Canoe conversion--Am I crazy?

I have a 16’ fiberglass canoe. I rarely paddle it solo anymore, prefering to paddle(and solo carry)one of my lighter kayaks. My wife and I can’t use the same boat at the same time(we don’t exactly quarrel, but…) And I rarely get guests, but still won’t sell the canoe.

I am thinking about converting this canoe to a two masted, decked sailor. But I want to retain the ability to use paddle when there’s no wind/when I don’t want to sail(a 36" beam).

Originally, I was going to build a new canoe from the ground up, but since I already have a perfectly good (albeit somewhat heavy)hull, I’ve decided to just frame-in a deck on top. (I know I could keep it as an open boat and still sail, but I’m not interested, as I eventually want to take the boat on the ocean with the benefit of the enclosed deck floatation.) I’ll probably coat the hull with a coat of epoxy-graphite(already got a ton of scratches in the fiberglass that need covering.)

Any recommendations on what to use for cockpit and deck framing? I’m thinking cutdown 2-by-2s and 1/8" luan, then FG tape–Is this too cheap/too heavy a remedy? Is the whole idea just crazy???

Google around as find as many
examples as you can of converting tandem canoes for sailing. Great success can be achieved with relatively minor adaptations. With the changes you are contemplating, you could end up having converted a silk purse into a sow’s ear. Your proposed rig sounds very top heavy, and managing sails on two masts will be very difficult.

Two masts?
How does that work in a canoe sailing setup?

Unless you’re talking two realllly tiny masts, you’re talking a lot of sail area of a canoe. Couple that with a top heavy design, you might not like the results.

If I absolutely had to do it, I might think about making some simple outriggers, converting the canoe into a trimaran of sorts.

I’d go skin on frame
Lighter up high is better. You only need to keep the water out.


– Last Updated: Feb-09-10 6:37 PM EST –

You crazy.
But you already knew that. So let me tell you.

Canoes do not make great sail boats. They're too skinny and the hulls are shaped for low speed low power applications. A sail boat ought to be wide enough to handle a bit of sail and shaped so that when the wind is blowing the boat will get up and go.
The only good reason to sail a canoe is to take advantage of the canoes strong points. Easily carried is strong point number one. Easily paddled is strong point number two. If you can mount a rig and take advantage of the wind great. But there will always be better sail boats.
If your rig makes your canoe too heavy to carry and or hard to paddle you have gone backwards.
Rather than do as you are thinking I suggest that you either buy or build yourself a sailboat. If you want it to be a canoe with two masts, consider a 16-30.
That'l keep ya busy!

Check out UK sites!
Do check out UK sites as well as US sites. Best starting point is

Also the Open Canoe Sailing Group:

They are the experts, but FWIW… I developed grand plans for twin masted sailing… but after hearing compelling arguments from folk with far more experience, we’re going (initially) with a single, 45 square foot bermudan rig.

ps. Have you checked out ?

sailing canoes

– Last Updated: Feb-09-10 7:34 PM EST –

Are you thinking about a small cat ketch rig, like a smaller version of this?

More like a

– Last Updated: Feb-09-10 8:20 PM EST –


Yeah, Tommy: I thought about going the hang-my-butt-off-the-wales and heave-to route, originally...But I kind of like the idea of keeping my ass and center of gravity INSIDE the boat! (Also wanna be able to load up a week or so's worth of camping gear--which would kind of defeat the speediness and hard-chined fun of a 16-30...I think--But thanks for the voucher on my mental state! I can now rejoice that I know the asylum will surely admit me!!!(It only took one more eyewitness.)

Some more backstory:

My fiberglass Great Canadian is like 70-80lbs. already! This is a guesstimate, I've never had it weighed(Whoever the hell said fiberglass is so "nice and light" is crazier than I am!!! Did I mention, I categorically HATE picking-up any boats weighing more than 50 pounds???--Well, I do...Even though I'm more than strong enough to lift at least twice that. (But alas, a kayak cart has now mellowed me somewhat on this position.) So believe me, I'm not really all that anxious to take on anymore extra "ballast" in the way of anything nautical.

I grew up using small sailboats along the Jersey shore...And I categorically refuse to trailer or moor any kind of boat ever, only cartop. So anything more than a small pram is completely out of the question. (I thought possibly about going this building route, and then stashing a 26 pound IK on-board to use as a "camp area probe/lifeboat"--Then I thought about using the un-used canoe already in my fleet.)

I already use a small homemade lugsail on my homemade SOF. I also use a homemade polytarp sail on a PVC "V" frame(ala "Pacific Action"-type)on one of my inflatables and a plastic rec yak. I'm seeking to up my "fun ante," with more sail square footage than these craft can muster without their becoming, tiddly...I do not want to use outriggers or amas(just more shit to carry.) Economy, both on building time and money, is also part of my reasoning for the conversion.

