A home-built water-ballasted trailer sailer
By Brad C. Frederick
I’ve always wondered if LuLu wasn’t the largest trailer sailer on record. I’ve been sailing this 35′, self-designed and homebuilt trailerable sailer since launching her out of Morro Bay, California in 2010. I laid the keel in 1993 after three years of testing on a half-scale model I’d built. Her construction consists of ¾” planks bent over bulkheads on a strongback and closely fitted, layered joints held together with a lot of West System® Epoxy. I also used West System® when I sheathed her with fiberglass.
Because LuLu is water-ballasted, she’s easily towed with my ¾-ton 2015 GMC pickup. We now sail her exclusively out of Marina Del Rey, California, and will cruise to Catalina. Lulu’s flood hatches total 3’2″ of bottom area, allowing her to morph into a 14,800 lb. cruiser just five minutes after launch. The 540.17 sq. ft. of sail she carries on her 30′ mast will drive her at near hull-speed easily in a calm sea. Her two 25 hp Hondas can add a knot or so to that.
LuLu’s rudder was a proud boat-building achievement for me, I’ll admit. Its inner structure is bent stainless steel ribs stacked vertically and welded horizontally to the post. This is covered by 3/8″ plywood cheeks. It’s very strong but at over 200 lbs., it’s a little heavier than it needed to be.
I chose the name LuLu because it was the nickname of my cat, Lucretia, and because I knew it would symmetrically span the rudderpost.
When I designed the boat, I used Excel as my basic computational and drawing tool. It turns out that by treating cells as pixels you can draft and even animate with Excel. I’d traced her lines from a full-keel Herreshoff design I saw in a book. It took me 17 years to finish the boat because it was a soup-to-nuts development rather than a conventional build. It wasn’t just her hull that I had to develop. Her water ballasting system was a challenge, going from 7,000 lbs. to 14,800 lbs. on launch while keeping her floating on her lines. I went through four different designs of her mast erection system—each taking about a year to build and test—before I found one that satisfied. Her trailering system is large enough to carry LuLu dry, low-slung enough to launch from a 1:7 ramp and get under 14′ overpasses, and still light enough for my pickup truck to tow. I worked on the entire project alone while working my day job. It’s nice having LuLu to sail.
- Construction – ¾” plywood sheathed with fiberglass and WEST SYSTEM Epoxy
- LOA – 35′
- Beam – 8.5′
- Draft – 2.7′
- Mast – 30′
- Displacement – 7,000 lbs. dry, 14,800 lbs. with
- water ballast
- Trailer Weight – 3,000 lbs.
- Sail Area – 540.17 sq. ft.
- Engines – Two 25 hp Hondas