Instructables
Picture of Sailing Rig for a Fiberglass Canoe

After paddling my son's shiny new Ocean Kayak, my old, often-repaired Indian River canoe felt like paddling a waterlogged door.  So in the interest of chasing fish along the Florida Gulf Coast's oysters and islands, I decided to add a sail.  The rules of the project were that I spend a minimal amount of money and that I use what's already around the house as much as possible (it's summer and I'm a teacher).
Traditional sailing is all about performance, but performance is a relative term.  My goals were to maintain my normal paddling speed (about 2.5 mph, according to Garmin) without paddling, to keep things simple, and to not ever bail out a swamped canoe.
I did some sailing when I was young, so I sort of knew what to do, and I had some old sailing odds and ends in the attic, but everything I added could be made with materials from the hardware store.

Sailing is all about the balance between the sail's center of effort and the boat's lateral resistance (imagine holding a sign at a windy protest rally - if the stick is in the center of the sign, it's balanced, if it's off to one side, the sign wants to swing downwind like a weathervane).  More pressure in front of the leeboards=swing downwind, more pressure behind=swing upwind,  so all the rigging needs to be as adjustable as possible for the first few attempts.  I ordered the steps by how difficult they would be to change.
1. mast placement
2. sail rig
3. leeboards 
4. a way to steer (technically you can steer with the COE/LR balance but the COE changes as the wind speed changes - grrr)

Many thanks to Tim Anderson and thousands of other online canoe sailors and boat tinkerers!

 
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sporgo3 months ago

A balanced sail rig doesn't need a rudder? I can tell you from experience that this is bad advice and makes little sense. I have been sailing my entire life and you most definitely need a rudder. Weather and wave conditions are variable and unpredictable. Only under ideal conditions in protected waters would sailing without a rudder be acceptable.

maybe he means you don't need to MOUNT a rudder. I've been sailing a while and even in a canoe rig you can use a paddle pretty effectively.

scotsrule083 years ago
i have a 7'6" plywood boat and i am intereted in making a sail for it , so should the sail be 5 ish feet tall

My apologies for giving angels instead of angles previously. My thoughts regarding mast height would be to have a taller light mast with a shorter boom which is termed a high aspect sail, and would give you better sailing qualities. If you have a narrow beam on you boat, any sailing is going to be an acrobatic venture, but fun....

MrC (author)  scotsrule083 years ago
Depends on width, and the convenience of the boom passing over your head, but seems on the short side of reasonable...
My hero Tim Anderson posted this awesome picture of simple clamp-on leebboards, and this article by E.F. Knight, from the early 20th century really was my inspiration, and just a great adventure story.
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fassitt/canoe_mirror/knight/EFK_leeboard.html

Enjoy!
Handy-Clamp-on-Leeboards.jpg
scotsrule08 MrC3 years ago
I would want abbot 2' of clearance and the boat is 2' wide
MrC (author)  scotsrule083 years ago
My sails were already mostly cut, so I went with their original shape, but starting from scratch I think I would try Tim Anderson's sprit sail. So maybe more like 7 ft?
http://www.instructables.com/id/CanoeSail/
scotsrule08 MrC3 years ago
Ok thank you
MrC (author)  scotsrule083 years ago
...on the other hand, in Tim's comments, allen says "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..."
So maybe the traditional marconi (like mine) is best, because - like jelly toast always landing jelly down, sailors ALWAYS need to be going upwind.

Assuming the goal is not simply "sailing" but "sailing somewhere."
harveyo8 months ago

You can find the center of lateral resistance by sitting in the canoe where you would normally sit and have someone push on the side to find where it stays at right angels to the pusher. The sails center of effort is approximately at the intersection of a line drawn at right angels from the center of each side of the sail. The center of effort should be slightly behind the center of lateral resistance so it will turn into the wind. I think it would easiest to adjust the lea boards after putting the mast in place to balance it as you wish. Of course the resistance point changes as you raise or lower the lea boards...

