Melanesia Uri Aha, Queensland

Home Wharram World Melanesia Uri Aha, Queensland
By Mark Mcewan

Hello Hanneke and James. After reading "Two Girls, Two Catamarans" and watching the wonderful documentary of your Lapita Voyage and visit to Anuta recently I was prompted to email you and let you know what a wonderful craft my Melanesia 16 has proven to be. I built it around 1996 after coming home from a trip to the Solomon islands where I spent some time messing about in a variety of local canoes. My home is on the Queensland coast adjoining the southern area of the great barrier reef. Boyne Island where I live is surrounded by shallow warm water with consistent trade winds and sea breezes.

Melanesia Uri Aha on the beach with sail up
My home boat Melanesia

A small outrigger sailing canoe seemed to me a versatile option to explore my local waters and to learn a little about sailing outriggers. I kept pretty much to the plan but chose to rig a sailboard sail instead of a more authentic sail plan. I'm now on my 3rd version of the sailboard rig. I haven't sailed the canoe "Uri aha" (a western province Solomon island term for a dolphin) constantly since '96 but rather periodically depending on other factors - work, other interests, etc.

The last couple of years has seen me put a lot of time on the water, and this humble craft just keeps giving. I've raced the sailboarders up and down the local sandbar in flat water and strong wind loving the acceleration in the gusts, had many memorable sessions out on the same sand bars at hightide catching waves when wind swell is up, we often get a 1 to 2m wind generated swell. I've sailed for miles across shallow sand flats watching turtles and dugong, caught a couple of memorable fish trolling and my favourite thing long downwind runs surfing waves and paddle steering in a fresh northerly. And of course true to canoe sailing, soaking wet and bailing her out constantly.

Finished Melanesia hull on land
The finished hull

Some of my adventures have been a little on the edge of a small canoe's capability but she hasn't let me down ( I'm a pretty experienced sailor). I won't preach to you guys about the flexible lashed age old design and how the whole thing moves through the sea state. (I use rope lashings on the hull end of the iako and bike tube on the ama end).

I would just like to share some things I've found out sailing this craft. Number 1, I only use a paddle to steer when off the wind, on the wind the boat will sail effectively with sail trim and body weight positioning. She can sail up wind by her self in steady light winds. I can adjust fore aft trim of the sail to achieve a kind of neutral helm then use body weight and paddle for trim and steering. She will look after herself with wind on the beam and sheet out if you move forward she will heave to. To tack I move forward of centre then back as she comes about. She also is a great craft to surf catching waves easily and the hull form is exceptionally stable at speed charging down a nice steep one steering with the paddle (better on port tack with outrigger on downwind side). Sailing out through waves is okay if you're cautious and keep your wits about you. This canoe is at its best surfing small steep windswell on long downwind runs.

Outrigger canoe float
Uri Aha's float

I don't do social media gro pros blogs vlogs and all that but I just thought I would share some of the joy I experience when out sailing this awesome little craft with you guys. I've had a few swampings and near misses but have enough positive floatation in the end so it's not a total disaster. I don't go too far offshore and have learned to trust and work with my craft. I hope you are both well and still inspiring/educating folk and helping them to achieve their dreams.

Cheers, Mark