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What on earth is a kayatamaran?

What on earth is a kayatamaran?

A guide to trimarans and your new favourite watersport

Paddling, pedalling, and sailing combine to make trimarans (or kayatamarans) one of the most unusual ways to get on the water this summer.

Do you enjoy spending time on the water and want a unique and thrilling way to experience the Great Lakes? Adventure paddler and outdoor enthusiast, Diana Lee, will introduce you to her new water toy that harnesses the wind but can also be powered by paddling and pedalling. 

As an avid stand-up paddleboarder, I love flat water days.

As a lake surfer, I love windy, wavy days.

As a cycling enthusiast, I love day trips spent riding in nature or exploring nearby cities.

There are days where I am torn choosing between activities, but I recently found a way that combines elements from some of my favourite summer sports.

What is a kayatamaran? 

Meet the Hobie Mirage Tandem Island.

The perfect conditions for kayatamaraning.

While I've heard people call it a trimaran, I call it a "kayatamaran,” a term I made up but here’s why—the central part is a kayak. Two amas or outriggers attach to it, making it look like a catamaran. And like a catamaran, it’s got a sail, but it’s got the added innovation of pedal drives for each passenger (think: pedal boats but way more sophisticated). I have the tandem option, but there is a solo model called Adventure Island.

The outriggers and mast are collapsible, making it easy for transportation, storage or journeys where there’s a height limit (e.g. a bridge over the water). The pedal drives can be removed for transport or while navigating shallow waters.

Rex flexing out his sea legs, feeling the lake breeze and surfing the waves!

Why Though?

There are so many reasons to try out this fun watercraft!

It's a great option for people new to sailing. As someone with no extensive sailing experience, I love that I can enjoy the ride while learning how to harness the wind in this durable and forgiving ‘sailboat with training wheels,’ as perfectly noted by Rob Lytle, a certified sailing instructor and manager from Fogh Marine, one of the few retailers in Ontario for the Hobie Mirage Tandem Island.

The outriggers help improve stability, so it is less likely to capsize if you make any mistakes.

If the wind changes or dies off, the boat can still be powered by the pedals or paddling. Or you can keep pedalling even when the sail is open, and the boat will fly! Weee!

In the Tandem Island, both sailors seated in front and back can actively manage the sail and rudder. Even experienced sailors can enjoy a comfortable, seated sailing experience.

For families looking to get out on the water together – The two seats are great, but we purchased ‘trampolines’ (the black fabric platforms that stretch between the outrigger arms) so that we can bring along our dogs! The trampolines can also carry items like a dry bag you or anything you don’t mind getting wet. There are additional hatches along the kayak body to store gear.

Remember to put a lifejacket on your water pup, especially if he or she likes going for a swim like Zoe!

For the water adventurer—imagine travelling longer distances for day trips or even island-hopping for overnight adventures!

If you enjoy kayaking, fishing, stand-up paddleboarding (yes, I aim to bring my SUP aboard one day), or any other water sports, a trimaran/kayatamaran is another fun way to get out on the water without having to choose between your favourite activities. 

A view of the Toronto Islands, one of my favourite paddling spots and a great place to stop for a picnic and a lake dip to cool off.

Before Paddling in Ontario…

Before venturing out, remember to check the weather and water conditions. Always wear a lifejacket and let someone know your paddling plans. Review Transport Canada’s rules and required gear for operating watercraft safely and check the local municipality for the most up-to-date info on safety guidelines. Always travel responsibly.

Where To Go on your kayatamaran

If you’re wondering where to go with a kayatamaran, here are some ideas:

Toronto (Lake Toronto)
Launch from Cherry Beach, then head over to Tommy Thompson Park and check out the cormorants or head out of Outer Harbour towards the Toronto Islands. If you’re going into the harbour through the Eastern Gap, watch for boat traffic.

Scarborough Bluffs (Lake Ontario)
Launch directly from Bluffers Park (boat ramp or beach launch) or from Kew-Balmy Beach for a longer trip to see the towering white cliffs formed by the natural process of wind and water erosion from Lake Ontario 12,000 years ago!

Sail the tropical turquoise blue waters of the Scarborough Bluffs!

Lake Simcoe
Launch from Sibbald Point Provincial Park (boat ramp or beach launch), visit Georgina Island nearby.

Georgian Bay
Launch from Killbear Provincial Park (boat ramp or beach launch) and explore nearby islands (thanks for this tip, Rob!)

Lake Nipissing, North Bay
Launch from Marathon Beach (boat ramp or beach launch) and explore the Manitou Islands Provincial Park, accessible only by boat.  

Lake Temiskaming/Timiskaming
Launch from New Liskeard Beach (beach launch) or one of the many marinas and visit Devil’s Rock.

While there’s no shortage of lakes with interesting shorelines or islands to explore in Ontario, Rob from Fogh Marine said it best: “go wherever your competence takes you.”

While sailing in Toronto harbour means getting postcard-worthy views of the city’s skyline, there can be lots of boat traffic, including ferries and water taxis. Be sure to stay outside of the Toronto Island airport’s buoys and be mindful when entering the harbour through the Eastern or Western gap.

If you’re a beginner sailor, stay close to shore and stick to protected areas. If you have more experience, Ontario is the best choose-your-own-water-adventure playground, especially if you’re not afraid of getting a little wet!

Where To Buy or Try a hobie Mirage trimaran in ontario

In Ontario, here are some Hobie retailers:  

Fogh Marine (Toronto) – Ask about their Hobie demo days! Also, ask for Rob, who is an expert resource on anything Hobie Mirage Tandem Island-related!   

While I’ve only met a few people in Ontario familiar with the Adventure and Tandem Islands, there is a more active community in the US. There are dedicated meetups, social paddles, and even races! For more retailers and to connect with the Island community, check out Hobie’s Island Club website and Facebook group.

Other Things to Consider

Transportation & storage
While most people transport their Tandem Island by trailer, many Island owners keep this boat as a cottage toy.

Launch spots
Whether you prefer a boat ramp or a sandy shoreline launch from a beach, consider the accessories you may need (e.g. beach wheels) and if there's space to set up the boat.

Essential gear
Because I paddle all year round, having a drysuit and wetsuits can significantly extend your kayatamaran sailing season. Paddling-specific lifejackets are also recommended as they’ll fit more comfortably while seated in the boat or won’t hinder movement.  

Optional upgrades
There are different accessories and upgrades (e.g. spinnaker) you can add on to customize it for your kind of adventures!

Who will you invite along on your kayatamaran adventure? // Photo credit: Jason Knecht


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