WestlawnMasthead27_Sept2013H.pub - page 6

The Masthead
A Brief History of Sailing Multihulls
Following the long string of islands in the
eastwards prolongation of New Guinea, set-
tlers finally found Fiji.
The catamaran of the Fiji islands was an as-
sembly of two pirogues. If disassembled, they
could each be fitted with an outrigger. Each
hull was made of one or more dugout tree
trunks, depending on the length of the craft
(between 12 and 24 meters), with a free-
board increased by the addition of elements
on the topsides, neatly adjusted and sewn up.
The two hulls were parallel but in a Quincunx,
with one slightly ahead of the other. Like
modern multihulls, the bows were vertical. On
large catamarans, the space between hulls
was covered with decking. The craft was
steered by two leeward paddles, one on each
hull. The triangular sailing rig was set on the
leeward hull, with the windward hull used as
an outrigger. To tack, the sail was stowed on
the top yard, the rake in the mast was de-
creased as the rig was carried over to the
other hull.
The catamarans from the Tonga islands have
been widely illustrated by the first explorers,
particularly Willem Schouten, Abel Tasman and James Cook. Daniel Lescallier reproduced their plans in
Traité pratique du
gréement des vaisseaux
, but a few details were omitted.
The Tonga island catamarans were
of large size, between 15 and 25
meters in length, able to carry up
to 150 passengers. A small dugout
was usually kept aboard and used
as a tender. They were used to sail
to destinations in Melanesia and
Micronesia. The platform was
placed atop vertical boards and
stayed supports. Each hull would
be decked and feature a long
hatch giving access to the bilges to
scoop out shipped water while in
rough seas or at high sailing
speeds. Typically, the boat fea-
tured a semi-circular hut with a
cooking stove near the mast foot.
The mast was rather short, with a
jawed masthead that carried the
top yard. The mast was held in
position by two lateral deck
spreaders, reminiscent of the Open
60s with a wing mast. For short
beats to windward, the sail came
naturally against the mast, simi-
larly to lateen sails on "the wrong
tack," but for long tacks, the mast
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