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Sailing canoes is a topic that often arises in the newsgroups and, and in the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association's bulletin board. These pages are provided to answer some of the more commonly asked questions and provide references for further exploration of the topic of canoe sailing.

These pages were prepared by Dan Miller and Craig O'Donnell.

Hosted by Carl and John's Paddlin'

Image courtesy of Benson Gray

  • General Canoe Sailing References
  • Open Canoe Sailing
  • Decked Sailing Canoes
  • Kayak Sailing
  • Esoterica for the Truly Obssessed
  • Canoe Sail Plans
  • Directory of Sailing Canoe Plans Published 1880-1910 (approximately)
  • Sailing Canoes in Museums
  • Sailing Canoe Plans You Can Buy
  • Sailing Canoe Associations and Clubs
  • Outrigger Sailing Canoes and Proas: Pacific Ocean, Indonesia, etc.

  • General References - these might contain information pertinent to both open and decked sailing canoes.

    Canoes and Canoeing: Paddling, Sailing, Cruising and Racing Canoes, and Their Uses, with Hints on Rig and Management, Etc. by C. Bowyer Vaux. Spaldings Athletic Library:American Sports Publishing Co. NY; 1894

    Canoe Cruising and Camping by Perry D. Frazer. Forest and Stream Publishing, 1897. A fun book, with lots of excellent plates of open and decked canoes.

    Designs for Boatbuilding: Access to Plans for Wood Construction by Iain Oughtred (Barnacle Marine Limited, Colchester, Essex, England, 1990) shows John Bull's Little Pete (13'x28") with lateen sail, and gives information about other John Bull designs and a source for a Nethercott International 10 sq meter design.

    More Building Classic Small Craft by John Gardner has a chapter entitled "Four Canoes" which describes a sail rig for an open canoe, and two decked sailing canoes.

    Mystic Seaport Museum Watercraft by Maynard Bray.

    Sailing Canoes: A Brief History together with an outline of types, classes, designs, specifications and rules reprint of a ca. 1930 ACA publication available from Chicagoland Canoe Base. While the ACA rules are well out-dated, there is plenty of information on both decked and open sailing canoes, including various sail configurations and information on building rigs for canoe sailing.

    Sail Your Canoe: How to Add Sails to Your Canoe by John Bull. Cordee, 1989. John Bull, Holme Lea, Angerton, Kirkbride, Carlisle, Cumbria, GB-CA5 5HX, UK. John also publishes an on-line open canoe sailing newsletter.

    Sailmaker's Apprentice by E. Marino. Excellent text for those wishing to make their own sails.

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    Open Canoe Sailing

    Image courtesy of Benson Gray

    Building the Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok. Contains dimensioned drawings for a 60 square foot rig, including sail, spars, mast partner and step, and leeboard.

    Canoe for Sail, by Jo Currie. Cottage Life Sept/Oct 1995;38-44. With lots of great information provided by John Summers, Curator of the Marine Museum of Upper Canada and avid canoe sailor.

    Canoeing by The American National Red Cross. Doubleday and Co., 1977. Surprisingly good reference for open canoe sailing, including dimensioned drawings for leeboards and rudders.

    Sailing Canoe Rigging by Jack Hazzard. A How-To Book of Building Basic and Advanced Sailing Canoe Rigging Equipment. Fairfield, PA: Brown's Canoe Works, 1991. (I haven't had luck getting this book. If you do, let me know...)

    The Strippers Guide to Canoe-building by David Hazen. Tamal Vista Publications, 1976. Hazen admits to having never sailed a canoe, but provides drawings for a sail rig, leeboards, and rudder.

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    Decked Sailing Canoes

    Image courtesy of Benson Gray

    Alone in the Caribbean by Frederic A. Fenger. The original Yakaboo sails north from Grenada. Yakaboo was rudderless; balance was achieved by shifting the centerboard fore and aft, and adjusting the rig. Yakaboo was recently reproduced by Joe Youcha; the story is found in WoodenBoat issue 119. Here is some more information about Frits and Yakaboo.

    Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks by Hallie Bond. Adirondack Museum and Syracuse University Press, Blue Mountain Lake, NY. 1996. An excellent introduction to wooden boats, particularly those used in the Adirondack region of New York State. Some emphasis on Adirondack boatbuilder J. Henry Rushton. Contains a catalog of the Adirondack Museum's collection of small craft, which includes several sailing canoes. Contains sail plan for Rushton's decked sailing canoe Nomad (which is based on the open Ugo model).

