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Dolphin Spirit
43’ Grainger Trimaran

On October 20, 2006, I purchased the 43’ Tony Grainger ocean racing trimaran Spirit of Emu from Australian businessman Peter Claringbold in Seattle. The next day after closing the sale, we sailed Spirit of Emu to her new home: Friday Harbor in the beautiful San Juan Islands of northern Washington, where a complete re-fit was begun with local resident David Howitt as project manager. David is a long-time whale activist, and sailed with me on Thursday’s Child’s Corky Freedom Banner tour of the Pacific Northwest in 2001. The trimaran was craned out of the water at Shipyard Cove Marina, dissembled, and put into a shed for the work project.

Spirit of Emu was designed by Australian Tony Grainger as a replacement for Peter Claringbold’s former trimaran, Ocean Emu, which had been lost at sea and later found—thus the name: Spirit of Emu. She was built in Melbourne, Australia in 1994, and set several records in races on Port Phillip Bay, near Melbourne. “Emu” was constructed in high tech foam/carbon/epoxy composite, and has the added benefit of being demountable and can be moved on a truck. “Emu” is a very stable and powerful trimaran with a wide beam of 39’, and has attained speeds in excess of 30 knots with full crew. Mr. Claringbold moved to Seattle in 2001 and had “Emu” shipped over.

“Emu” was in very rough shape, and weighed in heavy during the survey at 9,400 lbs fully loaded. She was known to be slow in very light winds, but very fast in a breeze. I saw the potential for “Emu” to be a great boat to set up for the solo transpacific record. We would do a complete re-fit and power her up with larger headsails for the light winds.

Rebuild And Re-launch As Dolphin Spirit
I came up from San Francisco to coordinate the re-build project in April, 2007, and my long time sailing buddy Scott Shaffer also joined the work party. Local designer/builder Brandon Davis helped us with carbon/fiberglass fabrication, and many other San Juan Island folks helped out too. As always, it was more complicated and took much longer than planned. The re-build included: a new escape hatch, new netting, two new JP3 bottom rudder bearings, a Raymarine 7000 autopilot, all new wiring and Raymarine instruments, Raymarine radar, a new hard canopy with lexan window, dagger-board re-faired and re-glassed, and all new rigging—diamonds replaced with new wire, and the cap shrouds and runners replaced with light-weight composite dyneema.

The boat was completely sanded down, fiberglass repairs done, epoxy-primed and four coats of yellow Awlgrip topcoat applied. The bottom was also sanded down and new barrier coat applied and anti-fouled. Local artist, Chinmayo, painted two beautiful dolphins on the main hull bow, and vinyl dolphin and name graphics were applied. With yeoman’s effort by David Howitt and his ropes and come-a-longs, we were able to re-assemble the boat and put her on a trailer for re-launch. On Sept 6, 2007, on a beautiful Indian summer day, the trimaran was re-launched and re-christened Dolphin Spirit.

We had time for only two test sails in light airs, before closing down for the winter. It was great to finally feel Dolphin Spirit gliding along under full sail, her new yellow suit shinning in the setting sun, and the dolphins on the bow glistening. I returned home to San Francisco, leaving Scott and David to watch after her for the winter. We will resume test sails next spring and bring her down the coast to San Francisco to prepare for my solo sail to Japan in spring 2009.

Dolphin Spirit Specs
Length: 43’
Beam: 39’
Displacement: Designed 7,000 lbs, Weighed 9,400 lbs fully loaded at survey
Mast: 61’ aluminum
Designer: Tony Grainger, Australia
Builder: Hart Marine, Melbourne, Australia, 1993
Construction: Airex foam/carbon, kevlar, composite. Demountable.
Power: Honda 15hp 4 stroke outboard
Sails: All original spectra - main, roller-furling genoa, staysail, furling genneker, and spinnaker. Needs new main and genoa, and screecher for bow pole.
Electronics: All new Raymarine—instruments, radar, and autopilot.


Spirit of Emu sailing with spinnaker in waters of State of Washington

Dolphin Spirit in the shed at Shipyard Cove, Friday harbor

David Howitt sanding bottom of outrigger.

David Howitt and Scott Shaffer apply first coat of yellow Awlgrip.

Dolphin Spirit launched with two cranes on September 6, 2007

Dolphin Spirit on her first sail in San Juan Channel off Friday Harbor, Washington ©Peter Fromm


Dolphin Spirit Project

A project of the International Marine Mammal Project of
Earth Island Institute
300 Broadway, Suite 28
San Francisco, CA 94133
phone: (415) 788-3666