer the thing - another post coming soon - arggh. Stupid rudder problem..
  • Used the largest rudder available from Feathercraft in the Smart Track rudder assembly - not available at CLC.

I hope this helps someone considering the MKIII sail rig. It really requires reinforcing the boat.

RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

Thanks for the reply.


I made my leeboard out of 3/4" birch ply and I glassed it robustly. I also added a couple inches in length. If I recall the Clc leeboard is 1/2"? At anyrate, it hasn't really seen tge soup you have so I can't say it's successful. If it does snap or crack I'll make a new one, most definately 3/4" ( and perhaps a 1" section where it mounts? I would be truly generous with carbon fiber wraps.

But then again I might never need it. Offshore water however has its own dynamic as u kno better than I.


Im concerned about reinforcing my eyeloop bolts neath the decks (I lash) . John has tossed up the idea in the past about a magnum p.i. Lifting foil way up front as my craft has fine ends. I'm still considering it but at least in protected harbors with chop and swell to three feet I never felt it was needed.  Ultimately all kayak-sail rigs will submarine given enough swell and chop but I balance that short coming with the fact that those same fine ends give me extremly good low wind efficiency.


Please post more accounts as they happen. I'm going to have my sail rig mods completed in a week. Hoping to sail at latest a week from then in Long Island Sound.

Thanks for the details in your descriptions!





RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

When paddling my Kaholo in Avalon I pasted by Toothpick several times looking for her builder.  Beautiful!

RE: Finished the MKIII conversion and sailed to Catalina Island

Small world huh?


I really enjoyed his post and I learned about a place called Avalon. I've always known of Catalina Island and distant San Clemente but not of that altogether beautiful place by that name. The whole thing must've been a beautiful experience - a FAT 32 mile crossing, all the while the highland coastline of that place growing as the hours fly by.  Yes his wind was a little wanting at times, but following it along in that ships log was good stuff. The highland view overlooking the harbor and Toothpick was especially dramatic.

I'm waiting for more posts from this guy. And that note I d be quite interested to read of your Kaholo excursions.



At last , next week I think my re-converted MKII is going to get wet again. I'm reinforcing the leeboards, did some mods here and there. Got my 32sq.ft. Balogh sail (which is surprisingly powerful) and a rudder hoist and drop system, plus a new rudder housing. I know emphatically that I won't be doing any 32 mile crossings this year, but with dry suit and all I'll be having some fun.  I'm guessing I'm going to hit the bays and harbors once the water begins to chill. It's funny, my summer is starting in September. Such is work and such.


Felt like shootn the breeze.  I am interested in your Kahola exploits!








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