    The Canoe Aurora; a Cruise from the Adirondacks to the Gulf. By Dr. Chas. A. Neide. New York, Forest and Stream Publishing Co., 1885. A cruise in a Rushton Princess decked sailing cruising canoe.

    Canoe and Boatbuilding for Amateurs by W.P. Stephens. Forest and Stream Publishing, NY. 9th edition published 1903. Single best reference for those interested in decked sailing canoes. The bad news is it's long out of print. The good news is Mystic Seaport Museum has reprinted the plates that originally accompanied the book. And now it is available on-line at this site!

    The Canoe and the Flying Proa; or, Cheap Cruising and Safe Sailing by Wm. L. Alden. Harper Bros., NY, 1878.

    Canoe Handling. The canoe, history, uses, limitations and varieties, practical management and care and relative facts by C. Bowyer Vaux. Forest and Stream Publishing, 1886.

    Canoe Travelling: Log of a Cruise on the Baltic, and Practical Hints on Building and Fitting Canoes. by Warington Baden-Powell. London, Smith, Elder, 1871.

    Manual of Yacht and Boat Sailing by Dixon Kemp. Wonderful stuff, primarily concentrating on the Nautilus and Pearl canoes of Baden-Powell and Tredwen. Contains much information on rigging and fittings. The 1911 edition was reprinted with commentary by John Leather by International Marine.

    Practical Canoeing by Tiphys (1883). "Tiphys" is the full name of the author, or rather his boat. A very good and very thin illustrated manual to canoe sailing ; his rigging diagrams are just about the best.

    Racing, Cruising and Design by Uffa Fox (Peter Davies Lmtd, London 1937) Building and racing the international canoe Flying Fish.

    Rushton and His Times in American Canoeing By Atwood Manley. The Adirondack Museum and Syracuse University Press, 1968. A biography of famous canoe and boat builder J. Henry Rushton, of Canton, NY. Rushton was one of the founders of the ACA, which had its roots in decked canoe sailing. This book includes good information on decked sailing canoes, with photos and plans (albeit flawed) for several of Rushton's sailing canoes.

    Sail and Power by Uffa Fox (Charles Scribner's Sons, NY 1937). Building and cruising in the 20'x4' Brynhild, and building and racing the international canoes Wake and Nymph II.

    Sailing Craft by Edwin J. Schoettle. Has a chapter with a partial history of decked sailing canoes in North America by Maurice Wilts. Several small scale lines drawings of decked canoes, including Friede's Mermaid.

    Sailing, Seamanship, and Yacht Construction By Uffa Fox (Peter Davies Lmtd, London, 1934). Chapter on "Winning the Canoe Championship of America" with plans for East Anglian and Valiant, along with construction details. Also details their manner of circumventing the American 2-mast rule.

    Skinney, a 17-foot Sailing Canoe, by C.A. Nedwidek. MoToR BoatinG Ideal Series, Volume 15 - Thirty Easy to Build Sail Boats with Auxiliary Power edited by Charles F. Chapman, M.E. and F.W. Horenburger, C.E. (MoToR BoatinG, New York, 1939) pages 31-32 + blueprints.

    Thoughts on Yachts and Yachting by Uffa Fox (Peter Davies Limited, London 1938). "Craft I have Owned and Sailed" includes a 16'x33" cruiser. Also building and racing the International canoe Defiant, and more details about Wake and Nymph II (See listing for Sail and Power).

    A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe on Rivers and Lakes of Europe by John MacGregor (Sampson Low Marston & Company Limited, London 1866). The book that started it all. There is an on-line version of this book.

    Traditions and Memories of American Yachting by W.P. Stephens. (WoodenBoat reprint 1989). Massive collection of articles that first appeared in Motor Boating magazine. Includes a section on the development of sailing rigs which includes excellent information about decked canoes, and a section on Small Cruisers, with more of an emphasis on larger canoe yawls.

    Uffa Fox's Second Book by Uffa Fox (Charles Scribner's Sons, NY 1935). Building and racing the International canoe Gallant.

    Yachts, Boats and Canoes, with special chapters on model yachts and single-handed sailing by C. Stansfeld-Hicks. Publisher: London, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1887. Numerous illustrations and diagrams and working drawings of model yacht and various small craft suitable for amateurs.

    Voyage of the Paper Canoe by Nathaniel Bishop (out of print, reprinted in Messing About In Boats in the 1980s). Bishop takes a Nautilus-type sailing canoe, mostly under oars, from upstate New York to western Florida. From about 1880. There is an on-line version of this book

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    Kayak Sailing

    Baidarka by George Dyson. Sailing kayaks based on Aleut craft; aluminum and Dacron, lashed. Includes offsets and plans. Dyson built a number of baidarkas, most with sails, some with outriggers. An inspiring book.

