Picture of Canoe Sail
This 5 meter spritsail rig makes a canoe go really fast.
It's easy to build, easy to control, easy to put up and take down. It tolerated gusts well and can be tuned for really light winds also.
I use an aluminum sign as a leeboard and steer with a paddle.

If you don't have a canoe yet, try these complete plans for an outrigger sailing canoe.

action photos by Star

Step 1: The Sail

Picture of The Sail
Is made from a brown polytarp.
It's heavier material than such tarps are usually made these days.
Polytarp is a fabric woven from strips of polypropylene that's then heat-laminated to a sheet of polyethylene.

Each side and corner of the sail has a traditional name.
The sides are called Foot = bottom, Head = top, Luff = front, Leech= trailing edge.
The corners are called. Peak , Throat , Clew, and Tack.

The Leech and Foot are the original edges of the tarp. That saves some sewing.
The other edges are cut, folded over and sewed.
Sometimes I'll put a "bolt rope" cord inside for extra strength.
I used a regular home sewing machine with the thickest needles I could find for it.

Here are the dimensions of the sail:
foot: 101"
leech: 134"
head: 71"
throat to leech distance: 55"

This sail is made for a mast that rakes backward at a 15 degree angle.

If your mast is vertical you you should use the other sail drawing, or your clew will be too high. The leeboard stays in the same place but the mast partner is moved a few inches back.
I reduced that version of the sail to 5 sq. meters, which wise Canadians have decreed is the perfect size for a canoe sail.
deltafour9 months ago

I love your rectangular 5'x7' army poncho as a Spritsail

From what I can tell, there are only 4 grommets on your poncho sail?

One for each corner?

wck64 years ago
hey man this is a great sail but do you think it will work on the east river in ny?
i take a trip every weekend from brooklyn to governers island
allen wck64 years ago
It'll work anywhere there's wind and water but I'd get used to it on more sheltered water then a river as busy as the East. Also, there's currents you have to keep deal with. Don't want to have to learn too much when you're out on water that's deeper then you are tall.

Like pretty much all traditional rigs the sprit sail isn't as good hard on the wind as a marconi but it's a whole lot cheaper then the marconi, you can build it yourself, it's a good sail for something like a canoe without a lot of stability and where it really shines is when you can loosen the sheet a bit.

From close reaching through running a spritsail, and most traditional rigs, are a delight - fast, comfortable, easy to handle and, of course, they look great.
matt094 years ago
hahahaha foot
smithy8137 years ago
how might one come by an aluminum street sign (legally)
I harvest them off the street after hurricanes hit. Otherwise they just get thrown away by the trash guys.
Hello I went to my local metal scrap yard dealer. He had a couple laying around, a 2x2 sign, pretty heavy material cost me 5 bucks. Cheers, whitedab.
They sell them online
lol have ur dad who works aat public works get one =]
jtario5 years ago
How do you sail this without the canoe tipping over? Are you able to balance it with just your weight?
This is great! I just bought a Walker Bay 8, and don't wish to spend $1000 for a sail kit, so I was looking for ideas. This will make a great starting point, especially for the sail dimensions! Well done!
cmrc7 years ago
Awesome sail, would thick contractor type garbage bag or plastic drop cloth be good for this sort of sail? I have rescued tons from the dumpster at the storage facility, and I am looking for ideas. I have made some kites for local kids so I know they will catch wind, but I am not sure if they would hold up to the rigors of sailing.
rowerwet cmrc6 years ago
plastic would tend to stretch, the plastic in garbage bags is stretchy on purpose, so as you were sailing it would stretch more and more, also the seams would cause problems as the tape or other attachment methods would make flattened sections in the sail. with the a lot of time you could make sails, but they would break down quickly compared to polytarp or tyvek.
al216 years ago
I've spent a fair bit of time over the last couple of days looking at your Sprit Sail rigs for your canoe. I have to say that I'm very impressed! I have a commercially produced 'downwind sail' which has served very well for many years, but it requires to be held by a bow paddler and has a number of obvious limitations. So I've been thinking more about a traditional sail rig for my Old Town Penobscot 17. I have to say that a sprit was getting close to the top of my list of possibles and was searching the web for details of the snotter when I came across your post here. A couple of questions regarding your rig if you don't mind. I can see what look like reinforcement points on the luff of your sail but have been unable to see whether you lace the luff to the mast or not. Do you use a lacing or regard it as unnecessary? Do you find the length of spars a problem for when the sailing rig is stowed in the canoe, I'm thinking of when you have a bow paddler. Or is this rig for solo use mainly?
TimAnderson (author)  al216 years ago
The spritsail in this ible is pretty big. I made it to use in Florida in light winds or with an outrigger. For a typical monohull canoe you'd want a much smaller sail. 4 meters maybe, with reef points to reduce sail if you need to.

