Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Simple Sailing Canoe

Like most of us I have collected a vast number of plans over the years, almost as though having the plans or offsets gives one the possibility of building the boat if required, and that having that possibility is almost as good as having the actual boat.

In 1980 I was reading, among other books, L. Francis Herreshoff's "The Compleat Cruiser" and John Leather's nice little book "Sail and Oar". In "The Compleat Cruiser" is a print of the lines of Francis Herreshoff's interpretation of what he called, a "Rob Roy" double-paddle canoe. What she is, is a half-decked kayak which is wider and shorter than a conventional kayak, and with greater freeboard than normal. She is what Phil Bolger called, "...a canoe-like boat...". Her dimensions were 14' LOA x 26" beam and with a draft of 5-1/4". I found her lines to be absolutely captivating then, and still do today. I hope that one day I may be able to work out how to draw something as beautiful....

John Leather's book re-ignited my interest in sailing canoes at about the same time, and I dreamed of having a sailing canoe with lines similar to the Herreshoff boat.

In mid 1987 (I think) I can remember the excitement I felt when I discovered the existence of Iain Oughtred's plans for the sailing canoe, MacGregor in a copy of Woodenboat Magazine (or the store catalogue). She is a 31"-wide glued-lapstrake sailing canoe which can be built with a length of either 13' 7", 15' 8", or 17'3". I believe that in subsequent editions of the plans, Iain Oughtred only recommends up to 15' 8" LOA. Other options included open or half-decked configurations, and a choice of a cat-rig or a cat-ketch rig. I immediately ordered a set of plans, and finally started building 1991.


At the time of building I was living a hectic life, trying to balance full-time work as an Air Traffic Controller with the responsibilities of helping to bring up our three small sons. This did not leave much time for experimentation with the finished boat, and over the years she received only intermittent use, although she did prove to be a capable sea-boat under paddle-power, having once carried me on a 41 kilometre saltwater journey in 25 knots of wind.

I never did have the proper sail(s) made, but rigged her with the sail off a Bolger Nymph which I had built at an earlier time.

My Bolger Nymph a long time ago

The Nymph sail was of a suitable area, and I set it as a boomed lateen, and that configuration has worked very well on the canoe.

Recent photo of my MacGregor on Atkinson's Lagoon. The rig should be hoisted higher on the mast

Steering is carried out using foot-pedals attached to lines which run to the rudder yoke,  to which I also have a "push-pull" tiller attached.

A few weeks ago, my son, David, and I went for a sail on nearby Lake Wivenhoe. Dave was sailing his much modified Janette which he built for himself at age 14,  (you can read about the boat here ) and I was sailing the  MacGregor. Unfortunately the wind was almost non-existent, but towards the end of the day we got enough to allow Dave to re-familiarise himself with the sailing canoe. Here are a few pictures: -

Although the water was glassy, you can still see that the boat is making some progress due to good technique and careful  sail-setting.

Despite being cooked in our Australian sun, Dave looks content!
The leeboard is ballasted with enough lead to give it neutral buoyancy, and  is held by a strong lanyard above the handle. There is a leeboard guard attached to the hull planking so that the sideways pressure from the sail pushes the board hard against the guard, which is parallel to the centreline of the boat. The leeboard is asymmetrical in section, with a flat outer face and a cambered inner face, which helps it develop lift to windward. When tacking, the leeboard is lifted, turned around so the cambered face will still face inwards, and dropped on the other side. 

A good shot of the boat's trim under sail.

It is important to get crew weight to windward - even in light conditions .

Being able to use the paddle under the sail is a great advantage.

Here is a video shot by Paul Hernes when he and I were at a Wooden Boat Association meet on Lake Wivenhoe. I was sailing the canoe, and Paul was filming from his Phoenix III. When you hear him making a comment about fences, he was pointing out that we were approaching the shore, where there was an old fence from an abandoned cattle property poking up through the water! In the video you can see how fast the little boat is - despite the wind noise in the camera mike, the wind was very light at the time.

A sailing canoe is such an easy thing to build, store, and transport that I encourage everybody to have a go. You will learn a lot about sailing in a short time, and the costs are minimal.