    Building a SailRig for Kayaks and Canoes by Chris Kulczycki. WoodenBoat No. 131 - July/August 1996. Building instructions for amas, akas and a leeboard, designed primarily for kayaks, but possibly adapatable to canoes etc. Recommended sail is a fully battened Balogh.

    Canoes and Canoeing by Percy Blandford (W.W. Norton and Co, NY, 1968). In the British tradition, canoe refers to kayak; in this case the kayaks are canvas over ribband construction. Percy offers several suggestions for sail rigs that would be adaptable to many kayaks or canoes.

    The Complete Folding Kayaker by Ralph Diaz (McGraw-Hill, 1994). Details how to sail folding kayaks using various rigs -- jib sailing, jib and mainsail (gaff-rigged), Balogh, and downwind twins.

    Farthest North by Fritjof Nansen (Harper & Bros., NY 1897). Trekking from 85 degrees north latitude back to civilization, two bamboo-framed kayaks were paddled or lashed together into a catamaran and sailed.

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    Esoterica for the Truly Obsessed

    This section contains the references that are very obscure and hard to find, or that contain information useful to those really into canoe sailing. If you just want to set up a rig and go sailing, don't waste your time with these...

    Camping out with the British Canoe Association : with chapters on camping canoeing and amateur photography by John Davey Hayward. London : George Philip & Son, [1889?]

    Boats: A Manual For Their Documentation by Paul Lipke, Peter Spectre, and Benjamin A.G. Fuller (editors). American Association for State and Local History, 1993. An impressive volume on recording small boats. Includes several examples of sailing canoes, particularly with respect to construction and rig.

    Canoes of Oceania by A.C. Haddon and James Hornell. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu. 3 Volumes reprinted as one, 1975.

    The Common Sense of Yacht Design: The Theory and Practise of Naval Architecture by L. Francis Herreshoff. (reprint 1974, Caravan-Maritime Books, Jamaica, NY). Includes "Fig. 366 - Showing the great lever arm the sliding seat gives to her ballast" which shows the distance between the center of ballast and the center of buoyancy for a sliding seat canoe, sandbagger, LFH's fanciful "sailing machine" and a 6-meter. Also discussion of sliding seats, Yakaboo and ACA on pp. 145-147. (Thanks to Jon Etheredge for the description).

    The Cruise of the Canoe Club by W.L. Alden. (Harper Brothers 1883,1911). Juvenile fiction. Four boys go on a cruise with a Rob Roy, a Shadow, a Rice Lake, and a ribband-canvas canoe, with a sampling of sailing rigs. They survive many mishaps that would do in most boys of today.

    How to Build Canoes by Ed Smith, ed. Diamond Point, NY: Smith Book Press, 1989. Smith Book Press, RR1, Box 217D, Diamond Point, NY, 12824, U.S.A. Reprint of older Popular-Mechanics-style DIY articles about open canoe sail rigs. (I have not had luck getting this book, let me know if you do...)

    Practical boat building for amateurs: containing full instructions for designing and building punts, skiffs, canoes, sailing boats, etc. Illustrated with working diagrams by Adrian Neison, C.E. London, L. U. Gill 1878. It would be rather difficult to build a canoe from this books as there are no lines or offsets, just overall dimensions and profile drawings. There is a drawing of a small balance lug sail.

    The Sliding Gunter: A Versatile and Efficient Traditional Rig. By David Nichols. Boatbuilder March/April 1995, pp 22ff. Gunter from A to Z with helpful photos and diagrams; mentions the batwing in passing. Read it and rig.

    Spritsail & Lugsail by John Leather "The Rigs" section comprises chapters 1 and 2. This is excellent and detailed information on the different kinds of lugsails and spritsails, all of which have surely been applied to sailing canoes. However, in the chapters following there is nothing specific about sailing canoes; Leather is writing about workboats. The Figures are usually detailed enough to give you all the clues to construct a sailing rig's mast, spars and sail.

    Cruises in small yachts and big canoes; or, Notes from the "Watersnake," in Holland and on the south coast, the logs of the "Water Rat" and "Viper," on the Thames and south coast, with remarks on anchorages for small craft by Harry Fiennes Speed. London, Norie & Wilson, 1883.

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    Please send additions, corrections and comments to Dan Miller.

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    Last Modified 4/10/98 by DJM