There are grommets to lace the luff to the mast, but I don't use them anymore. With moderate luff tension the luff just lays along the mast and doesn't flutter. With different cloth or a longer luff you might need to lace it. The luff is pretty short here. The sprit is LONG. That's okay, becuase this sprit is a push pole
I use in shallow water when there's no wind. So I wouldn't mind having the pole along anyway. A lugsail works about the same as a spritsail and has shorter spars. You could lace a yard to this spritsail and rig it as a lugsail.

Bear in mind a lugsail extends in front of the mast, so mast placement won't be the same for lug and sprit rigs. If you decide your mast is in the wrong place, you could switch rigs.

Here's the sailplan for a lugsail that's about the right size for a tandem kayak or canoe. Don't use the wishbone boom, that's only there for skateboarding. Use a straight boom or use it loose-footed.
TimAnderson (author)  TimAnderson6 years ago
p.s. wrt mast placement, if you're using leeboards, that gives you much more leeway (har har) in where your sail's center of effort is located over the boat. Just move the leeboard(s) fore or aft to properly balance the sail.
Thanks for the reply. The sail in this ible is pretty big, but I was thinking of using the smaller of the two you detail, which works out at about 53 square foot compared to many sails I see, over here, which are 45 square foot, I think. I also thought a couple of rows of reefing points with using one row to make a working sail area and shaking out this reef in light airs. For the sprit, I have a fibre glass pole which is usually with the canoe for poling and splits in two for storage, it's also an integeral part of my tarp system. This pole is twelve feet long and looks, from the measurements I've made, to be a good length for the sprit. I've an eye on a windsurfer mast on e-bay at the moment. It has a damaged top section but looks like a potential mast for this project. It also splits in two so should alleviate my stowage concerns. I'm planning on the mast partner going behind the stern seat, so when in sailing mode that becomes the bow and should be better whether solo or with a paddling partner, or indeed with the family. This is another appealing feature of this rig where a balanced lug requires the partner to be closer to the centre of the canoe, as I understand it anyway. Leeboards are a must for me as I'd like to enjoy a good reach and hopefully make some progress to windward, though in many cases it'll probably be easier to paddle into the wind. I just need to track down a suitable road sign. A call to the local council depot might be a good start. Otherwise, I've plenty of ply in various sizes which might suffice. Thanks again, Al
ktdiddd7 years ago
Its called a boom because thats the Dutch word for tree. And dingy is the Dutch word for thingy.
wij Nederlanders noemen een "boom" een giek we in holland call a boom a "giek"
I always thought that it was called a boom because thats the sound it makes when it wacks you in the head.
hchaug6 years ago
ok check this ok people...use fiberglass poles from your dome tent which your carrying onboard if your camping. I have a 2 seater coleman inflatable kayak with drink holders inbetween the leggs. place a cup in the holder and place your pole in there. BINGO sailboat in a bag!!!l I knew I'd get something out of 22 years in the Army...a sail.
coronel7 years ago
Tim, Great stuff!! I always liked both sailing and canoeing. Though I have the feeling your canoe has a nag to tip over and drown. Is a sidebar as polenesians have not making the canoe stable? As Joejoerowly I hope you can put someday your contraption in a small video for us to enjoy your boat. Good luck. Alex
Come sail away,
Come sail away
Come sail away with me...
Come sail away,
Come sail away
Come sail away with me...

+5/5 stars.
tercero7 years ago
Wow. Looks like the sails on the boats of the Nile I saw at Aswan.
carpespasm7 years ago
Dear Tim, How does one become as awesome and well-versed in the ways of the junkpile as you? -Carpespasm
Wade Tarzia7 years ago
Nice sail. I liked the sprit rig for its easy brailing, as well. Is that the Alaska canoe now in monohull mode?
TimAnderson (author)  Wade Tarzia7 years ago
Yep, I lived in it for a few months in Florida swamps. I made roof hoops to hold up a tarp and bug nets. I slept in a folding recliner inside the little hut.
firemanfu7 years ago
i keep asking my dad to let me get a trolling motor for our canoe but i'll try to build a sail like this instead.
awoodcarver7 years ago
NIce work can you do a close up of the mast step ? I think I understand what you have done for it but a pic is worth 1000 words or some such ....about how fast is really fast?
ll.137 years ago
It's called the "boom" because of the noise it makes when it hits your passenger in the head.

Ah! I've learnt at least one thing today. =)
keng7 years ago
could have come in handy for the canoe race on the Missouri from KC to St Louis....but I will have to dock you points due to the lack of an Altoids tin....sorry.
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
Awesome! I miss my canoe. Maybe I'll go when I'm in MN this week
Brennn107 years ago
I just showed this to my dad who is an avid sailor. He absolutely loved it. Thanks again Tim!
Very, very Cool! Great Instructable! I would love to see it sometime (in a video or real life) :) Thanks Joe