This is great! next step roller furling?
MrC (author)  Cleveland Motley1 year ago
Sorry, I don't get to this page much during the school year.
When I look at that Hobie tri with the roller furling, drool actually falls out of my mouth. I made this rig to sail where I need to be - which is the slimy, but beautiful Big Bend (armpit, for the geographically metaphorica) of FL. So I need to switch from sail to canoe effortlessly and often. Still waiting for that instructable about the $7 pvc roller furling rig. Is that your next?
here the mast should be of much more height. then it gives good results. and also caution to be taken that it should be of moderate so that the kayak won't bend to any side
deobomb3 years ago
would this work on the ("building the one sheet boat" Altertate building) ?
MrC (author) 3 years ago
Thank you all for commenting, voting etc. My first experiencewith the interactive aspects of instructables has been wonderful!
Just in case anyone's trying to replicate my first steps, there have been/needs to be a few modifications:
Even well designed sailboats often need three hands. This thing needs a genuine rudder with a push/pull tiller that can be quickly and blindly locked down temporarily (wow, that's a lot of adverbs). The paddle blade has too many dynamics for my taste: twist, rake backwards, the combination of the two, switching sides to adjust for weather / lee helm (which seem to change by its own volition), it make my English teacher head ache - and it takes two hands just to steer!

The term "blindly" is important. Keeping point and adjusting whatever is critical and needs to be by feel - In preparation for a nice beaching, I can't lock up the leeboards in their little cut-wedge-in-alluminum jam cleats if I have to look at them.
More to come.
punknerd3 years ago
Hi Mrs C I just wanted to say hi tell me if you win.
MrC (author)  punknerd3 years ago
I won the cool scooter!
punknerd3 years ago
Its Trey if you wanted to know
TreyDolder3 years ago
This is the best thing i have seen on instructables yet! Thanks alot!<3
MrC (author)  TreyDolder3 years ago
Thank you, Trey. Now, go finish your summer reading and stop being a sycophant.
triumphman3 years ago
I tried this type of rig on my Great Canadian canoe a while back. I used a sail from a sunfish sailboat that my neighbor drove over with their car. I scrounged the boat but the sail was missing. So I knocked on their door. They sold the sail to me for $50.00. A real bargain! I had it in the garage for years, till I recently bought my canoe. I took out the front seat and made a wooden rig like yours for the mast. I also had some temporary side Leeboards clamped on for adjustments. Well, the first time on the lake, I did fine till a big gust came and flipped me over. Very frustrating. I had to swim the whole thing to shore and dry out my gear. Camera, phone, wallet, all got soaked. Salvaged the camera with a heat pad and hair dryer on low setting! But the phone was swamped. First chance, I got some dry gear bags for valuables for every canoe trip from then on! Lesson learned! Have not tried it again. I think I need some outriggers! My next project, anyone got any "Outriggers for canoes" 'ibles ? Thanks for sharing your experience!
MrC (author)  triumphman3 years ago
My darkest fear when launching this thing in decent air (12-ish knots) was that it would be completely unstable. I was pleasantly surprised. Sheeting in and out produced a completely controled and predictable heel (sail-speak for "tip"). Still, everyting is tied-on and drybagged:)
Not to be all you-shoudda, but you have to see those gusts coming by the change in the water's surface texture, and to not ever have the sheet so locked-in that the sail has a chance to take control.
I considered outriggers, but they were just too far down the Frankenstein road for an old-school canoe (the leeboards are weird enough!).
Maybe go sailing on a good swiming day and let the thing tip just to find the edge. A lot of work bailing, but perhaps worth it.
this sure looks like an outrigger!

http://www.instructables.com/id/Fiberglassing-tools-and-tricks/
the poodleo3 years ago
that's a great idea. honestly, on canoe trips, the closest ive ever got to "sailing" was when we would raft up and tie a small tarp to all the canoes... but we rarely got to do that, if ever. I thought this was a great idea.
radagast3 years ago
Looks great! how does she sail?
MrC (author)  radagast3 years ago
So far, in light air, great! The steering oar is way too long and the lines for the leeboards are too complicated, but points great and is stable. Tomorrow we head for the coast!
My son liked it so much, he has one now, but that's another instructable...
canoe sailing rig 2 003 kayak cropped.jpg
susanrm3 years ago
This looks excellent! As a fellow teacher, I respect your ingenuity and money-saving efforts. It's upcycling, too. Good luck to you!