TWO masted canoe sailing has a deep tradition in this country going back many, many years(do some research, if you don't believe me.) I'm hoping to put together something with a batwing/junk rig up front and a mizzen aft. I've already manufactured a marine ply rudder and leeboard.

I was really looking for any builders out there who might be able to recommend another (lightweight)deck framing method, that might work for me. But thanks for all yer replies fellas. Maybe someday I'll come to my senses.

By jove, maybe I should go

– Last Updated: Feb-09-10 7:52 PM EST –

"across the pond!"

Too wide a beam/too heavy.
But thanks for the turn-on to “epoxyworks,” Angstrom,


– Last Updated: Feb-09-10 8:31 PM EST –

The 2009 "Small Boats" edition of Woodenboat had a couple of articles on sailing canoes.

One was a new 16/30:

The other was a stitch & glue decked canoe named "Bufflehead" built by Hugh Horton, who's mentioned in the Epoxyworks articles.

The B&B link was just to illustrate the type of rig, not the hull. The cat-ketch looks to have the virtues of a low center of effort and light unstayed spars.

One of these days, I gotta get over to that Antique Boat Museum. It’s not all that far away from me.

And that Bufflehead looks very, very cool…But I’m probably too much of a ‘quck and dirty’ boatbuilder to turn one of 'em out(But who knows, maybe after a few really patient years work.)

–Obviously, a craft worth any growing into.

Go for it!
I was ready to launch into a diatribe about canoe sailing being THE way to use a canoe for the better part of a century, and then about two masts keeping the heeling lever low and still giving good sail area, when I saw that you had already done your homework! No need to convince you.

The yahoo group is excellent, with more photos of how to rig a canoe to sail then you’ll ever want. And I strongly recommend Todd Bradshaw’s “Canoe Rig: The Essence and the Art”. Plenty of fantastic info on sailing rigs, steering methods, spars and boards.

One more place you might want to check out is Duckworks Magazine online for anything related to building a boat at home. Here are two articles you might like there. . .

and of course I can’t help but watch a bunch of You Tube videos of people sailing canoes. Here’s just one. . .

But whatever you do, have fun with it!

sailing canoe
Years ago I converted my 17’ canoe to sail, single mast, but a lower rig with twin masts will work too. It’s not an open water boat by any means, it’s extremely tippy but they sail very well in light winds. You definately need to pick the day to sail them, too much wind and you’ll swim all the time.

Just remember that one of the sails on a split rig will have to be set up to self tend itself, sailing alone on a 36" wide boat you don’t have time to tend to two sails, steer and hike out to keep it upright.

Downside to two masts is one sail will need to be cleated and if a puff of wind comes you can’t release it quickly to keep the boat upright.

Btw, make the side decks comfy, you’ll never sit on the bottom, you’ll spend all your time sitting (hiking) on the side decks.

Bill H.

Thumbs up.
Hadn’t seen that fiberglass canoe article over on Duckworks…Economy of effort and price, really speaks my language. I bought a set of Jim Michalak plans some time back(another project, probably won’t get to it before retirement.) Love his diversity of no jig-no loft boats! Thanx.

Okay, so what your saying is…
I should bring the smaller of two sails(and a bendable one at that)to the fore, maybe??? Who knows…I guess it’s all gonna take a good deal of playing around on my part to find out what will work best. (I got no problem swimming–Just ask anybody who seen me in whitewater/at the beach.) And if I end up back with only one main sail, so be it. But to build for two mast steps, I in all liklihood will have to figger out a way to firmly affix the mast right down to the keel. And I guess I’ll learn the hard way how “fiberglass friendly” such a graft will be…Thanks again all!

Another great canoe sailing bunch at

Been very helpful in my planned conversion of my old Dagger Legend into a sailer. Might check recent posts there. R

Check. (NM)

good stuff
Yes, you say “economy” and I say “stuff I already have laying around” “Cheap” or “Quick and Dirty” and I won’t mind any scratches at all.

Of course, if you’d like to go to the extreme the other way. . .

This boat is beautiful, and the guy makes sailing it look easy.

In the video, you really get a look at how the twin rig works, and also how important the side decks can be, not just for sitting, but for preventing water from coming into the cockpit while you’re heeled.

I think Michael Storer has plans for a sailing canoe (Beth) on Duckworks that is much less complicated and expensive than this Rushton Princess, but just as fleet.


– Last Updated: Feb-12-10 1:35 PM EST –

Maybe not. Yost wants to circumcise and deck a StarFire; mounting a mast and an offset daggerboard. Then he wants to use the thing in the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. That's crazy!