After my earlier Kite Kayaking adventure, I started cautiously looking into sailing. The appeal of not having to paddle was undeniable - being able to just hang out and take in the environment, rather than having to work the entire way. Kite kayaking is fun, however tricky or even dangerous, but a single-line kite can only pull you downwind. Even if I attempted to use a control-line kite, I'd have no hands left to steer.
The other option, of course, was a sailboat with a mast, which would allow me to sail into the wind. The problem is that I already pull a trailer, so I can't very well bring the RV and the sailboat... or can I? Then I discovered Sailboats To Go - a line of sailing kits for just about any inflatable craft there is. Typically the kit and boat pack small enough that they can be checked luggage.
I wanted to have a portable craft that wouldn't take too long to set up, and would not require a trailer or boat ramps. Eventually I settled on a deluxe kaboat kit (a 14' Kaboat with the 55 sq ft sail). The kaboat is fairly streamlined yet stable, and has a transom for a 10 hp motor (which I may wind up getting eventually). I got the larger leeboards, but skimped on the stabilizer floats, thinking that $150 is a bit much for buoys on sticks, and figured I'd make my own.
The boat and maiden voyage
The boat took over a month to arrive - all kaboat retailers were out of stock. By the time it arrived, I had everything ready for a maiden voyage on the 500 meter long lake in my town. Here is what things look like from outside and from the boat itself:
Boat on cart, sail half-down
The sail kit comes fully disassembled - you have to assemble the sail the first time (and never again), which took me about an hour. On the water, first-time deployment too me an hour (alone). This was longer than it has to be because the electric inflator I bought didn't fit the boat's valves natively, and I had to hold the hose the whole time. It took about 15 minutes to inflate and then top-off the 3 compartments by hand. Eventually I sorted out all the small straps and parts, got everything secured and wheeled the whole thing to the water on my homemade cart.
There wasn't much wind, and I knew nothing about what to do with what little there was, but I eventually learned to control the craft. It took me about 5 minutes to cross the lake downwind, and about 1.5 hours to return - due to lack of tacking experience and intermittent wind. I didn't bother rowing at any point, as I was in no rush.
Packing up took about 30 minutes, and I had everything safely back in the carry bags.
The first thing I did was make stabilizer floats. All it took was one 8' aluminum square tube (cut in two), 4 soda bottles, two bungees, and 6 eyebolts (and some scrap acrylic to stabilize the bottles). The stabilizers simply slide into unused 1" square slots in the primary cross member of the kit, alongside the leeboards - I can only assume that the OEM stabilizers do the same. The hard part, as it turned out, was finding the spring clips. Spring clips are the little buttons that pop up when you slide one tube into another, to fix it in place. I googled far and wide, and found manufacturers and retailers selling them, but only in the UK. That wouldn't do, so I made them myself by bending a stainless steel tongue cleaner into the appropriate shape. They work great.
I was able to test the stabilizers in strong winds, and they do indeed help (or at least they make me feel better). They are like training wheels for your boat - and in strong winds the bottles are fully submerged. I read somewhere that a 2L soda bottle provides about 8lbs of lift, so I have 16lbs on each side, with over 5' of leverage. They definitely add some drag when in the water, but at this stage I'd rather go slower than capsize.