Catamaran - Multihull Component Terms

Multihull Component Terms

There are three terms that describe the components of modern multihulls. The term vaka, like the related terms aka and ama, come from the Malay and Micronesian language group terms for parts of the outrigger canoe, and vaka can be roughly translated as canoe or main hull.

  • Aka – The aka of a multihull sailboat is a member of the framework that connects the hull to the ama(s) (outrigger). The term aka originated with the proa, but is also applied to modern trimarans.
  • Ama – The term ama comes from the proa. The vaka is the main hull, the ama is the outrigger, and the aka or iako (Hawaiian) is the support connecting the two (not three) hulls. The term ama and aka have been widely applied to modern trimarans.
  • Vaka – A proa consists of a vaka, the main canoe-like hull; an ama, the outrigger; and akas, the poles connecting the ama to the vaka.
Catamarans and trimarans share the same terminology, with a vakan, ama, and aka.

Semantically, the catamaran is a pair of Vaka held together by Aka, whereas the trimaran is a central Vaka, with Ama on each side, attached by Aka.

The above section reflects American usage. In the UK these terms are seldom used.

In Hawaiian the main difference is the main hull or canoe is a Wa'a pronounced like va ah. There is no plural in Hawaiian and so a double canoe, or two canoes joined together by Aka is a Wa'a Wa'a. An area in lower Puna is called Wa'a Wa'a. A comprehensive list of Hawaiian words for a boat is published by the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

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