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 Post subject: Canoe Sailing
PostPosted: September 9th, 2016, 1:50 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
Posts: 135
Location: Eganville, ON
Ever since an opportunity to use my VCS tarp and poles as a sail to run down a 15km long lake a couple years ago I've been dreaming of a more efficient, lightweight, easily rigged sail.
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I spent a lot of time online and found very little about adding a proper sail to a canoe (lots of downwind umbrellas available). So this summer I spent some time researching proper sail design and built and tested a couple of models. The best resource I found for sail design is the polysail website: http://www.polysail.com/lego.htm

Their simple method of constructing a sail lends itself well to playing around with designs for very little money. I already had a big roll of reinforced 6 mil white poly lying around, so with some double sided tape and some paracord I could easily construct a sail.

For sail design I went with the unappealingly named leg of mutton sail. This is just one of many designs that would work for a canoe. I originally started out a bit larger and cut it down as I found it too much to handle in even light breezes.
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sailV2.jpg

For a mast I wanted to use the nesting 8 foot aluminum poles that came with my Eureka VCS tarp that I'm already carrying on canoe trips. I had to make a spacer ring to use the bottom 2 foot section from one pole to extend the other pole to 10 feet for the main mast. The remaining 6 foot section then connects to the main with another plastic connector carved up out of UHMW. They could also be roped together with a "snotter" as a traditional leg of mutton boom and mast, but you may have to drill a hole in the poles to accomplish this.
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Sail parts.JPG

The mast is held in place by a thwart and shallow mast step glued to the bottom of the canoe. I already had the thwart in place, so just had to drill an appropriate sized hole. The mast step I carved out of a piece of solid PVC trim board (lighter than UHMW and easier to work)
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Mast Step.JPG

The rest of the rigging consists of ropes and carabiners to connect the top of the mast to the bow and stern of the canoe, and for a control line on the end of the boom.

The sail is easily rigged in less than five minutes, and packs up well. I can fit the sail and rigging in the stuffsack for my exped winterlite mattress.
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Packed.JPG


The end result after some testing and modifications in August was the opportunity to sail a few hours all the way across a large lake on a weeklong Northern Quebec canoe trip last week.
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We averaged about 5 to 6 km/hr, but when sailing across the wind could easily reach 8km/hr. We had a pretty consistent North wind of about 10 to 15km/hr. Admittedly there are some learning curves to using the rig, one of the most important is that trying to fish and sail at the same time can become a bit too busy; especially if you snag bottom! Another is to avoid getting too close to the shore, as the wind tends to get a little confused and inconsistent. But overall the performance of the rig far exceeded my expectations. It seems to perform best at about 90 degrees to the wind, and we could even sail about 15 to 20 degrees into the wind.
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The biggest issues with the rig currently are that the boom is quite low; so the bow paddler has to keep their head down. My bow paddler already had the front well setup for reclining; so not too big an issue for us. The other is that the forward placement of the mast means it cannot rotate 360 degrees without catching on the front guy wire. This can become quite dangerous as then the force on the sail can push the canoe over.

Hopefully in the next year or so I'll get further practice in and share more insights and modifications. I also need to try and learn a bit about sailing properly, instead of just making it up as I go along!


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