Steampunk Lugsail Land Windsurfer




About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

Here's a lugsail land windsurfer that will go with your top hat or pith helmet.
To my surprise it works really well.
It's a work in progress, I'm gradually replacing modern parts with "authentic" ones.
Here's some video of previous landsailers in action.

If you haven't yet met Steam Punks, they're people who dress up in classic outfits and build machinery with a Victorian era aesthetic.
Here's my contribution to the movement, a land windsurfer with a 3.6 meter lugsail.

It sails just exactly like a regular windsurfer. Sail tuning is a little different, due to having four corners to adjust rather than the old three. Study up on lugsail tuning.

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Step 1: Board and Gooseneck

The board is any skateboard you're willing to drill a hole in the front of.
Later you'll make a truly Victorian skateboard.

The gooseneck can be almost anything, a universal joint from an old car's steering column, two interlocking eyebolts, or a simple loop of cord.
For the first tests I innertubed a regular mast base to the mast and bolted the universal to the board.

Step 2: Lugsail

Here's the lugsail.
I made it for a tandem kayak in 2004 by cutting the head and foot off a nice old windsurfer sail.
The design came from "sailmaker's apprentice" adapted to the shape of the original windsurf sail.
I cut and hemmed it and added reef points and grommets.

The spars are all cut down from scrap sticks of 2x4 lumber.
The boom jaws are made from the basket of a lacrosse stick.

We're not going to use this boom for the windsurfer, we'll use a wishbone boom instead.

Step 3: Lugsail Dimensions

I originally made this 3.46 sq. meter lugsail for my Klepper Aerius 2 tandem folding kayak.
It was about the right size except when a howling gale was blowing.
I made it from a well-preserved windsurfer sail, which had some broadseaming.
Broadseaming means making the seams between panels a varying width so as to make the sail like a shallow bowl. For more belly, add a bit of edge rounding to the bottom of the head of the sail.
For less belly, cut it straight.

Step 4: Details - the Four Corners of the Sail

The outhaul is left just the same as it was on the windsurfer.
The peak is reinforced with a couple of patches and grommeted.
The grommets were all brass plated crap, not brass. That was a mistake. They rusted and will soon break.
There are a row of grommets along the head of the sail to spiral lace it to the yard.
The throat is basically the same as the peak.
The tack of the sail has a quarter riveted next to it as a cleat for the luff line.

Step 5: Halyard

I drilled a hole in the masthead for the halyard to run through.
The halyard is tied to the yard with a slipknot. The location where the halyard is tied to the yard is important, move it around til the sail shape develops as you like.

Step 6: Wooden Wishbone Boom

The sail worked well with the commercial aluminum wishbone boom, so I decided to make an "authentic" wooden one.

I laminated the front curved parts of the boom from some fir studwood.
The straight tail part is redwood, attached to the front with a stepped scarf and a lashing.
The boom has a keyed block lashed on at the front and simpler block lashed on at the tail to complete the teardrop-hoop shape.

Step 7: Laminating

I dug through my woodpile til I found enough fir 2x4 and 2x2 sticks that were good enough.
Then I ripped them into 1/8" thick strips on the tablesaw using the thinnest blade I had.
Some of the source lumber had knots partway through or other problems. I only got a few laminations out of some sticks.

more steps:
Mix up some epoxy and thicken it with an equal quantity of white flour.
Lay out the laminations and paint the glue on one side of each one with a paintbrush.
Stack up the laminations and lash them against a piece of a windsurfer boom I liked.
Use bicycle innertubes to press the laminations together and hold them to the right shape against the form.
Shift the laminations to approximate the taper I want at both ends. That makes the wood overhang the end of the tube. Shove a pick head into the end to lash the innertube around.
Set the layups in the sun to cure. When it's tacky put it in a car in the sun with the windows closed to get hot and fully cure.
When the glue was good and hard take the bandages off and shave the boom smooth.

Step 8: Scarf the Tails On

I used a scarf joint to add a few feet of redwood to the tail of the boom.
That saved me the trouble of laminating the full length of the boom and the trouble of finding long wood good enough to do it with.
I used a Japanese pull saw and a knife to cut the scarves.
Next time I'll cut a the easier straight scarf and add a key to keep the halves from slipping.
As seen in this illustration from "The Elements of Boat Strength" P.138

Then I wrapped it with a lashing of innertube. It feels good ans solid.

Step 9: Front Joint Block

For the front I cut this keyed block from two layers of 1/2" plywood and lashed the whole joint with innertubes.
After some testing I'll probably drill holes and redo the lashing with polyester string and soak it with epoxy to make it permanent.

R+D on the venerable lugsail goes on around the world, as on the
woodenboat forum

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    37 Discussions


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm....... This is really very nice, and I will certainly try this (given that I can procure the required materials w/o spending too much money), but one thing that I don't really see is how is this steampunk? I looks really cool, but I don't see it fitting in with anything else steampunk that I have seen previously. Good job anyways. 5 stars.

    12 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm with you there. Hopefully this gets a set of spoked wheels, an ornately carved deck, a brass u-joint, brass plated axles, and a sail with some Victorian style. Maybe replace the clear part of the sail with stained glass held together with hog clips? This looks like it would be very fun to ride around on, but it's not too steampunk at the moment.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Stained glass? That sounds dangerous. It would be safer to use plexi-glass that looks like stained glass.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    probably so. certainly something would have to be found that could stand in for the clear plastic window though.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Craft stores sell clear paint, for use on glass, which would be perfect and strangely beautiful.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Thats cool and good to know, but I wanted steer away from using glass in the first place. Maybe that paint can be used on plexi-glass. It would give the same effect.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I should have been more clear: clear paint on a clear PVC section sewn into the sail. Only an absolute maniac would actually use glass in a windsurfer sail! :)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I agree 100% with you. I see two problems with it. One, the weight could be to much and rip out of the bindings. Two, in a crash the glass will shatter and cause more damage then I would want in a crash.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Ok, What about a thin and tight mesh screen like whats found in screen doors? One would have to make the sail alittle bigger, but it could work.

    Wade Tarzia

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! Keep at that mechanical connection to the Victorian! The Victorian Age was confronted with an under-rated amount of ideological challenges -- a fascinating time in history.


    10 years ago on Step 3

    Is there any way the sail could be homemade out of trash bags and whatnot, or would that not hold together?

    4 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    A: Garbage bags wouldn't hold. Thick canvas or tarp would work. B: what the OP is referring to as "reef points" are actually telltales. They are used to indicate whether airflow over the sail is laminar or chaotic. Reef points are used to reduce sail area, usually in violent storms - the kind of weather in which you wouldn't be using this sort of sail.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    In the diagram above, the things labeled reef points really are reef points. When using this sail with a kayak you need to reef down in just moderate winds. I failed to do that in Costa Rica in a strong offshore wind and was capsized, blown out to sea, lost my water, and although we both survived, lost the girlfriend too.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    My appologies, then. I've never sailed a kayak, just everything from a 15-foot dinghy to a tall ship.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    With apologies to siggy_lxvi, I must respectfully say that certain varieties of garbage bag will work in at least moderate wind; I have constructed a windsurfer with them, and never had a problem. That said, I'm using some strange variety of garbage bag manufactured by Kirkland Co., and I'm not sure how widely available they are. They don't, however, seem like they should be too hard to find.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    whats so steam punk I KNOW IM NOT THE FIRST TO ASK THISSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!