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A Canoe for Sailing

Steve W

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My wife doesn't have the water gene. She gets motion sick and isn't a strong swimmer. I sail my CS20.3 by myself or with friends or my kids. She is super supportive, so while I've thought of great journeys with her, we wound up buying a camper, which she loves. And I get plenty of weeknds apart to sail in Skeena. When camping,  I insist on getting water sites so I can "messabout" in the water and everyone is happy.


Anyway, this last fall we camped at a State Park in the Adirondacks. I brought a couple of plastic kayaks we had in the family and we did some paddling, but these are totally inferior craft and when the wind blows, all I can think about is sailing.


40 years ago I built a sail rig for a 17 foot canoe with lee-boards and a rudder. I lived on the Hudson river and often sailed it from Dobbs Ferry to Tarrytown after work. It was fun, but the leeboard and rudder were a hassle to haul, attach and store.


Then I saw this video:


This got me thinking about an all around craft I could car top next to the kayak, paddle when the wind doesn't blow but scoot across the lake in a morning breeze. Not expedition sailing, but messing around sailing. This led me to all kinds of canoe/sail rigs. Skin on frame, Duck Punts, etc.


Eventually I came back to the Moccasin 14. I've admired this boat for awhile. What would prevent me from sailing it like above. I'm thinking flotation bags or tanks and a simple small sail rig. If I couldn't sail it with the paddle like the video I'd just add a leeboard and use the pivot to steer.





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I think you may be on to something Steve.  I have had various sail rigs on my canoe and kayaks. You are right you can get lured into more complexity for less and less gain if you are not careful. Keep the boat light and simple. I know the Watertribers use small sails on their canoes and kayaks if you want to purchase something. I think they have a class for sails 1 square meter or less, but you could also make the rig yourself. I used to know this fellow that swore by an umbrella as a downwind sail on his kayak.  I have always thought a small kayak type rudder was a good addition. Alan had a really cool rudder on his sailing canoe. I have sailed using my paddle as a rudder but having a dedicated rudder frees your hands up for important things like enjoying a beverage or taking photos.


If you plan on downwind sailing you can keep the rig simple and just use your paddle for returning upwind. The Moccasin 14 looks like a very sweet boat and I am sure it would paddle upwind with ease.

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I'm with you, Steve! I have a Moccasin 14 on order and my plan is to have extended decks and bulkheads instead of thwarts to end up with tanks. Looking somewhat like the B&B Birder, but with the CNC assist in cutting out parts. I have always been leery of sailing in a canoe but the video you included is really interesting, so now I am thinking about it. I had not come across Ray Goodwin on YouTube before and his demos are excellent.


I have been thinking about one of those kite-like sails for dead downwind (<$30 on Amazon) but Ray makes it look easy to reach with his rig. Do you know if he made his sail or is that a commercial product? Low aspect, flexible mast, easy to rig. I might be reluctant to cleat anything though.


Please keep posting with your research. I will start a new topic on my project when I get underway.



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On of the things I learned at the B & B messabout was how to sail a Cat Ketch without the rudders. At the time I had a Sea Pearl 21 and started going long distances with the rudder up. I'd already been thinking about a pack canoe because Kayaks are a pain when there are portages involved like we have in the Adirondacks. If I can build a light canoe and a simple sail and beam reach or better across some of the small lakes I'll be happy. I'm going to talk to my boys this evening.....we may build a couple.

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About 20 years ago I had some left over bits of ply and epoxy and glass and built  a simple canoe. I enclosed the ends for buoyancy and being a sailor added the option of a mast base for a small rig. I'd never looked at canoe/kayak sailing ideas so just made it up. I wondered about how to balance centre of effort/ centre of lateral resistance and having a daggerboard in the middle of the canoe and it seemed like it wouldn't work. In the end, after discussion with my brother (the engineer) who suggested the long lever arm of a rudder at the end of a long canoe would overcome any lee helm issues, I placed the mast step forward and made a lee board that I could flip side to side at about the midpoint. The rudder was small. The rig was a simple small  polytarp triangular sail with a 4mm sheet.

I was amazed that I could (in milder conditions) actually tack it easily and make reasonable way to windward. Didn't notice any lee helm. Off the breeze was surprisingly fast for the minimal sail area. I never tried it in a heavy breeze.

I've found a few old photos.


Peter HK



Leeboard, rudder & rudder box.JPG

Ready to go.JPG

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I bought a book about 15 years ago by Todd Bradshaw I think the title is canoe rig. This book is allsome if someone is considering a sailing canoe. Its a large book packed with sail rig illustrations, lee boards, rudders and all sort of instructions on how to build everything you need. Its a very detailed book. Its available from Wooden Boat and Amazon.



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  • 1 month later...

Hi Steve,


For what it's worth, this is my next build - the West Mersea Duck Punt.  It's not an ultralight, but it can be cartopped and it is dead simple.  There's no dagger/center/lee board or keel, and you steer with a paddle or short oar.  You heel it over on it's hard chine to go upwind.


Martin “Lurch” Blackmore makes himself comfortable on the floorboards as he works to weather.



Also check out the YouTube channel of "lurch1e" for sailing videos.


There are plans in a couple of places online - the original design by John Milgate and a an incomplete  stitch and glue development by "Flo-mo." Let me know if you'd like more info.


Best Regards,


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B and B's Sailing Canoe has always impressed me, that is the one I would build.  It can circumnavigate Florida, it is light and easily portaged, and paddles very well (it is faster than a CS20.3 in light air when it is paddle-sailed; ask me how I know!).  I like its simple design, I think it would be relatively cheap to build.  



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