LIHU‘E — For 64 years of his life, 72-year-old Lihu‘e resident Bob Casey has lived and breathed the ocean, through surfing and sailing.

Now he wants to share his knowledge of the sea with the youth of Kaua‘i.

Over a year’s time, Casey built a sailing outrigger vessel that is patterned after sailing vessels found in Tahiti, and wants to teach Kaua‘i’s youth how to sail.

His catamaran, named Manuba‘a, which means “bird ship,” is ready for the task, Casey told The Garden Island in a recent interview.

The 13-foot catamaran is finished, sits outside the garage of his rental home, and can be easily broken down and transported by truck or van to any part of the island.

“It is designed to put kids in the water,” Casey said. “I want to reach out to the youths who are underprivileged, and others. I want to provide the stoke (enthusiasm) to who seem to be lost.”

As youths sail over reefs and see how fragile and valuable reefs and marine life are, they will come to realize why such resources need to be protected for future generations, Casey said.

“Out there, you can concentrate on the winds, the sea. And you are looking at all that stuff,” Casey said. “It’s hypnotic.”

The project was special to the veteran seaman because the sailing catamaran was the first vessel he has ever built. He started the project in June 2004, and finished it this month.

He designed the catamaran, drew up the plans and, relying on more than six decades of operating, selling and working around sailing and motor boats, built the craft.

He worked four hours a day on the project, and only worked when he was in a happy mood, to arrive at the best product possible, Casey said. He occasionally used a hand saw and listened to Hawaiian music to make the time go by pleasantly, he added.

The sailing catamaran could have been completed in a shorter time, but he said he took his time because he wanted to do a good job, and because he wanted the boat to be safe to use and easy to use by children.

The vessel consists of:

A 13-foot outrigger that is fitted with a cockpit. The bow of the outrigger and the ama, made from mahogany, are tilted upward to push through whitecaps and wave. The top of the 22-inch-wide hull is rounded, and the bottom of the hull is tapered for “knife-entry” over the water for tacking upwind; An 11-foot ama. Both the ama and the outrigger are unusual because their rails have been sharpened to a fine edge to allow the craft to tack upwind easily and to travel fast; A wooden-planked wing that is stretched between the ama and the outrigger. One end of the whip is bolted to the out-rigger, and the end of the whip is lashed to the ama with rubber tubing, giving the craft flex in rigorous ocean conditions; A rudder, which can be manipulated on the whip or in the cockpit by a telescopic, tiller-extension piece. Casey also laid layers of fiberglass strips over the hull and ama to ensure both parts of the craft could withstand stiff ocean conditions.

He then covered the entire catamaran with resin for a natural wood look.

A small sail also has been added.

The sailing catamaran is seaworthy, and can be sailed between Kaua‘i and O‘ahu by an experienced sailor, Casey said. His sailing catamaran, however, is ideally suited for lagoons and reefs on fair-wind days, he said.

The boat can travel up to 22 miles an hour on windy days, can travel upwind and downwind well, and glide over waves, Casey said.

The catamaran is ideally suited for two youths, each weighing between 88 pounds and no more than 125 pounds, but can accommodate one adult weighing up to 250 pounds, Casey said.

His catamaran is designed after that of 21-foot sailing outriggers found in Raiatea in Tahiti, Casey said.

Casey said the motivation for his project came during his stay on Moloka‘i in recent years, and witnessing the damaging impact drug use had on children and adults in East Moloka‘i.

“I met kids and met the braddahs, who introduced me to the local community,” Casey said. “I saw where I could help.” Casey said he hopes his catamaran will serve as an educational tool for youths.

“(From this project), they can actually build this kind of thing if they get stoked with it. They can actually build fishing boats, canoe and kayaks,” Casey said.

He said his love for the ocean took hold at age 8, and during a visit to his grandfather’s home in Long Island, N.Y.

“I was 8 years old and visiting my grandfather from California, and an eight-foot rowboat appeared on the lawn, and he told the chauffeur that the row-boat was mine,” Casey said.

Casey said the chauffeur took the rowboat down to the beach, and “I went out. It was my first experience with the ocean. I never forgot.”

Casey, who was born in Los Angeles, returned to Carlsbad, Calif., where he was raised, and hung around seamen, allowing him to “get more involved with sailing and boating.”

As a youth, Casey surfed off the coastline from Newport Beach and San Diego, and developed a lifelong love for surfing.

Casey had a reason for being so close to the water.

He worked as lifeguard for San Diego County.

After graduating from Newport Harbor High School in 1950, Casey, a self-admitted adventurer at heart, worked as a crew member aboard a 120-foot yacht that plied the waters in Alaska.

As a sailor and surfer, Casey said he was enamored of the idea of going to Tahiti one day, and he did so in 1956, learning to play the guitar and play Tahitian music.

In his early 30s, he returned to Tahiti. He and others helped deliver a 19-foot sailing catamaran to a buyer in Bora Bora.

The boat was made in California, and was shipped over to that region by freighter, Casey said. He and others then sailed among the islands, including Raiatea and Taha‘a, before making the drop-off.

In 1960, Casey returned to Hawai‘i, and ran tours off Waikiki Beach. Between 1973 and 1986, Casey owned a sailing catamaran, and operated a boat-charter service off Maui.

He moved to Kaua‘i in recent years, partly because the life-style here is slow, like that in the old Tahiti, Casey said. He said his love for the ocean and things Polynesian runs deep, and he said his project is the best way “of giving back to the community.”

“It is a great feeling.”